News Corp. digital media head Jon Miller is bullish on the odds of his friend Ross Levinsohn becoming the permanent chief executive at Yahoo.
"I would bet that Ross Levinsohn will be the CEO of Yahoo," he said today during an interview at the PaidContent 2012 conference in New York.
"Ross is as good a person as exists on the planet [to run Yahoo]," he said.
The two were once partners in a venture firm, Velocity Investment Group, which was formed after Levinsohn resigned as president of Fox Interactive Media and Miller left his post as CEO of AOL.
Miller noted that turning around a company like Yahoo, or AOL, is a major-league challenge. "If you are trying to do a turnaround, there are not that many answers to the puzzle," he said. "You need big answers and there are not that many big answers at any given moment in time."
Yahoo missed out on search and social networking, which doesn't leave it with many places to go at this point, Miller said. "One way you can go -- and is up for grabs -- is being the leading digital media company. There is enough worldwide scale and the trends are in their favor," he predicted.
"It's a tremendous opportunity. Yahoo had a long-term identity crisis and didn't know what it wanted to be. Now Yahoo can have religion around this -- stars have lined up but you have to move fast," Miller added.
He mentioned Google's YouTube and Microsoft's Xbox as strong players in the digital media space.
Miller's former employer, AOL, is also looking for a more concise identity, and like Yahoo started out as a Web portal with e-mail and content aggregation. "You have to figure out what you are aggregating now," he said. "Media is potentially one of those. Both are playing for it, but Yahoo has a different level of scale, but there is certainly room for both of them."
Yahoo is making deals with content companies, such as ABC News, and claims to have 21 of the 25 most popular Web video series. AOL, with its acquisition of Huffington Post and investment in local content with Patch, has oriented itself as a media company. But as Miller said, it still lacks the scale of Yahoo, which has about estimated 700 million visitors to its sites per month, more than double AOL's audience.