Cyrus Krohn was the Web magazine's first employee. In the wake of Slate's sale to WaPo, he hopes to create a thriving, ad-supported video model for MSN.
When MSN sold Slate.com to The Washington Post in December, the site's publisher and first employee opted not to make the trip from Washington State to D.C. Now, just weeks into a new gig at MSN Video, Cyrus Krohn is already juicing up the portal's streaming media business to make it more appealing to advertisers.
As executive producer for MSN Video, Krohn plans to boost content volume and make the destination a more attractive target for advertisers. That includes signing more talent and creating original video content for the Web.
"My personal goal with the group is to make MSN Video a desirable location for people to want to come first to watch video," he said. "That can be done through many means. It can mean surfacing new talent that network and cable TV can't offer in a way we're apt to do, [such as] vlogs and proprietary programming. I look at the staff Yahoo is building, with an entertainment background, and I think there's no reason MSN Video shouldn't be developing content made for the medium."
Though still in its infancy, online video is a big advertising market in the making, according to Krohn. "In the big scheme of things, it's small dollars," he said. "The fact that Pfizer and GM are coming to us and saying, 'Hey, give us more inventory,' it's impressive to me."
Despite his total departure from Slate's Webzine format in this new job, Krohn is actually returning to his roots. Before signing on with Slate, he produced shows for CNN's "Crossfire" and "Larry King Live." Like many, he believes the fragmentation of channels and the rise of streaming video online will be lethal to the mass-reach audiences still enjoyed by TV networks and cable stations.
"We are at a point now where we are competing against cable networks for audience share," he said. "When I was at CNN, working for 'Larry King' or 'Crossfire,' to pull a 1.0 share was considered a pretty good rating. Now, that's [down to] 0.6 or 0.7. With the advent of more cable stations and the fragmentation of the market, they've lost a fairly good percentage of their audience. The Internet is only further contributing, because people are consuming their media midday. It's the new primetime... a period of the day they really couldn't have before."
Krohn's colleagues at MSN are bullish about what the TV and Web veteran will do for the portal's young video business.
"Cyrus is bringing probably the most intrinsic knowledge of how to launch a new business to us," said Todd Herman, MSN Video's streaming media evangelist. "He's bringing a background in interactive media, having launched the most famous online magazine ever."
Though he will be leveraging his experience in running an interactive media business, Krohn prefers to see himself as picking up a thread he dropped when he took the job with Slate.
"I was very excited early on about the future prospects of television, but frankly forgot about a lot of it while I was at Slate creating a Webzine," he said. "As the sale became apparent, I got excited about reintroducing myself to television in a new capacity."
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