[Long read] Condé Nast, Hearst, Mondadori and more on the skills media professionals need to survive 2020
“I think what all of this says to me about the shift in the media landscape is that clients have more choice than ever, and that our business is more complicated than it’s ever been before,” said Chris McLoughlin, SVP/Digital Sales at Meredith.
“This tells us, that the real competition right now is having the same information in different media; and the real challenge lies in the differentiation on the way to treat it, that is where we will achieve the difference and fidelity of the reader,” said Gustavo Bruno, director of circulation at Editorial Perfil.
As platforms continue to change, delivery, distribution and format of content continues to change, magazine media are shifting right along with it. FIPP asked a wide variety of directors, SVPs, publishers, editors, about skills necessary for 2020, to help define where it makes sense for people to increase their knowledge and learning.
We’ve divided this article into three parts: Sales, editorial and marketing
Craig Kostelic, Chief Business Officer, Advertising Revenue and Head of Global Video Sales, Condé Nast, USA
“To succeed in sales, you need to be a great listener: as businesses continue to get disrupted and business models change, sellers have to focus on solving real problems for their clients — not just selling them media.
“It’s important for sales teams to foster cross-functional internal relationships: as sellers evolve to be more consultative, they will be building solutions that their organizations don’t have existing infrastructure for. Developing cross-functional relationships to enable non-traditional in-house solutions for your clients will be critical.”
Nicola Murphy, Group CEO, The River Group, UK
“I don’t think there are new skills in sales so much as making sure you utilise the age old ones that work! Tenacity, organisation and being able to take a no with a smile on your face. Then think of a better approach that will lead to success next time around.
“These days sales professionals need to practice omni-channel marketing so that they can really sell the benefit of advertising in the brand or the medium to the potential purchaser. So it’s understanding what’s going to resonate for the brand in the partnership with the digital platform that they’re selling, that’s particularly important. I guess in terms of selling to the advertiser, there is particular input, but I don’t think there are new skills. I think what they’re doing is what they’ve always done. It’s just making sure you know your market and you know your brands.”
Gustavo Bruno, Director of Circulation, Perfil, Argentina
“In the commercial area, sales professionals need to learn to provide an integrated proposal to each client with all the available platforms, not having a commercial proposal by platform but by client.
“In sales, manage to anabolize the products to seduce the readers with a proposal of interest driving the sale. In advertising, achieve agreements that allow continuous branding through each medium, work strongly with promotions.”
Chris McLoughlin, SVP/Digital Sales, Meredith Corporation, USA
“The first practical skill that sales pros need to learn for 2020 is a really strong understanding of data. For us, specifically how Meredith’s unique first party data can add value to the programmes that we’re working on with our clients. Data and the application of data, especially to distribution, has become a huge priority for us. And it’s a skill that salespeople really need to master for this year.
“The second sort of a skill that I would say our salespeople really need to master is a strong understanding of distribution. How does the content that we created for our clients get shown to the right people in the right context and at the right time? What this means essentially is that they need to have an understanding of social, programmatic, syndicated distribution. It is so much more multidimensional now than it once was. Distribution is not just a matter of creating the content and pushing it out there now. It’s has become a really thoughtful approach to all the different ways that we have to distribute content on behalf of the client.
“A skill that I would say is more important than ever is the ability to communicate really clearly, both in person and in writing. Our business is now so complex that the ability to communicate a larger idea and then all the minutia that goes into it really effectively is so critical. There is too much potential for misunderstanding if our communication skills aren’t on point. I think a lot of salespeople, especially in the digital space, have grown up sort of comfortable communicating through email. Maybe that was a skill set that we underappreciated, but that now is just so incredibly important.
“Those are the three new skills that we’re asking our sales people to focus on for this year: data, distribution, and communication.
“One of the things that I’m sort of adjusting to is the fact that our business has really become as much about consultation as it is about selling. What our clients are looking for right now is really a recommendation rather than a proposal, a recommendation that’s focused on how our assets and capabilities can drive their business forward. It’s about working in a totally consultative fashion. It’s a skill set that I and my team are developing, this consultative mindset, and that involves so much more listening and so much more strategic thinking, in order to develop a recommendations designed to help solve client business challenges.
“It’s just a much more complicated product that we have to sell and therefore we need to be much more thoughtful and much more consultative than we’ve ever had to be before. That small shift in mentality is new and it’s important.
“It is different from the way we used to operate. Even a few years ago, it was about selling display advertising, which is a really transactional business. Now we’re selling content or selling video, we’re selling display. We’re doing it on a direct IO basis. We’re doing it on programmatic basis.
