CHICAGO—The Audience Development Conference + Expo kicked off Monday here with a morning keynote from Brian Wolfe, Time Inc.’s executive vice president of consumer marketing and sales, who discussed his company’s recent reorganization and centralization of its consumer marketing department as well as what the future holds for the audience development industry in general.
In his presentation, entitled “Building the Multimedia Audience Development Team of the Future,” Wolfe explained that due to the “lagging economy and, most importantly, the changing habits of a new consumer,” Time Inc. made a number of significant changes, including eliminating of over 30 percent of its staff, creating a centralized consumer marketing department that would be responsible for all marketing operations activities, putting VPs in charge of multiple brands and creating a separate finance group responsible for accumulating financial data and forecasts.
Besides saving money, Wolfe said that changes were made to “force out unwanted and unneeded work."
"How many reports do you produce that tell you nothing new?” he asked attendees. “How many things do you and your staff do just because that’s the way it’s always been done? And how many meetings have you had where you walked away and asked, ‘What was the point of that meeting?’”
Wolfe said that cutting down the staff and forcing employees to reconfigure their work habits were essential to the bottom line. “When given no other choice, people will figure it out. Otherwise, you won’t get the work efficiencies you need and you’ll have to cut and come up with more process improvements. And over time, that really hurts the morale of the company.”
Time Inc.’s belief that best practices have more power than brand specific marketing is what prompted a more centralized audience development department, Wolfe said. “There is more of a need for best marketing practices,” he said. “We’ve had wildly different direct marketing practices [at each of our magazines], and we were duplicating efforts. With a centralized department, we can build cohesive testing strategies and borrow from our wins as well as our losses.”
Wolfe also encouraged attendees to form a commitment to training their employees through mentoring programs and classes, as well as find ways to free up time for senior-level employees to focus on more strategic responsibilities. One way to do that, he said, is to rely on junior-level employees to handle the daily nuances the business.
For the next year, Wolfe said, the audience development department will be focused on working with the edit and research staffs to distribute the best content possible. “Despite what’s being said about digital, consumers still love magazines what want to read printed content when it’s good,” he stressed. “It’s our job to make sure that our editors know where our consumers’ heads are at.”
The company also continues to test covers diligently, which Wolfe says, isn’t only beneficial for newsstand sales, but can also affect subscriptions sales. Efficiency in segmentation and testing, innovation (Wolfe used Time Inc.’s virtual newsstand delivery service Maghound as an example of this goal), use of data and targeting, and pricing are other areas, he said, that need more attention.