What Will Mayer's Yahoo! Strategy Be Tuesday?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - On Tuesday, Marissa Mayer is set to unveil her grand strategy for turning around Yahoo! (YHOO).

This was decided at the end of last week at a company board meeting according to Kara Swisher at AllThingsD.

What is she going to say?

Swisher has already alluded to the fact that Marissa will probably "zero in" on search and ad technology. Venture Beat says that Mayer will "double down" on search. But what does that mean?

Below I give my best guesses for what kinds of things she will speak to during her company-wide meeting Tuesday:

Search: Everyone knows that Carol Bartz approached Microsoft ( MSFT) to outsource Yahoo!'s search in 2009. Back in 2010 in a chat with Michael Arrington, Mayer even endorsed Bartz's strategy. However, the deal hasn't worked out for either Yahoo! or Microsoft.

Bing's revenue per search continues to lag Google's ( GOOG). Let's be honest, they probably will never close the gap.

Even though Microsoft controls the back-end search, Yahoo! does control the front-end. This is why their search results did a little better than expected a couple of quarters ago. It wasn't because Microsoft's results got any better but because Yahoo did a better job with their "look and feel" on the front end that led to better click-through rates.

So, I expect Mayer to say Tuesday that Yahoo can do better -- much better -- on controlling this front-end aspect of search on their sites. Just through doing this alone, I bet Mayer believes that they can stop the search market share decline, if not actually turn it around.

But will she say what will happen with Microsoft longer-term? Probably not. Their current deal doesn't end until next spring. I suspect there are already lots of discussions going on.

Mayer can do several things leading up to the expiration date:
  1. Re-up with Microsoft for more money -- probably the safest decision and the one most people expect her to make
  2. Go it alone -- probably the riskiest decision and the one most people think least likely
  3. Find a new search partner, like Facebook (FB) for example

There's no reason for her to get into this Tuesday, other than to see she's talked to Steve Ballmer, she understands search and she's going to ensure the best deal for Yahoo.

Also don't be surprised if she gives a big endorsement for Yahoo! Axis, which is Yahoo's take on mobile search.

Revitalizing the Core: I expect her to spend a lot of time talking up the core Yahoo! properties like Sports and Finance. She'll say they've been neglected for too long and she intends to ensure they get a much needed refresh.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear some real statistics about how strong those properties are -- even from mobile devices. What does need to improve? Engagement and monetization. And she might give some initial thoughts on how that will happen.

Don't be surprised if she even mentions Flickr which is still a great photo site with tons of potential to increase its usage in the coming quarters -- especially in mobile.

How Display is Going to Start Growing Again: The discussion on why she decided to keep a hold on the ad tech stack ( Right Media) will be part of a broader discussion of how Mayer is going to get display ads going again. This is now the biggest revenue engine which Yahoo! has. Swisher has suggested that Mayer will endorse the idea of a cleaner simpler homepage (sound familiar?) which will somehow lead to more display revenue in the long run.

Potential Partnerships: I do expect Mayer to say that Yahoo! will be very aggressive in pursuing partnerships that increase value for the company. However, I think it's way too earlier for her to give any specifics.

Yahoo!'s in a unique position in the Valley actually. In the next year, it could conceivably announce close partnerships with any of the following: Apple ( AAPL), Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL and Mozilla. Mayer might say that Tuesday, but that's as likely as specific as she'll get.

New Products: The IntoNow app which lets you interact with TV when you're watching it might get a lot of play on Tuesday as an example of how Mayer wants to turbo-charge new products that have a lot of potential. She wants others in the company to realize that their hard work on new products will see the light of day and get support from senior management.

Stock Buybacks: We know the board met last week and that they now have the Alibaba cash. There might be some details forthcoming in Tuesday's talk about just how that cash will get returned to shareholders. I would expect a lot of it to come in the form of shrinking the shares outstanding. They could do this through a tender offer or just through a series of open market purchases (which would probably take a couple of months to complete). The end of the tax year is coming so shareholders want to know what will happen.

Culture of Accountability: Finally, expect her to say that, while she believes in things like free food, phones and open Friday meetings, she expects a lot in return. This means accountability.

I doubt that there will be any mention of any potential job cuts on Tuesday, but that doesn't mean that they aren't being studied for down the road.

At the time of publication, the author was long Yahoo!

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Eric Jackson is founder and president of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson

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