Marissa Mayer Puts on Game Face, Talks Up Yahoo’s Next Plays

Xconomy New York — 

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took part in a fireside chat on Monday in New York with Slate Group Chairman and Editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg, laying out a bit of her strategy to make her company more competitive.

The two sat down at the IAB MIXX conference, hosted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and one of many events being held during Advertising Week here.

Mayer gave the expected spiel about ways Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) keeps trying to build on its strengths, old and new. “Throughout our history, we’ve always been the guide,” she said. “Originally we were Dave and Jerry’s guide to the World Wide Web. Today we really want to be the mobile guide.”

The question of what Yahoo really has to offer its shareholders after the Alibaba spinoff still hangs in the air though. Mayer said she wants to focus on core offerings—search, mail and communications, and digital content.

Mayer, who became CEO of Yahoo in 2012, said she was proud of the products and mobile applications the company now offers, noting that it had little mobile presence when she took the helm. “We’re in still in the midst of our renaissance,” she said. “We’ve become mobile first.”

The company has been making more noise lately about its efforts to grow in the mobile sector. In August, Yahoo brought its mobile apps developer conference to New York for the first time ever. On Monday, Mayer said Yahoo now has a mobile audience of 600 million monthly active users.

The acquisition last summer of mobile analytics company Flurry gives Yahoo insight, she said, on mobile user habits, apps, and the ubiquitous spread of mobile devices. For example, she said Flurry’s data shows that more than 280 million people around the world are “mobile addicts” who interact with apps at least 60 times per day.

Mayer said people spend some 20 percent of their time on digital devices watching video, with 50 percent of that done through mobile. She also said time the spent on mobile apps is evenly split between messaging and entertainment. “There’s a huge amount of activity that’s moving to mobile,” she said.

There is also some action in sports that Yahoo wants a bigger piece of. In June, the company announced a deal with the NFL to show a single-game, free live stream in October featuring the Buffalo Bills versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. The stream, which Mayer called a test, will be available through multiple access points on Yahoo, including Yahoo Mail, to watch the game.

Yahoo has a history of offering sports related content, Mayer said, and is now making more of a push in fantasy sports—which of late has been a battleground for ESPN, FanDuel, and DraftKings. Season-long play was already available through Yahoo Fantasy Sports, and in July the company added daily and weeklong games. Despite the heady competition in this market, Mayer said Yahoo has an edge on its rivals. “We are the one platform that combines season-long games and daily games,” she said.

Whether that will help Yahoo put more points on its own scoreboard remains to be seen.