Yahoo pushes crucial mobile business at conference

Marissa Mayer has said that, when she first joined Yahoo as CEO in 2012, the mobile business there was a hobby, and no one’s job.

These days, Mayer is working hard to change course: She wants Yahoo to be thought of a mobile trendsetter, which is why the company is hosting its first-ever mobile developer conference Thursday in San Francisco.

An expected 1,000 developers will attend. Analysts say Mayer will need to impress them.

Getty Images Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer delivers a keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas.

Getty Images
Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer delivers a keynote address at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas.

“If you’re one of the leading Internet assets out there then you have to have a good mobile strategy,” said Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Markets. “That’s why Yahoo has to host a mobile developer conference. It has to show that it has mobile chops, not only for consumers and advertisers, but also for developers.”

Mayer is dedicating a lot of time, effort and resources to mobile, and there’s proof that her hard work is paying off.

In the fourth quarter, Yahoo’s mobile ad revenue jumped 23 percent to $254 million. Its mobile monthly active users were up to 575 million.

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Still, Mayer has a lot more work to do before the company is seen as a true mobile leader.

This year, Yahoo’s mobile ad revenue will account for about 4 percent of the market in the U.S. compared to 35 percent for Google and 17 percent for Facebook, according to research firm eMarketer.

Yahoo’s stock has struggled in the face of that competition. It’s up some 13 percent over the past 12 months, but down nearly 20 percent since hitting a recent high last November.

“Yahoo has had a lot of progress, but they still lag the industry in terms of mobile adoption and mobile revenue,” said Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray. “They’re at about half of where they probably should be.”

Last month, tech site “The Information” reported that Yahoo will present a big mobile ad push to impress developers.

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Specifically, Yahoo is expected to give advertisers a self-service platform that will let them place ads on Yahoo apps as well as thousands of other apps that are using its Flurry network. (Flurry is a mobile analytics and advertising platform that Yahoo bought last year.)

Analysts say that news might not move the needle significantly in the short term, but it could have an impact over the long term as the company continues to expand its audience of mobile users.

“Yahoo is still a guppy when it comes to mobile ads,” said Sameet Sinha of B. Riley & Co. “It’s a small player. But, as the company increases mobile users and engagement, the mobile ad business will grow. Now it all depends on execution.”