Bauer Xcel's Mezzafonte Touts Data, Tech As Revenue Drivers

Bauer Xcel Media has refocused its business strategy on data-informed content, leveraging chatbots to grow and engage its audience, noted SVP of operations Allison Mezzafonte during MediaPost's Publishing Insider Summit, taking place in Austin, Texas.

“My goal was figuring out how we take our goal — revenue and growth — and how to apply it across all of our departments. If you say to an editor, we have our revenue goal of x percent, that means absolutely nothing,” Mezzafonte said. The challenge is to “translate it into something actionable.”

For starters, Bauer Xcel Media is a “numbers-driven publisher,” Mezzafonte said. “Everything is driven by data.”

Bauer Xcel Media publishes magazines on celebrities, teens and women, like InTouch Weekly and Life&Style.

Mezzafonte said Bauer Xcel has one to three editors for each brand, who churn out between 10 and 15 pieces of content a day. Every article is backed by data, and the focus is on writing content “that will perform.”



The company’s editorial department is “very knowledgeable” of its revenue goals. While some publishers may prefer to separate the editorial and business sides of the company, Mezzafonte believes being in the know helps inform their content. She notes the division has been “profitable from day one.”

Although Bauer Xcel Media has a direct sales team from its print operation, selling programmatically has allowed the company to “move quickly and efficiently for the buyers,” she added. Its primary source of revenue is programmatic versus direct sales, which she calls a “cumbersome operation.”

But it’s the teen demographic, Mezzafonte said, that the company can experiment with new technology. For example, Bauer Xcel Media chose its teen brand J-14 to experiment with chatbots, a technology familiar to anyone who has gone online and “chatted” with customer service to ask a question.

Bauer Xcel Media partnered with Kik, a popular messaging app among 13- to-19-year-olds, a similar demographic that reads J-14.

Teens could interact with J-14 on chatbots on Kik, accompanied with gifs, snippets of stories, prompts and celebrity trivia quizzes. When users ask the chatbot for more information after the prompt, links take them to the J-14 site. So while the bots were not monetized, linking back to the site draws in visitors.

According to the company, 60% of people who came across the bot engaged with it by completing at least one trivia quiz.

Teens are “obsessed with this type of content,” Mezzafonte said. The next step, she added, is to figure out how to apply the success of the Kik chatbot to “other verticals and other demographics.”

Video of the Publishing Insider Summit panel and presentations is available here.
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