A Magazine Guy’s Messy Internet Makes Money

We headed past the MOMA garden and Manolo Blahnik’s New York headquarters (Fashion Week’s on the brain, dahling), to the oh-so-toney University Club this morning for a breakfast among the wood paneling, bare-breasted ceiling mural, and men on the walls in 19th-century suits, to listen to a very 21st Century speech from IDG Communications president Bob Carrigan.

The man who runs a bevy of tech-oriented consumer and B2B publications — from PC World to GamePro and the rather high-end CIO — sent some shivers through the room with his pronouncement that a media company’s Web strategy cannot be beholden to the magazine side. He’s made it work, he said, not by “gating” the content, not keeping people from getting it or making them subscribe, but rather by getting as many in the tent as possible, then showing them ads, getting them to conferences, selling them white papers, and sending them emails that others have sponsored. Above all, get users involved in creating and selecting content, he said.

“They find that the wisdom of crowds is more important than the wisdom of a few editors,” he said.

“It’s not a transition from print to online,” he said. “New audiences are using media in new ways. … It’s not transition, but transformation.” Sure, the Internet looks messy, and not as controlled as a magazine. But his company has found that users go for what they want, and will even be grateful for a smorgasbord of options, even those from vendors trying to sell them something.

The revenue from online, he said, is more than making up for any losses in print, especially from generating leads from users, who have to register to read his publications’ content. Rather than being upset when a Web user doesn’t know a magazine exists,

he considers it a triumph to capture a new user and potentially get them in the fold.

More than one person in the halls was heard lamenting that they wish it were so easy to overcome internecine battles in their shops.

‘Course, Carrigan admits, his mags have an “unfair advantage,” because their audience is geeks who already know an RSS from a CSS. But, he later told us, even the fashionista mags that serve a notoriously Luddite industry are going to have to get people in there who know about tech, even if those techies don’t know a Blahnik from a Choo.

We dutifully wore our own off-the-racket jacket and Geoffrey Beene tie (having been told no less than three times to do so), as did other attendees, including:

Newly minted Vanity Fair publisher Edward Menicheshi, taking lots of notes
Head hunter Career maker Ed Koller, looking dapper in bowtie as always
Folio magazine’s Matt Kinsman
Mark Edmiston, whose Ad Media sponsnored the event, with the Magazine Publisher’s Association
Talkpoint’s Jim Cheney
Crain’s David Johnson
Richard Burns of Isis Venture Partners, who extolled the virtues of their purchase of Manhattan Media’s New York Family.
The Jordan, Edmiston Group’s Adam Gross
Donna Maleski of Millard Brown, who was wearing a suit, but no tie