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Yahoo's Marissa Mayer tries to trigger chain reaction

For CEO Mayer, the chain reaction starts with great people and products to spur user growth and engagement, leading to higher ad spending and more revenue.

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer
James Martin/CNET

Marissa Mayer is sprinting and trying to start a chain reaction. That's how she described her plan to return Yahoo to its former glory during the company's first-quarter 2013 earnings call.

The Yahoo CEO shared how she is executing a series of "sprints" to revive the company. The first sprint, which Mayer said is now over, was about recharging Yahoo's culture and getting employees to believe in the company's future. That also meant bringing in new talent and making Yahoo the "best place to work."

"We implemented more than 567 employee initiatives across the company," Mayer said. "Today more people want to work at Yahoo and more are staying."

Yahoo received more than triple the number of resumes over the quarter, while the attrition rate for top talent was half of what it was a year ago, she said. In addition, more boomerangs -- former Yahoo employees who rejoined the company -- accounted for 14 percent of first-quarter new hires.

"Companies with the best talent win, and it's clear we are back in the game," she concluded.

The chain reaction Mayer described is dependent on attracting talent to the Yahoo campus. "It starts with great people and products to drive user growth and higher engagement," she said, leading to higher advertiser spending, more revenue, and eventually, higher growth.

The next sprint involves "building beautiful products" and executing the business strategy, she said.

"This is where we get to inspire users and provide them with amazing features," Mayer said. "The first part is around talent and getting the engine fit...now we can get a cadence and make continuous improvements and adjustments over time." She added that Yahoo will have more frequent, smaller product changes across the portfolio.

"We need to get the products right. We are still cascading changes. To overall have cleaner user interfaces, more modern paradigms, throughout our product sets. You can see that we do anticipate that we will see some growth already in the second half of this year," Mayer said.

Mayer emphasized the importance of mobile for Yahoo's future. By 2015, there will be more usage on mobile devices than PCs. Yahoo has 300 million, up from 200 million in January, of its more than 700 million monthly users access its services on mobile devices, she said.


Mayer was asked about creating a more integrated and immersive set of apps as Facebook has done with Home, rather than a collection of separate mobile apps. She said she had nothing to announce at this time but offered high praise for Facebook Home.

Overall, Mayer cautioned that "getting the company growing at a rate we would like to will take several years."

Yahoo's first-quarter earnings delivered more profit but less revenue than the first quarter of 2012. It was also a kind of reversal, with search revenue outpacing display ad revenue. Yahoo's display ad business fell 11 percent in the first quarter compared with a year ago.

Yahoo's stock, which has been up more than 50 percent since Mayer took over as CEO in July 2012, closed at $23.79 Tuesday, and was down to $22.70 in after-hours trading.