Yahoo has always been a precarious balancing act between tech and content. Now, years after ending the internal culture clash from having ex-Warner Bros. chairman Terry Semel in charge, Yahoo has gone to the other extreme and named former PayPal president Scott Thompson as chief executive officer.

Thompson’s fundamental job is to change how the advertising and corporate world perceives what once was a groundbreaking pioneer. While the company is perceived as wearing mom jeans on its way to irrelevance, the underlying numbers indicate often-overlooked strength. Yahoo has an online audience of more than 700 million visitors a month, and Alexa ranks it as the fourth largest online destination both domestically and internationally.

It’s true that Yahoo Mail accounts for a big chunk of that, even free email adds up to loyal and frequent users – just ask Google. Yahoo’s business, sports and entertainment content sections also consistently rank near the top of their categories. That’s why, according to eMarketer, Yahoo remains in the top three when it comes to advertising dollars.

Under Thompson’s leadership, which began in 2008, eBay’s PayPal expanded from 50 million to more than 104 million active users in 190 countries worldwide, increased the number of its merchant partners to more than 8 million globally, and grew revenues from $1.8 billion to more than $4 billion in 2011.

In a conference call following the announcement of Thompson’s appointment, Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock confirmed that perspective by saying, “Scott brings to Yahoo a proven record of building on a solid foundation of existing assets and resources to reignite innovation and drive growth, precisely the formula we need at Yahoo.”

He also fielded a question about the board’s decision to go with a techie rather than someone familiar with media and content. “The key to success in advertising is providing a great customer experience. That’s where it all starts,” Bostock said, adding that Thompson brought with him an ability to work with a wide variety of stakeholders and executives.

Thompson gave his own opinion of where Yahoo should be. “I feel very, very strongly that balancing is what we need to have here at Yahoo, between the consumersand the customer experience … and the content and the advertisers and what they need to make this relevant to their business,” he said. “Big Internet businesses and network effects are derived when you get a balance between constituents and different parts of an ecosystem. And that’s where we intend to play.”

Thompson was promoted to president of PayPal from senior vice president and chief technology officer. Before that he was executive vice president of technology solutions at Visa subsidiary Inovant, where he was responsible for all development, support and maintenance of Visa’s global payment system. His previous experience also includes serving as chief information officer of Barclays Global Investors and working with Coopers and Lybrand.

Key coverage:

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Business Insider – Yahoo’s New CEO Has Zero Media, Advertising, Or Content Experience

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