Jack Griffin put Meredith on the map by embracing a marketing services revenue model and showing that traditional brands can be a platform for innovation. If he takes over Ann Moore’s job at Time Inc., as news outlets are predicting, observers said, he can be expected to do the same if not more on a bigger scale.
“My sense is, he’s got an even bigger canvas to work with, because he’s got the largest database in the industry,” media investment banker Reed Phillips said, referring to Time Inc.’s subscriber file for behemoths like Time and People magazines. “He’s got amazing titles to work with, and there’s a lot that can be done.”
Griffin started people speculating about his plans when he stepped down from his job as president of Meredith’s National Media Group, which encompasses its mass women’s magazines like Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle. Tom Harty, president of consumer magazines, was named to succeed him. Meredith said Griffin was pursuing opportunities elsewhere but didn’t disclose his plans. Time Inc. also declined to comment.
Griffin had two stints at Meredith, going there first in 1994 to run integrated marketing and then in 2004 as president of the publishing group.
Griffin, who is described as quiet and disciplined, created Meredith’s 360 unit to answer advertiser demand for customized, platform-neutral ad programs and acquired a string of interactive marketing firms, a strategy that’s been followed by other publishers.
At Time Inc., Moore has presided over successful launches like InStyle and Real Simple. But as print revenue has shrunk in recent years, her tenure has been marked by magazine shutdowns, massive layoffs and a search for new digital revenue streams.
Moore’s popularity also took a hit after she changed the bonus structure last year so that payouts were no longer tied to individual magazine groups’ performances.
Recent top-level changes at other publishing companies suggest a growing recognition that new ways of thinking are needed as print advertising contracts and marketers seek holistic ad programs. At Condé Nast, Bob Sauerberg was promoted to president as the company seeks to transform itself around consumer- and digital-driven revenue. Earlier, Condé vet David Carey jumped to rival Hearst to run its magazine unit.
Critics said while Time Inc. has made strides in growing the digital side of its business revenue and creating editions of its popular magazines for the iPad, the Time Warner unit still embraces a traditional sales model.
“Time Inc.’s big challenge is recognizing their value as a content company, not a magazine company,” said Robin Steinberg, svp, director of print investment and activation, MediaVest. “As the media landscape evolves and, some could say, transforms, their competition is much larger than what they are used to traditionally going up against.
“There still seems to be this focus, or concentration, on selling pages versus being a marketing service and content company that Meredith was shaped into,” she continued. “The beauty is, they have a great foundation on which to build on.”