When we select our partners, we think big. Real big. We want to bring the best quality and most engaging organizations to the table. Which is why having Time Inc. on board was an easy choice. You can see them at SMWNYC on Thursday at 1PM with their event “Second Screen & Social TV,” but until then, get to know them and Fran Hauser, President of Digital for Time Inc.’s Style & Entertainment and Lifestyle Groups:
Fran, the global theme for SMW 2012 is “Empowering Change through Collaboration.” How does Time Inc. support this idea overall?
As it happens, this past year has been one filled with collaboration and change. Time Inc. reaches 138 million people in the U.S.- half of the adult population engages with at least one of our brands. Because of our scale, we’ve been able to collaborate with leading device manufacturers, social start-ups and marketing partners to create new and better media and entertainment experiences for audiences everywhere.
For example, we have begun to re-imagine the experience consumers have with content, making it more social and interactive, by partnering with the likes of LinkedIn, to integrate CNNMoney.com’s Best Companies to Work For list into the site, and Foursquare and Google Maps to enhance PEOPLE’s Caught in the Act franchise.
And we became the first publishing company to make our entire portfolio of brands available on tablets– all of which are designed specifically for each device. We gave our print subscribers the ability to “authenticate” or access the tablet version for free using their subscriber info.
We’re also rethinking our relationship with advertisers and finding new ways to collaborate with them by creating rich ad experiences that leverage both the platform and the devices our content is being consumed on. For example, PEOPLE.com pulls in celebrity tweets through a sponsorable module that can include an advertiser’s Twitter feed. And later this month, PEOPLE will launch a tablet-optimized version of their site with a new and engaging ad experience incorporating swipes and gestures.
But when I think about empowering change, it is more than just what we are doing as a business to improve the products we deliver. More than ever, we’re collaborating with our readers to make a difference. This year, through its PEOPLE FIRST charitable initiative, PEOPLE is partnering with Kentucky-based Blessings in a Backpack to provide backpacks full of food to hungry schoolchildren. Using various platforms including social media channels to promote the program, the partnership is estimated to feed approximately 25,000 children in 2012. Whether it’s a company-wide anti-bullying campaign or shedding light on the plight of afghan women, our brands are boldly driving the conversation around the world’s most pressing social issues.
What was the drive behind Time Inc.’s involvement in Social Media Week?
We’ve been involved with Social Media Week for the past three years and have found it is a great place for us to engage in the conversation and share some of our learnings. We’re working with so many of the social players out there, both big and small, but we know there are new companies surfacing all the time. Being part of this event gives us a chance to interact and help filter new ideas that are building buzz and momentum in the social space.
We also have Time Inc.’s annual franchise “10 NYC Start-ups to Watch” coming up in May and SMW is a great vehicle for us to identify the hot new social start-ups in the city.
How are journalists adapting to the speed with which stories are now being published? What tools are they using that allow them to report and post so quickly?
Our journalists, whether they’re covering politics or celebrity or sports, have really become experts in getting their stories out there first and fast and ensuring it is of the most value to our readers. They have all of these great tools at their fingertips to not only identify the most relevant and trending stories but also new ways to get the stories out there – from search to social platforms to RSS feeds. They’re sharing everything from celebrity sightings to the latest polling stats with our readers in real time and across multiple platforms.
The political blog The Page by TIME’s Mark Halperin is a good example. Washington insiders and political junkies can get the scoop instantaneously by email, RSS, Facebook, Twitter or iPad app. For many of our brands, Twitter has been an incredible tool for us in getting the news to our readers just as it happens. Time Inc. has over 18 million followers collectively, with PEOPLE (3.3MM), TIME (3.2MM) and InStyle (2.1MM) holding the top three spots for magazine brands.
The Style and Entertainment and Lifestyle portfolios include some incredibly notable names like PEOPLE, InStyle, Real Simple and Myrecipes.com. How do you give each brand a unique voice that engages a variety of readers?
One reason why our brands have been so successful with social is because they take the time to understand each platform and how to best communicate there while staying true to who they are. Each brand has its own distinct voice and style of engagement. If you find yourself on the Cooking Light Facebook page, for example, you’re going to get some great ideas for dinner tonight, hand-picked by the editors you trust, some already tried by your fellow fans, which is very different from the conversations around red carpet looks and fashion weeks updates happening on InStyle’s page. We have dedicated social editors who understand the nuances of not just their brand but each platform and the type of news, stories and personalities that will resonate on each and the voice that is needed whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or Google +.
We also continue to focus on building our brands in new places and choosing the right medium for engaging readers for each brand. A platform like GetGlue for example was an ideal fit for Entertainment Weekly when it was looking to socialize its popular Must List. Real Simple has seen a lot of success from their early adoption of Pinterest and now sees more traffic from Pinterest than from Twitter and Facebook combined.
With nearly 50 million monthly online visitors and over 18 million followers on Twitter, which digital strategies have been most effective in growing and retaining Time Inc.’s online audience?
Search has always been important but over the last several years social has become a major source of traffic for our sites and referrals from social have increased in several-hundred-percent range year over year for several of our brands. We’re always looking to innovate and identify new social platforms that are relevant for each brand and can help grow and develop their audiences.
Strategic Partnerships and seeking out opportunities on new screens is another way we are growing our audiences. We’ve been taking advantage of all the new touchpoints out there, whether it’s Gogo, the in-flight service where 200 million passengers can access People.com stories, or Samsung’s connected TVs which features TIME.
We believe that consumers are increasingly seeking out the brands that they know and trust in a crowded world. Which is why 50% of PEOPLE.com’s audience comes to the site using their bookmarks and why Time Inc.’s mobile apps are consistently in the top 10. The key for us is to continue to deliver trusted, premium content, while investing and building on our current franchises as well as introducing new ones.
Time Inc. properties attract 15 million mobile unique visitors per month. How have you adapted content to make the user experience flow naturally between print and mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones?
Mobile is hugely important for us right now. We’ve invested in redesigning and optimizing our content to provide a premium experience on every platform. We designed tablet versions of all 21 of our U.S. titles and are working to create tablet optimized websites for many of our brands.
The majority of our websites have been optimized for smartphones in some way. This ensures that when our readers visit a Time Inc. site using their phone, they find the stories are optimized for a touch experience. It’s a very easy, natural reading experience, which you don’t always get on a phone– it’s something our readers have come to expect from our brands. We have also done a lot of research to better understand the arc of a consumer’s day so that we know when people are coming to our brands and on which device and can program accordingly.
What trends do you see in the publishing and content distribution industry and where do you see it going in the next year?
In terms of trends, we’ve been talking a lot about SMO (social media optimization) as search and social start to behave more like complementary channels than two totally independent ones. Google has already started to integrate its Google+ social results into its search engine. As a big media company, we’re watching this closely and making social distribution a priority in getting our content discovered by new audiences.
We can also expect to see an increased focus on areas like commerce and second screens as publishers continue to build out richer and more dimensionalized experiences with their brands.
What will attendees see from Time Inc. this February during SMW?
We’re going to be hosting a high-profile panel around Social TV on Thursday March 16th at 1pm where Bill Gannon, Managing Editor of EW.com and other industry leaders talk about the state of Social TV and second screens and where it is heading. This is an area we are very excited about.