NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Fran Hauser has been especially worth watching since last fall, when Time Inc. expanded her portfolio beyond People Digital to add the websites for Entertainment Weekly, Essence, InStyle and People en Espanol.
But this isn't her first show, either. About 10 years ago, she left her post as director of finance for Coca-Cola Enterprises to check out digital media through a job at Moviefone. "Most people thought I was out of my mind," she recalled. She's been in digital ever since.
Ms. Hauser played a key role in Moviefone's sale to America Online, a stock transaction valued at $388 million. After America Online bought Time Warner, too, she started looking for ways AOL and Time Inc. could work together.
Now Ms. Hauser, 40, is navigating some of Time Inc.'s biggest digital properties through the recession -- properties such as People.com, which she helped transform from a site that was very friendly to consumers into one that welcomes both readers and advertisers.
Traffic is still rising quickly. Some 60% of People.com traffic begins on the home page, People says, a testament to the site's strength when it's so easy for users to arrive through links from around the web.
Its shopping function has moved more than $1 million in product, according to People. Last year People Digital bought Celebrity Baby Blog and started People Pets, bids to expand its footprint in very ad-friendly environments.
Helping ad and edit work together
She's working with the editorial teams to create a culture where edit and ad-sales staffs can work together to serve advertisers. That can be tricky, particularly for print veterans accustomed to strict church-and-state separation, but Ms. Hauser doesn't have that background to slow her down.
"We are really focused on not having the advertising be misleading to the consumer," she said. "As long as it's clear to the consumer that it's advertising, then we're fine."
She's also rolling out digital products for which consumers actually pay, such as the new $1.99 People app.
"There's a lot going on," she said, "not so much around putting our existing content behind a pay wall but more about creating premium services that live on top of our content."
Her approach has resonated with her editors.
"She's on the business side, so it's no surprise she's got the business side down," said Mark Golin, editor of People.com. "But I've really never seen anybody who had such a natural grasp for the editorial side. She knows what's interesting. She thinks in the same way an editor does about the consumer."