Entering the Media Business in New York City

Although Los Angeles is the capital of the entertainment industry, New York will forever be the center of the universe. The cultural environments of Los Angeles and New York are polar opposites. Many HBS students have their hearts set for the excitement and buzz of New York and can barely fathom a life in Los Angeles. The HBS Entertainment and Media NYC Trek took place on February 26th and 27th. Over the course of two days, forty students attended company presentations given by industry leaders from Dow Jones & Company, Time Inc., Associated Press, NBC News, Conde Nast Publications, Bertelsmann, AOL, MTV Networks, Sony BMG, and Universal Music.

The cocktail evening with the CEO and other executives from Dow Jones & Company was one of the highlights of the Trek, an event which was generously sponsored by the company. Dow Jones is the leading provider of global business news and information services, and is composed of three divisions: the Consumer Media Group, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and the Far Eastern Economic Review; the Enterprise Media Group which includes Factiva, Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones Licensing Services, Dow Jones Indexes and Dow Jones Financial Information Services; and lastly, the Local Media Group which operates community-based information franchises.

At Conde Nast Publications, the students were introduced to David Carey, the Group President and Publisher of the Conde Nast Business Media Group, a unit of Conde Nast Publications. Conde Nast’s mission is to ignite and nourish passion. Every product created must cause the heart to skip a beat. Carey looked at the media business in a cold and confident way-especially when he stated that almost all Conde Nast magazine titles were either number one or number two in their respective categories. According to Carey, Conde Nast is a company that lives very comfortably in a digital age. The company’s exciting new business publication, Conde Nast Portfolio (www.portfolio.com), premieres in May 2007. The goal of this publication is to set the business agenda and reach out to the younger business executive.

Fifteen HBS students were given the opportunity to sit into the morning news meeting on February 26th, 2007 at the Associated Press, the essential backbone of the world’s information system. Here, at AP, unbiased and accurate news is delivered quickly from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. During this meeting, the Managing Editor made an advance to condense the Anna Nicole Smith story from two stories to one; in other words, he wanted to keep the story down to a minimum. What a relief. AP’s core skill has always been in deciding which news to select among the mess in this world. It is also reassuring to know that Associated Press keeps the camera on two people 24/7: President George Bush and Tiger Woods. Why Tiger Woods? According to CEO Curley, Tiger Woods is the most compelling sports figure in the history of sports.

Those who aspire to pursue the media industry in New York will find the following additional facts of interest:

1. New York is home to the corporate headquarters of the largest broadcast and cable companies (ABC, CBS, NBC).
However, Los Angeles is home to the majority of the production.

2. If you wish to pursue the film entertainment to its fullest capacity, you must, without question, reside in Los Angeles.
However, if you fancy music, media, the fine arts, and fashion, then please happily make your home in New York.

3. Twenty years ago, it was absolutely unheard of for an HBS alumnus to enter the media industry.
According to Tom Curley, the CEO of Associated Press, “Back in the 1980s, an MBA degree combined with a career in news was a red flag.” Today, the pie chart of the industries where HBS alumni work includes a small percentage in this industry. While the Harvard MBA degree is generally disregarded in the Hollywood film industry, the degree is well regarded by certain media companies such as the Dow Jones and Bertelsmann.

4. The digital and internet strategies in today’s media companies must be down-packed.
However, the internet does not have enough power to drive print away. During the Dow Jones company visit, Rich Zannino, CEO of Dow Jones & Company, noted that it’s easier to grasp an overview of world news by reading the print edition. On the other hand, reading the online edition of a newspaper is more conducive to a self-selective behavior. It’s important to understand the full breadth of the human condition.

5. Understand that the work-life balance might be difficult to manage in this industry.
Executives such as Seth Cassel from Sony BMG (HBS’06) likes work to be his life. In order to succeed in an industry such as the music industry, you must hold a passion for music. Simply liking music is insufficient, because you will be working 24/7. Sleep is a luxury; you can sleep when you’re dead. However, if you truly love your vocation, work will never be tedious.

Aspiring media moguls can be comforted by the fact that they do not have to relocate to the enigmatic city of Los Angeles, and that the Harvard MBA degree is truly valued and respected in many New York media companies such as the Dow Jones and Bertelsmann.