Kara Swisher

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Yahoo News Head Khemlani Departs for Hearst as VP Digital Media

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[UPDATED: With Hearst press release confirming the move at the bottom.]

Neeraj Khemlani (pictured here), Yahoo’s general manager and executive editor of news, is set to leave his job–right in the midst of a major restructuring of its media unit–to work at Hearst Corp.

Khemlani’s departure was announced to his staff at Yahoo (YHOO) today and confirmed by the press release from Hearst below.

While Khemlani was in line to head one of the three main prongs of the new content organization, running a possible network programming arm, sources inside and outside Yahoo said he instead has opted to take a job as VP and Special Assistant to the CEO for Digital Media at Hearst.

Khemlani is not leaving due to the upcoming changes at Yahoo, said sources, but because he got a “compelling” offer to work for a more traditional media company in a range of businesses, from newspapers and magazines to broadcast, helping turbocharge their digital efforts.

Khemlani, who came to Yahoo from a long stint as a producer at the television news show “60 Minutes,” will be reporting to the privately-held media company’s vice chairman and CEO, Frank Bennack.

Khemlani, several sources said, told his bosses at Yahoo–U.S. Audience head Jeff Dossett and U.S. EVP Hilary Schneider–on Friday of his plans right when the pair were in the midst of planning a major shift in how media are managed and created at Yahoo.

At Hearst, he will be a resource for its many divisions, which all have their own digital operations, and he will be based in New York. (Khemlani currently has been working out of Yahoo’s media offices in Santa Monica, Calif.)

In a press release from Hearst, Bennack said: “Hearst’s major operating groups have all made substantial progress towards our corporate objective of fully participating in the digital transformation. The creation of this new position is designed to accelerate the progress through greater cooperation and synergy across divisional lines. Neeraj is uniquely equipped to help me and my colleagues realize that goal.”

Ironically, Hearst has a strong relationship with Yahoo, as a content partner.

UPDATE: In a Hearst press release Khemlani said: “I am delighted to join Hearst Corporation. We are witnessing the reemergence of content and media driving value in the new world and Hearst is uniquely positioned to realize that value across multiple digital platforms and distribution points. Remember, we’re only in the second inning of the Internet. Hearst, with all its assets and investments, expects to take a commanding lead by the seventh?inning stretch.”

As BoomTown reported yesterday, the management of the media unit is about to be rejiggered dramatically.

It’s part of big changes coming for Yahoo, including an even more massive management reorganization that new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz could announce this week, as this column reported on Friday.

Under a plan being considered, the media unit will be split into three parts: vertical programming, network programming and search monetization.

This comes after some other recent changes in the way media product development is done–moving to a centralized global structure, rather than residing in individual media units–which was also reported here last week.

Now, if they go through with current plans to reorganize the media unit, Schneider and Dossett must find another head of network programming.

Several inside sources said that vertical programming will probably roll up under current Sports GM Jimmy Pitaro. And Tim Mayer–who is now VP of search monetization and distribution–would probably remain in his job, with perhaps even more monetization duties added.

Here is the Hearst press release about Khemlani:

HEARST CORPORATION NAMES NEERAJ KHEMLANI VICE PRESIDENT & SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO CEO FOR DIGITAL MEDIA

NEW YORK, February 23, 2008–Hearst Corporation announced today that Neeraj Khemlani, 38, has been named to the new position of vice president and special assistant to the CEO for digital media, Hearst Corporation. The announcement was made by Frank A. Bennack, Jr., vice chairman and chief executive officer of Hearst Corporation, and is effective March 23. Khemlani, who will report directly to Bennack, will be responsible for promoting and coordinating digital content transformation across the Company.

“Hearst’s major operating groups have all made substantial progress towards our corporate objective of fully participating in the digital transformation,” Bennack said. “The creation of this new position is designed to accelerate the progress through greater cooperation and synergy across divisional lines. Neeraj is uniquely equipped to help me and my colleagues realize that goal.”

Khemlani was formerly vice president and general manager of Yahoo! News & Information as well as Yahoo! Originals. In this position, he managed the business and products of Yahoo! News, Tech, Weather and Education, and the editorial programming for Yahoo! Finance, as executive editor. He also directed original content programming, including product design, content production and sponsorship, across all Yahoo! channels; and initiated and oversaw strategic business development content deals with major media companies.

From 1998 to 2006, Khemlani was a producer for CBS News’ 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II, and a creative consultant to Imagine Entertainment, ABC Entertainment, from 2000 to 2001, where he advised scriptwriters. His television experience also includes producer positions with Crile Communications and ABC News, where he produced segments for Nightline, Good Morning America, Peter Jennings Reporting and ABC News Specials.

“I am delighted to join Hearst Corporation,” Khemlani said. “We are witnessing the reemergence of content and media driving value in the new world and Hearst is uniquely positioned to realize that value across multiple digital platforms and distribution points. Remember, we’re only in the second inning of the Internet. Hearst, with all its assets and investments, expects to take a commanding lead by the seventh?inning stretch.”

Khemlani began his career as a newspaper reporter, writing for The New York Times and The Post?Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. Khemlani holds a master’s of science in journalism from Columbia University, where he graduated with honors, and a bachelor’s in communications from Cornell University, where he was the editor?in?chief of The Cornell Daily Sun.

Hearst Corporation (www.hearst.com) is one of the nation’s largest diversified media companies. Its major interests include ownership of 16 daily and 49 weekly newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Times Union; as well as interests in an additional 43 daily and 72 non?daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, which include the Denver Post and Salt Lake Tribune; nearly 200 magazines around the world, including Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and O, The Oprah Magazine; 29 television stations through Hearst?Argyle Television (NYSE:HTV) which reach a combined 18% of U.S. viewers; ownership in leading cable networks, including Lifetime, A&E, History and ESPN; as well as business publishing, including a minority joint venture interest in Fitch Ratings; Internet businesses, television production, newspaper features distribution and real estate.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work