MediaVest Print Symposium

Print Publishers See Digital as Way to Strengthen Brands

Conde Nast Finds Web Efforts Boost Newsstand/Sub Sales

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A powerhouse panel of top publishers had a clear message to deliver yesterday to media buyers and representatives from Kraft Foods: Digital media will only make strong brands stronger, and the smart publishers have already figured out how to adapt their content to the new tools.
CondeNet's Sarah Chubb said a long-running 'Self' feature that got online play helped boost the magazine's sales.
CondeNet's Sarah Chubb said a long-running 'Self' feature that got online play helped boost the magazine's sales.

One of the most striking examples was given by Sarah Chubb, a 10-year veteran and president of CondeNet. Conde Nast, like most publishers, has struggled to strike the right balance between the amount of content to put up online and what to keep exclusive for the print editions, for fear too much free online content would cannibalize newsstand and subscription sales. A recent web venture, however, has changed the mindset inside the company toward doing more robust web ventures.

"We've found that if we leverage content properly online, we can increase sales of the magazines," Ms. Chubb said.

Web effort drives sales gains
Self has a long-running feature known as the Self Challenge, which asks readers to pledge to follow a three-month diet and exercise routine to improve their health. This year, CondeNet and Self took the challenge online in a way that allows readers to create personalized workout schedules and diet plans that let readers track calories, find support buddies, sign up for weekly newsletters and follow one of the participants through her blog. The result was an increase in newsstand and subscription sales with "serious rate-base impact," Ms. Chubb said, and went on to relate how gratifying it was when Conde Nast circulation executives came to her and said they could find no other reason for Self's sales bump other than the increased participation in the Challenge, thanks to the website.

"That's opened up the creative floodgates within the company and we're now trying to find as many ways as possible to do similar things for other titles," she said.

The panel, held at the New York headquarters of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, was part of MediaVest's second annual Print Symposium. The audience was made up of MediaVest's media buyers, executives from MediaVest client Kraft Foods and MSLO employees, who listened to an address by Martha Stewart and MSLO CEO Susan Lyne before the panel discussion. Joining Ms. Chubb on the panel were Robin Domeniconi, Time Inc.'s president-corporate sales and marketing; Andy Sareyan, president, Meredith's Better Homes & Gardens; Jill Kaplan, general manager of The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Edition; Lauren Stanich, MSLO's president-publishing; Michael Rooney, senior VP-advertising sales and marketing for ESPN Branded Media; and Eric Bader, senior VP-director of digital connections, MediaVest.

MSLO's multiplatform dexterity
MSLO is often credited with being one of the first publishers to truly grasp how to create a brand that lives equally across multimedia platforms, so it seemed appropriate that the discussion was taking place just steps away from where MSLO's creative teams work to feed ideas to all of its magazines, TV shows and online pages. Ms. Lyne told attendees that MSLO's website will be relaunched in 2007 to incorporate social media applications. However, the company will roll out a new part of the site in time for this year's fourth quarter that will use the internet's ability to let users create their own media. MSLO's website will offer an ability to share photos, create holiday cards, build scrapbooks and create recipe books for users to use as gifts. Consumers can upload their own pictures and recipes, as well as choose from MSLO's archive of images and recipes.

"Anything the internet allows consumers to do, we want to make sure we are offering consumers the chance to do it with us," Ms. Lyne said. "As Martha Stewart has said, we have to be careful we don't miss the boat."

Publisher panelists were bullish that print can adapt to the brave new world of digital media. Time Inc.'s Ms. Domeniconi was quick to note that the panel shouldn't be talking about the future of print, but about the future of brands. "Brands that are differentiated and that stay true to their mission no matter how the reader gets to the content will stay relevant," she said.

ESPN's 'liquid edit'
Mr. Rooney echoed that idea when he spoke about the ESPN concept of "liquid edit," which is a way to ensure that all the content ESPN gathers is dispatched to the proper medium. "We are there to serve the fan," Mr. Rooney said as a way of explaining why ESPN delivers content on so many different platforms. "Wherever they want it, we'll give it to them."

The plethora of digital platforms have often been cited as the reason print will not survive, but Mr. Sareyan argued that the competition has only made strong magazines stronger. "The richness and quality of the content they are delivering seems so much stronger to me compared to 10 years ago. All the competition means they've had to get better, and it's led them to create a complete relationship with customers."

Giving the advertiser's perspective, Mr. Bader said it's less important to him as a buyer what kind of display technology is being used then why it is being used, what purpose is being served by having the content delivered over a specific digital platform. "No individual device is going to be a platform killer, it's about content and connection, not delivery system."
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