They are the original “Print Proud, Digital Smart” publishers. Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni recently interviewed Michael Clinton and David Carey, the heads of Hearst Magazines, about where they see the industry now, and in the future.
Their company is famous for taking calculated risks, according to Carey, and that has become engrained in their culture.
“This is the nature of Hearst,” Carey relates, “when Hearst was a small company, Helen Gurley Brown walked through our doors with this crazy notion of a magazine roughly based on her bestselling book ‘Sex and the Single Girl.’ She had never edited a magazine in her life.
“They give her Cosmopolitan, so talk about taking risks,” he continues. “Here’s an existing business and she changes it into something that had no resemblance to what it looked like before she came along. And of course, that took off.”
For Clinton, this embrace of the untried has led them to become a culture of innovation.
“I remember on the ground floor of this small building, our new media lab, and no one before had done that,” Clinton explains. “And so, whether it’s putting your toe into the new media lab or into cable television at the time, or into today’s world, such as Snapchat or other venues, I think we’ve just always been and our culture has always been curious about how we can play into new, emerging businesses.”
This curiosity has served them well, as they continue to thrive in a time of intense change in publishing.
“I think that when you have a natural curiosity of the marketplace and you’ve always got your antenna up as to where is the zeitgeist or where is the consumer, such as the discovery of The Pioneer Woman,” continued Clinton.
That discovery has led to one of the biggest breakout hits this year, The Pioneer Woman Magazine. Of course, when you take risks, you’ll have some failures, and that’s okay too.
“We’re proud to talk about our successes, and we don’t boast about our failures, but we do think about trying new things; if you don’t strike out sometimes, you’re not at bat enough,” Carey notes. “So, we do all sorts of things and most of them have worked, and the things that haven’t worked we’ve learned from. We can’t be afraid to do that.”
Clearly, they are fearless about the future of the industry.
“Are we in the magazine business or the media business, or are we in the managing change in a confident manner business?” Carey asks rhetorically. “I think I’ll take the latter, in terms of our team at the top of the enterprise, but even the people who show up, who come in every day, and contribute so much.”
That future includes incorporating titles from their recent purchase of Rodale Publishing, beginning early in 2018. From there, they’ll continue to look to print to make money, and leverage their digital business strategies as well. As for 2017, Carey believes this year was actually a period of relative calm, in comparison with what’s ahead.
For Hearst, with these two at the helm, we expect them to navigate any rough seas ahead with the usual aplomb.