Careers: Interviews
Internationally Renowned Entrepreneur, and Executive: Merrill Brown, Founder & Principal, MMB Media LLC

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., DF/NPA, MVP, CNP has an exclusive interview with Merrill Brown.

Merrill BrownMerrill Brown is the founder and principal of MMB Media LLC, which provides clients with management and strategy consulting, corporate, editorial and program development, business analysis and marketing services. Since the founding of MMB Media, clients have ranged from companies in the news, information and wireless businesses to a large foundation. Brown serves as Chairman of the Board of, the leading citizen journalism company in the world.

Brown is also a partner in Propeller LLC, a New York consultancy, and served from 2005 through December 2007 as National Editorial Director of News for the 21st Century: Incubators of New Ideas (News 21), part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.

Before establishing MMB Media, Brown served as Senior Vice President, RealNetworks' RealOne Services from August 2002 through August 2003 and was responsible for all facets of the RealOne programming business including programming, subscription sales, marketing, advertising sales and technology. During his tenure, RealOne expanded subscription programming offerings in news, sports, entertainment and music and grew from 750,000 paid subscribers to over 1,000,000.

Brown became the first Editor in Chief of in August 1996 after serving as acting managing editor for the July launch of the service. He became Senior Vice President in August 2000. During his tenure, the fledgling company grew to become one of the most visited news offerings on the Web, maintaining a position as the No. 1 online news provider since 1999.

Prior to joining MSNBC in May 1996, Brown was a media and communications consultant whose work included strategic development work at Time Inc., NBC, U S West and a score of other media ventures (1995-96). While at Time, he served as consulting senior editor of Money magazine, developing online and Internet services for the publication. He also served as acting editor for Time Magazine Daily (the periodical's daily online news operation) and as a consulting editor for Time magazine. During that time, Brown also served as a launch consultant for NBC Desktop Video, designing the network program plan and creating the network's on-air look for NBC's business news service delivered to personal computers.

Brown was one of the initial strategists responsible for creating the Courtroom Television Network (Court TV). As a founder of the cable network, Brown worked on all facets of the network's operation leading up to its July 1991 launch. As senior vice president, corporate & program development, he oversaw program planning, advertising, promotion, marketing, public relations and development of day-to-day management of the cable network (1990-1994).

From 1985 to 1990, Brown was editor in chief of Channels magazine, repositioning the bi-monthly as a highly successful television business monthly, tripling the amount of ad pages in three years. Channels was named a National Magazine Award finalist for general excellence during Brown's tenure.

Brown was associated with the Washington Post from 1979 to 1985, serving as a financial reporter (1979-1982), New York financial correspondent (1982-1984) and director of business development, Washington Post Company (1984-1985). Prior to that, Brown was a financial reporter at the Washington Star (1978-1979), Washington correspondent for Media General Newspapers (1975-1978), a reporter at the Winston-Salem Sentinel (1974-1975) and reporter and freelance critic at the St. Louis Post Dispatch (1973-1974).

Brown has also made numerous television appearances, including the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (1980-1990), as a regular media analyst for CNBC and FNN (1988-1990) and on dozens of other major broadcast and cable news programs. Brown also serves on the boards of Smashing Ideas, Inc., the Center for Citizen Media, New West Publishing, the International Women's Media Foundation, iFocus, the Institute for the Connected Society, Project Agape, and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:26: Merrill profiles how he got to his present position and what his current role entails.

:02:42: Can you share key leadership lessons from each of your prior roles?
"....Always leave time to stay current....Focus is a keen thing....make good and conscious decisions about what you are going to engage in and not let your calendar be dictated by others or your priorities dictated by the flow of events around you.....Make sure, with the key people around you, that you have a key sense (of them), both in terms of the non-work issues that could affect their working lives and in terms of how they deal with the daily challenges...."

:05:06: What would you say is your greatest success and why?
"....I've been involved in a number of things but the thing that stands out is that I was handed the challenge in 1996 of launching the website that became, which is one of the most profitable and most widely used news sites in the world...."

:07:42: What are the critical success factors for any startup?
"...Focus....Resource management....Culture.... would be my view of what startup people really need to have their eye on...."

:10:17: How do you see the following affecting media: demographics, culture, technology, economic models, and globalization?
"....All these businesses are going to experience over the next 20 to 30 years a dramatic migration from a historic platform to a new platform and getting the timing of that right is enormously challenging...."

:12:37:  What advertising models will be successful in the future and how is this changing from current models?
"....The notion that a panel of a thousand people put together by Nielsen would be responsible for making billions of dollars in decisions about how advertising money is allocated is just not a survivable model over time. It's imprecise and on some level even preposterous...."

:15:53: What are your plans for
"....People....the network....third party distribution....really are the focus now that we've made enormous progress in getting the technology right and getting our site right...."

:18:08: Please provide your forecast of the top media technology trends and what are their opportunities to business?
"....the mobility that allows us to consume anything, anywhere, under almost any circumstance is really a big deal and can't be understated....User generated content in its many different definitions is another very important component....The local revolution and how information is consumed and how commercial undertakings manage their business is another one of these big areas that I think is going to be really important over the next five to ten years...."

:21:03: What are your lessons for managing change within an organization?
"....Take change planning seriously...have a plan....Stick to the plan the best you can.....Make sure change is well communicated....Make sure you have change agents in the right places....Take HR seriously...."

:23:49: Merrill comments on some of the unexpected twists and experiences in his career.

:24:59: With your incredible history in the news and information field, how do you assess the struggles that newspapers and other news outlets are having today?
"....The newspaper industry is not in a cyclical downturn that it is going to rebound from, it's in a dramatic fundamental change....They (newspaper industry) are going to have to move very quickly, they need to become digitally focused and instead of being merely about one slice of their market....they need to re-expand again and they need to become regional, digital information hubs...."

:27:56 Will this trend continuing to build out spread globally?
"....This deterioration of the business model will happen more slowly in the U.K. and Western Europe where you can still go to a street corner and see six to ten newspapers....But there is a certain inevitability of all of this...."

:28:51: What are the issues that the decline in the news business suggest for public affairs and civic discourse?
"....It's a new market place that's emerging and it's going to be structured differently than the historic one....The driving force of the daily local newspaper isn't going to be what it once was but I think there is a marketplace for information that is sustainable, it will just take different forms than it does today...."

:30:51: We have been talking about newspapers and these kinds of mediums, but do you see the same kind of situations with magazines?
"....Magazines have a sense of glamour and portability about them and also have an evergreen nature (meaning you pick up a monthly magazine today and the content is of the same value a week from today as it is today) and that makes them less susceptible to the kind of rapid deterioration (as with newspapers)...."

:33:15: Merrill comments on some of the implications of the changes including media usage and media consumption.


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