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Martha Nelson Now Heads All Media for Yahoo, Including Video

The old-media vet is now in charge of Yahoo's new-media efforts, even as outfits like BuzzFeed run circles around the company.

Cindy Ord / Getty

According to an internal memo that went out last week, Martha Nelson has officially been designated the head of all media for Yahoo, including having purview over its video content efforts.

The former top editor at Time Inc., who arrived at the Silicon Valley Internet giant in August as global editor in chief and is also an SVP there, now reports directly to CEO Marissa Mayer.

It was a change that came after Kathy Savitt left in September from her post as head of media and also marketing for the top digital job at STX Entertainment. Savitt had hired Nelson and she had reported to her.

Nelson has had a storied magazine career, as founding editor of InStyle and head honcho of People in its heyday. She was the first woman to be named editor in chief at Time Inc. in 2013, but left a year later after CEO Joe Ripp decided editors who once reported to her would instead report to business execs. (Ugh, Joe! Go, Martha!)

In her more wide-ranging job at Yahoo, old-media veteran Nelson has a lot to handle in the messy new-media world, as the company has waded deeply into content. That includes a spate of digital magazines, a variety of aggressive video efforts with shows, including by high-profile TV star Katie Couric, and more.

It’s not clear if Nelson also has to do cleanup for some of Yahoo’s recent failed original video content efforts, such as “Community” and other shows. In its recent earnings call, Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman said the company would take a $42 million write-down on those efforts, because — as he explained plainly — “we couldn’t see a way to make money over time.”

Translation: Hollywooding is hard.

Nelson has to presumably fix some of that while also innovating some new stuff, even as new outfits like BuzzFeed run circles around Yahoo. And that is also while managing up to Mayer, who has taken an intense and — let’s be honest — not very savvy interest in media machinations.

That includes Mayer’s personally pushing for today’s big move, when Yahoo plans to stream the Buffalo Bills versus the Jacksonville Jaguars match-up, the first time an NFL game has been primarily a digital-only event. Yahoo paid a princely $20 million for the privilege.

The thankless task of making that work — as in it playing smoothly globally — is the job of Adam Cahan (there’s only downside here, Adam, but good for you for trying!).

I sent a lovely email to Nelson — who seems unlikely to respond despite being an actual journalist in charge of media at Yahoo now (yay for that anyways!) — for comment.

But so what? Here’s the short part of the memo from Mayer (the Deb referenced below is Debra Berman, SVP of consumer marketing):

I’m also pleased to share that Martha Nelson will be formally leading our Media organization, also reporting to me. As we aim to drive long-term, sustainable growth across our Digital Magazines and original content, Martha’s leadership and experience are the right mix to take our vision to the next level. In addition to her current team, Anna Robertson, Bob Condor, Megan Liberman, and Rob Barrett will join Martha’s team. Robert Bridge and his media and marketing teams will be thoughtfully aligned across both Martha and Deb’s organizations early this quarter — in the interim, Robert will report to Deb.

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