Marcia Grand: A One-Of-A-Kind Pioneer

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In mid-October I contacted TWICE’s editor in chief John Laposky to see if I could write something about our mutual friend and colleague Marcia Grand, TWICE’s longtime VP/publisher. Grand is being inducted into the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame on Nov. 7.

Many of the memories and observations here are similar to a column I wrote about Marcia after she retired from TWICE in April 2013. Upon reflection, however, some of these stories — and a few new observations — bear repeating. Whether you have ever met Marcia, or know her by reputation, it’s clear she’s one of a kind.

Marcia is a person who never likes to look back, but in this case we should; her story illustrates how passion, dedication and hard work never go out of style. My first full conversation with Marcia had to be on a bright, warm day in the early 1990s when the now-departed Aiwa America opened a new headquarters in northern New Jersey. I was the editor of HFD’s electronics section, a major competitor of TWICE at the time, and we were there with local and business media.

Of course, I knew Marcia by reputation and we had met before, at some industry event or two, with a mumbled hello or a nod, but that was about it.

We asked each other why we were there, and we had time to talk since the ribbon-cutting was running late; Aiwa, then a subsidiary of Sony, was waiting for one of its parent company’s execs to show up for the event. Marcia said she was there, in her words, because the Aiwa execs were “friends” and she “wanted to show my support.”

What other publisher goes to an office opening from Manhattan to New Jersey in the middle of the day? She was the only one.

I found out first hand when I joined TWICE around two years later that the Aiwa visit was typical. Her loyalty to friends in this industry and the passion for the consumer electronics business has always been part of her DNA.

Marcia was hired by legendary publisher and fellow CT Hall of Famer Richard Ekstract. She answered an ad for, as Marcia put it, his “girl Friday,” back in the late 1960s when he owned TWICE’s precursor, Consumer Electronics monthly, along with several other trade and consumer publications.

Over the years she learned about the many facets of publishing, from the arts of sales, promotion and branding; the importance of strong, independent journalism; and the unique world of the electronics/appliance industry. Marcia went up the ladder from assistant, to proofreader, ad salesperson, sales director and eventually to TWICE’s publisher.

Back in the mid-1980s Ekstract sold Consumer Electronics magazine, but was still publisher, and came up with the idea to make it a weekly publication because the industry was becoming more news driven. But the company that owned the magazine rejected the notion, especially since it was the top publication in the industry at time.

Well, Ekstract decided to leave to form his own company — again — and Marcia, never one to look back, jumped at the chance to start TWICE in 1986. Bob Gerson was hired as editor and the rest, as they say, is history.

I came on board as editor in 1993. By that time Ekstract sold TWICE to Cahners Publishing and left. But Marcia stayed on as publisher/VP, along with Gerson, who became editor in chief when I joined the team.

By that time, TWICE was already No. 1 in the field. I quickly found out that Marcia always asked questions, just to make sure the publication would not only maintain its position, but grow and thrive covering an industry that always changes. And I found out that there sometimes might be heated questioning about an editorial decision or two. But Marcia knew the importance of news reporting. And she knew the industry from experience and didn’t need publishing theories to know what worked for TWICE’s audience.

That became evident a year or so after I joined TWICE when a few of us had to go to Cahners’ annual divisional meeting where, invariably, corporate types would discreetly ask questions about our coverage of the industry versus other publications in the division. They would ask why we didn’t model our coverage of CE on the mostly home-furnishings publications in the group.

I was amused and amazed that when Marcia gave her presentation to the division members and corporate executives that year. And I quickly learned there is never a mystery about where Marcia stands on any subject. It was blunt, completely accurate, and confident since the presentation came from someone who knew the publishing and CE industries intimately, and was publisher of the No. 1 publication in the field.

Over the years I have seen Marcia express her views on the CE industry with that same passion and candor with readers or top executives.

Marcia is unique in so many ways. She told me early on that we’d work well together, not only because I knew many of the same top retail and manufacturing execs, but that, truth be told, I am half-Italian (and she loves Italy) and always wanted to learn how to tap dance. (In a moment of weakness, I admitted I did too.)

Over the years as editor, and later editor in chief, at TWICE, I had a firsthand look at how Marcia worked as we became publisher of the Official Daily of CES; created TWICE.com, its daily newsletter and weekly retail newsletter; hosted webinars and live events; and covered up-and-coming technologies and companies, all the time crisscrossing the nation, and sometimes overseas, to monitor the comings and goings of the CE business.

Along the way she received two awards from the industry: the Torch of Liberty award from the Anti-Defamation League’s national electronics and appliance industries division in 1999, and a Legacy Award from Women In CT in 2013.

That last award is especially significant. Marcia became one of the industry’s most visible and significant executives during an era when women in leadership roles — in the CE industry and corporate life in general — were extremely rare.

Now Marcia is being given the ultimate accolade for a life in this industry: induction into the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame. Along with her husband Richie, her daughter Alison, granddaughter Sage, the rest of her extended family and so many of her industry colleagues and friends, my wife Marion and I are pleased and proud that Marcia is getting this well-deserved recognition from the industry she loved and served with distinction for so many years.

Steve Smith is the former editor-in-chief of TWICE and a member of the CT Hall of Fame.

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