New-Media Upstarts Raid Publishing Ranks

By Manly, Lorne | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, April 15, 1996 | Go to article overview

New-Media Upstarts Raid Publishing Ranks


Manly, Lorne, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Back in the early days of new-media hype--circa 1994--few magazine executives were willing to forsake their print-based worlds for the siren call of a fledgling industry, instead preferring the comfort and security of traditional publishing. But all that has changed. In the past few months, new-media start-ups have increasingly targeted top business-side and editorial managers to build their managerial ranks. And lured by the equity stakes and entrepreneurial challenges, a number of magazine executives have tossed aside the safety net.

Time Inc. senior vice president Robin Johnson grabbed the CEO position at Santa Clara, California-based Infoseek, an information navigation service on the Internet, and then dangled lucrative option packages in front of three other magazine executives at titles ranging from Yankee to U.S. News & World Report. George Bell, a senior vice president at Times Mirror Magazines, took the CEO spot at Architext Software Inc., a competing media-navigation service based in Mountain View, California.

Three senior executives at PC World Communications--Jon Epstein, Vince Broady and Vince Deemer--departed parent company International Data Group to launch a San Francisco-based online publishing firm called SpotMedia.

Even Roger Black, designer of scores of magazines, chucked his design director's post at Esquire and moved to San Francisco to become creative director at @Home, which aims to provide high-speed Internet access through cable systems.

"And you're only going to see it pick up steam in the next six to 12 months," says Jerry Colonna, who last year left his post as CMP Publications' editorial director of interactive media to become a managing partner at new-media venture capitalist CMG@ventures.

Political infighting and timid multimedia forays by magazine companies, combined with the temptation of autonomy and attractive financial stakes in new-media upstarts, have proved too difficult to ignore for many magazine executives. "The financial potential and intellectual challenge [made it] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Brooks Fisher, a former vice president and group publisher at Yankee who joined Infoseek in December.

Adds Nancy Evans, the founder of Family Life who joined New York City-based iVillage as president: "You're literally creating the whole publishing process."

In turn, the people bankrolling these start-up ventures recognize that good technology is no longer enough to survive and thrive. The next stage of the business demands the direct-marketing, database-mining, content-development and ad-sales skills that magazine executives bring to the table.

"People from the publishing world know how to niche markets and narrowcast their offerings," says Roland DeSilva, head of his own recruiting firm and managing partner in the New York City-based investment bank of DeSilva & Phillips. …

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