San Francisco—Jack Griffin, former CEO of Time Inc. and Meredith Corp., opened American Business Media's Annual Conference here Sunday with a keynote address exploring how media companies must adapt to the decline of print advertising. “Advertising isn't going to support all of the media companies that exist today,” he said. “We need to do something more.”
To plan for a future where advertising's primacy fades, he said media businesses, “have to run two companies simultaneously: one for today and one for the future.”
During Griffin's tenure at Meredith, which publishes consumer titles such as Better Homes and Gardens and b-to-b title Successful Farming, it built what were two essentially new companies within the business: a $75 million custom publishing group and a $180 million integrated marketing group. “The strategy came fundamentally from b-to-b inspiration and thinking,” Griffin said of these initiatives, which strive to offer 360-degree contact with the customer and rely on “deep domain knowledge and expertise.”
In a world that is increasingly dominated by Amazon.com in transactions, Apple Inc. in entertainment, Facebook Inc. in social and Google Inc. in information, b-to-b media companies still have a role, although print advertising will not be the driver, Griffin said. UBM's TechWeb, which has seen its print advertising decline from 85% of the business six years ago to less than 10% now, is an example of a b-to-b media transforming its business model, he said. Griffin suggested that b-to-b media companies focus on four building blocks: 1) data and audience, 2) content and brand, 3) convening power and community, and 4) social and mobile.
He said media brands still have power. “Brands and the content that builds them are even more important in an environment of almost infinite choice,” Griffin said, pointing out that Bloomberg Businessweek (which he referred to as a “double brand”) has experienced a revival based on reinvigorated content in the publication.