John B. Evans, 66, a Leader in Design and
Implementation of Traditional and New Media
John B. Evans, who as a senior executive of News Corporation became a pioneer in electronic publishing, died on March 28 at his home in Annandale, N.J. He was 66.
"John Evans was one of the first executives in publishing to recognize the transitions that were taking place in print and electronic journalism," said Martin Singerman, former president of News America Publishing and a former member of the Board of Directors of News Corp.
A visionary with equally keen business and creative instincts, Mr. Evans joined News Corporation in 1977 when The Village Voice, where he had started in the mailroom and worked his way up to publisher, was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's News America.
In 1985, he became Executive Vice President of Murdoch Magazines, which at the time included The Village Voice, The Star and New Woman magazine, and later grew to include Elle, Seventeen, TV Guide, Automobile, Premiere, and Mirabella. Mr. Evans later became president of the Murdoch Magazine group. When News Corp. bought a group of travel magazines and databases, he developed an electronic alternative to some of the travel directories using CD-ROM and laser disks. The project was named Jaguar. "I was trying to make travel agents become active instead of reactive," he said. "They sat around waiting for the phone to ring. I wanted them to pick up the phone and call people and say, 'I've got a great vacation for you.'" Jaguar was later implemented into the Sabre System of American Airlines, and in 1989 the business division was sold for a record $860,000.000.
In 1989, when the Murdoch Magazine division was sold to K-III, Mr. Evans moved to London to run the business side of the News Corporation newspaper operation there (The Times of London, The Sunday Times, Today, The Sun, and News of the World).
He returned to the U.S. in 1992 and formed News Electronic Data, Inc. (NEDI), a subsidiary of News Corporation, where he developed some of the first electronic travel information products in the industry.
In 1995, with Intel, Accel Partners, Hummer Winblad and NEA, Mr. Evans bought out NEDI from News Corporation and renamed it BizTravel.com. The company became the leading travel planning site for frequent business travelers. The company's website has earned numerous industry awards for its information presentations and services.
Also in 1995, Mr. Evans founded REM Productions, Inc., a design consultation service for media products whose clients include Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks SKG, and Intel Corporation. Though his official title at REM was chief executive officer, he preferred the title of "Dreamer." His aim was to bring an emotional dimension to the generally sterile world of software interface design. He strongly believed that the level of involvement people have with information is directly proportional to its personalization. Through the use of animation and art in new media, he sought to create an emotional connection for consumers, to replicate the commitment people traditionally have felt toward their favorite magazine or newspaper. "Products are hopeless unless they end up with a community," he said. He applied this philosophy back in the 1970s when he transformed the Village Voice's classified advertising section into a lively and profitable form of personal communication. He started the Bulletin Board on the back page of the newspaper, and thus gave the Voice a unique personality.
A Welshman, Mr. Evans was raised in England where his father served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. He graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Law and practiced as an attorney for a time. He once described himself as "a cuckoo born in the wrong nest." He said, "In England people always had a good reason not to do something, or it was felt that to start a commercial venture was a low-class thing. I had ideas." An avid Formula One racecar driver and sailor, he spent several years as a professional yachtsman chartering sailboats before coming to the United States. When he did arrive in America in 1972, at the age of 34, it was, predictably, on a sailboat. He sailed from Venezuela to South Calcos Island, and then up the Hudson River. But he arrived with no particular plan in mind. "The only thing I hope to be is open to opportunity," he said, "and if you're open to opportunity, there can't be a plan other than that." After working on boats at the 79th Street Marina on the Hudson, and a three and a half year stint in advertising at AC&R agency, he started his career in the media world.
He is survived by his sister Patricia Etheridge, of England; his daughter, Morgan (9); and a stepdaughter, Sarah (5).
John B. Evans, 66, Publisher of Village Voice in the 1970's, Dies
April 6, 2004
By KENNETH N. GILPIN
NEW YORK TIMES
John B. Evans, a former senior executive at the News Corporation, died on March 28 at his home in Annandale, N.J. He was 66. The cause was congestive heart failure, Victoria Meyer, a friend, said.
Mr. Evans joined the News Corporation in 1977, when Rupert Murdoch, who controls the company, bought The Village Voice, the weekly newspaper based in New York. Mr. Evans began his career in the media business in the early 1970's with The Voice, rising to become publisher.
In 1985, he was named executive vice president of Murdoch Magazines, a stable of publications that then included The Star and New Woman magazine besides The Village Voice. The list grew to include Elle, Seventeen, TV Guide and Mirabella, among others. Mr. Evans was later named president of the Murdoch Magazine Group.
In 1990, the magazine unit was sold, and Mr. Evans moved to London to run the business operations of Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper properties, including The Times of London, The Sunday Times and The Sun.
He returned to the United States in 1992 and formed News Electronic Data Inc., a News Corporation subsidiary that was formed to bring all of Mr. Murdoch's newspapers online. Subsequently, Mr. Evans developed some of the first electronic travel information products.
"As far as I know, he was the first person in print publishing that understood what was happening with the Internet and publishing," said Martin Singerman, who was president and publisher of The New York Post from 1994 through 1999 and is a former News Corporation director.
Marty Singerman, Rupert Murdoch, John Evans and
Marjorie Scardino (1986)
In 1995, along with a number of partners, including the Intel Corporation, Mr. Evans bought News Electronic Data from News Corporation and renamed it BizTravel.com. Mr. Evans also founded his own media consulting company, REM Productions Inc.
Born in Ruthin, Wales, Mr. Evans was raised in England and graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in law.
A sailor who spent several years as a professional yachtsman, Mr. Evans arrived in the United States on a sailboat, completing a voyage from Venezuela to the 79th Street Boat Basin in Manhattan.
He found a job at the marina upon arrival, and then worked for three and a half years in advertising before moving to The Village Voice.
Mr. Evans was married three times; all three marriages ended in divorce.
He is survived by his sister, Patricia Etheridge of England; a daughter, Morgan Evans of Annandale, and a stepdaughter, Sarah Kim, also of Annandale.