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Star Tribune publisher candidate Klingensmith: ex-local, ex-Time, Inc. exec

The Star Tribune is expected to name a new publisher within weeks. It could be a Minnesota “public school kid” who went on to co-found Entertainment Weekly.
By David Brauer

We finally have a quality name in the Star Tribune publisher search! It’s Michael J. Klingensmith, a former Time, Inc. executive who just stepped down as a managing partner at New York-based mergers-and-acquisitions advisors AdMedia Partners.

The caveats: though I have two sources in the publishing industry, both of whom asked not to be named, the Strib is not confirming Klingensmith’s candidacy. “We don’t comment,” says Strib board chair Michael Sweeney. “When there’s something to announce, we’ll make an announcement.”

Klingensmith did not return a call for comment Monday morning. However, there’s an interesting bit of circumstantial evidence: according to an AdMedia Partners message-taker, he worked there in December but no longer does.

Klingensmith is believed to be in the Strib’s small number of top candidates, perhaps at the top of the list. The paper expects to name a publisher within days or weeks, certainly before the end of the month. One source says he’s a local boy — in this interview with a University of Chicago alumni publication, he describes himself as a “public school kid from Minnesota.” (If you have more details on the local link, let me know in the comments or via email).

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Would Klingensmith be great? The Chicago piece calls him “the founding publisher of Entertainment Weekly,” which was a pretty great start-up back in 1990. (Folio Magazine described Klingensmith and his partner Jeff Jarvis, as “entrepreneurs.” Jarvis, who now writes BuzzMachine, went on to become one of the Internet’s best-read media analysts.)

Klingensmith, an MBA, has deep print experience, later being named president of Sports Illustrated. The publication MinOnline put him in their “Sales Executive Hall of Fame,” noting that as executive vice president of Time, Inc., “the brand broadened its scope in print, TV and the Web.”

Of course, Time and its competitor, Newsweek, have been ravaged by the Web, so Klingensmith can’t be called a new-media whiz kid. On the other hand, Time Inc. is much bigger than its signature magazine, and the Strib would be getting a big-time media exec.

There’s more research I need to do, but in the MinOnline piece, Klingensmith does talk about the move away from ad-supported media: “Excellent and valuable content does not want to be free to the consumer. Companies need to have the confidence in their products and their consumers to charge fair prices for it. It is dangerous for content, particularly journalistic content, to be exclusively supported by ad revenue. Plus, the numbers don’t work.”