Reed Business Information creates centralized Internet unit

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For years, b-to-b publishers with print backgrounds have wrestled with various methods of organizing themselves as integrated media companies. Should online expertise reside in a separate division—as in Cygnus Interactive and PennWell’s digital media group—or should Internet activities fall seamlessly within the responsibility of the magazine titles?

Reed Business Information (RBI), one of the largest U.S. b-to-b publishing companies, operated with the latter view until July, when a new centralized Internet division, Reed Business Interactive, was created.

Jeff DeBalko, who had been general manager of eLogic, a Web services division owned by RBI parent Reed Elsevier, heads Reed Business Interactive in his new position as chief Internet officer for RBI. Jim Bridge, formerly technology director for Reed Business, has been named general manager of eLogic as DeBalko's replacement.

DeBalko reports directly to Tad Smith, CEO of RBI U.S., as he did in his previous post.

“Future growth in b-to-b publications will come from their Internet products,” Smith said. “This new group is designed to ensure that all of our resources and focus are applied to successfully growing our electronic revenue.”

While RBI will set the direction and strategy for all the company’s online efforts, “where it makes sense for customers, however, selected publishing groups will continue managing their electronic strategies,” Smith said.

RBI will have full authority over Internet spending and revenue so that the company can take greater advantage of its scale and become more efficient, DeBalko said.

In markets such as construction, entertainment and electronics, the company has to some extent already been able to take advantage of its scale, DeBalko said. The centralized division will bring those advantages to other RBI properties, while also providing a broader platform from which all the units can grow. With centralization, RBI U.S. will also be able to standardize and share best practices, DeBalko said.

“Ultimately, our goal is to become an online company that creates world-class print products,” DeBalko said. “We need to have the mind-set of a great online company because that is what the future holds. It is our job to create and drive that culture.”

Initially, RBI will employ about 50 people, with about half joining the division from other units of the company. “We have great people within our organization, many of whom are talented ‘e’ people,” Smith said, adding, “like every other old and new media company, we simply need more of them.”

The division will focus on four key areas, DeBalko said: e-performance quality and infrastructure; business development, marketing and audience development; interactive sales; and product development.

DeBalko has not finished putting together his team, but he was able to announce three appointments.

Scott Falzone, who was named VP-search earlier this year, has been given the title VP-business development for RBI. Sean Keaveny, who was VP-Web operations, is now VP-e-performance for the new division. Paolo Lemgruber, who had been general manager-online for the Reed Entertainment Group, will head up the centralized sales effort as VP-sales for RBI.

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