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InPublishing: New chief executive’s plans for Johnston Press

January 26th, 2012Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

InPublishing has a revealing interview with Johnston Press’ new chief executive, a former technology boss with no newspaper experience.

Ray Snoddy interviews Ashley Highfield, who was former head of technology at the BBC and later in charge of Microsoft’s online and consumer operations, on his plans for the newspaper group.

It is worth reading the whole interview to find out why Highfield took up the challenge of joining the company, which seen its share price fall from 480p to 5p.

Here are a couple of extracts:

The new Johnston chief executive also points out that while not a newspaperman, he has run two of the largest online news portals in the UK, MSN and BBC online, where he was editor-in-chief responsible for several hundred online journalists.

Then of course there is the money, which included a welcome package of £500,000 worth of seriously deflated Johnston Press shares.

If the new chief executive can conjure up a little alchemy, find a better model for linking the print and digital world and get the share price on the move then he could become seriously rich.

Those however who expected Highfield to come in to Johnston Press and wave a magic digital wand on his first day at the beginning of November have already expressed disappointment.

Highfield insists he has a digital strategy but says it would be “premature” to say in any detail how he is going to implement it.

Highfield discusses content dissemination via iPads and other devices (incidentally, JP title the Scotsman launched a £7.99-a-month iPad edition earlier this week), but was less forthcoming about paywall plans (JP dismantled its trial walls in April 2010).

And what about paywalls and charging for online content?

“Watch this space”, is all Highfield will say but, clearly, increasing digital revenues is a central part of the emerging strategy.

The full InPublishing interview is at this link.

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