Hearst’s Bennack Talks Electronic Revenue

CEO sends rare letter on eve of Hearst anniversary

Hearst Corp. expects its revenue to be nearly equally split between print and digital in 2012, the year the media company marks its 125th anniversary, CEO Frank Bennack Jr. said.

“Our revenue will be nearly equally split between print and electronic media, and digital revenue will approach the company’s total revenue in our centennial year, 1987,” he said. The company wouldn't provide a breakdown of electronic media, which includes digital, TV and cable programming networks.

Bennack made the projection in a rare email to Hearst’s 20,000 employees today. The company officially observes its 125th anniversary March 4.

Bennack traced the company’s growth under William Randolph Hearst from a single newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, to a diversified media and information company with a global footprint. He cataloged highlights of Hearst’s history, from its acquisitions of major consumer brands like Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan to cable interests like ESPN and Lifetime to Lagardère, whose 2011 purchase made Hearst the No. 2 U.S. magazine company after Time Inc. While other magazine publishers are scaling back in print, Bennack said Hearst would pursue more launches and brand extensions in print and digital.

Bennack’s presence itself at the company is somewhat counterintuitive. When he came out of retirement in 2008 at age 78 to replace Victor Ganzi, he wasn’t expected to stay long. That talk has since died down, and in the years since the company has made aggressive moves in digital media, introducing digital subscriptions of its magazines and buying digital agency iCrossing.

Unlike some of its rivals, which give digital subscriptions away to print subscribers, Hearst charges separately for its digital properties. The company said it sells more than 500,000 digital subs each month and that it expects to reach 1 million in digital subscription sales this year.