What do you get when you put the head of a successful global digital advertising agency at the helm of one of America’s most traditional print publishers?
We’re not sure either, but Time Inc. is going to find out following the appointment of former Digitas CEO Laura Lang.
As the Dot Com revolution continues apace, can some of the country’s best loved magazines and newspapers survive a straight-talking CEO who’s famed for turning round the fortunes of a run-of-the-mill direct-mail firm and turning it into an uber-successful digital brand agency?
Time Inc. Where Were They And Where Are They Now
In the five years leading up to the appointment of Lang, Time Inc. had not enjoyed much success. Overall revenue had fallen by 30% since 2007 and in the three months leading up to March this year the company’s adjusted operating income had fallen by 38%, driven by a 19% drop in advertising revenue.
Former CEO Jack Griffin was shown the door after just six months in post; a remedy was needed and the senior execs and shareholders clearly felt Lang was it. However Time Inc’s 9,000 employees had questions, and whether print was dead was top of the list.
Time Inc.’s figures for the three months ending June 30 make for interesting reading. While Network revenue is up on 2011 from $3.4billion to $3.6billion, elsewhere the firm is seeing revenues drop on the same period last year.
Film and TV Entertainment has dropped to $2.16billion from $2.8billion last year and tellingly, publishing has seen a downturn of some $88million. In total Time Inc. has seen revenues drop by $286million compared to 2011.
Time Inc. Publications include:
- Sports Illustrated
- GOLF Magazine
- Southern Living
- This Old House
- All You
- Entertainment Weekly
The company also owns UK-based magazine house IPC Media whose titles include Marie Claire, What’s on TV, NME and Country Life, and boasts 25 US websites, 95 worldwide titles and 48 global websites. Its titles hold a 20% share of the domestic magazine advertising spend and its sites attract more than 50million unique visitors and 1.5billion page views per month. Time Inc. is reported to have revenues totalling approximately $5billion and engages 138million users in print, online and via mobile devices.
The New CEO — A Force To Be Reckoned With
Lang cut her teeth as brand manager for Quaker Oats, Bristol Meyers and Pfizer Pharmaceutical, before joining Digitas in 1999, where she rose to CEO of Digitas North America in 2004 and was Global CEO by 2008. During her tenure at Digitas the company doubled its revenue and grew relationships with key clients.
In 2007 Lang was named as a ‘Woman to Watch’ by Advertising Age and was also included in BtoB Magazine’s ‘Who’s Who’ list in 2006. She’s also a breast cancer survivor and one tough cookie.
Taking The Helm Of A Rudderless Ship
Lang’s predecessor at Time Inc. spent less than six months in post and the firm was a rudderless ship for a year before Lang took the helm. Understandably, her background in digital media meant she would face some searching questions from employees of a traditional print-based media company. She has kept a low profile since her appointment, preferring to travel to meet employees face-to-face and address their concerns.
She has made no secret of the fact the that changes would be made and that the company needed to be more responsive to consumer habits – something that Time Inc. seems to have resisted. Until now. Quietly canvassing the opinions of executives and employees alike, as well as those of an outside consultancy firm, Lang certainly seems to be formulating her strategy to drag Time Inc. out of the doldrums and give it a new lease of life.
However she has certainly not ruled out the idea that this new lease of life may mean that some publications may soon only be accessible online.
By harnessing the customer data already accumulated by the company Lang believes she can offer advertisers the chance to apply their messaging to appropriate issues of magazines, their online and app versions and this very ‘digital’ way of doing things is taking hold as plans are made to start focusing the company’s offer to the digital consumer – something that has been largely ignored by Time Inc. until now, much to the detriment of it’s products as highlighted by the recent drop in revenue.
Refocusing the offer
The company admits that previously, any digital customers were seen as an extension of the printed media customer – an added bonus, but all that has changed with Lang’s appointment. Time has since admitted that she didn’t arrive with a strategy for print-based media, but rather to address consumer need and to make the business proactive, responsive and dynamic.
Perhaps the most telling events since Laura Lang’s arrival have been the appointment of a mobile editor at People, dedicated to updating and developing information for the mag’s mobile app. At the same time Lang was busy signing a deal to make a range of Time’s products available on the Newsstand of Apple’s App Store.
Make of that what you will…