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More gloom for Marissa Mayer as Yahoo axes 15 digital magazines

Described by the New York Times as the “embattled chief executive of Yahoo,” the Times reports that Marrisa Mayer is gutting one of her signature projects: A cluster of digital magazines devoted to topics like food, autos, real estate, travel and technology.

Yahoo yesterday told dozens of writers and editors at the 15 publications that they were losing their jobs as part of Yahoo’s broader plan, announced last month, to cut 15 per cent of its work force.

Some of the topics that the magazines had covered will be folded into Yahoo News, said the NYT. Yahoo will still produce some original content in areas like tech and fashion but articles on topics like food and autos, whose publications lost all of their staff, will be republished from other websites.

One employee who was laid off told the Times, “It’s kind of a blood bath over there,” she said but asked for anonymity because talking to the media could jeopardize her severance package. “Only a handful of people are staying.”

Ms. Mayer bet heavily on the magazines as a key to reinventing Yahoo as a premium destination for readers and advertisers. She devoted significant engineering resources to adapt Tumblr, Yahoo’s blogging network, to host the magazines. She also spent millions of dollars hiring celebrity talent like Bobbi Brown, founder of the cosmetics line that bears her name; Joe Zee, formerly the creative director of Elle; and David Pogue, a best-selling author of personal technology books and a former columnist for The New York Times.

Ms. Brown is leaving the company, but Mr. Zee and Mr. Pogue are staying, according to a Yahoo spokeswoman.

The Times said that Yahoo’s personalization technology never reached the hoped-for level of sophistication. The editors of the magazines were constantly fighting with the people who ran Yahoo’s home page to get prominent display for their work. The home page editors, relying on reader data and computer algorithms, preferred to run articles licensed by Yahoo from other sites because they drew more traffic.

The magazines also struggled to draw in relevant advertising. Virtually none of them were profitable, according to a person with knowledge of their finances.
Yahoo Tech, introduced with great fanfare by Ms. Mayer at the International CES Show two years ago, will continue to exist for the moment with a smaller staff, including Mr. Pogue, although its content will eventually be folded into Yahoo News.
In a farewell note to the Yahoo Tech staff published by Politico, its editor, Dan Tynan, said, “I am sure that bigger and better things await all of us. As for Yahoo, I am sure it will continue to be Yahoo, for better or worse. And some day we’ll all have a good laugh about it. Just not this week.”

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