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Cygnus to boost interactive

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For Mike Martin, a 25-year veteran of Cygnus Business Media and its predecessors, the past year has been a busy one, filled with talk of a potential sale of the company and a handful of new C-suite executives.

Now Martin has become one of the newsmakers with his promotion last month to president, a role that hadn't been filled since Richard Reiff left the company a year ago. But Martin's new responsibilities are defined differently than they had been in the past. He not only will lead the growth of the print publishing division but the corresponding Web portals for the 15 industries it serves. The change speaks to Cygnus' renewed focus on boosting the interactive portion of its business since co-CEOs Carr Davis and Anthony O'Brien joined the company last August.

"We've been able to step back and see what we need to do," said Martin, who for the past decade served as a group vice president for the publishing division. "Our core philosophy really [has become] speed to market and speed to revenue, and in many cases that involves interactive growth.

"It's no secret. That's what everyone is pursuing," he said.

Currently, print products generate 70% to 75% of Cygnus' revenues with the remainder coming from events, custom publishing and interactive. While not specifying the current state of Cygnus' online business, Martin said he would like to see that segment grow to account for 15% to 25% of company revenues.

No simple cookie-cutter approach will work for its online efforts, however, given the varied demographics of the markets in which Cygnus operates, Martin said.

For instance, Firehouse.com has been successful because firefighters have a lot of "down time" to read product material online. But in the construction market, industry participants want to see the products in action. That was the rationale behind the development late last year of ForConstructionPros.com, a Web portal linked to its construction industry titles and the first channel to roll out from the new Cygnus Video Network.

"Most of the markets we have will see a need for video, but many not to the extent of construction," Martin said, noting that small retailers of products like jewelry really don't need to see product demonstrations.

Martin also sees ample opportunity to better serve a segment of its advertisers by giving them a way to reach the thousands of small businesses that read various Cygnus magazines. It had always been in the back of the company's mind to develop a small- business network buy that would allow companies to reach a cross-section of potential customers throughout the print products, but now it is a key area of focus for Martin. The network would appeal to advertisers for universal products and services such as credit cards, software and communication systems.

"People look at Cygnus and say we have a lot of small properties," Martin said. "And that's absolutely true. It's a unique mix of properties and why the network buy will work well."

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