American Magazine Media Conference 2017

Conference Welcome

Stephen M. Lacy, chairman and CEO, Meredith Corporation and chairman, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media welcomed attendees to AMMC with an overview of the industry, emphasizing the unparalleled clout of magazine media, and declaring, “Today is a day that we should all feel enthusiastic and optimistic about our future as an industry.”

Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of MPA, took the stage to urge attendees to use AMMC “as a jumping off point for the year of magazine media.” Calling magazines a shortcut to quality, Brooks said, "Magazine readers believe in your brands and they transfer that belief to the advertising that runs in your properties."

The Value of Quality Content

In a discussion with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard emphasized the need for noteworthy, current content to tell a quality story: "What makes popular entertainment is that it really has to have some relevance and it matters." He added, "You need to know the story you're telling. You need to know what it's about. There's a right way and a wrong way." When asked if he’d ever consider making a movie about Donald Trump, Howard laughed and said, “I hope it turns out to be a Broadway musical comedy.”

How Magazines Work

Over a glass of fine red wine, The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg sat with Marvin Shanken to discuss his journey to become the successful owner of a suite of popular enthusiast magazines. Though it wasn’t easy to start his own magazine, Shanken persisted. He said, "The more they told me not to do it, the more I became obsessed with doing it." When Shanken started, he worked out of his one-bedroom apartment and had to borrow $5,000 from his sister. He attributes his eventual success to passion, "I think you have to be passionate,” he said. “You have to be uncompromising and you have to follow your heart."

Why Magazines Work

Top indie executives joined Rutenberg and Shanken on stage to reveal how their brands continue to engage audiences. They also discussed the complex nature of the publisher/advertiser relationship. From left:

Pam Wasserstein, chief executive officer, New York Media: "Independence is important. Advertisers should appreciate that reviews are impartial, when that credibility means a bad review for their product.”

Declan Moore, chief executive officer, National Geographic Partners: “Independence must be protected from the pressure to make advertisers happy. It’s the reason magazines are so trusted.”

Bonnie Kintzer, president and chief executive officer, Trusted Media Brands, Inc.: "Trust is the core of TMBI’s business.” She later added, “Two years ago, we started doing a trusted brands research survey with an outside party and some advertisers win and some don't. That hasn't been a problem because it's pure and it's what you'd expect from Reader's Digest."

Andrew W. Clurman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Active Interest Media: "I get concerned when I don't hear about advertising/editorial conflicts because that means they don't care. So when we get threatened and strong-armed, I'm happy because that means they really care what the magazine is saying about them. And there's always a way to come up with a better dynamic with that advertiser."

Marvin R. Shanken, Founder and Chairman, M. Shanken Communications: ”Credibility often means taking a hard line with advertisers." He added: "There is a lot of cooperation between advertisers and publishers...too much, in my opinion."

Sex, Lies and Data Mining

Artist and Researcher R. Luke DuBois brought analytics to life through unique data visualization. He said, “For you, media is an industry. For me, it’s a material.” DuBois compiled data through a variety of unconventional methods including joining over 20 dating sites to map the most frequently used profile words, pairing missed connections on Craigslist and collecting all of the selfies posted to social media from Times Square.

Tech at the Center of Strategy

In a panel moderated by Popular Science’s Joe Brown, Michael Federle, president and chief operating officer, Forbes and Christine Hunsicker, founder and chief executive officer, Gwynnie Bee, discussed the integral role of technology and data in their companies. Encouraging publishers to accept change instead of fearing it, Federle said, “Digital disrupted print. Social disrupted digital. And now mobile is disrupting everything." Hunsicker added that the industry should not only accept the changes—they should embrace them to make their businesses successful. She said, “Instead of going with gut-based [methods], we went and did focus groups to gather data.” She later added, “The way you win in any space is being the best in data and technology.”

