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New book details Marissa Mayer’s struggles to save Yahoo 



When Marissa Mayer showed up for her first day of work at Yahoo on the morning of July 17, 2012, she was greeted by the company’s shy cofounder David Filo, who made a show of unrolling a “large purple carpet” to lead Mayer into the office building. After walking through the doors, she saw signs welcoming her, a crowd of employees gathered to greet her and loads of gifts inside her office.

Business executives and politicians, including a White House official, had left voicemail messages to congratulate the new Yahoo CEO. NBC’s Today wanted an interview. Employees greeted her like a savior, with one hanging a poster of Mayer’s face above the word “Hope,” imitating the famous Shepard Fairey illustration of Barack Obama.

Everyone seemed fascinated in and optimistic about the smart, young, tech-savvy former Google executive who had just been added to the far too short list of women running multi-billion-dollar public tech companies. But like all honeymoons, this one wouldn’t last.

In Marissa Mayer and The Fight to Save Yahoo!, a new book out this week, Business Insider‘s chief correspondent Nicholas Carlson offers the captivating inside story of Mayer’s rise at Google, the hype around her hiring at Yahoo and the missteps in her first two years as CEO that raised concerns among employees and investors alike. [Full disclosure: Carlson was my boss when I worked at Business Insider.]

The book, which began as a long feature article published in 2013, was done without the cooperation of Mayer or Yahoo and is instead based on interviews with friends, teachers and colleagues from Yahoo and Google. It presents Mayer as a very smart — though perhaps not quite visionary — executive who struggles to relate to people and relies heavily on data, except when it matters most.

Mayer pushed to hire big name media personalities like Katie Couric and expand into more premium content without any evidence that such moves would connect with Yahoo’s audience. Several of the top executives she hired were people who reached out to her rather than the other way around. One of those, Henrique De Castro, talked a particularly good game and was apparently hired for a huge sum of money without being vetted at all by Mayer’s Yahoo. He completely failed to boost display ad sales and was ultimately pushed out of the company after just 15 months, costing the company tens of millions.

To her credit, Mayer succeeded in reenergizing Yahoo employees, speeding up product development and devoting more attention to mobile, an area that was sorely lacking in resources prior to her arrival. But as Carlson explains, her decision to implement a controversial employee review system cut into morale and the products she pushed failed to offset declines in Yahoo’s ad sales and search market share.

Throughout her first two years as CEO, Mayer’s success or failures didn’t matter all that much. Yahoo’s stock continued to trend up thanks to an investment years earlier in Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which finally went public in September 2014. That IPO gives Mayer more cash to play with, but there is little left to camouflage the struggles in Yahoo’s core business.

For now, Mayer and her team continue to work to improve ad revenue, improve its existing product lineup and ideally find a new breakthrough product to help make Yahoo relevant again. As Carlson explains, though, that is a Herculean task.

“Ultimately, Yahoo suffers from the fact that the reason it ever succeeded in the first place was because it solved a global problem that lasted for only a moment. The early Internet was hard to use, and Yahoo made it easier. Yahoo was the Internet,” Carlson writes. “Then the Internet was flooded with capital and infinite solutions for infinite problems, and the need for Yahoo faded. The company hasn’t found its purpose since.”

Over the years, a successful Hollywood executive, a brassy self-made woman and one the company’s founders have all tried and largely failed to achieve that mission. If Mayer does end up failing, at least she will be in good company.


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Facebook paid users to track smartphone use




Facebook paid users, including teens, to track their smartphone activity as part of an effort to glean more data that could help the social network’s competition efforts, according to a new report that may raise fresh privacy concerns.

An investigation by the online news site TechCrunch said the effort, which had been known as the Onavo Project and later rebaptized as Facebook Research, was used to gather data on usage habits.

The news could be a further embarrassment for Facebook, which has been under heightened scrutiny over failing to crack down on manipulation of its platform and for sharing private data with its business partners.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook said it shut down the application on Apple’s iOS on Wednesday after the article was published, but apparently kept it active for Android users.

The report said the initial Onavo app was shuttered for violating Apple’s privacy policy and that the newer version may also contravene Apple’s terms.

The program paid users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 a month for “root” access to their devices to track their location, app usage, spending habits and other activity.

According to a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook claimed there was nothing secret about the effort and that it obtained parental consent for teens where required.

Facebook did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.

The project may have allowed Facebook to scoop up more data about younger users as it fends off a challenge from rival services like Snapchat, which has become more popular than Facebook among US teens.

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Instagram is down for some users (FB)




It’s not clear exactly how many people are affected, or what’s causing the outage. Business Insider has reached out to the Facebook-owned photo sharing app for more information.

The app’s news feed is refusing to refresh for some users, while the homepage on desktop won’t load.

Down Detector, a website that tracks outages of popular websites, reported a spike in users saying Instagram was down on Monday, with particular hotspots on both coasts of the United States and the UK.

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Instagram plans to offer high-profile influencers special tools that will provide them with a deeper insight into various data regarding their followers. These tools will be delivered in the form of Creator Accounts, which will only be available to select Instagram users (i.e. influencers, celebs).

An Instagram official recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the company wishes to make sure that “Instagram is the best place, and easiest place, to build fan communities and also build creators. personal brands.”

These creator accounts are meant to function like business-focused profiles and will offer growth insights, including information about follows and unfollows. Influencers will also be able to see weekly and daily data about their followers count changes so that they can better understand what might have caused a decline in their fan base or a spike in new followers.

Also, direct messaging tools that will enable Instagram users to filter notes from brand partners and friends will be available as well. Furthermore, influencers will be allowed to choose how they want to be contacted via flexible labels.

According to Instagram. these new features are being tested with a small beta group at the moment, but they are expected to be rolled out to everyone sometime in 2019.



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