NEW YORK—At last year’s New York Magazine Day, the line between church-and-state—and how it could, and should, be blurred—dominated the discussion.

At this year’s annual conference, held at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square Tuesday, talk of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, print—and more Twitter—ruled the day.

“There’s probably someone in this room Twittering what we’re saying right now,” said one advertising panelist during a discussion of the infinite choices media consumers have in 2009.

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The appeal of social media, from an advertising perspective, is clear, said Sarah Fay, CEO of Aegis Media North America. When it comes to brands, Fay said, “the consumer has much more credibility than a marketer” does.

Wenda Harris Millard, president and co-CEO at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, admitted the magazine industry underestimated social media. “Fifteen years ago, we knew the consumer was in control, but we didn’t take it far enough,” she said. “We didn’t anticipate the consumer creating content to the degree they have.”

She added: “The ‘rise of the bloggers’ [would have] sounded like a horror movie.”

More than 300 attendees—mostly women, a majority from advertising agencies—were registered for the one-day event. (Last year, the conference drew more than 700 attendees.)

Pitching Ad Execs

Millard and the rest of the magazine publishers in attendance were ostensibly there to give their sales pitch to the agencies. “Simply put,” Millard conceded, “advertising cannot support all the media that is out there.”

Jayne Jamison, vice president and publisher of Seventeen magazine, described the relationship between print and Seventeen’s Web site like having a “friend with benefits.” Jamison also differentiated the community of readers using its Web site from MySpace in terms of engagement. “Girls aren’t going on MySpace to talk about their weight, their acne, their period,” she said. “They come to us for that.”

When talk did turn to print, it was more about how the medium has been devalued in the eyes advertisers.

“I’m deeply concerned (ad buyers) are devaluing media at a time when innovation is actually increasing,” said Jeff Hamill, senior vice president of ad sales at Hearst Magazines.

Robin Domeniconi, a vice president at Microsoft Advertising and a former longtime Time Inc. executive, lamented the negative connotation associated with shifting print strategy. “Going ‘online only’ has become a euphemism for ‘folding.’”

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