Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) is making its first big digital hire since the Jack Griffin debacle ended Interactive Advertising Bureau head Randall Rothenberg’s brief tenure as the publisher’s chief digital officer: News Corp.’s Perry Solomon has signed on to Time Inc.’s Consumer Marketing department as VP, Digital Business Development.
Solomon will be charged with striking partnership arrangements between Time Inc. and companies who provide services for “emerging digital platforms” such as tablets.
It should be noted that Solomon’s hire is not directly connected to Rothenberg’s departure. Rather, it was meant to fill a void held by Ken Fuchs, who left Time Inc. in March as VP of emerging platforms (he was promoted to that role only in October, after running Sports Illustrated’s digital group) to join Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) to run the portal’s games and entertainment sites.
He takes the job starting today, arriving after roughly a year at News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), where Solomon served in a similar capacity as VP, Business Development, New Digital Media. While at News Corp., Solomon handled the company’s partnerships for cross-platform paid content. Before that, he was at FAST, a Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) subsidiary, where he oversaw the company’s media, advertising, and e-commerce search efforts. His other experiences include tenures at Inktomi and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Solomon also founded a VC-backed micropayments company.
In choosing someone for the straightforward role of digital business development, Time Inc. has clearly abandoned the notion of a single executive overseeing the content and marketing of interactive media for the publishers’ various brands. While company sources praised Rothenberg as the only person who could adequately fill the chief digital officer’s broad mandate, even the most enthusiastic felt that the post was fundamentally flawed.
“The creation of a chief digital officer split effectively expanded the editorial and marketing function across a range of brands that are as different as Time, People and Sports Illustrated,” one source told me recently. “By doing that, you were disconnecting business development, one of the chief digital officer’s main functions, from revenue generation and execution. In essence, the business side and the editorial side measure success differently. And so do the individual brands.”
Still, some have argued that Time Inc.’s decentralized nature has hobbled it when it comes to striking larger deals or making better use of social media promotions across its sites, which are all divided along brand lines.
Nevertheless, the hiring of Solomon suggests that the dust has begun to settle at Time Inc., even though it lacks a permanent replacement for Griffin at the moment.