Hanley Wood business transformation presented at Digital Innovators’ Summit

Frank Anton, vice chairman, Hanley Wood, USA today presented attendees at FIPP’s Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin with an honest overview of the company’s transformation from a “legacy media company” into a digital first business.

Anton is no stranger to digital media, having experimented with it during his 45-year career. “But I’m mad when people say print is dead,” he said. “We survey our readers in the design and construction markets about their number one source of information, and in every single case, it’s print.”
Quoting US blogger Bo Sacks, who said “it used to be really easy to make money in media – now it isn’t,” Anton spoke of the company’s digital revenue. “If most American media companies were honest, they couldn’t tell you what theirs is,” he said. “We’re a legacy media company, almost exclusively B2B, who is in year two or three of five-year plan to transform into a digital first company.”

Hanley Wood’s transformation is being achieved in various ways, starting with hiring new leadership in editorial and sales, and modernising their workspace. Being in the construction business, the company also suffered the aftershocks of the housing market collapse. “It caused problems in ways unseen since depression in the 1930s,” Anton said.

One of the key changes to the business, said Anton, was the introduction of Hanley Wood’s Radar Desk – an aggregation vehicle across all titles, with “some original story writing.” “Initially, our editors had a problem with aggregation,” said Anton. “If they didn’t write it, it wasn’t going on the website.” Hanley Wood has now overcome this problem, and offers “efficient, high-quality, aggregation. “This strategy has been hugely successful,” said Anton.

Some major technology investments have also contributed towards Hanley Wood’s transformation, including a new CRM, CMS and audience database. “You have to deal with technology that you’re not terribly familiar with,” said Anton. “The pace, rhythm and metabolism of digital media is so much quicker today.”

In conclusion, Anton spoke to B2B companies in the US “missing the boat”, saying that Hanley Wood are no exception. He citied businesses such as Houzz (housing image aggregator or housing ‘pornography’) and Zillow (US house price aggregator) who are huge according to Anton, and growing. “We did not create Houzz,” said Anton, “but they came to us with their business plan and we told them to get lost. It will soon be worth US$1bn.”

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