The MPA takes a Swipe at the Future of Magazines
Last week, The MPA held a digitally focused media conference called Swipe 2.0. Mary Berner, the MPA president, opened the meeting with her usual contagious verve and enthusiasm. Her foundation statement for the day was, “Why it’s a great time to be in magazine media.”
I, of course, agree and have said many a similar statement here in this newsletter for years. I firmly believe that when we get the chance to look back historically on this decade we will see that this was a new golden age for being in the publication/information distribution business. A time of genesis for some and rebirth for others.
Mary went on to say, “There has never been a better time to be in the business of Magazine Branded Media. Sure, it is a time of transition, but if you ignore the pundits and the potshots and focus on the very real strengths of the industry, then you’ll be able to see why this is true.”
Mary said that “Just a few years ago, the buckets of what comprised ‘media’ were clear and defined by specific formats and usually a single method of distribution. A ‘magazine’ was a printed periodical with articles, photographs and advertisements, with a beginning and an end, distributed through the mail or sold on newsstands. In fact, the always provocative Bo Sacks noted that it wasn’t too long ago that Publishing Executive Magazine proclaimed: ‘If it isn't in print, it isn't a magazine.’ [For the record, that was Prof. Samir Husni’s verbiage in PE.] Today, it’s a rare publication that doesn't deliver content to its readers on and through multiple platforms and through an increasingly wide-range of formats—written words, pictures, video.”
After Mary’s opening remarks, some very excellent speakers took the stage and some of the open honesty surprised me. For years in this newsletter I have been commenting on the difference between corporate shirts and the aspects of the true entrepreneur. I mean no direct disrespect to my corporate friends, of which I have hundreds, maybe even thousands. I was once an entrepreneur disguised in a corporate shirt working in a corporate office doing high level corporate things. It is, or was, a very safe conclave to be in. But the repeated phrase heard again and again at the MPA Swipe event was decidedly non-corporate. Scott Havens from The Atlantic stated that we need to “strive for independence,” and “take the opportunity to disrupt.” He said that we need a “new model for corporate incubation (shorten the process)” and he suggested that we need to “throw out the org chart and emulate the disrupters.” Anyone reading this newsletter for more than a week knows that I agree with those sentiments whole heartedly and exactly.
Jennifer Larue of Martha Stewart.com, which has had a 30% growth rate year over year, paralleled Scott and said that in today’s environment you “must have a start-up mentality.” And my dear good friend and uber-successful publisher of August Home, Don Peschke, said in clear terms that like Cortez. “It is time to burn the boats,” ‘cause there is no going back.
John Loughlin, VP at Hearst, who in my unofficial and unscientific poll was probably the highlight of a great day of highlights, had many interesting things to say. If you ever get the chance to see John talk about the industry, put down the pica pole and get to that meeting post haste.
John said that the industry is finally “getting it right by using e-editions to re-ignite growth.” John pointed out that “90 million people have tablets” and that leads to “higher revenues per subscriber” with “lower acquisition costs” because the “transactions are frictionless.” He went on to point out that we have real time data about readers that says they open and read each digital magazines 3 or 4 times per month. They are a highly engaged and valuable audience. John stated that we now have an opportunity to “charge a fair value for the magazine content” that people consume. To make that point John said that 900,000 Hearst consumers said yes to $19.99 for an annual e-subscription and that subs are renewing 10 to 15 points higher than traditional subs. He concluded with strong emphasis that “We need common software standards” for continued industry success.
Here are some other highlights from the meeting.
Scott Havens - The Atlantic:
Thinking of ourselves as a platform and repositioning the brand of The Atlantic from one magazine to many platforms with global aspirations.
The Atlantic has doubled the amount of paid journalists since 2010.
Eric John - Alliance for Audited Media
It's a multichannel world and it's all about brand (footprint).
Digital editions double each year now at 160,000,000.
The market is flooded with too many platforms and metrics.
Nina LaFrance - Forbes Media
Forbes posts 400 to 500 pieces of new edit every day.
Jeanniey Mullen - Zinio
Time spent on mobile phones is me-time, a time to be entertained. Smart phone consumption is a different kind of consumption pattern than larger screens.
We need mindful, purposeful design for the screen size. People will consume content wherever they are.
Sam Syed – Popular Science
We are the pioneers of a new age.
Communication is now bi-directional. With an audience we talk and they listen, and conversely when they talk, we listen. We need access to the best of everything on a global scale.
Dr. James McQuivey, Forrester Research
Something big is happening. Digital disruption is happening. When companies adopt technology they do things the old way. When companies internalize technology they find disruptive new things to do. They become digital disrupters. They will build better media experience, with stronger customer relationships and do it all faster.
If anybody can disrupt, so can you. Expand into adjacent possibilities.
Build a direct relationship with the customer. You must have a disrupter’s energy.