Q&A: AIM Chief Innovation Officer Jonathan Dorn
Dorn excerpts from a Q&A with Samir Husni: On what role he believes print plays in this digital age: "The more immersive, in-depth reading experience. In the case of Backpacker, it’s going to be big adventure narratives, interviews with folks who are doing the most extreme trips, conservation issues. In the case of the Yoga Journal, what we’ve really been trying to do there in print for the last year and a half is lead conversations that are complex and meaty enough that they can’t play out in an effective way in social or in digital." On why Active Interest Media is hiring while many other media companies are laying off: "As a company we continue to be profitable to a degree that allows us to invest in adventures and innovations that we see giving us opportunity to continue growing and diversifying our interests. We’re not hiring in every department, but we are being selective and bringing in strong talents in areas where we do see those growth opportunities." On his change from pure editor-in-chief to chief innovation officer: "I am very cognizant of...protecting the church and state line, even as where that line is drawn has shifted an awful lot over time. I’ve always tried to operate by a Golden Rule...at the end of the day, what’s good for our readers and customers? In making the decision to help sell a program that includes custom content, am I doing something that is going to trick or deceive or in some way ruin the good that we’re doing for the readers of our titles?" On defining content for channels: "We do attempt to define all the channels. For instance one of my priorities right now, we’re working on Alexa, and the ways that we bring content to smart speakers and smart viewers. It’s recognizing and embracing the changing ways that people are consuming content in their homes and the ways in which they’re using technology. To me, that is still a content experience... It's a direct descendant of a service department in a magazine, but delivered through a different medium."
Wired's Multiplatform Strategy is Upping Engagement, Revenue
Folio: "A year after launching its paywall, Wired isn’t done testing out new ways to capitalize on this and other consumer-based revenue models. Between launching its new Get Wired app in October of last year, leading Condé Nast in its first OTT video venture and building up its newsletter offerings, the 25-year-old magazine brand is strategizing for deeper engagement. And while most of the platforms require users to open their wallets to gain access to more than a limited selection of content, the brand’s leaders want to make sure that those who are buying in are getting their money’s worth.For Wired’s editor-in-chief, Nick Thompson, the paywall wasn’t a new concept, even though it was one of the first three set up under Condé Nast’s roof. Previously the editor of the NewYorker.com—before joining Wired at the start of 2017—Thompson introduced its online paywall, which contributed to a 130% increase in annual subscriptions, and then rode that wave of success over to Wired, modeling its paywall off of The New Yorker’s. 'A lot of the things we learned at The New Yorker, we took over to Wired and a lot of the debates we had at The New Yorker, we didn’t need to have at Wired. There were a series of decisions like that that we were just able to piggyback off of,' he says, noting that it was an easy sell both internally and externally, because Condé knew the model worked and the Wired staff immediately saw the benefits of putting one up. The only group that needed to be sold was the readers. 'Wired’s audience is a little more tech savvy, they’re a little bit more likely to know how to get around porous paywalls,' says Thompson. 'They’re also a little more likely to ideologically be opposed to paywalls.' And while that fact didn’t directly influence the decisions going into building the paywall, one difference was that Wired’s included the subscriber benefit of getting an ad-free digital experience, which is something that the brand’s readers explicitly expressed they wanted—and has, so far, worked. 'Our subscription numbers were amazing,' he says. “They’re over 100,000 subscriptions in the year after we launched the paywall, which is a crazy number when you compare it to the number of digital subscriptions we had the previous year.' With roughly 30,000 subscriptions prior to the paywall, the number is up 272 percent YOY. This area of revenue is also one of the fastest growing streams for the brand, according to Thompson, and while 100,000 people signing up for the introductory offer of $10 for a year of both print and digital access may only seem like an incremental number, the lifetime value of each subscriber is what he and his team see the promise in.Following the first year, the renewal rate is $19.99, but similar to The New Yorker—which doubled its renewal rate during the time Thompson was there—he hopes Wired will also be able to increase its price and justify doing so by adding value to the subscription in the form of more writers, platforms and integrations with other products. Since the paywall launched at the end of January 2018, site director Scott Rosenfield says his team has been testing different iterations of promotional strategies, pricing and more in order to ensure incremental growth. “It really runs the gamut as to the tests we might do and the results can be really surprising,” says Rosenfield. “One quick one is how we communicate sale pricing. Having a strikethrough on the number or just having the new, lower cost, we found that some of those approaches works really well for us. Tiny little things like that you may not think matter, but it does.' Naturally also driving a bump in print subscriptions, Thompson says that the next issue of the print edition will be “refreshed” in order to give readers a way to engage more deeply in print--including more long-form features. 'It turns out that long features tend to over-index on the likelihood that they’ll get people to subscribe.' However, Thompson says that the refresh isn't a [complete print] redesign... Going forward, he says, any change made on one platform should be reflected across all of them, since they’re all integrated. According to director of audience development Indu Chandrasekhar, one of the most effective means for converting casual readers into subscribers is newsletters, which contributed seven times more sign ups than the website’s average last year (including driving 2,400 subscriptions in December 2018—86% more than average). Newsletters are a small contributor to overall site traffic, but are valuable for the loyal audience they create. 'Odds are, if you read and engage with our newsletters, you’re aware of everything that Wired does,' whereas Facebook and Twitter followers only see 5-10% of a brand's posts, on average. herefore, by being exposed to more content, Chandrasekhar says that newsletter readers are more likely to want to get past the barrier. Newsletter readers hit the paywall faster and are more likely to want to get behind it, he says. As a result, Wired has launched three new newsletters since November: One tied to transportation—a topic favored among subscribers—one about Robert Mueller called the Mueller Report and one tied to the Deals section, which capitalizes on the affiliate link revenue stream that Rosenfield has been growing"... Article offers more specifics.
