Yahoo’s New Catch-All Units For Consumer, Regions And Technology Highlight Challenges In All Three

One week after Yahoo announced it would lay off 2,000 employees, the company has now confirmed the second part of its restructuring: a reorganization that puts the company’s assets into three new business units — consumer, regions and technology, with at least one operation put to the side for a potential sale.

The announcement, revealed to the company in an all-hands meeting as well as an internal memo earlier today (first published by AllThingsD), was not released in a public statement, but TechCrunch understands that Scott Thompson, Yahoo’s new CEO, has put three different functions within the consumer division: media, “connections” (interactive and social businesses) and commerce. Regions meanwhile will oversee all of Yahoo’s ad business. And technology will provide the “science” and infrastructure that will underpin how the first two work.

All three underscore just how much work Yahoo has ahead:

Ross Levinsohn will be in charge of the media division. This will not only be the place where Yahoo’s own content operations will sit — that includes portals like Homepage, News, Finance, Sports, and Entertainment — but also the company’s newer forays into delivering content on behalf of other companies through the Yahoo Publishing Platform, which covers text- but also video-based content. (This might have been where, incidentally, it would have put Float, if that deal with Scribd had gone ahead.) It looks like the streaming video content is where Yahoo hopes to be banking the most activity, around upcoming events like the Olympics and the U.S. Elections. It’s also where so many others are moving, too, so the big question is whether Yahoo will be able to offer something in the quality or experience stakes above what we might see elsewhere.

Connections“, or Yahoo’s different interactive and social properties, are going to be led by Shashi Seth, and cover services like Mail, Messenger, Flickr and Answers. To be sure, this is a challenging area for Yahoo, because it encompasses services where Yahoo has been relatively successful — Mail, Flickr and Answers — but has also failed to capitalize — social, where one of its most controversial recent acts has been not to launch a new product but a patent suit against Facebook. There are some interesting things underway with what Yahoo is trying to do — for example, with some new technology in its IntoNow social TV app (more on that later) — but again this is about whether Yahoo is doing something better that others are working on, too. It helps that Yahoo already has a big audience in other consumer divisions.

One intriguing new territory for Yahoo is its new commerce division. This does not yet have a named head (although AllThingsD has pegged Sam Shraugher from PayPal to lead it), and it will put all of the company’s existing divisions where commerce already happens. That includes Autos, Shopping, Travel, Jobs, Personals and Real Estate.

While while there may be new e-commerce ventures in the cards for Yahoo — it seems natural, given Thompson’s own background from PayPal and the fact that this is a $224.2 billion market this year — this is not something that the company is focusing on today. “We must focus all we do on the users who trust us to give them personalized content and communications, and the advertisers who want to connect with our users,” said Thompson in a memo to employees. “To be very clear, our highest priority is winning in our core business and that will earn us the right to pursue new growth opportunities.”

Advertising, which will now be in the regions division, is equally challenging: As the market for online advertising continues to grow, Yahoo has seen a big decline in its share of it. Last year, according to eMarketer, Yahoo’s share stood at only 9.5 percent for all online ad revenues, down from a 15.7 percent share in 2009. And 2012 is a case (at best) of “it’s going to get worse before it gets better”: Yahoo’s share will only be 7.4 percent this year. The U.S. online ad market is expected to be worth $39.5 billion this year, up 23.3 percent over 2011.

Display ads, where Yahoo has been strongest traditionally, is where it’s getting hardest hit: Yahoo’s share in U.S. display was only 10.8 percent in 2011, down from its peak of 18.4 percent in 2008. Facebook has overtaken it and now has a 14 percent share of display ad revenues in the U.S., says eMarketer.

It’s telling that Rich Riley has been brought back to the U.S. to lead up the Americas team: he oversaw some very strong growth in Europe. Rose Tsou continues to lead Asia Pacific, and Europe/EMEA is now looking for a new head, with Christophe Parcot leading in the interim.

Lastly, technology. This is a touchy area, with Yahoo having let go a number of people who were at the center of its R&D efforts, with some speculating talent migrations to Facebook and others to Detroit… Wherever it is, it ain’t Sunnyvale.

You have assume for now that Thompson and his advisers have a bigger plan here, and are focusing on teams and products that haven’t been decimated by the restructuring announced last week. Areas that will continue to remain a focus for the tech team are the areas of user analytics, content optimization, personalization and monetization.