Ziff Davis Media forges ahead

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To help achieve that goal, the company in February created Ziff Davis Market Experts, a five-person team assembled to focus on market research, consulting, editorial and vendor marketing. The group is an extension of editorial and not part of the sales force.

"What we're trying to do here is find the appropriateness for each brand," said James D. Dunning, Ziff Davis Media chairman, president-CEO. "We're not a magazine com-pany. We're a content provider."

Al Perlman, president of Ziff's b-to-b division, added, "The challenge is to get our publishers to talk more about Ziff Davis Media as a whole company."

Opinion is divided on how successful Dunning has been in repositioning Ziff.

Sam Whitmore, editor of "Media Survey" and a 14-year Ziff employee before launching his own Web site in April 1998, said Dunning has been the antidote to what he called the lax management style at Ziff under its previous owner, Tokyo-based Softbank Corp.

"Talk about swimming upstream," Whitmore said. "All the moves he's been making prove he's a swashbuckler. [Willis Stein] has very little value in and of itself. You need guys like Dunning to create value."

Yet a former Ziff insider, who requested anonymity, said the entrepreneurial spirit that thrived under Softbank has evaporated under Dunning's regime. "People were expected to make mistakes," the source said. "Now, they can't make mistakes anymore and can't try new things, which makes the place less dynamic."

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