LeadershipBroadsheetDiversity and InclusionCareersVenture Capital

Transcript: The confusing, confounding, changing media

October 3, 2012, 8:00 PM UTC

STEPHANIE MEHTA: While our panelists are getting seated, I thought I’d set the stage for our conversation today by rather than dwelling on the problem or the issues facing the media, I thought we could spend some time talking about the solutions. Everybody here in this room, even if you’re not in the media business, understand how your own media consumption patterns have changed, how those of your children have changed. And you can understand from the way you consume media on mobile devices, on tablets, on big-screen televisions, on your computers how much of a challenge these women face as leaders of very large media organizations.

Gracia, I’m going to start with you. Gannett is a company that has a lot of local advertisers. You own television stations, television affiliates, you own local newspapers. And in many cases, the advertisers that you’re working with are looking to you to be sherpas as they enter this new digital age. Talk a little bit about that for us.

GRACIA MARTORE: We haven’t thought of ourselves as sherpas, but maybe we should think of branding ourselves that way. By background, Gannett is in over 100-plus local communities throughout the country, either through our TV stations or our newspapers, as well as on digital platforms and mobile platforms across those markets.

We deal with and have relationships with about 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses in those communities. And so we have always been a trusted advisor to them in traditional media opportunities. But what we realized is that as more consumers want to engage on digital platforms, we have the relationships with those, and those are deep relationships we have with those advertisers. We have brands in those communities that stand for something. They’re trusted, they’re credible brands. And we have local infrastructure, feet on the street, a local sales force.

And so we want to follow where our advertisers are going by engaging with consumers across digital platforms, which we are doing. And so our ability to help them with their digital needs, because if you’re a small furniture retailer and you understand you need to be in social media or you need to have reputation management, it’s hard for you to know how to do that. You’re inundated with 30 calls a month from various people.

We can, through the product suite that we now have, provide SCO, SCM, coupons, daily deals, website design, et cetera. And so we’re able to act as a trusted advisor to all of those companies that we deal with.

We have a daily deals product that we started up last year in 60 of our markets. And, interestingly, that helps with the daily deals aspect of what they want to do, but it’s driven about 75 percent of their customers are new customers to our company. So we see that as an enormous opportunity, given our incredible local scale and given the relationships we have to really be effective in what we’re doing for them on a digital perspective.

And then we also own U.S.A. Today. So we have national scaled combined with our local scale, and we find that that’s incredibly helpful to these small businesses.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: So turning to the subject of national scale. Laura, your company deals with scale advertisers. They don’t have it all figured out either. Talk a little bit about how you’re helping the big advertiser.

LAURA LANG: One of the opportunities for the big advertisers is to better understand how consumers are actually consuming and engaging with media. Certainly, one of the things that we understand was that we reach 130 million people uniquely every month. That’s one out of every two U.S. adults. And we have a tremendous amount of insight about how they consume across platforms. And the footprint now is digital, social, mobile, as well as the more traditional print product.

So what we’re doing is offering advertisers — in the last few weeks, we’ve rolled out a whole new suite of products that says we’ll help you engage at scale across all of the platforms to reach people wherever they are. And an example of that is more and more people, obviously, are coming in through the mobile door. And number of the sessions and panels here have spoken about that.

So we are redesigning our products and our digital content to be accessible in a mobile way. And an example being that we redesigned the people website into the first responsive design site actually in the publishing industry. And literally, after that happened, we hired a mobile editor and we began to tell our stories and practice our journalism differently in that format. And we had a 30-percent increase in people who came to engage.

So what that is helping advertisers do is say, listen, you guys are understanding how people are consuming content and we just want to partner and be a part of that at scale.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Great. And I want to come back to the subject of how you train your workforce to think mobile first and other subjects like that. But before we do that, Bonnie, talk a little bit about your business. Because everybody else on the stage has lots of metrics and data available to them, but it sounds like in your world, NBC Universal, you’re still getting your arms around what the consumption patterns are.

BONNIE HAMMER: I think that’s true. We also have amazing tools in terms of trying to understand what’s going on and measuring and giving us some information. But what’s changed so much for us is — when I think about when I started in cable, cable, believe it or not, was the new technology that was upending traditional television and it was a threat to broadcast.

And as you can see, it was additive as opposed to in any way destroying the broadcast model. But for us, what’s happening, it’s not that things are changing and evolving, it’s the speed of that change.

Years ago, we judged things by a decade or every five years technology would change and we’d have time to catch up with aggregating and measuring eyeballs so you can monetize them. Now things are happening so quickly, it’s a matter of months. So the acceleration of what’s going on in the industry is what’s hard to keep up with.

