Tasca focuses on Internet growth in new role at Penton

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Nino Tasca joined Penton Media on July 1 as VP-Internet technology. He reports to Jasmine Alexander, the company's senior VP-CIO. Tasca, with more than a decade of IT experience, spent six years at Ziff Davis Media (from 2001 to 2007). He became CTO-Internet for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in 2007. In early 2009, he co-founded Meme Networks, a company that builds online membership clubs for enthusiasts in niche categories such as auto racing. Digital Directions asked him about his plans for Penton's Internet strategy.

Digital Directions: What are your responsibilities at Penton?

Tasca: My job is pretty simple—to help drive Penton's growth across all digital initiatives. With no disrespect to anyone who's worked here, we're not taking advantage of everything the Internet has to offer. Our goal is to expand beyond what we've done in the past. Along with our CIO, Jasmine Alexander, and the rest of our team, I will do whatever is needed to accomplish that mission.

DD: What is your top priority for the first few months?

Tasca: My No. 1 priority is to create a technical strategy and roadmap for our digital identity. So the first thing I want to do is go out and meet all the market leaders—to talk to them and find out what their market needs and plans are.

I want to stress that the roadmap has to be agile. You can put together the greatest plan in the world, but you can't foresee everything. The digital strategy must allow us to be nimble enough to shift and react as market conditions change.

DD: How centralized is your department?

Tasca: Penton is a large company, so it's impossible for a centralized team to have the industry knowledge we need in all of our markets. Over the last 18 months or so, Penton has been placing people at the brand level to help with Internet product development. The central team relies on those people to understand their markets' needs and develop a vision for digital products and solutions. The central Internet technology team helps them turn that vision into reality.

At the same time, there are certain efficiencies that come from having a centralized Internet IT function. As our CEO [Sharon Rowlands] has said, we don't want to swing too far toward one end of the pendulum or the other. That is, we don't want too much work done at the brand level, which means there's no synergy, or all the work centralized—which means there's no market knowledge.

DD: Would you centralize the content management system?

Tasca: We're looking at everything we do, and content management is part of that. There's a lot we can do to create efficiencies across our content management systems. When the system is as centralized as possible, we can have a small team to manage it.

DD: Have you thought about whether the system will be open-source?

Tasca: That's absolutely the way we're going. Open-source is a big component of what we're doing.

DD: What are some of the digital revenue opportunities you see for Penton in the near future?

Tasca: We're looking at mobile opportunities, video, product comparisons and globalization.

DD: Please say more about the product comparisons?

Tasca: We want to make sure the Web experience for users who are trying to find out about products or companies is optimized. For example, at my former company Ziff Davis, PC Magazine had a function that made it easy for users to compare products like digital cameras, smartphones or laptops. We want to take that same type of capability and apply it to some of the markets at Penton.

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