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Jason Young, former CEO of Ziff Davis Media, has embraced the digital and mobile world. This past summer, he helped launched Smart Device Media, a mobile ad network featuring a channel for premium technology publishers. In 2008, he led the transformation of PC Magazine from a print property to an all-digital brand at Ziff Davis Media. We asked him about a similar move announced in October by Ziff Davis Enterprise, which is moving its print publications, such as eWeek, to an all-digital format.
Media Business: What's your assessment of Ziff Davis Enterprise's announcement that it will move its print magazines to an all-digital format beginning in January?
Jason Young: For the same reasons that the Smart Device Media business is rapidly growing and experiencing a lot of opportunity, what Ziff Davis Enterprise is doing is both really smart and really opportunistic. This is being driven by where consumers want to get their information. Mary Meeker (a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers) gave her annual “State of the Web” presentation a few weeks ago at Web 2.0. There's one slide in particular: It's the classic percent of time spent in media versus percent of ad spend. What it shows is, at the end of 2010, mobile was representing 8% of consumption time. That's probably doubled during the course of 2011. You see that between the tablets, the smartphones and the desktop Web, just to catch up to usage suggests that there is $20 billion of incremental ad money that will migrate over to these different environments. That's the pond you want to be fishing in.
I think businesses like Ziff Davis Enterprise will be able to shift to a strategy where you can take advantage of the unique attributes of these different devices to present information. It allows the publisher to completely serve the customer in a way we've never been able to serve them before. We at Ziff Davis Media back at the end of 2008 did not have the tablet. It's even more timely and more important that publishers make moves like this because of the very real opportunity for the tablet to replace what otherwise was the high-engagement content experience that is print.
I'm not suggesting that every publisher in America should be going out and doing what Ziff Davis Enterprise has done. You have to understand your readership and what their adoption of these devices looks like. Clearly, in a vertical like tech, serving a community of IT professionals who by definition are early adopters, it makes all the sense in the world.
MB: Is there a downside in going all-digital in that the print magazine—a billboard in the mail—is no longer a physical brand arriving monthly in front of readers?
Young: Again, you have to look at consumer consumption patterns. We made the choice we did back at the end of '08, because we saw a clear pattern of declining demand (for print). We felt the opportunity for the brand to be presented to current subscribers and future subscribers was so significant in the online environment that putting all of our resources and focus there would not only drive readership but also drive the brand opportunity side by side with it. Now, here we are three years later, and that opportunity is even richer on the digital side.