Top magazine companies from Condé Nast to Rodale to Time Inc. convened this week for their annual confab, called the American Magazine Media 360 Conference 2015. The theme, appropriately, was “What’s Next,” as players discussed how they’re grappling with the challenges and opportunities of adapting to the digital upheaval. Here are the top five things we learned.
Magazines still have a lot to learn about digital
The medium’s come a long way in accepting that digital is here to stay, but executives conceded they have a long way to go in getting the skill sets they need to compete against digital natives that aren’t held back by legacy thinking. Companies have dealt with this gap by hiring outsiders or buying digital companies outright, as Condé Nast has in taking executives from its newly formed entertainment group and embedding them into corporate sales, and Meredith Corp. has in buying Selectable Media, an engagement ad company, and installing its executives at the company. “No question, we have to get better at digital,” Condé Nast president Bob Sauerberg said. “We’ve got to find ways for people to help us build great digital products.”
Digital’s the rage, but print’s still important
No one’s denying that print isn’t going to be raking in the dollars like it used to, but the medium still has a place in the advertising ecosystem, as evidenced by the billions the industry took in 2014. It’s in vogue for magazine publishers to call themselves “content companies” or “magazine media companies” (or as Maria Rodale said in the case of Rodale, a “lifestyle company,”), but print is at the core of Hearst Magazines’ business, president David Carey said. “The tactile expression’s very important,” he said. “Why does Schwab open outlets? Because people feel more comfortable with something that has a physical location.” Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp said, noting that Time magazine’s digital audience surpassed its print audience for the first time in December, said the trusted content that legacy magazines put out still matters in the face of new digital competitors. “We’re not all going to do ’10 ways to feed your gerbil’.”