9:58 am Aug. 15, 2012
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Here are a few notable reactions to The New York Times Company's appointment of outgoing BBC director Mark Thompson as its new C.E.O., starting with some analyis from Ken Doctor:
We could also argue that the BBC and the NYT are cousins across the sea. Two august, truly global news institutions, the Cokes and Pepsis of the news world in brand awareness. Both are immensely powerful, sometimes comically balkanized in their decision-making, too often lumbering in execution, and yet both have made major strides in transitioning their power and work to the digital age. Both are very much works-in-progress.
So Thompson brings the experience at moving, too slowly for some, too dramatically for others, a huge entity. Just as he knows, deep in his marrow, the value of the BBC to the Britain, he gets the vital role of the Times in the U.S. — and increasingly globally.
Alan Mutter, via Ad Ages's Nat Ives:
"Good news: He does't have any newspaper publishing experience," Mr. Mutter said in an email. "Bad news: He doesn't seem to have much experience in developing successful for-profit digital publishing models."
"However, he seems to understand the opportunities and challenges associated with trying to move staid and long-established news organizations from their legacies to whatever the future holds," Mr. Mutter added. "As such, he ought to be able to look at the assets and liabilities of NYTCo. with fresh eyes -- which is exactly what the company needs."
The obvious joke here is that Thompson is going from one non-profit to another – except, unlike the BBC, the NYT doesn't do it on purpose.
In all seriousness: Thompson has spent all but a couple years of his year career working for the BBC, and it will impressive if the skills he learned working for a British, state-funded, non-commercial media outlet enable him to restore the New York Times to the immense profitability it enjoyed until recently.
Dan Sabbagh at The Guardian notes that he was rare for being popular in the role of BBC director:
Thompson leaves the BBC on a high, with critics lauding its coverage of the London Olympics. Allies insist it was Thompson who insisted on broadcasting every single event live on digital platforms, with an offering that was far superior to that provided by its US counterpart, NBC, which was roundly lambasted for the quality of its coverage.
He points to the BBC's work in three areas that are central to current Times Company strategic thinking—globalization, digital packaging and video—while echoing others who say that his journalistic chops are likely to endear him to the news leadership of the company.
In his new role, Thompson will want to build on his digital experience at the BBC where he oversaw the development of the catch-up TV service iPlayer, but he also relishes being a leader of journalists. He may have run a behemoth of a broadcaster for eight years, but as a former network news editor, he still considers himself at heart as a journalist, able if necessary to knock out 1500 words at an hour's notice.
Robert Andrews, international editor of paidContent (and himself a BBC alum) has a mixed take, but echoes Sabbagh's assessment in the main, with a caveat:
Thompson is more a curator than a creator. He has been blessed to benefit from a natural pipeline of creativity, and has channeled that pipeline’s output effectively to tick all the policy boxes of the public institution he led. If Thompson can rely on similar digital throughput at NYT Co., he could repeat the trick.
Many leaders of large organisations occupy similar roles; such is the lot of a strategic CEO. It would just be misleading to cast Thompson as NYT Co.’s digital guru.
As a bonus, here are some remarks from Thompson circa October 2010, when he sat on a panel about "the future of public media in a digital age."
In other news...
Fareed Zakaria responds to his detractors. [The Atlantic]
David Frum has also come to Zakaria's defense. [The Daily Beast]
But David Zurawick is not having it. [The Baltimore Sun]
Jonah Lehrer still has a contract at Wired. [BuzzFeed]
CNN's promise of unbiased convention coverage. [The Huffington Post]
The Romney campaign has barred reporters from covering a Paul Ryan event. [BuzzFeed]
Ecuador's president denies that he has agreed to grant Julian Assange asylum. [The New York Times]
Former New York Times sports reporter William N. Wallace is dead at 88. [The New York Times]
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