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Following in Krakoff's footsteps

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For eight months following the unexpected death in March of Nielsen Business Media President-CEO Robert Krakoff, COO Greg Farrar had been leading the division on an interim basis.

With his promotion to president in November, the 20-year company veteran plans to continue executing Krakoff's plan for a reorganization of the unit while also leaving his own mark on Nielsen.

"I don't try to step into his shoes," Farrar said. "Those are shoes that can't be filled. I've had that experience of following someone who casts a big shadow. The key is to take your own path, and take ownership and put your thumbprints on it."

Nielsen Business Media serves almost 50 vertical markets with titles that include such industry heavyweights as Adweek, Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and Progressive Grocer. Farrar is planning new products for most of those markets, although he declined to be specific.

Its entertainment-related titles, particularly Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, have expanded their offerings as they attract both industry insiders and curious consumers. Last year, The Hollywood Reporter launched a digital edition in 12 languages, introduced a new online ad format and began a regional printing program so it could expand its coverage of the New York and East Coast entertainment markets.

However, Farrar doesn't want to marginalize the brands by spending too much time wooing b-to-c marketers to its pages. "We focus on the biz aspect of things but, in the process of doing that, it appeals to a lot of consumers," he said. "But we want to make sure we keep our eye on the ball, which is to serve our business audience. I don't want to become irrelevant or alienate our audience."

Farrar predicts the online segment will grow the fastest, followed by Nielsen's trade show business. Print revenues, while under pressure, are being helped by increased conference offerings and licensing.

Farrar's route into business media followed a stint as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, after which he wasn't sure of his qualifications as a civilian. "Not many companies needed someone who knew how to attack things," he recalled.

He joined a Marine Corps executives group and received a call from a retired colonel who worked in the trade show industry, inviting Farrar to spend a summer at his company. The retired colonel was Jim Bracken, and a short while later Farrar went to work for Bracken at Bill Communications, which became VNU and then Nielsen Business Media.

"When I joined Bill Communications, it was very print-focused, had no trade shows to speak of and, of course, digital wasn't even on the radar screen, really," Farrar said. "The mix of media has changed; the size isn't even comparable."

Farrar's first job came with an employee roster of four, including him. Nielsen Business Media's work force now numbers 1,100 people.

Before being appointed COO in November 2006, Farrar also served as president of VNU Expositions and senior VP-business development at VNU Business Media. He is credited with playing a key role in the acquisition of Miller Freeman USA.

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