Fifteen years ago, Thea Selby and Linda Ruth founded the Exceptional Women in Publishing organization to address what Selby referred to as "the vacuum in women's leadership in the magazine industry." On March 6 at EWIP's fifth annual Women's Leadership Conference, held in San Francisco's elegant Art Nouveau City Club, more than 250 attendees took a moment to reflect back on the massive changes that have taken place in the publishing industry since 1998. But the primary focus of the event was how to leverage the technologies and trends, from video integration to mobile monetization to social media partnering, that stand to radically impact the industry's future.
The keynote panel on The Future of Media, moderated by AllThingsD's co-executive editor Kara Swisher, pegged social media partnerships and mobile monetization as top-of-mind issues for the women steering the course at both traditional print and born-digital media companies. Dwell Media's president Michela O'Connor Abrams sounded a caution about "monolithic magazine brands" that are inflexible at a time when social media tools are democratizing brands. "An editor is a brand now," she observed, referring to the direct connections that can be built with the audience thanks to tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Liz Schimel, EVP and chief digital officer of Meredith Corporation, said her company is actively seeking more social media partnerships. "It leverages our advertising," she noted. "As a visually oriented brand, Pinterest is huge for us."
Jane Goldman of CBS Interactive, however, noted that social media channels can strip content of its broader context in a way that can be detrimental to a brand. The founder of CHOW, a food magazine that has transitioned from print to digital, Goldman said her company has found the key to creating content that is shareable and brings context along for the ride. "At CHOW we've moved heavily into video, because it can carry its own ads," she said.
A breakout session on optimizing video showcased both the high level of interest in the topic from EWIP members and the rapidly falling barriers to leveraging video technology. Molly Wood, executive producer and host of CNET's original show "Always On," encouraged attendees not to assume they needed cinematic quality (and a budget to match) before starting on video production. "It doesn't take a studio to create something of interest for an audience, especially a niche audience," she said, noting that her team often uses prosumer DSLR cameras. "The best investment you can make is to hire a producer to consult with you about what's important: graphics, lighting, microphones," Wood said.
Lindsey Turrentine, CNET.com's editor in chief, recommended making video complement a story, not replace it, and "wrapping it in words." She said, "The words are still important because they are more shareable than video, better for SEO, and good for people who are short on time." The notion of chunking up video into small segments was cited both by Turrentine and Wood as a means of giving audience members more flexibility in consuming content. "And it allows us to place related segments [from "Always On] all over CNET.com properties," Wood said.
During the morning keynote, Meredith's Schimel said, "If what we mean by mobile monetization is shrunken banners on smartphones, we're in for a world of hurt." An afternoon panel showed that media companies like ESPN and the New York Times are aggressively integrating behavioral, lifestyle, and demographic research in identifying mobile monetization opportunities.
Across all sessions, themes of authentic connection, voice, and community engagement loomed large. Nowhere was this more evident than in the presentation of 2013's Exceptional Woman in Publishing Award to Deanna Brown, CEO of Federated Media Publishing. Brown, whose exit from Federated was announced last week, spoke of how important "voice" and conversation is for media companies. In fact, Brown used EWIP 2013 to announce that she is starting a digital talent agency called Digital Scouts, which will seek to elevate the voices of talented content creators to top brands.
After the award presentation, Brown said that for media companies, building community is crucial. "Finding unique voices in your team is what attracts community and builds audience," Brown said. "As a model, pushing content out and not being conversational is a dead end."