Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Another Top Exec Gone From FIM, as It Readies a Name and Structure Change

Mike Angus, EVP and General Counsel of Fox Interactive Media, is departing that job for another in New Corp. (NWS), as new digital head Jon Miller continues to reshape the division.

Last week, BoomTown reported that FIM CFO Ed McKenna was leaving his post and also the company, part of many changes taking place related to News Corp.’s digital properties. (News Corp. owns Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)

It’s all part of a major rejiggering of FIM, which came into being almost four years ago, although not an elimination of the unit, as has been reported.

More likely, it will include a name change–perhaps to the Digital Media Group–as well as a much streamlined organization that gives more autonomy to FIM’s Web, online advertising and publishing technology units.

The largest of those Internet sites in FIM is, of course, MySpace.

Since Miller arrived in the early spring, he has focused on fixing the troubled, but still huge, social-networking site.

He quickly replaced its co-founder and CEO, Chris DeWolfe, with new managers.

Those execs, led by former Facebook exec Owen Van Natta, have done massive layoffs at MySpace recently and are now beginning a major overhaul of its product, which needs to innovate after a fall-off of growth and engagement.

“In a lot of ways, FIM has become an artificial construct and a lot of the infrastructure it has created should be out in the individual businesses,” said one person close to the situation. “So, since it is not really an operating unit, it will be taken down to the minimal size to make it work.”

That apparently means it does not need a separate CFO or even a general counsel.

Currently, there are about 100 FIM-only employees, mostly in human resources, accounting and legal. Some of those will likely be farmed out to the units they primarily service or be let go if those units decide they do not need the staff.

The original idea of FIM was to create a unit to house most of News Corp.’s standalone digital units, including MySpace and IGN videogame and entertainment sites, and to have common financial, legal and even ad sales execs to serve them.

The concept is that they all had tech, legal, policy and synergistic reasons for being together.

Said a News Corp. press release from July 2005, which announced both the Angus and McKenna hires:

“News Corporation today announced the formation of Fox Interactive Media (FIM), a new unit that will leverage the strength of Fox’s distinctive entertainment, news and sports brands across the Internet to offer a richer online experience to its millions of users.”

That construct, said many people I interviewed inside and outside News Corp., was built to accommodate a much larger unit, with additional large acquisitions after the MySpace one.

Those never happened, although News Corp. was in many such talks with giants such as Yahoo (YHOO), Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL and Microsoft (MSFT) about trading assets.

“Over time, FIM became more like a shadow government,” said one person familiar with the situation. “Now, it makes sense for the properties to govern themselves, with a lot less meddling and let them rise and fall on their own.”

Many News Corp. sources point to the success of premium video service Hulu, which is run as a joint venture with GE (GE) unit NBC Universal, as being managed relatively autonomously by experienced Internet execs with less corporate involvement.

The result has been a popular and fast-growing site, which has gotten kudos for its innovative consumer offering (although it is still working on finding a highly lucrative business model).

Does that mean that some units, such as MySpace, could even be spun out again?

Doubtful for now, said several sources, but still a possibility.

In any case, the idea of a corporate layer over corporate units within a larger corporation does seem less than fleet in the faster-moving Web 2.0 world.

As to the new name of the unit, besides the chief digital officer title, Miller also was given the title of chairman and CEO of the newly created News Digital Media group.

Therefore, several sources said that the units could be under a simpler and lighter Digital Media Group umbrella.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik