IMAG Conference 2016

Bringing together independent magazine media leaders from around the country, the 12th Annual IMAG Conference paid homage to the spirit of community with its theme, Golden Gateways: Connecting Brands with Believers. Hosted by the IMAG Board and chaired by Dwell President and CEO, Michela O'Connor Abrams, the conference offered invaluable insight into in connecting brands to consumers and converging commerce, content and community. Thank you to all of the great sponsors who made this event possible.

Wednesday, May 11

IMAG Big Ideas Showcase

Indie leaders shared the projects and ideas that worked and the secrets to their success in the BIG IDEAS Showcase hosted by August Home Publishing’s Don Peschke. The event highlighted AFAR’s efforts to improve employee morale, Snapchat’s ability to tell an ongoing story, Surfing Magazine’s “The Factory,” and more.

Opening Night at the Airbnb Headquarters

Airbnb’s Chip Conley and Jonathan Mildenhall welcomed IMAGers to the Airbnb Headquarters, addressing the “uncomfortable truths” of the business, emphasizing the importance of human values to build a community and activating lifelong learning. Mildenhall said, “One day we’ll create a sense of belonging for everyone on the planet. All 7.5 billion people.”

Thursday, May 12

Golden Gateways: Connecting Brands with Believers

With a bow to the iconic Peacock Room at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, Michela O’Connor Abrams opened the conference with an invitation for attendees to expand their minds and the power of their brands. Noting the difficulty and the value of taking time out of the office, she shared the program’s promise of introducing new ideas, new thinking and new opportunities for our industry.

A Look Ahead for the Magazine Media Industry

Outperforming TV, online media, radio and newspapers, magazine brands are number 1 in social actions compared to other media forms and they reach nearly double the audience that TV shows can. MPA's Linda Thomas Brooks proved that magazine media truly “tells and sells” itself.

Communities Who Love Their Brands

Described by Philippe Guelton as “The Media Company of One,” SheKnows enables women to create their own content and connect with each other through blog posts, articles and events. With a leadership team that reflects its mainly female audience (over 70 percent of its executives are women), SheKnows’ mission is to create content that makes women laugh, think, feel and share. “We tell things the way they are,” said Guelton, “and we need to communicate to women the way they talk to each other.”

Brands and Their Teams

Interested in the convergence of content, community and commerce, Gregg Brockway, recognized the challenges in bringing all three together. “Community and commerce fit together nicely,” said Brockway, “but content and commerce is a tough road.” Brockway also acknowledged the difficulty and uniqueness of creating a print publication.

All About the Voice: Your Brand Across Platforms

The role of editor in chief has become a 24/7 position with expanded opportunities for new content platforms. Referring to events as “the easiest platform to extend proper brand stewardship,” AFAR’s Julia Cosgrove said the modern age editor must think beyond the printed publication.

Among these new opportunities, social media has changed the game for editors, forcing them to walk a fine line between expressing themselves online and negatively reflecting on the brand. San Francisco Magazine’s Jon Steinberg said, “It’s tough to be a representative of a brand with the right tone while also being provocative on Twitter.”

Social Impact

“You have the attention on social. It’s time for the revenue to follow,” said Jim Anderson. Amidst the flooding of native advertising, Anderson said magazine media’s editorial content, the very best content they build their brands around, is what matters most on social. SocialFlow helps brands turn their social efforts into direct revenue by extending advertiser relationships to sponsor the posts. Acknowledging magazine media’s dominance on social platforms, Anderson said sponsoring editorial posts is “much better economics than traditional native advertising because it relies on editorial content that’s already been written.”

Upwardly Mobile: Smartphone at the Heart of Customer Experience

Flurry’s Chris Klotzbach noted that “It’s not the year of mobile… it’s just mobile.” With the average mobile user spending four hours a day on their smartphone, it’s no surprise that magazine media companies are making the shift to mobile. “The first thing people think of is print, but we’re turning our model around to focus on digital and mobile,” said Forbes’ Ann Marinovich. Quartz’s Ryan Grabenkort agreed, adding that nearly half of their revenue comes from mobile. Kristine Shine, a mobile expert from, moderated the panel.

