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With new CEO at helm, mobile will play larger role for Yahoo

Hiring PayPal president Scott Thompson as its new CEO suggests Yahoo wants to get more serious about mobile.

Once a dominant search provider and leader in display advertising, Yahoo has been facing declining sales and market share. Mr. Thompson, who led PayPal during a period when it significantly increased its presence in mobile payments and became eBay?s fastest growing business, will look to drive a turnaround with mobile playing an important role.

?Scott Thompson's record at building PayPal's mobile products would have definitely made him more attractive to Yahoo,? said Chia Chen, senior vice president of the mobile practice at Digitas, Boston. ?His hiring points to bigger and better things for Yahoo in the mobile space.

?Currently, Yahoo has good assets in mobile, such as significant consumer engagement and interesting technology like IntoNow,? he said.

?Yahoo needs to figure out how to leverage its mobile assets to attractive, proven and differentiated opportunities for brands. Thompson's proven ability to create and grow products that connects consumers to businesses along with his focus on data will serve Yahoo! very well in the mobile space.?

Mobile a focus
Yahoo has been the focus of significant speculation that it is ripe for a takeover by another company but the appointment of Mr. Thompson suggests that the company will try a turnaround on its own. 

Mr. Thompson replaces former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, who was let go in September. He will join Yahoo on Jan. 9 after spending several years at PayPal.

Yahoo is primarily an advertising business so Mr. Thomspon?s lack of experience in advertising could be an issue.

However, on a conference call announcing the appointment, Mr. Thompson said Yahoo will increasingly focus on mobile devices, an area where he has significant experience.

Yahoo has already been trying to build its mobile presence.

Yahoo introduced Living Ads ad units in the fall that run in its digital newsstand Livestand and combine the interactive aspect of digital with the sight, sound and motion of television. However, there has been some speculation that Yahoo has priced the ad units too high, with ad packages ranging between $200,000 and $500,000.

Yahoo?s Right Media recently rolled out a new feature that will let publishers, advertisers and agencies buy and sell mobile ads for smartphone and tablet browsers on the same platform they currently use for PC display advertising.

Several brands have advertised in Yahoo's Fantasy Football apps. Procter & Gamble brand Vick's is currently running ads for DayQuil and NyQuil products that let users play a Vick?s-themed football game without taking them out of the fantasy football app experienc. The campaign will run through the end of the football season.

Given his background with PayPal, it is possible Mr. Thompson could look to expand Yahoo?s mobile presence into the quickly growing mobile commerce space.

Yahoo has potential to play a role in mobile analytics as well.

?Mobile is critical to many leading digital companies as a path for growth and innovation; Yahoo is no different,? said Phuc Truong, managing director of Mobext, Boston. ?To that end, I would imagine the possibility to grow their presence would likely to have been a selling point. 

?Given his transactional background, I could see him driving mobile leadership for Yahoo as it relates to m-commerce and closing the loop on mobile display and off-line purchases,? he said.

?As mobile analytics could always improve, Yahoo can potentially lead in this space as well to show channel attribution towards conversion.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York