Underscoring that technology increasingly will drive the success of traditional media outlets, Tribune Co. is planting a flag in Silicon Valley and has hired a former top Yahoo executive to lead the company's digital ventures.
Shashi Seth, who has worked in key positions at Yahoo, Google's YouTube and AOL, joined the Los Angeles Times parent company this week as president of Tribune Digital Ventures. The newly created division will be tasked with creating new products and forging partnerships with other firms to better distribute Tribune content.
Tribune Digital Ventures will operate separately from the company's two core business units: newspaper publishing and broadcast television.
"We want Tribune Digital Ventures to have a start-up mentality, an entrepreneurial spirit and tremendous freedom to operate," Tribune CEO Peter Liguori said in an email to Tribune employees Wednesday morning.
Seth, 48, most recently was senior vice president of Yahoo's business unit that developed new products, which added $200 million in new revenue to the company. He played a large role in the relaunch of Yahoo Search. Seth exited Yahoo in January when the company's new chief executive, Melissa Mayer, started to put her own team in place.
In an interview, Seth said he wanted to steer Tribune to a solid digital trajectory.
"Despite the massive amount of content that Tribune creates, it has not made a tremendous amount of inroads in the digital space," Seth said. He added that he does not plan to dabble much in some of the existing products but intended to "go where we can get the biggest bang for our buck."
For example, advertisers are increasingly interested in mobile applications.
"We need to reimagine that space and see what fits in well with the assets that we have," Seth said, adding that Tribune's businesses reach 80% of the U.S. market.
Seth also singled out Tribune's digital ventures, such as the TV website and listing service Zap2it and the classified websites cars.com and apartments.com. "They all seem under leveraged to me," Seth said.
Before joining Yahoo, Seth was senior vice president of global advertising products and search at AOL. From 2007 to 2008, Seth was responsible for wringing money from Google's newly acquired YouTube video site, which Seth said quickly grew to more than $100 million a year in revenue.
"In Shashi, we've found someone with the perfect blend of passion, vision, imagination and experience," Liguori said.
In his note, Liguori said he wanted Tribune Digital Ventures to search for new ways to distribute original entertainment developed by Tribune Studios and identify "strategic opportunities and potential partners" in the digital space.