Mr. Braun was hired at Yahoo in large part for his vast Hollywood contacts, with the idea that he would bring in top writers and actors who would create what he called the web's "signature moment," as when "I Love Lucy" created TV's sitcom.
But the economics of the web are so different from those of TV or film that corralling Tinseltown talent for an internet project simply doesn't make sense. And Mr. Braun's efforts diverted too much of Yahoo's attention from the kind of services people are really seeking from a portal: aggregating content and providing technology-driven experiences for its users.
"[Yahoo's plan] didn't map to how people are using the web," said Rick Corteville, who heads the media department at Organic.
Yahoo's tune did indeed change in March, when Mr. Braun issued a mea culpa in The New York Times and was sent back to Yahoo's Santa Monica, Calif., office to lie low. The portal's content strategy of late consists mainly of licensed and user-generated material, with smaller doses of more efficiently produced original content. Mr. Corteville lauded its creation of "The Nine," a best-of clip show about content on the web.
Patrick Benson, senior VP-director of digital marketing at DeutschMedia, said Yahoo had gotten distracted by the "next big thing" in creating heavily produced, costly original content, but "Yahoo has a lot of strengths. They have extended properties that Google will never have. "