Yahoo's Levinsohn: What problems? Let's talk about U2!

Yahoo Executive Vice President Ross Levinsohn says he's "incredibly bullish" about Yahoo because of its ability to personalize media for people.

Yahoo's Ross Levinsohn, left, talks with Federated Media CEO John Battelle Monday at Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Considering all that's going on with beleaguered Yahoo, it's impressive that Ross Levinsohn even showed up here at today's Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

Not surprisingly, Yahoo's executive vice president for North America didn't say much about the hot-button issues in his interview with John Battelle, the founder and CEO of Federated Media, which puts on the conference: Will the company sell itself, for instance? And who will replace Carol Bartz, whom the board fired in September after a disastrous 2 1/2 years as CEO?

But Battelle tried.

Is Yahoo buying AOL ? he asked.

Levinsohn answered: "Keep going."

Battelle: Are you interested in the CEO job?

Levinsohn: "I have an incredible job right now. This is the best job I've ever had. I'm only focused on creating value...I've kept my head down for most of my career."

And so it went, not really getting anywhere.

Levinsohn went on to talk about Yahoo's huge reach, and its ability to personalize content for its audience. He stressed that Yahoo runs 13 million different versions of its home page every day, giving it a unique ability to make an emotional impact on people.

"It all resonates differently for people," he said. "We're the premiere media company that personalizes [content] on all platforms...no one has taken the power of technology and combined it with emotional aspects of content...I'm incredibly bullish on this and I remain so."

Levinsohn sounded like he was pitching the company to potential suitors, which, in fact, he is, since Yahoo has been on the block at least since Bartz's departure . The company is reportedly in talks with several suitors, ranging from News Corp. to Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang .

In fact, Levinsohn began his interview by gushing over an event Yahoo just streamed exclusively for the Bill Clinton Foundation. He said he's a huge U2 fan, and he described how emotionally powerful it was when Bono and The Edge played a half dozen or so acoustic songs for the event.

"I joined Yahoo for a specific reason, which was there aren't many platforms in the world like this," said Levinsohn, the former president of Fox Interactive Media who has been with Yahoo for 11 months. "It's very rare you have a chance to touch as many people every day."

That's true, for sure. But that kind of talk isn't good enough for Wall Street and restless shareholders. Yahoo reports its latest quarterly earnings tomorrow after the market closes.

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About the author

Paul Sloan is editor in chief of CNET News. Before joining CNET, he had been a San Francisco-based correspondent for Fortune magazine, an editor at large for Business 2.0 magazine, and a senior producer for CNN. When his fingers aren't on a keyboard, they're usually on a guitar. Email him here.

 

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