Pando

Shocker! Marissa Mayer Has No Magical, Secret Plan to Save Yahoo

By Sarah Lacy , written on September 27, 2012

From The News Desk

We already put this in the PandoTicker, but it warrants a few more characters. Kara Swisher has published a year-old report on the future of Yahoo that is almost identical to the plan just laid out by new walk-on-water CEO Marissa Mayer.

This plan was written five CEOs ago. Think about that for a minute.

Now that it has sunk in, can we stop pretending that changing the person sitting in the CEO chair is a silver bullet to save a struggling company? This company has gone through painful revolving door of CEOs that has done no favors for shareholders and put the somehow still loyal staff through the wringer. And for what? To come back to the same plan that Jerry Yang had all along?

Yeah, turns out Yahoo still has the same assets and is in the same market standing it was in back in 1999. Meanwhile, it still can't compete on search with Google, it's missed the boat on social, it's nowhere on mobile and all the product categories it is #1 or #2 in are unsexy, commodity features of the Web like stock charts, aggregating third party news and information and mail. Yahoo's only real edge in these categories is more users. That will work for a while longer. I mean, AOL's most profitable division is the dial up business. The Web is far stickier than most people believe. But-- as Kara has just shown-- there's just no way you bundle these things up in a new Powerpoint to make them look like growth. If anything the last year has only distracted Yahoo with proxy battles and CEO switch-aroos that have done little good.

I mean, I swear, I wanted to believe as much as everyone else. I wanted to believe when Carol Bartz took over too. But this hope that perhaps Mayer would have some magical product, market or competitive insights just because she came from the more successful Google doesn't seem to be panning out. And there's still no word on whether she'll make the deep cuts the bloated organization desperately needs. Meanwhile, she's given the bulk of the Alibaba proceeds back to impatient investors whether than making a game-changing acquisition. 

The options for hope are dwindling here.

If Mayer is running the same playbook Yang had, this pretty much leaves the hope of stellar execution. Which isn't exactly a naive hope: Mayer may well be the best executer that's held this role yet -- and if the team believes in her more than past CEOs, that could in and of itself make a difference.

But as optimism starts to dim that quick fixes can solve complex problems, those calling for the heads of various executives of Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon might take note of how things are playing out at Yahoo. Five CEOs has equalled no clear gains, no meaningful movement in stock, and apparently no new ideas.

Yahoo should have gone private in the Jerry Yang days when people still believed in it, activist shareholders didn't have sway, and it had the chance. That's the only way we could have seen a very different company by now.

[Images courtesy Phantom Leap and Wikimedia]