TIMES CHANGES: Advertising executives at The New York Times had a bittersweet Monday. On the one hand, it was the first day for their new boss, Meredith Kopit Levien, a former Forbes executive who was tapped as the Times’ new ad chief in mid-July. But the rank and file also got confirmation Todd R. Haskell, a Times lifer who was seen as a candidate for Levien’s job, is leaving in September to become a digital bigwig at Hearst Magazines.
Haskell’s departure was just the latest of several recent changes on the Times business side and comes as the paper continues to struggle with declining print and digital advertising revenue, an industry-wide problem, though the paper has reported improvements in circulation. In the first quarter, print and digital revenue declined 13.3 and 4 percent, respectively. Digital revenue totaled $46.5 million. Haskell was preceded out the door by another ad executive, Seth Rogin, who left in June to be the first chief revenue officer of the tech Web site Mashable.
When Mark Thompson became chief executive officer in November, he called for a number of changes as he sought to position the Times to rely less on advertising revenue. In March, he broke up the management structure into three groups focused on digital products, print operations and advertising.
As part of the reorganization, Denise Warren, the chief advertising officer, was assigned to lead the digital group, and two veteran advertising executives, Haskell and Andy Wright, were temporarily handed some of her responsibilities. Thompson and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said at the time they would look for internal and external candidates to permanently succeed Warren, though two Times sources said Haskell was lobbying for the position.
Haskell, 44, started his career at the Times as an intern in 1989 and joined the paper’s business team in 2004, eventually put in charge of overseeing ad sales for the Times’ Web site and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Last year, when he was promoted to group vice president, advertising, the Times described him in a statement as a “critical piece” of its advertising brain trust.
While Warren and former advertising senior vice president Alexis Buryk were responsible for relations with the top blue-chip luxury advertisers, Haskell “made sure the trains ran on time,” a source said.
When former T magazine editor Sally Singer faced a revolt from advertisers unhappy with the new direction of the magazine, Haskell was one of several internal detractors, alongside the more influential team of Warren and Buryk. Once Singer was out, it was Haskell’s job, with his deputy, advertising director for international fashion Scott Kunz, to woo back some of the luxury brands that stopped advertising during that period.
As recently as last week, Haskell was out promoting T, telling Media Industry Newsletter the fall fashion issue, with 151 pages, is the magazine’s largest since 2008 thanks to fashion and beauty advertisers.
“A couple of those brands were not in T for a while and now they’re back,” Haskell told WWD.
Despite Haskell’s experience, on July 15, Thompson appointed an outsider, Levien, Forbes’ former chief revenue officer, to the top advertising job, citing her track record of innovation in “print, digital and live events.”
Haskell wouldn’t say when conversations with Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, began, only that they had been ongoing for a while. He attributed his departure to the scope of his new title at Hearst, senior vice president and chief revenue officer of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, which oversees the Web sites of the publisher’s magazines, as well as some digital-only sites, like realbeauty.com.
“Everybody is always looking for the next opportunity for personal growth, to build something that’s going to leave a legacy. I spent nine years in my most recent tour of duty at the Times, and I’m proud of the work I did,” he said. “When [Clinton] started to talk to me, I just thought it was a cool opportunity. It’s got nothing to do in any negative way with the Times.”
Asked if he’d be likely to bring over some of his deputies from the Times, Haskell said he was satisfied with the team at Hearst and that it was too early to talk future hires. A spokeswoman for the Times said Kunz would remain in his role. Several sources at international luxury brands that advertise in the Times said their relationship will be unaffected by Haskell’s departure as Kunz was their day-to-day sales rep.
Haskell will be taking over for Kristine Welker, who on Monday was named the publisher of the as-yet-untitled magazine from Hearst and Dr. Mehmet Oz, the surgeon and television personality.
A Times spokeswoman said it was too early to say how Levien will fill Haskell’s position. “[Haskell] has been a key contributor to the success of the Times over his time here, and while we are delighted for him, we are very sorry to see him go,” the spokeswoman said.
The next few days are expected to be tense at the Times. Second-quarter earnings will be reported Thursday morning, and a forthcoming piece in New York magazine by contributor Joe Hagan is said to paint a damaging portrait of Times management. Last year, Hagan reported a lengthy feature on the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of former ceo Janet Robinson.