AMMC Monday Recap
Day one of the American Magazine Media Conference discussions recognize dramatic change in magazine media, but are optimistic about the future.
Day one of the 2016 American Magazine Media Conference (AMMC), promoted under the title "Next Up," kicked off with a slate of speakers and panel discussions that can best be described as notably optimistic about the position and future of magazine media.
Reserving the likes of Michelle Obama and Julianne Moore for tomorrow's portion of the event, Monday afternoon's program featured a parade of magazine-industry celebrities in their own right, from Time Inc. chairman Joe Ripp and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong to New York Magazine publisher Larry Burstein and Dwell president and CEO Michela O'Connor Abrams.
Perhaps the liveliest discussion came from "Independents' Day," a five-person panel of leaders from some of magazine media's most influential independent brands. Responding to questions from Bloomberg editor and news anchor Stephanie Ruhle, the panelists in turn discussed the various challenges and advantages uniquely associated with "independent" brands—that is, brands not owned by a larger parent publishing or media company.
Rossi described the difficulties associated with the current industry narrative, which is one of tremendous audience growth in digital, because niche publications have finite audiences and scaling up can be difficult. That said, however, Rossi noted that independent brands have more flexibility in seeking out partners and the ability to focus solely on their one brand.
"We're in a better position than some larger publishers because we have the ability to respond quickly [to change]," added New York Magazine publisher Larry Burstein.
Inevitably, the conversation turned to the rise of digital advertising revenue, with Mike Perlis, president and CEO of Forbes Media, reporting that 70 percent of his company's advertising revenue is now digital. Similarly, New York Magazine's ad revenues are 60 percent digital, said Burstein.
Envisioning a not-so-far-off future when all digital advertising is native, Dwell's president and CEO Michela Abrams added, "Video and native advertising are more engaging. We can't wait to get out of the banner business."
Finally, Perlis added that Forbes is planning to hire at least 100 more employees in the near future. When pressed as to what kind of employees were being hired, Perlis cited needs in content production, mobile development, native advertising, and indirect/programmatic ad sales.
Meredith president and CEO Stephen M. Lacy set the afternoon's initial tone with his opening remarks, touting 9.3 percent growth year-over-year in the Magazine Media 360º, measuring overall audience reach among a number of the industry's top brands, before proceeding to defend the importance of print.
"Print advertising is still critical in the marketing mix," said Lacy, citing that it still yields superior ROI to other advertising formats.
Ripp was equally optmistic in his address, recognizing that the industry is indeed in a period of transition, but urging attendees to recognize and take advantage of the existing power of brands.
"Consumers love our brands," Ripp said. "There's an emotional connection to our future."
In perhaps the single most telling statistic of today's media climate, Ripp reported that there are currently more people in the world with cell phones than with running water and toilets.
Other speakers included 25-year-old Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel, who was tight-lipped about where Snapchat is investing next, but urged magazine publishers to embrace their own brand identities, not change themselves to attract millennials. Video content helps, too, Spiegel said.
Agency veteran and newly-inaugurated MPA president Linda Thomas Brooks introduced herself to the audience, echoing sentiments that this is indeed an exciting time for the industry and stating, "I love magazine media."
Day two of AMMC 2016 kicks off at 9:00 am at the Grand Hyatt in New York.