National Geographic’s Griffin Cites Circ Lessons
Former circulator says principles still influence everything he does as publisher.
While National Geographic Magazine Group president John Griffin this week at the Circulation Management Show took publishers to task for their own circulation woes and outlined steps needed to rectify the situation, he also shared his lessons on circulation and how he sees digital changing the business for large consumer publishers.
"Our future on the Web is doing video and audio but I don’t like the online auction model," said Griffin. "That takes away everything that makes us special, particularly the relationship. If and when that happens, pricing collapses."
While Griffin said advertising will increase in importance online, publishers need to find a way to monetize their content. "The scariest trend is that consumers expect information online to be free or cheap," he said. "We love our photographs, consumer love our photographs. There has got to be a way to monetize that."
Griffin served as a circulator for seven years, and says the lessons he learned still influences the way he approaches publishing. "My circ training has influenced everything I do," he said. "While distribution has consolidated and changed, these principles have not."
Griffin outlined the lessons he’s learned as:
Editorial Leads: "This is the priority of the business. It’s not always clear to sales but what the advertiser wants is that relationship with the reader. We can’t change who we are, we need be the flame, not the moth."
Sell Benefits: "It’s easy to get caught up on attributes. Nobody cares. The only things they care about are the benefits of what we do for them. That’s the first rule of circulation. It’s also the first rule of sales, the first rule of writing cover lines."
Live in a Fact-Based World: "In a lot of the other magazine disciplines, you can live in theory. Working in circulation makes you humble because you can have all the theories in the world but those request numbers show what customers really think."
Understand That Patterns and Trends Matter: "Things don’t just pop out. Don’t accept the numbers in front of you. Now people just accept the numbers the computer puts in front of them. The number that doesn’t make sense is trying to tell you something."
Pay Attention to Your Two Major Cost Centers: Circulation and Production: "As circulators, you have the unique opportunity to control the numbers."
Good Ideas Can Come from Anywhere: "Be receptive. It doesn’t matter where a good idea comes from at your company or from the outside."