Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Ben Walmsley, Commercial Director Publishing, News UK

The digital industry’s not really about technology, it’s about people. The digital economy is supported by technology but is conceived, created and developed by people, the heroes of digital.

But who are their heroes? Who inspired, supported and taught them along their journey and to become digital heroes?

We want to find out. So, we’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

Ben Walmsley is Commercial Director of The Sun, The Times and Sunday Times, appointed to the position after being Digital Commercial Director since 2016.  One of the leading innovators in publishing, he previously held leadership roles at companies including Sizmek and Yahoo!

Who is your digital hero?

My former Yahoo! colleague, and now CEO of Xaxis, Nicolas Bidon.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

In our Yahoo! days Nicolas was consistently churning out the company’s most lucrative deals. It was quite extraordinary, and I learnt a lot from it. He demonstrated what it takes to be successful: unwavering focus, deep insight, thorough preparation, tenacity, patience and a persuasiveness that is the reserve of the deeply credible. Those deals and his persistence in securing them became company folklore.

It was no surprise for me to see him go from one-man deal factory to CEO of a billion-dollar business within ten years.

In doing so he’s retained all of the good humour, integrity and kind nature that made him so successful in his early career.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

In an environment that often welcomes hyperbole and the excessively complex, Nicolas has a gift of simplifying matters.

Our industry needs more clarity of expression to enter its next phase of growth. We need more leaders like Nicolas.

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

Damon Reeve is already putting on his cape at The Ozone Project. We need to find a sustainable future for journalism in the digital age.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

It has been a honour to be a part of the team that launched The Ozone Project with Damon and friends at The Guardian, The Telegraph and Reach.

We set aside rivalry that has existed for centuries and created something that has great potential to address many of the challenges facing the digital information economy.