Collaborate, Innovate and Celebrate: What Can You Learn from Four Media Companies’ CEOs

January 18, 2011

The status and future of magazines distributed via newspapers will be the topic of the panel that I will be moderating on Thursday Jan. 20 in New York City. The panel will include the four CEOs of the major media companies that publish and distribute such magazines. The panelist are John Cobb III, CEO, Publishing Group of America; Stephen Duggan, CEO, Athlon Sports; Chuck Gabrielson, CEO, USA Weekend; and Jack Haire, CEO, Parade. (Full bios are at the end of the blog).

I have asked three colleagues to comment on the event and on the status of magazines distributed via newspapers. Lisa Scott, the executive director of PBAA and the event co-host answered my questions regarding who and why folks should attend the panel; Steve Cohn, editor in chief of min: media industry newsletter on the status of magazines distributed via newspapers; and Bob Sacks, founder and CEO of the Precision Media Group on the state and future of such titles.

I asked Lisa Scott who should attend such a panel? Her answer:

This panel, comprised of experienced CEO’s, offers anyone interested in the future of print media an opportunity to benefit from the panelists’ varied and cumulative insights, experiments, successes, mistakes, and reasons for optimism. Whether the attendee is a journalist, advertising professional, consumer marketer, media buyer, or supply-chain professional, there should be something to provoke or inspire or ponder on January 20.

And I asked, why should anyone attend such a panel?

Magazine and newspaper publishers and distributors will be able to understand why CEO’s are continuing to “bet” on print as a revenue source. More specifically, CEO’s can share real insight on the results of their research on their consumer audience, the role/value of digital media to these print-engaged consumers, and how and why they believe they can continue to woo investors in print media in the coming years. These insights can assist publishers and distributors to continue to build the case proving the vitality of print as a consumer’s media delivery vehicle in the years ahead.

As for Steve Cohn, the knowledgeable and well versed editor in chief of min:media industry newsletter, shed some light on the status of such magazines. He answered my questions about the magazines distributed via newspapers:

Newspaper-distributed magazines are growing because of (1) they fill a void created by the cessation of newspaper-published magazines due to their expense in a tough economy; and (2) they give newspapers added value.

Until 2000, newspaper-distributed magazines were the realm of Parade and USA Weekend (formerly Family Weekly). Then, Publishing Group of America came in with the successful launch of the largely “C”- and “D”-county targeted American Profile, followed by the monthly Relish (epicurean) and Spry (health). Now, there are periodically released health titles from Parade/USAW, and the Parade-owned epicurean magazine Dash is about to start a regular monthly frequency in February.

The advantage of newspaper-distributed magazines is that they don’t have to worry about circulation. Newspaper sales take care of that.

Disadvantage, until recently, was that newspaper-distributed magazines were solely dependent upon advertising for revenues. Online is beginning to make a contribution here.

Traditionally, advertising in newspaper-distributed magazines has held its own in tough economies, because the titles’ large circulations and low CPMs versus television makes them comparably a bargain.

And of course my friend Bob Sacks of the bosacks.com fame offered this view of the status and future of magazines distributed via newspapers:

Magazines inserted into newspapers surely are an interesting and successful business model for some on-going publications. It is still difficult to attain those types of huge circulations from any publisher’s perspective. The numbers in your blog are, indeed, large and will stay that way for some limited time to come. But simple trend analysis reveals some interesting long-term data. In 1960 the penetration rate of newspapers into the American home was in the range of 1.1 newspapers per household. By 1995 the year before the great Internet adoption, it was down to .60 per American household, and by 2010 the penetration rate was resting under 0.35 per household.

I guess my question is, where and when is the circulation plateau rather than the continued plummet of a 50-year decline? I would add that it is extremely important to note that the decline in household penetration for newspapers happened long before the rise of the Internet.

So, what do you think? Is the future bright and rosy for such publications? Or is it a lost cause? I guess on Thursday we will have the answers when we listen to those four CEOs answer the aforementioned questions. What follows are the short bios, in alphabetical order, of the four CEOs:

John W. Cobb III
John W. Cobb III is CEO of PGoA Media, a publishing, digital media and event company built around the American Profile, Relish and Spry brands.

