Prioritizing the Next Stage of Publishing
PE: You mention competing against venture-backed enterprises, which requires smart investment on your part. How do you approach that?
Carrigan: In terms of the big business areas we've gone into, whether the lead-gen business or the marketing services business, or the third-party ad network business—those are things where we saw a big opportunity in our category, and it was only a matter of time before some venture-backed business came in. This happens in all businesses, but especially in the media business. The media business is littered with former category-leading media companies that conceded a big part of their market because it wasn't in their traditional wheelhouse, because they were traditionally print guys. …
It's difficult for larger companies to think about these emerging markets because they are involved with their day-to-day challenges in their core business. We do not concede these spaces to anybody. … Historically, in our category, we sell by brand and around editorial category, but there are all these high-value spaces that are emerging, like selling by audience-targeting methods. These are the realm of these pure-play companies, but what we want to be able to do at IDG is go in and offer our own suite of solutions. That requires focus.
I can't expect the people who come in every day and do a particular thing, whether it's producing a magazine or producing an event, to create these giant businesses and compete head-to-head with pure-play companies. That's why in a lot of cases we create new, focused units that help us to pursue a much more dedicated [goal]. When you dedicate resources, all kinds of wonderful things happen. You get focus. … Sometimes it can be expensive, granted, but that's just part of the game. We've had many more successes than failures, and you just have to take your lumps when you were maybe just too aggressive, but you have to err on the side of aggressive or you will get run over.