Yahoo! Taps Reader’s Digest Executive

SANTA CLARA, Calif.– Yahoo! Inc., which has been struggling to find its footing amid a recent slew of personnel changes and a severe downdraft in online advertising, has tapped an executive from old-economy stalwart Reader’s Digest Association Inc. as executive vice president of its North American operations.

Gregory C. Coleman, who most recently served as senior vice president of Reader’s Digest, will be responsible for Yahoo’s overall North American operations. He will report to Yahoo (YHOO) President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Mallett.

Yahoo has been beset by a number of changes in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the popular Internet portal said it would miss Wall Street’s first-quarter earnings and revenue forecasts and that it has started a search for a new chief executive to succeed Timothy Koogle, who will remain chairman. The announcement came as Yahoo’s stock has plunged more than 90% and the environment for Internet advertising continues to deteriorate.

Shortly after that announcement, Anil Singh, chief sales and marketing officer and senior vice president of business operations, said he planned to leave the company altogether and retire in May. Mr. Singh’s exit also came on the heels of several other executive departures.

Meanwhile, Yahoo has faced some criticism for its insular ways. According to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Koogle’s relinquishing of his CEO post amounted to an acknowledgement of something people close to Yahoo have increasingly been saying: that the tight knit, us-against-the-world management style that fueled Yahoo’s astronomical rise may also have exacerbated its decline.

“Their culture helped them build a superb site and a really edgy brand, but it also held them back from making forward-looking business decisions,” said Holly Becker, an analyst at Lehman Brothers. “The culture that served them so incredibly well until the middle of last year is now letting them down.”

The hiring of Mr. Coleman, however, could be a step in a different direction. According to a Yahoo statement, Mr. Coleman has nearly 25 years of media experience. He was responsible for Reader’s Digest’s stable of magazine properties, including Reader’s Digest, Walking, Family Handyman, New Choices and American Woodworker. In this role, he oversaw all advertising, circulation, production, customer service and financial initiatives for the company’s magazine division.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Greg to our team,” said Mr. Mallett. “His proven track record in the publishing industry and stellar relationships in the advertising community will allow us to continue to innovate and strengthen our leadership position. Greg’s broad base of experience, results-oriented determination and fresh perspective will bring great value to Yahoo!’s business, particularly his unique ability to produce and package services around large subscriber audiences. His appointment demonstrates our continued commitment to add leadership that will complement our existing management team.”