“The transactional nature of what we did, doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s become a much more consultative, much more long term process or relationship between a seller and a client.There are so many different ways that a client can use us that we’ve got to get really, really good at refining what we’re proposing or what we’re recommending based on what it is that the client needs from us right now.
“In new hires – and this is always an a skill or a characteristic that’s important, but now more than ever, I’m looking for resilience from sales people. The process to develop a recommendation in response to an RFP is more complicated than ever. The sales cycle is longer than ever. Our clients are sometimes less responsive than ever. And without resilience, our business can really seem overwhelming. But, sellers with resilience come back day after day, no matter what happened the day before and they’re ready to do the hard work all over again.
“My best sellers are always the most resilient, they’re the happy warriors who relish the challenge, and they believe that they’re unstoppable. Resilience really seems to be the common characteristic among my best sellers, so I’m just looking for more of it in 2020.
It’s not something that appears on a resume usually, but I typically know resilience when I see it and it’s a really important characteristic to me.”
Rosa Heyman, Deputy Editor, Cosmopolitan, Hearst Magazines, USA
“Nowadays, we start with medium first when concepting a story. Should this be a podcast? Should we run this in print first and then online? Is a tweet the fastest way for us to be part of the conversation, or is it actually a TikTok video? As writers and editors, you need to have a nuanced understanding of the existing culture on all social media platforms. Nothing is more cringe-worthy than when a brand hops into a debate with a “how do you do, fellow kids?”-type comment. And this means you have to spend real time on the platforms, consuming the content and participating in the ecosystem. And because we are all strapped for time and resources, the most successful editors in my industry right now are the ones who can take a story that they worked on for months for a print issue and distill it down to a handful of hard-hitting talking points that we can roll out in a Twitter thread and jump-start a discussion in a hyper-niche corner of the internet.
“We’re in an important period of transition right now in how we view “audience,” which has been a long-lasting buzzword in digital media for a reason. At Cosmo, now that we’ve mastered scale and growth, we can focus on building a deeper relationship with our readers, which means writing stories and building products with hyper-specific communities in mind.
“Recently we’ve been focused on how we can tap our audience for interesting quantitative-backed insights — not in a creepy, let-us-mine-your-personal-data type of way, but rather in a we-are-the-largest-young-women’s-media-brand-in-the-world type of way, and therefore we should be talking to our people directly and learning from what they have to say.
“All editors across Hearst have access to tools that allow us to write a poll, distribute it across numerous stories on our site, and gather statistically-viable results, often within an hour. We can use this data to beef up a story, but even more meaningfully, we can use these results to brainstorm new story ideas and develop new strategies. Our reader says she never watches TV in real-time? Then perhaps we should try publishing stories the day after a new show airs. But, well, with great power comes great responsibility—interpreting data is a science, not an art. Editors from the top of the masthead to the bottom have been learning how to accurate interpret poll results through conversations with data scientists, pollsters, and our own research.”
Kristine Brabson, Executive Director Content Strategy, Hearst Magazines, USA
“A soft skill, certainly, and something that’s been evolving the last couple of years, but more and more important these days is for content folks to develop and improve their “presence” – not just create a social media following or readership, but to develop an engaging way to interact beyond words with an audience. Serving not only as reporters and storytellers, they are also talent and must carry the story – helping to bring the brands they work for to life in every platform. They have to be equally as comfortable hosting Instagram Live, a podcast segment, leading a video series or even popping up in a TikTok clip as they are wordsmithing a story.
“In terms of hard skills, it’s also a bit cliché at this point but data acumen and understanding how to use numbers in both tracking their own content performance but also when digging out data nuggets to support reporting. Really knowing the numbers, statistics, demographic details and how to tell better, smarter data-driven stories has become increasingly more crucial in this post-fact world of spin. And it’s not just important in political or financial reporting, but also when reading health studies, vetting survey data you get in a press email, or understanding the dashboards your audience development team send you that analyse the engagement of your stories and what topics are converting new subscribers. It’s not enough to see that a piece got X pageviews or Y Facebook shares — content performance analytics are becoming more nuanced and thus can become more and more confusing, if you’re not keeping up. But you need to evolve past the basics, not only to ensure you don’t get duped by bad stats from a third party, but to also understand who and how your audience is reacting to your work.
“And I would agree with expanding ones technical abilities around different multimedia formats – like, the new (old) platform of audio and podcasting — is increasingly more valuable. It means a creator can help bring their story to life in many ways, but also be marketable talent in any media ecosystem. More than ever, the idea of being just a print or broadcast or radio journalist is moot – our content creators have to understand the technical elements of and produce across all mediums. After 15+ years of a successful career, I even taught myself the basics of audio engineering software this year, to help our editors start recording audio clips.”
