How Hearst adapted its strategy in an age when print was thought to be dead

At NRF 2018 in NYC, Michael Clinton, president marketing and publishing director, and Joanna Coles, chief content officer, at Hearst Magazines, took to the stage to discuss how the Hearst publishing empire not only survived, but flourished, in a new digital world.

“A decade ago, it was thought print was dead, retail was dead…of course that wasn’t true. But we did need to take a deep dive into who we were, what we wanted to become and how we’d manage our way through digital disruption,” said Clinton.

The strategy Hearst developed was referred to as “unbound”. And at the heart of its strategy were Hearst’s core principles; high-quality content and the brand.

“It stood for being bold, making the first move, testing, learning and giving ourselves permission to fail and permission to win,” she said.

When Hearst Magazine titles first went online, they were serving up the same content in print and on the website.

“It was getting no traction or interest. We hired digital natives to teach us and lead us online,” she said, explain how they taught the Hearst team how to thrive in the digital space. “We got our digital act together. Less than 10% of our online content is replicable to what is in print.”

Realising that its print and online audiences were different with different needs, Hearst implemented two completely separate teams to produce content in print and online.

Coles also explained how they published digital call-to-actions in their print magazines. One issue of Seventeen Magazine, for example, had a Snapchat call to action on every page. Hearst is now the leading publisher on Snapchat.

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