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What Does A CDO Do Anyway?

The answer: nobody’s totally sure yet.

The job description of a chief digital officer is as varied as the number of CDOs there are out there, says

New York City recently hired a chief digital officer. Rachel Sterne, 27, is responsible for “improv[ing] the city’s online communications and to encourage entrepreneurship.”

Randall Rothenberg, who recently left Time Inc, was supposed to “develop relationships and coordinate opportunities across” the company.

The CDO of News Corp is in charge of MySpace and The Daily, and the CDO at DDB Chicago is “developing web-based campaigns for the agency’s clients.”

So basically….a CDO can be anything! The role is still evolving, Fins says drily.

Sterne, the NYC CDO, founded a citizen journalism site that “never quite took off,” as Fins notes, and is an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School. Meanwhile, the CDO of Mediabrands (no relation to parent Webmediabrands) was global president of Universal McCann before moving to his new post.

On the other hand, CDOs might not be universally necessary, Fins notes: “In time, the role and title may simply disappear as executives make digital part of their ordinary jobs.” Gannett has no CDO, and Clear Channel was searching for one in November but has since decided not to fill the position. And Time Inc’s decision not to replace Rothenberger “signals that centralizing the operation did not work,” Pete Gardiner, chief media officer at ad agency Deutsch New York, told Fins.

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