FMA Day 2013: Subscription Strategy, Social Smarts and Recognition
The Fulfillment Management Association's FMA Day 2013 held at the Princeton Club of New York opened with a clear presentation by Ethan Grey, SVP of digital strategy and initiatives at the MPA. Grey shared several digital success stories and then went on to explain that as an industry we need to market digital editions better than we have to date. He used Hearst as an example of a digital industry leader who has a "be everywhere strategy."
Hearst is on every platform known to the digi-hood and has instituted a "read them first in digital strategy," whereby all issues are released in digital format before the print editions are available. (I think that it is worth noting that Hearst is up to 1.3 million full-priced digital subscriptions, representing 3% of their total circ and, as I have reported before, Hearst Digital circ could hit 25% in five years.) Another successful Hearst initiative is weekly digital editions of Esquire and soon to be released weekly Elle editions.
One of the early morning sessions was called the Print Channel with Gary Michelson, consumer marketing director of CirculationSpecialists, Inc., and Andrew Schulman, director of new business at Bonnier Publications. This was an age-old yet vitally important set of suggestions about how to fine-tune the marketing channel. These veterans of the BRC renewal wars offered great insights into a venerable process, including ideas for increasing revenue, such as a $3 bill-me-later upcharge that new subscribers to Sportsman Magazine are apparently willing to pay. This was a new idea to me and I liked it.
Field & Stream has instituted a policy where subscribers are now required to pay shipping and handling. While chatting with Gary and Andrew after their talk, they sort of apologized for such a boring topic. I had to stop that line of logic for two reasons: one, I enjoyed their presentation very much and two, boring or not, it is an important part of the revenue stream of any magazine and must be discussed and dissected and fine-tuned by professionals. How else do we all gain the knowledge to proceed, which is exactly what I told them?
Next there was a discussion about optimizing your e-newsletter and since I don't know anything about that I sat glued to my seat. Truth is there is always something new learn, no matter who you are.
The keynote was by Jonathan Perelman, vice president of agency strategy and industry development at Buzzfeed, whose topic was social storytelling with a purpose. He was entertaining and had some great insights from the social media publishing world. He suggested that most people suffer from FOMO, which is the Fear Of Missing Out. Nice, I wish I made that one up.
Jonathan started making the point that social is the starting point for much of what happens online. In the early days of internet search was the place you started. Now the starting point is social. Jonathan also says that great content will find its audience. As the publisher of the world's oldest newsletter, I am inclined to agree, with the proviso that you have to be able to have the staying power to wait until your great content gets discovered.
Then Jonathan dropped another great sound-bite: that Buzzfeed's focus and all they cared about was the social reproduction rate of their articles.
Here are six of Jonathan's public secrets:
1. Have a heart: people like uplifting content.
2. Content is about identity.
3. Humor works: people always want to laugh.
4. Nostalgia brings us back to a simpler time. It brings you back to your past.
5. Understanding cats is vital to understanding the web. CUTE: how and why do cats share so well across all the platforms.
6. Don't ignore mobile. Mobile is vital today and will become the only thing in just a few years.
There were three awards given at FMA Day 2013. I will admit as an old time and grizzled softie these awards always make me sentimental. There is nothing quite like the recognition of your peers. It doesn't matter what your profession or trade is, it is very special getting acknowledgement of your life's work from your coworkers. There is hardly anything more special except perhaps the occasional regular pay check. And in a lot of ways the peer acknowledgement is more satisfying. Awards don't pay the bills, but they do tell the world who you are and that you're recognized as more than just a worker bee, but rather a warrior bee worth contending with.
This year Andrea Sole received the Fulfillment Manager of the Year Award. She is fulfillment director at Forbes Media with over 30 years of experience. I don't know Andrea, but clearly she was greatly respected by everyone in the room. Congratulations Andrea.
The next award called the Lee C. Williams Award went to Robert M. Cohn who is senior consumer marketing director for Bonnier. I didn't know Bob Cohn either, but I gathered from his loving introduction that he actually knew Johann Guttenberg at CBS publishing. Bob went on to tell many great stories and discussed one of my favorite topics, the lost art of mentorship. This was especially and supremely meaningful to me, because Bob worked at CBS Publishing and one of my mentors worked there too. I ran up to the podium after the awards were over to ask if he knew Irving Herschbein. The answer was yes, and we had a great but too short conversation about our mutual friend. To those who knew him, there is no need for me to try to wax poetic. But for the sake of history, my conscience, and for those who didn't get the privilege to know him, he was a great and giving man. Plain and simple, Irving was my mentor, my friend and I am proud say he was a kindred spirit.
The last award was the FMA Hall of Fame Award given to Malcolm Netburn, chairman and CEO of CDS Global. Malcolm was warmly introduced by John Loughlin, EVP and general manager at Hearst Magazines. I must confess a certain amount of bias here as over the years Malcolm and I have become good friends. He is the rare corporate bird that can run a global company with thousands of employees and maintain the professional love and respect of everyone in the company. That is not an easy thing to do.
Malcolm shared much with the packed audience with humility and humor. I tried my best to listen and to take notes as he spoke. I think I have captured the spirit of his thinking if not the actual words.
Malcolm discussed fluently the seismic changes that are happening in our industry. He said that sometimes we tend to pursue the miniscule and in doing so miss the next big thing. He went on to say that in some ways everything has changed and yet in some other ways nothing has changed at all. He said that the tools for our fingertips are very different but our fingers haven't changed. First he suggested that the art of communication hasn't changed. What we need in this era of evolution is the skill to sort out the noise. For our businesses to prosper we must avoid the risk of treading water in sameness. The ability to navigate in these times requires courage, audacity and optimism. If we adhere to those traits we will all have no limits.
My congratulations to all the awardees. I thought FMA DAY 2013 was a terrific day where I learned, laughed, saw old friends and networked. Not a bad day at all.