Marissa Mayer isn't leaving the driving to others. Since taking over as Yahoo CEO in July 2012, she has focused on restoring the company's team spirit with free food and iPhones and revamping legacy products, such as Flickr and Mail. With the revamp of the home page, launched today, Mayer put her stamp on Yahoo's most visible page and most valuable real estate in terms of revenue generation.
However, a refreshed Yahoo.com page with some design and engineering tweaks is not a game changer. It's more of a cleanup, getting Yahoo's 700 million users, including 200 million on mobile devices, more up-to-date with current expectations for how a Web portal should function.
The new home page bleeds more Yahoo purple branding and offers customizable content modules, a sprinkle of Facebook social networking, fewer ads, and more speed. Users can also share content from the Yahoo home page via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook. But the main dish is the content, an endless river of stories running down the page -- Mayer calls it a "newsfeed with infinite scroll" -- and the carousel of more than 50 stories with images at the top of the page.
Mayer wants to give Yahoo users "something valuable and delightful that makes them want to come to Yahoo every day." Sound familiar? It should, because this is the same old song. Five years ago, then-CEO and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang said, "at Yahoo we want to be the most essential starting point for your life" and "take the complexity of the Web and simplify your life through very powerful technologies."
In May 2008, following Microsoft's withdrawal of its offer to purchase Yahoo for $47.5 billion, Yang wrote :
"We'll continue to execute on our plan -- making your Internet experience as personal, relevant, open, and social as possible, serving advertisers so well they insist on working with us, and opening up Yahoo in a way that developers dream of."
That's the same script Mayer and her team are using. Speaking at the 2013 Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference earlier this month, Mayer clearly stated, "The core of Yahoo's business is to personalize content." That content includes ads.
During an interview at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month, Mayer discussed Yahoo's view on developers and partnering: "Given that we do not have mobile hardware, a mobile OS, a browser, or a social network, how are we going to compete? I think that the big piece here is that it really allows us to partner. It means there is an opportunity for strong partnerships. That is what we will be focused on."
More recently, Yahoo has partnered with top content providers, such as NBC Sports and Wenner Media, and continues its more substantial partnerships with Facebook and Microsoft.
But Mayer's efforts to provide the content and apps that Web and mobile users want and to personalize them is going to take time. During the fourth-quarter earnings call, Mayer cautioned that achieving substantial growth will take years.
The home page revamp is just one element in a continuous improvement initiative aimed at reviving the Yahoo brand and improving display ad revenue. Yahoo is not starting from scratch. It has a decent business, generating about $1 billion in profit on $5 billion in revenue, and it ranks just behind Google as the most visited site in the U.S. last year. But it's not going to generate revenue and profits at the scale of Google's search business.