Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer is approaching “make it or break it” time. A few hot, new Yahoo hires notwithstanding, her talk has been mostly that … talk. YHOO stock has been chugging higher mostly because of it stake in Chinese Internet giant Alibaba.
But in order for YHOO stock to keep climbing in 2014, the former Google (GOOG) executive needs to turn the core Yahoo business around — which is part of the reason new Yahoo hires have been hitting headlines left and right.
Marissa Mayer has vowed to rebuild the YHOO research department, for example, by snagging 50 new Yahoo hires — all PhDs — to focus on areas such as mobile and artificial intelligence.
Even with new Yahoo hires, though, it won’t be easy for Marissa Mayer & Co. During the most recent quarter, display ad revenue at the company slumped 7% to $470 million. More bad news for YHOO stock investors: eMarketer expects Yahoo’s share of the display market to fall to 7.7% this year as Google and Facebook (FB) post gains.
Still, let’s take a look at five hot, new Yahoo hires that Marissa Mayer and YHOO stock investors alike have high hopes for — even if the odds of a true turnaround remain slim.
New Yahoo Hires – Katie Couric
Role at YHOO: Global anchor
Past: Host of Today Show, Anchor of CBS Evening News
YHOO stock investors might not have cared much about the latest of the new Yahoo hires, but the general media was agog with Marissa Mayer’s announcement. Katie Couric, the veteran television journalist, topped the list of new Yahoo hires when she was snagged to become the “face of Yahoo News” last week.
Expensive new Yahoo hires like Katie Couric might be great for PR, but they might not be great for YHOO stock investors. As Bloomberg Businessweek noted, Katie Couric in particular might not be worth the money. Her track record has been mixed at best.
Katie Couric’s tenure at CBS (CBS) ended in 2011 amid criticisms that she was too informal for the anchor chair. Her talkshow Katie has also proven to be a ratings disappointment.
New Yahoo Hires – David Pogue
Role at YHOO: Tech pundit/gadget reviewer
Past: New York Times tech pundit and gadget reviewer, author of Missing Manual books.
Another of the new Yahoo hires is David Pogue. And love him or hate him, David Pogue has a knack for explaining technology in terms that even the most backwards of neanderthals like yours truly can understand.
Like Katie Couric, hiring David Pogue got lots of press for Marissa Mayer. But as Wired noted, Pogue also has plenty of baggage. Some in the journalism world look down on him for violating the New York Times (NYT) ethics rules, for example.
And even if it all goes smoothly for David Pogue, it’s hardly a straight line from hot, new Yahoo hires to gains for YHOO stock.
New Yahoo Hires – Megan Liberman
Role at YHOO: Editor-in-chief of Yahoo News
Past: Deputy news editor of The New York Times
Another of Marissa Mayer’s new Yahoo hires was Megan Liberman. Hiring Megan Liberman was a recognition by Mayer that all the site functionality in the world doesn’t mean squat if there isn’t original content to attract them in the first place.
And attracting users will be a key piece to turning around YHOO stock in 2014.
Of course, Yahoo and news organizations have always had a love-hate relationship. The news world loves the traffic they get from Yahoo … but will no doubt hate competing against them for stories and, of course, ad dollars.
New Yahoo Hires – David Karp
Role at YHOO: CEO of Tumblr
Past: Founder and CEO of Tumblr
Marissa Mayer made arguably her biggest splash when she dropped $1.1 billion on Tumblr — even though the site’s lack of profitability made folks question how it would help YHOO stock. Of course, the bid wasn’t just for a wildly popular blogging site; it also gave Mayer another new Yahoo hire in David Karp.
Marissa Mayer and David Karp took great pains to assure Tumblr users that they wouldn’t “screw up” the site. The biggest challenge for this new Yahoo hire will be figuring out how to monetize the site — thus helping the core Yahoo business and YHOO stock — without angering users.
Unfortunately, that will be easier said than done for David Pogue.
New Yahoo Hires – Nick D’Olsioy
Role at YHOO: Employee for Summly
Past: Founder of Summly
David Karp wasn’t the only of the new Yahoo hires that Marissa Mayer got from an acquisition. She also saw potential for YHOO stock to benefit from mobile app Summly … which was founded by 17-year-old British entrepreneur Nick D’Olsioy.
The service, which condenses news articles, is part of Yahoo’s latest iPhone app. But whether it will be a game-changer for YHOO stock is hard to say.
Then again, for many investors, mobile isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. With that in mind, this could be one of the best new Yahoo hires to have on board.
As of this writing, Jonathan Berr did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.