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Agrimarketing : November December 2009
November/December 2009 Agri Marketing 53 Editor's note: The recent recession and new communication technologies have had an impact on many publishing companies. Here is how one of the leading media organizations, Meredith Corp., Des Moines, IA, is evolving its business model. AM: How have Meredith Corp's product offerings changed? JG: Meredith was founded in 1902 with Successful Farming. Since then, the company has grown from its farm roots to become a fully integrated multi-media corporation, delivering information to consumers when, where and how they want to receive it. At Meredith, we combine national brands --- including Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, Family Circle, Ladies' Home Journal, Successful Farming and others --- with local television brands in growth markets. We are the industry leader in creating content in key areas such as home, family, health and wellness, self-development and agriculture. We then use multiple distribution platforms --- including print, television, online, mobile and video --- to give consumers content they desire and deliver the messages of our marketing partners. AM: Meredith was just named Publisher of the Year by Ad Age magazine. What do you attribute that to? JG: Our connection to consumers and our knowledge of their passion points are stronger than ever. We have maintained our magazine readership through this economic downturn, our response rates to sub- scription offers are at all-time highs, and our online traffic continues to grow. Marketers and advertisers always follow the end users. So in our business --- the branded content business --- we are maintaining our relationship with the consumer and will do so no matter what. I believe that if our connection with the con- sumer is solid, everything else falls into place. In addition, we are leaders at assessing the needs of our clients and then using our vast marketing assets to help them efficiently reach the right audiences. We have aggressively marketed our business during this recession, which has contributed to our market share gains. AM: Looking forward, what role will printed magazines have? JG: Most of our brands maintain a dialogue with American consumers about life events --- having a baby, buying a home, getting married. Successful Farming is an invaluable resource for farmers related to their businesses. These issues are eternal. So, while we engage with consumers using new media platforms, we also know that magazines will always have a place in consumers' hearts and homes. AM: What role does Successful Farming have at Meredith? JG: Successful Farming is one of the cornerstones of our company and remains a true brand leader for us. It was our founding magazine, and it was our first brand to launch an internet site (www.agriculture.com). It also launched Meredith into the custom media/marketing business when it created Meredith Publishing Services, now Meredith Integrated Marketing. Successful Farming also was the first Meredith magazine to offer advertis- ers targeted demographic editions within the magazine and the first to offer readers bonus specialized content for an additional fee as part of their subscription. Fiscal 2009 was the most profitable year in Successful Farming's 107-year history. This brand builds award-winning market- ing programs for its clients, and its editorial is the embodiment of serving the consumer. It is a role model for our company. AM: What changes have you implemented during the general recession? JG: We have taken steps during the recession to strengthen our company, and as a result, we will be well-posi- tioned as we come out of it. We have diversified our ad revenue categories and enhanced our 360-degree sales efforts. We have fine-tuned our business to become more efficient. Only half of our revenue is magazine advertising. Other revenues come from activities such as consumer relationship marketing (CRM), brand licensing, content licensing, and product sales. And, we created trade advertising campaigns to market our brands. Clearly, advertising works. We are now reaping the benefits of that investment. AM: Have you made any strategic acquisitions recently? JG: We think this is a great time to acquire companies. We've had a strong acquisition record recently, purchasing companies such as O'Grady Meyers, GenEx, New Media Strategies, Directive and Big Communications that enhance our CRM offerings. These firms --- which specialize in areas such as social media, online, word-of-mouth, mobile, and database marketing --- allow us to offer end-to-end solutions to our marketing clients. AM: What excites you most about the future? JG: Our bond with our consumers and the strength of our brands will continue to open the door to many opportunities. I look forward to growing our business and enhancing shareholder value by capitalizing on that potential. AM EVOLUTION OF A MEDIA GIANT MEDIA UPDATE Jack Griffin President National Media Group
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