Media Headliner: The pioneer who's bringing VideoJug to the fore spot

Nancy Cruikshank was a novice when she discovered the internet; now she's using it to educate the masses.

It is, mercifully, not often you encounter a moonwalking bear fighter. But that may all be about to change thanks to Nancy Cruikshank. She is the global chief executive of VideoJug, the online portal that offers "how to" videos on a dizzying array of practical (and occasionally odd) life skills, including retrieving a kamikaze e-mail, putting a shelf up, bear-fighting and caring for a pet bearded dragon.

Cruikshank is both thrilled and wryly amused by the positive response to the site, and fondly recalls the time one of the company's clients moonwalked across the office towards her, shouting: "Watch this Cruikshank ... I learnt it on VideoJug!"

The former Hearst Digital managing director, who has played a large part in shaping the world of online publishing, sees VideoJug as the next Facebook or MySpace in terms of popularity with users. Her ability to expound with few pauses and limitless enthusiasm about the company could be the subject of one of her video masterclasses.

Cruikshank's passion for the online video space and her unwavering entrepreneurial spirit lured her away from Hearst Digital to her new role last year. The persuasive powers of David Tabizel, the man whose brainchild the company is, also helped.

"David is a serial entrepreneur and, technically, a genius. He formed this business out of a personal frustration and obsession with a particular issue. He felt very strongly that we leave our academic education, and whether it was a brilliant one or not so good one, we're not terribly well equipped with life skills," Cruikshank says.

"For example, you don't know how to set up the television you've just bought; you don't know how to put a shelf up; you don't really know how to make an omelette - the whole gamut."

VideoJug is a production company that launched in the UK in 2006 and the US last year, and which makes its own films along with films for clients such as Microsoft and Match.com. It is one of the ten fastest-growing websites in the UK and has won an audience of three million unique users per month on site.

"You could probably double that audience if you take into account the syndication partners that we work for," Cruikshank adds.

The company recently signed a global content deal with MySpace, making its videos available to users on the social networking site. It has similar syndication deals with YouTube, Virgin Media and The Guardian, among others. Cruikshank's aim is to ramp up users and ad revenues.

"We work with specialist agencies focusing on making sure that we are as high up those rankings of natural search as possible. The content naturally fits in to that whole ecology of natural search online. Our syndication is about taking this quite valuable content and putting it out there across scale audiences," Cruikshank says. She will also focus on marketing the brand, which hitherto has only been done on a small scale.

The site, Cruikshank believes, gives advertisers that most sought- after of things - a rapt audience.

"There probably aren't that many sites on the web that could claim that as a destination you land somewhere and you stare at the screen for two to four minutes, because that's the average length of our videos," she says.

"The mindset is lean-forward and information-seeking; I've just told you I want to make chicken curry, so probably if you're advertising Blue Dragon coconut milk, I'm intrigued."

Cruikshank, although young, is a veteran in the digital world. Her first contact with the worldwide web was over someone's shoulder when she worked at Conde Nast. "I would check every ten days to see if I had any of those things called e-mails."

So she was quite unprepared for what lay ahead when Nicholas Coleridge, the managing director, asked her to set up a thing called Conde Nast World Wide Communicator when she was just 25. "I thought, that's a snappy little title - wonder what that's to do with?" she says. With the internet in its infancy and no other models to learn from, Cruikshank had to create her own pioneering path.

"We took words and pictures and used the internet as a way to access the content. It was a classic mistake. We learned it has to be an additional, valuable experience online - you can't just show the same old crap. It devalues your business model," she says.

A hard slog and a name change later and Conde Nast Online was up and running. Staying within the digital realm, Cruikshank went on to build the Handbag Group, overseeing the growth of Handbag.com and launching the subsidiary sites getlippy, allaboutyou.com and gomamatoday.com.

She joined Hearst Digital after the group was sold by owners the Telegraph Group and Boots to The National Magazine Company in 2006. Hugo Drayton, the chief executive of Phorm and a former Telegraph Media Group managing director, commends Cruikshank's inspirational leadership: "We took Nancy on to run Handbag at a critical stage in its development. Her boundless energy, determination and her broad network were key to driving the business forward."

This energy will be a driving force as VideoJug continues to grow. The company is in the mark-et for acquisition opportunities and Cruikshank predicts by the end of the year the site may have five to six million unique users per month. Bears, beware.

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 37
Lives: London and Devon
Family: Married with two daughters, Meg (five) and Emma
(three-and-a-half)
Interests outside work: Taking photographs, long walks, skiing, being by
the sea
Last book you read: The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
Favourite gadget: Power monkey
Motto: Work with much smarter people than you, and don't hesitate to
experiment and keep your business agile

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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).