For eons, Yahoo seemed to be stuck in a permanent identity crisis: Was it a tech company or a media company? That question appeared to get an answer in 2012, when it named Google’s Marissa Mayer—most definitely a tech person—as CEO.
But as Sarah Ellison’s revealing new Vanity Fair article details, even Mayer couldn’t resist the idea of Yahoo being a media company. She paid millions for high-profile talent, went with her instincts on which categories to pursue, and generally didn’t behave much like the executive famous for making decisions based on user data, not gut. It’s hard to believe that the company, which has recently scaled back its media operations, laid off throngs of employees, and put itself up for sale, wouldn’t be in better shape if Mayer had poured all that money and attention into technology rather than content.