Time Inc.’s Jack Griffin: Digital Needs A Single Point Person

Jack Griffin, CEO, Time Inc.

Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) CEO Jack Griffin and Interactive Advertising Bureau president and CEO Randall Rothenberg began talking about the job of chief digital officer about eight weeks ago. Griffin, the Meredith Corp. (NYSE: MDP) veteran had started his new post as Time Inc.’s CEO three months ago.

After taking in the lay of the land at Time Inc., he began formulating the role of CDO, a new title at the publisher, fairly quickly. “I came in with some hypotheses as I started my 100-day plan,” he told paidContent in an interview. “But mostly, I wanted to listen and observe and understand what makes the place tick. One of the things that makes it tick is it’s decentralized structure. There’s a lot of entrepreneurial activity going on. In this day, we have to encourage innovation, but it can only work with someone who can coordinate it. Randall has a deft touch and has had a hand in every aspect of the [media] business. So he was a natural choice.”

Griffin and Rothenberg, who was named IAB head four years ago this month, had known each other for several years, starting when the latter was at consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton. Later on, Rothenberg would work with Griffin as part of the executive’s membership on the IAB board.

Although Rothenberg may be more associated with the advertising side of the media business the last few years, he spent his formative years as a journalist, including serving as an editor, media reporter and advertising columnist at the NYT in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He has also been a contributing editor for Bloomberg, Esquire and Wired before writing a regular column for Advertising Age, which he did for 10 years before joining the IAB.

So as Time Inc.’s digital head, Rothenberg will help set the strategy for the magazines’ editorial and advertising ends. He sees nothing schizophrenic about the role.

“I spent the first half of my career on the editorial side, and my heart still beats around journalism and content,” Rothenberg told paidContent in an interview. “The idea of coming to one of the great journalism companies, a company with this kind of talent, is a dream come true.”

In terms of getting started, will Rothenberg, who officially arrives at Time Inc. in January, have a particular focus to lead off on, say either on content or advertising? “The first thing I’ll be focused on is determining the focus,” he said, noting that he’s been reading Alan Brinkley’s The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century, as preparation. “When you enter any kind of complex organization, the temptation is to boil the ocean and see what works. But that’s the worst place to start.”

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