Nick Neubeck, Creative Director, HearstMade, USA
“In the past, we told people what they wanted, now they tell us what they want. That’s changed how we work. The old cascading workflows don’t work anymore, I do my part then I hand it to you, you do your part, and hand it off to someone else. You need to be much more collaborative then in the past. This will be more and more important going forward. Editors, designers, photo, video, motion will all touch any given story and the story will go back and forth between all contributors to hone the content.
“It’s radical collaboration in service of the audience, telling the best most engaging story possible, no matter where or how it’s told.
“The platforms are constantly changing and evolving and the audience appetite evolves with it. Content creators needs to be able to be nimble and pivot with audience tastes.
“The people creating content need more skills than in past years, you can’t just do one thing, if you’re a designer you need to know motion, if you’re in photo you should know video, if you’re an editor you need to understand visual storytelling because the stories live in so many different ways and places. Everyone needs to get their hands dirty.”
Gustavo Bruno, Director of Circulation, Perfil, Argentina
“Today, people creating content should think about how to create multiplatform content, focusing on issues in depth for paper and quicker current affairs for digital media.
“Our editorial teams are learning to add audiovisual content for digital media. Training on monitoring and measurement of audience is essential in the next year, the advertising performance will be very important for the growth of each editorial platform.
“In new hires, in editorial, we are looking for people who are good at developing cross-platform content.”
Enrico Chiara, Head of Digital Content Production, Mondadori Media, Italy
“What differs the content creators of 2020 from the content creators of 2010 is their need to develop an “editorial social sensitivity” skill: i.e. the ability to identify and create content that generates the deepest possible visual-emotional-social reaction of the reader/follower in terms of participation and content sharing, involvement and co-creation.
“While mainstream social media have been around for 15 years now, in 2020 this emotional ubiquity of content has reached levels of media involvement and influence that are even greater than television. The more this sensitivity is structured and evolved in the creator, the more the content created will be socially engaging and permeating, therefore mediatically powerful, transcending informative completeness or the brand.
“In 2020, content creators are faced with a switch in the information mindset of their readers: in the 20s of the XXI century, readers look and listen even before reading, and seek 24/7 content to consume hands-free and eye-free.
“Content creators must therefore conceive and create content natively on multiple levels and dimensions depending on the interface (mobile, in-app, wide screen or desktop, home automation) or channel, i.e. written, visual, motion graphics, audio and direct messaging. A creator’s innate “talent” needs to be enriched with creative multi channel writing skills, native content conversion skills for video/audio consumption, graphic or static graphic video editing, and community and messaging relationship skills.
“While the creative and conceptual phase of digital content remains identical to the first decade of the 2000s until 2018, i.e. massively “data driven” on the KPIs of interest to the reader, in 2020 the type of editorial data available evolves and requires different analysis and reading skills from the past.
“The prime focus of content creators is, therefore, not only to provide reading satisfaction and to “deliver” information to the reader, as was the case of late, but also to acquire new skills such as the decoding of engagement KPIs of the reader’s attention in terms of emotional (not only editorial), involvement, real-time social trend analysis, cause-reaction effects to content of the follower, download of content by the reader and ultimately co-creation by the follower.”
Stephen Orr, Editor-in-Chief of Better Homes & Gardens, Meredith Corporation, USA
“Being nimble between all the platforms is a requirement that just continues to get more and more important. If you work for a brand, having it be alive on every platform is much more important in 2020 than maybe a magazine might’ve been in the past. Being able to be an editor who is familiar at moving between the printed page, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have more of a newsy journalistic job, Twitter is super important, but that is less important for a brand like mine that is more visual, that’s kind of a general skill that just keeps growing for editors.
“For editors in 2020, the skillset has changed. You become a big producer of content on all platforms and that requires a whole new set of skills.
“For example, if you’re a beauty editor now, you need to basically represent the brand and almost be a beauty influencer yourself. I used to be a garden editor, so my online persona is still attached to plants and gardening.
“I do think that with a lot of different editorial positions now, you become an influencer and you have to be very good at things like photography. You have to be able to take good photographs of yourself, because, you’re kind of positioning yourself as a model in some ways. In addition, you might want to make a video, so, you become a producer.
