Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm two degrees from The Girls Next Door

Today I attended a talk by the former president of media at Playboy, Bob Meyers. It was sponsoed by what's called the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance, one of Yale SOM's "centers of excellence" whose moniker I had memorized for the tours I help lead. Anyway, the point is that because the Millstein Center put it on, the topic was indeed corporate governance, so we learned about the very bizarre and interesting struggle within Playboy between the 70% stakeholder (Heff), his now-former CEO daughter (Christie), and the board. On one hand, there are some who want to see the brand pursue new opportunities and expand and modernize. And then there's Hugh Hefner, who seems to soak up as many perks as possible while maintaining full control of the magazine as his vanity project. Not a recipe for success.

I also learned that Playboy really isn't that huge of a company. To illustrate that point, Meyers used the room we were in as an example, saying if the room represents GE, then one little section of the room is NBC, and therefore a can of Diet Coke is MSNBC ... and MSNBC is still bigger than Playboy. Guess that makes sense. Playboy is certainly big in reputation, but it's not like I've ever heard of somebody actually reading a Playboy, or watching the Playboy Channel. Everybody stole one when they were 11, and that's about it.

Bugs Bunny and Elmer FuddYou might think the presentation was boob-free, but that wasn't true. A cocky schmo came in late, walked directly in front of Mr. Meyers at the podium, and then during the Q&A asked accusatorily, "Do you think porn contributes anything positive to society?" Not a bad question, but a totally inappropriate question for a prominent person we've invited to campus. I don't know who the guy was; he's definitely not an SOM first-year.

In other news, I had my first meeting with my CDO (Career Development Office) "relationship manager" today, which as far as I can tell is a fancy way of saying "particularly good guidance counselor," and she had lots of helpful advice. She suggested (and is not the first to do so) that I should look into brand management and/or market research, since they are fields that might combine my journalism-related skills with my love of statistics and math. I also met today with my former probability professor to talk about the same sorts of things -- careers that involve probability and statistics. One is market research. I think that could be a real possibility ...

The idea of entering the business world in the media industry is looking less and less appealing. I think journalism tasks will always be in demand, but I'm not convinced that the large companies that have traditionally run the show will continue to do so with the same degree of influence. In fact it looks like they already aren't, as Mr. Meyers of Playboy confirmed.

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