Luxe Interiors + Design Brings Marketers Back to Print
Folio: Employing "a hybrid, regionally focused yet nationally reaching, controlled-circulation approach, meant to allow advertisers to target specific segments of super-affluent (and purchase-inclined) readers, Sandow’s Luxe Interiors + Design believes it has found a solution to convince both endemic and non-endemic marketers to continue investing in print. “Other magazines are putting their emphasis on digital, which is fine, but we’re approaching it from a different angle,” says group publisher and chief revenue officer Katie Brockman, who joined Luxe in 2017 after 14 years at Hearst’s Veranda. “We’re saying that in order to speak to this luxury audience, you have to deliver a luxury product. So we continue to put resources behind it, from the quality of the paper to the content to the range of photography.' The strategy appears to be working. Luxe was up 3 percent in print revenue last year, raised its rate base (to 480,000) for the first time since 2014 and just this week, closed its May/June issue up 12 percent over 2018. Perhaps most distinctively, the magazine’s traditional advertisers—appliance and furniture brands, window and door manufacturers, interior design firms—are increasingly being joined by non-endemic luxury brands, from Ferrari to Tiffany & Co"... Article offers more specifics on the strategy.
This Year's Ellies Featured New Elements, Names
[Note: See Friday's MBR Daily for full list of National Magazine Award winners.] Folio: "From a new category honoring podcasting and an additional one honoring video, to the warehouse-themed Williamsburg venue that would host a concert by Haiti’s hottest DJ the following night, to the slew of first-time winners, the 54th annual National Magazine Awards were unlike any of the 53 that preceded them. Among newcomers at the “Ellies”—named for the elephant-shaped trophy—was Topic, the “visual storytelling” hub launched less than two years ago, which swept both video categories and was one of just three publications to earn multiple awards (the other two being The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine).But outside of a standing ovation for outgoing New York magazine editor Adam Moss’s induction into the ASME Magazine Editors Hall of Fame, the largest ovation of the night arguably went to another first-time winner: Erin Bried, the founder and sole staffer responsible for Kazoo, the three-year-old, print-only magazine aimed at girls aged 5–12, which became the first-ever children’s magazine to pick up an Ellie award for General Excellence.“I thought there was no chance. I’m going to try not to cry,” said Bried in her acceptance speech, thanking the judges for not dismissing Kazoo, the other magazines in the room that had given Kazoo press and the subscribers and contributors that have allowed it to succeed as an independent, ad-free magazine. Met with protests from the crowd, a musical cue intended to curtail Bried’s speech immediately relented.Sticking to last year’s decision to do away with the Magazine of the Year honor in favor of four category-divided General Excellence awards that recognize the totality of a publication’s print and digital offerings, the other three big winners honored by ASME were National Geographic, which picked up its eighth General Excellence award in the news, sports and entertainment category; T: The New York Times Style Magazine, which earned a second straight in service and lifestyle; and Virginia Quarterly Review, which won its second-ever in the literature, science and politics category. Kazoo won in the special interest category. Editorial director Geoff Van Dyke accepted Denver mag 5280‘s first-ever Ellie award, for personal service, after a blizzard prevented founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Daniel Brogan from attending in person. And the recently promoted Will Welch, accepting GQ Style‘s first Ellie, in design and photography, gave shout-outs to Anna Wintour and outgoing Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg in the front row. But for all that was new at the 2019 Ellies, much remained the same. New Yorker editor David Remnick earned the 45th through 48th additions to his National Magazine Award trophy case..."
