When he took the helm of Abril, Walter Longo was in for a surprise. The new CEO of one of Brazil’s largest legacy media brands was ready to bring change.
“When I joined Abril Group, I was motivated to infuse a digital mindset into the company, given my past training and experience focused mainly on technology and innovation,” Longo said to Jon Watkins writing in FIPP.
“Much to my surprise, I found that the company was already fully dedicated to the digital world, not betting as much on the future of the printed media [but still having them as an important part of business],” Longo notes, explaining that was the prevailing opinion among Brazil’s media companies.
So instead of dragging them into the digital age, Longo found himself working in quite the other direction.
“Therefore, I had to change my mission to include valuing printed media in the group’s media mix. I believe the widespread view that paper will no longer be used and everything will become digital is a misconception,” he said.
“At least in the short term, the migration into the digital world will be accomplished through a mechanism of addition, rather than replacement.”
Specifically, Longo believes that each media channel has a distinct role:
“Digital media will be responsible for answering the questions of ‘what’ and ‘when’, while printed media will be responsible for answering the questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’. These are two separate and complementary missions.”
Accordingly, their publishing mission is based on “adding to” rather than taking away. For example, they’ve recently introduced augmented reality into all their print publications, through Mobile View.
“This way, readers simply place their cell phone camera over the magazine pages to immediately access a world of additional content, such as movies, music, book excerpts and much more,” Longo explains.
Longo takes a refreshingly thoughtful approach in how his media relates to his audience, explaining that humans exhibit three kinds of curiosity: diverse, empathic, and epistemic. He believes that the first two are perfectly suited to digital media and the fast pace of consumption there. Yet the epistemic curiosity – with a need to explore matters in depth and with greater understanding – is best met in print.
“We believe that magazines are the ideal vehicles to satisfy the epistemic curiosity, and those that are successful in this endeavor in a global scale, such as The Economist, have the advantage,” he explains.
As publishers back away from a future that won’t materialize, this kind of thoughtful approach makes so much sense. Longo, meanwhile, will be a speaker at the FIPP World Congress in London this October. We’re looking forward to more wisdom and insights then.