Saturday, January 31, 2009

Glenn Goldberg of McGraw Hill: SIAA Interview

McGraw Hill has 6 businesses in their Information and Media group: Aviation Week, TV Broadcasting (all ABC affiliates), Business Week, JD Power, Construction, and Platts (energy pricing). Glenn Goldberg is the President of this division. (Their other businesses are in the Education and Financial Services divisions, the latter being basically Standard and Poor's.)

JD Power serves global marketers with surveys (customer satisfaction, etc) and other information in a variety of industries, including: automotive, environmental/energy, and healthcare. Since McGraw acquired them some 4 years ago, they have also moved up the value chain by providing consulting, e.g., how do you launch brands. Surveys are also augmented by sentiment analysis these days, thanks to the recent acquisition of Umbria. This company's computer scientists scrape web sites, such as blogs, to do data mining on relevant postings and aggregate the results demographically.

My comments: These may sound like moderately robust businesses to be in, and revenues in I&M grew about 4% YOY 2007-2008, but increases in profitability seem to have come from restructuring, involving layoffs and reductions in incentive compensation. Meanwhile, Business Week joins the rest of the magazine industry in suffering somewhat from falling ad revenues, as well as the normal recessionary effects. BW is online, of course, but online ads don't compensate for the decline in print ads, since the margins are much lower.

Mr. Goldberg gave good advice when he exhorted information companies to create communities as well as content, curating other people's content for their customers to consume. He also advised aligning technology and business and generally holding people accountable, easy to say but surprisingly hard to do in many companies.

Interesting developments at McGraw Hill in recent years include the use of the AutoDesk web service to connect Construction customers with AutoCAD software, the growth of the Dodge network for aggregating and distributing information about building products, and Platts' continued expansion beyond its roots in petroleum markets to encompass other energy sources.