Nick Leeder gets told what to do by his Google masters in Silicon Valley. But the local MD of one of the world’s most powerful organisations has got the numbers to have a voice on the future of digital media in Australia.

He’s in control of a brand that almost 100% of Australia’s active online users engage with at least once a month. And he is at the helm of an organisation that boasts a staggering 88% market share of search advertising revenue, according to Frost & Sullivan.

But all that’s not enough to push him higher up The Power Index where the likes of News Digital’s Richard Freudenstein and Foxtel’s Kim Williams feature, despite their comparatively smaller audience shares (and ignoring the fact that Williams’ has been named as John Hartigan’s replacement at News and Freudenstein will shortly head over to replace Williams at Foxtel).

“[Google] Australia is under the command of what they get told to do from overseas. It’s a simple business model: big and global,” says Phil Harpur, Frost & Sullivan’s digital media guru.

Leeder’s job is to run the business rather than lead dramatic change from within the coffers of the search giant’s Pyrmont playground. Still, just seven months into the job, everybody in the industry knows who is currently leading Google Australia.

As one strategy expert in a major digital media company tells The Power Index: “The Google business in Australia is basically sales … but it’s such an extraordinary organisation that to be running it is a big deal. Anytime he speaks, people are going to listen.”

Leeder’s a good bloke. That’s the first thing The Power Index hears from industry sources. He’s smart, capable, genuine and a good pick to take the helm of the search giant. “I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him, which is unusual in this business,” one former industry competitor tells us.

He studied computer science and maths at university, but “never had a brilliant Larry Page idea to index the world’s websites”. Instead, he’s done the rounds of the media industry, having worked at Fairfax and News, and has served digital media’s best apprentice for management, a stint at consultancy McKinsey & Co.

He tells The Power Index that he likes to work quietly behind the scenes, rarely expresses an overt opinion and keeps his political views private, all traits that work for his new employer. Indeed, he preferred to answer personal questions directed at him with “we” rather than “I”.

Leading Google has been a significant cultural change for Leeder. The man was poached from News, where executives have in the past branded Google as “parasites” because of its content aggregation services.

Leeder’s real influence comes through his mandate for assisting government with internet policy, and convincing community and business of the need for a better web-enabled society. The industry looks to Leeder to lead the way, and the government looks to Google to support the National Broadband Network.

*Read the full profile at The Power Index

Peter Fray

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