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Jason Seiken

Jason Seiken is a media executive best known for launching The Washington Post on the web and for transforming PBS into a leader in the digital media space.

A dual citizen of the United States and United Kingdom, he also was the first American to run the newsroom of a major British newspaper, though his short tenure as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph was considered controversial.[1][2]


Early careerEdit

Jason Seiken began his career as a newspaper reporter, columnist, and editor, first at the Schenectady Gazette (New York) and then at the Quincy Patriot Ledger (Massachusetts).

In 1993, Jason was one of 12 US journalists awarded the highly competitive John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, where he spent the year at the Graduate School of Business. (He now serves on the Knight Fellowship Board of Visitors.)[3]

The Washington PostEdit

In 1994, Seiken was hired to lead the Washington Post’s nascent digital team and quickly rose to become editor-in-chief of the Post’s digital subsidiary. Seiken subsequently hired and led the team that launched

At launch, the site was hailed by the rival Philadelphia Inquirer as “startlingly good” and a “tour de force” that outshined Michael Kinsley’s new high-profile digital magazine Slate.[4]

The original included several industry innovations. It was the first newspaper site to update around the clock; the first to include significant non-newspaper content such as the first chapters of books; and the first to devote significant resources to creating online community that gave users a voice.

As early as 1995, Seiken talked publicly about the importance of social media, which at the time was called online community. “We think one of the most important parts of our service [is] creating a virtual community. Perhaps even more so than providing news, being able to create a community is what is going to make online services successful,” he told Frontline in 1995. [5]


In 1997, Seiken joined AOL,[6] where he led the 18 AOL content channels, including News, Sports, and Entertainment, during the time of their greatest growth as AOL become the dominant online service internationally with more than 34 million subscribers.

In early 2001, he transferred to London to head programming for AOL UK and, later, AOL Europe. He helped drive traffic gains and monetization that contributed to division’s two-year turnaround from $600 million annual loss to more than $135 million profitability.


In 2006 he returned to the United States as Senior Vice President and General Manager for Digital at the Public Broadcasting Service. The Guardian later wrote that Seiken “reinvented PBS” and “transformed the video and mobile fortunes of PBS … changing it from a conventional broadcaster to one with an edgy mobile and web service.”[7]

Under Seiken, PBS Digital launched a series of critically acclaimed products. These included an iPad app that won the 2011 Webby Award for best tablet app and which CNET called “a true gift from TV heaven”[8] and a video platform that Daily Variety said was "... arguably the most innovative and well designed [video site] on the market.”[9]

In his 2012 TEDx talk, Seiken recalled how users said the products changed their perception of PBS, from stuffy to innovative. The press agreed, with Esquire writing: "Suddenly, PBS has become a totally different animal ... It is fantastic. Easy to use. Modern. Flashy."[10]

Seiken also succeeded in moving PBS out of its traditional style of video production. In a 2012 speech to 850 top executives from PBS stations, Seiken warned that PBS was in danger of being disrupted by YouTube studios such as Maker Studios. In the speech, later described as a “seminal moment” for public television,[11] he laid out his vision for a new style of PBS digital video production. Station leadership rallied around his vision and Seiken formed PBS Digital Studios, which began producing educational but edgy videos, something Seiken called “PBS-quality with a YouTube sensibility.”[12]

The studio’s first hit, an auto-tuned version of the TV classic Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, was one of YouTube’s 10 most viral videos of 2012.[13]

By Seiken's final year at PBS, monthly video views on had risen from 2 million to a quarter-billion, traffic had surpassed that of the CBS, NBC, and ABC web sites, had become the dominant U.S. children’s site for video, and PBS had won more 2013 Webby Awards than any other media company in the world.[14]

The Daily Telegraph (UK)Edit

In October 2013, Seiken moved to London after being recruited to become editor-in-chief of The Telegraph, Britain's best-selling quality daily newspaper. The appointment of an American digital executive as editor of "the Queen’s newspaper" was controversial. Coverage in other Fleet Street newspapers emphasized that Seiken was an American with no previous experience at British newspapers. The Financial Times called him a "hoodie-wearing former US television executive."[15]

In early 2014, Seiken laid out his vision for The Telegraph in a series of speeches to staff that were well-received by staff[16] and external audiences. He told staff that he would dismantle the top-down, command-and-control culture of the newsroom and replace it with a “digital-native” culture that empowered employees at all levels.

In public speeches and interviews, Seiken said journalism was entering a “golden age”[17] of better newsgathering tools, such as databases and drones, and emerging technologies to present news, such as virtual reality.[18] These speeches became the subject of derision in rival British newspapers, for “talking about drones.”[19]

Seiken had early success in boosting the Telegraph's web and mobile traffic.[20] By the middle of his first year, traffic growth had outstripped rival newspaper sites.[21]

Seiken also diversified the Telegraph’s print writers by adding two female columnists, Bryony Gordon[22][better source needed] and Emma Barnett.[23][better source needed] But he presided over a controversial series of staff reductions and was criticized by some who said he was laying off experienced print journalists and replacing them with younger “digital natives.”[24]

A year after his appointment, Seiken moved to a role to develop new revenue streams and an overarching company strategy.[25] Seiken stepped down the following year.[26]

Leadership philosophyEdit

In speeches and articles, Seiken has emphasized cultural change as the key to positioning an established brand for digital success. Specifically, he advocates that companies create a “left brain, right brain” culture – one that is entrepreneurial yet highly disciplined.

“When we set out to change (the PBS) culture, we established a goal of being the most freewheeling group in the building but also the most buttoned-down group this side of the finance department,” he said in a 2012 TEDx talk. [27]

He expanded on this in a 2013 piece for the Harvard Business Review web site titled How I Got My Team to Fail More.[28] Seiken wrote that he unlocked innovation in the risk-averse PBS organization by telling employees they would be marked down in annual performance reviews if they didn’t fail enough during the year.


Seiken is married to the writer Juyoung Seo. They live in London and have an oldest son and a younger daughter.


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  22. ^ Bryony Gordon
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  25. ^ big-profits-rising-user-numbers-so-why-the-turmoil-at-the-telegraph- 9819632.html
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External linksEdit