Top Innovators in Business Publishing: Tom Kemp
Company: Northstar Travel Media
Comment: Kemp moved quickly to expand North after taking overin January 2009. The biggest move to date on his watch was Northstar's acquisition of the assets of chief competitor Nielsen Travel Media.
In many ways, Tom Kemp, chairman-CEO of Northstar Travel Media, is going against the grain these days. For one thing, he's bullish about b-to-b media in an era when companies such as Reed Elsevier and Nielsen Co. are largely exiting the business.
“B-to-b media is not very fashionable right now as an investment for both private equity as well as lenders, but I think a lot of it is the decline of print advertising,” Kemp said. “In the near term and in the long term, the Internet has a great positive impact on b-to-b media, because the Internet allows a focus on more narrow vertical markets, which is the core of what we do.”
Kemp is doing more than talking up b-to-b media and the Web. His company, backed by Boston Ventures, is investing in both. In March, Northstar acquired the assets of Nielsen Travel Media, which included Successful Meetings, a brand that competes directly with Northstar's Meetings & Conventions.
In an unorthodox approach, Kemp plans to keep both publications operating, because research showed there is surprisingly little overlap in circulation. Northstar also bought two trade shows in January and launched one of its own in April. “There's a great opportunity in b-to-b media,” Kemp said.
On the Internet front, Kemp hired Tom Cintorino away from PennWell Corp. late last year to be Northstar's exec VP-digital media. One area where Northstar is investing is in online databases. The company recently launched an online global cruise directory aimed at travel agents.
Marketing services, especially focused on the Web, are also a priority. “The opportunities go far beyond traditional display advertising,” he said. “What you can do digitally with virtual events, webinars, rich media, lead generation and tapping into marketing services—it really enriches your relationship with your users and creates a broader range of revenue opportunities that we never had before.”
Kemp has long been a believer in the Internet's power. When he was Penton's CEO, the company acquired Internet World, but the franchise collapsed about the same time the dot-com economy did. Ultimately, this and other deals at Penton left the company hamstrung with debt.
Kemp said he learned from that experience. “Things can change very dramatically, very quickly. It's a good reason not to find yourself in an overleveraged situation when the unexpected occurs,” he said.