Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Career Man on Move

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Career Man on Move

Article excerpt

In a little less than two weeks, the man behind the newspaper industry's largest concerted effort to corner the online recruitment market is packing up and moving on.

Two years have passed since Stephen Ste. Marie was appointed CEO of (CP), the Web site recently acquired by Knight Ridder and Tribune Co. for an upcoming merger with CareerBuilder. In that time, CP received considerable attention and criticism -- called everything from "misguided ship" to "newspaper behemoth." Today, the man at the helm of CP during this rocky journey looks back and says, "Great fodder for debate."

Always operating in the shadow of the aptly named, CP never quite found its footing. Despite becoming the No. 2 jobs site online, CP was held back by technology problems and a divided board of directors. As the newspaper company owners debated the direction of the company, decisions were delayed -- deadly in the dot-com race. Unlike, CP faced the daunting challenge of integrating dozens of different databases, some of them housed in dinosaur systems.

But Ste. Marie says his biggest challenge at CP was that not every newspaper marketed or monetized the site to its fullest potential. Newspapers didn't take advantage of their advertising resources to promote their own career sites.

Still, CP managed to grow, according to Media Metrix, from an audience of 0.7 million when he arrived to 3.0 million users this past May.

When Ste. Marie joined CP on July 1, 1998, he took over from Renee LeBraun, who had been an interim CEO on loan from the Times Mirror Co. LeBraun had developed CP and its distribution strategy with 12 employees and a handful of contractors.

Ste. Marie said CP was in perfect shape for what he was brought in to do next. His experience with brand building began at Diet Pepsi, where he worked with 900-plus bottlers. Then he moved on to the cable industry, getting networks to sign on to Time Warner Cable, and for six years prior to joining CP he coordinated sales of DirecTV in more than 30,000 retail stores.

With his branding expertise, Ste. Marie was brought into a completely new industry to try and make some headway in an unknown market with the healthy product LeBraun handed over.

Paper umbrella

The first step was to coalesce individual newspapers into a unified sales structure. The next step was to find technology that permitted the Web site's job listings to be searchable. CP had more than 100 affiliate newspapers using 35 different feeds, and the feeds' breadth prevented users from searching successfully.

"We had to do a wholesale change in architecture that only became operative early this year," says Ste. Marie. The person behind the new database was Peter Alexander, senior vice president of technology and chief technology officer, who Ste. Marie hired in September 1999. According to Ste. Marie, he was the first one capable of putting it all together.

Ste. Marie says he was given quite a bit of flexibility from the board, which consisted of representatives from seven major newspaper companies. Contrary to the common view of old media as the turtle in the Internet race, Ste. Marie found the board to be extremely savvy and rather generous in granting him the freedom he needed to operate quickly.

These same companies -- the Washington Post Co. …

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