“Millennials can always tell if you’re being disingenuous,” said Evan Spiegel, CEO and Co-Founder of Snapchat.
Millennial (mil·len·ni·al) noun: A person with birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.
These are big words from one of the most successful innovators of the 21st century. It is time to take stock, he said. This is where the media industry is headed—into the hands of twenty and thirty-somethings around the world.
The MPA—The Association of Magazine Media held its “Next Up: American Magazine Media Conference 2016” (#AMMC16) last week and NYUSPS MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students were invited to attend. The two-day conference featured panels on topics such as how to capture the attention of millennials, how to engage audiences, and where the future of ads is headed. CEOs, publishers, presidents and editors-in-chief of some of the most innovative magazines in the industry shared where they see the future of magazine media going. (Hint: think mobile and millennials.)
Between our volunteer duties, we were able to hear industry-leaders such as Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder, President, and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, who told her interviewer, Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan and Editorial Director of Hearst Magazines, all about the power of sleep as a secret to success. Two NYUSPS Center for Publishing Board of Advisors Members, Larry Burstein, Publisher of New York Magazine, and Declan Moore, CEO of National Geographic Partners, talked about the power of being independent brands.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, interviewed by Alan Murray, Editor of Fortune, had plenty of thoughts on the future of mobile: “The disruption from Internet to mobile, using data and video, is bigger than that from print to Internet. And it hasn’t even started yet.”
It is no surprise—more people own cell phones in the world than toilets. Mobile interaction is where magazine media is headed. This evolving platform will require quality production, design and content from companies. However, all will be for naught unless brands truly portray who they are to their users.
“You have to find the essence of what your brand is,” reiterated Spiegel, who was interviewed by Ken Auletta, Staff Writer at The New Yorker. “Some try to change to fit millennials, but they don’t have to dilute themselves. People want to access the brand.”
Armstrong agreed, noting that sometimes the biggest competition for a brand is itself. “It’s very easy to build an app. It’s incredibly hard to build a brand,” he observed.
Magazine media quickly optimized itself to fit social media apps, but now, with experience on mobile platforms, it must optimize for messaging apps. These apps enable consumers to do multiple tasks on one platform. As magazines tackle this new challenge, they have the opportunity to hone in on their mission statement and create a unique selling proposition for consumers.
It is a combination of commerce, consumer, and community that creates credibility in the industry and to other consumers, said Michela O’Connor Abrams, President and CEO of Dwell.
Three women who know all about branding and audience in the media industry took to the stage to share how magazine media, whether print or digital, can and is serving a large purpose in life.
AMMC was honored to welcome First Lady Michelle Obama; Lena Dunham, actor, author, producer and creator of the newsletter Lenny Letter; and Julianne Moore, actor and Academy Award winner. Last year Moore also launched Everytown for Gun Safety, a creative council aimed to support solutions to save lives from gun violence. Obama, Dunham, and Moore were interviewed by Lesley Jane Seymour, Editor-in-Chief of MORE magazine, who invited the First Lady to guest edit the July/August 2015 issue of her magazine. Seymour has also taught in the MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program.
“If you want to be effective in communication, you have to be nimble,” says Obama. Her Let Girls Learn initiative challenges America to help empower girls around the world through education.
“I don’t want to have initiatives that are just slogans. I want to make sure I move the needle in a positive way,” said the First Lady.
As the first First Lady to be guest editor of a magazine, Obama says, “My mom doesn’t pay attention to anything I do… but she reads MORE, so that just shows you the power of the magazine.”
“When you let people into your story, it resonates with them more than numbers,” says Dunham.
Moore pointed out how magazines allow messages to be spread and for stories to be told. She says magazine media will always be relevant because long form narrative tells a story that cannot be found anywhere else.
“Nobody dreams of being on the website. They dream of being in the magazine,” concurred Janice Min, President and Chief Creative Officer of The Hollywood Reporter, who spoke on the panel, “Selling Celebrity” moderated by Jess Cagle, Editorial Director of People and Entertainment Weekly. “It makes the commodity of the magazine so much more valuable.”
Magazine media provides an opportunity to open up, look inside, and share something new, but how do we continue to attract readers to this content?
“The cover has to be something the audience cares about and connects to,” said Vanessa De Luca, Editor-in-Chief of ESSENCE. When a consumer interacts with a brand, that brand must do its best to engage in a way the consumer will feel understood.
As Internet and mobile become increasingly relevant to this connection, Armstrong said ads as they have been for 100 years must change.
Paul Rossi, President of Global Media Businesses at the Economist Group, agreed. “There is a consumer rebellion when it comes to ad blockers,” said Rossi. “Consumers want to rely on brands they trust to provide them with what they need.”
New forms of advertising, such as native or branded content, continue to pop up everywhere. However, with all of these changes to the business model, one thing in magazine media will always remain the same:
“Our editorial is never for sale,” said Lee Sosin, Senior Vice President of Hearst Magazines Digital Media, who spoke on the “Native and Content Marketing” panel led by Ellen Pollock, Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek.
With such passion, motivation, and high profile names sharing and shaping ideas, the final panel, led by Brian Stelter, host of Reliable Sources and CNN Senior Media Correspondent, offered a chance for those with “Views from Corner Offices” to share what a future of magazines, mobile and millennials may hold.
Joseph Ripp, CEO of Time Inc., was joined onstage with Hearst Magazines President David Carey, Condé Nast President Robert Sauerberg, Meredith CEO and Chairman Stephen Lacy, and Rodale Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale.
Ripp said publishers must “seize this moment of disruption in magazine media.” Magazines will provide an intimate and authentic experience for consumers, he added.
“We’ll keep fighting for the print business,” said Sauerberg.
by Marie Waine
(Feature Image courtesy of MPA—The Association of Magazine Medi. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Time Inc)