Media Headliner: Carter mandate represents changing times at NI

Dominic Carter, the Times Media trading director, is providing solutions to the group's multimedia challenge.

Chests must be puffed out at Times Media right now. Because Rupert Murdoch, its ultimate owner, took time out last week after the News Corporation internet pow-wow in California to cite Times Online as the "outstanding example" of how his print products were developing in the digital age.

"It's attracting enough advertising to more than pay its costs," he told analysts. Step forward Dominic Carter, who last week was handed an expanded role at Times Media. He remains its trading director, but will now take responsibility for all commercial activity across print, digital and creative solutions. Clare Myerscough, the Times' development director, previously oversaw the solutions team, but will continue to work closely with Carter on selling its multimedia strategy to clients.

Like its rivals, Times Media has identified cross-media solutions as a big opportunity, especially given that it invested £10 million in a relaunch of Times Online earlier this year. On the print side of things, News International is ploughing £600 million into improved print facilities, which will bring full colour to its titles.

The Times Media restructure follows significant upheaval at the division in recent times. Last summer, its ad director, Ian Clark, left to become the general manager of its sister freesheet, thelondonpaper, and then Andy Mullins, the general manager, left to take on the massive challenge of managing director at the Evening Standard. All this at a time when Times Newspapers' losses (it has since rebranded to the more digital-friendly title) were reported as £80.7 million for the year to the end of June 2006, as it bore the cost of making redundancies.

However, Carter seems to embody a renewed sense of optimism at the company. Having spent four years at The Sun and then The Sunday Times in the late 90s, Carter returned to News International in January 2006 after six years at Mirror Group Newspapers, and has impressed with his business-like approach.

He had also generally impressed while at Mirror Group, but there were some disappointments along the way - such as the collapse, in 2002, of the Apollo joint selling venture with Telegraph Group, which Carter was selected to run.

Carter's decision to leave Mirror Group, where he had eventually been promoted to ad director, raised a few eyebrows at the time, but now seems to have paid off. Claudine Collins, the managing partner at MediaCom, says: "Some said it was a sideways move, but he's moved back to a really good organisation that will look after you."

She says of Carter's impact at the Times: "He's quite serious, really bright, the consummate professional. He's a good networker and has built a good team."

Collins and others have been impressed with the way Carter has presented the Times vision. She says: "He's not coming in and saying 'This is what's happening', it's more a case of him coming in and asking 'What do you think?'."

Mark Gallagher, the executive director at Manning Gottlieb OMD, says: "He's a very strategic thinker. Selling ad space doesn't seem his natural forte - he's the right sort of person to work across all platforms; he's putting together a compelling proposition."

Carter certainly gives the impression of being very buttoned down. He looks, as one observer comments, like he has just strolled out of Goldman Sachs or some other very serious City institution. Yet, he is capable of sounding fired up about the challenges ahead. He talks with passion about some of the recent cross-platform work his team has created for clients (a BMW-sponsored podcast linked to The Times' entertainment guide, The Knowledge, looms large) and argues that the new structure will take this forward: "It's not a restructure to reflect something that has been going wrong in the department. It's not a structure that is flawed, but there is so much change going on and clients are asking us for more integrated solutions."

But what attracted Carter back to News International? "From a personal point of view, I looked at The Times and The Sunday Times, and they are phenomenal brands - I looked at it and thought, if you are an entrepreneur, you could do something with those brands."

What is impressing agencies is his work on the accountability of the Times brands, especially on the data side. It is working on providing increased levels of reader research and on its approach to customer data, so that it can cross-sell products to its readers.

Agencies would like to see more of this, especially more detailed research on the weekend supplements and sections, but argue that Carter is moving things in the right direction. And he has a realistic attitude to new revenue streams: "Day to day, the revenue is still in print - but we're speaking to clients who do spend on digital, but perhaps not with us. We are restructuring ahead of the market to make it a more solutions-driven business. We've made a big investment in the digital space, and now it's about defining the proposition and defining a market-leading approach for a market-leading product."

One thing in Carter's favour is that he already has examples of creative solutions and Mr Murdoch's support for its digital activity to build upon. And, despite the trading director title, his reputation as a broad-based operator with a vision beyond the numbers will now be put to the test.

THE LOWDOWN
Age: 41
Lives: Muswell Hill, North London
Family: Wife Anne-Marie, children Eliane, four, Zachary, 16 months, and
Niamh, three weeks
Most treasured possession: Although not a possession, my family
Favourite ad: Honda "impossible dream"
Interests outside work: Family and any sport (playing and watching)
Last book you read: The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier
Motto: You get out of life what you put in