Magazine article Editor & Publisher

First Year in Third Type of Media Post

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

First Year in Third Type of Media Post

Article excerpt

King Features president talks about what it's like to work in syndication after a career in magazines and on the Web

One of the biggest accomplishments in hockey is scoring three goals in a single game -- the elusive "hat trick."

Former hockey player T.R. "Rocky" Shepard III has now accomplished a media hat trick. Since joining the Hearst Corp. in 1978, he has worked in the worlds of magazines, the Web, and newspapers.

"For me, it's the third rung in getting involved with all different mediums in the marketplace," said Shepard, who entered the newspaper realm when he was named president of the Hearst-owned King Features Syndicate last spring. But he's still involved with more than one medium.

"The definition of syndication goes beyond newspapers," noted Shepard during a recent first-anniversary interview at King's New York headquarters. "The job is terrific because there are so many opportunities."

He said that as crucial as newspapers are to the 1915-founded King, areas such as the Web and licensing are important, too. Shepard said he worked to build the various segments of King's business this past year and will continue to do so in the future.

For instance, the syndicate plans to unveil a big change in its Web site (http://www.kingfeatures.com) this July.

"Even though we've had as many as 4 million consumers a month visiting the site, our mission is to make it business-to-business," said Shepard, noting that the site will help King sell and promote its current features, get submissions for new ones, increase licensing, and more. He added that the site will eventually include a major e-commerce component, too.

And he said separate sites will be developed for some of King's major properties, including Mort Walker's "Beetle Bailey."

Speaking of cyberspace, King also plans to feature some of its characters in Web animations for screen savers, promotions, etc.

King has lots of noncyber activities in the hopper, too. For instance, the syndicate wants to put at least one of its characters on a blimp. It's also handling licensing for the "Cow Parade" statues that originated in Chicago last year and will come to New York in June. There will be figurines and other items in the product line, which exemplifies how King licensing goes beyond the features it syndicates to newspapers.

Among the 150-plus features in King's huge stable are longtime comics such as "Beetle," which turns 50 this September. King, the National Cartoonists Society, and others have been marking this upcoming anniversary with various events and honors since last year. …

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