FOLIO:’s MediaNext event concluded today in New York. With about 1,000 in attendance the show examined all the ways publishers are evolving into true multiplatform media companies. With keynotes from LinkedIn’s Dan Roth, Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, Vox Media’s James Bankoff and Meredith’s Tom Harty, as well as four tracks dedicated to the various strategic channels publishers are leveraging, event content sat right at the intersection of where "traditional" meets digital.
Al DiGuido, president of Optimus Publishing, kicked off the Magazine Media Core Skills track with a lesson he learned at his first job as a 13-year-old store clerk in Brooklyn. DiGuido’s store—surrounded by larger, cheaper competitors—would put a Tootsie Roll in the bag of each customer. Donning an apron and doling out candy, DiGuido reminded publishers to offer a unique selling proposition. “Legacy media has not been aggressive enough in modifying value proposition,” he argued.
Samir Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, presented an optimistic view of the industry, despite its tendency toward the negative—“Nobody talks as much as we do about our own demise,” he says. Husni ran through the more than 800 magazine launches of the past year, stopping to highlight several of the more amusing. His point was larger though. Though many were alarmed print been passed by other forms of media, that doesn’t mean it will go away. Print ad revenues bypassed radio in 1935; television bypassed radio in 1955—after playing third-fiddle for more than a half-century, radio is still relevant.
In sales and marketing, Stephen Acunto, account manager with Hearst Men’s Group, and Jackie Ghedine, associate publisher with Ad Age, echoed the comments of Beth Tomkiw, EVP and chief creative officer at what is now TMG/McMurry. Content marketing, they agree, will emerge as a go-to marketing solution in 2013.
During the Data, Sales & Audience Monetization track, a heavy emphasis was placed on building a highly engaged community of readers, followers, fans and customers to reach business objectives that support generating revenue and capturing valuable insights.
From paid online content models, to generating revenue from Twitter engagement, the track aimed to deliver specific takeaways to help professionals leverage their key asset: their audience.
One particularly interesting session was lead by Steve Ennen, president and chief intelligence officer for SocialStrategy1. He contented that magazines are the stagecoaches from yesteryear—an outdated vehicle for spreading information. Ennen argued that publishers must rethink and restructure their businesses at every level. Distribution is no longer about the mailman, he said, but about network effects, sharing, and the fluid channels of social media.
“Social media is so powerful it topples governments,” said Ennen. “Why would you think it couldn’t help your media company?”
The opportunity, he said, is a proliferation of revenue channels and readers, empowering publishers in ways they still cannot imagine.
In the session "Integrated Sales in a Three-Screen Era" in the Media Mashup track, Elena Sukacheva, The Economist’s vice president of strategy and client solutions, noted that her team primarily drives the creative process of building an integrated package. "Agencies give us big ideas, they don’t care what it is. They just want us to make it big and unique," she said.
Accordingly, the team leverages all of The Economist’s brand platforms. A recent campaign for BMW, for example, included print, digital, video and live events—as well as a partnership with Bon Appétit.
Later in that session, Cygnus Business Media’s senior vice president of business development Blair Johnson described the company’s new Engagement Report, which leverages detailed analytics to measure the exposure and consumption of each of a client’s messaging elements. The company then carefully trains the sales team to present the report to the client in an effort to help them better steer the campaign to the client’s actual goals. "At the very least, the Engagement report is getting our sales people in the door," said Johnson.
One session in the Content and Brand Marketing track featured Betsy Frank and Barry Martin, who are “research and insights officers” with Time Inc. Their jobs are to figure out how Time Inc. editors can relate better to readers. Explaining one recent research project in which they used biometrics, they took a group of Digital Natives (people under 30 who presumably were born into a digital world) and another group of Digital Immigrants (people over 30 who had to get used to it), gave them glasses with video cameras built in and recorded every type of media they used during their non-working hours.
As a consequence of their research, Frank and Martin’s best advice to Time Inc.’s editors about how to engage their Native readers? “Make it quick, make it easy and make it emotional.”
It may not be the advice their Immigrant editors want to hear, but it’s what they’re going to have to do if they want to keep their publications alive.
Two publishing executives noted that their events programs generate substantial revenue, serve their readers in a way that print and digital publishing can’t, and extend and reinforce their brands.
In the conference session titled “Conferences, Meet-ups, Mixers and Summits,” The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Steve Clemons and Computerworld Vice President and Publisher John Amato agreed that the wide variety of events they hold are all profitable.
“In fact, it generates more revenue than anything else we do,” Clemons said, “including the magazine.”
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