Twitter’s appointment of respected executive Marjorie Scardino to its director ranks helps rectify its gender imbalance. But not only is Scardino Twitter’s first female director, she’s also the first person with genuine “old media” experience on the board, which up until now was comprised completely of male venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and technology executives.
(Board member Peter Chernin was formerly chief operating officer of News Corp between 1996 and 2009, but he ran the company’s film studios and entertainment businesses, not its older publishing businesses, and these days he runs his own venture capital fund).
This is yet another sign of how important the news industry is to Twitter. All the tweets and links posted by journalists are effectively free content for the social media service, keeping eyeballs fixated on its platform, from which it can generate advertising revenue.
Scardino was previously the chief executive of London-listed Pearson Group, the owner of the Financial Times newspaper that has a 50% stake in The Economist Group. She was the first woman to become the CEO of a FTSE 100 company, and has herself been a vocal critic of the lack of female representation on boards. She’s been on Fortune’s magazine’s most powerful women in global business list for 15 straight years, placing 10th in 2012.
Her stewardship of Pearson was widely considered a big success. She oversaw the transformation of the company from an unfocused conglomerate to what is now essentially an education business. Pearson’s interests in the Madame Tussaud’s waxwork museum and in the investment bank Lazard were sold off, but the FT never was, despite rumors that it’s not profitable. Scardino, a former journalist, who also once owned a Georgia newspaper, is widely reported to have held an “emotional attachment” to the paper.
Today’s news follows the appointment of former NBC News executive Vivian Schiller as Twitter’s head of news and journalism last month, a job description that included the need to make Twitter “indispensable to newsrooms and journalists.” There’s been endless discussion about how important Twitter is to 21st century journalism. Scardino’s appointment proves that the feeling is mutual.