Mark Thompson is widely considered to have changed New York Times As print news slowly died out in the online age, they made their way into digital newsrooms. Now, after becoming chief executive of cable network CNN, he will lead another historic global news organization as shifting market forces pose an existential risk to its future.
David Zaslav, chief executive of Warner Bros Discovery, which owns CNN, cited Thompson’s previous experience, which also includes leading the BBC, when he announced his hiring on Wednesday. “Mark is a true innovator who has transformed two of the world’s most respected news organizations for the digital age,” Zaslav said in a statement.
Dan Ives, managing director of investment firm Wedbush Securities, called Thompson “the obvious CEO choice.”
before leading New York TimesThompson was director general of the BBC from 2004 to 2012. He joined the BBC in 1979 as a production trainee and worked his way up the ranks throughout his career of more than 30 years, eventually rising to the top job. In 2012, Thompson was named chief executive of The New York Times Company after the company’s former chief executive, Janet Robinson, Accidentally stepped down.
Bringing Newspapers into the Digital Age…Successfully
exist New York Times, Thompson has spearheaded a digital overhaul, including expanding into podcasts, offering shopping recommendations through the acquisition of online review site Wirecutter, and adding new digital subscriptions like The New York Times Cooking.in 2021 interviewThompson said his New York Times The strategy is “smartphone-centric” because it is based on mobile devices as the primary source of consumer attention. “It’s a puzzle,” he said. “How do you get The New York Times — something this big and rich — how do you get a great experience on a phone?”
The answer seems to be as diverse as possible.A big reason for Thompson’s success in this game is that New York Times Involves adding new types of content. Some notable examples include “The Daily” podcast (whose Tuesday show topped the charts in Apple’s podcast news section) and building a dedicated app for the newspaper’s popular crossword puzzle. He said in the same interview that The New York Times was trying to “take this brand and intellectual property and think of many different ways to use it and make it available to different people in different ways.”
To realize his multifaceted vision New York Times, Thompson preferred to ride out the turmoil primarily through spending rather than cutting costs like many other newspapers at the time, though it did lay off about 70 staff in June 2020. “We had a simpler idea, closer to what Netflix and other TV streaming services are doing,” he told us CNBC when he was still being interviewed New York Times CEO. “You invest in great content, you build your content, you make it attractive to users, you make it easier for those users to subscribe, you get more and more subscribers, which allows you to invest more Great content. We’ve figured out a way to get into a virtuous cycle of growth, rather than a downward spiral of decline like I fear many American newspapers have.”
This perspective underscores the approach by which Thompson leads the paper: New York Times is one of the most trusted news brands, and he’s sure consumers will recognize it. Of taking the job, he said: “I have an almost dogmatic belief in it that it’s one of the best newspapers in the world – if not the best – and that people will do it for that. pay.”
This vision has produced some undeniable results.when thompson took over New York Times it has been 640,000 digital-only subscribersBy the time he left in 2020, that number had ballooned to 5.7 million. (The publication now has 9.9 million print and digital subscribers) Annual digital subscription revenue has grown from $113 million at the end of 2012 to $460 million in 2019, the year before he left; $1 billion.
During Thompson’s tenure, the company’s stock price rose nearly 400%, fueled by growth.
New York Times Publisher AG Sulzberger praised Thompson’s ability to turn great journalism into a healthy business. “Mark has an impressive record of finding ways to ensure that a culture of journalism excellence and a culture of business innovation thrive together,” Sulzberger told reporters. wealth in a statement.
At CNN, Thompson will face internal issues and industry-wide resistance
Thompson will have to combine his expertise turning around high-profile newsrooms with his experience working in BBC television news to take the helm of CNN, a struggling network that has ousted two chief executives within 16 months. The problems facing CNN are serious.These include industry-wide challenges, such as cord-cutting and the rise of streaming, as well as internal issues, particularly Morale is at an all-time low.
CNN did not respond to a request for comment.
Morale plummeted after former chief executive Chris Licht stepped down after only 13 months in the job. Atlantic Organization, criticizing the newsroom’s coverage of politics. The problem was exacerbated when the network decided to host a town hall with former President Donald Trump, hosted by the network’s Kaitlyn Collins, which was canceled due to a lack of real-time fact-checking of Trump. widely condemned. Even longtime CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour public criticism The decision to hold the event.
Since Lichter’s departure in June, CNN has been led by four longtime CNN executives: Amy Entlis, Virginia Mosley, Eric Schelling and Zaslav’s prominent lieutenant David Levy.According to CNN’s own reporting, some staffers had hoped the unusual arrangement would last until at least the 2024 U.S. presidential election Report About Thompson’s appointment.
Wall Street analyst Ives believes Thompson can resolve CNN’s internal conflicts.Thompson “is a great fit and should instill confidence internally and externally,” he told wealth. “It’s a game of magic chairs at the top of CNN, but with strong content and talent to craft a story that turns the tables.”
The myriad of personnel and organizational issues come against the backdrop of a turbulent cable industry that, like newspapers before it, failed to foresee all the changes technology would bring. Since the advent of streaming, except for some periods during the Trump administration, cable news ratings have been in decline as it battles cable TV’s broader decline. This year, CNN expects to reach 70 million cable households; by 2024, that number is expected to drop about 5.6 percent, to 66 million, according to forecasts. type.Nielsen Report Figures released in August showed that for the first time, broadcast TV and cable TV accounted for less than 50% of total TV usage in a single month.
Lichter’s tumultuous tenure has given CNN the third-highest cable news rating, behind Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen data. data Start in July. So far, CNN has struggled to catch up in the streaming space. It killed CNN+, its streaming service, just weeks after launching it in 2022. In September, CNN’s news content will host On the newly rebranded Max streaming service, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery Channel is trying to replicate the cable TV experience with all-inclusive streaming. The opportunity, though, lies in live TV, the last must-see show on cable. Since 2018, news has been the top type of content consumed by live audiences, according to data media analytics firm Comscore.
The upcoming U.S. presidential election promises to be a boom time for cable news channels to attract more viewers, which will allow the network to charge a premium for ad space. CNN is no exception, with a link between election cycles and cable news ratings. In November 2020, the network recorded its highest average monthly ratings since August 2016, according to Comscore. CNN’s lowest ratings for the same period occurred in December 2016, a month after Trump won the presidential election. It remains to be seen how Thompson will fit into the narrow preferences of cable news viewers, who typically only want to watch the biggest events of the day. “We’re not like those cable networks that live off Trump stories,” he said in a 2019 CNBC interview. New York Times’ coverage.
The key to Thompson’s success in the third act of his career may be precisely that — understanding CNN’s audience. “Trust the audience, trust that people are interested in serious news,” he said explain At an event hosted by Sciences Po in Paris in 2017. “Build your business model on the belief that high-quality journalism is a high-quality product, and people will pay for it.”