Philadelphia Media Network on Wednesday announced that Michael Zimbalist, 61, will join the news media company in the newly created position of chief strategy and innovation officer in mid-January.
"Following an extensive national search, we were thrilled to find such a uniquely talented and experienced leader for this critical new role," said publisher Terry Egger in a statement.
"I am thrilled that he's joining," added venture capitalist Josh Kopelman, board chairman of Philadelphia Media Network, which operates the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com. "He's creative, innovative and energetic — with a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the newspaper industry."
Most recently Zimbalist worked as chief marketing officer at Simulmedia, a television advertising start-up, from March 2016 to August 2017. Before that, he spent 10 years at the New York Times Co. as a senior vice president of advertising products and research and development. Early on with the Times company, he was also involved with the Boston.com operation. Starting in 2009, he led UCompareHealthCare, a Times unit, that was sold to MDx Medical in 2011.
Before that, Zimbalist worked for other media companies including Scripps, Disney, AT&T, and Capital Cities/ABC. He was the cofounder and president for five years of the Online Publishers Association, now known as Digital Content Next.
"I wanted to get back into the news industry," he said Wednesday. "That's my passion."
Zimbalist will lead all consumer and business-to-business marketing, advertising campaigns, branding, business intelligence, and strategic partnerships.
"He will also work closely with the advertising and product teams to develop cutting-edge digital advertising solutions, as well as guide us to best position our value to consumers and advertisers," Egger said. "Michael will work closely with our newsroom to help us dramatically increase our digital traffic and audience engagement."
Zimbalist is a St. Louis native and a graduate of Brown University, where he majored in chemistry and philosophy.
At the Times, Zimbalist reported to Martin Nisenholtz, who is now a board member of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which owns PMN. Zimbalist founded the R&D group whose R&D Lab incubated new ad products to counter a weakening print ad market, according to Digiday. The Times also created "paid posts" under Zimbalist.
Zimbalist resides in Montclair, N.J., and has three children. He will eventually relocate to Philadelphia, he said. As chief strategist, "I will be working on brand marketing, consumer marketing, audience development and working closely with the newsroom and product team to evolve into a must-read for the Philly metro area. One of the findings from the digital transformation at the New York Times is the news cycle for print focuses at the end of the day. The news cycle for digital carries over straight through – winning the morning is an essential part of capturing audience."
Among his first moves, he said, "first and foremost, I'll be getting to know the team and understand all the great things underway. There are some opportunities in digital advertising out of the box."