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Carrigan to publishers: Be more like technology companies

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Bob Carrigan recently offered some stern advice for publishers: “We need to stop resting on our legacy laurels while the interactive world passes us by. We need to stick our necks out, embrace change in this data-driven world and reinvent ourselves.”

Carrigan, CEO of IDG Communications and newly installed chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, made these remarks late last month in his opening address at the IAB's Annual Leadership Meeting in La Quinta, Calif.

Publishers must become more like technology companies, he said. Among his specific recommendations: Learn to do R&D in-house; hire engineers and “turn them loose to create great products”; and develop strategic technology partnerships.

Carrigan said such reinvention calls for no half-measures: “Remember the words of Lloyd George, the great prime minister of England in the 1920s—and, as far as I know, a man who wasn't particularly Internet-savvy—who once famously said, "The most dangerous thing in the world is leaping a chasm in two jumps.' ”

Publishers must not concede large portions of their markets to “newcomer intermediaries,” Carrigan said.

“Take the rise of ad exchanges and real-time bidding, for example,” he said. “Both are important developments for our industry that have been dominated by new competitors.”

Rather than accept this as a fait accompli, he said, IDG created its own ad exchange in the tech vertical, IDG Tech Media Exchange, which is to debut this week.

In an interview at the IAB meeting, Carrigan cited the earlier creation of the IDG Tech Network as another effort to fend off newcomers. The third-party ad exchange allows marketers to buy space across a large spectrum of tech sites, including more than 400 that IDG doesn't own.

“We didn't want to be disintermediated,” he said.

Carrigan said there is tremendous opportunity in such vertical ventures for publishers willing to make the move.

“Just do it,” he said. “Don't just put your toe in the water, because somebody is going to come in and punch you in the face.”

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