SUPER SERVE ME: Time Inc. opened its doors Tuesday to investors and journalists to unfurl its business strategy for the year. The major touch points related to areas of growth including native advertising, e-commerce, video, live events and its acquisition of Viant, which offers cloud-based technology for advertisers that includes targeting, programmatic and measurement capabilities.
Chairman and chief executive officer Joe Ripp called the current iteration of the company he joined in 2013 the “new Time Inc.,” which today looks to “super-serve” its audiences through content, not just magazine stories.
“We are not a magazine company. We’re a content company,” said Ripp, who acknowledged that Time Inc. would bring in two-thirds of its 2016 revenue from print advertising and circulation and just one-third from digital advertising. In 2015, the company’s total revenue was $3.1 billion, of which 76 percent of sales came from print and 24 percent from digital. It is projecting a 1 percent to 5 percent increase in revenue in 2016.
“It’s still an incredible cash machine,” Ripp said of the print magazine business. “People pay us a year in advance.”
The ceo pressed that content translates beyond the printed pages of Time Inc.’s stable of titles that includes People, InStyle, Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Real Simple. The company is looking to seize on the $4 billion-a-year-native advertising market, which is estimated to grow to $9 billion in the next few years, as well as the e-commerce market, which Ripp said would reach $650 billion by 2018.
In order to capitalize on the commerce opportunity, many of Time Inc.’s female- and fashion-centric titles will “close the loop between content and commerce” by developing options to buy via an expansion of digital gift guides across titles, said president of digital Jen Wong. “We want to make sure our content is in front of Gen Z.”
One way to hit that goal is through Facebook messaging. She noted that Time Inc. has been testing messaging capabilities so that users can ask a Travel & Leisure bot via mobile, for example, which bars in Rome it recommends and get a response back within seconds.
Also on the e-commerce front, Time Inc. said it would try to tap into the $3.4 billion market for celebrity-licensed retail products via partnerships with celebrities it features in its entertainment titles. This will likely take the form of selling their products on Time Inc.’s various sites.
Other new content initiatives include the expansion of verticals at People and its subsites to include food, style, beauty, home and travel. The company noted that People and Entertainment Weekly were jumping into over-the-top content, or direct-to-consumer content via its new digital TV network. Ripp called this a “land grab” for space as TV turns increasingly digital, offering that it’s projected that there will be 200 million connected TVs in the U.S. by 2020 with $40 billion of ad spend for the taking. Time Inc. will launch Instant, a mobile-centric video-only platform for its series on social media stars, in June.
The company touted its acquisitions, pointing to live events company “inVNT,” hinting it may take its Time 100 awards global. Soon-to-launch live events include EW Pop Fest, a two-day event in Los Angeles that includes movie screenings, panels and parties, as well as People Pro Beauty, a beauty event that will launch in the fall in multiple cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas. Lastly, EW will get an “Inside the Actors Studio”-inspired event called “EW Talks.” It will take place at Time Inc.’s headquarters in New York and will be hosted by Jess Cagle, editorial director of People and EW.
Turning to advertising data, the company spent a long time discussing its acquisition of Viant, which it called a “game changer.” Viant, which will generate more than $100 million in revenue in 2016, uses data from its 1.2 million registered users, not from cookies, which many publishers still rely on. Cookies, Viant explained, gives only a partial insight to potential consumers, showing their behavioral search history and not details on the user’s e-mail address, specific age and device preference. This data facilitates targeted advertising and through Viant’s new tool, “Audience Builder,” marketers tap into programmatic buying across Time Inc.’s titles. Viant also provides clients insights into buying habits across channels online and in-store, the firm said.
The mention of Yahoo piqued the interest of the audience, leading one investor to ask whether Time Inc. was looking at acquiring part of Yahoo’s business, as reports had suggested in recent months.
“There were rumors that we were looking at Yahoo and were rumors that we’re not looking at Yahoo, so I guess I can’t comment on too many rumors,” Ripp said. “But the reality is, Yahoo is one of those large media properties that only comes along every so often. I used to run AOL and I know an awful lot about the Yahoo business, so I suspect a lot of the media speculation was around that because of the experience I had running the AOL business.”
He continued that Time Inc. is focused on content. “Yahoo lacks good content. We can prove that,” he said. “We also like large-scale audiences….I think when things come along, there will be rumors that Time Inc. is looking at things.”
In a final flourish, the ceo said digital companies have been “dramatically overpriced,” and their valuations are finally coming down. He said to expect more investments from Time Inc., offering that those high-flying digital firms are now more reasonably priced.
“A lot of the digital properties don’t make a nickel,” Ripp said. “People are starting to realize that.”