Summit names Weitzner as CEO
Steve Weitzner was not out of work for long. Just a week after the sale of Ziff Davis Enterprise, the tech publisher he ran as CEO for the past four years, Weitzner was named CEO of Summit Business Media.
Summit publishes 16 magazines, 150 reference titles and 20 websites and hosts a dozen conferences in the insurance, financial services, legal and investment advisory markets. Weitzner’s background is in tech publishing, with previous stints at Ziff Davis Enterprise, CMP and United Business Media. The Summit CEO position had been filled on an interim basis by CFO/COO Thomas Flynn since last October, when Andy Goodenough resigned from the top post.
Since emerging from bankruptcy last May, Summit has been focused on decreasing its reliance on print advertising with a broader mix of digital products and live events. About 40% of advertising revenue for the company's media business comes from digital, with the remainder from print. A year ago, that split was 70/30 in favor of print. The media business accounts for about 60% of the company's overall revenues, with the remainder spread across events (20%), reference (12%) and data products (8%).
Weitzner’s growth strategy for Ziff Davis Enterprise – before the company was sold on Feb. 3 to online marketer QuinStreet – involved moving away from print entirely through a strategy dubbed “OmniDigital.”
In a brief phone interview, Weitzner said he has no plans to similarly abandon the print business at Summit. His message to Summit employees earlier today: “I’m here to grow this company, not shrink it.”
Here’s a summary of other key points Weitzner made during our interview:
On the most appealing aspect of the opportunity with Summit:
“The company has an incredible board and a very strong executive management team. I also like that we have a good mix of subscriber and advertiser revenue.
“But the main thing is, because this industry [insurance/financial services/legal] is not moving at quite the same pace as the tech industry, you can still build up your relationship with the audience through viable print products, and you can leverage those relationships across our other lines of business [data, events and reference]. Once we can focus on audience members as a single person across the lines of business, we can leverage that into some very interesting new products and additional revenue.”
On his first order of business:
“I’ll be on the road for the next few weeks making the rounds to meet everybody.” [Summit is headquartered in New York but has a home office in Kentucky and satellite offices in eight states and Washington, DC.]
On whether he has any concerns that Summit employees will view him as "the guy who killed print" at Ziff Davis Enterprise:
“I had a call with employees this morning and addressed that elephant in the room right away. If I were an employee, that would be the first thing I’d be thinking about too. I told them that every company is different, and I’m here to grow this company, not shrink it.
“In some markets, print will go on robustly for some time. In others, not so much. What’s important is to offer the information in any place the audience wants to consume it.
“They clearly know what they’re doing in editorial. With all of the products, it doesn’t matter if they’re electronic or on paper, it’s about delivering content that the user really needs.”
On the biggest opportunity for Summit:
“It’s probably maximizing the relationship with our audiences. We want to connect the dots – taking our successful South African mining investment conference, for example, and turning that into a year-round online community. There’s some work being done with our database to create a single record across all contacts. To me that’s an important first step.
“There are also opportunities to grow in marketing services. In tech, [marketing services] tends to be over-emphasized. It’s an integral piece of the business, but it not the whole business.”