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Primedia bridges the gap

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Last month, Primedia Inc. established Primedia Integrated Sales & Marketing Group—also known as Prism—as a nerve center for the cross-marketing of all of its media products, both old and new. Leading the effort is the group's president, Darcy Miller, who was the driving force behind Primedia's American Baby franchise.

Prism aims to develop new marketing programs for advertisers across Primedia's vast media holdings in print and online. Its creation follows a flurry of deals cut by Primedia CEO Tom Rogers in the past 18 months, including the acquisitions of About.com Inc., a Web-based marketing company that also provides news and information, and media research company Kagan World Media Inc.

Yet, the deals have left Wall Street underwhelmed, with Primedia's shares lagging around $5, down from a 52-week high of nearly $39.

Miller said the initial response to Prism has been positive among advertisers. She recently discussed with BtoB her initial plans for the group.

BtoB: How will the Integrated Sales & Marketing Group operate differently from what Primedia has been doing for the past 18 months in terms of cross-platform sales among the company's various assets?

Miller: The reason for the group is twofold. First, we want to formalize the [cross-platform] process so each individual business within Primedia has a place to go where ideas for large marketing programs can bubble up. Secondly, we now have an entity that will be proactively creating marketing programs for advertisers.

We'll meet with advertisers to educate them on the company's different assets and raise awareness in the ad community about our portfolio. Advertisers know our magazine brands but not all the various audiences we have.

BtoB: What examples can you provide of selling horizontally across multiple media properties? Will that mean creating more marketing opportunities that will blend Primedia's b-to-b and consumer products?

Miller: We have an opportunity to aggregate our audience horizontally. For example, there are pockets of professional managers who read our b-to-b titles but who are also yachting enthusiasts.

We want to marry the passions among senior managers who read [Primedia's b-to-b and enthusiast] publications. We do that by creating greater scale when we cross-reference these passions across our franchises.

But we first need to identify products that have similar audiences and incomes and then develop ad programs for XYZ advertiser. Reaction in the advertising community has been positive and we have dozens of deals in the pipeline.

BtoB: What particularly will you be focusing on concerning the integration of About.com?

Miller: We're looking for opportunities where the expansion of About Inc. and our online presence will benefit both consumers and the brand. We need richer programs tying in all the elements of Primedia, including custom publishing.

There's interest in creating vehicles that can convey information that a brand wants to be associated with, and custom publishing is a great way to do that on the Web. The idea is to send people back and forth between mediums.

BtoB: How much more difficult does the ad slowdown make your efforts in developing the types of marketing alliances that companies now demand? Are you starting off with a handicap?

Miller: The current economy creates a great opportunity for the formation of the [Integrated Sales and Marketing Group] because now more than ever clients are looking for very efficient marketing solutions. They're looking to companies like Primedia that have the content and variety to assist them in converting sales.

We can now say to the client: 'We have a total solution. Put us to work.' But right now all spending is being evaluated, and clients are looking for ROIs that are sustainable.

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