Notes and Quotes from the FOLIO: Growth Summit

Magazine publishers discuss how they’re going to save their brands through online publishing

This week I was in Chicago attending and presenting at the FOLIO: Growth Summit.

“It’s not enough to make drastic cuts and then hunker down,” said Tony Silber, general manager of FOLIO:. “You need to be taking the initiative, looking at doing the things you do better, looking at doing new things. That’s what this year’s FOLIO: Growth Summit is all about.”

And that it was.

Jim Malkin, CEO of SourceMedia opened the conference Tuesday with a keynote, telling publishers that paid content was the way to go. Editors “like to eat, they like to be fed, we have to pay them” he told the audience.

Malkin explained that his revenue has dropped from $15 million to an estimated $5 million this year, and that plans are to go the route of subscriptions, rather than relying on the advertising market to ramp up. “Readers who wish to be informed rather than entertained will pay,” he told the audience, who seemed to give an approving nod back to Malkin.

This notion is a little menacing, considering that this is only going back to the original model magazine publishers had. It’s possible magazine publishers can benefit from this model, but considering the wealth of free and even credible information on the web, they have a long road ahead of them.

Bob Carrigan calls organic search “the holy grail”

On the other side of the spectrum, luncheon keynote speaker Bob Carrigan, CEO of IDG agreed with what we’ve been saying all along, calling organic search “the holy grail”.

“When they find you through organic search—that’s the Holy Grail,” Carrigan said. Carrigan noted that as they’ve switched some of their publications to digital, he’s seen a revenue mix of 74/16/10 percent print/event/online in 2002 to a 38/20/42 percent last year. He noted that when print doesn’t work, he’s fine with going digital: “If it [print] doesn’t make sense, we’re not attached to it.”

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Compensate your staff for what they can control and “get serious about recruiting at colleges”

When it comes to “Retaining Stellar Performers in the Digital Age”, Howard Roth, Vice President of eMedia at Bonnier Corp told publishers in this session that they need to start compensating their staff for what they can control.

  • Editorial: # of postings, # of content outreach partnerships, # of items crawled, newsletter open rates, visits (not uvs), time on site, PV/V, etc.
  • Sales: double commissioning (still big in print and e-media), bonus for special campaigns, possible to split for entire brand hitting online bogeys.

Roth also told the audience to “get serious about recruiting at colleges”. He suggested that recruiters step outside the usual methods for finding talent, eg. facebook recruiting pages, tweets from HR, craigslist, LinkedIn, staff videos. “Stellar perfomers that are passionate about things, tend to be passionate about their work,” Roth noted.

Ideas carry a brand beyond the page for the Economist Group

Jason Webby, Senior Vice President of Sales at the Economist Group told a story about how they’ve gained advertiser attention by acting as their own advertising agency. They weren’t in the market of game development until the day they unenthusiastically pitched an idea to Chevron where they offered to build “Energyville” at willyoujoinus.com.

The seven-figure deal turned turned the Economist Group into a temporary game development agency where Energyville was based on Economist intelligence unit data and provided real insight into energy education, with an engaging and fun interface. “This wasn’t Chevron making things up, this was the integrity of the Economist brand bringing it to life.”

The takeaway from this was that you can in fact upsell from simple banners to a full-fledged advertising campaign. The game was picked up on major news outlets like Reuters and Gawker, and was followed by a major branding effort featured in Economist competitors Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

That just about wraps up the coverage. What are your thoughts on the state of the magazine industry? Make people pay for online content? Turn your print products digital?

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