Daglish swaps radio for the digital world

Simon Daglish, vice-president, commercial, at Fox Interactive Media UK, talks to Media Week about going digital following a 10-year career in radio.

SImon Daglish, vice president, commercial, Fox Interactive Media UK
SImon Daglish, vice president, commercial, Fox Interactive Media UK

In his decade-long career in radio, Simon Daglish became something of a media survivor, waving off no fewer than five chief executives as he climbed the ladder at GWR and, later, GCap Media to become national sales director of the radio group.

But after an unceremonious departure from the sector in which he was a larger-than-life character, the interminably ebullient Dags is back and this time he's gone digital - or Dags.com if you like.

A much-publicised move to Channel 4 to head the commercial side of its ill-fated digital radio venture ended sourly in October when the plug was pulled on the project and Daglish was suddenly out of a job he never actually started.

But he was soon snapped up by News Corp's Fox Interactive Media UK as its vice-president, commercial, sparking a flurry of reinvention as the former Army boy moved from one of the oldest media to the newest.

And this fresh perspective is shaping Daglish's approach to his new remit, which includes gaming site IGN, film website Rotten Tomatoes and, most notably, MySpace.

"Coming in from the outside, you often see things you can't see from inside. There are opportunities you can bring to light just by asking naive questions, which I do quite regularly," he laughs.

Daglish believes his role is to be "evangelical" about what MySpace can offer advertisers, but he still senses confusion in translation as clients get to grips with digital.

"It's very simple," he says, with the enthusiasm of a convert. "It follows the same processes all media follow. Digital needs to debunk the guff and just explain it clearly and precisely to clients."

The opportunity to re-educate clients about MySpace will not be wasted, as Daglish and his team constantly keep the advertising proposition on the site - once the darling of social networking pre-Facebook - current.

"If an advertiser gets an affiliation with a new band or comedy act or integrates into short-form content, which then integrates into a wider field, that's a great spot for them to be in, because when it's introduced to a bigger audience it's a natural part of the content - rather than a badging exercise," explains Daglish.

Hotbed of ideas
As early adopting audiences grow up, new ones are sought, so MySpace is adopting a new focus and more tailored marketing drive. Where MySpace was once simply about social networking, it is now a "hotbed of ideas - fashion, music, comedy and short-form content".

He said: "When I first came here, I was amazed by the amount of independent radio and TV producers, comedy acts and others who wanted to use MySpace as a window to their talent," says Daglish. "As a result, some fabulous things will be born out of MySpace that will go across other media. We are the MTV of this generation."

The site already has a heritage in this area, with Channel 4 hit show Skins, award-winning band Arctic Monkeys and chart-topper Lily Allen all originating on MySpace.

"We're settling in to our natural position in the market," Daglish concedes. "The majority of people come to MySpace for the content, not necessarily to social network, which differentiates us from the competition. Unlike other sites, we're a one-to-many communications vehicle."

For the first time in ages, Daglish has solid statistics to back up his claims. But while digital has a number of different currencies - whereas radio is measured by the less foolproof Rajar system - Fox Interactive's new man plans to use his contacts to instigate further refinement of online measurement.

"Digital is multinational and more divergent (than radio), so there is less inter-collaboration, but there are now several heads of digital companies who know each other (Facebook's Blake Chandlee and Microsoft Advertising's head of agency sales, Paul Carolan, who is also ex-radio), so we will see more collaboration," he says.

The big ambitions of digital's new boy do not stop there - his trademark unhindered enthusiasm extends to some boundless plans for his team.

Liberating times
"The thing I enjoyed most about radio was its creativity," he says. "But, as with all traditional media, it has been around for so long and has got itself into grooves of working. The MySpace sales team is only 18 months old, so we're not following any grooves or rivers - we can go anywhere and try anything. Sometimes it can be confusing, but other times fantastically liberating."

Similarly, Daglish is not going to let something like a global recession hold him back, believing a bit of fine-tuning will see MySpace through, despite parent company News Corp announcing imminent job cuts that Daglish dismisses as a "moulting of the beast".

"MySpace is still growing so we need to be proactive, fleet of foot and quick to react, while at the same time making our proposition clear and concise," he remarks merrily. "If we do all those things, we will make the best of this very difficult climate."

With the might of News Corp behind him, it's unlikely Daglish will fall victim to the recession. And his determination to constantly update and innovate his portfolio of websites may just help him survive long enough to one day be considered a digital veteran.

2009: Vice-president, commercial, Fox Interactive Media UK
2008: Head of commercial development for radio, Channel 4
2005: National sales and trade marketing director, GCap Media
2000: Sales director, Classic FM/GWR Radio
1998: Group head of sales, Classic FM/GWR Radio
1997: Publishing director, Independent Magazines
1996: Owner/publisher, Rugby Magazines UK
1995: Group head of sales, Telegraph Newspapers
1994: Strategic sales executive, Daily Telegraph, Australia

Family: Lives in Battersea with wife Emma and sons Oscar, 8, and Felix, 7. Brother is Arena BLM deputy managing director Henry Daglish

Hobbies: Watching rugby and cricket, playing tennis and adventuring.

Desert Island Media: MP3 player playing A-ha 24/7, Blackadder, Two Ronnies and Chris Evans' early BBC London radio shows. And MySpace Music.


Global Radio: Ashley Tabor and Stephen Miron are good operators and nice guys and I wish them the best of luck and hope they turn around the UK radio industry. But for me it was time to bow out. I don't think I could have done another reshuffle.

Channel 4: I've lucked out - the Gods were good to me in the end and I'm lucky to have the role I've got now, which is genuinely exciting. I'm sorry for Channel 4 in a way because they could have made a difference to commercial radio, but that's history now.

People: Thankfully we are still a people business where trust and collaboration make for great advertising. People drive this and make it happen; there is no replacement for, or greater value that you can put on, an ingenious idea born out of a good lunch.

Going digital: Digital has this mystique that you need a brain the size of a planet to understand it, but it has the same principles of any other medium and that is if an advertiser interrupts a conversation, they'd better have something to say or people will ignore them.

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