Fueling a Community

As co-creator of Facebook Platform and Connect and co-founder of Path, Dave Morin knows a thing or two about building communities. In an interview with The Economist’s Alexandra Suich, Morin said the secret to bringing people together is to “honor the things your community cares about most.” Social networking effectively fosters this sense of community, though Morin recognizes it can be difficult to choose the right social media platform to leverage. He asked, “Is it better to be on one platform and kill it or spread your resources too thin across many?”

Morin also revealed his predictions for the world of social networking and mobile. The next big thing in technology? Voice-activated devices. “I can see a world where a microphone is in every room of your house,” said Morin.

Town Hall Session: Consumer Revenue Growth

Tapping into audience passion points and offering products, services and experiences your audience can't say no to, panelists offered valuable advice to increase consumer revenue. From using big data to identify consumer segments, to using new technology platforms, the group pointed to new ways to drive user engagement

Town Hall Session: Strategic Growth

Are you ready to jump? Mike Lewis, founder of When To Jump, asked the CEOs and business leaders in the room if they were ready to make the transformative steps necessary to drive change. The town hall in strategic growth included JC Curran, of Foundation Talent, who recommended reviewing structure and roles in your organization. Naming a chief growth officer is one way to prioritize development of new ideas, he said. WoodWing's Scott Smith encouraged content companies to spend time and focus on how to best develop, manage and distribute that content. 

Town Hall Session: Advertising Revenue Growth

In a discussion moderated by Dwell's Amy Lloyd, panelists shared tips and success stories in growing advertising revenue. Avoiding agencies who can dilute or block big ideas, Scott Dickey, CEO, The Enthusiast Network, shared that his company works directly with the client to increase both customer satisfaction and revenue. The panel also discussed new ways to monetize by leveraging different connection points, including instant articles and open forums.

Community Defined: Southern Style

“If you ever close down Garden & Gun, we will hunt you down and shoot you.” Rebecca Wesson Darwin shared this message from an avid reader to exhibit her audience’s dedication to the brand. Though Garden & Gun has 40 percent circulation outside of the southeast, the magazine taps into a passionate Southern community: “It’s a family reunion of people brought together by the love of the land and southern culture.” Darwin also reported that while 90 percent of Garden & Gun’s readers are subscribers, newsstand sales jumped 16.9 percent over 2015.

Amplify Your Brand for Your Community

Aimee Westbrook, client partner, global marketing solutions at Facebook, didn't mince words: “We’re not here to steal your thunder. We need your content.” Westbrook discussed magazine media’s crucial role to help Facebook meet their mission to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Understanding Audiences

In a wide-ranging conversation with Michela O'Connor Abrams, president and CEO, Dwell, Jim Elms underscores the need for agencies to reconsider their roles and their responses to the new client- media-agency ecosystem. Flexibility, creativity and speed all rank high on Initiative's priority list as they serve clients such as Coke and Amazon.

The Inaugural Imagination Awards

Hosted by Lesley Jane Seymour, the inaugural Imagination Awards honored the work of independent magazine media companies and brands. Roadkill Magazine, Taste of Home, Dwell, PORTER Magazine, Backpacker, Active Interest Media, The Atlantic and Surfing Magazine took home the top awards. To learn more about the winners, click here.

Friday, May 13

Power of Print: New Studies Reveal Print Effectiveness

Leading to better comprehension and recall, print-based reading effectively engages consumers and creates intense emotional reverberations compared to that of a screen. Signet Research’s AdLift™ Study provided advertisers with confidence that their investments in publications are paying off. The study showed that print ads generate substantial lifts – 15 percent increase in brand awareness and 10 percent increase in likelihood to purchase –and substantiated ROI for advertisers.

Driving Revenue With Online Video

Online video ad spending is rapidly increasing from $5.2 billion in 2014 to an expected $9.8 billion this year. With the shift in ad spending from TV to digital, MediaRadar’s Todd Krizelman shared online video insight, urging publishers to sell more advertisements online.

View from the Top: Stories and Strategies

In a panel moderated by NewCo's John Battelle, top independent magazine media leaders discussed the changing landscape of the industry, citing the importance of events, new businesses such as the game space and the need to be an indespensible source of entertainment for your audience.

Bridging the Analog/Digital Content Divide

An all access app with over 200 magazine brands, Texture has been called the Netflix of the magazine world. Significantly increasing magazine consumption – both number of titles read and number of hours spent reading –Texture is a true multi-platform program that renders optimal presentation and synchronization among mobile devices.