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The Mr. Magazine™ interview: "We have to find new ways to tap into the consumers", Time Inc. Retail president

“You ask me why I’m bullish. I believe in the power of print in this digital age for several reasons. First and foremost, we at Meredith, and you know this already, have incredible, leading, iconic, trusted, powerful brands. And in this day and age of fake news that matters to our consumers. We see it. That’s part of the reason I’m so bullish on the SIP’s (special interest publications), and we see that when we hit the mark, such as The Royal Wedding for People or Magnolia Journal and other titles. I won’t beleaguer the phenomenal special editions or bookazines’ growth.” Drew Wintemberg, president, Time Inc. Retail

 

Mr. Magazine Interview ()

 

Today’s newsstands are a hot topic of conversation at any meeting of the minds when it comes to publishers. From worrying about the present and future of the iconic shelves that display the stuff of dreams to the fear that the time to worry has run out; lately newsstands have been the bane of many publisher’s existence. Not so much for the powers-that-be at Time Inc. Retail. President of the division, Drew Wintenberg, is excited and hopeful when it comes to the status of the special interest titles that he oversees at Meredith.

With around 900,000 pockets out there in the retail world for Time Inc., Drew, has a different story to tell about the newsstands. He sees SIP’s as the wave of the immediate publishing future. I spoke with Drew recently and we talked about the phenomenon that is the special interest (bookazine) magazine. With high cover prices and their niche and targeted topics, they’re singular existence is only better for their owners the second time around. Or the third. The life of the reprinted SIP knows no boundaries. It’s an intriguing and profitable business model.

Drew is a firm believer in the power of print in this digital age and would go a step further than that by calling himself bullish on these successful goldmines called special interest publications. And he has the numbers to back it up.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview as we step into the world of retail, Time Inc./Meredith style, and learn our way around from a man who definitely has the roadmap to success, Drew Wintemberg, president, Time Inc. Retail.

But first the sound-bites

On how his job has doubled in titles by adding all of the Meredith publications: We already had that. Meredith was a client of ours. At Time Inc. Retail, we act as a sales agent, a broker, so Meredith was a sales and marketing client of ours and has been for over 20 years. From a sales perspective, we were already representing Meredith.

On whether being owned by Meredith now makes a difference in how Time Inc. Retail handles all of the SIP’s and other titles: I think it gives us a chance to really manage our overall portfolio. Meredith was making their own decisions when they were a stand-alone company, as we did at Time Inc. I think now it gives us a chance to really look across the portfolio and optimise what we deliver to the consumer from an SIP perspective. We’re very, very bullish on the whole SIP category and have been. It’s certainly one of the areas that’s growing at an accelerated rate relative to the rest of the business.

On whether he thinks it’s time to define all of the many SIP’s that are on newsstands as “magazines” rather than “bookazines” and specials: We call them special editions or special interest publications and the reason we call them that is because they’re normally of a singular topic that people are passionate about. That’s really what we’ve seen and is the story of our success, tapping into that. You look at a Magnolia Journal or some of the things that we’ve done around the Time brand, particularly as it relates to health. Who would have thought that two years ago mindfulness would be such an incredibly hot topic to the tune that we’ve released it four times and have had incredible sales on that.

 

Magnolia Journal ()

 

On his assessment of what’s happening in the world of retail today when it comes to magazines: It’s not just magazines, I think it’s the entire landscape of bricks and mortar that is being challenged. It almost doesn’t matter what category you’re in. Look at the “center of the store,” that’s being squeezed. I think with the consumer or the shopping behaviour dynamics changing and the onset of things like self-checkout, or scan-and-go, or things like the omni-channel, where you do click-and-collect; I think any product that’s an impulse product at the frontend, you’re going to have to evolve yourselves. You’re going to have to use the existing space that we have, but also find new ways to tap into the consumer.

On whether he believes the recent Supreme Court ruling that states can collect taxes on internet sales will bring people back to more brick and mortar shopping: No, not really, maybe a small percentage. Again, not speaking about magazines but in general, Amazon has what, 90 million Prime users or something? I mean, I don’t see, even though the state’s get to take some taxing, and there are a couple of states already doing that, I don’t see this massive swing back to bricks and mortar. Even the bricks and mortar retailers are trying to figure out the ecommerce piece as well, whether they’re trying to figure that out in order to compete with the Amazons, or more importantly for them, to compete with what’s happening as far as the way the shoppers’ buying behaviour has changed.

