Yahoo's courting of Couric casts Mayer as a media mogul

AllThingsD reports CEO Marissa Mayer is personally spearheading a deal for a Katie Couric Web interview show and an alliance with Conde Nast, putting Yahoo's spotlight more on media after a shift away from it.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York earlier this year. Shara Tibken/CNET

Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer is taking a personal interest in renewing the company's media clout. AllThingsD reported Thursday that she is personally ushering through deals with Katie Couric and Conde Nast.

According to the report, a Couric deal -- which isn't sealed -- would feature exclusive celebrity and business-figure interviews on the Yahoo home page, and meetings with Conde Nast for content linked to fashion magazine Vogue are in very early stages.

Under Mayer's leadership for more than a year, Yahoo has signed deals with top content providers like NBC Sports and Wenner Media, but its most headline-grabbing moves have been in other segments, such as the $1.1 billion acquisition of Tumblr and relaunching of flagship products like Flickr. Yahoo has been putting more emphasis on mail, search, and other tech-focused areas, as well as making a bigger push in mobile, rather than media.

But greater attention to media, particularly video, could open Yahoo to the most promising ad market on the Web. Researcher eMarketer on Wednesday forecast that video ad spending would more than quadruple from 2011 to 2017, making it the fastest-growing format of digital ads throughout that time period.

Mayer's strategy thus far has turned around one measurement of Yahoo's relevance: traffic. In its latest quarterly results, Yahoo reported a reversal in declining traffic, and ComScore on Wednesday calculated that Yahoo trumped the traffic of Mayer's previous outfit, Google , for the first time in five years.

But even with the traffic improvement, the latest results from Yahoo still showed a decline in display and search advertising revenue from the same period a year earlier.

A media tack has smacks of AOL, another Web giant that is refashioning itself after a slip from the Internet's pantheon. The company has been steadying its revenue by transforming to an ad-driven digital-media operation under Chief Executive Tim Armstrong, exemplified by last month's agreement to buy Adap.tv, a video-ad marketplace platform, for $405 million after a $315 million takeover of The Huffington Post in 2011.

Yahoo's shift away from media earlier was seen as a boon for AOL. Last year at a Business Insider conference, AOL's former CEO, Jon Miller, said Mayer's focus on core tech offerings was a media opportunity for AOL unseen in a number of years .

A Yahoo shift back to media now, after AOL's chance to gain ground, means each will be giving the other a tougher run for its money.

 

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