Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer seems to be on a bit of a press tour, and as result, a lot of her comments onstage today at the IAB MIXX conference won’t be a big surprise to folks who have been following her recent public appearances and the broader coverage of her time at Yahoo.
One thing that did surprise me: Mayer said (a couple of times, in fact) that she doesn’t read what the media writes about her. To explain why, she recalled hearing a quote from Margaret Thatcher about how press, whether it’s good or bad, influences you and “pulls you off center.” In general, Mayer said she tries not to pay attention to “external forces”: “I know who I am … I have a really clear vision of what I want us to be achieving.”
Not that she claims to be ignoring the media entirely — in the case of her much-discussed Vogue photo shoot, Mayer said that she didn’t read the profile, but “I did see the photographs.” (She said her upside-down pose was prompted by the photographer, who complained that with the profile’s theme of “leadership coming in unconventional forms,” the standard “First Lady in this chaise lounge” pose wasn’t working.)
So … do we actually believe that Mayer doesn’t read her press? Some TechCrunch writers were certainly skeptical when I brought this up, particularly since Mayer seems to be media savvy and, for the most part, doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. I’m more inclined than some of my co-workers to believe her, though I suspect it’s less a blanket “get that article away from me!” rule and more a general guideline.
On the subject of her media appearances, interviewer Charlie Rose (yep Charlie Rose) suggested that Mayer does appear to be building a bit of a brand for herself, but she replied, “I’m building the brand for Yahoo.”
Not that the entire discussion was about her relationship with the press. Mayer also touched on her transition at Google from managing search to focusing on local, which has been portrayed as a demotion, characterizing it as her own decision: “I didn’t want to be the search girl.” And she reiterated that her focus at Yahoo is on mobile — as for mobile monetization, she compared it to the early days of Google, when everyone was wondering of anyone would make money from search.
When Rose asked her what the future looks like, she said, “To me, the future is personalization.” She described herself as having “a career-long love affair with search,” and added, “The ultimate search is one where you’re the query” — i.e. it’s a search that takes into account all your history and preferences.