Penton restructures New Media

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In mid-March, Penton Media established an as-yet-unnamed division that will focus on the creation of next-generation online businesses. Prescott Shibles, who had been VP-new media for Penton and its predecessor, Prism Business Media, since 2003, heads the new unit, reporting to Penton CEO John French.

“When I took over the job for Prism, we had $2.2 million in online business and eight people in my department,” Shibles said. “At the end of 2007, our online revenue was north of $50 million and the department had grown to 123 people.” Shibles said his new title hasn't been determined.

Shibles, who now heads a four-person team concentrating on new ventures and future uses of technology for Penton, said a key issue for online media “is the shift from Web sites being repositories for content to their becoming true communities online. It’s about getting people to really engage with one another and share knowledge—without giving up the core of what we do as journalists.”

This community model “will be fully adopted with a big launch we have planned for midsummer,” he said. “It will deal with how technology is changing business.” The venture will include an umbrella brand with a network of sites underneath it, he added, declining to say more.

Another new project for Shibles is taking the Penton Portfolio ad network, which sells remnant online advertising for Penton sites to nonendemic advertisers and expanding it by inviting other b-to-b publishers to join.

“A lot of people are talking about doing this,” Shibles said. “Our differentiator is that we will have a network of b-to-b publishers with sites and brands that have incredible reputations in their respective industries.”

Shibles and his group also will be redesigning and relaunching the Web site. Its print companion, Grounds Maintenance, ceased publication in 2006, but the online-only version of the title may become a model for future Web-only publications, he said.

The Penton New Media Group Shibles previously led is now led by two executives who retained their previous titles: Doug MacDonald, executive director of online sales development, and Lisa Parks, VP-production. MacDonald will oversee sales and product development, while Parks takes charge of operations.

Shibles noted that MacDonald has both print and online publishing experience and has worked in b-to-b media and general business media during his career. “Doug is a great communicator, and that’s something we need with an organization of this size.”

Shibles added, “People may wonder, ‘Why is your VP-production expanding her scope in New Media?’ ” He said Parks has pursued online opportunities, including the integration of print and electronic advertising production.

“Lisa and I have worked very closely together for the past four years. She was able to troubleshoot and solve a lot of our process challenges,” Shibles said. “Our goal is to leverage Lisa’s expertise to continue to create process efficiencies and to raise the level of consistency on launches as well as ongoing operations,” he said, adding that Penton has been introducing six redesigned sites each month since January.

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