NatGeo TV Resumes deGrasse Tyson Shows After Misconduct Accusations
Vanity Fair: National Geographic and Fox confirmed that Neil deGrasse Tyson will resume his hosting duties and the programs "StarTalk" and "Cosmos" will resume airing, after they were suspended following sexual misconduct accusations about the physics professor/host. 'The investigation is complete, and we are moving forward with both StarTalk and Cosmos,' the missive read. 'StarTalk will return to the air with the remaining 13 episodes in April on National Geographic, and both Fox and National Geographic are committed to finding an air date for 'Cosmos'. There will be no further comment.' National Geographic and Fox declined to make any of the findings of their investigation public, and it is unclear if Tyson will remain with either program beyond their scheduled airings.
Opinion: How Marketers Can Justify Print Expenditures In A Digital Era
In MediaPost, Jason Gaunt, director of agency services, APS Group, writes in part: "In the new world of digital, anything that [supposedly] shows demonstrable ROI has a tendency to win people over. This in part explains why print has suffered as a marketing medium... Most marketers do seem to believe in print, at least anecdotally, but a lack of evidence of its success has somewhat hampered its usage... The print sector has started its fight back and is confronting this challenge. Last year, the direct mail industry pulled together to form the joint industry committee for mail (JICmail). Working with research company Kantar TNS, it aimed to create the first-ever industrywide audience standard that would allow marketers to compare print and digital marketing channels. The initiative’s initial findings have already produced some strong insights. For example, it found that, on average, 51% of all mail is read immediately -- whether addressed or a door drop -- and a further 19% of recipients follow up on this later. In addition, each piece that enters the home is revisited 3.8 times on average. Furthermore, 21% go on to create commercial actions -- for example, prompting a purchase, or a visit to a website or physical store. All this offers food for thought that should certainly make marketers think twice before writing off print. And here are three more reasons to consider print: 1. Print has become an antidote to digital overload. Consumers are constantly being bombarded by digital messages. We may spend a huge amount of time on smartphones engaging with social media, but how much are we actually absorbing while we’re scrolling through the endless content on these feeds? With print, however, it’s not so easy to click away. As the evidence above suggests, you might put it down, but the chances are you’ll return to it later. It has the ability to leave a lasting impression in a way that digital doesn’t. 2. Print can drive online performance. As KFC found out when it was in the midst of its 2018 chicken shortage crisis in the U.K., a quick-thinking print campaign can pay dividends online. Most people will have seen the ‘FCK’ campaign online, but it first grabbed people’s attention after it was printed in newspapers, magazines and on billboards. It only appeared online after people shared the print advert far and wide. 3. Trust in digital has waned. Fake news and data privacy concerns are some of the reasons why consumers have grown to distrust digital platforms. But for marketers, a series of revelations has led to a loss of faith in digital metrics over recent years. This includes Comscore finding that 54% of online display ads were not being seen by anyone, and Facebook overestimating the average time people spend watching video by 60%-80%. Or as Thomas Barta, the influential co-author of "The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader," puts it: 'Marketers were promised better targeting with digital. In reality, some digital metrics are still pretty dodgy.'"
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE:
Amazon Gets Final OK for Virginia HQ2 Incentive Deal
Blomberg: Amazon "won the last approval it was seeking for an incentive plan that helped lure the largest online retailer to Northern Virginia. The five-member Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved $23M in incentives for the company to build a headquarters in the Crystal City neighborhood, just outside Washington, D.C. -- after six-and-a-half hours of testimony, protests and discussions by more than 100 people who argued for and against the deal... The local government’s carrot for Amazon, which is eventually expected to bring at least 25,000 jobs, comes in addition to a subsidy package of up to $750M over 15 years signed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in February. 'The relatively modest incentives' that Arlington will provide are to create an environment for all residents to thrive, board chairman Christian Dorsey said. The vote marked a victory for Amazon after it ran into intense opposition in New York, where the company had planned another HQ location... Some activists sought to block the project in Arlington as well, saying the company doesn’t need tax dollars. At the hearing, they also raised concern about Amazon’s business practices and low-income residents being priced out of the county, chanting and holding signs of disapproval. But ultimately, opposition didn’t emerge on the same scale as in New York and political leaders continued to back the deal"...
