Bonnier CEO Dave Freygang: Focus is on Building Team and Digital Revenue
Sees opportunity in expanding reach to 50 percent or more of served markets.
Bonnier Corporation is just one of the many companies transitioning from traditional publisher to multi-platform media company. The latest change came at the top of the company last week, with CEO Terry Snow stepping down after six years on the job—and nearly three decades before that as founder and CEO of World Publications. Now, Dave Freygang (pictured), who has been executive vice president of the Active Interest division, will be succeeding Snow at the helm.
Here, FOLIO: catches up with Freygang to see where the new CEO’s priorities lie and what we can expect going forward.
FOLIO: In appointing Eric Zinczenko to head all magazine brands, you mentioned you wanted to get things done quickly. What other initiatives are coming quickly?
Dave Freygang: Overall, it’s important to me to make sure we have the right people in the right places. I want to appoint a chief content officer—it’s important for the structure of our business and I think having someone who can oversee content can help us achieve the audience growth that we’ll need in the future. That’s another position that I’ll probably be naming this week.
I’ll have a clear business plan in no later than 60 days, but hopefully before that. It will not only give me clear vision, but be something I can communicate with the company that this will be the direction we’re going not only for the next 12 months, but carrying us forward into the future in order to deal with the changing dynamics of the media industry.
FOLIO: Where are Bonnier’s most promising growth opportunities?
Freygang: A huge initiative for us has to be audience growth. I like the brand composition that we have now. I think our challenge has been that we have to transition from the days where the print channel allowed you to penetrate 10 percent of the active participant base, to the need for multiple channels that hopefully reach 50 percent-plus of the total participant base. I think our biggest growth opportunity is to continue to expand our audience in the relevant channels for each particular brand and industry. That’s got to be our number-one opportunity.
We have potential to expand our brands, whether into events or through partnerships. One example is in the dive industry. We’re working with our certification partner PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and looking to expand to a global PADI Diving Society. Our Sport Diver is the official publication of the PADI Diving Society, but it’s just in North America. We have the opportunity to partner with them globally to align with their three regions that cover the world. That’s a natural extension. As these opportunities come together, where it makes sense and we can stay true to our strategic plan, we will look for that.
As of now, we don’t have any desire to look at new brands, but once we develop our business strategy we’ll reevaluate that. The whole digital side of the business, that’s the conduit that will allow us to connect with an increased audience, so that’s our priority going forward.
FOLIO: When it comes to organic growth, can you explain what you’re planning? How are you looking at different brands in the company?
Freygang: It goes back to audience. We’ll continue to be under pressure—as is the rest of the market—on print, until we can really expand our audiences. I think you will continue to see our digital revenues grow until we can really find that stabilization on print. That’s where our focus needs to be.
I like input from the company and I’d like to create a vehicle so that people can have their voices heard. I would expect as part of our strategic plan will be that we’ll develop some sort of executive council so that people in the company can have a point person. There would be a couple of people in New York, in Florida and perhaps on the West Coast as well.
Instead of just getting hold of me, people can talk with them—I want to use the council as a sounding board to make sure that we’re staying true to our vision and business plans, and so people feel like their voices are heard and we can make sure we see and hear opportunities. I want to form some sort of a group, but I’m not 100 percent there yet.