Media Perspective: What some media owners could learn from Tiger Woods

By Ian Darby, ian.darby@haymarket.com, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 26 March 2010 12:00AM

The immolation of Tiger Woods has proved to be oddly fascinating. His roasting continued this week during a painfully unrevealing interview with ESPN in which he admitted: "A lot of ugly things have happened ... I've done some pretty bad things in my life."

Having initially adopted a head-in-the-bunker approach, Woods was only facing the music in order to save his golfing career. A last-gasp scenario that may become familiar in media circles should corporate fortunes grow any worse.

Take Guardian Media Group, which, reports suggest, faces writing off around £150 million from the value of its investment in Emap's business-to-business division. This would be a crying shame given that it was forced to sell its famous Manchester Evening News group of titles for a mere £44.8 million (just £7.4 million in cash). GMG remains committed to the Emap investment but it will be interesting to see if this deal finally works out or whether somebody, somewhere at GMG, will eventually issue a reluctant admission that it was a bad bet.

Or stroll over to Channel 4's lavish Horseferry Road offices, whose inhabitants were last week on the receiving end of a coruscating Select Committee report. The broadcaster was lambasted for "lack of transparency" in reporting on its digital channels and criticised for investment, in an aborted digital radio venture, which "could more usefully have been used to maintain the public-service content on Channel 4's core channel".

It's hard to feel much sympathy for the likes of GMG and C4 which, bad commercial climate aside, seem to me to have made more than their fair share of poor decisions. And yet, given a fair wind, both could yet emerge energised for the future because of a new structure (in the case of GMG's newspaper business) or new leadership (in the case of Channel 4). Both though will face stiff competition from well-run rivals such as the Telegraph Media Group (which has announced profits of £41 million for 2009), BSkyB and Google, to name just three. And advertisers, not to mention audiences, tend to take note when expensive mistakes impact on the delivery and quality of content.

While Tiger's apology seems half-baked, he has at least progressed slightly - exhibiting a glimmer of self-knowledge when he talked about "stripping away denial, rationalisation. You strip all that away and you find the truth." It's to be hoped some of the media owners that have suffered in recent years can bring themselves to do the same. That they look to themselves and manage to utter a sentence without blaming the market, or the BBC, or Sky or Google. Otherwise, their companies will face a fate far worse than granting an exclusive interview to the Golf Channel.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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