IDG chooses self-styled 'media guy' Kenealy as new CEO

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It came as a bit of a surprise last month when IDG Corp. named Pat Kenealy its CEO, succeeding Kelly Conlin. After all, Conlin, unlike other chieftains in the industry, had survived the tech wreck and was by many accounts a cool operator during difficult times.

But that was then and this is now. Kenealy, who most recently ran IDG Ventures, a $560 million venture capital fund financed by IDG, joined the Boston-based technology publisher in 1986 as founder and publisher of Digital News and was later promoted to CEO of IDG’s PC World Communications. He’s launched several publications, including Multimedia World, The WEB magazine and PC World Online. He recently talked to BtoB about his new role.

BtoB: What’s atop your agenda to combat the ad drought? What sorts of sales and marketing programs are you going to bring to IDG?

Kenealy: We’re going to fall back on our annual research to find out what our customers want and shuttle back that information to advertisers. There’s going to be a renewed emphasis on getting publishers back in front of the person who controls the product.

For the last three or four years, media buying has become very institutional. There’s a lot of information among say, HPC, [Hewlett Packard Compaq] IDG and the ad agencies involved. We need to shorten the link in communication.

BtoB: Why are you going to do any better than Kelly Conlin?

Kenealy: We come from completely different worlds. I’ve always been a publisher. I’ve started magazines, fixed magazines and crashed magazines. I’m a media guy, one of the IDG barons at the edge of a [publishing] empire. We need to give a little more authority to publishers to reverse the [ad] crunch. We also need to move even more in the direction of a decentralized approach.

BtoB: You have a track record for building out media properties with positive results, particularly as publisher of PCWorld. Do you have similar plans for any other properties in IDG’s portfolio?

Kenealy: IDG is unique among the IT press in that we’re private, have tons of cash and no debt, which are three qualities that will help us grow. Along with the ownership of [computer research firm] IDC, I see us putting money behind existing products and starting some new stuff.

BtoB: Aside from bioinformatics—IDG launched Bio IT World in March—what are some of the other markets that are ripe for tech publishing?

Kenealy: We just launched [in August] CSO for the securities industry, which is a white-hot market in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. That’s an example of a market that is getting significant investments, with new careers being defined and tons of capital spending, and IT budgets to go along with it.

We just helped to launch Cosmopolitan China. Companies know that we’ve been on the ground in China for 12 years and have the publishing experience there, just like we do in Russia. [IDG publishes in 85 countries.]

Other emerging markets are in wireless computing, Web services, PC convergence. There are a lot of new markets out there. The IDG method is to go into these markets earlier than most, then export the products. And if they’re not working, bring them back.

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