Working Mother Media President Carol Evans: Building a Major Brand Into a Franchise
It's no secret. Many, if not most publishers today are striving to diversify beyond advertising-reliant business models, seeking and seizing new opportunities to drive revenue. For Carol Evans, President, Working Mother Media, diversification has been a consistent strategy inherent in building a growing franchise around a single title, Working Mother magazine.
In addition to a steady circulation of 825,000 and an estimated readership of 2 million, the 31-year-old magazine has served as the foundation of an expanding brand serving working moms through print, unique content products, events, digital efforts, research and global initiatives, among others.
Here, Evans, who was named as one of Publishing Executive's "Top Women in Magazine Publishing" in 2009, shares her insights into Working Mother Media's growth and investment areas, new and forthcoming initiatives, challenges, the benefits of her company's sale to Bonnier Corp. last year, and more.
The Revenue Picture
Noelle Skodzinski: What is Working Mother Media's fastest-growing revenue segment?
Carol Evans: Working Mother Media's (WMM) fastest-growing revenue stream in 2010 is research, which is why we are announcing the formation of the WMM Research Institute. We invested in technology and personnel to support our unique capabilities in research. WMM creates benchmarking research products from the extensive databases of our "Best Company" initiatives including "WM 100 Best," "Best Companies for Multicultural Women," "Best Companies for Hourly Workers," "Best Law Firms" and "NAFE [National Association for Female Executives] Top Companies for Executive Women."
We also expanded our ability to provide original research by utilizing the strengths of the Bonnier Corporate research team to create larger research projects than we could previously offer. In November, we will release a major national study called "What Moms Think," sponsored by Ernst and Young, Pampers and IBM.
Skodzinski: What is the company's largest revenue segment?
Evans: WMM's largest revenue segment is still print advertising, but advertising makes up just under 50 percent of our revenue. All other areas have been growing at a faster pace: conferences and events, research and corporate membership. I believe that Working Mother's advertising revenue will get back to pre-recession levels and grow from there, but I expect our other revenues to continue to outpace advertising growth.
Skodzinski: What percentage of your revenue is driven by newsstand sales, and how have your newsstand sales fared during the past two years? To what do you attribute this?
Evans: As an entrepreneur, I decided not to compete on the newsstand, and so far, Bonnier has continued this policy. We have a few thousand copies available at Barnes & Noble and Borders.
Skodzinski: What about subscription revenue?
Evans: Our subscriptions have held steady at 825,000, which is a level we feel is appropriate for a targeted magazine that is aimed at an educated, career-oriented mom.
Skodzinski: What percent of your total revenue is driven by digital (Web, e-newsletters, etc.)?
Evans: Our digital revenue is currently small, but with Bonnier's SEO and development teams working on our websites, we expect increases to ramp up soon. We will have an iPad edition of "Working Mother's 100 Best Companies" in time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the list in October.
Skodzinski: What about event revenue?
Evans: Working Mother Media's event revenue has risen steadily over the years. This year we hosted four major conferences and 18 events, including two events in Beijing, China, in November.
Our events are b-to-b and involve more than 300 major companies sponsoring, hosting, sending employees and collaborating with us to move our mutual interests forward. We also have some fun specialty events: Next week we host our biannual event for members of Congress called "Best of Congress."
Skodzinski: Are you currently doing any virtual events (webinars or trade shows)?
Evans: We host web seminars nearly every month, but they are communication vehicles for us more than revenue drivers. Our corporate membership organization, Diversity Best Practices, offers webinars as part of our member benefits package.
Skodzinski: You also have a book out. Have you published other books or plan to? Has this contributed significantly to the bottom line?
Evans: My book "This Is How We Do it; The Working Mother's Manifesto" was published in 2006, so it's time for me to start working on my next one. The book had a tremendous impact on Working Mother Media as it gave us a different platform to express our expertise in the mom market. It also allowed me to codify my own thinking about the best solutions for working moms-personally and professionally. I am still giving speeches using the book as my core material.
Skodzinski: Where is Working Mother Media investing most heavily?
Evans: Working Mother Media made a big investment in 2006 when we acquired Diversity Best Practices, a corporate membership organization devoted to diversity and inclusion (D+I) in corporations. We continue to develop and grow this institution, which is now part of our global initiative, as we help companies figure out global strategies and solutions to D+I needs.
We are also investing in television, and are currently developing our "Working Mother" TV show, an ET [Entertainment Tonight] type show for moms who need support for their ambitious lifestyle.
Even More Interesting Stuff
Skodzinski: Has your role as president changed in recent years?
Evans: My role has not changed as much as I thought it might when I sold Working Mother Media to Bonnier. I have a boss now, but anyone who has had investors knows that there is always a boss. Terry Snow, CEO of Bonnier, allows me to continue to build around my passions, but has been a very strong partner in helping us to focus on profitability. While Bonnier is a large corporation, Terry and his team keep their entrpreneurial spirit strong, which I greatly appreciate.
Skodzinski: What is something your company did right to survive the recession?
Evans: What WMM did right during the recession was to continue diversifying our product line so that the loss of ad revenue could be offset by smaller declines or increases in non-advertising revenue streams.
Skodzinski: What is the best business decision you have made during the past year or two?
Evans: The best decision I made over the last two years was to reduce the number of people who report directly to me. With Terry's help, I created a more matrixed organization and reduced my direct reports from 13 to just six. This has allowed me to spend less time managing people and more time creating and selling products. It also gave my managers a greater sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
We also reduced the number of conferences and events we host in a year, so we could focus on making the winners even better.
Skodzinski: What keeps you awake at night?
Evans: What keeps me awake at night is a nagging feeling that there is so much opportunity still on the table. We haven't monitized our websites properly. We haven't fully realized our global potential, and we need to move more quickly on TV.
Skodzinski: What helps you sleep?
Evans: What helps me sleep is knowing that everyday we help working moms, women, minorities and families to get the support they need. Working Mother is still the only magazine for working moms, and they deserve their own magazine!