Sunnyvale, California -- A big catch for Demand Media caught Sunnyvale, Internet portal by surprise. Yahoo Inc.'s senior vice president and head of North American sales and market development chief “Joanne Bradford”, is leaving the company to join private online content start-up Demand Media Inc., becoming the latest executive to depart the Web giant's ranks.
The departure of Bradford, a former executive at Microsoft Corp, comes as a surprise to Yahoo executives, as the Sunnyvale, Calif., Internet powerhouse is in the midst of a reorientation effort led by Chief Executive Officer Carol Bartz.
The news was confirmed in a statement hours after it was first reported by Kara Swisher at AllThingsDigital. “Joanne Bradford has decided to leave Yahoo to pursue a new undertaking. Joanne will be working with the team over the coming weeks to enable a smooth transition.”
Ms. Bradford is leaving the company after a stint of 18 months and will join Santa Monica, California-based Demand Media as chief revenue officer. Ms. Bradford joined Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo in 2008, after working at online-ad agency Spot Runner Inc. and earlier at Microsoft Corp.
Demand Media, in a statement posted today on its website said, Bradford will join the company as its first chief revenue officer to oversee advertising sales and the company's recently launched online content services business.
Since Bartz took the leadership in January 2009, Yahoo has cut headcount and divested certain products and assets to reduce costs and focus on its core online media and entertainment business. During a presentation to analysts in October, Bartz praised Bradford for doing a “really, really fine job.” Yahoo said Bradford will work with her team over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition.
In addition to functioning as Yahoo's top sales exec, Ms. Bradford was managing the sales integration for the Yahoo-Microsoft search deal, where Yahoo would sell premium search inventory for both companies. Ms. Bradford possesses deep relationships with advertisers that could help Demand Media persuade them that it is more than a “content mill” and therefore worthy of their premium ad dollars.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Demand Media CEO and co-founder Richard Rosenblatt said Bradford will support the company “aggressively” broaden its focus on ad sales as well as a new service in which Demand Media sells companies specialized content and social media tools for their web sites.
“Almost as easily as you can deliver ads, we can now deliver content, social media and ads,” said Rosenblatt.
At Demand Media, she will promote the company's closely-held and operated sites, such as Ehow.com, Livestrong.com and Cracked; custom content; and its Pluck social-media services. Demand Media, which develops content for social Web sites on topics such as fitness, travel and comedy, was founded in 2006 with backing from Oak Investment Partners, Spectrum Equity Investors and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Prior to Yahoo, Ms. Bradford has held three high-level posts: She served as the chief media officer at the MSN Media Network, responsible for its profile in the ad community before leaving that post to join SpotRunner as EVP of national marketing services in March 2008. Then, after only seven months, she took the Yahoo job in late 2008.
In July, Bartz struck a 10-year deal with Microsoft that lets the software company provide the back-end technology that powers Yahoo's Web search capabilities. Yahoo did not name any successor as yet and declined to comment beyond their statement. If Yahoo decides to replace Ms. Bradford with an internal candidate, Mitch Spolan is widely thought to be a potential successor. Spolan was elevated to sales chief for North America last April, reporting to Ms. Bradford.
The company is competing with Facebook to keep its share of time spent on the internet, and has pursued a strategy of allowing users to pull all their social feeds into a customized Yahoo home page.
Yahoo rose 14 cents to $16.46 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have fallen 1.9 percent this year.