Make distribution transparent: National Geographic’s Griffin

NEW YORK – The magazine industry needs more transparency, speed, comparability and accountability, according to yesterday’s keynote speaker at the 2007 Circulation Management Conference & Expo.

John Q. Griffin, executive vice president of the National Geographic Society, spoke to the gathering of circulation experts about the future of the magazine industry and its advertisers in a presentation called “What Circulation Taught Me.”

“What we have to sell is information that the reader wants and we have to be in touch with that information,” Mr. Griffin said. “What the advertiser wants is a piece of that relationship between editorial and the reader.”

Mr. Griffin went on to explain the lessons he learned during his time as a circulation manager and their applications to the magazine industry as a whole.

He emphasized the importance of quality editorial content and of selling benefits, both of which create a relationship between the publication and the reader. Mr. Griffin named awareness of facts and data as another essential component of successful publications, but he also warned against getting slowed down by too much data.

“You have to act now, act aggressively,” said Mr. Griffin. “Concentrate on the strengths, not the weaknesses. When you find a strength, pursue it.”

Action and innovation formed the center of Mr. Griffin’s vision for the industry’s future. He insisted that the magazine industry had to change their practices in order to keep up with a changing world and pickier consumers.

The importance of ad revenue will continue to grow, especially online, according to Mr. Griffin. Advertisers will want to buy ad space later and check sales numbers sooner, putting traditional print at a speed disadvantage. Advertisers will also demand greater comparability between media and greater accountability for ads.

Transparency in operations, faster audience measurement, comparability and accountability will be essential for magazine circulation to grow in the future.

“If we can’t change, magazines will be compared only to other magazines,” said Mr. Griffin. “Prepare to be judged by audience measurement. I challenge us all to make distribution completely transparent and regain the confidence of the buyer.”

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