New FierceMarkets president prepares for future of online publishing

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On Jan. 1, in a planned transition, Sean Griffey, COO of FierceMarkets since January 2006, will take over the presidency from founder Jeff Giesea, who is leaving the company to travel and pursue other interests.

Giesea launched the digital and live-event business media company in April 2000 and sold it in January of this year to Questex Media Group. He agreed to stay on through the integration period.

Since the acquisition, FierceMarkets has remained in its Washington, D.C., headquarters, operating as an independent subsidiary of Questex.

In spite of a struggling economy that turned decidedly downward in September, Griffey said, “October was the best month in the company’s history for revenue, Web traffic and circulation. We feel we have tremendous momentum going into 2009.”

Unlike traditional business media companies that built their foundations with print magazines, FierceMarkets entered its target markets with e-newsletters, Web sites, webinars and live events. Its portfolio now includes more than 20 digital publications in five markets—telecommunications, life sciences, health care, IT and finance.

“Like the rest of the media industry, we see a challenging macro environment ahead,” Griffey said. “In 2009, we will continue to invest in our core vertical industries, and we also plan to launch products in entirely new verticals over the year.”

Although current economic conditions put more pressure than ever on marketers to prove ROI, “FierceMarkets sees the trend in the marketplace toward CPL [cost per lead] and other performance-based programs as a natural evolution for online media,” Griffey said.

“We’ve been investing in increased capabilities and products that will allow us to better handle CPL and performance-based campaigns,” Griffey explained. “This means more than just building lead-generation products. It requires building the underlying infrastructure and processes to efficiently handle these campaigns.”

For example, he said, some publishers “hammer their audiences in an attempt to deliver on CPL-based campaign promises. We’ve been working on integrated and contextual techniques to deliver leads in a way that doesn’t overly tax our audience.”

FierceMarkets has also been working with other Questex units “to build a common platform we can use to get to the next phase of performance-based programs together,” Griffey said.

Griffey joined FierceMarkets in 2005 after nearly 10 years as a strategy consultant for A.T. Kearney and PricewaterhouseCoopers. “I was brought in to help scale the company,” he said. “FierceMarkets had a great model to penetrate new vertical markets and deliver news in an online manner that would create great returns for advertisers, but, at the time, we didn’t have the infrastructure in place from an operational standpoint.”

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