So for us, we view all these additive platforms as both exciting and creative, but on the one hand, it’s kind of a little bit threatening to that television screen in the middle of the den or the rec room where you all get together and watch one show and we would measure those eyeballs and you can create a CPM and get advertisers to pay.

Now, with everything cross platform, we don’t quite yet know how to aggregate all those eyeballs. A show, for example, like Covert Affairs, the live viewing, meaning the ratings the night a show launches at a certain level. But if you measure it seven days later on all other platforms, it can be 113 percent higher than what we traditionally measured.

So for us, we have to aggregate. Figure out how to do that, figure out how to measure, and then work with the different sales environments, clients, advertisers, to figure out how to package all those eyeballs, monetize it so we’re not leaving money on the table because people are still viewing all that content, but in very, very different ways.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: So, show of hands, how many people check their Twitter feed first thing in the morning? Twitter feed? How many people start their morning by checking either a daily newspaper or the website of a news source?

So, Katie, the question I have for you is: Is Twitter a friend, foe, or “frenemy” to the incumbents on the stage? (Laughter.)

KATIE JACOBS STANTON: I would say none of the above. We actually look at ourselves as more of a complement to the media business as opposed to friend, frenemy, or enemy. In fact, to all of you on stage, we work with many media organizations to help them and to work on delivering a delightful experience to consumers wherever they may be.

So two examples, one in sports, one in politics. In sports, we work with NBC to create this event page where people could consume and find out breaking content from broadcasters. And what you saw as a result of us working together, NBC had their best ratings in three decades from the Olympics.

We saw that we had — I think it was 150 million tweets during the last London Olympics versus 120,000 during the Beijing Olympics. So there’s just a lot of content, and bringing people closer to what they most care about.

The second example is in politics where we worked with U.S.A. Today and a number of polling organizations to help measure the sentiment of what people are saying on Twitter about the different candidates. So you can see in real time, get a pulse of what’s happening in real time, what people are saying.

Another example even with Fox News during the Republican primaries, we worked with Fox News to be able to get a sense of how are people feeling during the debates. When a candidate answered a question, do people think that they’re answering the question. And so using hashtag “answer” and then they thought the candidate might be dodging the question using hashtag “dodge.”

And Fox News was able to integrate that content and that real-time sentiment on television and you could see the numbers go up and down and up and down and you can — and it was great for Fox, it was great for them to absorb the content going out all around the country and around the world, and to be able to integrate into the show.

So, you know, we worked really closely with all these different media organizations both to help them, support them in giving them real-time data that is measurable and impactful, as well as delivering content to consumers.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: So, Laura, the example Katie gave, it’s interesting for the journalism that your company practices, but how do you monetize that? How do you turn that into revenue?

LAURA LANG: I think that’s one of the most exciting opportunities for us as opposed to being a threat. I think what Bonnie said is right. This is how people are consuming. And what we’ve got right now is economic dislocation. It’s like the early days of the Web, right? Everybody’s going digital and advertisers are still spending all their money in more traditional places.

And this is happening again now. And this time it’s social and it’s mobile. And so one of the things that we’ve already done is aggregate all of these ways that people come to Time Inc. properties and actually offer new ways for advertisers to actually pay to be participating, often in real time, across these platforms. Which is really exciting. It’s early days, and certainly advertisers are going to have to migrate in that direction, but we think it’s a really exciting opportunity for them and for us because it bridges this gap between where they spend marketing dollars and where their actual customers are engaging.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Bonnie, you said something earlier about money being left on the table. Talk a little bit about the missed opportunities that you’re seeing right now and how you’re trying to make sure that you can grab them going forward.

BONNIE HAMMER: It’s not missed opportunity as much as kind of catching up with reality of what’s out there and how people are consuming all of this media. And I think it’s about experimenting and then trying to get advertisers to basically embrace new ways of viewing engagement more so than just counting the number of eyeballs that may be watching something, and also experimentation internally.

For example, right now NBC at large is experimenting with something called View Box which is basically a curator getting content put across multiple platforms from multiple channels inside of NBC Universal, which Steve Burke feels is very, very important right now. And it’s experimental, we’re trying it on a couple of channels. Working specifically with a few advertisers to try to monetize an experiment.

So it’s finding ways to work, first and foremost, with Nielsen, getting them ahead of the curve in terms of measuring differently than they’ve measured for decades who is watching shows, and then also working with individual client sponsorships. And in some ways, almost going back to how cable used to be monetized, different sponsors picking up whole packages of content and bringing in money that way.

So, again, it’s embracing change, it’s not being afraid to experiment. And I forget who it was yesterday, but someone said fail forward, but fail fast. Experiment, try, if it doesn’t work, move on to the next. And then making sure that we can convince advertisers that it’s very positive, being aggressive to package things differently so that whether it’s on mobile, whether it’s some relationship with trending, watching trending, what’s going on, look who’s really engaging with the star or with the specific show, even though you can’t really measure it. But use different research to bring in Twitter, bring in Facebook, bring in every mobile platform, DVR viewing against a specific show or a package of shows and put a number against it, rather than traditional CPM who watched 10 o’clock at night, Monday night, period.

LAURA LANG: I think it’s interesting, another important issue which is we have to use data differently. I think that industry is used to one kind of data, and we have to use real-time data, right? The kind that is collected on the Twitter platform. We have to use data about who’s engaging when, where, and how. And I think that’s going to be a key to the change we’re talking about.

Time Inc. right now does have a wonderful capability because we have such a large database of how people interact with us, how they transact with us. And I think we’re going to have to create new standards as an industry because that’s how we’re going to monetize across all the platforms, but it’s also how we’re going to be real time in terms of what matters.

PARTICIPANT: I agree. And I think, also, we’re used to dealing in a very siloed way. Television, we’ll view one way. Magazine, we’ll view another. New technology, digital, it’s another. But I think it’s really breaking down those silos and both sharing information and sharing partnerships in a very different way.

GRACIA MARTORE: We have 22 TV stations. And when the theater shooting happened in Aurora, Colorado, we obviously have a very powerful station in Denver, KUSA. And they have tremendous viewership of that on the traditional television platform.

But at the same time, we grabbed hashtag theater shooting at two o’clock in the morning, our social media editor, and we video streamed on our website on a variety of platforms. And so when we looked at the data across and the audience across all of those platforms, while we had an incredible traditional television audience, the coverage we had on all the other platforms was tremendously greater than that because people aren’t watching television during the day when they’re at work, but they sure as heck are watching video on their computers or checking their Twitter feeds and everything else. So you’re absolutely right. It’s capturing all of that audience across all of those platforms, and it’s going to be key for us to monetize it.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Katie, very quickly, tell us a little bit about the kind of talent that you think these organizations need to have in order to make sure that they are creating really dynamic content, dynamic advertising platforms, dynamic new tools to serve their multiple audiences. You deal with digital folks all the time.

KATIE JACOBS STANTON: Sure. And I’ll borrow some things that Edna said last night at the premiere of Half of Sky. I mean, she’s such an incredible woman, so moving. And she made this one comment in the movie, and then repeated it in person that you can’t do with your hands what you don’t feel in your heart. And I think that’s really important even in our businesses too, that you need to find talent that believe in the mission, that believe in your core values, that have if it’s mobile and social and this passion, they have to feel it and they have to live and breathe it, it has to be in their DNA. You can’t necessarily force it.

So finding that talent that these things are just natural and is really passionate about these things. That’s one of the things I think we’re lucky at Twitter that we have very strong core values and the people are there for a mission. And so it doesn’t feel like a job, you do what you love.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Laura, what’s the skill or top skills that an employee at Time Inc. is going to need to be successful in the future?

LAURA LANG: Intellectual curiosity. I believe so strongly that the way you practice journalism and the way you tell stories, there’s no primary platform going forward. And they’re going to have to just continue to innovate.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Same question for you, Bonnie. Top skill your employees are going to have?

BONNIE HAMMER: I guess there are two, one a little bit more wise-ass, and another pretty straight. One is clairvoyance. (Laughter.) The future belongs to anyone who can basically figure out and predict the unpredictable and monetize it.

But the truth right now: Smart humans who can embrace change that aren’t afraid of it, that won’t see change just for the sake of change, but will use their filter but will not resist because it’s unfamiliar or foreign to them.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Grace, the same question to you.

GRACIA MARTORE: 106-year-old company, it’s embracing change, understanding that change is going to be with us constantly rather than you do something for a decade and it works. The second thing is dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty, constantly dealing with that.

STEPHANIE MEHTA: Well, I really appreciate the insights of all of our panelists. I’m going to work on my clairvoyance and my curiosity especially since Laura is my boss’s boss’s boss. (Laughter.)

Thank you all very much, a round of applause for our panel, please. (Applause.)

More from the Most Powerful Women Summit