Hearst’s global president of digital on the evolution of lifestyle brands online



Technology is disrupting nearly every part of the economy as the internet continues to fundamentally impact how we communicate, purchase products, and work to create long-term value. While the media industry is changing at a breakneck pace, so too are the retail, manufacturing, travel, transportation and healthcare industries, to name a few. In his keynote presentation at the DIS this year, Troy Young considered the challenges and opportunities in the continuously, rapidly changing digital media landscape. We began by asking him to give us a brief overview of his presentation insights:

“Well I was just thinking about what the future is for lifestyle media,” said Young. “About how important it is that we really understand the consumer need and differentiate our brands. I was reflecting on the changes in what advertisers expect and how we modernise our relationship with our advertisers and help them sell.”

“I think there is a new generation of advertisers that are accustomed to kind of pulling the levers themselves. Going in, buying audience, expecting performance, working really really quickly, and getting a very solid understanding of their audiences. We have to respond to clients that want to buy media like that.”

In a world of increasing social media prowess, we asked Troy how big a part the tonality and differentiation of quality content is now playing in today’s media landscape.  

“Well it’s everything isn’t it. You have to figure out what the need is and why you’re relevant to the consumer – you have to be both different and useful. And useful is about understanding the consumer need and feeding it. Being different is about voice. So media brands have always been about point of view and voice and that is true more so now than ever before.”

One force that has shaken up the traditional media industry pretty visibly, particularly in the fashion and lifestyle sectors, is Instagram. The Facebook-owned, 800m+ userbase strong platform provides the perfect shop window for product placement within the social media environment. Young sees this as a real competitor to the traditional industry.  

“I think Instagram is an important visual medium for image-based advertisers, and I think it’s a real competitor to the magazine industry and one we need to understand. I think more and more as lifestyle media we compete with Instagram. We are different in that we provide more perspective, pov, advice, etc. But you can’t deny the fact that Instagram is large, it’s a visual medium and it has a very significant dataset behind it, which makes it really valuable for marketers.”

But when asked if the advent of shortform social content apps meant that publishers should pivot back to longform, he spoke less clinically about format.  

“I don’t think it’s about longform so much as it is about authority. We combine text, pictures, videos, in all kinds of ways – I wouldn’t define it as longform vs. shortform. I think what we have to do is focus on our authority and our service, in terms of our ability to help somebody understand the landscape in fashion or wherever and make thoughtful recommendations.”

Finally, we asked Young to introduce us to some of the key innovations set to be taking place within Hearst in 2018, and how the industry at large could better adapt to the changing media landscape this year.

“Integrating product databases to our publishing platform, so that our editors can integrate product into our posts really seamlessly. You therefore see realtime pricing, and so you think of it as a sort of commerce platform and a content platform in one. Building mechanisms into our content so that we always get feedback from the consumer and can understand more and more about them. On the ad-side it’s about using data of all types more effectively to deliver the right audience and also to map the effectiveness of ad-spend and optimise. I think those are the three things that we’re really focussed on.”

“The world is moving direct. I think that we have to learn how to support direct sellers. The best way we can do that is by selling products ourselves and learning what it takes to actually sell a product. And that could be a piece of content, it could be an event, it could be a branded product, or it could be affiliate commerce. So I think content plays an increasingly important role as the sort of storefront for commerce, and our brands will lead the way there.”

You can find out more about Troy Young’s keynote speech at the Digital Innovators summit here.  

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