Show Notes: Editors & Mag Execs Evolve With The Times
It was a powerhouse session at our magazine keynote presentation this year at the Publishing Business Conference. We asked four top execs to speak to the topic of Facing the Future, and to share some thoughts about profit, innovation, risk and what they fear most. Each one of these publishing leaders had a lot to add to the dialogue.
Michela O'Connor Abrams, president of Dwell Media, has a broad perspective on the future. Imagine her standing in front of a white board. In a circle in the center she'll write the words "Media Company of the Future." From there she'll draw arrows heading toward this circle. At the outer end of one arrow are content providers such as Yahoo and AOL. Dangling from another arrow are those who reformulate existing content, such as Flipboard. Another is advertisers, and another is big magazine brands: Hearst, Condé Nast, Meredith, and, of course, Dwell.
"Everybody's racing to the same place," says O'Connor Abrams. "We're all fighting for engagement. Staying where you are is not sustainable." Those who master the future will be paying attention to three key things: content, community and commerce. O'Connor Abrams's "3 Cs" are where she's placing her focus, all while "making sure that people don't put her in the magazine bucket." 50% of the company is currently based on the magazine, she says. In the future, it could be 30%. "Dwell is working hard to sustain credibility on all other platforms."
Mark Howard, chief revenue officer of Forbes Media, is focused on brand impact. He wants to build a meaningful dialogue with his audience that crosses all revenue streams. Howard notes the rapidly increasing volume of people using mobile to access information, and says that at Forbes, they work to "keep up with the shift in consumer behavior."
The Forbes brand is expanding globally and Howard's current focus is to "roll out the right type of ad product for each platform." Forbes is expanding its product offerings to advertisers and is, according to Howard, "integrating the marketer's messages into the editorial experience."
Lucy Kaylin is in a very different sort of situation, dealing with celebrities, one bold-faced name in particular. Editor-in-chief of O: The Oprah Magazine, Kaylin says: "Oprah's impact is enormous. It's a wellspring for what we do."
"Oprah doesn't want to be on the cover forever," explains Kaylin, but she is nonetheless the magazine's regular cover model, presenting her approach to living. "Oprah believes in putting wonderful energy into the world and helping people to live better lives." Kaylin says staff and writers at O "interpret the world through [Oprah's] eyes." This contributes to a clear and consistent POV and "a good magazine is good because of point of view."
Kaylin is also working to determine the best way for the brand to translate print content into digital, so that the digital edition will enhance and not cannibalize the print edition. Whether print will become a smaller part of their media mix is currently unclear, but meanwhile, Kaylin's focus remains on growing the brand.
Howard Mittman, publisher of Wired, says that his company, and in fact the entire industry, is "constantly in a moment of change." His attitude is optimistic, however, because he firmly believes that change "brings opportunity and challenges." Mittman describes the Wired team as one that is always reinventing. Their goal is to "grab the future and bring it to today."
Mittman is exceedingly proud of his publication's ongoing accomplishments, and a bit awed by his own personal achievement in the role he holds. "I'm just a frat boy from Ohio State!" he exclaims with blustery modesty. (Mittman is the subject of the Corner Office Q&A in the December Issue of Publishing Executive.)
This year at PBC we introduced an entirely new event -- Magazine CPR: Create, Publish and Reinvent -- developed and shepherded by our columnist Samir "Mr. Magazine" Husni. The day featured a rapid-fire array of top-notch speakers, all sharing insightful ways magazines can refresh their brands, or even launch new ones.
The conference opened with an interview with Andy Serwer, Fortune managing editor. Fortune magazine was launched in February of 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression -- not, one must agree, a great time to start a new business magazine. And yet here they are almost 64 years later, with three platforms: magazines, digital and live events, and with a number of strong franchises such as 40 Under 40 and of course the Fortune 500. Serwer is not a fan of special issues, but he does make sure to have at least one of the franchises mentioned in every issue. He seeks joint ventures (such as CNN Money) and other new opportunities and counsels, "make sure you're punching above your weight." Serwer's ideal journalist is an extreme multi-tasker: he or she writes both short and long form, edits, does social, live events and TV. Sleeping? No time for that!
Meredith CEO Steve Lacy gave a rousing lunchtime keynote at the CPR conference. Reminding us to constantly think of new approaches, he told the audience, "there's no such thing as a tired media brand, just tired marketers." He talked at length about Meredith's in-depth knowledge of its reader (Meredith knows what "she" wants) and exhorted us all to keep moving forward and innovating. "You always have to go into the marketplace with the shiniest new hubcap." PE
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