NPR cuts top digital role in larger reorganization

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NPR is reorganizing its digital and research teams and eliminating its top digital officer position, CEO John Lansing said in an email to station leaders.

The plan will “embed” staffers from NPR’s Digital Media and Research, Archives, and Data Strategy teams “into divisions across the organization,” Lansing said in the Jan. 12 email. The reorganization will not involve staff layoffs, he said. 


However, the chief digital officer position, held by Thomas Hjelm, is being eliminated. Hjelm will leave the role at the end of the month but will continue to work with NPR and member stations in a consulting role “focused on our ongoing work to build a local-national digital partnership,” Lansing said. 

“Tom has built a remarkable team that has captured new opportunities to grow, engage and activate our digital audiences across a widening range of products and platforms,” Lansing said of Hjelm. 

The changes were made in light of an organizational assessment and the approval last year of a strategic plan that prioritizes optimizing “content and products to meet audiences where they are, and to realize the power of the local/national network for an on-demand future,” Lansing said in the note to station leaders. Boston Consulting Group also provided NPR with analysis, he said. 

“To be most successful in these efforts, we need to retool our organization to be able to respond more nimbly to the rapid pace of change across audience behaviors, technology and the digital business, and to deliver on our strategic plan’s commitment to diversifying our audiences,” he said.

VP of Design Liz Danzico will serve in a temporary role as the transition leader to “oversee the transformation of the divisions,” Lansing said.

The other practical implications of the changes are still to be determined. In a Q&A with Current, Lansing said the process to integrate the teams will be “inclusive.” 

“It’s not something we’ve baked and we’re just going to hand it down,” he said. “In a large part, the digital teams and the divisions will work together to reach a final model.”

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