Murdoch wunderkind picks up the online pieces

Few had heard of Jeremy Philips, a 33-year-old News Corporation employee, until a week ago. Now, all the company’s eyes are on him after he was handed the keys to a $1bn (&£565.5m) online media by Rupert Murdoch. Philips, a former management consultant, has been promoted to executive vice-president, reporting directly to Murdoch, and becomes the youngest member of News Corp’s executive management committee.

Philips was vice-chairman of Ecorp, a now defunct Australian internet investment firm, and earlier worked in media and telecommunications at consultancy McKinsey & Company. He has also held several board positions in Australia, including chairman of eBay Australia & New Zealand, director of Ninemsn – a joint venture between Publishing & Broadcasting and Microsoft – and director of Ticketek, Australia’s leading ticketing business.

Charlie Dobres, chairman of digital management consultancy Generator and co-founder of I-level says: “Putting Philips in charge makes sense.” He says if Murdoch is serious about surviving the digital era, he needs a knowledgeable deputy who can focus on the internet alone, with the power to take on the supposedly conservative News Corp old guns. Dobres adds: “This is not just an interesting thing to do any more – it is critical. Murdoch is one of a few people in the world who can make a market. Others will have to alter their strategies in accordance with what Philips does.”

Murdoch told shareholders in October that News Corp was turning its attention to the internet. He will hope Philips brings credibility to the table. When News Corp went on an internet spending spree last year, detractors accused him of panic-buying; an “old” media dinosaur desperately trying to close the gap in a new media age.

Yet Andrew Pinkess, strategy director of digital media agency Rufus Leonard, says in order to succeed, the “dinosaurs” must give Philips a voice: “He needs to provide a counterweight to those supporting the traditional press.” He believes News Corp’s conservative culture could prove tough to break and that Philips must build a heavyweight team around him.

WPP Group chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell was among those who last year questioned Murdoch’s new strategy. He said that Murdoch had been buying “willy nilly” while others were quick to deride his choices. Murdoch’s last foray into the online arena in the late 1990s proved costly.

The company’s $1bn-worth of online acquisitions in the past year have included Propertyfind.com, a UK property website, video game site GameSpy, movie website Rotten Tomatoes and MySpace.com, a popular online community site for children and young adults. One US analyst is critical of the purchases: “Philips may wish that he had that first $1bn to spend over again,” he says, adding that his promotion may be a sign that Murdoch has realised that the money wasn’t well spent.

Meanwhile, Barry Parr, a Jupiter Research media analyst, suggests $1bn does not stretch far these days, in part because News Corp’s 2005 spending has raised the bar. He says Philips, who joined News Corp in July 2004, must make serving the online community the heart of his strategy. “The company knows how to serve the traditional audience online,” he says, pointing to the websites of The Sun and BSkyB. “But they need to know how to attract the online audience itself. Philips faces a lot of challenges.”

Catherine Turner

Latest from Marketing Week

Tesco, M&S, Just Eat: 5 things that mattered this week and why

m&s

M&S chief outlines digital-first strategy after profits plummet Marks & Spencer (M&S) is gearing up for a digital-first future, after its revealed on Wednesday (23 May) that profits had dropped a massive 62.1% to £66.8m compared to the previous year. A day earlier, the struggling retailer confirmed it will close more than 100 stores over […]

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here