Interview: Just How Much of Katie Couric Is Yahoo Really Getting?

'I Can't Be There On a Daily Basis'

By Published on . 1

Just when you thought CEO Marissa Mayer's Yahoo was about tools and tech, the portal goes and hires one of the biggest (and most expensive) names in TV news past and present: Katie Couric.

She's just the latest big name in news to join Yahoo under Ms. Mayer, who personally courted the former co-host of "Today" and anchor of the "CBS Evening News." She arrives right behind former New York Times tech writer David Pogue, New York Times Magazine staffer Matt Bai and editor Megan Liberman.

She joins Yahoo next year as global anchor of its news division, but because Ms. Couric is retaining her syndicated daytime talk show, how much of her time Yahoo will get remains to be seen.

Katie Couric
Katie Couric

Hours after the news was announced Monday, Ms. Couric talked Ad Age about why she made the leap.

Here's our conversation, lightly edited.

Advertising Age: What brings you to Yahoo?

Katie Couric: I think that Marissa and her team were both really excited about the prospect for providing quality content on Yahoo. They've done some of that already, clearly, with Yahoo News and Finance and Sports. They were interested in bringing someone with my level of expertise and credibility to also develop original web content. I think that it was a combination of timing, shared sensibilities and the opportunity to be able to do what I love and have unparalleled reach.

I've always been interested in new media -- it's so antiquated to call it new media -- but I've always been interested in the digital space, as far back as when I was at CBS doing web-only interview shows, election coverage and taking questions from Facebook and Twitter on CBS News. It was considered avant-garde back then. I don't think it's been done with that much regularity. For all those reasons, it's a great opportunity. It's something exciting. I'm always looking for ways to challenge myself.

Ad Age: What kind of content are you planning to produce for Yahoo? Are you already working on any interviews?

Ms. Couric: Not yet. This whole arrangement had to be hammered out. Now we actually go into the development phase, staffing and figuring out what our priorities are. We've talked about all sorts of different possibilities. Now comes the hard work of what can I do given my other obligations.

Ad Age: Will your work for Yahoo lean towards more serious interviews and topics compared with what will air on your talk show?

Ms. Couric: I would say a fair amount of serious things. Probably more serious than things on "Katie," although we cover quite serious things during the daytime show, such as sexual assault in the military, cancer research trafficking. We routinely do serious topics on the afternoon talk show. The work for Yahoo might be slightly different in tenor. I'm not sure if I could do a lengthy interview with the Secretary of Defense on my talk show.

We'll calibrate to fit the medium it lives in. I think it will run the gamut because my interests run the gamut.

Ad Age: Aside from your on-air work, what will you be doing in developing Yahoo News?

Ms. Couric: I think it's a little premature for that. Obviously I'll have input on staffing and direction, but there are a lot of great people already at Yahoo News and great people doing wonderful work. It'll be an expanded effort of what currently exists. We're not starting from scratch, but maybe brainstorming on what to do on Yahoo in general and things that might be more appropriate for mobile devices, which are incredibly important.

Ad Age: When should Yahoo's audience expect to see you and how regularly?

Ms. Couric: I think it's hard to put either a timeframe on when I'll have my first appearance or how frequently. All that stuff will evolve. As I'm currently doing the talk show, I can't be there on a daily basis. We've talked about interviews when there are interesting interviews to be done. I don't want to say on what basis. We'll just see how things go.

Ad Age: How long is your deal with Yahoo set to last?

Ms. Couric: I'm not going to get into particulars. I don't ever talk about stuff like that.

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