Meredith played it safe at its first NewFront presentation since acquiring Time Inc., holding its session in a packed Times Square theater on Thursday morning — and steering clear of mentioning the four Time Inc. titles it is in the process of trying to sell. The Midwestern publisher of lifestyle titles such as Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Everyday with Rachel Ray, said in March it planned to off-load the newsier publications from Time Inc., such as the flagship Time magazine, Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated.
The only mention of Time came during an interview promoting People’s new Twitter show “Ch@tter,” when Christian Siriano reflected on being named to the Time 100 list. Apparently, it was a great honor and a fun night. Promoting People’s new series “Search History,” host and comedian Michelle Collins asked for a volunteer from the audience to have the search history on his or her phone publicly examined. “If you are facing layoffs and want to get severance, now is your chance,” Collins joked, seemingly unaware that Meredith itself is planning to lay off 1,200 employees over the course of 2018.
In addition to a slate of new programming that corresponds to the company’s lifestyle brands, the firm revealed the launch of a video ad product called Meredith Stories and touted the custom creative prowess of branded content studio The Foundry, which Meredith acquired as part of the Time Inc. deal.
“As you saw today, this is very much a new Meredith,” chief revenue officer Michael Brownstein said to close out the event.
Meanwhile, Group Nine Media, which held its NewFront presentation directly after Meredith, had a decidedly different vibe. The digital holding company that includes Thrillist, viral news video site NowThis, animal-focused The Dodo and the science-oriented Seeker threw what felt like a midday cocktail party in a gallery space in Chelsea.
Marketers stood sipping cocktails and mocktails, eating soft pretzels and schmoozing over the pulsating beat before heading downstairs to a very air-conditioned cavernous room for the presentation, where the crowd was greeted by a brass band.
“We obsess over our audience and in return, our audience obsesses over us,” chief executive officer Ben Lerer said. Lerer touted Group Nine’s engagement and reach, and claimed it is one of the most engaged media companies on earth.
“Just 18 months ago, we introduced Group Nine to the world and talked about our huge scale and view count,” Lerer said. “I am humbled to say that we not only continue to have tremendous reach, but more importantly, we’ve developed deep, habitual relationships with obsessed superfans representing the nearly 40 million viewers that welcome us into their lives every single day. All this allows us to refine faster, leverage better insights and target smarter opportunities for our marketing partners.”
Each of the four brands that make up Group Nine Media was introduced by one of these “superfans,” who came in to give a testimonial about the power of the property. Seeker, which became part of Group Nine as part of Discovery’s $100 million investment that led to the holding company’s formation, was introduced by former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. The company revealed that Seeker would expand its reach to outer space coverage with a new multi-platform channel called “Seeker Universe.”
NowThis was introduced by “Hamilton’s” Javier Munoz, who later closed out the show with a song from the hit musical. Yara Shahidi revealed, via video, a new initiative with NowThis to register 18-year-olds to vote in the midterm elections. A veteran brought out his dog to promote a series for The Dodo, set to air on Veterans Day, about soldiers returning home to reunite with their pets.
In addition to a slate of programming and content from the four brands, Group Nine president Christa Carone said GIA, the insights analyst and artificial intelligence bot, would expand “her” powers beyond editorial to add marketing insights.
“GIA is not only able to apply her data and insights to our content creation,” Carone said, “but is now going to help our advertising partners better align their campaign goals with our audiences.”
After the lengthy presentation, the crowd wandered upstairs to grab a boxed lunch before heading to yet another NewFront.
Read WWD’s coverage of the 2018 NewFronts: