Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Textbook Case: McGraw-Hill Maps an Electronic Future

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Textbook Case: McGraw-Hill Maps an Electronic Future

Article excerpt

FOR The McGraw-Hill Companies, the road to the 21st century is paved with bytes as much as books.

Faced with the digital age, the century-old publisher has moved gradually but thoroughly into electronic media - bringing its stable of products including Business Week magazine, Standard & Poor's (S&P) stock and bond ratings, and its mainstay textbooks along with it.

"About 35 percent of what we do is electronic," says Joseph Dionne, the global company's chairman and chief executive officer. He estimates that in 10 years half of the company's products will be electronic.

Mr. Dionne, a former educator, has run the multibillion-dollar organization since 1983. During his tenure, the company has become more aggressive, reorganized, and firmed up its globalization goals.

"The challenge at McGraw-Hill has been to transform the company, retool it with new media, without losing any of the values," he says in an interview at DRI/McGraw-Hill, the company's financial forecasting and consulting unit in Lexington, Mass.

Much of the makeover began in 1985, he says, when McGraw-Hill went to its customers to see what it could be doing better. Soon it introduced electronic products relevant to its markets, explains Dionne, who joined the company in 1967.

Today, Business Week is available by computer on the America Online network. And 49 of the firm's other trade publications, such as Aviation Week & Space Technology, Byte, and Platt's Oilgram News, as well as S&P information, are available through electronic channels. The company also offers educational products on CD-ROM discs, and has a site on the Internet.

Dionne, a soft-spoken man, is well-versed on the exhaustive print and electronic products under his control. He does not see the latter as a threat to the company's print materials.

"The real threat," he says, "is not to follow your customer's needs." If meeting those needs "cannibalizes your own {products}, better you should do it than someone else."

But that has not generally been McGraw-Hill's experience, he explains. In at least a dozen cases, "we've taken a print product and made it into an electronic product, and the sale of the print product went up."

He attributes this to two factors. First, two products means two sources of revenue, giving the company more money to invest in the print product. Second, feedback from the electronic product has been used to improve its print counterpart. …

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