Time Inc. Opens Arms To Digital, Programmatic And Native As Overall Revenues Decline 9% To $680 Million

Time Inc earningsDigital advertising revenue at Time Inc. rose 20% to $73 million in the first quarter. But overall advertising revenue declined 9% to $353 million, and total revenue declined 9% to $680 million.

Those declines were still slightly better than Wall Street’s expectations. “We’re in a turnaround, and turnarounds are bumpy,” said CEO and Chairman Joe Ripp.

Time Inc. hopes to grow by embracing the idea of audience buying via its “one Time Inc.” sales model, which allows advertisers to access Time Inc.’s scale across properties and platforms – including print advertising.

“We’re making meaningful progress on programmatic, including print programmatic,” Ripp said, though he didn’t give numbers.

Ripp said audience buying layers over traditional title-specific ad buys, providing advertisers with scale, quality content and quality audiences.

Time Inc.’s unique users grew 30% year over year. It had 106.8 million unique digital users a month, and three times that across print and digital. It experienced a 78% jump in video views.

The publisher is also beefing up its data offerings to support its audience selling initiatives, including behavioral targeting and making some of its first-party data available. It also plans to enhance its CRM data, though Time Inc. didn’t get into specifics.

It hired J.T. Kostman as SVP and chief data officer. Kostman’s cred includes helping Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and corporations like Keurig. He will help make Time Inc. more data-driven across all lines of businesses, including advertising.

With his hire, “it will be arming us with the data assets and the attribution models that are so prevalent in the space today,” Ripp said. “We’re going to know a lot more about the audiences and allow advertisers to target those audiences in more effective ways.”

As Time Inc. experiments with paid content and paywalls later this year, some of the tests will encourage registration, to “convert anonymous, ad-supported users to registered users or subscribers,” Ripp said. Time Inc. will focus on using this subscriber set both for advertising and to deliver custom experiences to users.

Time Inc. is also responding to advertisers’ requests “for big cross-platform ideas,” Ripp said, one area where Time Inc.’s content studio can use its expertise in reaching users for brands and agencies.

It will launch a native programmatic solution later this year, though Time Inc. did not specify what kind of native advertising would go programmatic.

Referring to Time Inc.’s long-term opportunities for growth (yes, the publisher thinks it’s in a growth business), Ripp offered a sly dig at BuzzFeed and its ilk. “Traffic seems to be the new currency,” he said. “I don’t have the luxury of saying I’m worth a billion dollars even though I have no results.”

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