Exclusive FIPP Congress speaker interview: Martha Nelson, Time Inc.

Martha Nelson, editor-in-chief, Time Inc., USA, will address FIPP Congress attendees about the special relationship between print and digital.

Separate strengths
It is important to see print and digital as two separate but linked expressions of one brand, and avoid the trap of a print vs digital perspective. New digital technology has only deepened our relationships with consumers and our ability to do what we have done for 90 years: Inform and delight our readers about the world around them. Today, there is so much more freedom in how we tell our stories. Print magazine readership is actually up this year – an impressive 80 percent of US adults read magazines. In digital, our tablet magazine circulation has skyrocketed 85 per cent year-on-year and our mobile audience is growing rapidly. For us, this presents an opportunity to craft a story that is lively and informative to our audiences in all formats – from the magazine, to video, to apps to websites and tablets.

Quality reigns
Our journalism is historically what has drawn people to our magazines. It remains so today. One recent example is the 36-page story Time published recently on the healthcare system in the United States. It was the longest story ever published in the magazine and it ended up reframing the way people think about medical costs in this country. Good journalism is in our DNA and nothing will change that.

Content arc
Different platforms naturally lend themselves to different content. Mobile and websites naturally lend themselves to breaking news, video and constantly updated short form journalism. Tablets are an ideal environment for video, ecommerce and extra photo galleries, which make content come alive in new ways. But gimmicks and technology for technology’s sake are not something we go for.

It is important to focus on the consumer and ask what type of content people are looking for as they go through their daily routine? We find that consumers are headline surfing on their devices during the morning commute – they’re asking, “what do I need to know before I get my day started?” During their lunch breaks, they might want to peel back the layers on the stories that matter most to them, which might mean more video and photography. And at night, they immerse themselves in longer form content with a print or tablet magazines or scripted TV.

We call it the ‘Arc of the Day’ and we’re very actively programming our content around it. We hired our first full time mobile editor last summer at People and we optimised People’s mobile site, which resulted in a 40 per cent increase in page views and a 100 per cent increase in video views.

Less can be more
When news is breaking, it is important to deliver the fast facts as soon as you have them. That’s what people want; in that moment you don’t have to dress it up. When they have ‘found time’ – a moment while they are waiting in line or pulling out a device because they have a couple of minutes – a quick story, amusing video or update is just what they want. But, ultimately, whether it is a two line-breaking story or a longer form article, we build our brands around good journalism.

Mobile moving
Mobile is going to continue to be a big growth area for publishers. Today, Time Inc. has more than 66 million digital unique visitors and more than a third of them come from mobile. Smart phones are quickly becoming the dominant device for U.S. adults and are a growing source for news and entertainment. Time Inc. has already optimised its websites for mobile and adopted responsive design for a number of our brands including People and Time.

We are also bringing our digital magazines to smart phones, as we see a consumer demand for reading experiences on the phone screen. A few years ago it was assumed that mobile devices = short form. ‘Snacking’ on a smart phone was the image that prevailed. But we have found now that some portion of the audience is not just willing, but eager to read longer stories and even entire magazines on small devices. Changing behaviour makes it important to constantly experiment and test your assumptions. Don’t trap yourself with new orthodoxy.

Flexible friends
While consumer behaviour continues to evolve over time, we believe there will always be room for both print and digital. In fact, one of Time Inc.’s competitive advantages is our strength on all platforms. Our scale in print has allowed each of our brands to cost-effectively create many high-quality digital products that not only attract new consumers, but also add tremendous value for our print subscribers. For many consumers, our print products and the strength of our print-based brands distinguish our digital offerings from digital-only competitors. For example, we have had great success with bundled subscriptions. These subscribers report high levels of satisfaction and are more likely to renew their subscription than traditional print subscribers. Time Inc. is also seeing incredible growth in tablet-only subscribers. Tablet owners have doubled in the past year and magazine apps represent the biggest category for downloads. Today, we have more than 500,000 digital-only subscribers and many of them have never subscribed to a Time Inc. publication before.

See Martha speak at the FIPP Congress in Rome: www.fippcongress.com

Follow FIPP Congress updates: @FIPP_magazines and #FIPPCongress, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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