h1

Trusted Media Brands President & CEO, Bonnie Kintzer, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Believe The Credibility Of Our Brands Will Drive The Demand For Content.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

December 18, 2019

Mr. Magazine™ Presents… Conversations With Magazine and Magazine Media Leaders…

President and CEO of Trusted Media Brands, Bonnie Kintzer, recently shared her views about the future of magazines and magazine media with Mr. Magazine™ and from Bonnie’s perspective the news is positive and promising. While she isn’t one to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to the realities of the magazine industry, she also doesn’t believe in naysaying the optimistic points of view either. An important factor in Bonnie’s magazine mantra is the credibility of Trusted Media’s brands. For generations many of the titles in her portfolio have been the go-to resources for trusted and proven information. And in this day and age, being able to trust and depend on the source of one’s content is vital.

Trusted Media Brands has also had many pluses for 2019 and Bonnie believes in saying them loud and proud. And her thoughts for 2020 are leaning toward the same positive challenges. And that’s exactly how she views the New Year – challenging, yes, but always with a positive outlook.

So, please enjoy the next installment of the Mr. Magazine™ series with industry leaders – Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO, Trusted Media Brands.

(NOTE): The conversations with the magazine and magazine media executives are going to be published chronologically as they took place…

But first the sound-bites:

On her assessment of the future of magazines and magazine media, especially in 2020: I feel very positive. I think that we’ll continue to see strong customer revenue-based brands, which we are. And I believe we’ll continue to see business models evolve. I feel like we started that path a few years ago to really strengthen the relationships with consumers, with magazines being a very important part. And also introducing other services or products that consumers who love those brands are really interested in. I also believe that the credibility of our brands will drive that; we are a reliable source of information and inspiration. That credibility is really what drives the demand, both for content in print, digital and new products. So, I’m optimistic.

On how she views the future of Trusted Media Brands’ legacy media: I think Reader’s Digest will be here forever. When you look at the renewal rates, circulation and economics of Reader’s Digest, I never worry about Reader’s Digest. I read letters from our readers all the time and you can see that this is a brand that passes down generations in a single family and it’s a really beautiful thing. We definitely treat each of our brands differently. If you look at Taste of Home, we’ve launched a subscription box, because we felt that for people who love to cook and bake, they wanted more hands-on products, so we launched the cookware and the bakeware. That’s much more a focus for Taste of Home than our other brands.

 On three successes the company has had in 2019 that she is proud of: Number one would probably be the fact that we’ve been able to launch new products and services that consumers are paying for. We’re really excited about that. Whether it’s our branded products like the cookware and bakeware, or it’s DIY University, or the growth of the Taste of Home subscription box, I think all of those things are so important. We’ve always been a consumer-driven company, as you know, and the idea that we can now go into all of these new product areas and get positive feedback, as in people are paying for it, is huge.

On whether she has heard that almost 98 percent of cookbooks are sold in print: I’m not sure about that, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Also, QVC has been good for us. We’re the largest non-celebrity cookbook seller on QVC with Taste of Home. So, that’s been great. And we did our first non-cookbook, a religious book: Reader’s Digest Who’s Who in the Bible on QVC that did really well. So, we’re excited that we’ve been able to branch out of cookbooks. QVC has been a great partner for a long time.

On any challenges she had in 2019: There are always challenges. (Laughs) I think the biggest challenge – well, there are a couple, but one would be for the advertising partners to see us as a media company and not only magazines. We’re very proud of our print, but we feel like our digital engagement is exceptional. And our numbers are very strong. So, we’d like to be seen as a brand, as a brand for our partners to work with. I think that’s a challenge for all magazines and definitely one for us.

On why she thinks magazine media professionals are always talking about change, yet they’re hesitant to actually change their business models: I imagine they make quite a lot of money. We were never one of those companies. I know there was a management team here at some point that wanted to be more ad-driven, but the company was still always making more money from consumers, they just made it out of marketing correctly. So, you’d have to ask those other companies, but they make a heck of a lot of money, so I assume that’s hard to walk away from.

