Matthew Yorke, president of IDG Global Solutions, spoke to eMarketer about how IDG is managing its print magazine and online-only products with an eye squarely focused on a digitally dominated future.
eMarketer: As the publisher of PCWorld and Macworld, and parent of IDC Research, IDG began its digital transformation in the mid-1990s. What aspects of your early digital strategy have survived and why?
Matthew Yorke: One is our culture. We are extremely decentralized. Everyone is encouraged to stay close to their customers, adapt their business and create products and services that their customers want. Obviously some things fail, but plenty succeed. Another part of our culture is sharing. We come together once a year at global product meetings to collaborate and share successes and failures. There’s constant innovation going on at a micro level. But, eventually, if something is really successful, it will make its way to the macro level.
Also, we still talk today about managing to profit. It’s a great mantra, and it captures how we think about digital versus print. Over time we knew that print was going to continue to decline, and its relevance to us would be diluted, even if it was hard to accept. Managing to profit means you should be putting greater focus on your resources for your digital business.
eMarketer: How does that concept apply to a business if it’s not a media company?
Yorke:You need to embrace the speed of change and be prepared to destroy profitable parts of your businesses today to get to where the future of the business will be. It’s really hard for businesses to adopt behavior that may accelerate the pace of decline in the existing parts of their business today. But you can bet someone else has thought of the change, and they’re going to be managing to it. It’s better to drive that trend rather than to be driven by it.
eMarketer: How did this cause you to rethink your competitive framework?
Yorke: This business used to be exclusively about brands. Today, it’s brands, but it’s also about a platform and the authority it’s built around. We have a plethora of services in which we compete: social, mobile, the IDG ad network, the tech network, the real-time bidding platform, data, lead generation, lead gen services and research services.
A small pure-play company is going to be spending time with our clients. They may not have the brand, but they’ve got expertise—they’ll take money off the table. So you’ve got to recognize them and be really sophisticated in how you leverage brands and all these touchpoints to your clients to allow [your] services to be even more relevant.
eMarketer: What do you do to enhance success?
Yorke: We’ve learned you don’t have to be perfect. You can launch in beta mode to get out in the market and start to build a following and relevance with an audience. Start learning based on the interactions, and over time keep iterating to turn out a powerful product. In fact, if it’s perfect, you probably spent way too much time thinking about it. Get it out in the market, start figuring it out and go from there.
Right now we have a site called TechHive.com that launched as a beta blog where we’re creating a different type of content in the B2C space. It’s more tech lifestyle-focused than what you’ve seen from us in the past with PCWorld or Macworld. We’ve been very clear [that the site is now in beta] and that we will launch in September of this year on a [more] sophisticated platform.
While the current version is nowhere near the user experience we’re going to offer later this year, we’re already building a social following and doing work to engage people with this brand and start to move the audience to action. That gives us “air coverage” to go out and talk to advertisers now. And then we will take it to the next level and beyond later in the year.