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Rebecca Lieb recently joined Econsultancy to help spearhead our roll-out in New York (and beyond) to get closer to our existing US subscribers and readers. 
Rebecca is a former VP and editor in chief at The ClickZ Network and is a sought-after public speaker and author (look out for her new book on SEO, due for release in the coming weeks). She has also worked for Universal Television and RTL Networks, and has written for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
We're delighted to have her onboard. Last week I interviewed Rebecca to throw some more light on her role at Econsultancy, and to find out what makes her tick. What attracted you to the position at Econsultancy?

First, the company's strong track record and reputation. Econsultancy and its management team are universally respected in the industry. Don't think I didn't do due diligence. When you do that sort of research, you're on the lookout for the negatives and I literally couldn't find any, or get anyone in the industry to raise one single negative point about the company or its management team. 
My respect for the product widened into admiration for the team once I got to know the crew in London. Simply put, these are people I want to work with. 
Moreover, I'm impressed with the broad base of subscribers and community members already in the US, without half trying to gain that base, so to speak.

What is the core focus of your role, as the first Econsultancy employee in the US?
I'm almost in the role of foreign ambassador. I like to think I'm something of a known entity in the US market and plan to use my base of contacts and knowledge to spread the message of the Econsultancy brand and its many attributes through writing, speaking, and recruiting contributors to the site.
Bottom line, I have a pretty strong track record of helping interactive marketers do their job better. That's what I hope to continue doing in my role for EC.

Do you think the Econsultancy concept will work in the US as well as it has done in the UK?
Well, I don't have a crystal ball. but global economic woes aside, we're still going to see double-digit growth in interactive marketing and advertising in the coming years. That, coupled with the rapid pace of innovation - both technological and in terms of best practices - create a remarkably strong demand for the kind of information, statistics, support and news Econsultancy publishes. 
There's a growing need for the product here and everywhere, in fact. If I didn't think this would work, I wouldn't be doing it!

So what do you think internet marketers and e-commerce professionals should be doing to protect and grow their businesses in the current economic climate?
Interactive marketing's effectiveness is proven, but at the same time it's infinitely more complicated and complex than any other form of marketing. Selecting and targeting an audience, honing messaging, calculating ROI, selecting paid search terms, optimizing web sites, leveraging social media, interpreting site stats. The list goes on and on. 
Each of these disciplines (and more) can garner fantastic returns at much lower expenditures than other forms of marketing, but the level of expertise required not only to execute - but to understand what it is you're doing - is incredibly high. Education, continued learning, and dialogue with peers is paramount to success.
In this economic climate ROI takes precedence over everything else. unlike most other forms of marketing, ROI is provable in interactive channels. Interactive marketers must learn not only to understand their disciplines, but also how to calculate ROI and take those numbers to the boardroom or C-suite to justify their budgets and expenditures.
Take paid search advertising, for example. Done correctly, paid search campaigns are self-funding. What could be better than that, particularly in these tough times?
So with all that in mind hopefully there’s place for our research and events in the US, focused as they are on best practice and practical learning?
For the past several years people in traditional media have been saying to me 'I should do what you're doing,' meaning becoming immersed in interactive. Now, a bottomed out job market means that learning these skills isn't just a nice-to-have, it's critical for survival - the survival of their businesses and their personal finances. 
Change is hard, and discomfort is often what's needed to instigate it. These tough times are going to impel a whole lot of people to see the light in interactive - and to seek enlightenment in terms of learning as well. 
As such the timing, in my opinion, couldn't be better to bring solid educational programs in interactive to the marketplace.

Do you worry that some people might have left it too late, such as print journalists or heads-in-the-sand traditional offline marketers? Or is there still time to adapt?
There's always time to adapt. And sure, there are always going to be Luddites in our midst. But in the current economic climate, the indicators could not be clearer; you've got to learn this stuff or very possibly die. But hey - it's not such bitter medicine. In fact, it's fascinating and fun! Getting out of your comfort zone is often a very, very good thing.
But I don't want to leave out long-time practitioners, either. The people in this industry who are really thriving are the innovators, the ones who attend conferences, network with peers, are active in communities. 
This stuff is too new and changing too fast for any one person to get their arms around it without a great deal of professional and peer support.
So maybe at this point you can explain to our readers why Econsultancy has based its US office in New York, rather than Silicon Valley?
Well, the fact that I live here is paramount, of course! But the real answer is that the advertising and marketing community tends to be centered on the Right Coast. It's the technology companies that dominate the Left. 
Moreover, given the fact the Internet doesn't dissolve time zones entirely, NYC is a happy medium. There are waking business hours overlapping both with Europe and Silicon Valley (and SF, and Redmond). That makes us pretty ideally situated, in my opinion!

Absolutely. But presumably there will be at least one annual Econsultancy event held in Las Vegas, right? 
If you insist!Which areas of internet marketing are generating the most interest right now in the US, and for you personally?
Personally, I think they're all interesting. Really. But at present, my votes would have to go to search and social media. 
Search because it's just so darn directed and cost-effective (and I'm talking both paid and organic). Search engines have become the de facto ways we navigate our lives - what marketers doesn't want to be on that bandwagon? 
And social media because of its newness and multifacetedness (which is not a word). We're still sorting out the opportunities and challenges of social networks and Twitters and Diggs and Delicious and all the other social sites and apps out there. 
It's a fascinating and potentially very rewarding puzzle for marketers and advertisers to work in and experiment with

And you’re still confident about growth prospects, despite the downturn? Is the internet immune, or just better positioned to weather a decline in consumer spending?
OK, so we're not going to see (according to whose predictions you trust) 20-something percent growth in online advertising this year. We've plummeted down to 10-something percent growth. I'm totally glass-half-full about this - who wouldn't be? We're a whole lot better situated than the auto industry or financial sector. Who would have thought that 10 years ago? 
We're not just better positioned to weather a downturn than other industries (not to mention battle scarred from our own, exclusive downturn in 2000-2001), but we're on the cusp of really going solidly mainstream. We're in a perfect storm of near-universal consumer adoption, coupled with the decline of print and broadcast media. Downturns happen. in this one, there's no space I'd rather be in than interactive marketing.
Chris Lake

Published 19 January, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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