Press release just issued by Yahoo is hard to decipher at first blush. Says the company will be organized around audience segments and advertisers instead of around products and that its structure will be simplified into three divisions - technology, audience, and advertisers and publishers. Says Sue Decker, the CFO, will run A&P, that Farzad Nazem will continue to run technology and that Yahoo will do a search for someone to run audience.
The question everyone is going to have is whether these changes go far enough. In the past year the company has gotten its clock cleaned by Google in the search related advertising business and seems poised to have its branded advertising business threatened by Google's purchase of You Tube. Will these changes shake things up enough so that Yahoo can begin to win back the business it has lost?
I don't know myself, but I can tell you this: A half dozen former execs I have talked to about this in the past few days don't think so. They say that Yahoo's problems run deeper than anything a reorg can fix. They say that Yahoo is an organization that still doesn't know what it wants to be or stand for. Is it a media company or a technology company? Is it a portal or a social network? Is it more interested in hits or in the power of user generated content on the long tail? And is it willing to spend the money necessary to compete with the likes of Google and Microsoft who have committed to spending billions on server farms and high priced engineering talent?
Their solution? Terry Semel needs to resign and Yahoo needs to appoint a seasoned, dynamic technology executive to lead it. Why? Because Yahoo has fallen so far behind on Semel's watch and because Google has demonstrated that victory in the fast evolving world of web advertising will go to the team that has the best technology. That means that Semel, who by his own admission is not a technology executive, is the wrong man for the job.
Semel and the Yahoo board clearly have decided that his critics are wrong. He has experience with this. He faced his critics down when he took the CEO job at Yahoo five years ago. Now that he has decided to stay, everyone associated with the company is praying he can do it again.