Consumers' Recession Mindset Lingers
Minn. Star-Tribune: "Wages are ticking up. The labor market is robust. But consumers are giving the kind of mixed messages that drive economists and retail executives batty. Will they or won’t they spend in 2019?... after three straight months of declines, consumer confidence hit its highest mark in 18 years in February, according to the Conference Board... The boomerang around this closely watched measure of consumer perceptions reflects a post-recession mind-set — one that is easily spooked by instability. Housing values and the stock market have recovered, but vast swaths of Americans haven’t made up lost ground during the past decade. Consumers may be waiting for the other shoe to drop"... Massive student debt and a recent rise in car loan defaults are among the worrisome factors.
Kroger, Walmart Closing Gap on Amazon’s Digital Dominance?
PG's Jim Dudlicek writes: "While Amazon is pushing into the grocery channel in a big way, larger traditional players that are investing in omnichannel appear to be holding their own against the ecommerce giant. Building on its investment in Whole Foods Market, Amazon appears to be doubling down on brick and mortar, with reports that it intends to launch another grocery chain in the foreseeable future and is shopping around for a small regional group of stores. Meanwhile, giants like Kroger and Walmart continue to invest in omnichannel initiatives, leveraging their strengths in traditional retailing against innovations in online shopping, seamless experience and last-mile delivery. New Nielsen ecommerce data, powered by Rakuten Intelligence, shows that Amazon’s dominance in digital retail, specifically for CPG products, is slipping. In fact, over the past two years, established brick-and-mortar stores appear to have taken share back and closed the competitive gap. 'While it's no secret that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have ensured ecommerce is part of their overall strategy, data shows that some of the biggest brick-and-mortar players have turned strategy into reality, and have posted incredible growth along the way,' Nielsen reported. 'In fact, key retail players like Walmart, Kroger and Target have grown their online customer base—all by at least 90% more than Amazon—over the past two years.' Amazon does have significantly greater domestic buyer reach—10 times more—than any of the other merchants, Nielsen noted, so there’s not as much room to grow its buyer base. But the Chicago-based market researcher contended that’s not the only reason for the rapid success of its competitors. 'These merchants have succeeded, in part, because they’ve embraced the click-and-carry model where consumers buy an item online and pick it up at a physical store,' the Nielsen study said. 'In fact, we estimate that the share of click-and-carry sales grew from 4 to 11% of all CPG ecommerce sales in just two years.' Consumers like this model, Nielsen contended, because it gives them the confidence to expand their online shopping beyond health and beauty. In fact, the grocery and gourmet food category has a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 50% over the past three years, just behind pet supplies, Nielsen noted. At a high level, online penetration of CPG is growing. Online CPG sales have increased 30% YoY, and 60% of shoppers have browsed and ordered CPG online, according to Nielsen data, and more than one-quarter (28%) of shoppers have purchased CPG online a few times per month.“Yet despite the increased willingness of consumers to shop online, challenges remain,” the Nielsen study said. '29M people began shopping for CPG products online in the past two years, yet only two-thirds of all ecommerce shoppers buy CPG products through the internet. Among the barriers that deter them, food quality tops the list.' Connecting with unreached CPG e-commerce consumers represents a massive opportunity, Nielsen asserted: 'Amazon still sits on the ecommerce throne, but the competitors are circling as all battle for their piece of the omnichannel pie.'"
Smaller Farms Endangered By Immigrant Crackdown, Trade War, Weather
NY Times: "It has long been an open secret in upstate New York that the dairy industry has been able to survive only by relying on undocumented immigrants for its work force. Now, this region has become a national focal point in the debate over President Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants and their role in agriculture... The tensions have escalated to such a degree over the last year that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo described federal agents as reckless, accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement of violating the rights of farmers in pursuing undocumented immigrants. Cuomo was responding to a high-profile raid on a dairy farm, during which a farmer was briefly handcuffed after protesting that ICE agents were mistreating one of his workers. The farmer claimed ICE did not have a warrant to enter his farm... Republicans who represent upstate New York in Congress have also come to the defense of the farmers... farmers across the country... are struggling with a shrinking labor pool as fewer migrants cross illegally into the country and migrants who are long-term residents become too old for field work... the labor shortage has been compounded by Trump’s trade war and extreme weather, forcing some small farmers to switch to higher-value crops, to reduce their acreage and to consider selling their farms"...
OTHER NEWS OF NOTE: