Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
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There’s never been a better time to be in publishing: Insights from Hearst

“We are an absolutely safe haven for digital advertising investment and are very proud of that.”

There is it again … the idea that magazine media able to cultivate true engagement with its audience has a clear path to new revenue streams. According to James Wildman, Hearst UK’s CEO and Hearst Europe’s president, there’s never been a better time to be in publishing.

“The opportunities for our industry that lies ahead are associated with what magazines are all about,” Wildman explained to Meg Carter writing in InPublishing.

As Carter notes, Wildman’s optimistic attitude “is underpinned by his firm belief in the innate strengths — and enduring potential — of magazines.”

He should know. Wildman took the helm at Hearst UK in 2017 and the company saw its first top-line revenue growth in 2018 after many years of decline. Much of this success he attributes to the strategic framework developed around business diversification. 

“We are blessed because we have these 20-plus extraordinary, iconic brands (including ELLE, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire as well as digital-only titles such as Digital Spy) and the talent that produces content for them,” Wildman told Carter.

“It’s a matter of what new business (and businesses) we can spin out of that incredible foundation — in terms of talent and capability, what makes best sense.”

Among their robust new revenue streams are the Hearst Content Agency that works with third-party brands; Hearst Licensing that allows them to spin-off products from their established brands; and a growing digital presence.

Events have figured heavily into their revenue growth as well, and even the pandemic couldn’t stop the momentum as they pivoted quickly to virtual events during the lockdown. Of course, magazine sales and subscriptions remain strong, even if traditional advertising is an ongoing challenge

“Advertising budgets are very much informed by two things: consumer confidence and GDP, and you couldn’t imagine a worse context for those two factors recently,” he continues,” Wildman said.

He feels the coming loss of third-party cookie data will only make their position more attractive to ad partners. 

“We are an absolutely safe haven for digital advertising investment and are very proud of that in terms of brand safety,” he notes

Underpinning it all, regardless of where the revenue comes from, is the commitment to an editorial mission that resonates with their readers. And because he believes that their writers are “the ultimate influencers,” the company is investing in developing individual contributor profiles on social media, in keeping with a strong trend we’re seeing in the US too.

Ultimately, Wildman feels success comes down to respecting their authentic purpose — “to help consumers get more out of life” — and this gives the Hearst product line that all-important “lighthouse” appeal and deep trust. Everything else, including the right kind of diversification, flows from there. 

David Pilcher
VP of Sales & Marketing, Freeport Press