Association of online publishers Helping media owners build better digital business

IDG CEO Bob Carrigan on making apps for lead gen

Bob CarriganThis is an extract from The Thought Leader interview: Bob Carrigan by Art Kleiner, originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of strategy+business magazine, published by Booz & Company Inc. Used with permission. Bob is speaking at our B2B Conference on 14 March - last few tickets available.

On IDG’s Tech Briefcase app and lead generation: …Our audience includes a lot of IT and tech professionals, walking around with smartphones and tablets in their workplaces. They’re looking for content, but their devices are not optimised for viewing in-depth reports. So we place an app called Tech Briefcase on their mobile device; we distribute it through the iTunes store but ask users to register with us when they first open it. We learn their preferences through the registration process, and then the app provides those users abstracts of the types of white papers they want. They can bookmark the ones they like and retrieve the full document later on their laptop. We went to great expense to create this mobile app; we did focus groups and utility tests. It was more like software development than traditional magazine publishing. If you give people exactly what they want and you respect their preferences, they’re willing to give you information about themselves. We progressively capture richer and richer data about them, and then we can reach very specific subsets through highly targeted programs, drawing in material from any of our publications. On apps and magazine publishers’ digital replicas of print editions: Many publishers seem to think that digital replica apps are the future, and they love it. They think they can put the genie of online publication, with all that loss of control, back in the bottle. They may add animation, slide shows, or video. Just to be clear, we publish app replicas of some of our own magazines, and we believe in them. But as a sign of the future, they’re not all that exciting; in fact, they’re somewhat limited. We’ve found more substantial opportunity in creating service-oriented software-like applications that blend our magazine content, conferences, and websites. For example, Macworld is the most successful Apple-oriented computer magazine in print. Instead of creating a digital replica, we created the Macworld Daily Reader app. It’s gotten more than 250,000 downloads. It doesn’t look anything like the magazine; it’s a dynamic, very slick, mini version of our website. These apps, and our mobile device innovations, are all part of our evolution from print media to a more interactive media company. On how media companies can develop: They have to change their mind-set: to rethink and rebuild their ways of delivering content and advertising, and connecting with their prospects. Media companies have to become more like technology companies… In any media company, you have to do a lot of unfamiliar things these days: Conduct more in-house R&D, hire some young engineers and turn them loose, take courses, go to tech meetings, and develop strategic partnerships with technology firms. And reinvent yourself fast. I like to quote David Lloyd George, the English prime minister in the 1920s, who said, “The most dangerous thing in the world is to try to leap a chasm in two jumps.” Even at IDG, we had to let go of a lot of old practices. There’s danger in doing that, but also immense opportunity. Ironically, in letting go, a company becomes more capable.

This is an extract from The Thought Leader interview: Bob Carrigan by Art Kleiner, originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of strategy+business magazine, published by Booz & Company Inc. Used with permission. Find out more about our B2B Conference on 14 March, where Bob is a speaker.