Rogers Media has picked Steve Maich to lead its publishing group, replacing Ken Whyte, who in October became president of Next Issue Canada. Maich served the past two years as founding editor-in-chief and publisher of Sportsnet magazine.
In his role as senior vice-president and general manager, publishing, Maich, 39, assumes responsibility for the company’s consumer and business-to-business brands, ranging from Maclean’s, Chatelaine, L’actualité, Hello Canada and Sportsnet to Marketing, Advisor’s Edge, The Medical Post and Canadian Grocer.
The appointment comes as media publishers continue to face a tough environment for advertising, even if magazine readership remains relatively stable.
Maich says there is strong value in the brands in the Rogers publishing lineup and they enjoy an edge in being innovators in developing audience reach across digital platforms.
“There is no doubt the publishing business is facing challenging times. The economic model is changing and that isn’t easy. But these are also incredibly exciting times with a lot of opportunity for media assets that have great content and distribution,” Maich told Marketing.
“Content matters above all else. A lot. Our media brands have a deep connection with our readers. And today’s publishing technology gives us the effective multi-platform reach to deliver that valuable content to our audiences exactly the way they want to consume it, when they want to consume it.”
“Steve not only possesses deep knowledge of the publishing industry and brand development expertise, he also has a strong vision for the future of publishing content within the evolving media landscape,” said Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media.
“We will be counting on Steve’s leadership not only within Publishing, but as part of my senior leadership team, where his strategic insight will add great value across the Rogers Media organization.”
Before launching Sportsnet magazine in 2011, Maich was group publisher of Rogers’ consumer business magazines-Canadian Business, Profit and MoneySense-and editor-in-chief of Canadian Business. Previously, he was executive editor at Maclean’s where he won three National Magazine Awards for his writing.
Earlier in his career, he was a reporter and columnist with the National Post and Halifax Chronicle-Herald, where he won several awards for his investigative reporting. He is also co-author of the 2009 book The Ego Boom: Why the World Really Does Revolve Around You.
Marketing caught up with Maich to discuss his new role and the various challenges facing media publishing. Here are the highlights:
What is the general opportunity for publishing in an environment that has been brutally tough on ads?
People tend to lump magazines in with newspapers when discussing the growth outlook for advertising. Magazine advertising is a lot healthier than many people believe. Pretty much all the forecasts are for growth in magazine advertising next year, and our bookings are pacing ahead of this time last year. That said, our success is going to be driven by innovation, not waiting for a massive upsurge in traditional run-of-print ad pages. The major growth will come from new forms of advertising and new platforms such as tablets. We are finding smarter, more innovative and more engaging ways of connecting advertisers to our audiences.
Some say it’s a cyclical downturn. Others say it’s structural and permanent. How would you describe it?
I’d tell you it’s a structural and permanent change, but it would be wrong to say it’s all characterized as a downturn. Advertising clients are demanding new ideas and smart ways to cut through the clutter. The kinds of advertising that clients want is shifting, and we have been at the forefront of those discussions and we’re going to stay there. So, far from being a permanent downturn, what we’re seeing is a lot of opportunity in the shifting landscape of the ad industry. But, to grasp that opportunity, we have to be willing to do things differently than we’ve done in the past.
How well are Rogers titles holding up relative to those of competitors?
Our audiences are holding up extremely well, and most of our brands are either number one, or a close number two in their market segments. If you want to reach masses of affluent, educated men and women, our brands remain the most powerful and focused means of speaking to them.
Are younger people even reading magazines anymore?
Not in the same way that people did 20 years ago, no. But young people are certainly consuming magazine-style content. It’s not important whether young people want to get a beautiful magazine delivered to their mailbox, or if they’d prefer to get it in a beautiful package on their tablet, with interactive graphics and video, or if they are accessing our stuff by clicking a link from Twitter. Increasingly, the whole definition of what it means to be a magazine is changing. It’s much more than printing words and pictures on glossy paper and putting it into the mail. It’s about telling great stories and providing essential advice, with a depth and quality that you don’t find everywhere else. That is not going to change.
Rogers Media has been making moves to cut costs, including announced layoffs yesterday. At the same time, you have to invest to find growth. What are the priorities for investment?
We’ll be looking forward to announcing a number of new initiatives. The main thing I would stress is that this job is about building, not tearing things down. It’s all about accelerating growth. I’m not out to manage decline.
What are the success stories you’d point to where Rogers Publishing has been able to create new revenue streams in digital?
Our mobile apps have been a big success, and they just continue to be more successful. For example, we’ve seen really terrific collaborations between Chatelaine and CityLine, which is going to blossom into an even bigger TV strategy for Chatelaine. Keep your eyes open for our first branded merchandise which will hit stores next year. And Next Issue Canada is a huge and important investment for the company, which is part of a revolution in the way we deliver our magazines to readers in the digital world. There is some great momentum to build on.
What’s Ken Whyte’s legacy at the publishing group?
He has been a great mentor to me, and I believe he’s one of the smartest people working in the media business today. His legacy is right there in the pages of our magazines, and the standard of excellence speaks for itself. I learned a lot from him, but if I had to name one thing that stands out above all the rest, it would be this: Good enough is never good enough.