New gig Svp of sales, Huffington Post Media Group
Old gig Chief agency officer, gm of sales, NBC News Digital
What made you leave a legacy organization like MSNBC for The Huffington Post?
One word: Arianna. I love being part of a mega-brand, and the pedigree of NBC is fantastic—it opens up doors, gives you credibility. But there is a lot of legacy there. There is cable and they’ve already created the success. So how much higher can they go? I don’t know. I wanted something that had rapid growth and was exciting. At first I thought, “Nah, it’s The Huffington Post, it’s news,” but then they told me, “Arianna just wants you to come in and sit down and chat. Can you do that?” And you don’t ever turn down that meeting, right? You have to meet the myth and the legend.
What was that meeting like?
It wasn’t your typical interview. We talked about people, our philosophies and life—what we liked, what annoyed us, and the business on a grand scale, but never in the weeds. I realized they weren’t worried about the past but focused on inventing the future. I found that intoxicating.
She’s talked about the power of sleep to inspire. Did she try to convince you to get more sleep?
Yes! It’s something I will try to tackle. But I really just saw something different with this company. There is so much potential. I came out of my conversations very energized.
You guys are putting together a streaming network this summer. How will you innovate in that space? It feels like a great place to tinker with the ads.
With Huffington Post Live, there are no ad pods or commercial breaks. We’re trying to bring about organic experiences. Everyone in the show is a producer, and that gives us an ability to work with advertisers in a unique way. I think it will be the future of television for marketers who want to pioneer a new experience and bring in what I call “point and yell TV,” where you can actually talk to the screen.
Speaking of innovation, I feel like everyone is saying, “Banner ads are dead! Brands as publishers is the new way!” Do you agree?
I think people who say banners are dead are full of crap. Most of those people are selling a lot of them themselves. It’s that it’s not sexy enough for them. It is more their ego that is driving the conversation than the facts of the business. Standard units are what made television and print so successful. It doesn’t account for the interactivity that we have in digital, but you know what? They still keep the lights on for a lot of businesses and will tens of years from now. Yeah, the original banner is a little piece of crap, but don’t hang that like a noose around everyone else’s neck.
Arianna has been advocating for a healthier lifestyle for employees. Has your lifestyle changed since you’ve been there?
I actually work more but spend less time overcoming legacy obstacles from people stuck in their ways. That has made my quality of life better. For instance, my wife says that now I spend time with my kids, I’m more present. I feel like I sleep better, too. I can shut off.
But in a business that is shifting as much as media does, what does keep you up at night?
Staying with what is comfortable. I want to really innovate with things like Huffington Post Live. I know I am just the chief pixel pusher around here, but if I can actually do shit instead of just talk about doing shit, that is very cool. I want to stay as hip and cool as all these young hipsters that work here.
Does that mean you’re going to start wearing skinny jeans?
No, you don’t want to see me in skinny jeans. But if it puts a smile on people’s faces, I’ll gladly don some.