Susan Boster, a tall, strikingly attractive woman, strides through
the executive lounge at Heathrow, clad in a business suit and a mini
T-shirt, the ’page3.com’ logo emblazoned across her chest.
The chief commerce and marketing officer at News Network just laughs
when asked about her style. Perhaps it’s that bold American thing -
maybe her confidence is one of the reasons why Boster is partly
responsible for realising Rupert Murdoch’s internet ambitions in the
News International recently contributed to a pounds 12 million
investment in the local information site Upmystreet.com. And in the
following months Boster promises that we will see News Network investing
in many more internet ventures.
Boster has an enterprising attitude to business and to making sure ideas
are followed through. Upon completing opera studies at drama school she
had intended to go on a mission to save endangered species. Instead she
was side-tracked after she heard about a Duracell interactive pitch
going on at Ogilvy & Mather.
Along with a group of friends, she dreamed up a company and they stormed
their way through to pitch and win the dollars 250,000 account.
She says: ’It was second nature to us, we were all theatrical after
A spell in a loft in a ’dodgy downtown business building’ followed. Then
in 1996 Boster arrived at barnesandnoble.com where she was made
responsible for driving online book sales against the worldwide market
leader, Amazon.com - a tough task indeed.
However, a trip to the UK to deliver a lecture made her realise the
powerful position she was in.
She explains: ’I came over here and there were all these guys sitting
around a table who had no idea. I knew I could make a killing.’
News Network has grown from two people sitting in a local Wapping bar to
a staff of 120. To date, the company has launched three brands: bun.com,
page3.com and, most recently, firedup.com.
News International Digital Publishing was rebranded as News Network four
months ago to distance its online activities from its publishing
However, News Network still retains the promotional advantage of being
owned by a traditional media company. Moreover, it is the kind of
company that allows you to use the front page of The Sun to launch your
internet access service, currantbun.com.
Currantbun.com has had a bumpy ride, being first rebranded as bun.com,
then allocated a pounds 10 million ad campaign and finally sold to the
European internet service provider WorldOnline.
The way Boster sees it, News Network is about building a marketplace to
connect the advertiser and the customer. She argues that, in its time,
currantbun.com as a recognised brand did just that.
But when the strategy changed and the name was shortened to bun.com,
that link was lost.
News Network is now sticking to what it does best: content. The biggest
new project is the hybrid entertainment and auction site firedup.com.
The site aims to make e-commerce entertaining and it is a brand that
News Network would like to extend offline.
’It gives people a chance to do something that they would never normally
be able to do, such as rub shoulders with the stars at the Oscars,’
It helped that Bruce Willis’s face fronted the site’s advertising,
netting News Network the kudos of having the first celebrity-fronted
It seems that when Boster invited ad agencies to pitch for the
firedup.com account, Trevor Beattie, the executive creative director of
TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, took the domain name at its word.
’I’ve never seen a creative with such passion,’ Boster says.
Although pleased with the creative work done by both TBWA and Mother,
Boster, like many other new-media people, thinks that ad agencies just
don’t get it.
’Traditional ad agencies don’t know how to address what is going on at
all,’ Boster says.
At 30, she is relatively young to hold such a senior position in a major
organisation. She puts this down to the fact that the new-media industry
doesn’t penalise age and gender in the way that more traditional
industries tend to do.
Anyway, she says the good thing about her job is that ’this business is
not defined, we are defining it.’
THE BOSTER FILE
The US National Audubon Society, development associate
Site Specific, US, director of marketing and communication
barnesandnoble.com, director of marketing
LineOne/News International, director of marketing,
News Network, chief commerce and marketing officer