3 Key Takeaways from the 2019 Yale Publishing Course
Being a leader in magazine media requires you to be nimble and pragmatic, to shift in strategic sync with the digital landscape. To be successful you must slow down and take stock of what others in the industry are doing – and how you can manage change in your own organization. Each summer, the Yale Publishing Course invites publishing leaders to step into a classroom setting and spend a week doing just that.
I attended four days of the course this July alongside students from a variety of consumer, trade, and scientific publications. Speakers represented a range of publishers – from Hearst Magazines to Harvard Business Publishing – and included several professors from the Yale School of Management. The media execs shared real-life successes and challenges they’ve faced, while the professors introduced models for effective leadership. We discussed monetization opportunities, debated ethical dilemmas, and went overtime on almost every session with questions.
This year’s Yale Publishing Course covered a lot of ground – and I wasn’t even there for the full six days of it – but here I’ve distilled a few key takeaways from the media industry presenters:
Brands with distinct value propositions will survive.
Perhaps the overarching theme of the industry presentations, this point is reflective of media’s current trend toward niche content. Michael Clinton, recently retired president of marketing and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, put it simply: “As long as no one can knock you off, you’ll be successful.”
Jay Lauf, publisher and CEO of Quartz, stressed that brands must go beyond defining who they are serving to determine how they can “become indispensable to that audience.” Only once that value is established can they stop relying on advertisers and start driving revenue from readers through membership, paywalls, and other products.
Editors need to be business strategists.
Pam McCarthy, deputy editor of The New Yorker, made this statement early in the week as she outlined the legacy publication’s evolution in digital – and then Anne Sachs, chief content officer of Thrive Global, reiterated it throughout her “How to Unlock Your Inner Edit-Preneur” presentation. Sachs said it’s no longer enough for editors to simply produce content; they must now think about content from a monetization perspective. She emphasized that writers and reporters, too, must now be able to develop data-driven pitches and report across platforms and in different mediums, including audio.
Media companies must teach the market.
Lauf, Clinton, and Maya Draisin, VP of marketing for Condé Nast’s culture division, all drew attention to the need for consultative selling in today’s fragmented media industry. More platforms for content consumption means more places to buy and sell. In turn, publishers must educate advertisers about the new variety of audience touchpoints. Not only that, but they must also arm internal salespeople with the resources to sell across their full portfolio of brands.
When developing new products and advertising solutions, Draisin advised to look at revenue opportunities that are growing in the market and then consider the following: “What are clients asking for?” and “Where else do you have permission (from your audience) to play?”