Changing of the Guard at Yahoo!

Today’s news is that Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel is stepping down from his position, which will be filled by founder Jerry Yang. Meanwhile, CFO Sue Decker will become president.

It should be anticipated that Yahoo!’s executive change, which isn’t particularly surprising, will set in motion some other big changes. The company has recently been demoralized by the widening gap with Google and a sense of drift. One of the reasons Semel was initially brought on board at Yahoo! was to grab the big deals. He made some (i.e., Flickr), but many big deals obviously were missed (i.e., Google, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook).

If big changes are going to happen now, however, it isn’t clear they will come from the “local” side of Yahoo!’s business. From our local-oriented point of view, Decker shouldn’t feel a need to inflict change for the sake of change, since she was already overseeing things. She has been seen as a major supporter of Hilary Schneider’s team with the newspaper consortium, which is pumping up HotJobs and also expected to work on used autos. Other local-tinged efforts, such as Yahoo! Maps, Yahoo! Local and Yahoo! Yellow Pages, and geotargeted search, should also hold steady. (I always like to remind people that Yahoo! Yellow Pages is still the No. 1 IYP.)

Early on in his tenure, Semel himself pushed hard to get Yahoo! deeper into the classified business, with the acquisition of HotJobs. In analyst calls, classifieds were often cited as a major source of growth, at least for several quarters. In recent years, it has received less of an emphasis – at least from the CEO’s office.

Semel should be credited for bringing a more disciplined, businesslike, post dot-com boom approach to the company. This was an approach that led to Yahoo! making huge gains in national advertising (including geotargeting). It sure beat the previous team’s emphasis on those advertisers who “got it” and those who did not.

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