 On being consumer-driven and does she see splitting that revenue moving forward: Digital advertising for us in the last two years has been exceptional. We have had exceptional growth and far exceeded industry growth on digital advertising. That is for sure. And that will continue to grow. Seventy-five percent of our money comes from consumers; will we ever be 50/50? I don’t know. We love that consumers pay for our content; we think it’s a very healthy business. We’re delighted to see the growth in our digital advertising. And like we say, let’s grow the pie and not worry about the percentages. (Laughs) And we’re doing that. That’s an amazing thing for this particular company, to see topline growth. We’ve had bottom-line growth since I’ve been here, but to see topline growth is a great turn of events for us.

On whether she feels all of the digital and social media platforms are friend or foe to magazines and magazine media: I think the digital platforms are both; we do a lot on Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram is growing for us. We think it’s a great way to engage with consumers. We know that our consumers are there; we drive a tremendous amount of traffic from those platforms, so that’s a very strong positive and trend. Obviously, on the not-so-friendly side, they get to change their algorithms without notice or rationale. And that puts a strain when that happens.

On whether she views the magazine media cup as three-quarters full or half-full: I think three-quarters full, I do. I’m definitely much more optimistic than I am pessimistic about the platforms.

On anything she’d like to add: This is really always a war of talent. And when I look around our company I continue to be inspired by the people who we have here. And having almost half of our employees in the Midwest gives us tremendous advantage to understand what’s happening in this country and to really know what’s important to people, which is cooking great meals, doing their own projects, and being inspired by the stories of their neighbors. And I think that’s what keeps us all very grounded; knowing who we serve every day.

On what keeps her up at night: There’s just so much change all the time. And making sure that you’re staying on top of all of those changes and being very disciplined in what does and doesn’t matter in those changes, because you can read a lot of things and get swept up, but some stuff doesn’t really matter for my business. And I think we do that. My team is very well-read, but also very grounded about what is a priority and what isn’t. And so I think it’s a constant review of your prioritization of your time and resources. And that’s probably what keeps me up – are we doing it right? So far the results would say yes, but no one here is so bold to say that it’s an automatic.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO, Trusted Media Brands.

 Samir Husni: As we approach 2020, what’s your assessment of the future of magazines and magazine media?

Bonnie Kintzer: I feel very positive. I think that we’ll continue to see strong customer revenue-based brands, which we are. And I believe we’ll continue to see business models evolve. I feel like we started that path a few years ago to really strengthen the relationships with consumers, with magazines being a very important part. And also introducing other services or products that consumers who love those brands are really interested in. I also believe that the credibility of our brands will drive that; we are a reliable source of information and inspiration. That credibility is really what drives the demand, both for content in print, digital and new products. So, I’m optimistic.

Samir Husni: Is there a difference in the brands that you have? You have from the legacy brand like Reader’s Digest, which is almost 100 years old, to almost a quarter-century with Taste of Home, and then Family Handyman; how do you view the future of “legacy” magazine media?

Bonnie Kintzer: I think Reader’s Digest will be here forever. When you look at the renewal rates, circulation and economics of Reader’s Digest, I never worry about Reader’s Digest. I read letters from our readers all the time and you can see that this is a brand that passes down generations in a single family and it’s a really beautiful thing. We definitely treat each of our brands differently. If you look at Taste of Home, we’ve launched a subscription box, because we felt that for people who love to cook and bake, they wanted more hands-on products, so we launched the cookware and the bakeware. That’s much more a focus for Taste of Home than our other brands.

