After a weekend of playing coy, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) finally admitted early Monday morning that Scott Moore is rejoining the company following four years at Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). Moore’s official title: U.S. Executive Producer, managing the home page, all of the channels, MSNBC.com, etc. For the past couple of years, Moore, who joined Yahoo when it was getting into the media biz and left last fall as SVP-head of Yahoo Media, has been crowing over Yahoo’s traffic gains during his tenure, even calling out Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes on the subject during a session at the ‘D’ conference. We spoke soon after the announcement; here are some highlights.
More after the jump.
– Microsoft redux: As we’d reported previously, when Moore left Yahoo last fall, he was planning to pursue a start up in local news and information. Moore said he initially met with MSN to discuss possibly partnering on it. “It turned out in the course of those conversations that we sort of saw the opportunity in pretty similar ways. They were very eager to have me back … pursuing my idea at Microsoft, as well as running a bunch of the other content. I just decided it was the right thing to do, a unique opportunity.”
– Let the spin begin: Moore didn’t waste any time turning on the pitch spigot for MSN and Microsoft. “I think that MSN and Microsoft are very well positioned right now, given the downturn in the economy. Everyone is pulling back and they’re in a position to gain share. My job there is going to be to increase engagement and build audience, something I’m very comfortable with.” How does he move Microsoft ahead? “There’s not any one thing you can point to. The reality is that MSN’s got some incredible assets to work with. MSNBC is a very strong player in the news space; they have other strong offerings in video … We need to iterate and try things and innovate and see what works and we’ll do more of that. Those are basically the formulas we thought at Yahoo that were successful and I’ll be trying the same thing at Microsoft.” As for MSN’s growth since he left four years ago: “It’s gotten a lot bigger. It’s profitable. They have huge audiences. Very few companies have the kind of scale that Microsoft has … in this economy, scale is more important that ever. Going into a company that is stable, solid and has such a great position, and being able to build on that position, it’s a very attractive opportunity for me.”
– Different strokes : Moore’s hiring by then-Yahoo Media head Lloyd Braun was the start of a major media expansion for Yahoo, complete with M&A, staffing and all that goes along with it. Moore comes back to Microsoft just after the company said it would lay off up to 5,000 people and was implementing cost cutting across the board. But, he said, “I’m not worried about resources. … You have to make a credible case that there’s a return on investment.”
– Whiter AOL?: Moore has yet to work for AOL (NYSE: TWX), although rumblings have paired the Time Warner unit with both Yahoo and Microsoft. Does he think AOL will be a standalone content service a year from now? “I think anything’s possible. As you can imagine, over the last year, 18 months at Yahoo, we spent a fair amount of time playing parlor games. It got tiresome. Other people will figure that out. No matter what happens, I think Microsoft will be extremely well positioned.”
– Title deflation: Moore, who essentially winds up in the job last held by Jeff Dossett, now the head of Yahoo’s U.S. audience business and his ostensible replacement, won’t even be a vice president in the much larger company. He won’t be responsible for P&L either, but says that was changing at Yahoo, too. “I don