Attracting and “accommodating” advertisers is key to the publishing business, a panel of magazine media executives agreed at the 2017 American Magazine Media Conference (AMMC), held Wednesday in New York City.
However, ensuring readers’ trust in a brand is even more vital to the success of a publisher, and therefore it is essential that publishing companies do not get too cozy with advertisers and compromise the quality of editorial content, the panelists concurred.
The panel included Andrew Clurman, president and CEO of AIM; Bonnie Kintzer, president and CEO of Trusted Media Brands; Declan Moore, CEO of National Geographic Partners; Marvin Shanken, founder and chairman of M. Shanken Communications; and Pam Wasserstein, CEO of New York Media.
It was moderated by Jim Rutenberg, media columnist at The New York Times and contributor to The New York Times Magazine.
Shanken, whose company publishes enthusiast magazines like Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado, said that to be successful in the magazine publishing business, you must be “passionate, uncompromising and follow your heart.”
The panel agreed the best way to overcome declining print advertising revenue was to diversify their business, investing in e-commerce and events, as well as creating niche-specific verticals, like New York’s popular fashion section The Cut.
Rutenberg confirmed that for all publishers on the panel, advertising still made the most revenue for their businesses.
So what happens when advertisers fight back?
Shanken bluntly remarked, with colorful language, that he is “strict” with advertisers when they push back on editorial content that may not position them in the best light, such as an unflattering wine review. Advertisers should “call their winemaker to complain, and not call me." He added: "There is a lot of cooperation between advertisers and publishers...too much, in my opinion."
“We build brands on trust” with readers, Kintzer added, noting that she changed the company’s name when it rebranded in 2015 from Reader’s Digest Association to Trusted Media Brands.
The other panelists nodded in agreement, chiming in that a brand’s relationship with readers comes first. While ad revs pay the bills, it's high-quality journalism that attracts — and keeps — readers loyal to a brand.