OPINION: QUESTION TIME WITH ... Carolyn McCall - The Guardian’s deputy managing director loves change. By Colin Grimshaw

In many ways, Carolyn McCall represents a new era of newspaper publishing.

In many ways, Carolyn McCall represents a new era of newspaper


As well as being poised to move into the top slot at The Guardian -

probably sooner rather than later - she is also set to lead the paper

into an electronic future.

’I hope I’m not traditional in the way I think. I hope I’m fairly

radical,’ she says. ’When people say to me, ’It’s always been done this

way,’ I say: ’But why? Why don’t we change it?’’

Change is McCall’s mantra. In fact, change has been the one constant in

her career. Since arriving at The Guardian in 1986 as a planner, her

rise through the ranks has been meteoric, involving promotion roughly

once a year. She has also gained a solid grounding in new media.

’I love the internet,’ she enthuses. ’I understand it and can see its

benefits. But I also know advertisers and consumers.’

She is braced for convergence and believes both journalists and sales

staff will need to learn new skills to survive the cultural shift.

’Everything we think we know about media will change,’ McCall warns.

’Brands will be fundamental, but they must cross from newspapers into

other media, taking brand values with them.’ She has already identified

classified ad revenues as vulnerable and has made it a priority to

integrate recruitment sales into a website.

Her first exposure to the net was through The Guardian’s association

with the UK version of Wired. The partnership with Wired’s US parent

dissolved amid bitter recriminations on both sides. But McCall learned a

lot from the experience and used it as a plank for The Guardian’s net


’We learned not to just take print content and put it on to the web but

to do something original that worked for the medium. The Hotwired site

was completely different to Wired magazine,’ she explains. ’I also spent

three weeks working in Wired’s office in San Francisco and took our

sales staff out there to be trained.’

What emerged from the experience was Guardian Unlimited, The Guardian’s

online operation. ’It’s doing so well - a strong brand with great people

- but it was a huge challenge for me,’ she recalls. ’I had to start

dealing with web designers and techies.’

But McCall is highly adaptable. Her first big change of direction at The

Guardian came when the managing director Caroline Marland persuaded her

to move from planning into sales with a pounds 5,000 increase and a

company car. She quickly moved up to group head, her toughest job yet. A

year later, McCall was deputy ad manager and was almost lured away to

Channel 4 by Andy Barnes. But Marland gave her the task of setting up a

team developing sponsorships and added-value supplements. Out of this

activity came the much acclaimed Guide and Weekend Guardian.

With the acquisition of The Observer in 1993, McCall was charged with

merging the two sales teams. She knew there would be casualties, but

managed the task without too much acrimony by ’communicating for

England’ and no doubt by employing her renowned charm. She is

universally liked and respected by her peers. ’I would love to discover

the skeleton in her cupboard,’ one jokes.

So what would the preacher of change like to change about her own


’Nothing,’ she insists. ’Except I’d like to get to the gym more



’Don’t get bogged down in politics. Be straight and transparent and

people will respect you for it. Be true to yourself. Say what you think

regardless of what you think people expect you to say. Don’t stay if

you’re not enjoying it. It will show.’


Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content