Cathie Black Has No Web Regrets

Hearst Magazine President: 'We Can Catch Up'

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NEW YORK ( -- Hearst Magazines may have missed out on some opportunities and experience while iVillage ran its websites and Hearst editors did their own things, but that won't make a big difference going forward, said Cathleen P. Black, president, Hearst Magazines.

Cathleen Black said Hearst is pursuing five goals for the digital arena.
Cathleen Black said Hearst is pursuing five goals for the digital arena.

"Our early approach probably cost us a little time," Ms. Black allowed, speaking before an industry crowd at a breakfast talk, organized by the Magazine Publishers of America, on the constantly changing modern media business.

Hearst has deliberately moved somewhat carefully while other companies rushed to adopt each new digital approach early, Ms. Black said. "We can catch up."

Big digital play
Indeed, just a few days ago, Hearst made one of its biggest digital plays yet with the acquisition of, an entertainment and community network for teens and young adults.

Now Hearst is pursuing five goals in the digital arena: transforming its existing sites into the best possible properties; using the web to drive profitable circulation; leading the industry in site functionality (which, after all, keeps visitors there longer); achieving leadership in site traffic, which Ms. Black equated with newsstand sales as an indicator of vitality; and, of course, "to make money."

That last point means never viewing digital inventory as the value-added piece of an ad-page deal, said Ms. Black, calling magazines' obsession with advertisers' page schedules "almost a relic."

Specialized sales teams
"If we don't set a value on using the web for an advertiser, we will have only ourselves to blame," she said. That's why Hearst has digital sales teams who don't sell anything else, she added. "They do not need to think about the second cover of the April issue of Cosmo."

Then again, the company's goals will probably outlast today's strategies, Ms. Black said. "If we are smart, we will be nimble," she explained. "Because honestly, it will be different in 18 months. We have to be prepared to get started and to see what works."

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