“In the old days of content creation and magazines and media, people were very, very, very segregated into ‘I’m a words person,’ or ‘I’m a image person,’ and now people are much more of both. People are much more using both sides of the brain, using hard skills of being able to write and edit really well, and being able to be visual and able to take a photograph.
“But, I want to add a caveat there, because I don’t want everyone to think they have to be a brand to be an editor. There are plenty of editors who still remain behind the scenes and work in a way that feels kind of like a classic editor.
“I think as influencer fatigue is settling in, an editor who has expertise and authority you can trust is more important than ever. So that’s also a skill to develop for 2020.
“One of the other skills I have noticed that really emerged the year before last and really keeps escalating, is in a media now there’s a lot more work with the advertiser on a very close scale where you’re trying to achieve a common goal of reaching a consumer with an advertiser. A lot of editors now have become marketers in a way. We were very separate from that side of things for a long time. Now we’re trying to, as elegantly as we can, work alongside a product or subject matter with an advertiser and do it in a way that’s transparent about the way we are collaborating with an advertiser. All of those little plans and strategies that we work on, is a brand new scope for an editor to have to develop, which is this marketing brain.”
Gustavo Bruno, Director of Circulation, Perfil, Argentina
“Marketing professionals must understand that the strongest thing is the respect for the brand that readers have and the value it has for them. On that basis, work on revenue sources that fit our brands outside the editorial field, such as related products, events, etc.”
Nicola Murphy, Group CEO, The River Group
“I don’t think the skills (for marketing professionals) have changed. I think it’s more that the mediums to contact customers have evolved. So there’s a renaissance of podcasting, there are new social channels like TikTok and I think the use of data to produce more bespoke communications and one-to-one communications and social media platforms is something that is evolving. So, I think it’s knowledge of the new and upcoming channels, and making sure that you have relevant, engaging content available 24/7, 365 days a year in these channels in a brand consistent, authentic way. So, if your target audience is on TikTok, you’re on TikTok, if they’re on Twitter, you’re on Twitter, and so on.
“Understanding data and making sure that communications feel as bespoke as possible to the end user or consumer. One size doesn’t fit all anymore in marketing. As a former marketing director, many moons ago – we were very used to marketing our brand benefits to a cohort of consumers. In a one way dissemination of information rather than a conversation. These days everybody wants a personalised experience. So you need to find a way to communicate your brand visually and from a tone of voice perspective that makes it feel absolutely special and unique to the consumer that you’re talking to.”
Alessandra Rigolio, Head of Marketing, Mondadori Media, Italy
“The world of marketing is continually evolving and changing at an ultra fast pace. The advent of digital technology and social media have radically changed the way we communicate as well as the paradigms of yesterday. This has produced several results, first and foremost the demand for new skills.
“Today, if one wishes to set out on a journey in this field, one needs to combine both the traditional and cutting-edge skills and have a forward-looking mindset. In short, a perfect mix hinges on knowledge, competence and approach.
“Increasingly significant hard skills definitely include data analysis, strategic planning and a high command of technology. Without disregarding however the vertical skills gravitating around new media: from social media marketing to mobile marketing, and from content marketing to web analytics.
“Soft skills are a must too: inquisitiveness, creativeness and a positive approach to change, given the unceasing evolution of the world of marketing.
“In this walk of life, one needs to adopt the proper approach, which means putting the customer at centre stage. Customer value thus becomes the cornerstone of every organizational function: from marketing to sales, and from product to IT. This is the only way a marketer specialized in any field, from brand to product, advertising, research or analysis, can become a true modern professional.”
Must-have skills: Here’s your list to review
If you work in SALES, you should know how to:
– foster cross-functional internal relationships
– practice omni-channel marketing
– provide an integrated proposal
– have a strong understanding of data
– understand distribution
– ability to communicate really clearly
If you work in the EDITORIAL team, you should know how to:
– start with medium first when concepting a story
– understand and use data for story and strategies
– develop and improve their “presence” on social media
– be comfortable hosting Instagram Live, podcast, or video
– become an influencer
– technical abilities around different multimedia formats
– understand visual story telling
– train on monitoring and measurement of audience
– become a producer of content on all platforms
– develop marketing mindset
– create content natively on multiple interfaces or channels: mobile, in-app, wide screen or desktop, home automation
– be able to decode of engagement KPIs including emotion involvement, real-time social trend analysis, cause-reaction effects
If you work in the MARKETING side of media, you should know how to:
– understand readers’ strong respect for the brand
– make sure you have relevant, engaging content available 24/7, 365 days a year
– understand data
– communications must feel as bespoke as possible
– do data analysis, strategic planning and have a high command of technology
Have you got what it takes?
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