PIA Course to Teach Print Design to Designers

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One of the most important relationships a magazine publisher has is the one with their printer. Without a printer, there is no print magazine; while there are many online-only publications, the money in the industry still remains with the print titles. However, the relationship between a printer and a publisher usually revolves around two things only: cost and quality.

A focus on cost is obvious, as publishers are looking to balance budgets more and more as the industry tightens. Quality, on the other hand, is an interesting variable. Of course, the quality of the printing should be a huge consideration, but the quality of what is provided to the printer should be just as vital.

Most professional designers today put their focus on digital, which is great for other industries, but quite problematic for print publishers. Designing for print requires an innate understanding of colors, bleeds and styles that do not apply in other design disciplines. A lack of those understandings can cause print jobs to be held up in production quite easily, or can result in poor quality submissions to the printer. A printer can do a lot to help a publisher resolve the problem, but there is only one true solution: better trained designers.

The Printing Industries of America (PIA), the world’s largest graphic arts trade association and an organization with expert knowledge of the print industry, is seeking to help resolve the lack of training. They have released an iLearning course titled “Print Production for Designers” meant to help bridge the gap of understanding many designers have with print knowledge. The goal of the course is two-fold:

  1. Broaden the horizons of designers.
  2. Help publishers have access to higher-quality designers who can help them produce better quality magazines.

Printers can also make use of the course, and should take it upon themselves to help educate their clients. Printers are responsible for their role in quality, but it is also their responsibility to hold their clientele accountable for providing proper files; otherwise, a printer cannot do their job correctly. The PIA course provides printers the means to foster this new level of relationship with publishers as well, and in the end, it can help printers save time and publishers money.

Further Information

To learn more about the iLearning Course “Print Production for Designers,” click here. For more information about the Printing Industries of America in general, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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Meredith and NY Times Collaborate to Create a Special Section

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In a world where high-margin opportunities are less common for publishers, special sections remain a great money-maker. That may explain why Meredith Corporation and the New York Times are making use of one-time titles once again to maximize their reach and profits.

Special sections, also referred to as a special edition or special interest magazines, are one-off magazines meant to capture the hype or exposure on a focused topic. Many times, special sections fall into the “bookazine” category, being significantly longer editions and hyper-focused. This said, with the pursuit of new revenue options, some publications are doing smaller but more frequent special sections, as they tend to have much higher profit margins with the same print run size and audience.

The Meredith/Times special section recently released was a “Summer of 69” issue with a unique spin to the special section concept: multi-publication collaboration. This special section, the first New York Times standalone magazine ever, was built with the help of Meredith Corp., one of the nation’s largest magazine producers, to coordinate with the standard coverage within the New York Times newspaper that was covering the 50th anniversary of the event.

While there have been numerous publications to coordinate content between their parent title and their special sections, completely independent publications working together is not a common practice. This action shows a potential opportunity for publishers to not only expand their profit options, but to help keep each other standing strong in an economy that has not been kind to publishers in general.

Further Information

To learn more about Meredith Corporation’s and the New York Times’ special edition magazines, click here. For more information publishers and special editions in general, click here.

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How Zero Click Affects SEO

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Search engine optimization (SEO) has been considered one of the most important digital marketing aspects to invest in, regardless of business or industry. When it comes to online traffic, being able to find yourself listed high in a search is what the main source of views, and those views often translate to dollars.

For the magazine industry, SEO is even more pivotal than most cases though. With the argument over print’s ability to compete with digital, a lot of publishers put their marketing eggs in the online basket they rely on SEO to generate readership and give value to online advertisement spaces.

Without decent listing and clicks, the digital traffic for magazines would be greatly hampered, and that’s not good when many feel print is questionable (though there is plenty of evidence to speak otherwise, available in our other blog posts).

Google’s newest functionality and optimization have started to lean in a different direction. Paid searches, quick snippets, and other instantaneous results have caused the majority of searches to result in zero clicks, equaling 55% of all Google clicks as of last month. This is the first time in 20 years that Google searches favor no-click searches.

In the words of a Sparktoro employee, who recently wrote a report on the situation, this is done to promote those who implement paid Google services and to help keep searchers within Google’s platforms, and not directing searchers to your content. He stated that “We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden.” an example of a walled-garden is Facebook, they display snippets or brief content on your feeds/story that give clear information without the reader needing to fully access your content, thus keeping the reader within its walls. Sparktoro is a software company focused on audience intelligence resources, and with great expertise in search engine culture.

