ABM’s new CEO and some thoughts on the future of business media

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New ABM CEO Clark Pettit

For the past several months, I’ve served on the search committee to find a new president and CEO of the business-to-business media association, American Business Media. Today that committee disbanded as the Board of Directors of ABM made official the hiring of Clark Pettit as President and CEO, succeeding Gordon T. Hughes II. (I’ve included the press release at the bottom of this post.)

Serving on the committee was a great experience for me. The responsibility was at times taxing — especially, one day-long series of interview sessions. Other times, it was genuinely fun because of the wit of the committee members and candidates. (Other members of the committee: Gary Fitzgerald, CEO of Meister Media (chairman); Frank Anton, CEO of Hanley Wood; Glenn Goldberg, president of information and media at McGraw-Hill Cos.; Anthea Stratigos, CEO of Outsell; and Charles McCurdy, CEO of Canon Communications.)

Most importantly, it was encouraging to me to work closely with CEOs of media companies who are committed not only to re-focusing their own companies in this era of challenge and opportunity, but who are also committed to refocusing a century-old trade association; a group I believe is uniquely qualified to help serve its members through a time of unprecedented change.

As Charles McCurdy says in the release, the board “made a conscious decision to select a candidate from outside the B-to-B media industry.” I hope I’m not speaking out-of-school by saying the need for the “outsider” credential became apparent to me when I realized that, despite their incredible accomplishments and credentials, the “insiders” seemed burdened by linear thinking. As important as I believe it is to have institutional knowledge or industry insight, there are times when a total re-boot is necessary.

Pretty much everyone I respect in business-to-business media — from advertisers to media company executives to editors to start-up “journa-preneurs” — believes business media is long-past the need for tweaking — it needs a total re-boot. Everyone I respect in the business-to-business arena knows that the status-quo is a formula for failure.

I agreed to be on the search committee because I took seriously the challenge to find someone who I believe can continue to make-real the commitment that innovators in the industry are committed to: moving business media into a future well “beyond publications and events.”

In addition to my own company, I’m current serving my third term on the ABM board and also have the privilege of being one of two “outside” directors for a family-owned Itasca, Ill.-based business-to-business media company, Putman Media. Getting up-close and personal views of several media companies that serve various vertical industries provide me the confidence to know that certain types of business media companies have the unique insight, understanding and relationships that often make them a foundational cornerstone of the markets they serve. They don’t just provide communications media for their industries: they provide the information, data and marketplace-intelligence their industries depend on to conduct daily transactions and make fast-changing operational decisions.

I’m often considered an “outlier” member of ABM, not only for the nature of the work Hammock Inc. does, but for my (sometimes, too) early adoption — and advocacy — of new forms of media. However, I’ve also been very vocal in my belief that even the most “traditional” business-to-business media company often has a greater “digital” opportunity than many of the types of consumer media most of my tech-world friends are focused on.

First off, the business-model of business-to-business media is more in-line with what works on the web: sponsorship, data, training, events, networking, directories, lead-generation and decision-oriented search (or “research”) services — those are businesses B-to-B companies pioneered before the web existed.

But business-to-business media needs an industry focus and, I believe, organization (and someone leading it) that recognizes new opportunities require new priorities and new understanding. Moreover, unless there is such a group working with all the constituencies of “business” to help weave together the raveling threads of “business media,” we’ll all be reinventing wheels and developing competing standards well into the future.

Last month, I was in New York to join a couple of other search committee members for a “breakfast-interview” with Clark, the newly named CEO. The topic of content platforms led me to ask him a question related to XML standards. His detailed, but layman-friendly answer, displayed that he’s someone who knows more about XML than what the initials stand for — he’s someone who understands the collective opportunity that occurs when competitors agree to work-together on certain standards and guidelines that serve common-good.

No doubt, there will continue to be new business-to-business media companies that emerge (for example, TechCrunch) who will compete with well-entrenched business-to-business media companies (for example, IDG), but there will continue to be the need for an organization — an industry voice, advocate and source — that can serve all sizes and shapes of business media companies in helping them discover and take advantage of opportunities to grow.

My congratulations to ABM for having Clark as its new CEO.

ABM media release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AMERICAN BUSINESS MEDIA NAMES CLARK PETTIT AS PRESIDENT AND CEO

NEW YORK, July 8, 2010 – American Business Media, the leading voice for the Business-to-Business media industry, today announced that it has named Clark Pettit as President and CEO, succeeding Gordon T. Hughes II. Pettit has extensive experience driving digital transformation in the entertainment and music industries. He has held key technology and senior management positions at major public media companies and at a digital media services startup within a major consulting firm, and has also advised private equity funds investing in media companies. His work in the U.S. market is enhanced by a global perspective gained from significant experience on the ground in Europe and Asia.

“The ABM Board made a conscious decision to select a candidate from outside the B-to-B media industry,” said Charles G. McCurdy, ABM Chairman and President and CEO of Canon Communications, a major B-to-B media company. “Chosen from a wide and diverse pool of over 100 candidates, Clark has a strong and compelling mix of management and transformational experience in the technology and digital solutions and services markets.”

McCurdy added, “Success for the American B-to-B media industry lies in driving the evolution of how critical content is employed, decisions are made, and marketing services are provided across the B-to-B sector of the U.S. economy. Extending beyond a strong base of publications and events, these activities are increasingly digital and web-based. They’re also increasingly tied into the global economy. Clark’s appointment follows a thorough strategic analysis of ABM’s role in helping member companies address those issues. His experience set matches our needs exceptionally well.”

Pettit has a degree in chemical engineering but began working in IT early in his career. In the mid-1990s he moved into the music industry, starting as an IT executive for EMI Music in its international markets before taking on the role of VP-Global Digital Operations & Asset Management in EMI’s New York office. From there, he moved to Ascent Media Group, a division of Liberty Media, as SVP in its global digital media group, with responsibility for operations and technology across multiple digital service lines. Later, as General Manager for North America and EVP-Product Strategy for Accenture Digital Media Services, he helped establish and grow a business providing global digital media services to media and entertainment, news, telecom and other major clients. In addition, Pettit has operated an independent media consultancy focused on the technology and digital solutions and services markets, working with large media companies and private equity investors in media firms.

“The B-to-B media industry is currently grappling with fundamental changes in the ways that businesses get and use information,” Pettit said. “Many of these changes parallel the ways that the consumer-focused media industry has been transforming, particularly through digital media and internet connected technologies. I believe that my experience in managing transformational change, embracing these new technologies and behaviors, and finding new business and revenue models will be directly relevant to ABM, its members, and the B-to-B media industry.”

“Going forward,” he added, “ABM will partner with member companies to enhance its leadership role, while delivering new thought leadership, products, and services to members that better enable their success. At the same time, we will continue to fight for our members’ interests in Washington and develop new industry standards.”

About American Business Media: Founded in 1906, American Business Media is positioned at the center of the global B-to-B ecosystem. As the only industry association focused across the full spectrum B-to-B media industry – which includes print publications, events, digital media and business information – ABM delivers intelligence to industry professionals worldwide, including on Madison Avenue and Wall Street, and to policymakers in Washington, D.C. ABM’s member companies reach an audience of more than 100 million professionals and represent nearly 6,000 print and online brands and over 1,000 trade shows, with well over $20 billion in annual revenues. For more information, visit www.AmericanBusinessMedia.com.

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Media Contact:
Laura Brophy
lbrophy@marketcompr.com
212-537-5177, Ext 2