Recode’s Kara Swisher broke the news yesterday that Yahoo’s highly regarded editor-in-chief Jai Singh is leaving the company. The news comes barely a day after CEO Marissa Mayer’s high profile filing of COO Henrique De Castro and a major reorganization that places the media unit under CMO Kathy Savitt.
Swisher wrote: “Appointing a marketing person to be in charge of editorial is probably enough of a reason for many journalists to run screaming from the building, but it’s not clear what prompted Singh’s exit. In addition, Savitt has a very mixed reputation — and this is me being polite — inside Yahoo.”
This is disappointing news. With its recent keynote at CES, Yahoo had outlined a future where it would strive to be a leader in quality news content. It had made some high profile hires in the field, including David Pogue from the New York Times and Katie Couric, which gave the company some hefty journalistic credibility. By putting a marketing person in charge of the news, it runs the risk of becoming just another content farm, not to mention running into a big mess of ethical conflict. Singh had solid journalism credentials, as the founder of CNET and a stint at The Huffington Post. It isn’t difficult to see why he might have chafed under having to answer to the CMO.
Brands are supposed to take their content cues from media outlets, not the other way round. By bringing the media unit under the CMO, Mayer is limiting just how far the company can go when it comes to producing original news content. Already there’s been complaints of Yahoo’s news offerings as being less than independent, (especially in this interview David Pogue did with Summly founder Nick D’Aloisio) By putting the CMO in charge of the news, Mayer has merged two units with competing goals. There’s delivering the news to the people, and then there’s promoting Yahoo products. Guess which one will priority number one for Savitt?