Torstar hires Michael Beckerman as chief client officer

Torstar has appointed Michael Beckerman to the new role of chief client officer, one of the company’s first major hires since being acquired by NordStar Capital this year.

The Toronto-based company, which counts 70 newspapers and dozens of digital businesses among its assets, said that the role taps into Beckerman’s background on both the client and agency sides, with a focus on bringing together marketing, partnerships and advertising to achieve “results-driven collaboration” with the company’s clients.

Beckerman was most recently president and CEO of the sponsorship agency MKTG Canada, part of Dentsu Aegis Network. His varied career in marketing and advertising started with Nike in Hong Kong and Germany, and included a role as director of advertising for Europe. He has also held marketing roles with Canadian Airlines and, and served as BMO’s chief marketing officer prior to spending more than a decade as CEO of Ariad Communications.

He is a longtime associate of Torstar’s new co-owner, Jordan Bitove, whose NordStar Capital closed on its $52 million purchase of the company earlier this year.

“I’ve known Jordan for a couple of decades, and we’d been looking for something to do together professionally for a while,” said Beckerman, who shared advice and ideas with Bitove and his partner Paul Rivett as they worked through the Torstar acquisition.

“As I was going through that process I was getting more and more excited about their vision and what they were building, and we came to a mutual agreement that it would be a great place for the next chapter in my career,” said Beckerman, who described the role as giving him the opportunity to shape a “next-generation culture” within a publishing platform.

“The transformation on the inside, as well as being creative and entrepreneurial in working with the advertising community, sounds like a lot of fun.”

This is Beckerman’s first time working with a media brand, but he said his past experience with several leading marketers, provided him with an understanding of how Torstar and its brands, which include the Toronto Star and its online service, as well as the Hamilton Spectator and the Chinese-language paper Sing Tao Daily, can best work with potential partners.

“I’ve sat across from some of the best media partners in the world, and some that are not best… and I love the intersection of content and technology, I love storytelling and with what [Torstar] has in place now and what it’s planning on adding down the road, it seems like a pretty exciting opportunity,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the table you’re on, we’re trying to achieve marketing objectives with communications solutions. It’s the same left brain-right brain work that I’ve got a lot of experience with and enjoy doing.”

Publishing companies like Torstar have increasingly come to see subscription revenue as the most viable path forward as advertising revenue has shifted away from print towards digital. Just this week, the U.S. publisher Gannett said that it had surpassed one million paid online-only subscriptions for the first time, a 31.1% increase from the year earlier.

But Beckerman said that the company benefits from a stable of strong assets that continue to hold appeal for both audiences and advertisers. “Some need to be dusted off a little bit… and some need to be invested in to have them better reflect the needs of readers and advertisers moving in to the next decade, but [Bitove and Rivett] are in it to win it, and to make Torstar a progressive and innovative organization, and they [treat] the role of journalism with gravity it deserves.”

Chris Powell