Mika Salmi leaves / Bartz admits Yahoo Maps sucks

-Due to its young audience, MTV Networks has had to be really aggressive in the digital space, attempting to keep up with the rapid migration of its demographic away from TV. Along the way it’s bought lots of companies — IFilm, AtomFilms, Harmonix — launched websites and virtual worlds and video games, and still struggled, albeit probably not nearly as much as if it hadn’t been aggressive in digital.

(One favorite moment came in a speecy I saw MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath give at CES where she said her company was interested in “multiplatfornication.” No, that’s not a typo.)

During that time, it’s always been a bit confusing to understand who exactly was in charge of what effort. The executives titles and reporting lines have always been diagonal and bending and constantly changing. But even if it was never clear exactly what he controlled, there’s been one guy in charge of it all in title at least: Mika Salmi, who became MTVN’s digital media president when MTV bought Atom back in 2006 as part of an acquisitions bender it was on at the time.

Today, as PaidContent reported, Salmi is leaving. In a company-wide memo McGrath said, “Mika and all of our digital leaders have done a ton of structural work
that results in more eyeballs and bigger dollars, true digital momentum.”

Salmi apparently won’t have a replacement in the post. Who knows if that’ll make it more clear or less clear who’s overseeing what digital businesses at MTV.

One executive who’s trying to make things less confusing is Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, who’s been busy simplifying reporting lines and talking straight about her company’s problems.

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference this week, Bartz admitted she prefers Google Maps to Yahoo Maps as part of a larger point about the portal investing only in products that it considers “core.”

A maps application is expensive and not “core,” she explained, so the company isn’t putting in significant investments and, essentially, leeting it fall behind the competition.

So what is “core?” Yahoo Mail, for one. So much so that Yahoo has been cutting back on ads in countries where bandwidth speeds are slow in order to speed up connectivity and improve the experience.

As Yahoo, MSN and AOL all deal with their problems, specialization may be the key. Yahoo has to pick its battles, instead of trying to do everything. It’ll be particularly interesting to see whether it decides everything it does in its Santa Monica “media group” is core, or if its cuts back on some of its entertainment operations as well.

And of course the $60,000 question may be whether search is key. Or if Yahoo will have to ally with Micrososft, or just give up, on that front.

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