One year under Mayer, Yahoo no longer 'dead company walking'

In her first year as CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer focused on acquisitions, mobile

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On top of making 16 acquisitions -- including deals for Tumblr, at a price of more than $1.1 billion, and mobile app company Summly -- Mayer also quickly moved to reassure investors, motivate developers and make Yahoo interesting again, Reynolds said.

She also famously riled her employees with a controversial change in the company's telecommuting policy. In February, Mayer went against conventional business ideas and called in all of Yahoo's telecommuters. The idea was that working collaboratively in the office, instead of working alone at home, would make employees more efficient and creative.

It wasn't a popular move. Many observers criticized the decision, saying that having a well-known company like Yahoo end telecommuting would hurt employees' work/life balance. Yahoo eventually issued a statement to try to quell the furor.

A shift to mobile

Mayer did, however, live up to her stated goal of focusing on mobile, an area crucial for companies in a world dominated by smartphones and tablets. Nearly all of Yahoo's 16 acquisitions over the past year were focused on mobile apps and services. Summly, for example, built an app designed to condense information and make it readable on mobile devices.

Yahoo is making progress in its mobile numbers. In the first three months of 2013, the number of monthly, mobile active users on Yahoo surpassed 300 million for the first time. That's up from 200 million reported in its January earnings conference call.

The number of daily active users on Yahoo-branded apps, like Yahoo Mail and Flickr, also increased by more than 50% during the same quarter. On Flickr, mobile photo uploads increased by more than 50% quarter over quarter.

"Yahoo is better off today than before Mayer [arrived]," said Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner. "But I also feel that this transition is still underway and it will be a continuous journey for some time, as I just don't think it would be possible to completely turn the company around in under one year."

Blau also noted that Yahoo still faces significant competition.

"Their troubles from the past still haven't all been resolved. But given their trajectory, I would not be surprised to hear from employees in the coming year or so, saying that Yahoo is a better place to work and that it has even better products in the pipeline," he added.

Reynolds said it's too early to judge what Mayer's best move has been.

"It could be the added audience brought by the Tumblr blogging platform, or it could be some great innovation coming from one of the four social recommendation companies that Mayer has acquired, or it could turn out to be the positive change in morale compared to the previous Yahoo eras," he said. "[Year] two and year three will be the sterner test of whether the company can make a real difference again."

This article, "One Year Under Mayer, Yahoo No Longer 'Dead Company Walking'," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter, at @sgaudin, and on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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