Meredith’s Lacy, WaPo’s Graham Talk Non-Ad-Supported Growth

With their ad-supported media clobbered by the economic downturn, media executives Steve Lacy (president/CEO of Meredith Corp.) and Washington Post Co. chairman and CEO Donald Graham said they’re leaning more heavily on the parts of their business not supported by advertising.
Meredith Corp.’s Lacy said that the company would be focusing on newer revenue streams of licensing and custom marketing, given the lack of visibility on the ad front.
“We have very little information about calendar ’09 ad revenue,” he said.
Lacy outlined a plan to grow market share by focusing on the magazines’ broad, cost-efficient reach and assembling integrated media packages that he said are appealing for their measurability. He also saw significant opportunity to grow sales of Better Homes and Gardens-licensed home products at Wal-Mart. Meredith, which also publishes Ladies’ Home Journal and Family Circle, will double in number the 550-plus products that the retail giant began selling earlier this year, he said.
On the broadcasting side, the company is cultivating advertising with underpenetrated categories, like travel and gaming, Lacy said.
As for the company’s magazines, Lacy said the company was well situated because they’re centered around families and well-being, subjects he said had enduring appeal.
“If we were in the newsweekly magazine business … I would have much greater concern,” said Lacy, speaking Dec. 8 at UBS’ annual media conference, which meets over three days this week in New York.
Indeed, Washington Post Co.’s Donald Graham, whose presentation followed Lacy’s, indicated he expects to lose money on his flagship newspaper and Newsweek magazine next year.
Graham said the company’s Kaplan education services unit should do well in the tough economy as people head back to school rather than face a tight job market, noting that its Higher Education enrollment is up 22 percent this year.
As for the printed products, Graham said that while the Post had a chance to capitalize on interest in the flood of news coming out of Washington, he offered little hope that it and Newsweek would be able to improve their financial results next year.
“We are groping in the dark, and so is everybody else right now,” Graham said. “I’m 63 years old, and I’ve never lived through anything else like this.”
Asked if he foresaw a day when the Post would stop publishing a printed edition, as some smaller, cash-strapped papers have done lately, Graham acknowledged that the current newspaper business model has ceased to work.
“We have to figure out a better way to get out the superb work our journalists do and figure out a way to make money,” he said.