The media frenzy over Marissa Mayer's big leap to Yahoo CEO hasn't let up since the announcement was made on July 16. Most of the commentary has focused on her youth, attractiveness, and pregnancy -- and Google pedigree, in the generic sense of "Google is so cool some of that is bound to rub off on Yahoo." By all accounts Mayer is also smart, determined, and very high-energy.
But is Mayer a good fit? Is she the executive who can break the ugly string of four (or was it five?) failed CEOs and breathe life into a moribund company? Mayer, again by all accounts, demonstrated major engineering chops during her years at Google. But do Yahoo's problems have much do with engineering? Yahoo is a media company; does Mayer know anything about that? Everyone loves that she's a "product" person, but is Yahoo's problem a lack of product?
[ Also on InfoWorld: Robert X. Cringely rounds up industry advice for Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's would-be miracle worker. | Find out the topics and issues affecting tech's biggest names and news makers as revealed in the IDGE Insider CEO interview series. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]
Yahoo needs a media expert, not an engineer
To be clear, I am not saying Mayer is wrong for the job. But I am saying the frenzy over her hiring altogether misses the point, and almost no one is asking the right questions. Yahoo is an important company that employs thousands of people, and it has millions of users. But it has also been a punching bag for Google and Facebook. Will an ex-Google exec be wise enough to know that her new company can't go toe to toe with the giants of search and social media?
"Yahoo has been tilting at windmills trying to fight Google for more than 10 years and the results are clear," Mike Walrath -- a former executive at DoubleClick and former CEO of digital-advertising company Right Media, which he sold to Yahoo in 2007 for $800 million -- said in a blog post. Clear is right. The stock has lost 38 percent of its value in five years, and it has been flat as the market for tech stock soared in the recovery of the last 18 months.
In a quick note to clients, analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research asked more of the right questions: "If investors think that the problem with Yahoo is product specific and needs an engineering solution, then new CEO is a perfect choice. (But) if investors think that the problems with Yahoo are complex interrelations of strategy, business, technology, market and positioning, then the new CEO is a poor choice."