After three years as chief digital officer at News Corporation, Chris Miller has announced his departure from the company, effective as of next month. Miller seems to be parting on good terms and will, according to a News Corp. press release, continue to work “as an outside advisor [to the company] on digital issues through fall 2013.”
Having been drafted into the company in 2009 to reinvigorate News Corp.’s diverse (and struggling) digital assets, a key part of Miller’s role was making digital a priority across the company’s numerous news divisions. During his tenure, Miller oversaw the introduction of a paywall at the Times of London and the Wall Street Journal and was a leading force behind the initiative to incorporate the use of video in News Corp.’s traditional news publications. As a result, reporters at the WSJ are now trained in using video functions on their smartphones.
Asked in an interview with Forbes about what he had achieved after three years at News Corp., Miller highlighted the part he played in forging stronger links with high profile technology companies: “when I got here, we didn’t really have strategic relationships with major tech companies. The relationships we had were primarily transactional, catch as catch can. What we’ve developed now as a company is close working relationships with the big players — Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook. It’s very important that the two worlds talk to each other, understand each other, because everyone’s going to be around. Sometimes they speak different languages. I think I’ve been able to translate.”
Miller certainly seemed to speak Apple’s language, convincing the technology giant to become an active partner in the production of News Corp’s digital-only title, The Daily. According to Miller, brokering that deal was a “watershed” moment, as it was unusual for Apple to collaborate with projects in such a way. In Miller’s view the struggling app “needs to scale, and then it needs to, as it has, go on to new platforms, needs to have its cost base aligned…”
The forthcoming division of News Corp. into two distinct companies almost certainly influenced the decision over Miller’s exit. In July, after news of a split was confirmed All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher began questioning “where Miller would land in either new entity”. For the time being the fate of digital operations at News Corp and the two companies that it will subsequently divide into is unclear. When quizzed on whether each new venture would need its own Jon Miller, or whether Miller himself had been so successful “at weaving digital into the fabric that a digital czar is no longer needed”, Miller indicated that each company would need to find its own digital direction. Good news perhaps for the publishing arm, which without its digital developers being distracted by the more evident possibilities provided by the entertainment branch, could see renewed focus on the search for a sustainable digital model for its news titles.