Yahoo and Katie Couric: Latest Media Reboot Attempt

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Yahoo has hired Katie Couric to be its new Global Anchor.  The company is betting big money that Couric will deliver big results. More importantly, Yahoo is the latest company to try to reboot the media world in its own way.

Couric will be the leader (in name and face) for Yahoo's "growing team of correspondents at Yahoo News who will cover the world's most interesting stories and newsmakers."  (Note to self: Put in resume at Yahoo).   Katie is the biggest name in a stable of growing editorial talent that includes three former New York Times staffers, including technology columnist David Pogue.

Do big names bring readers, viewers, and page hits?  The jury is out.  Sirius XM (Sirius Satellite Radio at the time) bet the company on its deal in 2004 to bring Howard Stern on board to bootstrap satellite radio subscriptions. Mark Cuban gambled on damaged CBS News veteran Dan Rather to bring viewers to his HDNet HD TV venture back in 2006.  Sirius XM has flourished but Cuban quietly shut down the HDNet brand last year, rebooting it as AXS TV, with "Dan Rather Reports" remaining as a network staple.

Yahoo hasn't provided figures on how much Couric will make as Global Anchor, but she currently has a contract with ABC estimated at around $40 million – Katie doesn't come cheap.  If Yahoo is smart, they have provided a base salary along with a revenue share of whatever advertising dollars are brought in and associated with Couric's internet pieces.  The more people watch, the more money Couric would get.

There's also fuzziness as to potential tie-ins/cross promotion between ABC and Yahoo.  Couric will continue to host her daytime talk show while saddling up as Global Anchor, but it still isn't clear (though it is unlikely) that Disney-ABC will renew the syndicated show for a third season.   

Yahoo isn't the only entity trying to reboot/reinvent media.  Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos plunked down $250 million to buy The Washington Post a few months ago, with the intent to find a sustainable path for the hybrid national/D.C. local news organization.  EBay founder Pierre Omidyar was in the running to purchase The Post before Bezos sealed the deal.  Now Omindyar is bankrolling a $250 million from-scratch digital journalism project featuring journalist/privacy crusader Glenn Greenwald of Edward Snowden fame.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of all these new ventures is the lack of an emerging "star" from the digital media world.  All of the ventures listed above are reaching into "old" media to either pull brand names out for new ventures or to try to revive existing-but-declining media outlets.  There's been no break-out star (yet) from the digital media world that has been pulled into a "legacy" media organization to pump up ad revenues and transfer knowledge from new media to "old." 




Edited by Blaise McNamee

Contributing Editor

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