As Hearst Magazines refines its approach to print and
digital in a quest for more consumer-generated revenue, the publisher has created a new function, creative director of content extensions, and installed veteran David Kang in the role.
Kang is now charged with extending such legendary brands
as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping.
The executive was freshly
tapped from Rodale, where as SVP/GM of Rodale.com, he helped turn The Biggest
Loser Club into a $100-million + online diet and health products franchise.
I talked with Kang about his plans for Hearst.
How do you define the term content extension?
It’s conceptually thinking about our magazines as brands.
We’re not wedded to the one product of the magazine.
We can bring new products
into the marketplace that can be from archival content that already exists or develop
new content specifically with the idea that it’s going to live in several different
platforms, from the magazine to
possibly a book, an app, a digital online toolset, or even downloadable PDFs.
Where is your role in terms of working with others in the
I report into John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager. The structure is such that I am working with each of the
magazines (each of the brands).
The way Hearst President David Carey has put it to me is that in a way I’m a catalyst and the group is a catalyst to
help the brands and editors-in-chief take their ideas and develop them into
products, getting them to think in more of a 360-degree way. The best products are
always driven by great ideas that come from the editors.
Some can be books. So Jacqueline Deval, VP and publisher of
Hearst Books, is part of this content initiative as well. It might be a digital
product so I’ll also be connecting closely with the folks in Chuck Cordray’s digital
The third part is the marketing and business model around it
all. Thinking of strategies for putting the products into the market using a
broader array of tools.
From a circulation perspective, Hearst acquires a lot
of subscribers through direct mail and online. Hearst hasn’t put a lot of focus
on using those same tools to market products beyond the magazines.
We’re developing and investing in this great intellectual
property with voice and brand What
other products should we be developing? We’ll be doing this at inception,
rather than as an afterthought.
There’s been some of this, but it’s not been the emphasis. (Last
year, Hearst produced a bookazine derived from cooking site Delish).
David Carey has said part of the strategy
moving forward is to increase consumer revenues. The ad downturn hit us in
2008. That’s recovering. But as pocketbooks tightened, circulation tightened as
How will you be using Hearst’s customer data to define the
new content extensions?
Magazines are built on a foundation of building the circulation
file and certainly all Hearst magazines have strong circ files. Going forward,
what digital especially gives us the opportunity to do is to engage the consumer
and learn more about them with the goal of being able to offer content,
products and services that are more fine-tuned to the things that matter to
A nice example is on the Seventeen website. There’s a quiz you can take where it says what kind of shoes should I be buying
next? It serves the reader and
deepens the relationship with the brand and experience they have in digital.
As we think about products, there will be a feedback loop.
When there’s a lot of interest in a certain content area, we want to listen.
Will these be advertiser-sponsored?
Great question.The first mandate is around generating revenues from
the consumer as we try to develop revenue streams that can help
us grow that are not dependent on advertising.
That being said, when you create
great products that superserve the audience, that high level of engagement
creates a lot of opportunity for branded entertainment or sponsors to come in
with 100% share of voice.
We expect those to happen as we develop products. Our
first and foremost product objective is to earn the trust and business of the
Where do you see the low-hanging fruit?
We’ve looked at all the brands. Cosmo is a great example.
Obviously there is the magazine circluation happening. Cosmo also has a great game they do
for steamy sex games for the bedroom and it’s obviously very Cosmo.
opportunity while the customer is engaged to have them purchase additional
items that are within brand.
So will we be seeing Cosmo condoms sometime soon?
No. That’s licensing. This is very much figuring out content extensions. It does cover print because we’re still in a hybrid world.
The iPad is an obvious example and the array of new devices that are apps-driven and
We want to be able to leverage the absolute state-of-the art
in those technologies. What’s the right mix of products and new technologies. (See
the new Cosmo Mancaster app.)
Will you create the products or will you partner?
The goal is really to create products. We’ve already got a number of great
ideas you’ll start to see in the coming months. We want to create ways to
surprise, delight and make it compelling.
Take photos, for instance. We can put
one image in the magazine and a full array of images in the apps.
You’ve come to Hearst with more than three years and a track record
of success at Rodale. What did
you learn there about content extensions?
Look at Eat This, Not That! The eleventh book just went
into the market, the Eat This, Not That No-Diet Weight Loss Solution. Part of
the power of that is to think about franchises, with a vision for the editorial
that is robust enough that it can really become more than just a
Once you have a great franchise concept, you can develop
great products within that line and around it. There’s an Eat This, Not That app that turns the intellectual
property of the franchise into a game. It’s the power of comparisons.
There’s always the disbelief
that this looks healthy to me, but the salad has twice the calories of the
little burger over there. I give a lot of credit to Men’s Health editor David
Zinczenko for thinking through a brand lens as well as a franchise lens.
What about The Biggest Loser Club?
Biggest Loser is a Rodale partnership with NBC Universal and
Reveille. One of the things we learned is the great opportunity there
is to create digital experiences that people find valuable and are willing to
pay money for. It’s still hard making money selling digital content per se.
The big thing about The Biggest Loser
is that it creates a customized experience that puts it in a different class
from content per se. It’s an online
diet experience. Allows you to set whatever goal you have, whatever amount of
weight you want to lose. And builds a plan against that.
The club helps you through the myriad digital tools to make
a very difficult behavioral change to choose a healthier lifestyle. There’s a
community going through the same arc you are. It’s very supportive. That makes
a huge difference in terms of actual results.
The expert support is all vetted from the editorial
creation. Wonderful people like editor Melissa Roberson
understand the brand inside and out and give unique access and voice to it. It’s
a great content extension of a TV show. The books are part of the value proposition.
For most of the new subscribers, they receive the Biggest Loser books. We’re at
a moment in time where there’s a lot of print and a lot of digital. At Rodale, we also did a lot of testing.
When will we see the first results at Hearst? And what about
Esquire, Road and Track, Popular Mechanics and the many other brands you’re
picking up through the Hachette acquisition?
The focus now is on the current Hearst magazines in the
building. There will be some prototypes in the coming months and
we’ll see some very tentpole launches in the fall.
Certainly we’ve started to have the preliminary discussions about how
the new products will fit into the strategy. One of the great things is that
both John and David have been careful about making sure I stay focused and the
group stays focused on specific brands and projects rather than be spread out
over all the titles.
There are so many opportunities.
The great news is that the buiding blocks of what Hearst
needs to be successful in this business are already here. That’s a great thing
for someone coming into a new role.
The other thing is everyone understanding the vision of content extensions.
It allows people to stretch and find exciting new opportunities within their
If you think about different parts of the organization, it
will help our circulation business, and our abiity to target ads across digital properties.
Also, importantly, the editors in each of the magazines are really being encouraged
and empowered by David and John to think of their magazine properties as a
brand. The additional content and new revenue streams are going to count on how
their brand gets viewed, and the resources it is given and how people think
about the success of the brand.
The shift is at the top of the organization as everyone
understands the importance of this direction and the opportunity for growth.
It’s being started with just a couple of people, but there is this mandate and
this longer view of building out capabilities and adding resources.
The building is a wonder. I’m on the 35th floor and the first
day I was mesmerized looking out at the ice skaters.