Online-only content producers, like Buzzfeed, who cover content in almost every facet on a localized and more general scale, are pulling traffic and searches away from content where newspapers and magazines were the primary source. They are also the likely entities that use Google’s paid features or would produce the content snippets that produce zero click searches. Publishers not helming massively powerful and notable publications cannot compete with that kind of digital power and influence.

The solution to the problem is easier than you would think. Big, super-digital companies are going to own the paid spots, but the fact stands that zero-click searches are still searches for information, and it is simply a matter of keeping pace with search engine optimization and Google’s system to stay in the game. It used to be just about meta-data and search rankings, but the game has evolved. Now snippets, audio clips, video views, and other content plays a role too.

Publishers simply need to diversify content and publish it to meet the most current SEO standards possible. Afterall, no one is better at producing content built for multiple media than publishers that are leveraging print, online, and digital to reach their audiences. Do what you do best, just do it with the intention of informing your audiences and appeasing Google.

Further Information

To learn more about Google’s “zero click” searches, click here. For more information on the details of low clicks on searches and why in general, click here. To see the Sparktoro report on the situation, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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The Economist and Newsletters

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Newsletters are a unique form of communication, and one publishers should never overlook. Whether print or digital, newsletters function just like a magazine or newspaper; they have a circulation audience, seek to inform, and are delivered in timely intervals. In a way, it is a natural extension of a publisher’s strategy to incorporate newsletters, and it comes with several perks. A perfect case study proving this is The Economist.

In the last year, The Economist has doubled the normal amount of web traffic it sees from newsletters through updates in design and content strategies. This has led to increased profit margins, better numbers on the website, and additional subscribers to the publication itself. It is through actions and campaigns like their updated newsletters that The Economist manages to make more off subscription sales than advertising (a huge rarity in today’s age).

According to their 2019 annual report, The Economist netted $333 million this past year, of which 59% came from subscriptions and circulation to their 1.7 million subscribers (print and digital). Only 17% of that $333 million came from advertising, and that is a 3% drop from the previous year.

Now we know newsletters are a part of their success, but this is The Economist, who has a massive following, staff, and budget. Is this translatable to niche publishers or regional publishers, who have much smaller pools of resources and spending? YES. The Economist’s newsletters are not an asset and profit generator because they are backed by the robust power wielded by the publication, but because the process and approach are effective, and that approach can be replicated and borrowed by any publisher.

The Economist’s newsletter editor, Sunnie Huang, was quoted last year saying “Almost every week there are some sort of experiments going on. They could be as small as testing different image sizes or as drastic as overhauling the format of the newsletter. Every week we learn something new about our audience and grow as a team.”

Huang’s words are just a glimpse into the overall strategy behind The Economist’s newsletters, but this little glimpse says a ton. First and foremost, the newsletter has an editor, someone who manages its content in the same way there are editors for newspapers and magazines. The newsletter, to them, is a standalone piece that serves the needs of the reader, not just a reiteration of another publication’s content. Second, it is clear that they treat newsletters as a way to engage and deepen the relationship with the reader, not just a way to increase reach.

During the same interview where Huang gave the previous quote, she also delved much deeper into the nuances of how they approached the creation of the newsletter, and how they deliver it. They implemented UX (user experience) design to create the newsletter to fit their audience, not just look branded or clean. They also developed test campaigns to measure pain points for readers, how to resolve them, and even address the specific content requests and preferences that their audience had for newsletters (and they were different from The Economist’s magazine preferences). Even headlines are calculated to match the most frequently-used platforms of consumption.

The results of the stated efforts and the many others that are not stated: an entirely new pool of readers that receive the content that is perfect for them, and that pool of readers is 1.4x more likely to subscribe to The Economist’s full magazine than the average, interested reader who is not a newsletter subscriber. It also provides another touchpoint for those that are already subscribed, providing unique content and approaches that differ from the main publication. This means more engagement with your audience, and that increases the likelihood or re-subscription.

The Economist’s efforts in newsletters, along with efforts in other digital and print venues, can all be summed up with a simple quote from their Head of Produce, Denise Law: The idea is to bring a new culture of becoming a subscriber-first publication … We’re not just making money from eyeballs, but growing reader revenue.”