Cobb’s extensive background managing the expansion of print and digital brands puts PGoA Media in the best possible position to continue to deliver outstanding results for advertisers, tremendous value for newspaper partners and robust content for consumers.

Prior to joining PGoA Media, Cobb was Senior Vice President, Digital at Source Interlink Media, which is the leading provider of automobile, action sports and high-tech content. He managed more than 100 web properties, including Motor Trend, Automobile, Hot Rod, Motorcyclist and Surfer with revenues of $50 million and 22 million unique visitors a month.

With more than 20 years as a senior media/internet executive, Cobb has led and developed large-scale, multi-media properties for Petersen Publishing, EMAP, PRIMEDIA and Source Interlink Media.

Cobb is based in New York and has a wife and two children. He’s an avid pilot and an active snow and water skier. He also enjoys golf, travel and technology.

Stephen Duggan
Stephen Duggan serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Athlon Sports, publisher of Athlon Sports – the largest sports magazine in the U.S. with 9 million monthly circulation. Athlon is also the leading publisher of sports annuals with titles covering College Football, Pro Football, College Basketball, Pro Basketball, NASCAR, Pro Baseball and Golf.

Prior to joining Athlon, Stephen spent the previous decade working with private equity backed media companies. In 1999 Stephen helped found Publishing Group of America. Stephen was integrally involved in the successful launches of newspaper distributed American Profile, Relish and Spry magazines. Following the Sale of PGA in 2007, Stephen served as Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Media Group, publisher of Maxim magazine, where he led the Company’s successful business and balance sheet restructurings. Maxim is the leading magazine targeting young men 18-34 with a rate base of 2.5 million copies monthly.

Stephen currently serves on the Board of Directors for Questex Media Group, Inc, a leading global business-to-business (“B2B”) communications company serving multiple industries through a range of well-established, market-leading publications, events, interactive media, research, information and integrated marketing services.

Stephen is a graduate of Murray State University.

Chuck Gabrielson
Charles “Chuck” Gabrielson joined Gannett in 1971 at The Journal News in Westchester County, NY (then Westchester-Rockland Newspapers). He began his career as a management trainee in the advertising department then served in advertising and marketing management roles, including Advertising Director.
He joined USA WEEKEND in 1989 as Executive Vice President, named Publisher in 1996 and President and Publisher on January 2010. He previously served as Advertising Director of Macy’s Co. and Marketing/Sales Director of Advertising Age Magazine and Founder and Publisher of Creativity Magazine.

In 2009, Chuck was inducted to The Advertising Hall of Fame presented by MIN (Media Industry News). He is a graduate of Long Island University (LIU) and resides in New City, N.Y. with his wife Lisa.

Jack Haire
Jack Haire is President and CEO of Parade Publications. In his year and a half at the helm of the most widely read magazine in America, he has invested important resources in the brand and re-energized its business and editorial models. In addition to bringing top talent to Parade, Jack has helped forge strong partnerships with key newspaper and advertising partners. Under his leadership, Parade built a unique content distribution network with 40 million monthly unique visitors across 400 trusted newspaper web sites. Last November, Parade launched dash, a new food magazine and web business that will include branded content from Bon Appétit, Epicurious.com and Gourmet, marking the first editorial collaboration between Parade and Condé Nast.

Prior to joining Parade, Haire spent twenty-eight years at Time Warner Inc. During his tenure, he was publisher of Time Magazine, President of the Fortune/Money Group, and Chairman of the Time Warner Advertising Council. On his watch, both TIME and Fortune were chosen as Adweek’s Hottest Magazine, measured by 3 year advertising growth. He also partnered with CNN on the launch of CNNMoney.com, one of the Web’s most successful and profitable finance sites. He serves on the board of Concern Worldwide, U.S., an international humanitarian organization, and as a director of LodgeNet Interactive and Top Ten Reviews.

Haire lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. He enjoys reading, golf, fishing, and playing or watching all sports.

To join us at this event, click here to register.



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