What is the Internet’s role in revitalizing economic growth? In some circles, it is considered a disruptive destroyer of value. In others, new media is seen as a specialized industry, with little relevance to other sectors. But to people like Bob Carrigan, CEO of IDG Communications (the publishing, media, and events division of the International Data Group), the Internet is now a major source of business innovation for every sector. Thanks to the continued growth of the marketing and media ecosystem — the confluence of broadband, social media, online advertising, mobile Internet, cloud computing, online lead generation, and e-commerce — we are all media companies now.
Carrigan is one of the leading proponents of change in this sector, both as a spokesperson on new media, and as a decision maker at IDG, putting into practice new ideas about online publication and marketing innovation. He began his career at IDG in publishing and sales in the 1980s, when the company was primarily known for its technology magazines (CIO, Computerworld, PCWorld, InfoWorld, Macworld, and GamePro were some of its main titles). During the early dot-com era, he moved to a popular music startup, Spinner.com; then moved to AOL, which purchased it; then moved back to IDG in 2005, taking a series of executive positions. By that time, IDG had begun to evolve into its current form, as a new media pioneer, producer of events and expositions (including the well-known Macworld expo, where Apple has announced new products over the years), innovator in mobile Internet publishing, and developer of new forms of advertising and lead generation. Carrigan has been chief executive of IDG Communications since 2008, with a particular focus on innovation.
Carrigan was also the 2011 elected chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The IAB is a consortium of more than 500 media and technology companies that sets standards for online advertising formats, produces research on online and interactive media, and plays an active role in developing guidelines related to such issues as privacy and the measurement of online advertising effectiveness. (Disclosure: IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg is a former editor-in-chief of strategy+business.)
We became interested in Carrigan’s perspective when he began speaking and writing about innovation, including in the pages of this magazine. (See Carrigan’s short piece, “A New Model for Generating Leads,” in “Reinventing Print Media,” by Matthew Egol, Harry Hawkes, and Greg Springs, s+b, Autumn 2009.) Of particular interest to us have been Carrigan’s thoughts on revenue and business models; too many companies, he argues, are still thinking of media as an enterprise supported by subscriptions and ad revenues. The electronic media of the next 20 years will instead be supported by a variety of forms of sponsorship, reader revenue, and lead generation, all grounded in the ongoing relationships that consumers build with the media they trust. This interview was conducted in two conversations, both in New York, in May and October 2011.
S+B: Amid anxiety about the economy, you’ve referred to media and online retail entrepreneurs as “unabashed optimists.” Where do you see optimism?
CARRIGAN: The Interactive Advertising Bureau conferences are sold out. Companies that are part of the Internet and online ecosystem — not just Facebook and Twitter, but everything from data providers to analytics firms — are doing very well. There’s an incredible amount of activity, including a lot of venture capital. For the first six months of 2011, the online advertising industry was up 23 percent in revenues, to US$15 billion.
This represents a big change from the somber years of 2009 and 2010. Companies in this industry are actively looking for talent: “I need a CMO, a CFO, a software developer.” Media companies are putting people to work in meaningful, sustaining, fulfilling jobs in a growth business that is just beginning to hit its stride. And although I don’t have exact figures, the number of marketing employees is clearly way up from the 1.2 million people that it was in 2009, when the IAB last surveyed the industry.