In selecting Patrick J. McGovern as ASBPE’s 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, the Society focuses on the extremes of what can happen when magazine editors approach their careers with foresight, hard work, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a sense for what the world needs from journalism.

Indeed, a look at the accomplishments of his 45 years in the business mark McGovern as perhaps the founding editor of the entire information-technology media industry. For in 1959, while a biophysics student at MIT, McGovern became associate editor of Computers and Automation, the very first entry in that strange new genre called “computer magazines.”

And just five years later, he founded International Data Corp. (IDC), today a subsidiary of the media giant he later established, International Data Group (IDG). Today, IDC remains the standard of IT research globally.

First Issue of ComputerworldMagazines Around the Globe

“His deep roots as an editor are also what ASBPE honors him for this year,” said ASBPE national president Rob Freedman, senior editor of Realtor magazine. “And not just any editor, but one from whose work grew literally thousands of new editorial positions globally.”

In 1967, McGovern launched a little trade weekly called Computerworld, dedicated to informing the relative handful of entities then working with the still-largely-unfamiliar devices. The weekly became the flagship of an IDG powerhouse whose titles have grown to include Macworld, Network World, CIO, CSO, Bio-T World, and PC World.

In 1972, McGovern began exporting the Computerworld concept, launching Shukan Computer in Japan and bringing to life among magazines the concept of “think globally but act locally.”

And that was only the start.

McGovern has overseen IDG’s launch of more than 300 magazines and newspapers in 85 countries. In 1980, he established the first joint venture between a U.S. company and the People’s Republic of China. Today, IDG has more than 20 publications in China, the globe’s fastest growing IT market.

When naming him CEO of its 1989 constellation of “Start-Up All-Stars,” Inc. magazine said: “Knows start-ups cold. Grows them by launching them constantly within his own company. Craves customer contact, responsiveness, speed. More than any other CEO around, McGovern gets it: Preach the mission, provide information, give folks plenty of rope — then get out of the way.”

Getting Tough With Oracle

Editorial integrity isn’t just lip-service to McGovern; it’s part of an ethical way of life, as well as a smart business decision. McGovern encourages editors and writers to put their readers’ needs first — making him an ideal owner in the eyes of the journalists who work for him.

Said Computerworld editor-in-chief Maryfran Johnson: “I’ve experienced that support first-hand in a clash a few years ago with Oracle Corp., which withdrew its advertising from Computerworld in response to some balanced but critical stories quoting angry Oracle customers. A significant amount of revenue was involved, yet Pat’s response was to send me a personal memo of congratulations for keeping our readers’ interests foremost and not bowing to advertiser pressure.”

“No matter what the situation, we know that Pat always stands behind the editorial integrity of our publications.”

This corporate environment has even allowed Johnson herself to receive a national award for her editorial integrity from American Business Media.

“Even when advertisers are angered by our coverage, as long as the story is fair, accurate and balanced,” Johnson said, McGovern is an editor’s biggest supporter. “His support of journalistic ethics across all of the IDG publications means that each business unit CEO also understands the importance of that church-state separation between editorial and advertising.”

“He also treats his end customers [the readers] with consummate respect,” wrote Leigh Buchanan, senior editor, Harvard Business Review, in an April 2004 article for Inc. magazine. “At IDG the quality of content is sacrosanct, a tough ideal to sustain when advertising pays so many of the bills.”

In fact, IDG publications have won more than 125 national editorial and design excellence awards from ASBPE from 1999–2003.

Another example of editorial support is one of the more interesting programs at the company, the IDG News Service. This internal newswire links more than 1,000 IDG editors and journalists and distributes news, features, commentary, and other editorial resources to IDG publications so they can supplement local coverage with material applicable to audiences throughout the world.

 

“His critics, who said that the idea would never work, soon stopped laughing as it became apparent that Pat had hit on the secret of globalizing a publication franchise.”

Is it any wonder Fortune magazine earlier this year named IDG one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in its annual survey, a position the company has held every year since 2001? The results are mostly based on an opinion survey Fortunerandomly sends to employees.

Today, IDG has become the world’s leading technology media, research, and event company, with annual revenues exceeding $2.4 billion. More than 100 million people read at least one of IDG’s publications monthly. There are 400 IDG Web sites in 80 nations. More than 170 globally branded conferences and events are held each year on five continents. (Look out, Antarctica!)

In nominating McGovern, Johnson called him one of the “heroes of the information technology age.”

While it’s been decades now since he first made grease-pencil scrawls on copy paper, she notes “he put out the first issue of CW virtually single-handed,” then worked with a handful of others to build it to prominence. “He ran proofs to the printer. He edited stories. He interviewed industry figures.”

And if he didn’t stay in the editing trenches as long as some others, she added, it was because “he was off creating the IT publishing industry after that.”

“But to this day,” she said, “if you ask him what he would have been if he hadn’t been a businessman, he’ll tell you ‘a journalist.’ In his heart, he’s always been one of us.”

What Others Say

Maryfran Johnson, editor-in-chief, Computerworld

Pat McGovern has always been an inspirational figure for the journalists at Computerworld, mainly due to his unflagging support for the highest standards of editorial quality. We all know how deeply he believes in building a strong sense of community with our readers and how much he values the transformative power of information technology.