On the biggest challenge that he’s facing today: There are really a couple. The first is the misnomer on what’s happening in the magazine category overall. There are segments of the category that have declined, but if we can get folks to focus on the special interests, special editions; they are growing. So, that’s the first thing. When I wake up it’s how do I get the right message out to everybody involved that magazines, in fact, are not going the way of newspapers, to your point.

On the fact that so many companies are producing special interest magazines (bookazines) today, does he foresee the market ever reaching a saturation point: Nothing is forever, but I can tell you that certainly for the foreseeable future this is… you know, we used to have the Seven Sisters, then we had the Seven Celebrities, I think the way the consumer is moving and that news is instantaneous, these single topic, high-interest publications are the rave of the foreseeable future. I don’t see it being a saturation thing like colouring books; I don’t see this as a fad. I look at our results over the last five years, there’s no way this is a fad that’s going away anytime soon.

On whether he bases his bullishness about SIP’s on actual numbers and figures: Yes, absolutely. I look at two things; I look at what’s been going on when you see the launch of a Magnolia Journal. How phenomenal that was. If you get the topic right and the right persona, in the Magnolia Journal’s case, it can be incredible. Then I look at the legacy Time Inc. special editions and I just see… because of the way that we go about picking the topics with in depth research, and I’ve seen the sales results since 2014; I am extraordinarily bullish on that trend continuing because of the research and the rigor that we put into picking what titles we’ll put on newsstand.

On any stumbling block he envisions when it comes to Time Inc. Retail being the leader in the number of published SIP’s: The only thing that could derail it is if you stop delivering on what the consumers’ expectations are. And I don’t foresee us doing that.

On how closely his team works with the editorial team on selecting topics for the SIP’s: We have a group of folks in our marketing team who manage the entire process. We occasionally will provide an idea, but they’re doing all of the consumer research and everything else, so we leave what the topics are going to be to them.

On anything he’d like to add: You ask me why I’m bullish. I believe in the power of print in this digital age for several reasons. First and foremost, we at Meredith, and you know this already, have incredible, leading, iconic, trusted, powerful brands. And in this day and age of fake news that matters to our consumers. We see it. That’s part of the reason I’m so bullish on the SIP’s, and we see that when we hit the mark, such as The Royal Wedding for People or Magnolia Journal and other titles. I won’t beleaguer the phenomenal special editions or bookazines’ growth.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’d be having a glass of wine, relaxing with my wife by our fire pit and just recounting the day. After that it would be cooking and probably grilling, more than likely.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: He made a difference in our lives.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s what you and I talked about earlier. Part of it is the speed in which bricks and mortar are morphing into this omni-channel transformation. I think the last piece is as a leader of this organisation, am I doing everything in my power to prepare our organisation and our people for the future.

 

drew wintemberg ()

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Drew Wintemberg, president, Time Inc. Retail.

Suddenly, within a year, with Meredith, your job has almost doubled – you have more titles at Time Inc. Retail now.

We already had that. Meredith was a client of ours. At Time Inc. Retail, we act as a sales agent, a broker, so Meredith was a sales and marketing client of ours and has been for over 20 years. From a sales perspective, we were already representing Meredith.

Does being owned by Meredith now make a difference, in terms of how you’re going to treat all of these SIP’s and all of these titles that are hitting newsstands?

I think it gives us a chance to really manage our overall portfolio. Meredith was making their own decisions when they were a stand-alone company, as we did at Time Inc. I think now it gives us a chance to really look across the portfolio and optimise what we deliver to the consumer from an SIP perspective. We’re very, very bullish on the whole SIP category and have been. It’s certainly one of the areas that’s growing at an accelerated rate relative to the rest of the business.

One of the things that’s been seen in the last five or ten years is that we have company’s now being formed and doing nothing but the so-called bookazines. Do you think it’s about time for the industry to change or to just use the word “magazine” to define all of these SIP’s, because when I look at the newsstands today there are probably more “bookazines” than regular magazine titles?