For Family Handyman where our content is so valuable and valued, we have a lot more digital-only products where people pay for our content, whether it’s DIY University or Family Handyman Insider, or where we’ve digitized all of our project plans which people are now paying for. And we didn’t see any decline in volume of downloads once people started paying. So, that’s wonderful, that people understand this content is worth something. We’ve created these plans over 75 years and they’re worth something. In that way, I feel like each brand is on the path dependent upon the content and the competitive landscape.

Samir Husni: I heard you speak at the most recent FIPP Congress in Las Vegas and you sounded very positive about the accomplishments the company has achieved in 2019. Can you name three of those accomplishments that you’re most proud of and consider total successes for Trusted media?

Bonnie Kintzer: Number one would probably be the fact that we’ve been able to launch new products and services that consumers are paying for. We’re really excited about that. Whether it’s our branded products like the cookware and bakeware, or it’s DIY University, or the growth of the Taste of Home subscription box, I think all of those things are so important. We’ve always been a consumer-driven company, as you know, and the idea that we can now go into all of these new product areas and get positive feedback, as in people are paying for it, is huge.

And on the consumer and subscription side, we’ve seen great growth in our digitally-sold subscriptions and that’s very good for us, it’s very healthy for our business, in terms of the relationship with the consumer, bringing in consumers who are very comfortable paying with a credit card and buying digitally. Alec (Alec Casey – chief marketing officer) and his team have done a phenomenal job with growth there.

The other thing is the growth of our book business. How incredibly exciting is that? We’re launching more books and they’re doing really well. And of course, the data shows that more people are going a little bit more toward print than digital eBooks. We’re really happy to have that.

All of our brands have books; Taste of Home has quite a lot of cookbooks, Reader’s Digest, of course, has select editions, but Reader’s Digest also launched a mystery book series and a puzzle and game series. Family Handyman has its annual edition, they also have a number of DIY books and books on how a house works, so I think we’ve done a great job of understanding what the consumer wants in the book area. And by selling it primarily through DTC (direct-to-consumer), although we do have a trade business as well, it becomes very profitable.

Samir Husni: I was told once that almost 98 percent of all cookbooks are sold in print?

Bonnie Kintzer: I’m not sure about that, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Also, QVC has been good for us. We’re the largest non-celebrity cookbook seller on QVC with Taste of Home. So, that’s been great. And we did our first non-cookbook, a religious book: Reader’s Digest Who’s Who in the Bible on QVC that did really well. So, we’re excited that we’ve been able to branch out of cookbooks. QVC has been a great partner for a long time.

Samir Husni: Would you tell me that 2019 was a walk in a rose garden or did you have some challenges throughout the year?

Bonnie Kintzer: There are always challenges. (Laughs) I think the biggest challenge – well, there are a couple, but one would be for the advertising partners to see us as a media company and not only magazines. We’re very proud of our print, but we feel like our digital engagement is exceptional. And our numbers are very strong. So, we’d like to be seen as a brand, as a brand for our partners to work with. I think that’s a challenge for all magazines and definitely one for us.

On the cost side of the magazine business, as you know, it’s a constant cost battle. Again, Alec and his team are amazing people and they have been able to overcome some, but it’s constant, in terms of whether it’s fulfillment, postage or paper; there’s just always something to be dealt with, on top of just the regular course of business.

I’d say those have definitely been challenges in 2019. I look on the advertising side; we’ve won some amazing pieces of business. So, I’m very encouraged going forward.

Samir Husni: You’re known for, number one, taking the company out of bankruptcy. Two, you changed the name from Reader’s Digest Association to Trusted Media Brands, and you converted back to the old consumer-driven business model. Why do you think magazine media professionals keep talking about change, yet they’re hesitant in actually changing their business models?

Bonnie Kintzer: You mean changing away from being an ad-driven model?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Bonnie Kintzer: I imagine they make quite a lot of money. We were never one of those companies. I know there was a management team here at some point that wanted to be more ad-driven, but the company was still always making more money from consumers, they just made it out of marketing correctly. So, you’d have to ask those other companies, but they make a heck of a lot of money, so I assume that’s hard to walk away from.

