NEW YORK – At MPA’s American Magazine Conference today, magazine moguls, techies and media enthusiasts are present to discuss the future of the magazine industry. A year into the digital push, magazine heads find themselves both welcoming and challenging the new order.

After an introduction from Hearst Magazines president of marketing and publishing director/MPA chairman Michael Clinton, MPA president/CEO Nina Link and Time Inc.’s EVP/CMO and AMC 2011 chair Stephanie George, Ava Seave of Quantum Media sat down with some of the biggest names in consumer publishing to discuss what’s next.

Marketing Service Melding

The panel began with a discussion of marketing service integration into publishers’ business models. Tom Harty, president of the National Media Group with Meredith, says, “We go into areas where we’re not experts, and finds businesses that are built on an entrepreneur’s ideas. They’re interested in the capital, and interested in our relationship with clients. They see they can grow, and there’s an agreement they will exit down the road.”

David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, also shares new business awareness as a result of partnerships outside the traditional publishing realm, “While marketing services may seem to be in conflict with our main business, we want to have exposure to all those ships. We didn’t used to account for every dollar; it’s new for us to be accountable for every dollar like our friends in advertising.”

Harty says his integrated marketing service channel also provides challenges, “Geographic divide is a big issue [staffers are located from Texas to New Zealand], as well as culture. We don’t want to ruin the entrepreneurial spirit. We don’t want clients to not know what’s going on, so there’s a lot of coordination required.”

Digital Content Equates to Premium Content

Carey says Hearst’s print mag revenue model is split 75/25 between consumer and advertising; the publisher’s tablet goal is 50/50. Of Hearst’s recent announcement of 300,000 paid circ, Carey says, “I think the number is going to double in short order. We finally found a way to monetize our content digitally.”

Bob Sauerberg, president of Conde Nast, reiterated the need for paid content on the tablet platform, “The reality is that packaged and beautiful content is going to be paid content. I encourage all of us to think about that. We all know how hard it is to lift prices, but my goal is to find a way to transition from selling access to selling a branded experience.”

Harty says of Meredith’s digital experience, “We’re trying build a long-term business model. We launched three of our brands on the iPad, and launched on the NOOK as a whim. It has our highest results so far.”

New Challenges in a New Era

Social media responsibilities, along with web content and additional content apps, often create an overwhelming workload for editors; this fact does not escape publishers’ attentions. Sauerberg says, “Editors are such an asset and drivers of our business; we have to get workflow and technology to help them. We have to focus on the right things at the right times.”

This includes editors maintaining the focus on quality content, regardless of new platforms. Sauerberg says, “We have to encourage content, not fill the gap with tech.”

To that end, Sauerberg is focused on the Conde Nast’s core for 2012, “Everyone is looking at digital; I’m very bullish on our magazine business, as most of our growth will come from that. Social strategy begins with the magazine, and extrapolates through social activity.”

Looking forward, Carey shares the positives of the digital workload, “The paid content model is coming to the iPhone, and the other is hanging in some garage in Palo Alto. We have to look forward to technology as a disruption.”