American Magazine Media Conference: brand affinity and loyal readers will light the way forward

If there’s anything that unites the industry’s top brass, it is a shared fear of Silicon Valley’s impending takeover of not just the digital advertising market, but society as we know it. At the AMMC 2018, that paranoia was palpable.

WPP founder Martin Sorrell opined that Google and Facebook are indeed media companies, not technology ones as they self-identify. He also agreed with his friend Rupert Murdoch’s recent assertion that media brands ought to charge the platforms carriage fees to distribute their content—a goal Sorrell says is worth overcoming the inherent difficulties involved with getting hyper-competitive publishers to work together.

Hearst Magazines president David Carey went further, citing issues such as the damaging physical and psychological effects that smartphone ubiquity has on children and teenagers. Carey implied that the current state of social media is reminiscent of big tobacco’s historical apathy toward the damage its products were causing to society.

Asked about the future of print, a panel touted as the “next generation” of magazine talent mostly agreed that the magazines to survive on ink and paper will be those that focus on brand affinity, the trust of their readers, and niche interests.

Nobody really wanted to answer the question about which types of magazines won’t survive, although one panelist conceded, “I’d be nervous about launching a print magazine right now,” citing the advantageous position of long-lasting titles with strong foundational legacies.

Despite the lingering uncertainty over the future—the underlying message of the day was that brands—in print, digital, events, or otherwise—remain magazine media’s most valuable asset, and the industry has no choice but to continue to lean into those brand identities and the loyal audiences that follow them.

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