JIM SAVAGE: ZDNet

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Jim Savage finds a vicarious thrill in flying blind. He's leading Ziff-Davis' online charge as VP-general manager of ZDNet, with no compass and a constantly changing landscape.

"Like Lewis and Clark in a turbo," he said.

But this is not new territory for Mr. Savage.

Though he admits he happened upon online media, every job he's held has led him along the online course. Mr. Savage has overseen the conversion of ZiffNet from a Compuserve area to a fee-based Web site called ZDNet, and eventually as an advertiser-driven site in April 1995. Next year, Mr. Savage said, ZDNet expects its first full year of profitability.

His biggest challenge is selecting from the many content partnering opportunities "and then executing extremely rapidly in Internet time."

So far its content partners range from Red Herring and PR Newswire to Business Wire. PointCast and Softbank are just a few of ZDNet's advertisers.

Mr. Savage has been there asking the questions as the future unfolds online.

"A lot of what we had been talking about theoretically for years became very real very rapidly," he said.

And neither ZDNet nor the World Wide Web are likely to slow anytime soon. Already Mr. Savage has shepherded ZDNet into Australia, mainland China, France, Germany, Taiwan and the U.K., and more international growth is planned, with two constants: a solid leadership position and "killer content."

"We're not only trying to operate at breakneck speed, but there aren't any guideposts or road maps to follow," Mr. Savage said. "So it's really fun to chart the course at high speed."

Betcha didn't know: After building ZDNet internationally, all Mr. Savage has to show for it in his free time is a golf game that has suffered and no time for his pastime as a Jimmy Buffett fan.

Vital Stats:
Title:VP-general manager, ZDNet, Cambridge, Mass.
Age/bio:40, born in Deerfield, Mass. B.A. in American history, Harvard University, 1979.
Career highlights:Support specialist, product manager, Data Resources, 1979-84; business development, online media, McGraw-Hill, 1984-88; VP-online services, Prentice Hall division of Simon & Schuster, 1988-92; various managerial positions with Ziff-Davis, 1992-.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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