GQ is finding its rhythm between digital and print under chief revenue officer and publisher Howard Mittman.
Mittman was moved from sibling publication Wired to GQ two years ago after he helped initiate a strategy at the tech title that would bring digital and print advertising revenue to a 50-50 split. His move to the fashion glossy was a strategic one since GQ is a focal point for Condé Nast since sources said it has recently become one of the top two most profitable brands at the New York-based publishing company.
Mittman told WWD that after a few fits and starts, he has found a business strategy that works for GQ.
“We stopped chasing the latest technology,” he said flatly. “Sometimes our best digital strategy is deciding what not to do.”
Although GQ derives only 25 percent of its revenue from digital and 75 percent from print, the publisher said the title has seen strong growth since its branded content division, GQ Bespoke, amped up its mobile game. Mittman noted that the branded video unit called GQ Stories, which it developed last month, has become central to the title’s business strategy as more luxury clients have warmed to mobile advertising.
“We’ve seen a really interesting swing over the last 12 months and particularly in the first half of this year,” Mittman said, citing campaigns with Bergdorf Goodman and Hermès. The magazine declined to reveal revenue figures, but said the custom mobile units it made for Hermès and Bergdorf’s saw an increase in traffic and viewability by three times what it estimated.
Turning to GQ Stories, the company said its first advertiser was Rémy Martin, which re-upped for another campaign. Those initial videos received 400,000 views and garnered more than 32 million impressions. Driving up the high number of impressions are influencers with large social media followings who are tapped by GQ to appear in the videos. These include the likes of Angel Ramos, George Laboda and Kirk Chambers.
Once chosen, Mittman said GQ “acts as a talent agency” for the influencer, which sounds more like a symbiotic relationship than a parasitic one. (You be the judge.)
“There’s a shared level of association,” he said, noting that the influencers get access to GQ events and a “broader swath of users,” while the magazine makes use of their social reach and benefits by raking in revenue from the advertisers. The influencers do not get a cut of the ad revenue.
Mittman declined to address whether the social influencer model was being adapted across the company, although there are examples of blogger networks at sister publications Bon Appétit and Epicurious. Mittman noted that the business-side strategy has helped increase traffic to GQ.com. According to Comscore, GQ’s unique views for the six months ended March totaled 7.3 million. Traffic last spring hovered between three million and four million.
Although Mittman is vigilant about the importance of GQ’s print roots, he noted that he’s “repositioning the brand for the digital future,” and cited a large campaign with Bombay Sapphire as an example of advertising across all of GQ’s platforms. He wouldn’t divulge how large, but offered: “The seeds we planted are beginning to bear fruit. The goal is to raise the average deal size for GQ.com. It’s already up 37 percent.”