The Business On... Ashley Highfield, CEO-designate, Johnston Press

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The Independent Online

When is he due to start? He must be excited?

1 November, but excited might not be the word – nervous (or relishing the challenge, as these CEOs tend to put it) might be more appropriate.

Why, what's the problem?

Let's just say Johnston Press isn't having the easiest time of it right now. It warned yesterday that advertising revenues fell 10 per cent during the first half of the year and with the economy the way it is, one can see that continuing. It's also been having some industrial relations difficulties at its South Yorkshire local newspaper titles.

Bolshy journalists?

Quite. But the company is trying to rein in costs during these tough times and it needs the goodwill of its staff.

What will they make of Mr Highfield?

It's certainly going to be interesting. Most recently, he was a big cheese at Microsoft, but Mr Highfield is best known for his stint as director of new media and technology at the BBC.

Isn't that going to wind up the print journalists?

Best not to mention that he started out as a management consultant, then. Seriously, although people think of Johnston Press as the publisher of titles such as The Scotsman, it also has a burgeoning online business where sales are much stronger. Mr Highfield is well placed to capitalise on that side of the business.

The innovation thing?

Absolutely. Mr Highfield saw the potential for new media early, while working at the cable television company Flextech. He's also one of the people credited with driving the success of the BBC's phenomenal iPlayer.

Any failures at all?

Well, in between the BBC and Microsoft he worked for Project Kangaroo, the TV-internet convergence project. It got kyboshed by the Competition Commission.

So, roll on November

Indeed, not least since Mr Highfield is in line for a £500,000 shares award under Johnston Press's long-term incentive programme.