Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Publishers Eye Ways to Hire, Retain Talent

Publishers Eye Ways to Hire, Retain Talent
by Lucia Moses

Magazine publishers have heard it all before, and speakers at the American Magazine Conference last week only reinforced it: They are behind on integrated marketing, they need to catch up to consumers' online habits and their Web sites are dwarfed online by the big foots of the digital world.

Yet at the same time, magazine companies need to up their game online or risk failing to attract or keep the talent they need to do so.

Whether they left on their own or were pushed, a handful of prominent executives have exited the industry this year. One of them, magazine vet Joe Lagani, just last month left Condé Nast's House & Garden, where he was vp, publisher, to join Glam Media, a collection of lifestyle and fashion Web sites.

Lagani, who became vp, general manager of Glam's new living channel, GlamLiving, said he was attracted to the site's business model and growth prospects. And while careful to stress he's not a basher of print (he's married to Cosmopolitan senior vp, publisher Donna Lagani), Lagani said magazines need to demonstrate they are places where creativity and innovation can flourish.

"There's a large gap in time consumers are spending online and the amount advertisers are spending online," Lagani said. "So the digital space shows a lot of opportunity for people who understand that. And folks who have an entrepreneurial spirit are going there. The digital space is a place where people who want to work in a growth industry that's extremely creative and very fast-moving will want to go."

The digital world has nabbed other print veterans recently, including former Dennis Publishing U.S. head Stephen Colvin, who last week joined CNET Networks as executive vp; Tim Castelli, who bolted from Rolling Stone, where he was publisher, to become director of New York ad sales for Google; and Geoff Dodge, who stepped down as BusinessWeek senior vp, publisher to become senior vp at CRM firm Salesforce.com.
Colvin said that while he had offers to stay in magazines, "It's exciting to be moving to a new platform. I think if I'd stayed, it would have felt pretty similar."

Of course, the movement can go the other way. In June, Wenda Harris Millard left Yahoo for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to grow cross-platform sales; last week she brought over a Yahoo sales exec, Jacki Kelley, to help in that effort.

At Time Inc., the brain drain has been ongoing as a result of reorganizations and streamlining. In 2005, CEO Ann Moore cut loose 105 employees, including several high-level executives. Those who left in that exodus included Jack Haire (who was picked up by CNET as a special advisor and is now chief client officer), executive vp Richard Atkinson and Time Group president Eileen Naughton. This year, longtime execs leaving Time Inc. included Nora McAniff, co-chief operating officer and a 25-year vet; Robin Domeniconi, president of the Time Inc. Media Group, with seven years at the company; and Mike Dukmejian, group publisher, with 27 years in. Most recently, 30-year vet Mike Klingensmith said he plans to retire from his executive vp post in the beginning of '08.

Naughton, now director of media platforms at Google, had some tough words for her former industry. Delivering a keynote at the AMC, she nudged magazine execs to grow their presence online by making their content easily found and freely available. Offstage, she offered a harsh outlook for magazines, contrasting them unfavorably to the optimistic and refreshing online world. "Why would young people go there?" she asked.

Publishing execs acknowledge concerns about attracting and keeping top talent aren't far off, if they don't face them already.

"We're stereotyped as old media, despite all the things that are going on online," said John Griffin, president, National Geographic Society magazine group and newly elected chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America. "The younger generation doesn't see it as an exciting place to work."

He wouldn't get much argument from his MPA predecessor, Jack Kliger, president and CEO, Hachette Filipacchi Media. "It's not as glamorous as it used to be on the magazine side," Kliger said. While the expectations for lucrative pay on the digital side has created a "gold rush" for online advertising job-seekers, Kliger said the hiring pool of print ad salespeople isn't what it used to be. "There used to be 15 people for a job. Now, it's five."

Magazine vets also say the industry has done a poor job of enabling the cross-training needed to develop well-rounded leaders. Some accused companies of foot-dragging in their response to consumers' and advertisers' evolving media habits and needs.

Colvin said he believes publishers could address that problem by giving employees more exposure to a variety of functions.

Some publishing executives said they're trying to do more to make their companies attractive to current and would-be leaders. Meredith Corp. in recent years has bought several marketing companies like New Media Strategies, an online word-of-mouth firm, and Genex, an online CRM company. Those deals have enabled publishers to boost their cross-selling abilities, said publishing group president Jack Griffin, because "they feel like they're part of the future." At the same time, he's kicked up the amount of cross-training for print and online sellers and training for edit employees. He believes these efforts are reasons Meredith has had relatively low turnover in the executive suite.

At Hachette, the focus is on training and compensating salespeople to motivate them to sell cross-platform advertising packages, Kliger said. Still, the question for the industry nags at him: "Where are you going to find in the next 10, 15 years the next generation of sales talent in the business?"

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