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Terry Semel Steps Aside, New Horizon in Sight?

Posted on Monday, Jun 18th 2007

Yahoo’s future suddenly looks brighter, as Terry Semel steps aside, and Co-Founder Jerry Yang takes back the reins.

Semel, a former Hollywood executive who joined Yahoo in 2001, will remain chairman in a non-executive role. Yahoo also expanded the duties of Susan Decker, who was earlier named the head of the company’s advertising business, and named her its new president. Presumably, Decker is being groomed to become the next CEO.

I have written extensively about Yahoo’s Turnaround Strategy. I know Sue has read the piece. It’s a great opportunity for Yahoo to clinch its leadership position in multiple verticals, and take each of them all the way: Finance and Business, Photo Sharing, Jobs, and Travel, are each verticals in which Yahoo has a position, and a reasonably strong position at that.

So far, one key strategy that Yahoo has followed is to leave out commerce from its monetization equation. They should change that, and execute a full-blast Web 3.0 strategy in each vertical. Yahoo’s focus has been on Content and Horizontal Search, and of late, on Community. They have a superb Personalization asset, which is also so far underleveraged : MyYahoo. However, MyYahoo, set in “Context”, armed with Vertical Search, could be a good starting point to attack the Personalization opportunity. These are not huge stretches away from their current focus. They simply need to focus better.

But Commerce is a huge stretch. Flickr, for example, doesn’t have its own photo printing and merchandising business. It partners. However, a large chunk of the money in the Online Photo Sharing vertical comes from printing and merchandising. Should Yahoo leave that money on the table? I don’t see why, although the logistics of the business are more complex, and takes Yahoo into unfamiliar territory.

Anyway, this question will arise in their other verticals. They can defer answering the question, and first get the Context-Content-Community-Personalization-Vertical Search equation straight.

With that, their hands would be full for now.

Good luck, Jerry and Sue!

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