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For Yahoo, is bravado enough?

Ousted CEO Carol Bartz brought expletives, but VP Ross Levinsohn says the Web portal now needs "a little bravado in our step."

Yahoo Sports
Yahoo Sports is up 60 percent from a year ago. Screenshot by Larry Dignan/ZDNet

Yahoo executive vice president Ross Levinsohn said the company is operating just fine without a permanent CEO, but does need more bravado going forward.

"We need a little bravado in our step," said Levinsohn, speaking at the PaidContent Advertising conference in New York today. "We have to get our own house in order."

Yahoo's house right now is lacking a leader. Carol Bartz was booted as Yahoo CEO last month, and now rumors are swirling about private equity buyouts and even a merger with AOL. Levinsohn said that "there's nothing rational about AOL and Yahoo merging." However, AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft are talking about a premium ad exchange.

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According to Levinsohn, it's business as usual at Yahoo. "We have a strong team and most people are self-sufficient and have years and years of experience," he said. "Carol allowed us to operate our business."

Like many other Yahoo executives before him, Levinsohn portrayed the company as an underappreciated media giant. He rattled off a bevy of statistics highlighting Yahoo's scale.

Yahoo had 40 billion page views last month, but it's a question of monetizing those pages. Uniques and time spent are up month over month and Yahoo Sports is up 60 percent from a year ago, said Levinsohn. Yahoo News has 6 billion page views, with users that spend an hour a month on average. He also added that Yahoo's celebrity site, OMG, is twice as big as TMZ.

However, scale has never been Yahoo's issue. Yahoo's scale enables it to try a lot of content experiments--including an original series. The company is profitable and has a solid revenue base, but growth is elusive. Buzz is even more elusive. Meanwhile, Google captures the search revenue and is increasingly leveraging its army of algorithms in display ads.

The larger question is whether bravado is all Yahoo needs. Bartz brought expletives, but those F-bombs didn't translate to bravado. Yahoo has never really pulled off the bravado thing--it's not like co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo were ever thumping their chests.

In many respects, bravado is a function of growth. Should Yahoo start delivering better than expected earnings and revenue growth a little bravado will be warranted.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Yahoo's Levinsohn: We need bravado; Is that enough?."