Northstar CEO 'Tired of Apologizing' for Print Success
Tom Kemp signed on as CEO of b-to-b travel media company Northstar Travel Media in January 2009, one of the most trying times in most publishing company's history. "It was a tough time to start," says Kemp, a former private equity executive for Veronis Suhler Stevenson who got his start in publishing at Miller Freeman and Penton Media. But the company's low debt-to-revenue ratio and several rapidly growing new business initiatives—including webinars and a new $1-million marketing solutions division—have been steering the company through a period of growth.
Despite the new areas of growth, however, print comprises 60 percent of the company's media, and, as Kemp says, "[It] has a long-term part in our future," adding, "I ... get a little tired of apologizing that print is still a significant part of our business."
What's most important, though, he believes, is having strong brands that come to life in a variety of ways. Northstar's 10 brands (including 7 print publications-such as Travel Weekly, Meetings & Conventions, and TravelAge West—and several digital brands, such as Meeting News, OfficialCruiseGuide.com, and M&C Facilities Search) have stood the test of time and continue to serve as a foundation for expansion into new areas for serving the company's customers.
Here, Kemp shares details behind Northstar Travel Media's biggest growth areas, strategies for the future, company sales team structure and why digital specialists are important, and more.
The Revenue Picture
Noelle Skodzinski: What is Northstar Travel Media's fastest-growing revenue segment?
Tom Kemp: This year and last year, it was our face-to-face events business. Prior to my joining Northstar, we never really had much in the way of trade shows and conferences. And over the last year and half, we bought one small trade show business. But we've [recently] launched a number of events, and we now have about 20 to 25 events, almost all of which were organically built, leveraging off our brands and market position, and it's going to grow 100 percent this year compared to last year (from a relatively small base). But it's now become a meaningful part—about 10 percent—of our business, from 1 percent to 2 percent two years ago.