Primedia CEO puts focus on new media

Rogers looks toward 'Net growth at conference

NEW YORK — Tom Rogers’ first public presentation since taking the CEO reins of consumer and trade magazine publisher Primedia was nothing but ‘Net.

As expected, the former NBC cable head made the Internet and new media the main focus of Primedia’s presentation to investors at Gotham’s PaineWebber Media Conference.

Indeed Rogers, just six weeks on the job, seemed bearish on publishing: When stating his strategy for the first quarter 2000, Rogers never mentioned magazines or publishing.

“I am slated to announce a full strategy for the company during the first quarter of 2000,” he said. “We will focus on accelerating growth in new media, building an organization to enable growth, reviewing the portfolio of businesses for potential divestiture and implementing cost controls aimed at increasing productivity.”

Niche markets

Roger said that in recent years media value has shifted from mass-media markets to focused markets. While Primedia’s best known assets are the commercial glossies New York and Seventeen, Rogers presented the company as “the king of niche content,” with its publications holding the top market shares among small focused groups, from quilters to home-buyers.

While an aggressive Web presence was exactly what Primedia was looking for when it hired Rogers, some within the company have worried that in focusing so much on new media Rogers was forsaking its publishing side.

Exodus of talent

In recent weeks, Primedia has seen an exodus of people in top positions on its publishing side, including Amy Churgin, group publisher of New York, Chicago and Automobile (Daily Variety, Nov. 9).

A publicly traded company controlled by the leverage buyout firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Primedia is banking that the high-profile Rogers will rescue the company’s sagging stock price.

According to Primedia prexy Charles McCurdy, so far the company’s profit margins have been down, a result of what McCurdy called a soft year in the trade publication market and the cost of the expansion into new markets.

As further evidence of Primedia’s push into new media, Rogers introduced his new VP of new media development Michael Jeffrey. A former colleague of Rogers’ at NBC, Jeffrey spearheaded NBC’s recently launched NBCi.

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