An Historic Meeting Of the Four Media Associations CEOs: Magazine Media Challenges Today. The ACT 9 Experience. Linda Ruth Reporting… Part 14

May 9, 2019

The third morning of ACT 9 brings together for the first time the heads of the four major trade associations: Linda Thomas Brooks from the MPA, James Hewes from FIPP, Jerry Lynch from MBR, and Michael Marchesano from Connectiv.

Yes, the magazine industry is disrupted, says Brooks. So is every business I’ve every been in. There is no one answer, there are lots of answers. There is no silver bullet but there might be silver buckshot. I signed up for this business because it really, really matters.

Lynch adds that there are lots of industries (e.g. video rental) that are gone; magazines are still here and worth fighting for. This is a passionate business, and that passion is what brought me into this business.

In fact, says Hewes, this is the most exciting time to be in the business, with so many new ways to get our content to our audience. Most people would kill to have a job in media.

The biggest job this industry faces, says Hewes, is vocabulary. What do we call ourselves? We need to be more comfortable and confident as to how we describe ourselves.

From the distribution side, says Lynch, there is a disconnect between the understandings of the publisher and the retailer. It’s hard to bring the two parties together. The opportunity is in bringing the two parties together around the consumer. That relationship is so valuable, publishers need to show retailers that relationship can benefit the store.

On a B to B level, says Marchesano, the challenge is to make sure the audience, who has a buying influence, recognizes the value of the data provided. Making the investment, making the commitment, and looking for ROI.

From Brooks’ perspective, data can be a challenge. Data—and especially a single piece of data—does not equal truth. You can lead yourself to bad business decisions looking at individual bits of data. Algorithms do not get handed down from on high, they are written by people, and included the biases or limitations of those people. We need to use those algorithms and data in the right way. Understanding data bias, data perspective, is hugely important. Business fundamentals are math—never say you hate math when interviewing for jobs in journalism.

Putting together data, legacy and passion: computers are great for correlating data but not good at finding what the correlation means. You have to have a combination of understanding data and using your common sense to evaluate it, says Hewes. Consumers have no idea how much data is being collected about them. When they find out, there will be blood on the streets. Do the mattress test—put your phone on the kitchen table, talk about mattresses for an hour, then see how many ads you get served about mattresses.

This led to a flurry of comment:

Brooks: It’s like you’re sitting in a bar talking about mattresses, and a mattress salesperson interrupts to try to sell you one.

Hewes: This behavior might be getting normalized. It doesn’t mean it’s right.

Brooks: In China they’re collecting a social score. They’re assessing your worth based on it, and assigning consequences to it.

Hewes: And it’s a short step to assigning credit ratings in this country.

Brooks: Many industry bodies are working on privacy issues, but it’s going to take everyone in our industry working with our government to figure this out. MPA spends much time in Washington talking about it.

Marchesano: State level laws with strong consumer rights bias could have an impact on the national agenda.

Lynch: This kind of data is key to business. We need to get in early to help craft the right decision.

Hewes: Facebook will be broken up. They don’t know it yet; but the EU and other bodies will be creating regulations. This is the reason we need trade associations. There are issues to consider that these associations can address.

Lynch: These associations can craft a consistent message in a diverse category.

Brooks: The business isn’t changing as fast or dramatically as we’d like it, but we’re seeing some good indicators.

Ten years ago when I started the MIC, says Dr. Husni, my goal was to amplify the future of print, and everyone thought I had lost it. Last year Linda Brooks stood in front all the ACT Experience attendees and said, don’t ever say print is dead or print is not dead. It’s a vindication.

To watch the entire panel discussion please click on the video below:

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