Reuters Media Shake-Up: Clearer Picture, ‘Not A Revolution’

Image305A clearer picture has emerged of senior-level changes in Reuters’ Media division, as the unit retains its name but undergoes some shake-ups in the wake of the Thomson (NYSE: TOC) merger. Chris Ahearn has recast the division with “three principal operating axes” to “put our customers at the center of all we do and reinforce teamwork, accountability and performance”…

News agency: UK-based Reuters (NSDQ: RTRSY) Media MD Monique Villa stepped aside two days ago to become CEO of the Reuters Foundation, working on news training in developing countries and disaster zones. She will in a sense be replaced – although not directly – by Christophe Pleitgen, who will lead the new-look news agency element.
Consumer media: After the departure of US-based Reuters Media GM and SVP Stephen Smyth, Alisa Bowen will lead the global consumer media axis. Bowen had previously led interactive products alongside Smyth’s online offerings and there will be a new head of advertising sales for consumer media in the US.
Professional publishing: The third axis will be led by David Hurst. Other areas include strategy and business development (Maria Molland), marketing (Sumita Singh), technology (Leon Shklar) and office of the president, media (Malcolm Murray).

Speaking to me at Thomson Reuters’ London HQ this morning, Villa said it wasn’t a restructure but created “a much more clean line”: “It’s just different, it’s not a revolution.” “It’s not so much change because Chris Ahearn has been president of Media for five years or something now.” She said she didn’t think there would be layoffs in the Media division…

More views on the Thomson-Reuters merger after the jump…

On the ground, however, the National Union of Journalists’ Thomson Reuters chapel says it has voted “unanimously” for industrial action in response to what it says is the merged agency’s “continuing refusal to consider a voluntary redundancy programme as part of any job reduction package and their continuing insistence that compulsory redundancies must remain part of the mix”, Press Gazette reports.

Two weeks in, how’s the merger going? Villa: “Apart from changing the name, there have not been big changes – but of course we are a much bigger company. But immediately the media business, which is a small business representing only seven percent of Reuters revenue, we have been left quite alone, which is good.” No info yet on corporate synergies.

Integration with Thomson?: So when will we see Thomson’s data-heavy offerings combined with Reuters’ own offerings? At some point, but not yet – at least not in Villa’s former division. “With Media, probably not because our client base is essentially the newspapers, the broadcasters, the online world – so they don’t need the professional tools that Thomson provides. But, yes, part of the information that Thomson gives on health, science etc, there will be a lot more news for the Reuters clients. But it’s not direct media – it’s very different writing for (Thomson’s) professional communities than writing for the newspaper.”

More IHT-like deals? What progress on adding to Reuters’ recent news supply partnership with “This is a trend. Potentially, there are other possibles. It has been very good because getting the feedback immediately makes you better.”

Direct-to-consumer media: On the decision four years ago to add more consumer-facing web output to Reuters’ core wire syndication business: “At the time, it was a very brave decision because we had this agency business and some were afraid of cannibalisation; were you becoming a competitor to your clients etc? Finally, we have done it in such a good way that no client has felt that they were in competition with us. We have learned a lot of things that have helped us with our clients. Now I know exactly how you make revenue from a website, so we can help our clients on what is working well or not on the web.” But Villa doesn’t foresee Reuters’ new Thomson bedfellow joining in by supplying data to newspapers like IHT.

Priorities for the foundation: There could be some crossovers with Villa’s new post, however. Through AlertNet, the Reuters Foundation trains journalists in the developing world and shares information in disaster zones. “What I will try to do is grow the Thomson Foundation, which doesn’t exist really, grow around their business lines, which is science, health etc. You can imagine that AlertNet would become much bigger with lawyers giving pro-bono work and this kind of thing.”