But publishers do have subscriber data because of their print magazines – the challenge is how to translate that online.
“We are still a direct marketing company, but the key is who owns the customer,” Rodale CEO Maria Rodale said. “Facebook now owns our customer, Amazon owns our customer, Google owns our customer, and that’s what we have to get back.”
Publishers looking to acquire (or be acquired) need to look at numerous factors, agreed Meredith CEO Stephen Lacy. “We have to look at things that are very nontraditional.”
The TV Effect
As advertiser dollars flow away from the volatile world of cable TV – thanks to consumer time spent on places like Netflix and mobile – digital publishers hope to grab their share.
The upheaval will be bigger than what happened in the book publishing and music recording industries, Carey said: “That dislocation is going to free up an enormous amount of money. We are competing for this in a way that in the past would have been challenging to do so.”
Condé Nast CEO Robert Sauerberg Jr. hopes to grab that money by developing influential video content. But that’s easier said than done. “What makes me nervous is that we don’t move fast enough, because we’ve got to do this and got to do it well,” he said.
The decline of banner advertising and the rise of native means brands are more interested in telling stories through content. And publishers hope to benefit.
“All our large traditional advertisers were becoming media companies, and the problem was that they were product companies,” Meredith’s Lacy said. “It was not part of their DNA, but it’s part of our DNA.” In addition to Meredith’s efforts, Condé Nast is enlisting its own editorial talent to created branded stories. Time Inc. created The Foundry, in Brooklyn, which functions as a type of content marketing agency.
Knowing what readers want in this disruptive time is what these media companies hope will see their brands through. “Unlike other businesses, we know who our consumer is,” Ripp said. “That makes me more confident in the future.”