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Yahoo's Levinsohn hopes to prove himself with ad plan, report says

Yahoo's interim chief executive plans to refocus his company on its online-advertising business as he tries to hold onto the reins.

Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn
Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn Dan Farber

Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinsohn has some ideas on how he's going to improve his company's standing among advertisers, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today, citing sources, that Levinsohn has decided to refocus Yahoo's business on Web ads. In order to achieve his goal, he wants to generate more content and cling to major events like the Super Bowl and Oscars to attract advertisers. One source told the Journal that Levinsohn believes his chances of keeping the reins at Yahoo will rely upon his ability to keep ad agencies interested in dropping cash into the company.

Levinsohn took over as interim CEO last month when Yahoo fired former CEO Scott Thompson over false claims made in his resume that he had obtained a computer science degree. The company made it clear in a statement at the time that it would look for a permanent replacement.

However, the Journal's sources say Levinsohn is doing everything he can to hold onto the job and was displeased with the Yahoo board when he wasn't seriously considered to replace Thompson's predecessor Carol Bartz when she left last year. To further improve his chances of succeeding, he plans to maintain the company's restructuring efforts and shut down some underperforming properties.

As part of his advertising plans, Levinsohn last week hired former Admeld chief executive Michael Barrett. Yahoo hasn't said what Barrett will focus on when he starts in July, but All Things Digital reported at the time, citing sources, that he will focus entirely on digital ad sales, seeming to lend some credibility to the Journal's claims.

Whatever it is, Yahoo needs something to jump-start its business. During the first quarter of 2012, the company posted revenue of $1.077 billion, representing just a 1 percent increase over the same period last year. That relatively flat revenue figure resulted from a 4 percent decrease in display advertising revenue and an 8 percent increase in search revenue.

But turning Yahoo around anytime soon seems daunting, to say the least. Last month, News Corp. digital media chief Jon Miller said as much, telling CNET in an interview at the PaidContent 2012 conference in New York that there is no magic bullet for success.

"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."

Still, Miller, who was once a partner with Levinsohn at Velocity Investment Group, thinks the interim CEO is the right person to help Yahoo out of its malaise.

"I would bet that Ross Levinsohn will be the CEO of Yahoo," he said. "Ross is as good a person as exists on the planet [to run Yahoo]."