Media Lifeline: Associated's digital ventures

For the press group, the switch to digital has been a tough call.

2002: Associated Newspapers asks Andy Hart to head its nascent digital operations. Hart has the perfect CV: managing director of Sunday Business at a tender age, he jumped ship to become the chief executive of Ask Jeeves in 2000 and then a consultant.

2004: Daily Mail and General Trust, the parent company of Associated, had had its fingers burned in the dotcom crash, notably with the failure of - and subsequently had been focusing on pure play classified sites such as But now it returns to the fray by introducing sites for its main editorial brands, such as

2006: Having restructured the company's digital assets into a division called Associated Northcliffe Digital, Hart leads an aggressive acquisition policy too. It climaxes in 2006 with the purchases of Allegran and (for a combined £46.5 million), Auto Exposure and a couple of retail recruitment sites (for a total of £17 million) and the price comparison site SimplySwitch for £22 million.

2007: The management of AND had been beefed up with the appointment of Alan Revell as chief operating officer; previously, he had been the publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald. Now, having created a centralised ad sales division, it seeks to expand by offering its services as a sales house for other digital media owners.

2008: A radical restructure of AND back in October 2007 handed control of the websites of individual newspapers - Mail Online, Metro and the ThisIs series of regional properties - back to the individual publications themselves, leaving Hart in charge of the pure play operations. But when SimplySwitch is forced to close in February 2008, his position is further marginalised. He announces his departure by mutual consent in July.

Fast forward ...

2010: Now Associated, having admitted that its sites have failed to clamber aboard the social networking bandwagon, appoints arch-blogger Russell Davies as its digital supremo. Davies places digital content under central control once more.