WebMD's Leming on audience development and lessons from CNN.com
One of the benefits of working at WebMD is being able to ask doctors on the editorial staff questions like, “Is it safe to microwave food in a plastic container?” during lunch, said Leming.
AT WORK WITH: LEA ANN LEMING, VP OF AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT, WEBMD
What was your biggest break?
Getting to work on the launch and early years of CNN.com. We had this incredible brand and all of these video assets, but we were creating something completely new: the first large news site on the web. It was an exciting and experimental time. Life-changing for me, really. I found my passion early on in my career.
What's the best part of your job?
The best part is the culture at WebMD. The people are smart, driven, innovative, and kind. We believe in the integrity of the brand and social purpose. It's a north star. I get to combine my love of digital media and news with health content. We have this huge brand and audience, and my role is to help grow and expand it across multiple platforms.
Who is the person you admire most in your area of work?
The people I admire most are great leaders and good people — they believe in a vision and get the whole team there. I also admire people who are willing to share their journeys, even painful ones. For instance, the late, great college basketball coach, Pat Summitt, and her openness about her Alzheimer's disease diagnosis.
What's the view like from your office/work area?
I'm based in midtown Atlanta, and I get to look out over Piedmont Park, where we often do walking meetings. When I'm in our New York office, I work out of our open café space and get to look at the barista bar, which is pretty awesome, too.
Does your office have a favorite lunch and/or after-hours place?
It's not exciting, but our favorite lunch place is clearly the break room. On the positive side, there are doctors on our editorial staff just in case you want to ask questions like, “Is it safe to microwave food in a plastic container?”
Where did you go to college? Did it help you prepare for your career?
I went to the University of Tennessee and majored in English. Then, I attended grad school briefly at the University of Chicago thinking I wanted to be an English professor. I learned how to read and write critically, but more than that, I learned you can succeed by following your own path.
What books are you reading?
I just started reading the galley for Hi, Anxiety: Life with a Bad Case of Nerves by my friend and former colleague Kat Kinsman.
What was your greatest professional challenge?
During the first dot-com bomb, I moved from content to corporate strategic planning at Turner Broadcasting. I'd never done a business plan before. It was sink or swim. It was uncomfortable, but I learned a lot, and it led me into new product development, then running HLN Digital, then on to ABC News.
Where will you be in five years?
Doing something amazing in digital media that helps people.
What are your favorite industry-related websites? Non-industry?
Always The New York Times. I'm also addicted to content discovery on social platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Zillow, everyday. I love real estate.
If you were to write a book, what would the title be?
Yes, I Had A CompuServe Account.