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Media Business honors Top Innovators

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BtoB's Media Business recognized outstanding media executives last week at its 10th annual Top Innovators in Business Publishing awards luncheon in Manhattan. “Our annual Media Business Innovators Awards were created to honor those who have impacted our business in truly innovative ways over the past year,” said Bob Felsenthal, VP-publisher of Media Business and BtoB. “In a rapidly changing environment, through some of the most challenging times in our industry's history, these executives have been both creative and successful in creating new products and services to build their audiences and generate revenue.” Recognized as outstanding publishing CEOs were Mike Perlis, president-CEO of Forbes Media; David Kieselstein, CEO of Penton Media; and Edward Gillette, president-CEO of Scranton Gillette Communications. Kieselstein, former CEO of custom market research company TNS North America, said his goal at Penton has been to “take advantage of the technology that's in front of us, and then to future-proof the business—not only against competitors but also start-ups.” He said innovation at Penton is driven by listening to users and acknowledging their pain points; taking a “million flowers will bloom” approach to cultivating strong ideas from employees; and hiring top talent, which he said may be the most important ingredient. “The combination of technology and driving ROI through user relationships, is the future of the business,” Kieselstein said. Since being named president-CEO of Forbes Media in November 2010, Perlis has focused on revenue growth and profits. Last year Forbes Media had its best financial performance in five years as a result of its commitment to print, digital media, brand extensions and technology. “We want to capture the essence of Forbes from an innovative perspective, to try to operate as a 97-year-old "start-up,' ” Perlis said. He cited Forbes' content model, which uses hundreds of outside contributors who augment the brand's in-house editorial staff. “It's been an enormous success for us, tripling unique visitors to our site in the last three to four years,” he said. Meanwhile, print remains “what defines us, and is a profitable business we hold very dear,” Perlis said. To that end, Forbes has aggressively pursued brand extensions, including licensed editions of Forbes in 27 local languages around the world, with three more to be added soon. Perlis also has a number of nontraditional licensing ideas on the table, such as Forbes-branded wine clubs and educational services. Over the past few years, Scranton Gillette has been able to weather the downturn while making acquisitions, doubling revenue and gaining market share. “The recession was more a function of timing,” said Gillette, who was unable to attend the awards ceremony but spoke with Media Business by phone. “We saw valuations were at an all-time low. We had a ton of cash saved, no debt and great people. We looked at 30 opportunities, closed on three, added 11 brands to the stable, eight digits of revenue to the top line and seven to the bottom line.” Gillette said he's now having companies come to him, eager to be funded or acquired. “We've now reached a critical mass where we don't need a recession to keep this going,” he said. Honored as top publishing executives were: Meredith Levien, chief revenue officer at Forbes Media (general business category); Dan Bagan, senior VP of Penton's agriculture, restaurants, food and meetings division (large trade); and Don Pearson, exec VP-sales and group publisher of government technology at e.Republic (small trade). The winners in the digital executive category were: Marc Frons, senior VP-CIO at the New York Times Co., Hitesh Chitalia, director-solutions architecture, commodities and commercial markets at McGraw Hill Financial (large trade); and James Capo, former director-digital business development at Cygnus Business Media (small trade) and now VP-digital business development at Access Intelligence. Single awards were presented in the categories of production/technology, audience development and events. Aaron Jones, CTO at IDG Communications, was honored in the production/technology category; John Rockwell, VP-digital audience marketing at Sandow Media, in the audience development category; and Marco Pardi, president of UBM Tech Events, in the events category.
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