Cover Story: Building A Sustainable Future
When Advertising Age announced the first crop of winners of its Media Vanguard Awards, created to honor publisher innovation in the digital realm, some were expected (Esquire and The Wall Street Journal's iPad apps, for instance) while others seemed to come out of left field. One of these was a nifty app from MacLife magazine, which walked away with the "Most Promising Magazine iPad Edition" prize.
"Given its obvious Apple affinity, MacLife magazine must have been tempted to rush an iPad edition together in time for the new device's introduction last spring," Ad Age noted. "Instead it took the time to ask readers what they wanted, while watching many other magazine apps go long on aesthetics, but short on interactivity."
This could be a summation of the entire business approach of MacLife's publisher, Future Publishing LLC, which John Marcom, president of Future U.S., says is grounded in carefully crafted strategy and steady, continuous improvement, rather than the lure of the splashy, "transformative" moment.
"I think over the last few years, the company has been focused on trying to make its assets perform better," he says. "We've been trying to develop organically good digital products that flow from our print expertise."
The approach has left Future poised to make a much bigger impression in a U.S. market where, by its own admission, it has not enjoyed a high profile. "Let's face it, Future's been under the radar a little bit," says Kate Byrne, vice president of the Technology and Living Group, who has overseen Future U.S.'s recent digital initiatives. The MacLife app, Byrne says, is just the first in a volley of digital products displaying the publisher's emerging expertise in leveraging reader passion to the right technological tools.
Byrne also mentions a few other secret weapons: a passionate, dedicated audience base (with renewal numbers and sell-through rates any publisher would covet), a nimble approach, and the "guts" to go up against much bigger competitors.