Further Information

To learn more about The Economist’s newsletter process and related interviews, click here. To see The Economist’s annual report, click here. For more information on the benefits of newsletters for publishers, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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QR Codes for Publishers

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Publishers have been looking to maximize mobile and web for the better part of 3 decades, searching for ways to drive engagement quickly and easily from print readers. Who would have thought that one of the earliest solutions to the problem would still be a leader 25 years later: the QR (quick response) code?

Essentially a variation of a barcode, QR codes are now all over the world, used in everything from manufacture inventory to advertisement. Almost every phone is now automatically programmed to read them too.

So anyone with a smart phone can read a barcode. What does that mean for a publisher creating print content? The answer: you can drive someone from a static page to interactive media, turning a reader into an action-taker online in seconds, and you can even turn a profit from it!

1. Enhance your print content with digital, complementary content

Print publications have a number of limitations, from column inches and content-advertisement balance to page count. This means that a lot of great content gets cut from a story before it reaches the final publication. On top of that, there is a lot of story-related media that cannot go into print, like an interview recording or video footage of an event. With QR codes, a publisher can allow a reader to instantly gain access to all the story that did not make the print publication.

2. Generate results from print Calls-to-Action that are easy to track

Calls-to-action in print are very hard to track. A retailer drops $1000 on a full-page print ad promoting a promo code or exclusive sale, and how many walk into the store and buy? Unless you are doing some very complex technological tracking and collecting a massive amount of data, the answer is probably “I don’t know.” With QR codes, you can drive the reader directly to the called action, and instantly gather a lot of information. The reader gets what they want quickly, and you or the advertiser can know the actual results of the campaign.

3. Increase exposure and the chance of purchase

Due to the ease of scanning QR codes, it is easy to lead a reader from a print story or an ad talking about a product or service to the purchase page. No more hoping the reader follows a multi-step funnel to eventually convert. Just send the reader directly to what they want. The easier the process is for them, the more sales are likely to come.

4. Build “Likes” and “Leads” quickly and easily

Social media is a difficult medium for publishers, mainly because the pace of the user is faster than the content creation of a publisher, and everyone is consuming multiple things at the same time. That said, if a publisher could easily tie their print audience into the social media audience, this issue could be solved. QR codes make that possible by giving readers of a print magazine easy access to like a page, comment on or share a post, fill out a form, or any number of other quick actions that connect the person to the publisher’s digital presence while also driving engagement with the print.

BONUS: Brand QR codes to fit your colors, style, and needs

The original design of the QR code was not meant to be pretty, but instead, functional and easy for a scanner to read. Technology has come a long ways since then. QR codes no longer have to be a square, black and white, unbranded code. With a savvy designer, it is easy to make a QR code into its own branded ad tailored for the publisher, advertiser, or just personalized in general. Also, the options for what happens when you scan a QR code are now vast as there are more customization options. Do some research and figure out what you want to use it for, and make it happen!

If you need help with QR codes, or need someone to help create your branded QR code, feel free to contact us at sales@myppmg.com. We can help!

Further Information

To learn more about QR codes, their history, and how they work, click here. For more information regarding the use of QR codes for magazines and newspapers, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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Reasons Pubs Should Consider Mobile Apps

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Almost 30 years ago, the internet reshaped the way people interact and engage with published content. Now, mobile devices ­– likes phones and tablets – are doing it again. Estimates show that 60% of the web traffic related to consuming news and publisher content is coming from mobile devices, meaning mobile is a medium that needs to be leveraged.

This said, this is not an “if you build it, they will come” scenario. Publishers need to be conscientious about their decisions, and take strategic action, and right now, the data says that if you are going to leverage mobile, you do so via a mobile app, and here’s why!

1. Boasts better, targeted engagement

The majority of time spent on mobile devices is dedicated to time in applications, not on the general web browser. This alone makes a mobile app a valuable asset if you are targeting mobile audiences, but add the fact that app users average 300% more page views than mobile web browser users, and the answer is clear.

2. Personalized, branded experience

Websites these days are often dynamic, built to fit whatever device a user is on. However, just because the website conforms to the device does not mean it is ideal for it. The experience someone has from sitting at a computer is very different from that on a phone or tablet. Not to mention, on the internet, everyone is just a click away from leaving your content and going to someone else’s content. An app fully immerses the user in your brand while also making the brand experience 100% mobile optimized.

