This morning’s announcement of a new CEO and a new executive chairman at News Corp Australia won’t bring wholesale and new generational changes to the business say industry insiders.
Peter Tonagh is to replace the departing CEO, Julian Clarke, while APN’s CEO Michael Miller has become executive chairman of News Corp Australia.
Ian Perrin, CEO of ZenithOptimedia, told B&T the changes were to be expected and shouldn’t cause any great ructions within the business nor a great shift in its thinking.
Perrin said departing CEO Julian Clarke had done an admirable job in improving profits and stemming circulation decline since the somewhat tumultuous rein of former boss, Kim Williams. (Williams recently spoke to B&T about his time in the role, joking he was no longer on the Murdoch’s Christmas card list.)
“There’s been some very good recent stability at News recently and this transition seems very well planned and orchestrated and it bodes very well,” Perrin said. “They’re clearly under control and doing what they need to do.
“Peter and Michael know the business incredibly well, they’re both very highly regarded media executives and I don’t think anyone in the industry will be surprised by these appointments. I would imagine that the consistency that we have seen over the last little while will continue and I don’t think there’ll be a dramatic shift in strategy but there will be a greater emphasis on the their digital assets.
“I can’t see a great shift in their current thinking. The strategy will be refined and improved and worked on and contemporised. The move to digital needs to be speeded up and they’re trying to improve how they deliver the content to consumers and I think you’ll see improved offering in smartphones and the likes, but I can’t see them walking away from their core print assets anytime soon.
Media commentator and CEO of Fusion Strategy, Steve Allen, said this morning’s move was no great shock as Julian Clarke had always maintained he was in the top job for a short time.
Allen told B&T that Michael Miller had been groomed by News for some time for the executive chairman’s role.
“Michael’s very well known and he’s held a number of prominent management positions over the last decade or two and he’s made quite a success of APN considering the turmoil it was in at the time he was jettisoned in there,” Allen said. “And I’d say Michael’s transition has been very smooth and very well thought out.”
Neither does Allen believe that Tonagh and Miller will face the internal squabbling faced by previous CEO Kim Williams who was reportedly not a great believer in the company’s print products.
“These new guys know the culture, they live the culture, that’s the big difference. The problem with Kim Williams was that he’s extraordinarily bright and driven so what do you think an old newspaper hack would think of that? By the very nature of the person their backs will be up, they’d be looking at a bloke like Kim Williams and go ‘fuck you’,” Allen said.