Media recruiting: BBC welcomes James Harding with another furore

It is odd to think of the BBC as a victim of bullying. It is by far the largest and best-funded child in the playground, should be afforded the protection of the headmaster (though it rarely is), and consistently hands in top work. But, of course, in the pathology of the playground, this makes it a natural victim. And the fact that it consistently takes a mea culpa position rather than punching back only makes the problem worse. Come on, Beeb, the circling bullies chant. Have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

Like many victims of bullying, it simply doesn’t know how to respond to such goading. Mostly, it demurs. Occasionally, it tries to bite back. And inevitably this misfires.

So when Ceri Thomas stepped up to say that the students who accompanied John Sweeney on the trip to North Korea had all given their consent, he must have been aware he was likely to be challenged. The BBC’s Today programme didn’t take long to get stuck in;  when asked how he could be sure this was the case (students were briefed individually, without witnesses, and signed no consent document) he blustered: it doesn’t matter whether it was done orally or in writing, he said. Because of the lack of evidence, of course, it matters enormously. The corporation’s detractors will pick away at these bones, and there are at least some of the LSE students who are willing to undermine Thomas’s version of events.

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Media recruiters’ view on Summly selling to Yahoo: good luck

The news that Yahoo has apparently paid $30m for Summly is surprising. It is a clever app, but has a few problems.

The algorithm that is designed to condense long news stories into three smartphone friendly paragraphs often garbles prose and leaves the story and the reader hanging.

Often, the third par tends to end quite abruptly, as if the algorithm has run out of patience). It also presents a very limited range of news stories in a package that is quite tedious to navigate.

Presumably, Yahoo’s money will help sort these glitches out and do a bit to engage media recruiters by hiring a few people.

But the business model is heavily flawed – in that there isn’t one. In its current form, this is

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The Sunday Times and the Scarfe cartoon

The day after acting Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens was obliged to apologise to the Jewish community for the offence caused by Gerald Scarfe’s anti-Netanyahu cartoon, there was generally a lot more heat than light shed on the subject.

A Scarfe cartoon is never pleasant, and this seemed designed to provoke a reaction. But in my view, one commentator got it right. The Jewish Chronicle’s comment editor Jennifer Lipman wrote a superb column for the Independent’s website which gives real balance and insight on the issue.

“What is anti-Semitic is always unpleasant, but what is unpleasant is not always anti-Semitic. That was my take on Gerald Scarfe’s now infamous cartoon,” she writes. Later on, she comes to the nub

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HMV, Jessops, Comet, and digital strategies

It is too easy to say that a lack of a coherent digital startegy is what killed HMV, Comet and Jessops. Too easy, but at least partly true.  As this article by Philip Beeching on shows, the senior management at HMV refused to understand the inevitable, even when it was presented to them in 2002. He claims that, at an advertising pitch he made:

The relevant chart went up and I said: “The three greatest threats to HMV are, online retailers, downloadable music and supermarkets discounting loss leader product.”

Suddenly I realised the MD had stopped the meeting and was visibly angry. “I have never heard such rubbish”, he said, “I accept that supermarkets are a thorn in our side but not for the serious music, games or film buyer and as for the other two, I don’t ever see them being a real threat, downloadable music is just a fad and people will always want the atmosphere and experience of a music store rather than online shopping.”

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Cooperation and content origination can boost media recruitment

It is an over-simplification to say that businesses behave and grow like people: from selfish baby, to disruptive toddler, to self-conscious and defensive teenager, to the increasing comfort and complacency of the twenties, thirties and forties. Still, I’ll stick with it. And I’m intrigued, at the moment, by the transitions between stages. There have been many examples in recent months of businesses which have attempted to grow up. And some that just haven’t tried.

Children in their early years expect everything to be given to them, and – despite last year’s John Lewis advert – expect to give nothing in return. Matt wrote yesterday about Xavier Neil’s attempt to block Google advertising on his ISP, Free. His stunt was overturned by the French government; but what lay behind it was a serious question. The content – and advertising that goes with it – that Google and others provide requires ever greater bandwidth; but, like spoiled toddlers, they expect the ISPs and telcos to pay for the infrastructure without any share in the advertising revenues. It is not sustainable; the industry needs to mature, and find a compromise, this should help the development of further media recruitment.

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Media headhunters go to… a celebration of our free press

This evening’s British Journalism awards was a low key affair (and not the boozy do media headhunters have witnessed in the past). That said, it wasn’t – as you might expect given the Leveson inquiry and the mass-summoning of newspaper editors to No 10 today – a downbeat affair.

