“In the Crosshairs of Disruption”
A pair of New Year’s letters from Hearst president and CEO Steven R. Swartz and Hearst Magazines president David Carey provided some insight into the path forward for America’s second-largest publisher of consumer magazines.
“2017 was a great year to be a consumer of media products but less so to be a provider of that content,” wrote Swartz in his annual letter, issued this morning, citing the dominance of Silicon Valley platforms in advertising and ecommerce.
Despite the success of relatively recent magazine launches like Food Network and HGTV magazines, who are each among the group’s most profitable titles, Swartz said, more changes will be needed in order to embrace the remedy to the magazine industry’s ills—specifically, more consumer-driven revenue.
“With respect to many of our titles, we need readers to pay more for the product,” Swartz continued. “And we need to find a way to make digital subscription products work for magazines in the way that they are starting to work for newspapers.”
In another portion of the letter, Swartz touted the newspaper division’s success in reducing print advertising dollars to less than 50 percent of its overall revenue by focusing on selling subscriptions.
After four straight years of growth for the magazines group, earnings declined by single digits in 2017, wrote Carey in his letter, sent in late December.
Bright spots, however, included two new magazines launched in the past year, The Pioneer Woman and airbnbmag, both of which will double their frequency to four issues in 2018. The company seems to have taken a clear lesson from this—the four titles specifically name-dropped as revenue successes by Swartz and Carey were all launched in partnership with well-known brands or figures—and it says it’s planning similar magazine tests in partnership with “world-class media and technology companies” in the year ahead.
“It’s hard to imagine,” Carey wrote, “but I do believe that, in a few years’ time, 2017 will be seen as a relatively tranquil period for the media business.”
Why Not Take Up Knitting?
There was perhaps never a more opportune moment for quarterly knitting magazine Interweave Knits to foray into the national discourse than amid the fallout from Vanity Fair’s much-maligned video offering tongue-in-cheek advice for Hillary Clinton on her New Year’s resolutions—including a suggestion she take up knitting, a proposal deemed sexist by the video’s most ardent critics.
And so, in defense of the centuries-old craft, the F+W-owned title published Tuesday the “Top 7 Reasons Our Next President Should Be a Knitter,” among them: patience, problem-solving skills, and the ability to multi-task. (Surely, the former Secretary of State has already achieved some degree of mastery over these abilities, but I suppose that’s beside the point.)
“Why Shouldn’t Hillary Clinton learn to knit?” the piece reads. “In fact, we hope that every future US presidential candidate is a knitter. Knitting nurtures a variety of characteristics that would only serve to boost a candidate’s appeal and chance of success.”
Kudos to Interweave for conceiving a creative way to drive readers toward subscriptions to its suite of knitting-related titles, conveniently listed at the bottom of the article under the heading, “Keep those knitting skills sharp—you could qualify for public office!”
SouthComm Sells Off Another Alt-Weekly
Kansas City, Missouri locals Stephanie and Adam Carey have acquired alt-monthly The Pitch from SouthComm, Inc., marking a return to local ownership for the first time since the publication was acquired by Village Voice Media in 1999.
Stephanie Carey, who describes herself as a longtime reader and spent the past seven years as a sales manager at audience engagement platform Second Street, said in a statement, “The Pitch is staying the independent voice of the city. More than anything, we are extremely focused on Kansas City journalism.”
After 37 years as a weekly, the title switched to a monthly format last March, and Carey says it will continue with that frequency under new editor David Hudnall, a longtime staffer who had served as managing editor since 2016. Hudnall replaces longtime head editor Scott Wilson, who stepped down last month after nearly seven years at the helm.
“But I don’t have to miss The Pitch, because it’s still around. Here, at the end of 2017, that’s some kind of Super Bowl win,” wrote Wilson in his December 22 sign-off to readers. “We’re not beaten. Something new is starting. And, from the outside, I’m gonna join ’em.”
As for SouthComm, the deal—coupled with last month’s sale of the Washington City Paper—is one of what the company hopes is a series of sales of its local alt-weeklies as it aims to focus more on its suite of B2B titles, several of which were acquired through the break-up of Cygnus Business Media in 2014. That strategy appears to be in full-swing, despite the ouster of SouthComm founder and CEO Chris Ferrell in November.
When SouthComm first acquired The Pitch, in 2011, it became the third alt-weekly in the company’s portfolio, following the Nashville Scene and Louisville, Kentucky’s LEO. The latter was sold to Aaron Yarmuth, son of the paper’s co-founder, U.S Congressman John Yarmuth, in 2014, while the former suffered deep cuts to its editorial, sales, and creative staffs in November, including the dismissal of editor Steve Cavendish.
From the job board…
Maryland-based Pharmaceutical Engineering magazine seeks a full-time editorial director, responsible for day-to-day editorial management of the association-based bimonthly, as well as its digital and social media operation. Seven-to-ten years’ experience in print and digital magazine publishing required, preferably in a STEM field.