Print’s New Biz Model Is Topic Du Jour at MPA Confab

The Magazine Publishers of America–oops, make that MPA, as the trade organization just renamed itself—is hosting its American Magazine Conference in Chicago, and a lot has changed since its consumer magazine publisher members came together for the last confab two years ago.

Advertising is coming back, readership numbers are up and magazines have started to sow the seeds for a new business, in the nascent computer tablet market. To recognize that and other ways members are distributing their content, the organization dropped “magazine” from its name (while pushing new term it invented, “magazine media,” in its place) and is adopting a stronger digital focus, with the hire of its first evp devoted to digital.

(The word “print” seems to have fallen out of favor since earlier this year, when the MPA joined five major magazine companies in backing a new industry campaign, “The Power of Print.”)

“We’re clearly putting our money where our focus is,” said Nina Link, MPA executive director. “We’re ready to rock n’ roll.”
Still, Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin, the incoming chairman of the MPA, cautioned that not all is rosy: production costs continue to rise, the economic recovery is uneven, consumers are hard to pin down and new competitors are always emerging.

But he also pointed out that along with readership being strong, magazine ads enjoy strong acceptance rates with consumers and have strong connections with their readers on which to build. “From here on, we will continue to get out this story,” he said.

Attendees heard from a range of nonmagazine industry speakers, including Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, who warned against hubris (“We certainly had a lot of that at Starbucks”) and Hulu’s Jason Kilar, who declared today a “golden age of media” and told publishers that he sees a time when screens will be found everywhere. “That’s something everyone in this room should take advantage of,” he said. “That’s a dream come true if you’re a content creator.”

At the same time, other speakers said magazines would need to think about how to tailor their products for the computer tablet—no easy task given the flood of devices of various sizes that are expected to hit the market. In the future, said Jeanniey Mullen, global evp, CMO, digital publisher Zinio, “We’re going to see magazines designing for the device, based on their user base.”