It was run by Press Gazette which, even in its new online-only form, continues to celebrate the best (and excoriate the worst) in British journalism. It was fitting, in this week of all weeks, that the awards were held in the sober surroundings of the Stationer’s Hall. The Stationer’s Company, its spokesman reminded us, was responsible for enforcing the closure of unlicensed publications for much of its early history. ‘Unlicensed’,

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Another media headhunter’s view: Leveson right to enshrine freedom of the press

I don’t especially agree with Martin’s conclusion on yesterday’s Leveson report (media headhunters disagreeing? For Heaven, I hear them shout) although like many I share his core concerns. The next few days, and months, will present us a range of conflicting voices ranging from the reasoned to the hysterical on both sides. For many, we need press regulation to save innocent lives from being torn apart by a feral destructive press, for others this is the first step on the road to the Thought Police and Stalinist control of the free press. Or many more reasoned points in between.

I’ll freely admit that I still don’t know for certain which side of the argument I come down on. I’m most inclined to agree with Emily Bell over at the Guardian. The debate already seems as outdated and redundant as the superinjunction at a time when virtually anyone can publish, in some cases with huge influence. But that’s not to play down the massive influence the printed press still holds in the UK.

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Media headhunters’ role in search for BBC Director General

Dermot Murnaghan interviewed me today on Sky News about George Entwistle’s departure and the new search for Director General at the BBC. It was a warm-up for his interview with Tim Davie, which ended testily, with the acting DG saying he had a job to get on with and walking off. In contrast, my interview was the very embodiment of civility.

Prior to my interview, I was asked several questions by Sky staff which didn’t make it to air – and some may be worth recording. The following contains a summary of those questions and my answers.

Q: Is it normal for internal candidates to be appointed?

A: As has been fairly well documented, the media headhunters concerned in Entwistle’s recruitment (not us) approached and interviewed a broad range of candidates for the role. The shortlist contained

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Random, Penguin, Northcliffe Iliffe – tactics for survival and media jobs

If early reports are to be believed, today’s news might mark a renaissance in that most challenging of media propositions, the joint venture. In some quarters, Pearson’s proposed sale of Penguin to Bertelsmann is being presented as a JV: in fact, the deal would give Pearson a minority 47% stake in the proposed business. But in another interesting development, David Montgomery is reported to be heading up the bid to combine the local newspaper assets of Northcliffe and Iliffe / Yattendon. Under this proposal, each vendor

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EE tests the market with 4G for £36 (but still too early to know effect on media jobs market)

EE, the owner of Orange and T-Mobile, has announced tariffs for its 4G service, expected to launch later this year.

In what looks like a major land grab ahead of the launch of rival networks, EE has plumped for a relatively low tariff of £36 a month for a basic data bundle of 500 megabytes a month, rising to £56 a month for packages of 8 gigabytes.

Significantly, EE has opted to launch the service under an entirely new consumer brand

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Media executive jobs: BBC Director General – the poisoned chalice

Gordon Brown once famously said that there are two types of Chancellor of the Exchequer: those who failed, and those who got out in time. The same may be said of Director Generals of the BBC.

George Entwistle might be feeling like Napoleon’s apocryphal unlucky general today. In a few minutes, the BBC will air its Panorama Special on the Newnight investigation into Jimmy Savile, and why that investigation was dropped. (It is an interesting scheduling choice to put the programme up against Newsnight itself.) Peter Rippon has already “stepped aside” as the programme’s Editor while the matter is investigated; Entwistle’s role in the decision making process

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Good news for consumer publishers – will more media recruiting follow?

There has been a small but, I hope, significant trend over the last few days. ‘Traditional’ UK consumer media companies have been announcing encouraging results – let’s hope the media recruiting follows. Today’s announcement from the Lebedevs that The Evening Standard has made a £1m operating profit in the last year was preceded a few days earlier by Briefing Media’s short blog on the fortunes of IPC, Dennis, and Haymarket.

Whatever its shareholders may think, News Corp

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Marjorie Scardino’s Pearson era – she’s safeguarded quite a few media jobs

So, Marjorie Scardino is leaving Pearson after 15 years in charge. A paean of praise has been heard since the announcement – much of it well-deserved. After all, she has re-engineered the business away from an odd hodgepodge of diversified holdings (James Ashton reminds us that Madame Tussaud’s and Alton Towers were both Pearson properties when she joined) to a more coherent – and sustainable –proposition. But one stat struck me as

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Kelvin MacKenzie – big mouth strikes again

I don’t wish to turn our blog into a Kelvin MacKenzie fun-athon, but his decision to instruct his lawyers to demand an apology from South Yorkshire Police – with the implicit threat of further legal action – for the ‘vilification’ he has endured since Hillsborough simply beggars belief.

