Condé Nast created this position when the company hired you in January. And while your background is in marketing and editorial, you’re quoted as saying, “brands need editors.” Why editors?
Marketers are trained to begin their work by asking themselves, “what is it that we want to say?”
Editors start from the other direction and begin with “what is it that they want to hear?” That user-centric mindset is critical, particularly when we talk about content as an engagement tool.
Which brings me to another quote of yours: “The greatest growth area is in digitally distributed content that is more of an ‘always-on’ kind of approach rather than episodic.” What does that mean?
It is important to some degree to embrace what is often called “the brand publisher mindset.” That means making a sustained commitment to producing and distributing content for your audience.
Publishers know that in the digital environment you publish all the time. You build a relationship with your audience by providing them with content of value day in and day out. I don’t think it’s any different for brands.
Does this work for every brand?
Not every brand needs to take that approach but it’s a real opportunity for brands that are looking to use content as a way to redefine their relationship with audiences.
Also, I think some brands are producing too much. It is important for brands to be strategic about what they’re making and why they’re making it, and to think about ways of producing ownable content.
It is important to some degree to embrace what is often called “the brand publisher mindset.”
So let’s say a brand creates content in the fashion space. If that content is the same as what Glamour.com or Vogue.com are publishing every day, it may be useful as an engagement tool, but it doesn’t help the user understand what differentiates the brand.
Brands should think about what differentiates them, not just from their business competitive set but from their content competitive set.
Establishing the right space for a brand is one thing, but figuring out the messaging is another. Are there times when it’s better for content to be more overtly branded and direct with its messaging?
Yes, sometimes that is the better strategic decision. The degree to which you go down that road in some ways determines whether the content fits within the branded content space or whether it crosses a line into advertising.
Even when you’re doing direct brand storytelling, if you’re positioning it as content it’s important that it doesn’t feel ad-like.
But my focus is very much on the content space. When I use the word “content” what I really mean is not just that it’s editorial in form, but in some ways also in intent.
Branded content should always stop short of a direct and explicit expression of the value of a brand’s products or services.
With digital you can really get in-depth with audience information – have you found that different platforms attract different types of readers?
Yes and no. Print is obviously still a vital and important piece of our business. From an audience perspective we have relatively little duplication at most of our brands between our digital and print audiences.
Digital has really been a way for us to expand our overall footprint and draw new people in. The positive thing from our position is that our demographics between print and digital look quite similar.
Though the audience overlap is relatively small, the audiences we’re attracting are not wildly different. They’re a little bit younger, which might be expected, and they remain affluent.
Condé Nast’s digital audience isn’t buying its print magazines as well?
Not necessarily. Digital is our number one source of new print subscribers, so we do see movement from our digital properties into our print brands, and we have print readers who use our web properties, but the actual duplication of the audience is relatively small.
There is much more duplication between our tablet edition and our print magazines because they are tied to each other. Many of our print subscribers get access to the tablet version as well and many of them consume both.
Speaking specifically about the movement between print and web, people are consuming the content they want in the platform that feels most appropriate to them.
From our perspective that’s a good thing. It’s meant that our overall footprint for each of our brands has increased dramatically from when they were just in print.
With the release of the New York Times innovation report, we’ve seen that the newspaper industry is pretty much forced to take a digital-first approach. What’s different about the magazine industry?
I can’t necessarily speak to the magazine industry as a whole but I can speak to what we’re doing.
All of our brands are publishing daily in significant volume. They no longer think of themselves as magazine brands but instead as multiplatform media brands. That’s a major mindset shift from the way we thought of ourselves fifteen years ago.
This is an interesting time for us. The creation of my role really speaks to the priority that we have on this kind of work.
Like many others in the space, we see our partnership with brands as an important part of how we evolve for the future.