Exclusive: Caroline Little Out as CEO of Guardian Media North America

Little confirms that she will be leaving Guardian America, and stay on as consultant to ContentNext, but only briefly

UPDATE:

Caroline Little confirmed to TheWrap late Sunday that she is stepping down as chief executive of Guardian Media, and was "not sure" who her replacement would be.

"I have nothing but good things to say about the Guardian," Little said in an interview. "But I'm rethinking what I want to do."

Guardian America had high aspirations to make a mark on the U.S. media landscape, but ran into a severe ad recession in the process.

"It's been challenging," said Little. "This is a London-based company. They know the U.S. is a huge market. They are truly committed to the U.S., but it's been hard to get them there."

ContentNext has been operating at a loss practically since Guardian bought the site in mid-2008. The staff is down to 14 people, but is closer to break even than it has been in two years, according to a knowledgeable individual.

Little acknowledged that PaidContent founder Rafat Ali was dissatisfied with the performance of his company since being bought by Guardian.

"That's fair to say," she said. "We've talked about it a lot."

Little said Guardian had not chosen a successor, but were likely to choose someone with more advertising experience.

Little also said she believed that Guardian would keep ContentNext.

PREVIOUSLY:

Five months after founder Rafat Ali left PaidContent, there's some more executive shuffling at Guardian News & Media to report.

Caroline Little, the chief executive of Guardian Media, North America, is relinquishing her CEO post, TheWrap has learned.

Little did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But according to a source close to the New York-based company, Little will remain CEO of ContentNext Media, which includes the flagship PaidContent, mobile-focused MocoNews.net, Indian news monitor ContentSutra and the PaidContent U.K. site.

Little, the former WashingtonPost.Newsweek Interactive publisher, joined Guardian News & Media as a consultant in 2008 to help expand the brand's presence in the U.S. (the company had recently launched the ill-fated GuardianAmerica.com, and tapped Michael Tomasky as its editor-in-chief).

She was hired full-time in January 2009, but the Guardian's U.S. build-up fizzled that October, when it abandoned the GuardianAmerica site, replacing it with U.S.-centric stories already found on Guardian.co.uk.

“We took it down because it was confusing and few people landed there," Little confessed. ("If you're trying to build traffic to the Guardian in America," Jim Brady, who recently launched TBD.com and was a consultant on the Guardian America site, said later, "you're better off putting your stories on Twitter and posting them on Digg and Facebook and pitching them to blogs that can move a lot of traffic, than posting them on a section front that's getting no traffic anyway.")

It's unclear what Little's specific duties will be at ContentNext.

By her own admission, Little's tenure at the Washington Post Company did not end well. "The last year I was there, it was very difficult trying to marshal the three brands and keep them together because there was a real push for each publication — WashingtonPost.com, Newsweek.com and Slate — to run their own entities," Little told Mediabistro shortly after the Guardian hire. "And I actually did not agree with that. I thought we should keep the sales teams together — and they have kept the sales teams together — but sort of economize on the back end. The print wants their own Internet presence, which I totally get, and it was a battle I wasn't going to win, nor was I willing to fight for it anymore."

As for Ali, he's just returned to the states from a three-month gridskipping trip to, among other exotic places, Outer Hebrides, Mongolia and Iceland. (You can read more about his trip on Twitter.)

Rafat, though, says he doesn't know what's happening at his former parent and one-time suitor. "I don’t know what’s happening at the company," Ali told TheWrap. "I haven’t heard from a single Guardian person since I announced I was leaving the company five months ago."

Ali launched PaidContent in 2002, and expanded to the four-site network before selling the business to Guardian News & Media for £4m (or roughly $8 million) in 2008.