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TheStreet Open House

Marissa Mayer and Bryan Goldberg Are Both Out of Touch

Stocks in this article: YHOO TWX GOOG

Up on Housing Project Hill/It's either fortune or fame/You must pick up one or the other/Though neither of them are to be what they claim.
-- Bob Dylan, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As far as I can tell, playing armchair psychologist, Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) CEO Marissa Mayer and Bleacher Report and Bustle founder Bryan Goldberg are both nuts. That's not a clinical diagnosis so we'll just go for the more socially acceptable "out of touch."

Here's a quick rundown of the last week or so worth of events.

Goldberg, who I interviewed a few months ago, made a complete ass of himself in a Pando Daily post touting the $6.5 million fund raise for his forthcoming female-centric publication Bustle. A few days later, Goldberg did it all over again with an apology I imagine came, at least in part, at the strong urging of his funders.

Refer to this excellent Slate piece by Katy Waldman for, between her own narrative and the links, a complete recap of the things Goldberg has done to ass himself.

Then there's Mayer. Hardly an ass, but just as disappointing.

First, she embarks on the overhyped, yet barely-noticed 30-day project of finding a new logo for Yahoo!. Mayer claims the experiment springs from Yahoo!'s "spirit of innovation." Only she -- one of Silicon Valley's anointed -- can pass off an intern changing MS Word fonts every 24 hours as innovative.

Then she does the much-hyped, though ultimately pointless and self-indulging spread for Vogue magazine.

Dan Schawbel, head of a "Gen Y research and consulting firm," said this with regards to Mayer in comments to CNBC:

It comes off as if she's on vacation, she's relaxing while everyone else is doing work ... On the picture in her iPad, she doesn't even look real ... I think a lot of people who are powerful just want the publicity. You're probably not going to see a male CEO turn down GQ. Maybe she's doing it because she wants to make Yahoo! look cool, with the iPad?

Not sure I completely agree with his characterization, but it's close enough.

Though I concur 110% with this excerpt from an AdWeek piece on the Goldberg dustup:

The rest of the announcement was widely panned as patronizing, tone-deaf and generally disastrous. Among other faux pas, Goldberg held a Q&A with himself in which he assured readers that "we believe that a partner-track attorney can be passionate about world affairs and celebrity gossip ... And there is nothing wrong with that."
"My head hit the desk when I read it," Jezebel editor Jessica Coen told Adweek. "Right out of the gate, when that guy is the biggest representative of your brand, that has to be very dispiriting from an editorial perspective."
... Reaction to (Goldberg's subsequent) apology was mixed. "I applaud the effort, but it does read like he was parroting what he was told in the comments," said Coen. "I find it hard to believe that he would do a total 180 and completely understand the issue over the course of 36 hours."

That's because it's not possible for him to "do a total 180 and completely understand the issue over the course of 36 hours." He apologized because he had to. There was likely no or very little choice.

My experience with this type of issue tells me it's probably safe to assume he received an ear full from somebody with the power to pull his strings -- maybe somebody from Time Warner (TWX - Get Report) investments or Google (GOOG) Ventures? Do you really think they want to be associated with such idiocy?

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