Since Mickie Rosen left as head of Yahoo media in July, the job has not been filled, although there have been efforts to search for someone to take over the Internet’s most high-profile content job.
But why even bother? It’s clear from today’s announcement – in which New York Times tech reviewer David Pogue will be working for the Silicon Valley Internet giant – that there is only one media mogul in charge there.
And that’s CEO Marissa Mayer.
According to sources close to the situation, it was Mayer herself who took aim at Pogue, initiating her hands-on campaign to land him in July. She apparently impressed him with a larger effort she has been working on to strike a series of showy media deals with a list of well-known names she aims to nab.
On that list, as I have previously reported in August, is telegenic television news star Katie Couric. Sources said that Couric is now close to completing a deal to put a Web interview show right on Yahoo’s home page.
Couric has done previous appearances for Yahoo and there is already an offering called “Katie’s Take” on Yahoo News, launched about a year ago. But it is basically repurposed content from her ABC daytime talk show, “Katie,” and written by others.
As I reported, the Couric deal would be much more substantive, centering on exclusive interviews with a range of high-profile celebrities, business execs and more, done by her specifically for the Web and prominently featured on the Yahoo homepage.
Couric has been mulling the deal, which would move her from the small screen – she has appeared on all three major television networks – to an even smaller one. That said, sources said it is likely she will move forward with it.
Pogue, too, has an unusual affinity for making elaborate and sometimes awkward videos to accompany his consumer reviews, including one of him dancing and singing through the streets of New York when he got an Apple iPhone (in fact, his refrain was: ‘I got an iPhone!!’).
Nabbing big names seems to be a key priority for Mayer and strengthening its online video efforts has been a recent key focus for Mayer in reviving Yahoo’s fortunes, along with mobile, and sources said that she has talked a lot internally about creating some kind of competitor to Google’s YouTube. Yahoo already tried unsuccessfully to buy France’s Dailymotion, and has since been mulling other major acquisitions in the space.
Mayer has waded into the arena herself in her two video presentations of Yahoo’s earnings that have been formulated in a news-broadcast style. Perhaps most amusingly, sources said she is considering a studio audience for her next such outing (but will they cheer for declining revenue and profits?).
Mayer has also stressed the intent to make video a “primary area of investment over the next year.” It’s not just for jazz-hands purposes; video ads are a big area of revenue growth online as traditional graphical ads fade.
“We think there’s room for lots of players and video really comes down to the question of the content,” Mayer has said, though she has noted video deals would be via partnerships, rather than via Yahoo’s own original programming.
But, among many execs in the Web space, she has been more attracted to the flashier media scene. She had struck deals for Google to buy content properties like Zagat while there, none of which were particularly explosive.
Additional efforts to up Yahoo’s video business will require the hiring of a top media exec to replace recently departed media chief Mickie Rosen. Internal sources said Mayer has said she is aiming to hire a top television exec for the job, to underscore the company’s commitment to video.