Summary:

Ahead of Q1 earnings, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson filled in a vital blank spot in his plan to remake the media company. Last week, he sketched an outline.
Tuesday he has to color between the lines.

Yahoo reflected in eye
photo: Getty Images / Chris Jackson

A day ahead of Q1 earnings, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson filled in a vital blank spot in his plan to remake the media company. As many expected, Thompson has hired fellow PayPal alum Sam Shrauger to head a new e-commerce initiative. He’s also gone a step further, promoting Mollie Spilman to co-lead the new unit with Shrauger.

Both will be EVPs, both will report to Thompson directly, and both will be on his executive leadership team.

Shrauger was VP of the global product and customer experience organization at PayPal before he left earlier this month. Spilman heads marketing for the Americas group, which is being split into product through the new consumer group and sales, which stays with the regional setup. Put another way, Shrauger knows e-commerce; Spilman knows media, marketing — and Yahoo.

The announcement late Monday includes a little more description about Yahoo’s e-commerce plans than Thompson included in last week’s re-org unveiling:

Under Shrauger and Spilman’s leadership, the new commerce business will focus on delivering engaging and personalized consumer commerce experiences which will connect consumers to marketers and merchants. Based on Yahoo’s unique understanding of customers needs, the commerce offerings will be relevant and customized in specific categories where people are already transacting on the web, such as autos, travel, jobs, personals, real estate and retail goods. This business unit will initially be made up of existing Yahoo! properties and is expected to include new offerings over time.

So first, Shrauger and Spilman need to figure out how to use the parts they already have, and more importantly, how to match them with the consumer data that flows through Yahoo and how to make more than incremental money in the process.

Two weeks ago, Thompson laid off some 2,000 Yahoos, about 14 percent of the workforce. At the time, he offered little explanation. Last week, he sketched an outline.

Tomorrow, during Yahoo’s earnings call (5 p.m. edt), he has to color between the lines. It doesn’t have to be Sunday in the Park with George, filled with detail. But Thompson has to offer more reason for investors (activists and backers alike), analysts and the employees still there to believe that he can manage his way to growth.

Thompson’s job doesn’t depend on it. For now. He has the CEO equivalent of a golden ticket, a chance to remake a mature Internet media company in the image he thinks will work.

It’s not a clear path. Activist shareholder Dan Loeb was vocal about the need for major change at Yahoo before Thompson got there and has since started a proxy battle aimed at getting himself and three others, including former NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker and Activate’s Michael Wolf, on the board.

But barring anything startling, Thompson will get his opportunity. Tuesday is when the latest remake of Yahoo really starts — not May Day, when the changes kick in.

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