Yahoo’s fourth-quarter net earnings decline 5 percent

Yahoo’s fourth-quarter earnings fell 5 percent as newly minted CEO Scott Thompson acknowledged the company needed to do better, but was short on details about his plans.

The company’s fourth-quarter net earnings declined 5 percent year-over-year to $296 million, with revenue off 3 percent to $1.17 billion. And search advertising revenue dipped 3 percent year-over-year to $388 million.

Yahoo’s full-year revenue hit $5 billion, a far cry from the $6.3 billion it recorded in 2010. During the company’s earnings call Tuesday, Thompson said he’s spent “a lot of [his] time and attention”understanding the problems facing Yahoo’s display advertisingbusiness. Referring to the company’s results, Yahoo CFO TimMorse said during the earnings call, “we expected better.”

Thompson repeatedly said that it was too early to discuss how he plans to improve Yahoo’s performance. But he isolated the consumer data Yahoo holds as “the key component for driving innovation.”

“Our data may be Yahoo’s most underrated, underappreciated and underused asset,” he said.

Thompson said he aims to mine the data collected from Yahoo’s 702 million monthly unique visitors to improve the site experience for consumers, which he said would lead to more time spent on site and better results for advertisers.

Thompson and Morse downplayed the uncertainty that has dogged Yahoo throughout the fourth quarter and continues to follow the company. Morse—who took over as interim CEO after Carol Bartz’s ouster in September—termed the period “challenging” with “numerous distractions,” and Thompson said there was a lot of “commotion” surrounding the company.

Thompson’s appointment earlier this month may have settled the CEO question. ButYahoo co-founder Jerry Yang resigned from the company’s board last week, and questions persist over whether Yahoo will be sold.

As to the latter, all Thompson would say was that Yahoo “remains open to anything that’s good for our shareholders.”

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