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The role of chief digital officer is beginning to take off in Europe, while salaries of CDOs working outside of public sector and non-profit organisations are ranging from $250,000 to $750,000.

That is according to updated research from the CDO Club, which said that the number of worldwide CDOs in 2013 doubled to nearly 500. It forecasted "conservatively" that the number of global chief digital officers would double again to 1,000 by the end of 2014. Most chief digital officers are operating in the media, advertising and publishing industries, the study found.

The research showed that 68% of CDOs are located in North America – down from 88% in 2013 – with 23% now in Europe, up from 7% the previous year. The remainder are in Asia and Australasia (6%), the Middle East and Africa (2%) and South America (1%). There were more than 100 European CDO appointments in 2013.

While the largest number of CDOs are in the US followed by the UK, per capita the greatest number of CDOs are in Finland, then Australia, the US, Singapore and the UK. This research by the CDO Club therefore differs significantly from a Gartner report from earlier this month which said that proportionally the UK has the largest number of CDOs in the world. Indeed, the recent CIO 100 revealed that while there were a significant number of digital leaders working across different industries, the role was slow to gain traction in the UK.

The research also revealed that the CDO role was slightly less male-dominated than the CIO role. While only 7% of the recent CIO 100 were women – with Harvey Nash reporting a global figure 8% and UK figure of 9% in its 2013 CIO survey - men make up 81% of chief digital officers.

CDO Club founder David Mathison was presenting his findings during the first day of the Digital Oxford Week at the city Playhouse theatre, highlighting the broader themes on the backgrounds and roles of chief digital officers with anecdotal case studies of those in a true CDO role.

Mathison also said despite the number of CDOs doubling year-on-year since 2010, he could not see the CIO role withering away although it might evolve, and that at truly digitally mature organisations there was absolutely no need for a digital leader.

"You'll never see a CDO at Google, that would be like having a chief radio officer at the BBC," he said. "They're digital natives and don't have a need for it.

"And the CIO role is not going to go away anytime soon. If something happens to all your data, you'll be going straight to the CIO and not the CDO."

Mathison's research also dived down into the background of digital executives and found out that they were overwhelmingly from strategic managerial positions rather than technical backgrounds, giving them a closer proximity to the top job.

He said: "I'm a CIO from way back so I'm a fan of CIOs, but it does look like the career path from CDO to CEO is smoother than that from CIO to chief executive."