Ex-AOL digital media exec Paul Levine joined National Geographic Ventures recently, tasked with the remit of extending the Geo brand into new interactive platforms, including gaming, mobile and broadband.
Levine says Geo – 118 years old and counting – doesn’t want to be a slave to the latest trend: ‘Our strategy isn’t about being everywhere. It’s about being where our audiences are, and doing so smartly.’ Levine points to existing online spaces to underline the potential for the brand’s penetration. ‘If you look at our demographics, I could say, technically, we dominate the mass market casual demographic. Look at MySpace [for example]: 50% of their demo now is 35 years or older, and two-thirds is 25 years or older. We’re the same. And, we really touch high household income consumers. So it makes sense for us to be in gaming, because our customers are playing games. It makes sense for us to be in mobile in a smart way, because our customers are already listening to music, downloading ring tones, watching video and looking at [our] ‘Photos of the Day.’ It’s really about servicing our existing base, which is global, but it is not really about being everywhere.’ Levine points to the brand’s foray into world music as an example: Geo boasts 100 genres of world music, whereas services like iTunes bundle them together under a single header.
Part of Levine’s remit will also see him forge new partnerships with companies whose abilities can further the Geo mission. ‘I am a big believer in partnering,’ he says, ‘but doing it correctly. It has to be a good fit based on experience, on goals, on value, on culture, and on work ethic.
‘If you look at the mobile space, for example, I think the key there is to partner with leading companies who actually have invested time over the last five to 10 years to be able to work across all the different technology standards and be able to put out 2,000 skus globally… I’m all about core competencies.’