The magazine industry may be in a state of flux, but you wouldn’t know it from the annual American Magazine Media Conference held in New York’s Lower Manhattan on Wednesday.
Top magazine executives spoke about the importance of their brands and the unique value proposition of trusted news sources to advertisers unlike, say, social media, which Hearst Magazines president David Carey compared to the tobacco industry in the Fifties.
During an afternoon panel, ceo’s from leading publishing companies, including Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Bonnier and New York Media all agreed that for advertisers, it is hard to beat the brand safety and expertise of magazine companies.
“I think the reality is that we are in a world where more money is being spent on performance-based advertising,” Condé Nast ceo Bob Sauerberg said. He cited the fact that magazines have experience collecting user data. “We’ve been doing this forever,” he said.
“One of the things that our industry can do is use our data to create targeting for good,” Sauerberg said.
“Gone are the days when you could lead with how old your brand is,” said Eric Zinczenko, the ceo of Bonnier. But, he was quick to add, Bonnier doesn’t apologize for having old, or legacy, brands.
Pam Wasserstein, ceo of New York Media, parent of New York magazine, spoke about the importance of identifying and staying true to the title’s core audience and voice.
“We have to reinforce that we are companies that play for the long term,” said Carey, in contrast to newer start-ups.
“Creating real premium content is expensive,” Sauerberg said. “You heard today how time-consuming it is, but we are really focused on getting it right.”
Many references were made to The New Yorker, which was something of a star following Ronan Farrow’s praise of its editorial and fact-checking process during an earlier panel. The magazine also won the ASME award for best cover, which was revealed in the afternoon, for an August cover following the events in Charlottesville, S.C., that showed President Trump on a boat, blowing onto a sail that looked like a KKK hood.
Thomas Harty, ceo and president of Meredith, which now includes the company formerly known as Time Inc., said he lusted after The New Yorker.
Sauerberg said the magazine will never be for sale. “Good content is good content,” he said. “I’ve quit trying to bucket things,” he said, explaining that contrary to what was once conventional wisdom, long-form does do well online, citing The New Yorker as an example.
“With respect to platforms, you have to be thoughtful about why you are there,” Wasserstein said.
Asked about the coming year, the future looked similarly rosy.
“I see huge opportunities for Conde Nast,” Sauerberg boasted. “I think there’s lots of growth ahead.”
“I’m excited to bring these companies together,” Harty said, of Meredith and Time Inc., which merged last week.
“At Hearst, we talk about making constant change our friend,” Carey said, citing Hearst’s varied portfolio. He said the company has plans for two new products this year, although he didn’t disclose details.
Wasserstein said digital consumer revenue is something New York Media is looking at “very closely” for the coming year.
Earlier in the day, a panel of digital leaders from several magazine brands spoke about the future of magazines — and they were equally optimistic.
Let’s see what they all say in six months.