Millard Predicts Digital Revolution

Boca Raton, FL--Revolution is in the air. And Wenda Harris Millard, president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, sees huge changes coming in the digital space. To survive, magazine companies must adjust to changing dynamics. "The media world has changed more in the last five years, in the head end, than it has in the previous 50, and it will change that much again in the next five years," predicted Millard, previously chief of sales for Yahoo, now president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

Millard delivered her battle cry during the first panel discussion at this year's American Magazine Conference, and the participants wasted no time coming to grips with the main issue: the ongoing digital revolution.

The MSLO executive noted that young adults spend 22% of their media consumption time in the digital space, versus just 6% for newspapers and magazines, reiterating: "The consumer is way ahead of us." But she still sees a space for magazine brands; with the proliferation of technology comes a "plethora of choice for the consumer that is stunning and overwhelming." Thus, the consumer needs "an editor--a filter."

Philippe Guelton, executive vice president and COO for Hachette Filipacchi in the U.S., agreed that magazines remain a source for enthusiasts. But he warned that the multiplication of online competitors means that magazine publishers "are going to have to pick wisely the segments where we want to compete. We're going to have to become experts, and then we're going to have to get scale."

He added that publishers "can't be generalists any more--you have to be specialists." Ideally, he advised publishers to have the top three brands in these narrowly defined interest segments, thus dominating the niche market.

As part of the push to capture and aggregate niche audiences, Millard and Guelton agreed on the importance of maintaining and developing consumer databases. "To turn the data into consumer intelligence is holy grail stuff," Millard asserted. "Consumer intelligence is not the same as data. Turning it into consumer insights is the magic."

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