Scott Flanders is the president and CEO of Irvine-based, Orange County Register-owner Freedom Communications until July 1, when he becomes the first non-Hefner CEO of Playboy Enterprises. Folio, a magazine/online network for magazine and e-network professionals, did a breezy Q&A with Flanders recently, and what's interesting is what the Money Bunny did not say about his time at Freedom.
But first, in light of the possibly fatal woes being experienced at Register/Freedom, it's interesting to learn Flanders is still optimistic about print.
FOLIO:: During the Playboy's last earnings call, interim CEO Jerome Kern said the company was eying "radical" changes to the print business model. What are your thoughts about turning that portion of the business around?
Flanders: I'm a big believer in print--particularly the viability for glossy magazines. That reader experience can't and won't be duplicated online, even where I see the reader technology moving. What Playboy is confronting is an advertising recession. Playboy is having to shrink to grow in the future. I don't believe the magazine has lost its relevance. It's the largest read men's magazine in the world, including the Web site that generates over 3 million unique visits per month and almost 50 million page views. I believe the magazine will come back.
Shrink it to make it stronger? So that's what he was doing at Freedom. He also famously tride to farm out production, copy editing and other tasks to Third World countries. Perhaps his first Miss March will hail from Myanmar.
More interesting is how Flanders DOES NOT answer what he is asked here:
FOLIO:: What about your experience at Freedom Communications, and elsewhere throughout your career, has prepared you to serve as chief executive at Playboy?
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Flanders: I have operated in the media business my entire career and have taken on situations with businesses in transition. Everywhere I've gone I've been a change agent. In 1999, I joined Columbia House, which was a $1.5 billion marketer of music and VHF tapes right before Napster was released and DVDs emerged. We had a business that was over 50 years old, that started in the same timeframe as Playboy, that needed to migrate into the new model, including online. I think that singular experience is most analogous to the opportunities for Playboy.
First, notice that Flanders does not even mention Freedom in his answer. And Playboy shareholders are supposed to be encouraged that he was at Columbia House right before other formats made it irrelevant? Even before Playboy, Freedom and Columbia House, he showed an amazing knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to one anonymous commenter to the Folio interview:
Flanders is a bean counter--he has traditionally had little connection to editorial content. Prior to working at Freedom, he was in the book business in Indianapolis, squeezing out profit margins from a dying business model. He is not a marketer, and I question he understands the emerging online media markets.
What do they call the opposite of a turn-around artist?