How GQ is Continuing Its Digital Evolution
A conversation with Howard Mittman, VP and publisher for GQ.
Next month, it'll be a year since Howard Mittman took over as VP and publisher of GQ after a notably successful stint as VP and publisher at WIRED. Here, Mittman discusses his biggest successes of the past year at GQ and what's ahead.
Folio: What were some of your top line goals when you moved over to GQ?
Howard Mittman: In addition to driving revenue and continuing on the strong business performance I was lucky enough to inherit, one of the things I really wanted to do was embed a digital sensibility to the brand and help the brand move from being GQ magazine to GQ. Also, making sure that we’re able to push content and advertiser experiences unilaterally across a variety of different distribution mechanisms equally.
Folio: Where are you with that plan?
Mittman: We’re in an interesting spot, for us right now, we’ve introduced 34 new digital ad products to date. These are everything from products targeted to achieve specific goals across native, turn key and a variety of other opportunities that are meant to put us in a position where we can take advantage of the flexibility and speed of our new website which we reintroduced an entirely new replatformed and redesigned experience on July 1. For us here, it’s a process that’s evolving, we have 58 years of heritage and history to build on and I think in a year we’ve been able to ramp up the digital metabolism in a pretty significant way.
Folio: Did you need to tweak the brand pitch as well?
Mittman: I think it’s an understanding that right now, we’re not pandering or preaching to the buzzword “choir.” We’re in the process of building a smart, simple, elegant content solution that works for advertisers and consumers. It’s not rocket science but it’s working really well. It’s a long-term smart play to build a digital experience around GQ that is as sophisticated, elegant and luxurious as the magazine product.
Folio: Digital has been a big focus for you this year, but how important is print moving forward?
Mittman: Print is a huge part of what GQ has been and what GQ will forever be. I think, for me, I try not to think of an audience as an audience. I prefer to think of them as a community and I hope that we can continue to provide touchpoints out into the community that allow for great content to find its home wherever consumers tend to be. I do believe that the magazine is important.
We have a number of exciting initiatives coming up this fall. We’re pushing the cover price of the September issue from $5.99 to $7.99. We pushed the cover price of GQ Style, which is out biannual magazine that is the only men’s magazine focused 100 percent on style, newsstand only. We pushed the cover price of that from $12.99 up to $14.99 and in the first half of the year we saw a 30-percent increase in newsstand sales. Those are some of the things that we’re thinking about and we’re doing.
Print will continue to be an increasingly luxurious experience for clients and advertisers because I do believe the opportunities for branding and the opportunities for high-end content consumption still work incredibly well there. That doesn’t mean we won’t also be aggressively pursuing digital opportunities.
Folio: Looking back at the past year, what has you’re biggest win been for GQ?
Mittman: That’s a hard one! We introduced something this year that we’re all really proud of, which is The Gent. It’s a private, invitation-only social club that we’ve opened here in New York City and we’re doing about 5 to 7 bespoke invitation-only events per month. It’s located in the West Village and we’ve executed on events for brand partners like Acqua di Gio, the Armani fragrance. We hosted an event there with UNICEF. We did a wonderful event there for Tiffany & Co. earlier this year when they reintroduced themselves to the men’s watch market in the U.S. We did a made to measure suiting event for Dunhill. We’ve hosted private supper clubs and then for Men’s Fashion Week we hosted a social influencer lounge that was hosted by LG and Mr. Porter, which became a really key element to the experience at Men’s Week. It provided a space for our friends in the blogosphere to hang out, relax and recharge.
Folio: What’s ahead in Year Two?
Mittman: We’re increasing the amount of activations and involvement we have in the social sphere. We have a highly successful program called GQ Insiders, which we activate for a fair amount of our clients. We recently just did something called the GQ Instameet where we hosted a private dinner for GQ Insiders. These are our most passionate, loyal followers who have the highest level of social followings of our community. We did a dinner event for them in Los Angeles where we garnered 3.1 million media impressions and 45,000 likes that came from our ever-widening circle of social influence. It was a really great example of the kinds of ways that we’re able to activate events in the social sphere and connect the physical and the digital in ways that allow us to create motion for advertisers that extends out from the traditional event into a more socially engaged environment.