There is no question that historically our business has grown out of, and is still dominated by, magazine publishing. With the evolution of technology and availability of lots of distribution opportunities, I’m personally coming to think of what we do as creating and harnessing consumer engagement, both for ourselves and on behalf of our clients. On a global level, we’re in the business of consumer engagement and delivering motivated consumers to clients, including advertisers as well as directly to marketers of major clients.
We achieve that principally through content but increasingly through data and that growing array of delivery tools—direct mail, mobile, digital magazines, e-mail—even customer service is an opportunity for monetization.
Some pundents talk about ‘platform agnostic.’ That’s an oversimplification. I think that suggests all platforms are equal and they’re not. They’re not economically and they’re not in terms of motivations of why consumers pick them up and use them. There is a hierarchy on an economic level and on another it’s the degree of engagement and receptivity. We want to distribute content in as many places as possible, but that’s not to say we’re agnostic.
We have been and we are an advertising-driven business. Particularly in periods when there are downturns, it’s natural to turn to other ways to supplement revenue streams. We’ve been actively engaged in creating new services, e-mail, data and marketing subscriptions for other publishing companies to our customers as well as complementary businesses like our fulfillment company, CDS [Global].
For us, it’s about trying to balance the portfolio to the best of our ability. I think the overall rate of advertising growth will be modest even with a recovery. We need to build businesses that tap into marketing expenditures but they may not be straight pages or banners ads. It may be what we think of as below-the-line marketing services.
In absolute terms, revenue ratios have changed relatively little. Advertising may have declined a few points and some of these marketing services are growing, although they’re still relatively modest relative to size of our portfolio.