by adam mathes
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Free Advice For A New CEO

Marissa Mayer is now the CEO of Yahoo.

Marissa began the Associate Product Manager program at Google, which is how I got my first serious job in tech after college, and I owe her a great deal for that opportunity and for her support throughout my career there.

Trying to fix Yahoo is somewhere between impossible and difficult; I hope for Marissa’s sake it is just extremely difficult. She may be one of the few people in the world who has a chance of doing it, and I wish her the best in her attempt.

Although she doesn’t need my advice, my views on fixing Yahoo:

Media Lies

“Yahoo is a media company” is meaningless financial analyst chatter.

It is not a strategy.

Yahoo is in the mess it’s in now partly because you can’t run a tech company as if it were a media company and expect good results. For more evidence, see AOL under Tim Armstrong. (And trying to fix a tech company by buying the Huffington Post is like trying to solve world hunger by buying a Twinkie factory.)

Retro Portal Strategy

Yahoo has lots of products.

There is only one that really matters: the front page.

There will soon be millions of irate former iGoogle users looking for a new home page. The answer should be Yahoo.

Reinventing the home page for 2012 and beyond is actually a pretty interesting problem. What should the start page of 2012 be? A compelling answer to that is a product that people would use.

This is a technology and product problem. How do you show me what I need to know at the start of each day? Each time I load it after?

Could my start page actually make me happier and feel better every time I load it and read it?

The rest of Yahoo’s products should be evaluated in terms of how they will help the home page. Search, email, news, sports make sense in this context. Some are harder to justify. Many of them will probably need to be abandoned.

Do Much Crazier Stuff

Yahoo has completely lost its momentum. In order to regain any traction amongst the digerati and technology community, it will have to do crazy, interesting stuff that reminds people of why they used to actually like Yahoo.

It would be nice if these things were also related to fixing the company.

Here’s three:

  1. Open source whatever is left of Yahoo’s search engine and run it as a community project. Offer it as an option instead of Bing for Yahoo users. Be the open alternative to Google and Bing. (I know this didn’t work for Netscape and Mozilla, but maybe they were just too early.)

  2. Partner with a hardware company and produce Flickr cameras with a best of breed beautiful photography instantly to web experience.

  3. Bring back a revised Yahoo directory product, reborn as a series of curated, high quality blogs/directories/wikis run by subject matter experts and librarians. (Actually pay those people too.)

Pay For Talent

The prevailing wisdom is that Yahoo is a sinking ship – over pay for acquisitions and talent to get people on board before it’s too late.

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