Old-media Meredith Corp. has made a big hire from the digital world as it looks to get in on the explosive growth in online video. Laura Rowley was hired away from the Huffington Post for the position of vp, video production and product, Meredith planned to announce Thursday. She’ll fill the role most recently held by J.R. McCabe, who was hired away by Time Inc. last November.
Rowley has an extensive career spanning TV, digital radio and print. But in her most recent post as executive producer of original video and partnerships at the HuffPo, she worked on original series including Tastemakers, a show about chefs; and United States of Style, about fashion makers between the coasts. That lifestyle focus no doubt made her attractive to Meredith, given its stronghold in the women’s and lifestyle space.
With print revenue trending down and online advertising largely failing to pay off, traditional publishers have been placing big bets on video, where consumers are spending serious time and ad rates are significantly higher. Like other publishing houses, Meredith has tried to expand its video presence by creating premium channels on YouTube. Its success has varied, though: How-to show Food Wishes, which it inherited with its purchase of Allrecipes.com, has more than 420,000 subscribers, while its lifestyle channel DIGS, which Meredith launched a year and a half ago, has logged just over 35,000 subscribers.
Meredith believes its opportunity for digital video is huge, though, especially on mobile devices with its core audience of parents and working women on the go. “Whatever we develop, we’re thinking mobile-centric,” said Liz Schimel, chief digital officer of the Meredith National Media Group, to whom Rowley will report. “Mobile is a critical part of everything we do now.”
As it looks to wring more video content out of its brands, service is an obvious place for Meredith to go, starting with its biggest brands like Better Homes and Gardens, Parents and AllRecipes. Schimel didn’t rule out moving into other formats, though.
"We will continue down the path of creating a large amount of service content, but we’ll also look beyond that," she said. "I don’t expect us to be moving away from our core mission, but whether that’s in individual service videos or episodic…I do see us evolving and coming up with different formats.”