Unless Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) lands a significant leader in the media content space, it looks like it's going to continue to spiral downward, as evidenced by the decision to pursue the faltering Katie Couric.
Why Yahoo would want to link its name with Couric is not explainable. Couric is already seen as a failure with her anemic numbers with her syndicated talk show at ABC, and all that does is reinforce the image of Yahoo in the same light; which is that it is yesterday's tech and media company. Couric does nothing to change that image, but rather strengthens it. That's not a good move.
The fact that CEO Marissa Mayer is behind this decision points to the immediate need of someone to be hired to avoid these types of mistakes.
Hiring a Media Expert
Anyone following Yahoo knows that it is seeking to hire someone to fill the void left by the departure of Mickie Rosen in July 2013. The problem is who would want to step into a company that may not give them freedom to take the needed steps to push Yahoo into being a relevant media company? In other words, will Mayer let go and allow someone in the media position to put their expertise and creativity to work, or is she looking for someone to rubber stamp her decisions?
Mayer will look for someone that has connections in the industry. But the question is will it be for the purpose of only making introductions and opening doors, or will it be to make the type of connections where the media expert will be the main force behind who is right to be hired?
There is also the "loser" factor now associated with Yahoo, which will be perceived as a backward career move to many of those that would otherwise be desirable for the job.
People that know the news and entertainment industry have watched the fall of Yahoo and the moves that have made it worse rather than better. Being associated with that, again, will be an issue with the best talent available in the market.
Why Couric is a Disaster
The point of using Katic Couric isn't a personal attack, but a professional evaluation as to the reasons Couric would be considered as a means of boosting value to shareholders of Yahoo when she's been such as disaster since she left the Today Show.
Couric's brand is very weak, and would add little to Yahoo. The fact that she is even being considered for a position with Yahoo underscores the poor management team in the media area of the firm.
Those watching Couric know she's a very uncertain commodity because of her poor performance for many years, no matter where she has landed. She also has a higher view of herself than she's worth. Media companies have paid her beyond her value based upon what she did many years ago, rather than what she has done recently. This is a huge mistake, one that Yahoo is about to make if they can reach a deal with the expensive Couric.
Since she left the Today Show she has went unsuccessfully from network to network and job to job, with very little success. That points to her not having a professional brand and identity, which results in such poor ratings for her no matter where she has been since here early years in the industry.
This brings us to Yahoo's brand. What I see as the major problem and learning experience in regard to Couric is she is a personification of all that is wrong with Yahoo.
It has lost its identity; It no longer attracts a younger audience; and it doesn't know which direction to take. Nobody knows what Yahoo stands for anymore, and to hire someone that reminds everyone of that fact is a bad move to say the least.
I know the reason for landing Couric is the perceived notion that she will add some status to the company. This is why I've been lambasting it, as the idea that Couric would add celebrity to Yahoo is a reinforcing of the lack of credible leadership. Even disinterested parties know that Couric is no longer a viable professional entity. That's evidenced by the very small audience she attracts.
It's a disaster to me to see Yahoo pursue associating itself with Couric. The irony hasn't even hit them that it exposes in Couric what the company has become. To me it will result in a self-fulfilling prophecy of further erosion at the company if Couric is hired. It make no sense at all other than getting some short-term headlines which may give a very quick boost to the share price. Even that could backfire if those with knowledge of the industry punish Yahoo for making such a bad decision.
For those hoping for good decisions at Yahoo, I couldn't have picked a better case study to show why it's not going to happen. The pursuit of Couric, even if it fails, reveals the soft underbelly of the media unit at Yahoo, as well as its CEO.
They don't get that all of this reaffirms that Yahoo continues to have no idea as to what it can do to make it relevant to a new generation. Katie Couric isn't the answer, as we'll quickly find out if she strikes a deal with Yahoo.
It also reveals to me that no significant media personality or executive is going to lend his or her services to Yahoo, as it would be a dark spot on the resume of that person, rather than a career move that would result in a future upward move.
Yahoo will attract someone moving downward in his or her career rather than upward, and that will not end well for the company. They need someone different, but it looks like it's not going to go that route.
In other words, nothing is changing at Yahoo, and shareholders and investors will continue to wait to see if and when the day comes someone will grab hold of the reins and bring it a new look and grow the company again. The current leadership has shown it is not up to the task.
I know that Yahoo has soared over the last year, but that's largely on all ships rising with the bull market tide, rather than the fundamentals of the company. Over time we'll see that confirmed if it continues on in the direction it's going.