Michael Mraz (Photo credit: Elizabeth Griffin)

Michael Mraz is heading to the business side at Hearst Digital Media after more than a year as the director of digital content for the four titles that make up the men’s group, as well as Town & Country. In his new role as the executive director of audience development and strategic partnerships, Mraz will work across all the company’s digital brands to build partnerships with social media platforms. 

“If I had any success at the men’s group, I would say it was because I focused to a great degree, on social and social distribution,” Mraz told WWD. “I’ve always had social at the front of my thinking in terms of distribution, and I’m going to continue doing that but looking across all portfolio brands rather than just the five that I was working on before.”

Mraz, formerly the site director of Road & Track and Car and Driver, became the director of content for the men’s group, which is comprised of Esquire, Car and Driver, Road and Track and Popular Mechanics, in June 2015 as part of the company’s ongoing move toward consolidating and grouping brands by category. In September 2015, Town & Country’s digital arm, (Hearst maintains a firm separation between print and digital), was added to Mraz’s list.

In speaking of what to expect from his new role, Mraz cited Esquire’s recent two-day-long Snapchat pop-up as an example, and said to expect “some cool new things” on Snapchat in the near future.

“What editors understand is how to make things that consumers care about and what good reporting is and what people pay attention to. So I’ll have editors in any role in our organization, and I think this is one reason that this is such a great move for Hearst,” Troy Young, the president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, told WWD. “The role that Michael is playing is really an extension of something that we have been doing for a long time, which is really active partnerships with new distribution endpoints.”

A similar position was previously held by Ross Geisel, who left Hearst for Facebook, where he works on media partnerships, in December. Mraz will report to Brian Madden, vice president of audience at Hearst Digital, who reports to Young. 

”We are a distributed content company. So what that means is we have an array of partnerships and a growing array of partnerships, where we curate, package, distribute, create bespoke content with distribution partners — whether that’s a Snapchat, a Facebook or Comcast or any of the points of distribution that are emerging in this new OTT landscape,” Young attempted to explain.

But in the end, it’s all just content — media’s favorite buzzword.

“We have a really complicated business, but in some ways, it’s really simple. We create amazing content, we distribute that content and we measure that content,” he said. “Whether we are doing a really hard-hitting feature or creating amazing lifestyle content for a diamond brand, it’s all underneath it really the same. It means that you have to bring real passion and integrity to the creation of that content for the consumer.”

As for naming Mraz’s replacement, Hearst wouldn’t confirm a timetable beyond “soon.” (“You just have to remember that ‘soon’ is a very specific word,” Young said). According to an insider, Esquire will name a site director, but Mraz’s former position leading the five digital properties might not be filled at all. Instead of a central editor for the men’s group, the site director of each brand may continue to report directly to Kate Lewis, editorial director at Hearst Magazines Digital Mediaas they are currently doing. 

Young disputed this account, but declined to provide any details to the contrary.

“It think it’s too early to tell and I’m not real comfortable with that level of specificity,” he said. “We’ll make the organizational structure work around our brands and the people when we get the next people in place.”