Samir Husni: I know you’re generating a lot of revenue from consumers, but as you move forward, how do you envision that split in revenue, if you can share those numbers with me?

Bonnie Kintzer: Digital advertising for us in the last two years has been exceptional. We have had exceptional growth and far exceeded industry growth on digital advertising. That is for sure. And that will continue to grow. Seventy-five percent of our money comes from consumers; will we ever be 50/50? I don’t know. We love that consumers pay for our content; we think it’s a very healthy business. We’re delighted to see the growth in our digital advertising. And like we say, let’s grow the pie and not worry about the percentages. (Laughs) And we’re doing that. That’s an amazing thing for this particular company, to see topline growth. We’ve had bottom-line growth since I’ve been here, but to see topline growth is a great turn of events for us.

Samir Husni: Do you think all of these digital and social media platforms, and even the TV platforms, such as you mentioned with QVC, are they friend or foe to magazine media and why?

Bonnie Kintzer: I think the digital platforms are both; we do a lot on Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram is growing for us. We think it’s a great way to engage with consumers. We know that our consumers are there; we drive a tremendous amount of traffic from those platforms, so that’s a very strong positive and trend. Obviously, on the not-so-friendly side, they get to change their algorithms without notice or rationale. And that puts a strain when that happens.

We’ve done a very good job of overcoming those, but the idea that somebody is changing something and you don’t know what it is or when it’s coming is obviously not something a friend does. Being able to have direct access to audiences is always a challenge as well, but we’ve been very pleased with our relationship with the platforms. But we understand that it’s critical for us to have direct relationships with our consumers and we never lose sight of that. So, that’s always our goal, to get the audiences to our own sites so that we can get them to sign up for our newsletters and we can collect names and continue the relationship.

Samir Husni: Do you view the magazine media cup as three-quarters full then? Or halffull?

Bonnie Kintzer: I think three-quarters full, I do. I’m definitely much more optimistic than I am pessimistic about the platforms.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

Bonnie Kintzer: This is really always a war of talent. And when I look around our company I continue to be inspired by the people who we have here. And having almost half of our employees in the Midwest gives us tremendous advantage to understand what’s happening in this country and to really know what’s important to people, which is cooking great meals, doing their own projects, and being inspired by the stories of their neighbors. And I think that’s what keeps us all very grounded; knowing who we serve every day.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Bonnie Kintzer: There’s just so much change all the time. And making sure that you’re staying on top of all of those changes and being very disciplined in what does and doesn’t matter in those changes, because you can read a lot of things and get swept up, but some stuff doesn’t really matter for my business. And I think we do that. My team is very well-read, but also very grounded about what is a priority and what isn’t. And so I think it’s a constant review of your prioritization of your time and resources. And that’s probably what keeps me up – are we doing it right? So far the results would say yes, but no one here is so bold to say that it’s an automatic.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Next up, Steven Kotok, president & CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

5 comments

  1. […] “…we are a reliable source of information and inspiration. That credibility is really what drives the demand, both for content in print, digital and new products,” Kintzer said to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in a recent interview. […]


  2. […] “…we are a reliable source of information and inspiration. That credibility is really what drives the demand, both for content in print, digital and new products,” Kintzer said to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in a recent interview. […]


  3. […] “…we are a reliable source of information and inspiration. That credibility is really what drives the demand, both for content in print, digital and new products,” Kintzer said to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in a recent interview. […]


  4. […] of information and inspiration,”. President and CEO of Trusted Media Brands, Bonnie Kintzer, told Mr. Magazine™ – a publication produced by  Dr. Samir Husni, a journalism professor and […]


  5. […] of information and inspiration,”. President and CEO of Trusted Media Brands, Bonnie Kintzer, told Mr. Magazine™ – a publication produced by  Dr. Samir Husni, a journalism professor and […]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: