Matt McGowan – The Interview on 7 Glorious Years at Incisive Media and the Future

Exactly one year ago I wrote this.

A day later I called up Matt McGowan to get some advice (and a pep talk) and the guy was so generous with his time (and a free ticket to the SES digital marketing conference in San Francisco the following month) that that conversation has been etched in my memory ever since as a pivotal moment in me deciding to set up my own company.

I first met Matt in 2008 back in my Microsoft adCenter days at the SES conference in London and have got to know him, not just industry colleague but as friend. You know, that smart funny guy you make a beeline for across an expo hall at drinky time? That guy who’ll always make time to chat even though you can see he has a million things going on on the first day of a conference.

Today I’m kind of repaying Matt’s generosity that day we chatted after I’d been laid off from exactly 7 years at Microsoft, by publishing this interview with him about his recent amicable departure from the Incisive fold.

You see, Matt is one of the REALLY nice guys in search and social who has helped companies build their brands and individuals make names for themselves, but he’s always done it without so much of a toot of his own horn.

Always found rushing about at conferences with his phone clamped to his head fielding calls, fixing things, making connections and organizing great nights out after the expo halls went dark, he’s done it all with good humour and an endearing self-effacing nature.

When I spoke to him yesterday about his recent resignation from Incisive Media, he said he didn’t want to make a fuss. But I suggested that he’d touched so many careers in his tenure at Incisive that people would want to know what happened AND that he might have some advice for us all from lessons learned from his global business experience.

The resulting interview is below. Take a read, know he’s “all good” (as is often used to describe a positive outlook on like in the US of A), and maybe learn a few things….


So what’s the story Matt? 30th of June was your last day at Incisive? What happened?

After 7 years (to the day) Incisive Media and I came to a formal agreement that allowed me out of my day to day operational responsibilities at the company.  This development was triggered by my decision to want and try something new, and it fit well with Incisive Media’s mid and long term plans.  My decision to resign my role was not an easy one as my former team and the business I was responsible for are absolutely fantastic and extremely important to me.

The digital landscape has changed dramatically since I started with Incisive Media back in June 2006 and I plan on taking the summer and fall off to explore new opportunities.

So nothing sinister right? You’re leaving on good terms?

Only the best. Tim Weller, CEO at Incisive Media and who founded the business with James Hanbury and Nick Rapley, and his team and I are on fantastic terms – which was extremely important to me. After 7 years the team at Incisive Media feels like, is, family and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

And what about Search Engine Watch and ClickZ? They’re still carrying on their great work right?, and the global SES Conference and Expo Series are in the best of hands. It is sometimes forgotten by many in the industry that these brands have been under the tutelage of Mike Grehan, Publisher of Incisive Media’s Interactive Marketing Portfolio, and his team for much of that last year. Moreover, Mike has been with the company for over 5 years. It’s safe to say he knows the business intimately.

If you don’t know Mike? He wrote one of the first books on Search Engine Marketing (and currently writing his next), he is an expert on information retrieval, has been cited many times in mainstream and industry press, and speaks at many events including invite-only internal events at some the largest players in the space. I have the utmost confidence in Mike and his team’s skills and their dedication to excellence.  

What were the most valuable lessons learned from your 7 years at Incisive?

Tough question… though something I look forward to thinking more about it this summer as I take some time to decompress, understand what it is I have accomplished, what it is that motivates me, and what it is I want to do next.

Some early thoughts include and please remember its only been two weeks since I resigned my role as Managing Director of Incisive Media’s North and South America business and the global Interactive Marketing:

  1. Lead by example.
  2. Be honest with yourself, you team, and your clients/customers.
  3. Deal with problems immediately, before they snowball. 
  4. Ask lots of questions. 
  5. Leave you pride at the door (you can learn something from everyone, have the strength to listen).
  6. A clear corporate communication strategy is vital. 
  7. Believe in the work you do, your reputation is defined by it (that and how you treat others).
  8. Be good to people –> it takes a village.   
  9. Don’t forget to thank your family for their support, it is invaluable. 


Legendary night out in Macau after SES Hong Kong with Bill Hunt, Lee Odden, Aaron Kahlow and Brent Payne

What’s next?

It is an exciting world we live in.  Digital is quickly becoming ubiquitous, and with that opportunities abound.  I am looking more at those area’s that are in the state of disruption than those that are crowded and selling based on some optimization. In that vein, and in order to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground while I look for full time employment, I have accepted advisory positions with:

– The Online Marketing Institute, which is catering to the knowledge sharing and level setting needs of the online marketing and advertising industry (education and helping marketer’s do their jobs better has defined my career this last decade);

Web Congress, an event business that serves mostly a hispanic and latino audience, is dedicated to education, and is based in one of my favorite favorite cities, Barcelona;

BtoBeacon, a recently launched resource working to define and educate the BtoB marketing industry;

and of course…

Incisive Media, where I am now an advisor to the CEO and Board of Directors with no operational responsibility. 

Where can you be contacted if a reader wants to tap into your vast knowledge?!

If you have ideas for me or just want to talk marketing, advertising, and technology please do get in touch…

Twitter –> @Matt_McGowan

LinkedIn –> McGowan

Google+ –> Matt McGowan

Please join me in thanking Matt and wishing him every success in the next leg of his professional jaunt in digital!


  • Motoko Hunt

    Thank you, Mel, for this wonderful interview article.

    Matt is one of the smartest and nicest people I know in the industry. I have lots of great memories with him including the trip to Japan.

    The best of luck, Matt !!

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Lisa Raehsler

    When you say “he’d touched so many careers in his tenure at Incisive”– I am in that group! Matt has been a great influence on me as I grew in search industry, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He is super savvy with all things digital and a kind, generous person. I will miss him at the SES events. OR will he be there?!

    Thanks for the post, Mel!

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Thank you for this Lisa, warms my heart. I wont be a stranger, that’s a promise.

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Andrew Goodman

    Thanks for the memories, Matt. And there have been so many. And above all, thanks for keeping us honest. Check your pride at the door, definitely that’s a tough ask for so many of us, and wise advice. That’s the best way to build lifelong bonds and to bridge many siloes. Best of luck in your next challenge.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Andrew, thank you! many more memories to come I am sure. hope to see you soon.

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Aaron Kahlow

    Proud to be associated with the McGowan Brand! Cheers to all you’ve done and will do!

    Enjoy that summer of yours!

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Matt Kennedy


    Best of luck for the future and well done for your efforts over the years!

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Thanks Matt! It has been a pleasure working with you

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Tim Ash

    Hey Mel,

    Thanks for the nice write-up and interview.

    I have to agree with you 100%. Matt is an amazingly bright and effective leader in the digital marketing sphere. But more important to me is how he lives his life. As you mentioned, he is always willing to lend a helping hand. He truly listens with insight and an open heart to everyone around him, and brings out the best in people. I am lucky enough to have spent some time with him at SES conferences over the years, and am very proud to also call him my friend.

    Matt, best of luck on your next chapter – I am sure no matter what you choose to do you will bring your wonderful spirit and heart to the task. Keep shining your light – the world really needs a lot more people like you.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Tim — what can I say… takes one to know one =) thank you for the kind words and I hope we can connect when I am in SD next week. its been quite a ride… more greatness to come!


      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Bill Hunt

    Thanks Mel for paying it forward! You too are as generous with your time as Matt.

    Matt has been amazing to the digital community always trying to advance the understanding and education of all forms of digital. He and his team were always helpful to SEMPO offering space and co-promotion at all of their shows.

    A number of years ago Matt offered space and passes to a group of experts to attend, a yet to be replicated, round table of engineers from Google, Adobe, Flash Developers, Brands and SEO’s to brainstorm a solution for making Flash search friendly. This helped solve a major problem for all involved.

    That legendary Macau trip came on a whim and lasted until the bowl of noodles the next morning heading back to Hong Kong. Hopefully the lucky Kabuki pin will bring Mattt luck in his next venture.

    Looking forward to you next project – I do think there are a lot of things in digital that need to be disrupted!.

    Best of luck my friend!

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Bill — you have been a fantastic friend, colleague, and partner these last 7 years. I very much look fwd to continuing to grow together!

      The Macau Hard Rock Kabuki pin has been in my briefcase since that fateful eve… I often find myself taking it out and holding it for luck. Thank you for the gift! Kabuki Power!!

      Lets connect next time you are down here in the city. Would be great to catch up,


      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Geoffrey Shenk

    Matt is & has been on of my favorite people in the media space! Congratulations on such a great 7 year run and looking forward to seeing what comes next in your career. Fun, friendly, insightful and smart.

    All the best Matt!


    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan


      Many thanks! Very much appreciated.


      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Frank Watson

    Mate you definitely left big shoes to fill for the person taking over. Have enjoyed our business relationships which am sure will continue wherever you land. Keep doing it with your branded personality and charm and you will have great success wherever you go.
    Your friendship goes beyond the work – you are blessed with a great family and one of the biggest circle of friends I have seen and am proud to be part of it.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan


      I am defn blessed. Thank for the kind words and see you soon,


      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Anne Kennedy

    Congratulations Matt on all your accomplishments at Incisive. It has ben a pleasure getting to know you and to work with you, and not least, to watch your meteoric and well deserved rise o the top.

    I hope new adventures bring us together again soon.

    Thanks Mel for the great write up.
    Cheers & Best wishes,

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Many thanks Anne. You have been a strong influence on me. I very much appreciate the kind words.

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Lee Odden

    Well done Mel, great interview about a great guy.

    Matt, or should I say, 007? It’s been quite a journey and that trip to Macau (thanks for suggesting it Bill) made for some great memories.

    As Mel says, you’re one of those “good guys” that always makes time, not matter how busy you are and have made such a positive impact on the people around you.

    I appreciate your early confidence and how we’ve worked together over the years to what I hope has been a great mutual benefit.

    What’s next? It doesn’t matter. You’ll kick ass at it – of that I have no doubt. 🙂

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Lee — gotta love it… I will always appreciate your help and friendship. Looking fwd to connecting soon.


      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Eddie Choi

    Hey Matt, my pleasure of knowing you. Congrats for whatever good things ahead. When will you come back to Asia? Remember the night in S’pore when you talked about how’s the world was working and Asia could be a part of you in life? …. You won’t remember that, because I make it up. Haha, come anyway. Good luck buddy!

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan


      I hope to be in HK/China sometime soon… would be great to catch up. I do hope Asia is a BIG part of my next position. Please stay in touch,


      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Byron Gordon

    You were a great client to work for, Matt!
    Thanks for being smart and generous with your time.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Rand Schulman

    Good luck Matt – It’s been fun working with you all of these years – I’m sure there will be more to come!

    Rand Schulman

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      its been fun… though its not over yet! talk soon.

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Jim Banks

    All the best Matt. Sounds amicable, which is always good, and exciting times ahead after a nice summer off.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • James Hanbury

    The tributes are well deserved. Matt, we have had a fun ride and leave the business at the same time, in good shape and with very capable people to pick up the reins. I have enjoyed every moment Working with you and sincerely hope that we keep in close touch and that our paths cross again before too long! Who knows what is just around the corner…

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Well said James! I too have enjoyed every minute working for you. Thanks for the kind words and talk soon.

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Elaine Romeo

    Matt you are one of the very best bosses I ever worked for and I would work for you any time, any where. You are a good man, the best.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
    • Matt McGowan

      Elaine, what can I say… thank you. You have been a pleasure to work with and I look fwd to staying in touch. Talk soon.

      Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Jo Turnbull

    It was great to meet you at Search London and thanks for your support at SES NY earlier this year.

    Good luck with your next endeavours Matt.

    Fantastic interview Mel.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Steve Denner

    Great interview, with one of the best there is. Good luck Matt, see you soon I hope.

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Heidi Cohen

    Matt–It was great working with you at Incisive/ClickZ. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    Reply Posted 11 years ago
  • Marty

    Wishing you the best of luck. I remember the first time meeting you, in Chicago. You struck me as being such a nice man. Thank you so much for all your contributions to the industry over the years. <3

    Reply Posted 11 years ago

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