MacKenzie, lest we forget, has long claimed that his news sense is second-to-none. In his most recent statement, he has claimed

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The challenge of e-lending – will it help sustain media jobs?

Tomorrow, the DCMS will publish its recommendations on best practice for how (and if) public libraries should lend e-books. It’s not straightforward, as this item on C4’s news tonight demonstrates. There are four parties involved – users, publishers, authors and libraries themselves – each of which demand satisfaction.

Libraries have always challenged the publishing business model; but e-lending, with the implicit suggestion that the reader can borrow a book at any time from anywhere, throws the doors wide open. A drop in

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Media headhunters’ view: Marmalade deal could spread Blackberry apps

There might finally be a chink of light for beleaguered RIM. Marmalade, the maker of software development kits, announced earlier today that it will offer licenses to mobile app developers looking to bring apps to Blackberry devices.

It can’t come too soon for RIM – that’s the view I and my media headhunter colleagues hold – which has seen both its revenues and share price take a hammering as consumers and enterprise customers switch to iPhone and Android devices in their droves. A three-day outage at the tail end of last year didn’t help, and nor has a string of uninspiring

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Media recruitment tips: Don’t follow Kelvin MacKenzie’s Hillsborough mistakes

Amusing though it was to watch, Channel 4’s doorstepping of former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie added little to the debate about the mistakes made at Hillsborough and the way it was reported.

If you need the key to Kelvin Mackenzie’s attitude to news, the best document I know of is his speech to the Leveson inquiry in October 2011. It is entertaining, combative stuff, full of the usual bluster – I would recommend reading the whole thing, media recruitment tips it does not offer, quite the opposite really. It contains this passage about a story he ran in 1987 – two years before Hillsborough:

“Question seven basically wanted to know if an editor knew the sources of many of the stories. To be frank, I didn’t bother during

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Murdoch at 11th place in The Guardian’s Media 100 is too low

At this time every year, The Guardian publishes its Media 100 – a list of the most powerful people in the UK sector. At this time every year, our media executive search team spends 20 minutes in the office dissecting it, and some time texting those people we know with jokey messages about their brilliance or under-representation. And at this time every year, I write nothing about it.

There’s no point getting hot under the collar about the often seemingly arbitrary names that start to come in after place 20 on the list. The fact that there are 47 new entries on this year’s list illustrates the point: the media market is moving fast, of course; but not

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Media headhunter’s view on Sky and Public Serving Broadcasting

I am writing this at 9.15pm on a Monday night simply to avoid the agony of watching Andy Murray in the US Open final on Sky. Not because I dislike Murray: I am one of his most ardent supporters. But I can’t bear the tension. Let me know how it goes.

Instead, I am listening to Test Match Special while England play South Africa in the second T20 international. It’s been cut to nine overs apiece, so I haven’t got long. This after watching coverage of the Olympic parade through the centre of London on BBC1; and following on from Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics, which finished yesterday.

A glut of sports, then. But one thing strikes me – the excellence

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Christopher Fordham replaces Richard Ensor as Euromoney Managing Director

It was announced today that, after an extensive media executive search, Euromoney Institutional Investor has replaced its MD, Richard Ensor, with a member of the Euromoney board, Christopher Fordham. Moreover, it was announced that Ensor would become Executive Chairman of the business, replacing Padraic Fallon who has held the position for a number of years.

This is one of those moves that normally makes me raise my eyebrows. You call that a search? Usually, given these announcements, I am reminded of James Murdoch’s appointment as CEO of BSKyB in 2003 – and look how well that turned out.

But Euromoney is arguably different. While it is self-evidently true to say that a company has a unique culture, in Euromoney’s case this has been critical in its success. And it has been incredibly successful: it has a market cap approaching £1bn and is likely to announce profits of over £100m this year. As this article shows, when Ensor took over, the company was making one tenth of that.

Fordham joined the company in 2000 (placed, as it happens, by my former business partner John Watts), and has since overseen a hugely successful strategy of organic and acquisition-driven growth. Like his predecessor, he is very smart, with an absolute grasp of detail and a gut instinct for strong businesses. He  will fill Ensor’s boots admirably – just as Ensor will fill Fallon’s.

I don’t envy the search company that had to try to better Fordham (it wasn’t us). Executive search is all about covering the market to ensure that your client has absolutely the best candidate for the job. As frustrating as it may be, you sometimes have to accept that the best candidate is already in the business.

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

Mail Online is growing: will it kill the paywall and lead to media jobs hires?

The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh yesterday noted that Mail Online’s revenues have grown by 69% in the last year, from £16m to an estimated £27m. For Sabbagh, this is vindication of the Mail’s advertising-fuelled approach (and by extension, The Guardian’s) over News International’s much-criticised Times paywall. Since the wall went up, the Times’s growth has been respectable, but there are signs that it may be slowing down, with NI attempting to make up the shortfall with price hikes, particularly for tablet subscriptions.

