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The Digital Transformation of a Print Enterprise, with Former Conde Nast CDO Fred Santarpia

Episode 339
How do you bring a media giant into the digital realm? Fred Santarpia shares how he’s done it multiple times.

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You may have heard that print is dead. Or at least it’s dying. 

While those statements are not entirely true — there are still very successful print newspapers, magazines, and books out in the world — they do give a bit of insight into the world we’re currently living in that leans more digital every day. 

As such, there is a greater need to bring traditional enterprises like publishing houses and magazines into the digital world. That’s where Fred Santarpia enters the picture. 

Fred is the former Chief Digital Officer of Conde Nast, and his job was to transform brands like Vogue, The New Yorker, Wired, and GQ from strictly print offerings to digital powerhouses. When he came on board, he explains that building the digital and video side of the business meant he was literally starting from nothing:

“We started from zero. That was a blank piece of paper when I got there. So that included everything from really charting the strategy, securing the funding to fund what was effectively a new division of the company, building the technology and the infrastructure to support our video production and distribution, securing the distribution deals, and the revenue operations infrastructure, and frankly, probably most importantly, attracting top digital talent into a company, which at the time was very much only known for its excellence in print. …That startup kind of environment inside of the broader company really allowed us to build a very special culture and prove that digital success at Conde Nast was indeed possible.”

On this episode, Fred explains to Ian the various trials and tribulations he had to go through at Conde Nast, the ins and outs of acquiring new digital properties, and what it means to be a Chief Digital Officer, a relatively new position in many media organizations.

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Quotes from Fred:

“It is very, very hard for you to start thinking about different ways to grow and diversify your business if your foundation is broken.”

“Whenever I looked at an editorial property as a potential acquisition target, it was always about honoring what I thought Conde Nast was, which was a home for the editorial voices that really matter and that are doing fantastic work in journalism.”

“I very much believe that you can’t force an audience to come to you. You have to go with the audience.”

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