Murdoch’s plan for NI can be glimpsed in Sky

Stuart%20SmithIt didn’t take James Murdoch long to make a mark at BSkyB, so it’s no great surprise to find him implementing sweeping changes at News International, now that he has headed its parent company NewsCorp Europe and Asia for a little over six months.

Perhaps inevitably, much of the speculation over what he would do has focused on the size and severity of surgical cuts into the sclerotic organism of News International, a place where, so far as most of its senior personnel were concerned, nothing had changed for years. Such speculation reached fever-pitch when it emerged, last week, that the loss-making magazine division was to be axed. Would (similarly loss-making) thelondonpaper be next on the chopping-block? No, it turns out. Thelondonpaper has at least achieved a reprieve, a fact we can infer from Murdoch singling out “the clear preference” it has “built among it audience in London.” Stefano Hatfield can rest easy on his laurels as editor, at least for now.

What of the bigger picture, however? Certainly there will be major redundancies, some of them quite senior, and it would be pointless to deny that an aim of the restructure is to cut overheads.

Nevertheless, it is about much more than that. An important indicator is the creation of a new role of group marketing director, to whom both Roland Agambar, at the tabloid News Group and Katie Vanneck, at Times, will report. One thing that’s pretty clear from the creation of this new role is that Murdoch junior is running true to form. He intends to spend, as he did at BSkyB, more not less money on marketing and in a more focused way.

At BSkyB, the aim was to platform an entertainment company, with ‘free’ broadband thrown in. Now the task – a much more ambitious undertaking – will be to convince the world – readers/visitors as much as advertisers – that News International is no longer an old-fashioned newspaper publisher with some interesting digital developments but a “more data-driven, more holistic and more belief-driven [organisation] across all touch points for our brands.”

Note particularly, in this context, the promotion of Mike Anderson, currently managing director of The Sun and News of the World. Anderson, in keeping with a number of key Murdoch lieutenants (primarily Clive Milner and Paul Hayes) is being given a trans-company, discipline-driven role rather than one that sits directly among any of the five principal News International brands.

As for Anderson, he will become managing director, digital and development, with responsibility for all digital functions within the organisation. It’s also notable that he is being made interim CMO, in conjunction with Matthew Anderson, NewsCorp’s corporate affairs director, Europe and Asia, while Murdoch scouts around for a permanent incumbent.

Whatever else may be happening at News International, marketing will not be taking a back seat.

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