Jason Seiken ’80 has built his career on bringing companies into the digital age and catapulting them to the top of their industries. He was also the first Yankee to run a British newsroom, but more on that shortly.
Between 1994 and 1997, Seiken led the transformation of one of American’s flagship newspapers. Building The Washington Post’s digital journalism team from scratch, in 1996 he facilitated the launch of washingtonpost.com, of which he was editor-in-chief.
From there he headed to AOL (1997-2001) and AOL Europe (2001-2006) before landing at PBS. Here, he spearheaded a broad-based digital makeover that included all parts of the organization – from digital revenue, content and marketing to the underlying company culture.
“PBS is a national treasure, but the average age of the audience that supported PBS financially was over 70,” said Seiken, who majored in political science. “In order to survive, PBS needed to grow its digital audience and expand its appeal to younger people.”
So Seiken and his team built the company new products, like a video platform that enabled its stations to increase digital video views from 2 million each month to a quarter-billion each month. They also established PBS Digital Studios, which now has more than 8 million subscribers on YouTube – and 80 percent of them are millennials.
Under Seiken’s leadership, PBS.org surpassed NBC.com, CBS.com and ABC.com in traffic, and in 2013 won more Webby Awards than any company but Google.
Seiken left PBS in 2013 for London, where he became editor-in-chief of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph. Here, the first American to head a Fleet Street newsroom orchestrated the development of the Telegraph’s first strategic plan, which restructured the company for the digital age and devised new tactics for generating revenue.
One such tactic, Seiken said, is growing non-advertising revenue by 90 percent year-on-year.
Its success he’s carrying over to his latest venture, a company called QCatalyst, which he launched in 2016. With offices in London, Washington, D.C., and Romania, it helps companies accelerate their digital growth (through everything from website development to custom-built apps) and develop and execute innovative digital strategies.
“This year we helped an NPR station in Alabama use digital to grow revenue by one-third,” said Seiken, whose father, Arnold Seiken, was a longtime Union math professor. “That translates to more reporters on the ground covering the community – a real life impact for the people of Birmingham.”
“Next year, we’re on track to work with two dozen clients,” he added. “With QCatalyst, I can have a much bigger impact that I would have had working at any one company.”