SBJ/March 7-13, 2011/Media

Morgan, Ma replace Laughlin at Yahoo!

Yahoo! Sports has made some management moves after the recent departure of Kyle Laughlin to the Walt Disney Internet Group. The sports division is now being co-managed by Dave Morgan, executive editor for North America, and Clifton Ma, senior manager of business operations for Yahoo! Sports and Games.

Laughlin, who was head of Yahoo! Sports and Games, followed his former boss, Jimmy Pitaro, who left Yahoo! last October, over to Disney. Yahoo! Sports has now had six operational heads since 2005.

The executive transition of Yahoo! Sports somewhat mirrors a larger shake-up within the Internet giant’s senior ranks. Pitaro’s exodus last fall coincided with several other high-profile executive departures.

Yahoo!’s entire media and advertising properties have since been reorganized under the Yahoo! Media Group umbrella and are being led by former News Corp. digital executive Ross Levinsohn, hired last October.

Morgan, a five-year veteran of Yahoo! who previously was deputy sports editor for the Los Angeles Times, will focus more on content and product initiatives. Ma, with Yahoo! since 2007, largely in a financial analyst role, will handle more of the core business-side and sales duties.

“Yes, there is transition, and transition is always difficult,” Morgan said. “But there’s no panic or concern. The core operational and editorial teams [within Yahoo! Sports] are still very much intact, and our ambition remains very strong.”

Yahoo! Sports continues to rank No. 1 each month in unique visitors among U.S. sports sites, according to third-party measurement firms such as comScore. Its January total of 49.55 million uniques beat key rival by nearly 10 million, a margin that by itself would have been the country’s 10th most trafficked sports site during that month. And certain content ventures such as, operated in partnership with (see related story), continue to perform well.

Still, competitive pressures remain. Many rivals, including ESPN, boast far better marks on user engagement, which are becoming increasingly important to advertisers. Major global sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup, a particular area of content strength for Yahoo!, will not return in full force until next year’s Summer Games in London. And last month struck a deal with MLB Advanced Media to gain rights to exclusive video highlights and other content for its fantasy baseball games that previously were held by Yahoo!.

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