as its media kingpin
Heading unit to
repurpose edit from myriad outlets
Mention Steve Brill and what often comes to mind,
besides his contentious personality, is some of the most daring media
startups of the past two decades.
First there was American Lawyer, a magazine based on the
notion that lawyers could and would read. Then there was Court TV, built
on the idea that Americans would tune in to sit through lengthy live TV
Most recently was Brill's Content, launched in
the belief that the reading public would find journalists as interesting
as they found themselves.
Now Brill is set to take on what may prove his
most daring challenge yet: Figuring out how to integrate and repurpose
editorial for Primedia's diverse outlets, print and online, that cover the
many segments of the media industry.
The notion of recycling editorial has been around for
decades, long before the internet made it fashionable, but no one has
figured out how to do it, and a number, Primedia included, have lost
millions of dollars trying.
Primedia is forming a new entity within its B2B group, called Media Central.
Under it will fall 172
of its magazines, web sites and other media-related properties formerly
scattered throughout the company. Brill will head up the division.
Among others, the
group will include properties it garnered through its recent acquisition
of Kagan World Media, magazines such as Cable World and Catalog Age, and
all related web properties, including MediaCentral.com, one of the very
first online media trades.
The aim is
plain: to integrate, mesh and smooth over disparate properties that for
years have functioned as discrete islands within the Primedia empire.
As part of the deal, announced yesterday, Primedia also is
49 percent stake in Brill Media Holdings, the company that controls Brillís
Content magazine and Contentville, Brillís e-commerce venture.
turn is receiving a minority stake in Primedia, the size of which was not
disclosed. Neither side opened its wallet for the deal.
sharing of content and talent across platforms will be Brillís primary
"In the past
the titles might have been well positioned in their own vertical segments,
but even across titles in one sector there was very little sharing of
content. Thatís just the way it was, but thatís rapidly
changing," says David Ferm, president and CEO of Primediaís B2B
group, which includes Intertec, the companyís trade magazine division,
and now Media Central in addition to a handful of other B2B groups.
will report to Ferm.
"Frankly, the way
the organization was structured, most of the products were handled as
individual entities and silos," says Ferm. "This is one of the reasons these changes
are occurring, and why [Primedia chairman] Tom Rogers is voicing the
mantra of integration."
According to Ferm,
examples of that integration might include giving a respected Kagan
analyst like Sharon Armbrust a column in Cable World or a
speaking date at a conference arranged by Primediaís trade show
properties would also be drawn into the synergies.
"To take an obvious
example, the magazine is always interested in explaining how the decisions
book publishers make affect books that ultimately end up in bookstores for
consumers to buyÖNow, we'll be able to call on the expertise of the
journalists who produce the newsletter Book Publishing Report to help us
with the Books Section of Brill's Content," said Brill in a press
will also enable cross-platform ad deals that may have been possible
before but were rarely exercised. Media Central will now be able to offer
research, advertising and sponsorships that span multiple titles.
In Brill, the company
believes it has a visionary talent and a proven industry leader at the
helm of its new operation.
"Hereís a very
creative, imaginative guy with a proven track record, content skills and
certainly strong editorial integrity. A lot of these products need to be
refreshed or repositioned, and heís the guy to do it," says Ferm.
Though Brillís various ventures seldom proved
money-makers, he continues to command respect for a certain editorial
The reputations of Brill
and MediaCentral.com will give Media Central a recognizable brand.
"Heís a name and
that doesnít hurt. Youíve got a name and a web site that is very
useful for promotion to the media industry," says one media analyst.
The web site has
taken on a rather neglected look in recent years, containing mostly
Reuters wire reports and features culled from Primediaís trades. But
Ferm promises that the site will be revived and will soon include more
original editorial, as well as becoming the online hub for Media Centralís
Steveís desire is, with all the research reports from Simba and Kagan,
to charge for premium content on the site. There will certainly be a front
porch with free content, but if you want to go deep into a subject there
will be either a pay-per-view or a subscription model, depending on your
needs," says Ferm.
One group of
people who are not yet entirely clear about what the
"integration" will mean is the magazine staffs.
press release, Brill suggested that one of the driving synergies among the
new properties would be content-sharing and having writers produce
material for various publications, as well as contributing original
material to MediaCentral.com.
Some staffers at Brillís
Content have reportedly expressed concern that they will soon be asked to
write for Primediaís trade magazines, though they were assured at a
staff meeting that this would not happen.
Writers at Primediaís
titles express similar concerns.
really knows how the writers will contribute across the properties, and we
donít know where some of this internet content is going to go,"
said one trade magazine staffer.
Spitzer is a staff writer for Media Life.
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