Thursday, August 23, 2012

News Corporation again - change in digital

News Corp.’s Chief Digital Officer to Step Down as Company Prepares to Split

New York Times 24 August, 2012

Here is the first paragraph of the story:
"News Corporation’s chief digital officer, Jonathan Miller, will step down, the company announced on Thursday, in the latest example of an executive departing since News Corporation said it would split the publishing business from the rest of the company."

I have held off commenting or blogging about News for a while because I wanted to see what played out. Here we can see the beginnings of the end of the old News organization, as the digital flails. And it will continue to flail, perhaps ending the News Corporation, News International era in newspapers.

I have some interest in this story from a professional and personal perspective that stretches back to the days when I was a consultant with the Victorian Government's Department of State Development (1994-1996). Along with John Rimmer and Terry Dyson and a host of bureaucrats we set up Multimedai Victoria, after undertaking a research project at CIRCIT (Centre for International Research on Communication and Information Technologies), where I was the director of the cultural industries research program. As a consultant I had the good fortune to meet dozens of entrepreneurs from around the state, the country and the world working in the early start up days of the Internet.

One of the people I already knew - we had been on an invited panel to discuss Intellectual Property and Australian cultural industries at Film Australia - was Greg Clark. Greg had been an IBM executive and a physicist with a PhD. I liked him a lot. Urbane, easy to talk with and confident with the ability to self deprecate, as well as blow his own trumpet. He sounded very Australian.

In the mid-1990s he became the head of News Corporations digital initiatives and ended up working out of the Fox studio lot in Hollywood. I visited him there in 1995. It was clear that he had all the technical skill in the world to manage new media. In those days it was satellite and digital signaling for television - all of which worked out quite well for News with Fox News and Sky in Europe, the UK especially and the US. After doing the policy work for News to consolidate that side of the business Greg left News Corporation. He had a wonderful place over looking Central Park in New York City: at least that's what he told me. We spoke on occasion until 2003 after which I lost contact with him.

The reason I mention Greg Clark is as follows. There was a clear impression that News was determined to take the early mover advantage that the Internet offered. It did not know what it was doing but it knew it had to do something. Greg Clark was a scientist who knew a lot about signaling and satellites. He like all the rest of us knew very little about what would work - the creative destruction that the Internet would render to established media.

Incredibly, this is still the case. Jonathan Miller's departure is another in a long line of executives who do not know what to do about the twists and turns of the Internet.

When the Levenson Inquiry hands down its findings, there will be more challenges for News, as we are reminded that News had no idea that the behaviour of their journalists was criminal, uncivilized and brutalizing. More flailing which in the phone hacking case was about letting wild horses run free until someone or something caught up. The law and the British Prime Minister did just that. And the findings, like the criminal charges against former News Corporation (News of the World) editors and journalists will come during a Tory administration! Go figure?