MIAMI—The period of “discontinuous change” and upheaval in the magazine industry has forced virtually every magazine publisher to tear up its playbook, Meredith publishing president Jack Griffin says. And perhaps, with the exception of technology magazines, no publisher has been forced to tear it up faster than Meredith.
“The ‘Leave it to Beaver’ America is an ancient relic,” Griffin said during his keynote presentation at the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit here Thursday.
Griffin, on crutches and hobbled by a recent emergency surgery to repair a broken leg, said the change American consumer demographics—specifically, the spike in Internet usage and the emerging “white minority”—forced the Des Moines-based publisher to evaluate all aspects of its publishing business.
Meredith, Griffin said, was “founded on the social construct of Dad at work, Mom at home, Chevy in the driveway.” For a company that publishes “white-bread” magazines, he said, “the change has been quite provocative.”
As a result, the company invested in its interactive and integrated marketing businesses—spending roughly $600 million since 2002 on launches, acquisitions and building out its existing Web sites, Griffin said, as well as redefining its editorial hiring approach. “We don’t hire editors anymore,” he said. “We hire content strategists.”
Griffin pointed out that one of the company’s signature brands, Better Homes and Gardens, had its best year ever in 2007. “In the age of splintering, there are ways to revitalize a big, important brand.”
But change doesn’t guarantee success. Ad pages are off eight percent so far this year, Griffin said, adding that in November, Meredith’s stock price was at $63 per share. It closed yesterday at $46.
SEE RELATED VIDEO Q+A: Griffin at the 2008 FOLIO: Publishing Summit
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been corrected. Meredith’s ad pages, not revenues, are down eight percent this year.]