Exclusive: David Zinczenko on AMI’s New Deal | Ousted Obama Insider Turns Heads

Lunch At Michaels

Lunch At MichaelsThings were pretty quiet at Michael’s today as many of the media mavens, social swans and talking heads were still away in the Hamptons this week. We, not of the summer cottage set, ventured to 55th and Fifth for our lunch with David Zinczenko, who doesn’t have time for a vacation because building a media empire is a 24/7 endeavor. It turned out to be a very fortuitously timed meeting. Between running his own burgeoning media company, Galvanized, helming his own imprint with Random House, Zinc Ink (there’s also Galvanized Books, which publishes branded books from media partners like AMI) and logging plenty of air-time on Good Morning America and other ABC News programs, David is a one-man conglomerate. Oh, in Septemeber he’s also opening another restaurant in Tribeca with his BFF Dan Abrams and Christine Cole.

David Zinczenko, Diane Clehane and Sean Bumgarner
David Zinczenko, Diane Clehane and Sean Bumgarner

He brought along Sean Bumgarner, who first worked with David back during his tenure at Rodale and is now Galvanized chief digital officer. The guys arrived at the appointed hour and kept one eye peeled to their iPhones (David also kept his Blackberry close at hand) because, as I soon learned, there were big doings afoot. I knew something was up when David was called away several times duiring lunch for calls that just couldn’t wait. It turned out news of AMI’s $515 million buyout offer from investors that keep David Pecker at the helm broke on the New York Post‘s website that very hour. AMI was among Galvanized’s first clients when David launched in March of last year and since then, much of his time has been devoted to acting as consulting editorial director for the company, which included overseeing the extraordinary successful redesign of Men’s Fitness and expansion of the brand across all platforms. When I asked him for his reaction to the news he told he: “I’m not surprised. David Pecker remains one of the sharpest minds in the media landscape and among the most savvy CEOs I’ve had the good fortune of meeting. A deal of this nature underscores how under-appreciated his legacy has been. And from first glance, this deal underscores that.”

When I marveled over Pecker’s ability to consistently defy the expectations of media watchers, David praised Pecker’s leadership and commitment to AMI’s brands: “Over the last year I’ve had a very clear mandate from him to do what it takes to move these brands forward. From the founding of a book division to the overhaul of Men’s Fitness to the integration of editorial print and digital staffs to international efforts and brand licensing, it’s clear that he’s always had a vision for moving the company forward, and it’s exciting to be a member of his team.”

As for the Galvanized team, David gave high marks to Sean for overseeing the recent in-house redesign of the company’s website and for his fluency in the ever-changing language of digital innovations that are redefining the media landscape. For his part, Sean admitted that working on their site versus one for clients was challenging because, as he put it, “You’re your own worst critic.” Having worked at Condé Nast in editorial development for all of the company’s 16 brands across all platforms, Sean has an integral role in helping Galvanized “create life-changing content and brand-building strategies” for their clients, which now include the 40 print and digital products of Bonnier brands, such as Saveur, Outdoor Life and Field & Stream.

While David ducked out to return a call, I chatted with Sean. “We’re not an agency that takes on a project and is in and out,” said Sean. “We build long-term relationships.” Sean’s expertise in all things digital and his longstanding relationships with companies, including Apple, Amazon and Samsung, have played a critical role in developing new strategies for their print partners. “It’s so important for magazines to understand their place in the media landscape,” he told me. He discussed the finer points of headline writing online versus in print with me, explaining that online writing has to “resonate emotionally” with readers to capture those all-important clicks right from the start and cut through the clutter. “It’s very different for a magazine where the writer has time and may have interesting insights in the article.” But, he noted, there are strengths that print can bring to digital. “Media companies have great assets like fact-checking, which can play a part in their success digitally.” As for the business model, Sean predicted the subscription model will become more commonplace as the print companies evolve their digital presence. “To monetize, beyond advertising and scale, that’s it.”

Before we said our good-byes, I asked David what’s new and next at Zinc Ink and, as you might expect, he had plenty to report. Fresh off her instant New York Times best seller, The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness, Maria Menounos has just signed on to do a second book for the imprint and The Zone‘s author Barry Sears will publish The Mediterranean Zone in September. Zinc Ink’s first book, Serve to Win by this year’s Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is “the gift that keeps on giving,” reported David. Indeed.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Agent Esther Newberg and some literary-looking fellow no one seemed to know. Anyone?

2. Peter Brown with People‘s Nancy Valentino

3. “Mayor” Joe Armstrong back from a nine week (!?!) visit to Israel, where he was on a humanitarian mission. I commented that all that hard work agreed with him as he looked younger than ever. “That’s good to hear,” he told me with a big smile. “Because I’m off to do my annual trip to work with the kids at Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall camp — the original one — soon.” We applaud you, Mr. Mayor. Joe was with Cynthia Brill, wife of Steve Brill, who, she told me, is “hunkered down in our attic” in their Bedford home, hard at work on his upcoming book, America’s Bitter Pill. “He is so disciplined!” Cynthia told me. The follow-up to Brill’s National-Magazine-Award-winning cover story Bitter Pill for TIME is due out in January (“It’s not a Christmas book”) and will chronicle the effects of Obamacare. A 60 Minutes segment is planned to coincide with the launch.

4. PR scion Steve Rubenstein

5. Pat Cloherty

6. David Zinczenko, Sean Bumgarner and yours truly

8. Sharon Greengrass and Gary Greengrass, owners of the West Side eatery Barney’s Greengrass

11. Digital Place Based Advertising Association’s CEO Barry Frey with “man about town” Nick Brien

12. Former New York City council president Andrew Stein and a mystery gal

14.  My Greenwich neighbor Adria Haume

16. Jamie Hedges, who, incidentally, was named by Art & Antiques as one of “The Top 100 Collectors in America.” Just thought you’d like to know.

18. The Early Show: Clinton Global Initiative’s John Needham; Act Two: marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman with Baruch Shemtov who, we’re told, appears as a host on the Young Hollywood Network.

20. Fortune‘s Pattie Sellers sporting a jean jacket with style maven and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company Desiree Rogers. The former social secretary to the Obama administration, who encountered some pretty sharp elbows during her tenure at the White House turned plenty of heads today when she sailed into the dining room rocking a chic pinstriped suit, requisite white T-shirt and some fierce gladiator stilettos. Her post-White House life in the private sector certainly seems to agree with her. And not that I was listening, but the gals were talking about Desiree’s work on new nonprofit board.

21. Jamie MacGuire

Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.