INTERACTIVE: PROFILE - CAROL DUKES/Internet pioneer is in the right place at the right time for Carlton Online/Carol Dukes has made her career through innovating, Gordon MacMillan reports

Perhaps the biggest surprise about the launch of Carlton Online’s first three websites was the lack of anything about cats and gardening - the two subjects that Carol Dukes, the managing director of the Carlton Communications-owned start-up, is known to be obsessed with. Still, it’s early days.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about the launch of Carlton Online’s

first three websites was the lack of anything about cats and gardening -

the two subjects that Carol Dukes, the managing director of the Carlton

Communications-owned start-up, is known to be obsessed with. Still, it’s

early days.



At 36, Dukes looks much younger and bears more than a passing

resemblance to Thelma from Scooby Doo.



It’s a far cry from the trendy, young, new-media type one hears

about.



But Dukes shares more than just looks with her animated counterpart.



Like Thelma and the rest of those pesky kids, you can never tell where

she will turn up next. It’s been the hallmark of her career.



Her CV seems to be the product of some random career-generating machine

as jobs appear to fall seamlessly into her lap. Indeed, Dukes admits

that she doesn’t have an orchestrated master strategy. ’It’s whatever

seems to fit,’ she says.



Having read PPE at Oxford, Dukes bummed around before learning shorthand

and typing. It was part of her determined and practical approach to

life.



If nothing else, Dukes reasoned, she could at least secure a highly paid

secretarial job.



She wrote to 50 TV production companies and entered the ground floor of

the cable revolution at IVS, which was later bought by Flextech. It

initially sold satellite movie systems but soon found itself in the

cable business with franchises in Andover and Oxford.



IVS was a small company when Dukes joined and she became involved in all

aspects of the business. However, as the company grew Dukes thought she

was in danger of being boxed in. She decided it was time to broaden her

skills: ’If I had stayed there, I would have been put in a slot. I would

have been in marketing or something with no access to technology or

finance. I don’t want to be in a box.’



Dukes took an MBA at the London Business School, and two years later

joined Gemini Consulting as a management consultant. It was a short

stay.



’I did not like management consultancy. I like to be part of something

but consultants are perpetually on the outside. I found advising and not

doing frustrating. I’m not a perfectionist. I’m a ’good enough’,’ she

said.



Dukes resigned and 30 minutes later was lined up for a corporate

planning role at Emap’s head office. Having been involved in cable - the

new media of the 80s - Dukes began looking at CD-Roms and the fledgling

online industry. It suited her perfectly - it was new, called for

experimentation and, as she puts it, ’you don’t have to listen to old

buffers’.



Emap was just beginning its investment in new media, the spur for which

had been the launch of Internet magazine in 1994. From that, Emap Online

flowed, headed by Dukes and Roger Green.



Emap’s magazines began to hear about what Dukes and Green were doing and

suddenly started asking for their own websites.



Green says: ’It became quite a joke that we were cranking out proposals

and deals non-stop.’



Several successful standalone internet titles followed, including

whatsnew.com, whatson.com, a2btravel.com and aloud.com.



Dukes says: ’With a2btravel and aloud, two sites in the important areas

of travel and e-commerce, they have an opportunity to grow. That’s a

launch-pad I helped to create. I think I sowed a lot of seeds and raised

awareness. I like to think I have a mission.’



Having developed Emap Online, Dukes witnessed the sale of the sales

operation to Real Media and suddenly came to the conclusion there was

room for one managing director - and that was Green. Typically, her next

opportunity was waiting around the corner.



’I asked them to make me redundant. They turned me down. Then Carlton

called out of the blue. I think I’m quite lucky.’



Carlton offered Dukes the job of launching Carlton Online from

scratch.



That’s from nought to 38 people and three websites in six months. It was

perfect, Dukes says, ’a start-up, freedom to do what we wanted with new

brands and the backing of Carlton’.



The recent weeks and months have been hectic. Dukes says she is

considering a holiday and, when pressed, admits that someday she could

see herself living the quiet life - looking after a herb garden or maybe

that tea shop in Glastonbury that so badly needs a decent manager.



’I’m not sure it will happen, but after six months of the tea shop I’d

probably want to franchise it.’



THE DUKES FILE

1983 Oxford University

1984 admin assistant, IVS

1988 director, IVS

1990 MBA, London Business School

1992 consultant, Gemini Consulting

1993 corporate planner, Emap

1995 director, online media centre, Emap Computing

1997 joint managing director, Emap Online

1998 managing director of Carlton Online. Launched games site

jamba.co.uk, film site popcorn.co.uk and simplyfood.co.uk



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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).