We call them special editions or special interest publications and the reason we call them that is because they’re normally of a singular topic that people are passionate about. That’s really what we’ve seen and is the story of our success, tapping into that. You look at a Magnolia Journal or some of the things that we’ve done around the Time brand, particularly as it relates to health. Who would have thought that two years ago mindfulness would be such an incredibly hot topic to the tune that we’ve released it four times and have had incredible sales on that.

So, I think they are part of the magazine category. I think the challenge that we’ve always had is you have AAM (Alliance for Audited Media), which doesn’t include any because it’s advertising rate-based driven, so it doesn’t include any SIP’s. But for us, to answer your question, we would still call them special editions or special interest publications. They are part of the magazine category, obviously.

As we look at the retail market, you’re actually in the marketplace as opposed to people who look at it from the outside in, give me your assessment of what’s happening in the world of retail today when it comes to magazines.

It’s not just magazines, I think it’s the entire landscape of bricks and mortar that is being challenged. It almost doesn’t matter what category you’re in. Look at the “center of the store,” that’s being squeezed. I think with the consumer or the shopping behaviour dynamics changing and the onset of things like self-checkout, or scan-and-go, or things like the omni-channel, where you do click-and-collect; I think any product that’s an impulse product at the frontend, you’re going to have to evolve yourselves. You’re going to have to use the existing space that we have, but also find new ways to tap into the consumer.

So, that’s one aspect of it. And everybody, certainly at the checkouts, is going through that when you look at Mars, Hershey, Wrigley, or the Coca-Cola folks; it’s how do you capture that impulse sale in an environment where the consumer is shopping differently? So, we’re working very hard on an ecommerce strategy to tap into that.

 

magnolia journal ()

 

Do you think the recent Supreme Court decision to allow states to begin collecting taxes on all Internet sales will help the brick and mortar stores bring more customers back to their way of shopping since costs will be relatively the same?

No, not really, maybe a small percentage. Again, not speaking about magazines but in general, Amazon has what, 90 million Prime users or something? I mean, I don’t see, even though the state’s get to take some taxing, and there are a couple of states already doing that, I don’t see this massive swing back to bricks and mortar. Even the bricks and mortar retailers are trying to figure out the ecommerce piece as well, whether they’re trying to figure that out in order to compete with the Amazons, or more importantly for them, to compete with what’s happening as far as the way the shoppers’ buying behaviour has changed.

Do you consider the shoppers’ buying behaviour as your biggest challenge every morning when you come to the office? What is your biggest challenge today that you’re facing?

There are really a couple. The first is the misnomer on what’s happening in the magazine category overall. There are segments of the category that have declined, but if we can get folks to focus on the special interests, special editions; they are growing. So, that’s the first thing. When I wake up it’s how do I get the right message out to everybody involved that magazines, in fact, are not going the way of newspapers, to your point.

And the second would be the speed in which the bricks and mortar, in-store/omni-channel transformation is taking place. I use this example quite often; I was at Mars when convenience stores went to pay-at-the-pump, and I feel this is maybe not quite that moment, because I think there will always be checkouts, but I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to sort through this new shopping dynamic and how we tap into that. We know that when, and this is why I am so excited about the SIP’s, the sales on those things are just incredible, whether it’s Mindfulness or it’s Star Wars or Beauty and the Beast. Consumers will buy those; it’s making sure that we give them access as they shop in an omni-channel environment.

 

kitchens ()

 

You said that you’re bullish on the special interest publications and Time Inc. Retail owns many pockets out in the retail field.

We have on the special interests alone around 900,000 pockets, I think that’s pretty close.

Which means you need to have at least 900,000 issues to fill them, if you were only going to put one issue in each pocket.

Between our Meredith legacy brands and the Time Inc. legacy brands, we’ll probably have 320 releases next year, something like that.

With those 320 releases, add to that what’s coming from Topix Media, Centennial, from AMI, from Bauer, you name it; will we ever reach a stage where the shopper is bombarded by all of these titles, with the average cover price of US$10 or $11? Or you don’t see ever reaching a saturation point?