He is renowned for encouraging his editors and writers to always put the readers and their needs before those of the advertisers. I’ve experienced that support first-hand in a clash a few years ago with Oracle Corp., which withdrew its advertising from Computerworld in response to some balanced but critical stories quoting angry Oracle customers. A significant amount of revenue was involved, yet Pat’s response was to send me a personal memo of congratulations for keeping our readers’ interests foremost and not bowing to advertiser pressure.

John Gallant, president & editorial director, Network World

Pat McGovern’s vision and success are founded on the bedrock of editorial integrity and service to the reader. He is absolutely unwavering in his commitment to those fundamental tenets, and IDG’s incredible global reach and power stems from them. As a journalist, it’s an honor and a joy to work in such an environment.

Every reporter and editor is clear that the reader takes precedence and that the goal of helping readers advance and succeed never takes a back seat to business objectives.

No matter what the situation, we know that Pat always stands behind the editorial integrity of our publications.

Bill Laberis, editor-in-chief (1986-1996), Computerworld

Over the 23 years I’ve known Pat McGovern, I’ve come to realize three characteristics have made him and IDG so successful.

The first is vision. Pat foresaw the amazing impact that computers and information technology would have on every facet of life on this planet, long before this was evident. And bear in mind that he started IDG around the same time a senior IBM executive said, “I think the world needs perhaps six or so computers.” Pat saw things quite differently.

The second is courage of his convictions. Pat held steady on keeping his company private mainly so that IDG would be guided not by shortterm thinking but by long-term strategy — and he had the courage to stay on course when others wavered.

The third success characteristic, and to me the most important by far, is Pat’s enormous respect for other human beings. He entrusts his managers with tremendous responsibility and autonomy, and lets us all make mistakes but never beat us up over them. He is as comfortable talking to a copy editor as he is to a country manager. He committed to his astonishing memory the smallest personal details about his employees, a fact that astounded people when he’d meet up with them. This quality of humility and respect for others molded a fiercely loyal workforce where every single person calls him Pat.

Ted Bloom, chief financial officer, IDG

I joined IDG as a high school student and have never left. What has kept me at IDG for the past 37 years is Pat McGovern’s leadership, vision, and his talent for spotting business opportunities anywhere in the world.

The culture and work environment that he started in his home office in 1964 remain intact today. It’s a culture that encourages entrepreneurial thought and action, emphasizes identifying customer needs and meeting them, and respects the importance of supported and motivated employees. He has been a mentor to me and thousands of colleagues.

Pat has said that if he weren’t an entrepreneur and executive he would have been a journalist. That is the foundation on which IDG has grown to become the world’s premier technology publisher.

Walter Boyd, member, board of directors, IDG

Not many people probably realized how revolutionary Pat McGovern was when he started IDG 40 years ago. At that time, everyone was talking about big conglomerates and preaching the values of centralization, as well as one size fits all in terms of inventing businesses in the U.S. and then exporting them to the rest of the world.

However, Pat saw it quite differently. He thought that the idea could be exported but not the product. So when he first hired me back in 1967, he already had a vision of a “Computerworld and an IDG for every country in the world.”

And that is what Pat proceeded to do. He would go into a country, find a manager who shared his vision, and then turned that person loose to recreate a publication that was very specifically tailored to the needs of that local market. His critics, who said that the idea would never work, soon stopped laughing as it became apparent that Pat had hit on the secret of globalizing a publication franchise. Today it has become common practice, but it all started with Pat McGovern.

IDG mission and corporate values

Mission

To enhance the quality of human life by being the world’s leading source of information on technology.

Values

“Since 1964 we have focused on building an organization that is a rewarding place to work and that meets customer requirements,” said Patrick McGovern, founder and chairman, International Data Group. He said IDG operates via the following corporate values:

  • To remain dedicated to our mission of providing exceptional services on information technology.
  • To show respect for dignity of each individual.
  • To invest in our people through training and career development.
  • To produce products of the highest quality.
  • To provide excellent customer service.
  • To keep close to our customers and qualified prospects.
  • To be responsive to changes in the marketplace.
  • To keep our corporate staff lean.
  • To encourage autonomy through locally managed business units.
  • To foster an action-oriented, let’s-try-it attitude.

About the Lifetime Achievement Award

Our Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2000 to recognize editors who have made significant and lasting contributions to our editorial profession and to the industries their magazines serve. Previous recipients were Dana Chase of Dana Chase Publications, editorial consultant Howard Rauch of Editorial Solutions, Vernon Henry of Advanstar Communications and Bernie Knill of Penton Media.

To receive the Lifetime Achievement award, a candidate must meet four requirements:

  • Significant tenure (20 years or more) on business publications. Nominees need not currently hold editorial positions, and may be retired, but they must have spent the bulk of their careers in senior editorial positions. Nominees need not be members of ASBPE.
  • A commitment to editorial excellence. This may be demonstrated by general reputation of their publications(s); industry-related awards (e.g., ASBPE, Neal Awards, Folio:); internal company awards; other forms of recognition or other valid measures of editorial success.
  • A commitment to the business and professional press. Nominees should be or have been involved in lending their experience and time to benefit others in the business press. Examples might be participation in local or national business press or related organizations, corporate or university teaching, mentoring programs, or significant research or publication of articles on business press issues.
  • A commitment to the industries their publications serve. Examples include committee work with trade or professional associations or standards groups; frequent speaking engagements at industry events; significant research or publication of articles on industry issues; or significant advocacy work with government agencies.