It’s worth pointing out that even by Sabbagh’s calculations, The Times website appears to be making more through subs that The Guardian’s is through advertising, but any sign of slowing growth is a worry. This is where the Mail’s astonishing success comes in – Mail Online’s growth has been built on a platform of traditional Mail readers, bored office workers and enraged Twitter liberals. It’s difficult to read an article like this recent piece on the French election and not see a calculated attempt to whip up some lucrative, hit-friendly outrage. But it works – the Mail’s online alchemy means they’re making money even from people who hate them with a passion. Who’s likely to pay for a Times online subscription? People who already like The Times, and there’s a finite number of them.

But all this means that Mail Online is fully integrated into the way that news is predominantly consumed in 2012 – and putting journalists into media jobs – as office browsing material or part of a noisy and often chaotic network that includes other news sites, blogs and social media. Whether they’re fuming at a disparaging piece on the NHS, trawling for football transfer gossip or just looking at large pictures of Rihanna in a bikini, it means people click, people link, people debate, and then yet more people click. The Times’s paywall has cut it off from this ecosystem.

That’s not to say that paywalls can’t work under any circumstances. Far from it – parts of the B2B sector have had considerable success by charging for information people have to have and are willing to pay a premium for. They’ve largely done better than their advertising-driven rivals. The less rigid subscription models favoured by the likes of the FT and the Economist have been broadly successful. But these are titles that occupy a particular niche within their marketplace – even a Times exclusive will be followed up by the Telegraph, Guardian or BBC within minutes.  News International’s defenders will point out that people have always paid for printed news in the past, but cover prices have only ever represented a small proportion of overall newspaper revenue. If The Times’s online growth is indeed levelling off, it’s time to rethink that paywall.

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

Economist revenues up despite print advertising slump

A lesson for traditional publishers everywhere- and perhaps as a knock-on the media jobs market – in the news that the Economist Group has managed to raise pre-tax profits by 9% year-on-year, despite a 17% fall in print advertising revenue for its UK title.

The Economist has been so successful at offsetting the ill effects of the ongoing print advertising storm partly because it’s been prepared to be innovative without jumping on bandwagons. While they’ve embraced tablets and smartphone apps, gaining 10,000 digital subscribers in the process, they’ve resisted the temptation to try and beat rivals in the breaking news game. And, crucially, they’ve managed to grow their digital business without cannibalising print subscriptions. Magazine subscriptions have held steady and print revenue was up 8% despite the advertising slump.

Of course, it can’t hurt that casual interest in economics has been sky high over the last few years, and that the Economist has a generally affluent readership. But it’s also succeeded by flying in the face of print publishing’s received wisdom that in the age of the internet, people want short, punchy, accessible content quickly. For years, magazines have raced to cut word counts and big words alike, oblivious to the fact that readers can get content like that on the internet anywhere. But the Economist’s success shows the opposite, that the publications best placed to survive are those who can provide an authoritative voice and something of substance to their readers, without underestimating them. Denser, longer-form articles still work better in print than online, and the Economist looks good on coffee tables. A bit of humour helps too (see left). A lesson for magazine publishers everywhere, if they’re prepared to heed it.

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog. 

Warren Buffett is buying local newspapers – is this good news for media jobs?

So, Warren Buffett has decided the time is right to buy local newspapers. Not content with snapping up 63 daily and weekly newspapers of Media General, it seems he is eyeing more acquisitions. Could this be good for the media jobs market in the US?

Why would anyone want to buy local newspapers? Why, in particular, would the world’s most successful investor want to buy local newspapers? The perceived wisdom is that it is a shot business

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The career dangers of tweeting

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

There was a minor palaver a couple of months ago when Datasift acquired the rights to search the last two years of Twitter feeds to serve its clients’ market research purposes. It was widely reported as a threat to privacy – equated with Google’s autoscanning of your Gmail account to target advertising.

Of course, there is no comparison. Twitter is, by its nature, a public platform. Facebook is – for most of its users – also public. So what has this got to do with a column on careers?

Ask Octavia Nasr. In 2009 she was dismissed from CNN for a tweet which

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Local news success must come through relevance

I recently read an article by James Ashton in the Evening Standard which is one of the most incisive I’ve read in recent times about the plight of regional newspapers and the knock-on effect for media jobs in the regions.

It is ironic that, while we have a culture secretary who is championing “ultra-local” broadcast businesses, print equivalents are rapidly losing the sense of identity that makes them a ‘must buy’. Of course, it is an expensive thing to maintain a news centre

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