Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: How Publishers Transformed in 2015

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A common theme that kept coming up during our many conversations with publishers throughout 2015 was the existential imperative to transform their businesses: from what and how they sell, to the talent they are recruiting, to the way their employees work together. While “transformation” is one of those overused B-school terms, there’s perhaps no better term that sums up publishing’s journey in 2015.

Fortunately for publishers, this transformation has been substantial and not just mission statement hot air.

Publishers have dramatically altered their revenue models and value proposition, embracing data services, harnessing the experiential value of events, and earning revenue by selling targeted audience across platforms. As the work of publishing has changed, job functions and previously siloed departments (audience development, sales, editorial, digital) have become highly integrated. And when it comes to technology adoption, most publishing companies have progressed beyond adding a shiny new tech toy to their publishing arsenal and expecting it to drive change. Today, smart publishers recognize that technology changes need to go hand-in-hand with strategic, organizational, and operational changes.

Throughout our reporting we heard from executives at Penton, F+W, Rodale, Hanley Wood, Breaking Media, Reader’s Digest, and Inc. about the importance of nurturing and driving substantial change. The most successful publishing leaders have found ways to earn employee buy-in, develop new talent, and restructure their organizations to make room for experimentation and unearth new ideas for growing revenue.

The following stories demonstrate how media companies changed in 2015.

Why & How Penton Pivoted to Information Services – SVP of marketing Kate Spellman offers an insider view of the strategy and execution that took Penton beyond publishing and into information services.

Maria Rodale on Thriving in Times of Change – Rodale’s CEO and Chairman describes how the publisher shifted mindshare within its organization and fostered greater collaboration in order to adapt and thrive.

How Hanley Wood Is Building on Data – Peter Goldstone shares his experience transitioning from a traditional B2B publisher to a company focused on marketing and information services.

Finding Reliable Digital Revenue Amidst Technology Flux – Leaders from Breaking Media, Reader’s Digest, and Inc. describe the strategies they have employed to monetize their digital content.

F+W Chairman & CEO David Nussbaum on the Company’s Decisive Strategic Shift Toward Ecommerce – Now the former CEO of F+W David Nussbaum explains the role content and e-commerce play in serving enthusiast communities and how F+W managed the rapid growth of its e-commerce division.

Managing Change Requires More Than Empty Rhetoric – Reporting on last year’s Yale Publishing Course, editor-in-chief Denis Wilson shares insights from a session focused on managing organizational change.

5 Ways Media Sellers Are (Or Should Be) Alchemizing Their Careers – Like the publishing business, that role of a media salesperson has been reinvented. Modern media salespeople need to use a new set of skills to grapple with the challenges facing media advertising today.