Managing director of Google Australia and NZ
Home Town: Sydney
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.
"[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."
Nick 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.
"There's a lot of negativity about the NBN. We understand that," says Leeder "But we also think that if you're going to look at the NBN from a pure economic lens than you need to understand the impact the internet's already having on the economy and the potential it holds for the future. We just want to add a voice to that debate."
Leeder's been busy representing Google alongside the government in promoting the digital economy. He's attended media photo ops with the prime minister and Senator Stephen Conroy, where Google products are demonstrated in line with the benefits of high-speed broadband.
But it's not all rosy relations between Google and the federal government.
Senator Conroy has launched a number of scathing attacks on Google over privacy concerns even going so far as to accuse it of "the single greatest breach in the history of privacy" following a Google admission that its Street View mapping service had accidently collected 600GBs worth of personal data from open Wi-Fi networks.
Leeder's the man to address such privacy concerns. He says part of his role is to make sure users understand they can take control. "The thing we ask people to do is to understand how we work," he says, adding that we can all access Google Dashboard to find out how much data Google retains on us. Many of us just have to figure out how to use it first.
But his main day job is to show clients how they can get the most out of Google products, especially across search and mobile advertising, and to promote the key area where Google can eat into the revenue streams of existing digital media players -- display advertising. That means connecting with thousands of small publishers who don't have advertising sales teams, including bloggers, to allow them to monetise their sites by having Google push display advertising direct to their audiences.
Leeder notes a few differences at Google compared to his previous employers, particularly in how power is distributed across the company. "That doesn't mean chaos, and that the place is all butterflies and beer, it does mean that some structure is required but it's the minimal amount you require in order to get the result because over structure quashing creativity."
We're told by the PR people that Google does not discuss specifics on its management structure (nor can we learn about its local advertising revenue numbers). What we can ascertain, though, is that it's relatively flat – or at least attempts to be, in a bid to encourage innovation and the spread of ideas.
For a man whose held powerful positions in more traditional companies, that takes some getting used to. "It's a different style of leadership," he says. "I do a lot more listening to people."