Yahoo! And CEO Marissa Mayer One Year On - A Happy Anniversary?

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Marissa Mayer has celebrated one year at the helm of Yahoo!, giving her firm a solid ‘A’ for effort in mobile progress. In light of the news, ClickThrough copywriter Martin Boonham has delved into his short stint as a teacher to give Mayer herself an end-of-year progress report. It’s only fair, after all.

So Marissa Mayer celebrated one year at the throne of the bumbling behemoth that is Yahoo!

’Big whoop’, you may declare, but actually if you look at things in more depth, she ain’t done too bad sitting atop the Iron Throne.

Much like George R R Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series (Game of Thrones for the TV types), the position as king or queen of Yahoo! has been somewhat of a poisoned chalice, with many key news stories being weirdly reminiscent of the epic fantasy series. Outlandish outbursts, false claims – that’s nearly the full set…

Aside from Jerry Yang and Carol Bartz, Mayer will be the only CEO for Yahoo! in the last few years that has lasted longer than a few months. Before Mayer was snatched away from Google, Tim Morse was Yahoo’s CEO from September 2011 to January 2012, Scott Thompson from January 2012 to May 2012 and Ross Levinsohn from May 2012 to Ms Mayer’s arrival in July 2012. So the three men, between them, managed to stay in the big boss chair for about the same amount of time as Mayer has on her own.

The Mini Mayer Bio

As one of Google's longest-serving employees, Mayer was the 20th member of staff to join Google, enlisting with the Internet giant around 14 years ago.

Mayer, 38, was Google's first female engineer, and rose through the ranks of the Silicon Valley start-up, quickly becoming one of the search giant's top executives.

Mayer joined rival Yahoo! as its chief executive officer last July. Presumably Yahoo! wanted the inside goss from the woman fabled to have chosen the exact shade of blue used for Google’s search results.

(The fact she was seen as the industry’s golden child probably helped swing Yahoo!’s decision makers too.)

The Yahoo! Year

Mayer joined Yahoo! at a particularly turbulent time, when CEOs seemed to be getting changed as regularly as search rankings.

After all, in the early days, Yahoo! was as synonymous with logging in as Google is now. Its search engine, news sites and chat rooms attracted millions.

But, alas, Yahoo! slowly lost ground as competitors like Google, Facebook and Twitter grew.

How has she done though? She gave Yahoo!’s mobile efforts a grade ‘A’, but how about elsewhere?

Mayer has been somewhat like a manager at one of the big name Premiership teams, snapping up promising talent in ten-figure deals. In total, she has made 17 acquisitions so far, with Tumblr, at a staggering $1.1bn, being the star purchase, so to speak (Tumblr was previously valued at $800m).

As Chelsea found out with Fernando Torres though, big bucks doesn’t always translate to big success, despite the signs all being there, so Mayer will now hope during her second year at the helm these acquisitions will bear some fruit.

Other purchases include Qwiki for a reported $40-50m (£26m-£33m) and Summly, designed by young British entrepreneur Nick D'Aloisio, for a rumoured $30m (around £20m).

And, of course, she also went about giving Flickr a significant facelift.

Mobile Matters

When she became Yahoo!'s third chief executive in less than a year, Mayer, always said she was focussing on mobile, despite admitting at the time the firm lacked any kind of mobile hardware or even a mobile OS, a browser or a social network. In one of her first public appearances as head honcho, she said: "Our top priority is a focussed, coherent mobile strategy… it is clear that at some point in the future Yahoo! will have to be a predominantly mobile company.

"Mobile represents not only a daily habit, but a platform shift we have to ride in order to be relevant.”

She will be quite happy in the fact Yahoo’s share price has soared by an impressive 70%, compared to the price before her arrival.

However things aren’t all rosy in the Yahoo! garden.

Money Money Money

In the three months up to the end of June, Yahoo! still raked in more than $331m compared to the net income of $227m at the same point last year.

However, revenue was down seven per cent on the same point as last year at $1.14bn. Taking out ad commissions this figure was actually $1.07bn, a one per cent decline on last year – the first time the figures have been down under Mayer.

Yahoo!’s still overshadowed by some of the other Internet giants – but you can’t say it isn’t trying to stand up to schoolyard toughs like Google and Facebook.

A Team Effort

In her speech following the half year announcements (which pin pointed the ups and downs of Yahoo! under Mayer so far), she pointed out Yahoo! employee attrition was down by 59%, suggesting staff were now more comfortable at Yahoo!

Other statistics showed an increase in the number of people returning to Yahoo! after previously abandoning ship (12%) of the current influx of staff - another indictment that things must be on the up.

In fact, during her sales videocast, she nailed a mantra that perfectly summed this up.

“People, then products, then traffic, then revenue”

A Google Plan

Not that Mayer has neglected search completely. She has vowed to get Yahoo!’s search offering back to its best, in a simpler and more beautiful package. Perhaps not unlike what her old firm Google offers.

So while Mayer has given her firm’s mobile efforts a strong ‘A’ grade and glossed over the unimportant stuff like money, revenue and the like, it seems only fair to award her a B- for effort.

Reflecting on my short stint as a teacher, I would sign off her report with a comment like “Marissa has made a lot of effort to be the most popular girl in the class, and seems to be making progress with her work too – she just needs to deliver on them like Mark and Larry.”

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