Private Media promotes Will Hayward to CEO, after four year vacancy

Private Media – which publishes Crikey, Smart Company, and The Mandarin – has promoted Will Hayward to CEO, effective today.

The publisher hasn’t had a chief executive since 2015, when Jason Kibsgaard departed and chair Eric Beecher decided against replacing him in favour of a “flatter … leaner, and more agile” structure. Hayward told Mumbrella the change of heart is less about the position itself and more a response to 12 months of growth.

“I think about it less in terms of appointing a new CEO, and more in terms of Eric [Beecher] and the board recognising the huge success we’ve had over the last year,” he said.

Hayward starts in the new role today

“Crikey subscriptions are up 80% year-on-year, so we’ve had a phenomenal year growing reader revenue. Smart Company continues to be an amazing voice for the small business community, and we’re about to launch a couple of new products on that side. And The Mandarin’s just finished one of its best quarters ever.

“So I see it less as the appointment of a CEO, and more a recognition of the trajectory of the business and the momentum of the business and a recognition of the hard work of the whole team, across the whole business.”

Hayward joined the business in 2019 as the publisher of Smart Company, before he was elevated to chief commercial officer in February 2020. Before he joined Private Media in Australia, he worked in the UK at Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Dow Jones, and Joe Media.

His aspirations for the role are clear. He wants to turn Private Media “into the best possible place to work”.

“That will dictate the success of the business, and that really needs to be the beginning point,” he explained.

“If we don’t have the right people in the company, we won’t succeed. And right now, I think we have a extraordinarily good team and we now need to enter a new period of growth and start hiring people who can match the level that we already have in the business.

“The next thing is to continue to invest in journalism. Whilst we are a small business, we’ve got big plans, so we’ll continue to invest on that side.”

But while the promotion responds to a “very successful 2020”, Hayward said his gaze is fixed on the long term too.

“We’ve almost doubled the reader revenue coming into the business [in the past year], so we’ve got lots of momentum. On the other hand, we see it very much [as] the beginning of a multi-year journey,” he elaborated.

“If you stop anyone in the street and ask them three questions: Do you think mass news media in Australia is good? Do you think small businesses are supported properly? And do you think the public sector has all the tools it needs to survive or do well? I think you’ll get three negatives. No one thinks the news in Australia is great. No one thinks that small businesses have got everything they need. And no one thinks that the public sector is in a great place.

“So we’re very focused on those three missions. And it’s hard to imagine how far we could take those three things. So we’re very excited about the years to come.”


Beecher noted it is “an important appointment for Private Media, coming during a period of considerable growth and great ambition, as public interest journalism and news publishing flexes into a new era”.

“Will’s experience and skills represent a new level of commercial focus and ambition critical to growing Private Media and as CEO he will be responsible for the business’s overall performance and strategy, working with the leadership team and reporting to the board,” he said.

Last week, Beecher fronted the senate committee hearing into the News Media Bargaining Code and expressed concern that big media companies will “get more money to make more money” if the code is not modified. The government should prioritise protecting media diversity, he said, and instead make the digital platforms pay a social licence for public interest journalism in recognition of the benefit they derive from it.

“Google and Facebook, they haven’t stolen the content, they haven’t stolen the advertising. I think that’s a crazy pretext on which to base this,” he said.

On Friday, Crikey (and InDaily, a Solstice Media publication where Beecher is also chair) became one of the first round of mastheads included in Google’s News Showcase licensing program. But Google is reportedly contractually entitled to terminate the deals should the code be pushed through in its current form, meaning its threat to withdraw its search function from the local market has not been completely neutralised.


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