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"Hard Work Pays Off" – Exclusive Q&A with Alan Meckler, Chairman and CEO, Jupitermedia Corporation

Jeremy Geelan Talks with the Man Behind Internet.com, the Internet World Trade Show, and Now Jupitermedia

(March 23, 2006 - 10:30 AM) - Jupitermedia, Jupiterweb, Jupiterresearch, Jupiterimagesin the seven brief years since selling Mecklermedia, the Chairman and CEO of Jupitermedia, Alan Meckler (pictured), has crammed in what most business leaders would happily have accepted as their entire lifetime's achievement. SYS-CON Media group publisher and editorial director Jeremy Geelan caught up with him to celebrate the new i-technology year, and here's what he had to say...
JEREMY GEELAN: Thanks for taking the time to speak with SYS-CON Media. Your industry reputation naturally precedes you, but for anyone reading this who has been living in a cave for the past decade, can you just summarize what's been happening with you since selling Mecklermedia to Penton in November 1998?

ALAN MECKLER: The same old stuff. Building a public company. Of course there have been twists along the way. We became Internet.com Corporation and went public in June 1999. The model was original content spread over a network of tech web sites. Things were great until the bottom fell out of the Internet ad market in the Spring of 2000. By 2001 we had to change the model. We kept the content but started to evolve. We created a trade show group in 2001, bought great and undervalued Web assets such as the Earthweb assets and Jupiter Research (2002). Also we had 9/11—[which] hurt all of us. We changed our name to Jupitermedia in the Fall of 2002. By 2003 we started to make money and moved into selling images. (That is a whole [separate] essay, on why and how we did this.)

GEELAN: In other words, in the seven brief years since selling Mecklermedia you appear to have crammed in what most business leaders would happily have accepted as their entire lifetime's achievement. Is that a function primarily of the Internet, or primarily of Alan M. Meckler?

MECKLER: Hard work pays off. The harder you work the luckier you get (they say!). But it is better to be luckier than good.

More seriously, I have surrounded myself with terrific colleagues. 55 people from Mecklermedia came over with me to form the present company and most are still with me. I might have a bit of vision, but [it] sure helps to have some great workers!
GEELAN: You predicted back in the September 2000 issue of Business 2.0—in a piece entitled "I Want My N/TV!"—that it was only a matter of time before trade print magazine would go the way of the dinosaur and that the future of B2B publishing was 100% online. What was it precisely made you so certain so early on of the exact course of events that we have all of course seen unfold since?

MECKLER: Glad you mentioned this. I am proud of that prediction and glad it was in print for the record. I made a lot of predictions in 1994 through 1996 that have been on the mark, but I have no written or Web proof.

More specifically, our own experience at Mecklermedia with converting print titles to Web sites in’96 and ’97 got me to thinking about the death of print (for Tech)—which was a sure shot by 2000. Another point: I am a trained historian (Ph.D. in American history) and have had the advantage of observing and working and then making strategic decision based on what I have witnessed and trends that are appearing.

When you created the Internet World trade show did you ever think it would grow to the size it did?

MECKLER: I had an inkling that it would be big, but never dreamt about what actually took place. I literally used to pinch myself in the years 1994-1997 to believe my good fortune. 
GEELAN: You once compared Fred Rosen, CEO of COMDEX producer Key3Media, to the captain of the Titanic. Nonetheless, your own rival cdXpo didn't thrive—was it a question of not being able to re-heat a souffle?

Taking on Rosen was a cakewalk. I knew that COMDEX was dead when we embarked on our cdXpo. I gambled that we could unseat COMDEX, have a solid first show, and then have our event become a small but focused event for that week in Las vegas every November. We almost pulled it off, and in fact if I had not turned to images in late 2003, we would have made it because as we know COMDEX folded. All in all I am glad how it turned out.

I got myself into all sorts of hot water recently by asking "Are We Blogging Each Other To Death?" Does your own experience with corporate blogging--in which you were one of the pioneers, having started your "Internet Media Commentary" blog in February 2003, lead you to believe that in the future there will be more CEO blogs being launched...or fewer? Why?

I doubt you will see CEOs blog the way I do. Being the largest stockholder as well as Chairman gives me some leeway that the average CEO would never have. No hired gun is going to take the chance of being frank—particularly if he has to report to a Board of Directors.

Writing a blog has its burdens—one, I have to worry about public information—that cramps my style. Also it is a lot f pressure to write three or more times a week. But now I have a following so I feel I need to keep it going.

GEELAN: Blogspotters will be struck by the difference between your blog, written as you say with the safety net of being the largest stockholder in Jupitermedia Corp, and the COO blog of say Sun's Jonathan Schwartz, where he possibly has to look over his shoulder a bit more carefully. Yet neither of you permit feedback. Isn't a blog where the feedback functionality is permanently disabled a little like a refrigerator with no icebox; what's to come for?

I had feedback for about 6 months, but the [feedback] spam overwhelmed me. When we unplugged comments about 5 months ago I was getting 20 spam comments a day—a real pain, I enjoyed the comments.

Are there also SoX implications, given that Jupiter's a public company?

MECKLER: SOX stinks. I do not think it prevents fraud. It is a waste of stockholders’ money. There is a movement to cut back some SOX reporting for companies with market caps below $750M—“Amen.” It costs us about $2M a year to be SOX-compliant.

Seth Godin has written that blogs work when they are based on six things: Candor, Urgency, Timeliness, Pithiness, Controversy, and Utility; if a blogger can't deliver on at least four of the six, he says, they shouldn’t bother to blog at all.

MECKLER: Probably true, but I never take Seth Godin too seriously…

You have turned JupiterImages into one of the leading images companies in the world, with over seven million images online, and turned the division into such a powerhouse that you're now I notice describing Jupitermedia itself as "a leading global provider of original images, information and research for creative, information technology and business professionals." When did you first realize that images represented such a huge market opportunity for you?

October 2003, about 6 months after our first image purchase. I could not believe the profit margins—I was hooked and saw several openings that Getty and Corbis had missed. We are now executing on those openings.

So what you're saying is that the Internet's role for you, for JupiterImages, is as a distribution channel—with no promotion cost and no inventory cost. Does that mean that there are other business opportunities this big that may still lie ahead for Jupitermedia? Might we see Jupitermusic, for example? Or even Jupitersoft?

Correct to a point—however we still need to direct mail and place spot ads for the image division. But this will change in about 5 years. We just made our first music deal—BBM.net, very small but very interesting. Many more chapters to come for sure.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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