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Balancing the Grind with Mark Kuban, Group General Manager & Group Publisher at The Intermedia Group

Mark Kuban is the Group General Manager & Group Publisher at The Intermedia Group, where he specialises in business intelligence across film and television, aged and community care, government and retail.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My career in publishing commenced as a cadet with Thomson Corporation. At the time they were one of the largest global information companies with significant magazine holdings in Australia, and newspaper holdings internationally.

They had deep pockets and were early technology adopters. The environment developed my interest in the application of technology in business and data.

I later joined Fairfax and while I loved the heritage, the culture didn’t satisfy my entrepreneurial nature. I had a brief stint at Hoyts before joining a major record label. I landed a retail marketing role with BMG, eventually heading up the National Publicity and Promotions Division.

BMG taught me about the power of data, the power of content, and the power of collaboration. Our business priorities were largely determined by HQ in New York. It was breathtaking to watch what could be achieved when an entire organisation focussed on delivering a result.

It was also the first time I came face-to-face with disruption. In 1997 the CEO handed me an MP3 – we had no idea what we were looking at. Disruption had arrived and the rest was history.

Around the same time, I started writing and producing a weekly entertainment gossip show with Huw Drury, called Poison Pen. It was syndicated to 47 stations around the country and hosted by Penne Dennison.

We built a website and started engaging with fans, launching giveaways, and working closely with brands such as Unilever, Pepsi and Ericsson. It was early days in the commercialization of the web, so it was all new and exciting.

I was also ghost writing for pop culture magazine SAIN. After eight years of working crazy hours and a longlist of failed relationships, I wanted to slow down, and focus on laughing more and travelling less.

I planned to take the year off but an offer from InvestorInfo was too good to refuse. InvestorInfo was a great organisation. We had some of the best people I ever had the pleasure to work with. The speed at which they deployed technology and products was astounding.

I later joined Rainmaker as MD of their publishing division. It too was an impressive organisation that was data focussed. I moved the financial standard operation from Melbourne to Sydney and basically scrapped the existing strategy and rebuilt it with a new editorial team and new editorial focus.

Just as things were beginning to settle, I received a call from Simon Grover at Intermedia, who said, “Let’s have some fun and create stuff.” What can I say, he had me at “Let’s have some fun!”.

Today, I’m Group Publisher and Group General Manager at the Intermedia Group. I specialise predominately in business intelligence across film and television, aged and community care, Government and retail.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

The day starts around 5am. Always with a stovetop coffee. I check the calendar, scan emails, then jump onto my respective mastheads and run through the top stories. Then it’s a walk with the dog. I’m usually at the office around 7.30am, unless I’m required to drop my son off at school.

On occasion my days can feel a little bipolar as I manage “Church and State” matters – balancing editorial independence with commercial realities. I have a team of journalists and a team of business development managers.

They are two tribes that operate independently of each other and my job is to create harmony and cohesion. No two days are similar. Publishing is an entrepreneurial endeavour, which requires a combination of science and magic.

I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by a great team. These days a publishing house is better described as either a content agency or media company rather than a traditional publisher. It’s a business of many businesses with many independently moving parts.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My role does allow me to work remotely. However, I like being in the office. For me, the office is the place for collaboration, ideas, and focus. I try not to bring the office home.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

It’s important for me to keep my life compartmentalised. I think technology has eroded boundaries and allowed work to encroach on family time. I’ve refused to sacrifice my time with my family and especially my son, because I’ll never get that time again.

If I need to squeeze more hours into a project, I’ll find those hours around my family time. My father passed away in 2008 from aggressive cancer. I remember his final weeks were filled with regret.

Success doesn’t guarantee happiness and happiness doesn’t require success. They can feed each other and we can have them at the same time, but they are not intertwined.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I think my attitudes have changed. I realised that I am just a caretaker. The house that I live in once belonged to someone else, and one day it will again. This role that I am in, will one day be someone else’s role.

Recognising that has had a profound change on how I view things, how I manage myself, and manage my teams. I make every effort to not take for granted that I’m surrounded by interesting talented people.

This has also had a profound and positive impact on my relationship with clients. People respond better when you reach out at a human level. Not every meeting should be about commercial gain. Don’t be a stranger in your industry.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I am addicted to podcasts. Some of my favourites include The Moth, Dr Death, Guy Raz’s How I Built This, Reply All, Radiolab. Favourite newsletter: New Atlas. It’s like visiting HobbyCo as a kid!

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

iPad, iPhone, Audeze LCD-4z headphones, PS5, NIKON Z7, WhatsApp, BMW 1250GSA, LinkedIn

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

God. I’ve just read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It is probably more relevant now since the pandemic reset. I think people are questioning the definition of happiness and reassessing nine-to-five.

While I love social media, it isn’t an environment that creates positive reinforcement. If anything, it highlights deficiencies and promotes materialistic love. Don’t get me wrong. I love a label but it doesn’t define me or add character points.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Be present. People are infinitely fascinating. Life is too short to live without purpose. Failure does not define you. If in doubt, pull it out.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.