ENTREPRENEUR creating innovative digital products
and services to engage audiences.

I’m an idea person who can craft and execute strategy to create successful innovative products and businesses. Sometimes these ventures are for an employer or client, and other times they are my own.

Liza Horan entrepreneur

My strength is finding common threads and weaving them into a system that matches needs with resources ~ and makes the end user’s life easier. This can mean finding and filling the gap in a market by delivering needed resources to an audience; making sense of diverse inputs (data points, user needs, resources, goals, etc.) and communicating that in an eloquent way (clear and concise); and finding creative ways to align resources (time, money, energy) for strategic action.

I love the challenge of “connecting the dots” between what is and what could be, and figuring out how to do things better. I rely on critical thinking, research, open-mindedness, curiosity, and pure drive. As I often say, I may not know the answer, but I now how to get to the answer.

The best results can come when there are diverse voices involved in a project. For example, when I team up with a software engineer and we debate a variety of approaches to balance functionality and performance with user experience. That process is exciting and yields great results!

I was an early adopter of the Internet, and founding Tennis.com as an intrapreneur at The New York Times Co. in 1995 provided rich experience, but innovation doesn’t have to be about tech. It’s as much about people and process as it is product.

Here are highlights of my entrepreneurial work.

Right after earning my Master of Science degree in strategic communications from Columbia University in 2010, I joined a nascent division of ESPN (the world’s largest sports media company) that was created to cultivate the large online fan audience for high school sports. The company had acquired five companies in a bid to build ESPNHS, but had not integrated the people or products when I arrived. My job as digital strategy director was clear: I needed to get the people cooperating and collaborating if we were going to succeed. I also needed to stop and reshape an existing extremely expensive web development project that was running off the rails.

I spent the first 90 days traveling around the country to listen — one-on-one — to what each editorial or event marketing person had to say about what was working and not working. I learned a lot. And I reorganized the group around areas of expertise (football, baseball, basketball, etc.) rather than product (magazine, website, events). Finding the common thread between employees so they could work together was the first vital step. (Especially since two of the companies have been involved in litigation with each other prior to their acquisitions by ESPN!)

This reorganization made for a content-first, platform-second operation, and it worked like a dream. (It also preceded ESPN.com‘s move to the same structure.) Managing a team of 25 staff as director of digital strategy and operations really extended and strengthened my leadership experience.

The website traffic tripled when we relaunched — within the original budget.

It was a fantastic learning experience for me — as an intrapreneur, manager and digital media leader.

Happy to share more by speaking on these topics at your event or on your show:

  • leadership approach of “people-first, business-second”
  • integrating teams after acquisition
  • building a “content-first, platform-second” editorial operation
  • mentoring younger staff to become leaders
  • catering for teens and adults through a single brand

Please contact me to explore these topics and more.

While working as director of Tennis.com, which I launched for The New York Times Co. and ran for 11 years, I saw a gap in the market for media relations. Industry stakeholders (manufacturers, tournaments, associations, etc.) had a tough time communicating with the international media corps. The sport has a vibrant recreational side as well as professional side, and tennis stands alone from other pro sports as there is no single body or commissioner from which to get information for coverage.

I envisioned a ‘newswire’ to serve the media (first and foremost), the industry stakeholders and the public. First I took the concept to my employer, who suggested I pursue it independently. Then I presented the idea to the Tennis Industry Association, which works to ensure the economic viability of the sport. The concept was a hit! The TIA provided grant funding to build TennisWire.org (2004 launch) and then subsidized the service for their members. The media relations service was free to members of the media.

TennisWire.org was profitable from the start and the tennis press corps relied on it for notifications of press happenings, trends, story ideas, interview sources, and networking.

Happy to share more by speaking on these topics at your event or on your show:

  • how to engage the media for more coverage
  • how the Internet changed media coverage (and continues to do so)
  • digital audience engagement
  • evolving media paradigms
  • digital product innovation and strategy

Please contact me to explore these topics and more.

It was 1994 and I was getting hooked on America Online (AOL), the dial-up service that amazingly connected people to type-chat in real time! There were very few websites during this time of dial-up modems, but I was so intrigued that I’d wake up very early just go on AOL.

While working as assistant editor of a tennis trade magazine, published by The New York Times Co., I started asking questions. What is this company doing about the Internet?

Turns out I was in the right place, at the right time, asking the right questions: I scored the role to take Tennis Magazine into cyberspace in 1995. I was 27 years old and got the biggest single pay raise in the company’s history at that point because the role was intended for someone with at least a decade more of work experience.

It was the “bleeding edge” of tech at the time, and I loved it!

This steep learning curve wasn’t just about technology (servers, html, measuring traffic, building an audience, “stickiness,” etc.), it extended beyond the editorial scope to legal, sales, marketing, public relations, and more.

It was a time when business models were in flux and many people dismissed the Internet as a fad. Persuading company leadership and advertising clients on the merits of interactive media  in order to invest in Tennis.com was ingrained in my role. I was a missionary. After all, the president of our division denounced the Internet as a passing fancy with no gravitas, and I had to make a case to secure bounty funds to negotiate the “tennis.com” domain name; it was held hostage by clever squatters who had hoarded scores of excellent common words and brand names as URLs. It was a testy negotiation that I won (on behalf of the company).

Tennis.com was my lifestyle. I had moved from a monthly magazine to a 24/7 news operation overnight, managing freelance writers and photographers who traveled the world covering the pro game. As president of the U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association, I lobbied for the right of online journalists to cover tournament. It took two years to secure a press credential for Wimbledon (the toughest event). I was honored with the first-ever “Online Editor” award, administered by the Great American Writing Awards, for pioneering tennis on the Internet.

I’m grateful for that opportunity to build something special and run it successfully (and profitably!) for 11 years.

Happy to share more by speaking on these topics at your event or on your show:

  • the history of Tennis.com
  • pioneering media (and tennis) on the Internet
  • evolving media paradigms
  • digital product innovation and strategy

Please contact me to explore these topics and more.