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'Speed Kills If You Don’t Have It'

By Dylan Stableford

AMCBOCA RATON, Florida—Speed kills ... if you don't have it. That was the message of a panel—“How Publishing Companies Position Themselves for Growth”—at the American Magazine Conference here Monday.

Magazine readers are well ahead of publishers in adapting to the Web, and magazines are playing catch-up, the panelists said.

“We were talking about the Web in 1994 and 1995,” said Bonnier chairman Jonas Bonnier. “And we kept talking about it [but] we missed out.”

“The Web is not new for the consumer,” said Wendy Harris Millard, president, media, of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “The consumer is way ahead of us.”

The good news, Bonnier said, is that the Web market is “unsophisticated, and it’s up to us to professionalize it.” Magazines, he said, are well-positioned for growth online because magazines know how to build brands better than online start-ups.

Brands, though, are not enough, said Philippe Guelton, EVP/COO at Hachette. “We get complacent,” Guelton said. “Creating a magazine Web site is not enough—we need deep content that consumers are used to.”

But the rapid growth of online puts print brands in the precarious position of selling magazines to users who are used to getting content online for free, Millard said. “I think we have undervalued print for a long time,” Millard said. “And we’re really going to pay the price now.”

Bonnier, whose magazines carry a $10 cover price in Europe, said it’s “depressing” to produce a magazine and “hand it out” in the U.S.

Added Millard: “The notion of trying to charge more for magazines … it’s sad.” By Dylan Stableford

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