NEW YORK—FOLIO:’s MediaNext event kicked off here Monday. With about 700 in attendance, the event addressed key strategic issues and trends in five tracks: MediaManagement, MediaRevenue, MediaContent, MediaMarketing and MobileNext. Here, we present key takeaways from the day-one sessions.
• Afar Media co-founders Joe Diaz and Greg Sullivan described the launch and evolution of their company. They raised $15 million to launch Afar at a 50,000 circulation. Now at 250,000 paid subs the company is building out its digital revenues through travel guide-like content services. Even now, says Sullivan, the company still makes 70 percent of its revenue from magazine advertising.
• In the "Best Practices for Media Finance, Raising Capital and Exit Strategies" session, Kathleen Thomas, managing director at Berkery Noyes, noted that these days recurring revenue models are "very, very attractive to investors." And that both strategic companies and private equity firms both have cash to spend. However, they’re using very different acquisition strategies. Strategics are not moving the needle in organic growth, so they’re taking a disciplined approach to buying smaller, but strategic assets. "And they’re paying," she emphasized. "They put out their own fires from the downturn and they’re now back to buying."
On the private equity side, firms are most interested in companies and platforms that are north of $10 million in EBITDA. Anything less and the capital terms get more and more constricted. "Below $3 million is very tough," said Thomas. "Multiples will tick down a couple points when you have less scale."
• Executives at two publishing companies describe two different models for incorporating e-commerce into their operations. Pamela Simon Kruse of The Knot, a site for brides, says the selection of products her site offers are completely independent from its editorial operations. On the other hand, according to Eileen Carty of PopSugar Media, a site for women’s fashion, every single item it offers for sale on its site has been curated by an editor.
• Mark Howard of Forbes Magazine and Moksha Fitzgibbons of Complex Media, which targets Millennial males, agreed that the “death of the banner ad” has led to opportunities for multiple content marketing opportunities for a variety of audiences.
• Twitter, probably more so than any other form of social media, offers opportunities to provide services for sponsors and advertisers, according to Colin Browning of IDG. But, he points out, it is not the only social medium available for them and each medium has its own benefits, depending on the target audience.
• Package together all your channels and sell 360 degrees.
• It’s all about scalability. If you cannot scale your advertising model, it’s dead in the water.
• Gamification is the future. And strong innovation leadership is key!
• In the magazine world, you see your enemy as the other magazines targeting your audience. In the mobile world, all magazines share the same enemy—Google. Premium publishers are fighting for mobile sales crumbs. They need to figure our how to come together to have a fighting chance against the 800-pound gorilla that’s eating their lunch.
• A lot of mobile success boils down to just good designing.
• People don’t mind scrolling on mobile devices—to a point. They are less willing to scroll on desktops. But, don’t make the mistake and just jump straight to the Web links either. Keep content visible, just clean up all the junk framing it.
• Continue innovating, but don’t use innovation and change as an excuse or crutch to skip the most basic mobile necessities like optimizing your email platform.
• Utility is the most common use of mobile. The most useful and fast-acting, results-oriented improvement comes from topics like the weather that aren’t at all enticing. But, don’t ignore them. People find them useful and therefore necessary, so they engage with those apps and items regularly. Don’t ignore!
• When people get a smart phone, they don’t stop being active as they previously have. Mobile makes users more active on and more engaged across all platforms. It’s a gateway, so treat it like one.
• Bob Cohn, editor of The Atlantic Digital, said that the company’s website staff has expanded five-fold in the last five years. Cohn named nine main factors they look at in prospective candidates including traditional signs of editorial excellence like reporting and interviewing, but also look for intangibles like creativity, speed and “keyboard presence.”
• Jonathan Perelman, vice president of agency strategy and industry development for BuzzFeed, discussed what makes his group’s content sharable. Positive and uplifting stories circulate better than negative or embarrassing posts, but ultimately, content will find it’s own audience. “Don’t forget about cute animals either,” he said.
• Scott Omelianuk, editor of This Old House, and Kevin Keefe, vice president of editorial at Kalmbach Publishing, advised publishers to lean on their existing staff when starting video production units. Put everyone in front of a camera just to see how they react, they said, and try to identify talent that might not currently be on display in your newsroom.
• The consensus is is there is too much data, but that shouldn’t scare publishers as long as they are looking at the right data.
• Mobile data is still a mystery for the consumer and b-to-b publisher.
• Data makes segmentation and servicing a targeted audience much easier.
• When it comes to the digital newsstand, be where your audience is. In other words, you don’t have to be everywhere.
• Digital subscriptions are growing year-over-year, and in five years the evolution of technology and audience behavior could result in 25-50 percent of subscriptions being digital.
• Digital edition subscriptions could have grown faster, however publishers have been complacent and haven’t adapted fast enough.
• Your premium audience is not necessarily your social media audience, so conversion is the principal goal.
• Shares are the golden metric for social.