Will Yahoo Unload Right Media?

 

The drama unfolding at Yahoo continues to have twists and turns. The latest is AOL showing interest in having Yahoo buy it, an idea that was floated on Friday and shot down nearly as quickly.

But there is little doubt that Yahoo is open to a sale of some sort. The company has used the code words to this effect, saying it would review its “strategic options.” While it’s always a mess to untangle a company, there’s the possibility Yahoo will unload Right Media, the ad exchange it bought back in 2007. Adexchanger’s John Ebbert envisions just such a scenario.

Yahoo was early to the ad exchange business. It pioneered the move to Wall Street-like bidding coming to online advertising. But by most accounts, it has failed to innovate as quickly as the rest of the industry. Its slow adoption of real-time bidding, for example, was often pointed to as an example of how far behind it had fallen. It’s now without its leader, too, as Right Media head Ramsey McGrory’s last day was last week.

But where would Right Media go? Microsoft would seem the obvious candidate. It already has a deal to handle Yahoo’s search advertising, so adding in its non-guaranteed display makes sense on paper. Ebbert points out that Microsoft could be shy due to its patchy record on ad tech acquisitions, as evidenced by the aQuantive deal. Another option could be combining Right Media with App Nexus, the Microsoft exchange partner that’s independent but is partially owned by Microsoft.

Plenty on the buy side will root for Right Media to find a home where it can thrive. It’s clear that the many management changes and shifts in direction at Yahoo hurt Right Media from acting as a true counterbalance to the weight of Google. While Yahoo has dithered, Google has plowed ahead with a vision of recreating an end-to-end system in display that rivals what it has in search. That understandably gives advertisers and agencies some pause. While everyone agrees the display-ad system needs less complexity, few want to go in the direction of a Google-dominant market.

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