The surprise appointment of Mark Thompson, director general at the BBC as president and CEO of The Times Company has Been a positive one, judging by the response.
Less surprisingly, the publisher also saw its share price rise with the conclusion of a period of certainty having finally resolved the issue of who would take on the job, nine months after his predecessor Janet Robinson was 'retired'.
I understand from sources that Robinson was shown the door rather than leaving of her own accord, and was reportedly the driving force behind the implementation of the New York Times' pay wall. Her vacating of the job was also a huge surprise to everyone, including members of management, I hear as well.
Robinson left amidst declining newspaper revenue, meanwhile the New York Times website saw a loss of 532,000 digital subscribers last quarter, according to USA Today. Despite this, the company's recent revenue was boosted by one percent last quarter to $515m as a result of digital revenue growth. However that number clearly suggests that unless an imminent turnaround is achieved - further declines could be witnessed next quarter, as Thompson takes up his latest hot seat.
And the seat he vacates, to be succeeded by BBC Worldwide's George Entwistle, is indeed a flaming hot one, that even Old Nick would struggle to sit his flame retardant derrière upon. The reason for this, of course, that the BBC is in the middle of cutting 20 percent of its budget following the government austerity plans that included the long-term freeze of the TV licence fee, leading to around 2,000 jobs being shed at the corporation.
Thomson hasn't garnered many fans, not least amongst the National Union of Journalists, for the way this strategy has been implemented, and, although he will doubtless have had little choice in the loss of so many newsroom roles, his experience here may have been what has landed him the top job at another media institution across the pond.
Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the Times Company said in a statement: "Mark is a gifted executive with strong credentials whose leadership at the BBC helped it to extend its trusted brand identity into new digital products and services.
"Our board concluded that Mark's experience and his accomplishments at the BBC made him the ideal candidate to lead the Times Company at this moment in time when we are highly focused on growing our business through digital and global expansion, he added.
One source close to the New York Times has told me that any speculation over possible job cuts in the newsroom of ver 1,000 journalists at the paper would be justified. I have also been told that the news team has been protected by Sulzberger in the past, but that it is now at a size that, with it's revenue decline in print, it cannot afford to maintain.
If this is indeed the case, then it would seem that Thompson is once again set to implement another cull and will no doubt be looked upon as a hatchet man from then on.
I hope not. The New York Times is a wonderful publication in many respects, but in a similar fashion to The Guardian, unless it starts to turn much bigger online profits, the clock is ticking until prudence within the editorial team becomes the order of the day.
Should this indeed be the case, then Thompson's own statement released this morning will no doubt be brought back to haunt him as he described the NY Times as being "one of the world’s greatest news providers".
He went on to say that he looked forward to being involved in the company, as it 'extends its influence digitally and globally.' His experience at the BBC as it has strengthened its online influence cannot be overlooked - especially the recent coverage of the Olympics, which has been universally praised (ignoring his own email criticising the corporations news team for its heavy focus on Team GB and not enough on the other countries who had bothered to turn up too.'
No doubt Thompson is a talented executive. He's likely to operate very differently from other executives in the States, and is also a sign of the international aspirations for the company going forward. However, now he will no longer have the British public to answer to, just some very wealthy shareholders anxious for their annuals profits instead. Not sure which prospect is more intimidating frankly.
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