Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo lacks one thing: empathy

Marissa Mayer's turnaround of Yahoo! appears to be failing. Was the company doomed - or has she missed something?

A few years back, I wrote about the hiring of Marissa Mayer at Yahoo with a great deal of optimism. And why not? She was clearly smart, and had been a major presence at Google, before her side-lining.

Things have not worked out well:

The plan at Yahoo was to launch a major standalone video service once content deals hit critical mass. But Mayer bailed on the strategy when the company’s financials kept faltering; continuing on the path would have required Yahoo to invest even more in video without clear near-term payback. “She got enamored with content — but she had zero expertise. And she hired people with even less experience,” says one media exec who has had dealings with Yahoo.

The Variety piece examines the problems with Mayer’s Yahoo in great detail, but much of it boils down to one idea: she understands tech, but she doesn’t understand people. And as tech becomes less and less about speeds, feeds and “products”, and more about what it enables for people, that’s a massive achilles heel. One that has cost Yahoo badly.

In many ways, this is the flip side of the Apple Stores situation. While Apple is busy humanising its products and spaces, Yahoo! under Mayer seemed to have missed people from the equation entirely.