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Mayer wants Yahoo! to be the world's mobile portal of habit

Company still unfocused with user data

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Marissa Mayer gave a confident performance at her first full quarterly results call, laying out her plan to make Yahoo! the site of habit for tomorrow's internet users.

"We're committed to going back to our roots as a consumer internet company focused on user experience," Mayer told analysts on Monday. "The excitement and optimism that permeates Yahoo! right now is undeniable and with the leadership and guidance of our new management team it's time to execute."

Her plan is to focus on four key areas of business: search, mail, the homepage, and mobile. In doing so, Mayer wants Yahoo! to become the "site of habit" for internet users who want to keep updated on key vertical sectors like news, sports, finance, and communications from their desktops or mobile devices.

Search is of growing importance to the company, and there is plenty of room in the market for more than a couple of players, she said, particularly in mobile. Yahoo! has had some teething problems with Microsoft in terms of payments, but the two companies are happy to work with each other on search until at least next April, when their cooperative arrangement is due for renewal.

Yahoo! is also going to be significantly upgrading its email and IM platforms on both the desktop and mobile fronts. The Yahoo! home page will also be improved to reflect better personalization of content for users, Mayer promised.

But mobile will be the biggest hill for the company to climb, she said. Yahoo!'s mobile efforts have been poorly managed, with 76 applications splattered across the Android and iOS app stores, she explained. Meanwhile, Yahoo!'s home page isn't optimized for mobile, previous management had under-invested in the sector, and the company's brands are splintered.

"All this needs to change," she said. "Our top priority is a focused, coherent mobile strategy."

This will mean a hiring spree on mobile talent to get the company up to speed. Mayer said she wants around half of the company's engineering efforts devoted to making Yahoo! relevant in the mobile space, with corresponding advertising and marketing support.

There are also other challenges ahead, and a lot more reorganization on the software side of things. While Yahoo! has access to huge amounts of customer data, the platforms and applications it runs haven’t been integrated by prior management, Mayer said. They can't share data properly as yet, but this is a top priority for the company (and it also raises the question of why Yahoo!'s many recent CEOs haven’t started on this earlier).

This quarter's results show Yahoo! is increasingly a US-focused concern. Its home market revenues are up 6 per cent on the year, minus traffic acquisition costs, but they fell 18 per cent in Europe. Part of this is certainly down to Europe's uncertain economic position, but Yahoo! is also down 6 per cent in the fast-growing Asian sector.

Mayer acknowledged problems in the Asian market, pointing out that Yahoo! had recently closed its South Korean office because it wasn't doing so well in that country. El Reg has to wonder that if Yahoo! can’t compete in possibly the most wired-up country on the planet, then perhaps it has bigger problems ahead.

Over the next few years, Mayer said, Yahoo! will focus on addressing its core market and keeping pace with the competition, but she wants the company growing again to outstrip its rivals in the next few years. While this is a more realistic goal than some of those espoused by former leaders of Yahoo!, we’ll have to see if she can deliver. ®

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