Why AMI’s Dylan Howard Sees A Bright Future for Print
Q&A with AMI's chief content officer following his company's acquisition of Us Weekly.
American Media Inc. has 100 million reasons to be optimistic about its future. The David Pecker-led company is not only doing well with its print titles, says Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard, but its digital business is growing too. Of course, the much bigger story at AMI is the recent acquisition of Us Weekly from Wenner Media. Although the year isn’t even half over, it’s arguably been the biggest story—from a business perspective—in magazine media in 2017. The disclosed price tag of $100 milclion was jaw-dropping to many, and it reinforced a belief still common in the business—that magazine brands still have value. A lot of value.
All that aside, we wanted to learn what’s next for Us Weekly and AMI now that it has new owners, who undoubtedly have their own vision for the brand. We caught up recently with Howard to ask a few questions.
Folio: What does a brand like Us Weekly add to your portfolio that you were missing?
Dylan Howard: It’s interesting you use the term brand because this is not the acquisition of a magazine, but a 360-degree experience. Us is able to bring an affluent loyal audience closer to celebrities than any other brand in the marketplace. It offers access through the prism of celebrity and entertainment news. That’s why we as a company wanted this as a brand. We believe that Ushas not fully explored its potential. It also adds another household name to a portfolio of brands that reach more celebrity consumers across print, digital and video than any other U.S. publisher.
From an advertiser perspective, we’ve acquired a brand that has an outstanding demographic. Us Weekly stands out, so it’s a very attractive proposition to advertisers when combined with the editorial currency that it has.
Folio: What’s your vision for Us Weekly now that it belongs to AMI?
Howard: Us has established a very strong digital foundation that exceeds 30% of its total revenu e. Video, in particular, is impressive. The growth of this brand will be achieved through digital and the performance of its video, the diversification of new verticals and investing in opportunities like TV.
TV is completely untapped when it comes to Us Weekly. Such a specialized brand should be creating video content that’s available over the air and online. That particularly looms large as an avenue we’ll explore. It’s untapped revenue for the brand. And we intend to produce a range of series and one-off specials.
Folio: Will it operate independently, or in collaboration with its new sister brands?
Howard: Us will continue as it has—a standalone brand. One of the great myths of this acquisition is that resources will be streamlined and we will make a dramatic U-turn and take it down market. You don’t make a $100-million-dollar investment to make a U-turn. This is a brand that enjoys original authentic reporting with high-production values and we must continue that in order to maintain and grow the audience. Does that mean there are not inefficiencies? Of course not.
Folio: Print is clearly an important asset for your company, but where does it really fit in your forward-looking strategy?
Howard: At AMI we have been able to manage our costs so that it allows us to produce products that are compelling and profitable. We made an investment in the right people and business model to make that happen. So we see print as a tremendous part of our future. There is a trend of stabilization in our industry. We think there’s still more room to grow and that we can grow Us Weekly at the newsstand. We are very confident that we can reverse the industry decline and that print is an important piece of the future.
Digital doesn’t offset the print decline, so you need to invest where you get the biggest dividends. So we are investing in print like we never have before, but are also investing in digital and TV for new revenue streams.
Folio: Are you considering other acquisitions or perhaps a launch this year or down the road?
Howard: Anyone who wants to remain competitive and viable never closes their eyes on any potential growth opportunity. But our hands are pretty full at the moment.