Ad Age's 2015 Magazine A-List: Bon Appétit Is Magazine Brand of the Year

Pamela Drucker Mann Is Publishing Executive of the Year

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Credit: Magazine still life photograph by Nathan Skid

Pick your teamwork analogy of choice -- a star quarterback who has the full backing of the offensive coordinator, a mayor in sync with the state governor, or, perhaps most appropriately, a head chef who works seamlessly with a restaurant's general manager -- and it probably works to describe the relationship between Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport and Pamela Drucker Mann, who serves as publisher and chief revenue officer both for the magazine and digital property Epicurious.

Ms. Drucker Mann, Ad Age's 2015 Publishing Executive of the Year, "allows us to do our jobs," said Mr. Rapoport, who edits Ad Age's Magazine Brand of the Year. "I'm worried about making a cool, fun, exciting product," he said. "I'm not worried about, 'Are we going to hit our numbers this month? Are we going to get the ad pages we need?'"

For her part, Ms. Drucker Mann is quick to credit her team, and Mr. Rapoport, for making her job easy. Looking back on 2015, she said, "We had all of these things kind of come together at the same time. It really felt like we were all rowing together in the same direction."

Pamela Drucker Mann, publisher and chief revenue officer, Bon Appétit.
Pamela Drucker Mann, publisher and chief revenue officer, Bon Appétit. Credit: Courtesy Bon Appétit/Elizabeth Lippman

Ms. Drucker Mann described her relationship to the brands beneath her, and the relationship among these brands, this way: "It's like my kids. They're directly tied to me. But they're independent people."

Mr. Rapoport credited Ms. Drucker Mann for the success of the Food Innovation Group, the blending of Bon Appétit, the Shopper's Network and Epicurious -- or, Epi, as Ms. Drucker Man called it -- in fall of 2014 for sales and marketing purposes. The project was hers, and she had a lot of skin in the game. "This could have gone disastrously wrong," Mr. Rapoport said.

But the early returns are positive. The group's revenue has increased 80% between 2011 and 2015, according to the company. Last year alone, group revenue rose 21% and Bon Appétit revenue grew 16%.

By combining properties, Ms. Drucker Mann has been able to create the scale that advertisers crave. For his part, Mr. Rapoport has been hyperfocused on keeping the print product strong while trying to experiment digitally and seek new audiences on social media platforms.

"You want to make sure the brand is consistent across all the platforms, but within each of those platforms you tailor your content to its demands," he said. There's also a more practical challenge: "We're being asked to create a lot more content across a lot more platforms while still making a magazine every month," Mr. Rapoport added.

On Bon Appétit's platforms, "everything has voice and personality," he said.

Last year, the combined Bon Appétit and Epicurious were able to increase their desktop and mobile audiences by 6.4% and 81.6%, respectively, according to the December 2015 Magazine Media 360⁰ report.

Mr. Rapoport said that Bon Appétit got out ahead of the competition on podcasts, and has gained a lot of momentum in the burgeoning medium.

Looking ahead, both Mr. Rapoport and Ms. Drucker Mann singled out video as a high priority. "It's all about video," Mr. Rapoport said. "I think we're off to a good start. We have good momentum. We know what we want to do. But we have to follow through with it."

Perhaps taking a page from Ms. Drucker Mann's book, he added: "I want to make it a strong business for us, not just a cool creative move."

Ms. Drucker Mann, who wants "to own the food video space," including branded video, credited Condé Nast with giving her a chance to innovate. "We were given this runway to try new things even at a company that's been around a long time," she said. "And because of that we've been able to attract all kinds of new talent and to do things that weren't necessarily formulaic. And because of that we've been able to do well. We've been able to have a tremendous year."

Mr. Rapoport, when asked about the competitive food content space, said he's not externally focused. "You're competing against yourself," he said. "The challenge is to push ourselves every month."

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