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Mr. Magazine™ Presents: Bullish On the Printed Magazines. The Future and Power of Magazines in a Digital Age: A Mini-Documentary with Mary Berner, David Carey, Steve Lacy, Bob Sauerberg, and Skip Zimbalist.

June 21, 2013

You know it’s no surprise if I tell you I’m bullish on the printed magazine. I only call them magazines if they’re printed; otherwise I call them magazine media.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to take the word of any media pundit, reporter, or analyst. People who know more about printed magazines are those who actually publish magazines.

In this mini-documentary Mr. Magazine™ Presents: Bullish on the Printed Magazines, you will see and hear top magazine media executives tell you why they are bullish on the future and power of the printed magazine. Also, below are five sound-bites from the top magazine media executives and the transcript of the interviews.

Now for the sound-bites:

Mary Berner, CEO of the MPA, on the power and future of printed magazine: There are some who will want to read it in print, on mobile, tablet, or look at the websites, but I think the print remains the anchor of the experience.

David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, on whether he believes there is a future for the printed magazine: Absolutely. Despite what some of the digital naysayers have to say; people love magazines.

Steve Lacy, chairman and CEO of Meredith Corp.,
on why he is bullish on the future of magazines: I’m really so bullish because I see an amazing opportunity to support the consumer, especially the Gen Y consumer that is very, very engaged.

Bob Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast,
on whether Condé Nast believes in a digital first strategy: It’s a brand-first strategy, so we start with our brands and their foundation is in print.

Skip Zimbalist, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media,
on whether there is a future for the printed magazine: Absolutely. When we look at our readers, who are passionate about what they do, they’re boaters, yoga enthusiasts, horseback riders; they love print.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the mini-documentary Mr. Magazine™ Presents: Bullish on the Printed Magazines:

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center, The University of Mississippi: You know it’s no surprise if I tell you I’m bullish on the printed magazine. I only call them magazines if they’re printed; otherwise I call them magazine media.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. You don’t have to take the word of any media pundit, reporter, or analyst. People who know more about printed magazines are those who actually publish magazines.

For this segment of the Mr. Magazine™ Minute, I decided to interview five top executives and ask them their opinions on why they’re bullish on printed magazines. You will see from their answers that I’m not alone and that these people are as bullish about the future and the power of the printed magazine as I am, and much more.

Without any further ado, they are – in alphabetical order, Mary Berner – Chief Executive Officer of the MPA, the Association of Magazine Media, David Carey – President of Hearst Magazines, Steve Lacy – Chief Executive Officer of the Meredith Corporation, Bob Sauerberg – President of Condè Nast and Skip Zimbalist – Chief Executive Officer of Active Interest Media.

I hope you’ll enjoy this little segment about Bullish on the Printed Magazine and feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or comments. You can always reach me at samir.husni@gmail.com

Thank you and enjoy the show.


Mary Berner is CEO of the MPA.

Samir Husni: As head of the MPA, what do you think is the role of the printed magazine in this digital age?

Mary Berner: I think the printed magazine is a completely unique experience. There’s nothing like it. It’s unique as a lean-back experience, it’s uniquely immersive, and as we see from the research with college-aged kids, it shows that they love print magazines. It’s something that is like nothing else, so it will complement and supplement the digital experience.

There are some consumers who will always want to read that magazine in print. There are some who will want to read it in print, on mobile, tablet, or look at the websites, but I think the print remains the anchor of the experience.

Samir Husni: If you can separate your role as head of the MPA and think more as a magazine publisher; are you bullish on the future of our industry?

Mary Berner: Yes, I’m extremely bullish, because I think we have key assets that are important in this wildly-competitive market. And we’ve got brand relationships. So when you think about other media – you think about television or music – ABC is not a brand. And NBC is not a brand. People will go and watch the programming, so they’ll watch the program from any platform.

People go and seek out the magazine brand. They go and look for Vogue or Cosmopolitan on every platform. So, that relationship with the consumer, I think, in this kind of digital explosion, is what’s going to be the most important.

Those are great assets and you’ve got that relationship, which gives you permission to do pretty much anything.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

David Carey is President of Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: You have two magazines like The Food Network and HGTV that have increased their rate base, and in the case of The Food Network, I believe 11 times in the last five years and HGTV in the last two years.

David Carey: If we could do it more than twice a year, we would. But I think that we can only do it every six months.

Samir Husni: Do you think there’s a future for the printed magazine?

David Carey: Absolutely. Despite what some of the digital naysayers have to say; people love magazines. And they love them in their ink-on-paper version, and they of course love them in their new digital format.

