Magazines Should Sell Ads Based on Total Audience

Meredith President Jack Griffin at MPA's 'Breakfast with a Leader'

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NEW YORK ( -- Keep pedaling, people. That was the message this morning from Jack Griffin, president of Meredith's Publishing Group, as part of the "Breakfast With a Leader" series for magazine-industry executives presented by the Magazine Publishers of America.
Jack Griffin
Jack Griffin

Remaking old notions
There's been more change in media during the past 24 months than there was in the past 24 years, Mr. Griffin said. "This change is all spurred, of course, by technology," he said. "On the demand side of the equation, the change has been equally dramatic." The national-demographic shifts going on now are remaking our notions of who "consumers" are.

At Meredith in particular, the company has pursued a deliberate process of adaptation and evolution since 2002, when it acquired the American Baby Group, Mr. Griffin said. American Baby now has 10 brand applications, only one of which is the print magazine.

Meredith later built out its parenting portfolio with the acquisition of four Gruner & Jahr USA titles. It's also moved into Hispanic media with Siempre Mujer and toward Generation Y with the purchase of ReadyMade, the hip how-to title.

In the last year the company has also bought three online agencies and Monday said it had acquired the health-search specialist Next month it will introduce its portal, tying together its parenting magazines at one online location. And the company is developing a formal social network around More and its users.

Not always radical change
All the activity over the last several years has cost some $600 million in investments in the publishing group alone, according to Mr. Griffin.

The company's leaders also believe that magazines have got to make progress in selling against their total audience of readers, not just the smaller paid-circulation figures. Selling magazine advertising based on distribution is akin to selling TV against the number of sets owned, he said.

But it's not all about change, and certainly not always radical change. "The enduring strength of Better Homes & Gardens is testament to the idea that there is no such thing as a mature brand," Mr. Griffin said.

It's more about motion, to put it broadly. "What we all do is like riding a bicycle," Mr. Griffin said. "We are moving forward or we're falling down."
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