Logan's Run

By Hochwald, Lambeth | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, November 15, 1994 | Go to article overview

Logan's Run


Hochwald, Lambeth, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


It may surprise some that Don Logan, Time Inc.'s CEO, began his publishing career as a data-processing manager at Southern Progress Corporation, which then published Southern Living and Progressive Farmer, and had a fledgling book division, Oxmoor House. In 1972, after two years at the Birmingham, Alabama company, Logan was promoted to vice president and general manager of its computer division and, in 1978, to president of Oxmoor House. Under his direction, Oxmoor became one of the fastest-growing and most profitable book publishers in the world. In 1984, Logan was named executive vice president of Southern Progress and, after the company's purchase by Time Inc., became its chairman and CEO in 1986.

In 1992, Logan headed north to become Time Inc.'s president and COO, second in command to chairman and then-CEO Reg Brack. He oversaw not only his old company--grown to include Southern Accents and Cooking Light--but also the New york City-based titles, Time, Money, Fortune, People Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, SI for Kids and Life.

A native Alabaman, Logan graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics from Auburn University and earned a master's degree in mathematics from Clemson University. He has never held a sales position--something that inarguably distinguishes him from other publishing moguls.

Q: What led you to data-processing work?

A: I learned a little bit about computers when I was a co-op student at Auburn University, working for three months at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and then going to school for three months. At NASA, I learned to write computer programs--that was when it was fairly complicated to do, when the computers that now sit on top of your desk used to fill up a room. In school, I didn't have any courses in computers, business, marketing or finance, so I had no real exposure to the business world or business applications.

After I got out of graduate school, I worked at Shell Oil's research division for a couple of years, but I decided to leave because I wanted to work at a smaller company. I wound up taking a job as a data-processing manager at a little company called Progressive Farmer [later Southern Progress], which was just switching over to computers to do their magazine fulfillment, from the days when everything was done mechanically on metal plates.

Q: What did the job of data-processing manager entail?

A: I started as a manager, but "manager" is a little bit of a misnomer because we had two programmers who worked there, both of whom were trainees and didn't know too much about computers. We had two computer operators: one did all the work, the other was a retired Army sergeant who liked to tell everybody what to do. That was my first management experience, trying to work with a group of misfits.

One of the advantages of being at a company at the early stage of its computer history was that I was able to work with the circulation people who were trying to sell subscriptions by direct mail, to set up systems, segment the lists they were mailing to, and improve response rates. I was picked to be the liaison between all the tough people who didn't like data processing.

We then started producing books directed to the Southern Living audience that had grown to well over a million circulation. We developed systems to support the circulators with all the marketing and analytical tools they needed in the back end--which was all the response mechanisms and shipping information and the returns or the bad pay, all the stuff we didn't learn about until we got into it. Nobody thought about returns until we got the books back, so we had to improvise and develop these support systems as we went along. In so doing, we had to understand the results of these programs as well as they did.

From there, the books division got into trouble. We started to lose a lot of money, and the question came up as to whether we should shut it down or not. …

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