Nothing is forever, but I can tell you that certainly for the foreseeable future this is… you know, we used to have the Seven Sisters, then we had the Seven Celebrities, I think the way the consumer is moving and that news is instantaneous, these single topic, high-interest publications are the rave of the foreseeable future. I don’t see it being a saturation thing like coloring books; I don’t see this as a fad. I look at our results over the last five years, there’s no way this is a fad that’s going away anytime soon.

And that’s the beauty of these special interest titles. Let’s take mindfulness, as I said, we will have released that four times in two years. You and I would spend hours if not days researching mindfulness in order to curate what is in that issue of Time’s Mindfulness. So, that’s the beauty of it. If you think about some of the other things like celebrities, celebrity news is instantaneous. Either it’s on Twitter, Facebook; it’s on a title’s website, so that’s part of why I’m so bullish on these. I just see the incredible success of these SIP’s.

And the other thing that’s tied to that is we used to have the belief that we needed to wait a couple of years before we would put out a reprint, and we talked about giving away consumer shop; the chances of the 140 million consumers who go through a Wal-Mart every week seeing that particular issue of Mindfulness that particular week is probably fairly small. So, you’re just exposing the brand and that particular topic to more people more often by changing how often you release it.

From a retail point of view, I must say, you sound more bullish about SIP’s than a lot of people I have spoken with. Are you saying that because you actually have the numbers and figures to back up that bullishness?

Yes, absolutely. I look at two things; I look at what’s been going on when you see the launch of a Magnolia Journal. How phenomenal that was. If you get the topic right and the right persona, in the Magnolia Journal’s case, it can be incredible. Then I look at the legacy Time Inc. special editions and I just see… because of the way that we go about picking the topics with in depth research, and I’ve seen the sales results since 2014; I am extraordinarily bullish on that trend continuing because of the research and the rigor that we put into picking what titles we’ll put on newsstand.

And the other thing is now that we’re managing the entire portfolio, I think we even have a greater opportunity to optimise the portfolio and maximise the sales results. So, I’m very bullish on the SIP’s. I think that’s been the growth engine that offsets the decline. I also think it’s important that special interest magazines are a newsstand only product. You can’t get them on subscription.

 

forks over knives ()

 

Some of your competitive set, such as Centennial Media are doing around 150 titles per year and Topix about the same thing. Bauer is putting out about the same and so is AMI. What’s the strategy for Time Inc. Retail? You have the largest number of pockets and the largest number of titles being put out, is there any stumbling block that you envision stopping you from that?

The only thing that could derail it is if you stop delivering on what the consumers’ expectations are. And I don’t foresee us doing that.

How closely do you work with the editorial team? Is it a two-way street, you come up with an idea that you feel consumers want and bring it to them?

We have a group of folks in our marketing team who manage the entire process. We occasionally will provide an idea, but they’re doing all of the consumer research and everything else, so we leave what the topics are going to be to them.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just add a couple of points. You ask me why I’m bullish. I believe in the power of print in this digital age for several reasons. First and foremost, we at Meredith, and you know this already, have incredible, leading, iconic, trusted, powerful brands. And in this day and age of fake news that matters to our consumers. We see it. That’s part of the reason I’m so bullish on the SIP’s, and we see that when we hit the mark, such as The Royal Wedding for People or Magnolia Journal and other titles. I won’t beleaguer the phenomenal special editions or bookazines’ growth.

If you think about, for example, The Magnolia Journal, over 70 per cent of The Magnolia Journal’s sales are from new category buyers, which is fantastic. We’re not cannibalising the business. One of the challenges that we’ve always had is millennials and Gen Xer’s, so The Magnolia Journal’s index is at 113 with that segment. People magazine achieved a 50 per cent share. The bottom line is in my opinion, consumers are still very much interested in quality, trusted content in print. And we work extraordinarily hard every day to deliver on that commitment and promise to them.

If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

I’d be having a glass of wine, relaxing with my wife by our fire pit and just recounting the day. After that it would be cooking and probably grilling, more than likely.

 

eat well ()

 

How do you want people to remember you? If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

He made a difference in our lives.

My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

It’s what you and I talked about earlier. Part of it is the speed in which bricks and mortar are morphing into this omni-channel transformation. I think the last piece is as a leader of this organisation, am I doing everything in my power to prepare our organisation and our people for the future.

Thank you.

 

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