PEOPLE;PLAYER OF THE WEEK;CAHNERS PUTS CONSUMER MAGAZINE VET IN CHARGE;BARNET EXPECTED TO CUT RELIANCE ON ADS, EXPLORE NEW OPTIONS IN ALTERNATIVE MEDIA

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Cahners Publishing Co., the nation's largest business-to-business publisher, raised eyebrows when it selected veteran consumer magazine executive Bruce Barnet as its new president-CEO.

"They wanted someone who was market driven," said Mr. Barnet, in his first major interview since succeeding Robert Krakoff, 61, earlier this month. Mr. Krakoff took early retirement but is expected to resurface elsewhere in the industry.

LESS EMPHASIS ON ADS?

Most executives believe Mr. Barnet will move to lessen Cahners' dependence on advertising. And, although about 80% of the company's estimated $500 million in revenue is still derived from print products, Mr. Barnet said he is interested in developing new revenue streams from alternative delivery platforms.

"The business executive always has the need for more unique, timely information," he said. "I'm not here to forecast a formula, I'm here to ask, what does the end user want and deliver it to him-whether it is online, CD-ROM or in print."

With the exception of a few paid-circulation titles like Variety and Publishers Weekly, most of the Cahners titles follow the controlled-circulation strategy that Norman Cahners pioneered when he founded the company in 1946.

DATABASE EXPERIENCE

Mr. Barnet, 50, thinks his background in database marketing and specialized consumer titles will transfer well to his new home. Since 1993, he had been president of Cowles Enthusiast Media, an eclectic group of circulation-driven consumer magazines including Vegetarian Times and Civil War Times Illustrated. Before that, the graduate of Yale University and Columbia Business School spent 22 years at Time Inc. and did a quick stint as president of now-defunct Family Media.

He takes over Cahners as the company is moving back to its business-to-business roots. The company earlier this year sold American Baby, Modern Bride and the rest of its consumer stable to K-III Communications as part of a $1.2 billion divestment by Anglo-Dutch parent company Reed Elsevier.

Within the trade press, the aggressive strategy of growth through acquisitions and start-ups-a path that enabled Cahners to overtake McGraw-Hill as the nation's largest business to business publisher sometime in the mid-1980s-appears to be over as well.

BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS FOCUS

Though Mr. Barnet would not rule out "strategic acquisitions"-the company recently completed the acquisition of Electronic News from International Publishing Corp.-he said Cahners is now entirely focused on business-to-business publishing in 15 market clusters-from computers and electronics to entertainment.

"We want to focus on markets where we have communities," he said. "Our goal is to penetrate those markets in-depth and market new products around the core."

Mr. Barnet's biggest challenge may be to reach the double-digit growth Reed Elsevier has demanded from its U.S. subsidiaries in the past.

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