NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Less than a year after she was elevated to co-CEO of Martha Stewart Living, Wenda Harris Millard is leaving the company to become president of media advisory firm Media Link.
Ms. Millard, former chief sales officer at Yahoo, was named co-CEO of MSLO in June after the departure of former president-CEO Susan Lyne. In an unorthodox structure intended to take advantage of her strengths as a media exec with little merchandising experience, Ms. Millard was paired as co-CEO with former Kate Spade president-CEO Robin Marino. Ms. Millard was to oversee the company's media businesses while Ms. Marino ran the merchandising side of the business.
Ms. Marino is staying with the company, and will continue to serve as president-CEO of the company's merchandising business, while Chairman Charles Koppelman will oversee the company's media businesses.
Ms. Millard will become president of Media Link, the company founded and owned by former agency exec and media operative Michael Kassan, known for spearheading ad industry opposition to Google's proposed search deal with Yahoo last year. Media Link has expanded its consulting capabilities, from clients and agencies to offline media companies and, more recently, into the interactive space -- an area where Ms. Millard's appointment will surely be helpful.
Ms. Millard first joined MSLO in 2007 after having made Yahoo a display-ad powerhouse earlier in the decade and after spending three years as a member of the board.
During her early tenure at MSLO, she emphasized integrated marketing using the company's print, TV and digital assets. But once there, she found herself in control of a much smaller online property than Yahoo. She was one of the first publishers to launch a vertical online ad network to help extend MSLO's reach by signing up similar websites and selling them along with Martha Stewart Living inventory. That strategy has produced mixed results, as advertisers were reluctant to give the same premium for partner sites as for MSLO-owned properties.
A vocal critic of ad networks in general, Ms. Millard blamed them for depressing ad rates by treating ad inventory as pork bellies, and urged publishers to focus on selling their own premium inventory at premium ad rates.
Ms. Millard was able to help MSLO derive a higher percentage of revenue from digital than its peers. In January, Ad Age estimated that MSLO had earned 12% of its 2008 ad revenue from online, compared to 10% for Time Inc. Still, MSLO's online ad revenue was just $14 million in 2008, compared to a Meredith, which earned $90 million and Rodale which earned $39 million.
MSLO was also hit by the downturn and the end of a merchandising deal with K-Mart. Fourth-quarter revenue, typically MSLO's strongest quarter, was down 38% to $72.9 million from $118.5 million a year ago.
MSLO's publishing division, from which the company derives the bulk of its revenues, had a tough first quarter. Ad pages in the January through April issues fell 29.9% at Martha Stewart Living, compared with January through April 2008, according to the Media Industry Newsletter. They sank 39.7% at Everyday Food and 29.4% at Body & Soul, which the company bought in August 2004. Ad pages in Martha Stewart Weddings dropped 23.2% in the first quarter, the most recent information available, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
Ms. Millard's No. 2 at MSLO, former Yahoo exec Jacki Kelly, also recently departed the company to go to media agency Universal McCann, where she is head of North America.