We live in this on-demand world. There’s nothing more satisfying than going to the newsstand by a subject area that you’re passionate about and you literally own it right then. You take it home and you get to devour it. And that will never change.

Samir Husni: Thank you.


Steve Lacy is CEO of the Meredith Corporation.

Samir Husni: Why are you so bullish about the magazine industry and print, in general?

Steve Lacy: I’m really so bullish because I see an amazing opportunity to support the consumer, especially the Gen Y consumer that is very, very engaged. As a cook, as a gardener, as a home enthusiast; she wants the print product for relaxation when she finally gets the kids in bed. She wants the digital property for taking action and she wants the mobile property when she’s engaged at retail and ready to make a buy.

And we need to be there with our curated content and support her needs as a home enthusiast.

Samir Husni: So you don’t believe in digital first?

Steve Lacy: I believe in all platforms all the time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Bob Sauerberg is President of Condè Nast.

Samir Husni: How bullish are you on the printed magazine in this digital age?

Bob Sauerberg: Our strategy is to build brands and our brands start with our magazines. Print has never been more vital. The consumers tell us every day through all of our business channels, from subscriptions to retail, that they want print. They love it and they are actually willing to pay more for it, which is an important part of our strategy in the long term.

I’m very bullish on what our brands can be in all platforms. But it all starts in print. And I think that’s the biggest part of our business and I think it will be probably forever.

I think the potential, on top of print, to build our brands in digital, on websites and in video, is also significant. And the growth for that will be an accelerator of real stability in the print business.

Samir Husni: Do you think it’s a mistake to go with a digital-first strategy for magazine media companies?

Bob Sauerberg: It’s a brand-first strategy, so we start with our brands and their foundation is in print. And we’re taking the DNA of the uniqueness of the brand and that content and going into these other platforms.

I wouldn’t characterize us as digital-first; I would characterize us as brand-first and we’re trying to be the best at every platform that we publish.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Skip Zimbalist is CEO of Active Interest Media.

On widening your brand and the risk of going too far: There’s always this tension between getting wider and getting a bigger audience, but getting so wide the passion and the average avidness of the reader declines as you get too broad.

Samir Husni: Do you think there’s any future for printed magazines in this digital age?

Skip Zimbalist: Absolutely. When we look at our readers, who are passionate about what they do, they’re boaters, yoga enthusiasts, horseback riders; they love print. That’s not to say that we don’t have a lot of people who enjoy digital, but it’s a relatively small percentage right now, about six percent on average in our group, some as high as eight percent, some as low as four percent. And it’s growing maybe one or two percent per year.

But these are new people coming in to the industry. The existing readers love print. And we find that most of the digital readers who are coming in, over 80 percent of them have never subscribed to the magazine and have never been a newsstand buyer of a magazine. So these are brand new people coming in.

And I think there are certain formats that really lend themselves to print, especially those that have a lot of lush photography in them, those with long-form journalism, and those that have a lot of advice and how-to, lend themselves to print.

I’m very optimistic about it and we see our audience in print as stable. We don’t see our audience as going down. I’m optimistic and when television came in, people said it was the death of radio; well, radio is still here and doing very well, thank you. And I think print magazines are going to be here 20 years from now and doing very well, as well.

Samir Husni: As a leader in the industry and a publisher of a lot of specialized magazines; do you think that’s the future and there’s no room for mass print magazines?

Skip Zimbalist: I’m not going to say that, but I’ll say when I was putting AIM together, that’s the place I chose to concentrate on.

Even within the specialty magazine, or the enthusiast magazine sector, there’s the question always of what I call “brand width.” If you have a magazine, how wide can the brand be and still be relevant to readers?

An easy example would be: can you have a skiing magazine combined with a snowboarding magazine? No, you can’t. It’s two different cats. And if you did that half of the people reading the magazine would find half of the content not relevant to them.

Can you have a saltwater fishing magazine and a freshwater fishing magazine? No, you can’t. Those are two different things.

So there’s always this tension between getting wider and getting a bigger audience, but getting so wide the passion and the average avidness of the reader declines as you get too broad.

Frankly, when I look at competitors and I see them going big, I say, “There goes another competitor,” because I know they’re not going to be in business very long and that’s typically the case.

I also think it’s important in the advertising world. Because if you’re going after general advertisers who are just trying to reach a very broad demographic, males 18-25, or females 25-34; there are a million ways that those advertisers can reach that audience; whereas, if you’re trying to sell a backpack, there’s really only one magazine that you can go to reach backpackers. Or if you’re trying to reach yoga enthusiasts, there’s really only one magazine.
So the balance of power between the publisher and the advertiser is a lot more even in niche magazines, than they are in general interest magazines.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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