Telegraph Media Group appoints new editor-in-chief as part of focus on digital

In the latest step in its journey to become “the foremost English-language multimedia news and content provider,” The Telegraph Media Group has recruited the services of PBS’s general (digital) manager Jason Seiken, the Guardian reports.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | September 11, 2013

The post of chief content officer and editor-in-chief that Seiken will occupy was only created by the British publishing group earlier this year, and until now was filled on a temporary basis by Richard Ellis, TMG’s executive editor. The editors of the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph, Tony Gallagher and Ian MacGregor, will report to Seiken, who will head up all aspects of editorial operations and the development of digital products. Introducing Seiken to TMG staff, the company’s CEO Murdoch McLennan said: “He has a lifetime of experience in the media industry and an extraordinary track record of completing profound business transformations”.

Sekein joins TMG with an impressive digital CV, having been editor-in-chief of the Washington Post‘s website and vice-president of AOL Europe. His appointment at the Telegraph confirms the primacy digital strategy is acquiring at the heart of traditional news titles. South Africa’s Mail&Guardian took similar ‘digital first’ steps just last month, creating the post of editor-in-chief for Chris Roper, formerly online editor at the weekly publication.

2013 has so far seen the Telegraph titles undergo major restructuring as a means of boosting revenue and challenging digital-focused competitors like the Guardian for a share of digital audiences. GMT cut 80 of its 550 editorial posts in March of this year, as it merged the Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph to concentrate on digital output. That same month it was announced that the Telegraph titles would introduce a metered paywall, activated after 10 articles have been accessed in a month.

Concentrating on digital has already changed working practices at the renowned British news title, according to editor Tony Gallagher. Speaking at the 2013 Shift Conference in April, Gallagher revealed that over the course of an average day, 600 articles are produced along with 40 videos, 25 picture galleries and a wealth of constantly updated blogs. Less than a third of the Telegraph newsroom’s output makes the transition into print, according to The Media Briefing.

Since installed its digital paywall in March, traffic figures increased year-on-year for the months of April and June. Even before introducing an online payment system, the Telegraph was in a healthier financial position than many of its British competitors, with profits of £58.4 million in 2012. That said, the early success of its paywall would suggest that the news organisation, founded in 1855, has managed to monetise its content at a time when others are struggling. The Daily Mail‘s digital output has managed to turn a profit thanks to its international reach and focus on celebrity photo stories, but and its print titles continue to operate at a loss. Meanwhile The Times, the first major British newspaper to implement a (hard) paywall saw its circulation drop significantly as readers were required to pay to access articles.

With Seiken at the helm, could succeed in becoming a not only popular, but profitable, digital product?

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