Time Inc. chairman and CEO, Joe Ripp, closed day one of the American Magazine Media Conference (AMMC) Monday afternoon by declaring that, once again, "content is king."
Indeed, where the "Independents" touted all of the bold and innovative ways they're embracing and thriving in a fast-evolving magazine media world on Monday, Tuesday's programming allowed the industry's giants to reassert both the enduring prominence of their brands and their positions as powerful creators in today's content-hungry environment.
"We have the greatest content makers in the world," said Condé Nast president and CEO, Bob Sauerberg, on an afternoon panel that included Ripp, Hearst Magazines president David Carey, Meredith chairman and CEO Stephen Lacy, and Rodale Inc. chairman and CEO Maria Rodale.
None of the five executives blinked when asked by CNN's Brian Stelter what made them nervous in today's climate. Arguing that all media is naturally disruptive, Carey said publishers have been forced to adapt and have become much better at subscription generation.
"The silver bullet is our knowledge of the consumer," added Lacy, "and our ability to move away from our reliance on things like direct mail and the newsstand."
Rodale, whose company announced the bold move to cut print advertising from Prevention on Monday, said there's simply not as much to lose anymore, so even the largest publishers feel free to take risks.
See also: AMMC Day One Recap
"We'll keep fighting for the print business," said Sauerberg, adding that consumers love magazines and predicting that this connection will allow magazine media to flourish as the economy—and advertisers' bottom lines—improves. Brand power, after all, extends across any medium.
Lacy agreed, continuing, "From my perspective, we all have to look at things that are non-traditional," but reiterating seconds later that, "print is the fundamental underpinning of any media program."
When Stelter turned the discussion towards just what types of efforts the companies were making to embrace change, Ripp reported that Time Inc. had just hired its first ever chief data officer, arguing that everything publishers do is in some way a data collection effort now. Promoting greater synergy among brands, too, is key.
Stelter closed the discussion by asking each participant to name their biggest growth area for the year ahead.
Sauerberg said video for Condé Nast. Lacy described learning to better interact with the consumer and shifting marketers "to the bottom of the purchase funnel."
"Consumer revenue, in any shape or form," stated Rodale. "Trust in the media is at an all time low. Consumers are willing to pay for media that's free of bullshit."
Ripp closed an optimistic CEO panel by urging the audience to "seize this moment of disruption in magazine media," but the discussion wasn't the only highlight of an event program brimming with marquee names—both within magazine media and without.
Secret service personnel weaved through the crowd of magazine media pro's at the Grand Hyatt in advance of First Lady Michelle Obama taking the stage alongside actresses Lena Dunham and Julianne Moore to promote the White House's charitable education initiative Let Girls Learn. Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, and Time Inc. pledged a combined $9 million in advertising space to the cause. Obama drew some cheers from the sharp audience when she referred to her successor as the "First Spouse."
On a panel about native and content marketing, Hearst Magazines digital media VP Lee Sosin stated that the recently-released FTC guidance on best practices in native advertising will level the playing field and help legacy brands rise to the top, ostensibly due to their relative adherence to transparency and journalistic integrity compared to less-established startups in a crowded digital field.
"We think about labeling very carefully," said Condé Nast's Dirk Standen. "We aren't trying to fool our readers."
"The only thing that limits us is our creativity and our willingness to think differently," added Time Inc. EVP of business development, Erik Moreno.
Like advertisers, individuals still recognize the power of being associated with popular magazine brands, reported the speakers on a panel about selling celebrity news.
"No one has ever said, 'I'm dying to see my client at the top of the feed on ESPN.com,'" said ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com editor-in-chief Chad Millman. "You can't make a poster out of that."
Magazine covers remain a powerful commodity, the panel argued, and publishers are in a position to leverage that authority, said The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group president Janice Min.
"There's not a day that goes by when I'm not asked for a cover," added Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa De Luca. "They want to be associated with a brand that's trusted. They can't create that relationship on their own."
Elsewhere on the event program, Arianna Huffington promoted her upcoming book, "The Sleep Revolution," and late-night host Seth Meyers chatted about the Iowa caucuses over lunch with Gayle King, New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, Time editor Nancy Gibbs, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Kinsley.