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A dual citizen of the United States and United Kingdom, he also was the first American to run the newsroom of a major British newspaper, though his short tenure as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph was considered controversial.
Seiken attended Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
The Washington Post
In 1994, Seiken was hired to lead The Washington Post’s nascent digital team and rose to become editor-in-chief of The Post’s digital subsidiary. Seiken subsequently hired and led the team that launched washingtonpost.com.
The original washingtonpost.com included several industry innovations. It was the first newspaper site to update around the clock; the first to include significant non-newspaper content such as the first chapters of books; and the first to devote significant resources to creating online community that gave users a voice. .
In 1997, Seiken joined AOL, where he led the 18 AOL content channels, including News, Sports, and Entertainment, during the time of their greatest growth as AOL become the dominant online service internationally with more than 34 million subscribers.
In early 2001, he transferred to London to head programming for AOL UK and, later, AOL Europe.
In 2006, Seiken returned to the United States as Senior Vice President and General Manager for Digital at the Public Broadcasting Service. The Guardian later wrote that Seiken “reinvented PBS” and “transformed the video and mobile fortunes of PBS … changing it from a conventional broadcaster to one with an edgy mobile and web service.”
Under Seiken, PBS Digital launched a series of critically acclaimed products. These included an iPad app that won the 2011 Webby Award for best tablet app and which CNET called “a true gift from TV heaven” and a video platform that Daily Variety said was "... arguably the most innovative and well designed [video site] on the market.”
In 2012 Seiken recalled how users said the products changed their perception of PBS, from stuffy to innovative. Esquire writing: "Suddenly, PBS has become a totally different animal ... It is fantastic. Easy to use. Modern. Flashy."
Seiken also succeeded in moving PBS out of its traditional style of video production. In a 2012 speech to 850 top executives from PBS stations, Seiken warned that PBS was in danger of being disrupted by YouTube studios such as Maker Studios. In the speech, later described as a “seminal moment” for public television, he laid out his vision for a new style of PBS digital video production. Station leadership rallied around his vision and Seiken formed PBS Digital Studios, which began producing educational but edgy videos, something Seiken called “PBS-quality with a YouTube sensibility.”
The Daily Telegraph
In October 2013, Seiken became the digital executive and editor-in-chief of The Telegraph in its London office. Seiken's appointment as a digital executive and editor was controversial. Coverage in other Fleet Street newspapers emphasized that Seiken was an American with no previous experience at British newspapers. The Financial Times called him a "hoodie-wearing former US television executive."
In early 2014, Seiken laid out his vision for The Telegraph in a series of speeches to staff that were well-received by a section of staff responding anonymously and external audiences. He told staff that he would dismantle the top-down, command-and-control culture of the newsroom and replace it with a “digital-native” culture that empowered employees at all levels.
In public speeches and interviews, Seiken said journalism was entering a “golden age” of better newsgathering tools, such as databases and drones, and emerging technologies to present news, such as virtual reality. These speeches became the subject of derision in rival British newspapers, for “talking about drones" and Private Eye afforded him the name 'Psycho Seiken'
Seiken had early success in boosting The Telegraph's web and mobile traffic. By the middle of his first year, traffic growth, commonly referred to as click-bait, had outstripped rival newspaper sites.
A year after his appointment, Seiken moved to a role to develop new revenue streams and an overarching company strategy. He stepped down the following year.
In speeches and articles, Seiken has emphasized cultural change as the key to positioning an established brand for digital success. Specifically, he advocates that companies create a “left brain, right brain” culture – one that is entrepreneurial yet highly disciplined.
“When we set out to change (the PBS) culture, we established a goal of being the most freewheeling group in the building but also the most buttoned-down group this side of the finance department,” he said in a 2012 TEDx talk.
He expanded on this in a 2013 piece for the Harvard Business Review website titled How I Got My Team to Fail More. Seiken wrote that he unlocked innovation in the risk-averse PBS organization by telling employees they would be marked down in annual performance reviews if they didn’t fail enough during the year.
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- "How I Got My Team To Fail More". 13 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2018.