IDG chairman reviews company's successful approach

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Scottsdale, Ariz.—In his keynote Tuesday at American Business Media's Spring Meeting, Patrick McGovern, chairman of IDG, offered a wide-ranging look at the technology media company's past and future.

McGovern traced his career, which started as college newspaper editor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and included a stint as associate editor of the first computer magazine, Computers and Automation, before he founded International Data Corp. (later renamed International Data Group) in 1964. He referred again and again to his many trips, and what he learned by listening to—and taking advice from—readers, advertisers and partners. He said the best ideas for new products often came from customers.

Regarding IDG's current business, McGovern said online will constitute 40% of the company’s revenue by 2010, up from a quarter of its revenue today. Event revenue, now at 14%, is expected to grow to 22% by 2010.

McGovern revealed the IT media company's pretax margins were higher for events (60% to 65%) than either online (45%) or print (5% to 15%).

He said surveys of IDG’s early regional computer events indicated attendees found the most valuable part to be networking with their peers.

"Of course, we got a little nervous because they're paying to attend, and they're going to figure out that they are the content," he quipped.

Today, publishers can accelerate this peer-to-peer knowledge base by providing Web sites for "contributing blogs, their podcasts, discussion groups, polls"—information that has "tremendous take-home value" to attendees, he said.

After entering China in 1988, IDG has continued its international expansion. "We're in a new country every six to seven weeks," McGovern said, noting that most of these efforts, in places such as Indonesia and the former Soviet Union, typically are pursued via licensing arrangements.

"As I see what's happening right now, I think definitely the best is yet to come," McGovern said at the outset of his talk. Publishers will be able to offer "so much more value, so much more depth to our audiences," he said.

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