Mr. Conlin has been president since 1995, but he now formally adds the CEO title the technology-media giant hasn't used since 61-year-old founder and Chairman Patrick McGovern stepped down as "chief encouragement officer" that year.
Mr. Conlin, a Harvard MBA and onetime journalist at The New York Times and CNN, joined IDG 10 years ago as director of business development.
As president, he has managed IDG through the launch of more than 100 publications and 250 Web sites as well as expansions of IDG conferences and its "For Dummies" book series.
"We want to be in a position to provide an answer for anyone's technology question anywhere in the world," Mr. Conlin said.
During Mr. Conlin's tenure, IDG revenue has more than doubled from $1.2 billion in 1994 to a projected $2.7 billion for the year ending Sept. 30. IDG expects its revenue to grow this fiscal year by a strong 15% -- even as the overall U.S. tech publishing business struggles.
IDG is not tied to one geographic market -- or business. IDG ranks third in estimated U.S. print ad revenue behind Ziff-Davis and CMP Media, but it was the only one of the three to see U.S. print revenue growth last year, according to Adscope, a tracking service.
GROUND TO MAKE UP
CMP's acquisition by Miller Freeman owner United News & Media will leave IDG a distant third in the U.S. market for tech ad revenues and pages, behind Ziff-Davis and CMP/Miller Freeman.
But advertising is only part of the picture: Mr. Conlin said diversification means advertising now contributes less than half of IDG's global revenue, vs. 80% five years ago. IDG, meanwhile, gets more than half of profit and revenue from abroad.
Mr. Conlin presides over a decentralized company where profit and loss responsibility and significant power rest with largely autonomous operating units, such as PC World. One of just 19 people at the corporate headquarters, he said his role is to help set goals, assist and monitor business units, launch new businesses and promote the use of "best practices."
NURTURING THE CULTURE
A key assignment for Mr. Conlin is nurturing a corporate culture built by Mr. McGovern. Mr. Conlin, for example, follows the IDG tradition of evaluating managers on three scores -- financial results, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
Mr. Conlin said he's content to let IDG operating unit managers take the limelight.
"There isn't a premium on personal publicity" at headquarters, he said. "We like to have the products and product champions" out front.
Mr. Conlin's promotion is part of a carefully planned succession.
"It's appropriate to characterize this as an ongoing transition and an ongoing evolution," he said.
Explained Mr. McGovern: "Although I have no thought of retiring, I realize I am not eternal."
Delegating power to Mr. Conlin is the first step in preparing IDG "to last for