Ziff Davis CEO Relates Speed of Corporate (and Market) Transformation
Speaking as a keynote at the 2007 Circulation Management Conference & Expo in New York Wednesday, Ziff Davis CEO Bob Callahan talked about the Internet’s dramatic impact on his company and how other publishers should expect the same;if they act now and prepare for more changes ahead.
Callahan noted that the Internet’s effect on the media industry has been revolutionary rather than evolutionary for three reasons:
- It’s two-way transactional and measurabl.
- The technology is open and its architecture is social. "Take a look at my brand, comment, and criticize it. We are open to that," said Callahan.
- It’s not just news, but a utility
Callahan said his company was 99 percent print five years ago. Today, digital products for 50 percent of revenues and a "vast" majority of earnings come from digital and events. "It’s just transformed very swiftly," he said.
During those five years, Callahan said the company has morphed into an integrated media company with 30 Web sites that generate 160 million monthly page views, 750 events and conferences, and six magazines, which, said Callahan, are all profitable.
While Callahan marveled at the speed in which the market has changed;"I’ve never seen it go this fast";he said his company was able to adapt thanks to employees willing to jump feet-first into a new corporate mission. But in Ziff’s case, it was change or die. His company was in trouble and manufacturers were already shifting their priorities to the Internet. Marketers were taking a "ready, shoot, aim" approach to shifting dollars to digital, and while it may not have made sense initially, they were doing it anyway. "Necessity is the mother of invention. There was a big imperative to transform the company. We had to go fast. Five years ago we were losing money and we had to make money."
While things have since turned around for Ziff, Callahan added that this is no time to take a breather. "But necessity is going to keep coming as the Internet changes, and in a very fast way."
Callahan counseled publishers to develop separate Web divisions and that they don’t "owe heritage print franchises," meaning that despite the fact that print is the building block of the brand, the Web division needs to forge ahead. "[It needs] a separate mission, separate development, separate content, and separate sales. You need a dedicated Web team," he said.