Building Addicts: How HBO Hooks Subscribers

Time Inc.’s Alan Murray sat with HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard L. Plepler to discuss how the TV service manages to keep audiences coming back for more. Because of their new service, HBO Now, the company’s digital subscriptions have tripled in one year. He said, "We simply want to make sure that however you want to access HBO, you can do it, wherever, whenever and however you want to watch it." Plepler also reflected on the collaborative nature of HBO, praising “a healthy culture where people feel comfortable pushing back and doing so respectfully.” Plepler ended the interview by applauding the magazine media industry for “holding up western civilization” with credible journalism and smart storytelling.

Journalistic Standards in the Spotlight

News Anchor and Women’s Advocate Gretchen Carlson spoke with some of the industry’s most respected editors about the prevalence of fake news and the need for strong journalistic standards. From left:

Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief, Meredith Parents Network: "We have a responsibility to explain and support real science." She later added, “The Parents brand has such credibility in the mind of the mother.”

Adam Moss, Editor in Chief, New York: “We must adhere to the same set of standards in long form and digital. It’s important to hire people who are up to your standards.” He added, “The internet and social media helps you correct fake news. With more content now we need to transfer the accountability to the reporters.”

Cindi Leive, Editor in Chief, Glamour: “Everyone makes mistakes, and responsible reporters must correct them. For us, the video editing process is more akin to what we do in print. Videos are harder to correct afterwards than digital.”

Jane Francisco, Editor in Chief, Good Housekeeping and Editorial Director, Hearst Lifestyle Group: “Traditional media has always had high standards, and we’ve been watching ourselves all along. For Good Housekeeping, research is our stock in trade. We do extensive fact checking and need to make sure a story adds up”

Jess Cagle, Editor in Chief, People and Editorial Director, Time Inc. Style and Entertainment Group: “We have to play the long game, and we’d rather be slow to confirm if a celebrity is pregnant. We wait, because it’s the right thing to do. And then we get their baby photos.”

The Topics of the Day

MPA President and CEO Linda Thomas Brooks moderated a discussion with magazine media’s top executives on the state of the industry and the themes they heard at AMMC. Highlights from the panel (from left):

Robert A. Sauerberg Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Condé Nast: "After the election, subscriptions across all our titles were up 150%. Some as high as 600%."

Maria Rodale, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Rodale Inc.: Reflecting on the decision to cut advertising in Prevention, Rodale said, “One year in, we are thrilled with the results. The average reader of the magazine is 50-plus. She’s not a target of advertising.”

Stephen M. Lacy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Meredith Corp.: “The real transformation has been the ability to append [magazine subscriber data] in the digital world, whether that be social, mobile, desktop.” He then said, “We are having more and more conversations about the desire to do things that work, and that’s at the bottom of the purchase funnel.”

David Carey, President, Hearst Magazines: “I think the businesses that got disrupted first are in a good position.” He added, “You are watching the wheels come off the TV model. Magazine renewal rates beat anything we see with OTT.”

Rich Battista, President and Chief Executive Officer, Time Inc.: “I’m not surprised that there could potentially be interest in our business. If I were a third-party company, I’d want to buy us.”

MPA Kelly Awards 2017

In an awards ceremony hosted by Hearst’s Michael Clinton, Quad/Graphic’s Joel Quadracci, ESPN’s Wendell Scott and TEN’s Scott Dickey presented awards to magazine media brands who exhibited exceptional advertising campaigns. To view the winners, click here.

2017 MPA Lifetime Achievement Award

Glamour Editor in Chief Cindi Leive presented Charles H. Townsend with the MPA Lifetime Achievement Award. She said, “Chuck, you presided over some spectacular years at Condé Nast. Long before we called it ‘quality content,’ a yawn of a phrase if I ever heard one, Chuck was a fierce defender of good stories.” Townsend accepted the award and spoke about the opportunities that come with “disruption” in the industry. He concluded with, “I feel great about what I accomplished. And now, the ball is in your court.”