Yahoo Europe Head Talks Content Strategy, CEO Marissa Mayer

Yahoo! Headquarters in Sunnyvale CA
Yahoo! Headquarters in Sunnyvale CA
 Getty Images

LONDON – Yahoo has a clear growth strategy under CEO Marissa Mayer with original and curated content key parts of it, Dawn Airey, senior vp, EMEA of the Internet company said here Wednesday.

Speaking at The Guardian Changing Media Summit, the former TV executive said that after various CEO changes at the web giant, Mayer, a former senior Google executive, looks to be in the top post to stay.

Content is what people care about, including in the online world, so it remains a key focus for Yahoo, Airey said, signaling that the firm would look to continue producing some original fare, including possibly some high-profile original content and also curate third-party content.

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"We want our users to find whatever they want fast, seamlessly," she said in explaining the strategy of offering original and other content. "I think we are," she said when asked if Yahoo was interested in offering more TV content. "Yes, we want more of it."

In terms of original fare, select "emblematic" content will be a focus for Yahoo, she said, pointing to the role House of Cards has played in getting Netflix recognition and to Yahoo's hiring of Katie Couric. "What we need to do is do a few more emblematic big things that really stand out," she said. She didn't immediately say if and when Yahoo could order a drama like the Netflix original or more originals, but signaled more originals could be ordered sooner rather than later.

Yahoo's annual original content budget amounts to several hundred millions of dollars, particularly in the U.S., Airey said Wednesday.

The EMEA content budget is not planned to be expanded significantly, she said.

When she joined the company, Airey said she thought Yahoo should produce more content itself. But once she arrived and got a better understanding of the company, she realized that Yahoo particularly has a key role to play in "surfacing" existing content people care about.

Discussing Mayer's strategy, she said Yahoo was focusing on reaching more people and bringing all its content and services to mobile devices, including tablets.

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Saying that Yahoo came after her, she said she was "seduced" by the firm. But she admitted that some friends early on asked her if Yahoo was "still going?"

She said she early on realized "the sheer scale and reach" of Yahoo though and lauded Mayer for having a focus on the consumer experience of all products.

"It's been an enormous learning curve, but also a lot of fun," Airey said about her first six months on the job, overseeing Europe, the Middle East and Africa.Airey also touted the brain trust at Yahoo. "I haven't worked for a company where there are just so many really, really, really bright people," she said. "That keeps you on your toes."

"It's very straightforward," she said when asked about the Yahoo culture under Mayer. "There is not a lot of politics."

Asked about the current auction of U.K. broadcaster Channel 5, which she used to run, Airey said owner Richard Desmond bought it on the cheap a few years ago and is now looking in a position to do well. While she said she doesn't care who wins the auction, which has drawn Discovery Communications and Viacom, among other bidders, she said: "Richard Desmond is going to make a hell of a lot of money."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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