Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's turnaround plan taps into recent acquisitions of technology, talent

SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo is leaning more heavily on its recent acquisitions of technology and talent as CEO Marissa Mayer tries to attract more traffic and advertising to the Internet company’s services.

Mayer unveiled the latest steps in her effort to accelerate Yahoo’s lacklustre revenue growth during an hour-long presentation at the International CES, an annual gadget show held in Las Vegas. She shared the spotlight with two technology whiz-kids, Nick D’Aloisio and David Karp, who joined Yahoo Inc. last year in high-profile acquisitions that cost slightly more than $1.1 billion.

Two other recently hired Yahoo employees, former CBS News anchor Katie Couric and former New York Times technology columnist David Pogue, also took turns on stage to discuss how they plan to make Yahoo’s website and mobile applications more compelling. The Associated Press monitored the speeches through a webcast.

Mayer hailed Tuesday’s showcase as an opportunity to open the “next chapter” in Yahoo’s long-running turnaround saga. A long-time Google executive, Mayer became Yahoo’s fifth full-time CEO in slightly more than five years when she was hired in July 2012.

Although Yahoo’s stock has nearly tripled since Mayer’s arrival, the run-up has been primarily driven by the company’s 24 per cent stake in Alibaba Group, a thriving Chinese Internet company that has tantalized investors with its robust growth in the world’s most populous nation.

Even under Mayer’s leadership, Yahoo hasn’t been able to substantially boost its revenue despite advertisers spending more money on the Internet. Through the first nine months of last year, Yahoo’s revenue was unchanged from 2012 after subtracting ad commissions.

Mayer is trying to shake things up by sprucing up Yahoo’s line-up of applications for smartphones and tablets as people spend more time on those devices instead of personal computers. She also is rolling out more advertising tools to make it easier for marketers to connect with the people mostly likely to be interested in their products and services, deploying some of same targeting techniques that have proven more effective so far at Google Inc. and Facebook Inc.

The additions include a mobile app that pulls news from various digital sources to highlight the top stories twice a day. The digests will be put together by Summly, a technology that Yahoo bought from D’Aloisio last year to automatically condense long stories. D’Aloisio, 18, created Summly while he was in high school in England to address the short attention spans being fostered by the smaller screens of mobile apps.

Yahoo also revealed that Mayer’s biggest acquisition so far, Internet blogging service Tumblr, will begin to use the company’s tools to target ads based on people’s gender and location. The announcement was made by Tumbler CEO Karp, 26, who has pledged to ensure ads don’t agitate an audience that had become accustomed to seeing few marketing messages on the blogging service since it started six years ago.

Pogue came on stage to flip the switch on a digital magazine called Yahoo Tech, especially designed to be read on mobile devices, though it also can be read on PCs through traditional Web browsers. It will feature reviews and other opinions from Pogue, as well as stories from a roster of other technology writers recently hired by Yahoo. The Sunnyvale, Calif., company also is simultaneously releasing another digital magazine called Yahoo Food that will serve up culinary coverage.

Yahoo also announced another small acquisition of another startup called Aviate, which makes a tool designed to figure out which apps to display on a mobile device’s home screen by tracking the daily habits and interests of each user. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.