New York Times seeking digital type for CEO job

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There are two types of candidates for the vacant CEO spot at the New York Times company: "aspirational picks such as Google Inc.’s Eric Schmidt and Eileen Naughton," as Bloomberg's Edmund Lee writes, and people who might actually want the job, including Paul Sagan, L. Gordon Crovitz and Mark Thompson, whose talks with the paper were reported by the Guardian on Thursday. The company, Lee writes, is "looking for a tech-savvy executive to help wring more revenue from the Internet."

Sagan has been Akamai's CEO since 2005 and has announced he'll step down next year. His résumé highlights a number of innovations in the '90s when he was at Time Inc., including the launches of NY1, Road Runner and Pathfinder. Crovitz is a former Wall Street Journal publisher with his own digital bona fides, including building the Journal's paywall business and the launches of Factiva and Press+ (which Poynter uses to solicit donations). There are also some internal candidates, Lee writes.

Lee says Times Co. CEO is an odd-duck job:

One challenge for the New York Times is persuading a candidate to take a CEO job with limited autonomy. [Arthur O.] Sulzberger [Jr.], a scion of the New York Times’ longtime owners, serves as chairman and publisher of the company. His family’s voting power would make it difficult for a new CEO to overrule decisions.

Indeed, as Joe Hagan wrote in a recent New York magazine story, family tensions may have contributed to the ouster of previous CEO Janet Robinson.

Henry Blodget says the Times should make sure it gets a CEO who understands its "legacy" business, not just some digital whiz. Then with delightfully nonlinear Blodgetian logic, he lays out the reasons Crovitz, who understands print and digital, is an "unlikely" get:
• He won't like sharing power with Sulzberger.
• He's on the board of Business Insider, which won't let him go. Unless he asks.

If Gordon becomes CEO of the New York Times, we suspect the boy scouts on the New York Times governance committee will force Gordon to resign from our board. And that would suck.

Speaking of The Times and tech, it has completed a deal to provide content to subscribers via Flipboard. Denise F. Warren, General Manager of The Times' website, told Bits blogger Brian X. Chen the "move was part of a broader strategy to expand the reach of Times content, including to third-party digital products, and that more partnerships would be announced in the coming year." Sandwiched between a pair of rants, TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis does a quick interview with Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, who tells her the popular app is expanding to "help publishers deliver premium content side-by-side with free, Web content." Peter Kafka reports that it's an important deal for both companies.

On Thursday evening the Times Co. announced Joichi Ito and Brian McAndrews joined its board of directors. Both are, you guessed it, digital folks.

Related: Guardian: BBC honcho Mark Thompson may become next New York Times CEO | Conventions won’t feel like infomercials in collaborative coverage from NY Times and BuzzFeed | Report: Janet Robinson’s firing exposes deep veins of strife within New York Times | Next New York Times CEO could come from the tech sector

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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