Turns Out Marissa Mayer Was the Wrong Person for the Yahoo! Job

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After Marissa Mayer got the Yahoo! (YHOO) job, I supported the move and stood strongly behind her for several reasons.

First, we're about the same age. I like seeing people my age (38) and younger experience great success. It makes me feel good. Plus it drives me to do more.

And it was a breath of fresh air to see Yahoo!'s board do the opposite of companies such as Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), Best Buy ( BBY) and J.C. Penney ( JCP) by going with the young tech disruptor as CEO over boring, entrenched and/or retread leaders.

Second, I felt like the media gave Mayer a raw deal -- initially -- simply because she is not only a woman, but, at the time of her hiring, a very pregnant one. I don't like pile-ons. I don't like seeing people get picked on, particularly on the basis of their anatomy and such, so I rallied.

Third, I really thought she would do a great job as CEO. And, by some accounts, she has/is.

If the stock market reflects reality, I made the correct call. Since Yahoo! hired Mayer the stock is up roughly 73%. That said, HPQ and BBY are also up approximately 35% and 78% over the same period. JCP is the only laggard in the bunch, off around 32% since mid-summer 2012. But, for as much as people claim it is, the stock market isn't always a trusty forward-looking mechanism. It creates flavors of the month and, often, leaves retail investors holding the bag.

It's not that Yahoo! is in anywhere near as bad shape as BBY and JCP or HPQ. Because they're not. Quite the contrary. It's just that the four companies/stocks have similarities.

Three of them have seen what, I think, will ultimately be ill-advised stock price runs. Investors haven't really taken a critical look at the future prospects for Yahoo!, HP and Best Buy. To that end, throw in JCP and you have the wrong person in place at the top.

On Mayer specifically -- she's attempting to play the role of head media hotshot at Yahoo!. Consider the latest Kara Swisher scoop over at All Things D: Mayer is trying to cook up all sorts of media "synergy" with everybody from Katie Couric to Vogue magazine.

Sounds great, I guess. But, as is the case with much of what Mayer does, it stinks like a throw as much interesting-sounding stuff against the wall and see what sticks strategy. That's the trademark of Mayer's willy-nilly acquisition binge and now her media push.

Simply put, I think she's out of her league. Manipulating the media is one thing; putting together a multi-platform media powerhouse is another.

Speaking of Couric, Yahoo! would have been better off going with somebody like Jeff Zucker, now the president of Time Warner's ( TWX) CNN Worldwide. Zucker moves somewhat slowly, but shrewdly and aggressively to rebuild CNN much in the way Yahoo requires rebuilding.

On many personal and professional levels, I want both outlets to succeed.

For lots of people my age, Yahoo! is the Internet and CNN is cable news. Despite their recent stumbles, both have managed to hang onto their images and, particularly at Yahoo!, their traffic. We're told both Yahoo! and CNN are on the rebound.

While the ratings success at CNN speaks volumes, the news that Yahoo! surpassed Google ( GOOG) in Web traffic last month has been overblown.

Traffic has never been a problem for Yahoo!. Mayer said she wants to make Yahoo "a daily habit." Guess what? For zillions of us, it already is and has been for about as long as it has been around.

Yahoo!'s homepage, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Sports (especially its NHL coverage), Yahoo! Music -- they're all fantastic. But, sadly, lots of people who use Yahoo! feel no connection to the brand. It's become little more than old reliable. And it's difficult to harness all of that traffic while in such a conundrum.

It's not an easy task, which is precisely why it requires a seasoned, but forward-looking media pro -- like Zucker -- at the helm.

How do you re-situate Yahoo!'s myriad moving parts without screwing up what works? Do you have to scare people away in order to come back stronger? (Radio stations have, historically, done this with bold format changes, which, overnight, turnover entire audiences). How do you not only get people to come back every single day, but realize they're doing it, tell other people they're doing it and make them feel like something more than mundane while they're doing it?

I can't claim to have the answers to those questions. And I'm not sure Mayer does either. That's the frightening part because she's spending a ton of money, putting herself out there and, if you suspend the hype for a second, not really seeing results that are all that meaningfully different from the past decade's standard fare at Yahoo!.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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