The Creativity Marketing Centre
hosted a talk on 'Brands vs Publishers: The Race to
Leverage Content' with speakers Lee Wilkinson (Vice President, Strategy &
Product Management, Hearst Magazines International) and Adrián Ruiz-Mediavilla (Marketing Director, Viacom International
The event took place on 9th July, 2015 at ESCP Europe's London
Campus, bringing together industry practitioners and participants
from the Executive Master in Marketing and
The Publisher Perspective
Arguing that traditional methods of publishing are a sure-fire
way to go out of business fast, Lee Wilkinson made the point that it may be
too late for those publishers which haven't yet adapted to modern
practices. Hearst's experience is particularly noteworthy.
Three years ago, Hearst Magazines International presented itself
as 22 different magazine brands. Each brand had its own presence
and market share - Cosmopolitan was a brand with a loyal
readership that identified directly with that brand, not with
Hearst as a group.
The company's strategy during 2014 was to present itself to the
public as the UK's number one magazine publisher; to make them
aware that Hearst is a family of 25 global brands, 22 magazines,
and 24 websites.
The Publishing Industry and the Digital Disruption
Digital Disruption is here to stay, but it
presents several opportunities: it enables publishers to distribute
content to new customers in new ways. Consumers can be reached on
different devices and via a range of channels, allowing publishers
to create new revenue streams and create fresh business models. For
instance, with programmatic exchanges in advertising, real-time
selling of adverts is a reality. "I can publish a picture of Kim
Kardashian, get a massive social spike on my sites and monetise
that," said Wilkinson.
Digital technology enables efficiency, said Wilkinson. "I can
write something in Azerbaijan, and I can publish it in London, and
then I can publish it in Brazil, and somewhere else. That
efficiency is massive: it can cut costs right down."
Of course, the key aspect of this change in the market is the
supply chain and access to the market, on which publishers used to
have the monopoly. A website can be created tomorrow, with content
and advertising space ready to sell, something that has changed the
publishing industry as a whole.
This means the methods by which people consume content - and the
amount of content they consume - have expanded enormously. We have
gone from an average magazine reading time of 20 minutes per week
to people on their phones, constantly consuming media. Wilkinson
also went on to highlight the ways in which publishers are now able
to build direct relationships with their customers, something that
was never possible before.
But what is the downside to all this?
With a market as open as the one we have today, brands have to
compete even harder for attention. Whereas previously it was
publishers creating content, now every brand is crowding the market
and jostling for the public's attention. The solution is to
diversify your methods of communication, for instance producing
videos for a YouTube channel. But this is a specialist skill, and
not something anyone can do - as any media agency would agree!
In order to compete, publishers need to adapt to new methods and
learn new skills. Suddenly they are required to participate in B2C
marketing in order to remain in the market and reach audiences
What happens if my supply chain has changed?
There are now a range of distribution channels: Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Youtube, blogs, and more. However, this doesn't
automatically mean that there is necessarily easier access to
customers, said Wilkinson; it is merely another sign of Digital
Disruption. Facebook serves as a platform for user-generated
content and is not merely a vehicle for any one company's content,
thereby making Facebook a competitor - not only in terms of
grabbing the audience's attention, but as a platform for
Hearst Magazines used to sell advertising in its 24 different
brands: ad space was purchased inCosmopolitan, for instance, and an
established audience was reachable. That was the USP of the
publisher: they had access to the audience. However, in the digital
landscape Google and Facebook can promise to deliver a better ROI,
a much more targeted audience. This has changed the industry's
dynamic, and added new competitors.
Where are your competitors?
Social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube connect
people with content, and with advertisers. So what is the solution
for traditional publishers? They need to turn from apublisherto
aplatform, said Wilkinson.
Hearst did just this: they built a platform, and via this
platform, advertisers are able to reach a target audience in the
same way they might via Facebook or Google. The content was always
a given with Hearst - this is, after all, the basis of any magazine
they produce. But it is the existence of the platform, which users
visit due to the content therein, itself that allows Hearst to
compete in the advertising sales with social media channels and the
Further to this, the platform allows Hearst to expand their
market across the world, rather than dominating a local area as
publishers traditionally have done.Cosmopolitanis a globally
recognised brand that is now available digitally in 76 countries,
positioning the title alongside Facebooket alin terms of potential
reach. The content remains key, of course.
Another interesting change is that previously publishers sold
via the B2B channel on the basis of the brand. Now they also have
the B2C aspect, and are selling more on a content basis than the
brand alone. When a piece of content is published, it brings people
in and builds an audience; and from there the B2B business is a
In three years, Hearst Magazines' platform has acquired 350
million adult users worldwide; it is a genuine, forward-thinking
business model for a traditional publisher that is today on the
same playing field as the likes of Pinterest and Twitter.
If you would like to know more about ESCP Europe and its
postgraduate programmes we invite you to come to our annual Open
Doors event on Saturday 10th October.
This all-day event will combine presentations, workshops and
panel discussions, all designed to give you an idea of what happens
at ESCP Europe, The World's First Business School (est. 1819). We
will also provide refreshments and networking sessions, allowing
attendees to mingle informally with both each other and members of
the School's staff and faculty. To register, please click