Digital Power Player: Jon Miller

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Jon Miller will receive THR's Digital Power Player award at Tuesday's Digital Power event in
New York. (Illustration by Christopher Hues)
 
Jon Miller
Chief digital officer and chairman/CEO of digital group, News Corp.

For an executive faced with very complex challenges, Jon Miller believes he can only solve them once he answers one simple question: The digital strategy of News Corp. is...

"To be honest, today I can't finish that sentence," he said. "But I would challenge you to finish that sentence for any large media company out there today."

And therein lies the crux of the mission Miller accepted in March as chief digital officer of News Corp. He must somehow figure out a way for a corporate behemoth to embrace uncertain new opportunities that often conflict with the very interests that made Rupert Murdoch's conglomerate what it is today. And fast.

But in a very short time, Miller is proving he can tackle tough tasks. Just look at the once-mighty MySpace, where he's cleaned house including founder Chris DeWolfe. With the massive social network's growth stalled and its buzz ceded to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, Miller has brought in a pedigreed dream team in Owen Van Natta (Facebook), Michael Jones (AOL) and Jason Hirschorn (Sling Media).



           
           
"I think there was concern growing in the corporation," Miller said. "There was no question that my eyes and judgment were asked to be on that and quickly form a point of view as to what needed to be done."

If only jumpstarting this slumbering giant was his lone challenge. Not long after Miller came aboard, Murdoch made clear News Corp. plans to take a leading role in instilling some semblance of a business model in the free-falling publishing business. Miller also will be a driving force in the evolution of the online video business once he replaces Peter Chernin next month on the board of News Corp.-NBC Universal-Walt Disney Co. joint venture Hulu, which may be a stunning success out of the gate but could run into many of the growing pains hobbling MySpace if its plans to scale are not calculated very carefully.

While Hulu is hot, ensuring its future growth may mean figuring out ways to increase its access to programming without crimping the billion-dollar agreements Fox has in place with cable operators. But if anyone can untangle the cross-purposes strangling media companies, Miller has a resume that suits him for the role. He's played a leading part on opposite ends of the technology/media equation, first for traditional content owners like Viacom and IAC, and then inside behemoths like Time Warner in a four-year stint atop AOL. More recently he's financed would-be AOLs at Velocity Interactive Group.

Back in big media, he has his work cut out for him, but his short-term goals are clear. "If I got positive movement for MySpace, new business development for the news business and figure out how Hulu scales, I'd be pretty happy actually."

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