3. App Ads Are Better Than Mobile Ads

To put an ad on a website, especially one that conforms to the user’s device, requires cookies. Think of them like little trackers that follow someone around as they are on the internet. The problem is that many new security protocols, or the user themselves, can block cookies, making many ads not work. App ads, however, are not in a browser, and usually target by device ID, which is much more secure, more detailed (demographic and behavioral data), and also can track location. It is simply a better, stronger ad opportunity, not to mention the guaranteed exposure to anyone in the app itself.

4. More Revenue More Ways

From more ad options to subscriptions, in-app purchases, e-commerce opportunities, and even sponsored content, mobile apps give publishers several new ways to attract readers and monetize them. Combined with the engagement, branding, and data that an app provides, all of which also provide further revenue growth, and the evidence is clear: if you are going to leverage mobile, do so with an app!

Further Information

Contact us to learn more about how you can take advantage of a mobile app.

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E-Learning Proves Profitable for Publishers

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Print publishers are always looking for new profit opportunities, especially in today’s digital age. E-Learning is a digital avenue that can tie into any publisher’s magazine and compliment print. The e-learning industry is already a $165 billion industry (as of 2015), but estimates are showing it being as large as $275 billion by 2022, and part of that epic growth is likely to come from publishers.

Magazines, particularly niche titles, have very specific topics that they showcase an expertise in. After all, that topic is the crux of the content the publisher produces, and why readers are drawn to that title. It makes complete sense that if they enjoy topical learning, readers would likely also have an interest in deeper learning, which is where e-learning has its potential for publishers.

Think of it as advanced content for the reader. Take a yoga title for example. They cover a large amount of content, but what if a reader is new to yoga, and wants help learning the basics. Why should they go elsewhere to access actual training or exercises when the magazine can work with a pro, record a bunch of tutorial videos, and make them an upsell option? That title could even produce new content consistently and have multiple subscription tiers.

E-learning can be leveraged for any topic, or a spectrum of them. The one thing to note is that, like any other potential revenue stream, there is both a time and monetary investment needed to make e-learning a viable part of a publisher’s business. It needs to be thought out, investigation on the topic and competition in that e-learning realm need to take place, and most of all, the publisher needs to know if they have the bandwidth to create the content consistently.

Further Information

For examples and further detail on how publishers are leveraging e-learning, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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New Magazines from Unlikely Sources

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The print industry has had some strange movement over the past decade, especially in the magazine landscape. That said, print has never “died,” nor will it do so a very long time, if ever. The proof is that, while the dynamic of how to make magazines profitable has altered drastically, there are more magazines today than there were 10 years ago. A lot more, in fact!

One of the biggest sources for this boost in new magazines is from the least likely of places: digital and online service organizations. In their industry, print is an uncommon form of distribution, and a way to exercise a unique marketing opportunity. It also allows them to venture into the world of content distribution that, on their digital and online platforms, may not fit their model. Here are two perfect examples.

Case Study: Dating app “Bumble”

Bumble is a popular social and dating app that has been around for almost 5 years. It is a mobile-only application designed to shake up the gender norms re: woman and dating rules, allowing women a place to connect for dating, networking or meeting online. Just recently though, Bumble decided to broaden its focus beyond just connecting people and facilitating communication, by developing a print lifestyle magazine.

The magazine focuses on content related to what brings users to Bumble: dating, careers, friendships, and partnership. They even went so far as to create 4 sections in the entire magazine into 4 sections, labeled “You First,” You + BFFs,” “You + Dating,” and “You + Bizz.”  The print publication is exclusive to Bumble’s 50+ million users at the moment, with free copies able to be requested on the app, but the potential for it to scale into the general reading market is likely based on the contributors.

Case Study: Travel site Airbnb

Airbnb took the world by storm by offering an in-house solution to hotels and motels; connect people willing to lend their homes out with people needing short-term vacation rentals, business trip housing, or other travel accommodations. The company focused on helping travelers have creature comforts and feel at home while on the go,  and they expanded that in 2017 with a print publication.

The content leverages anonymous user activity on the Airbnb website to determine locations, events, trips, and travel ideas that are popular, and then crafts custom content for the publication on those topics. It not only provided new revenue options for the already thriving company, but answered a lot of questions that current Airbnb users were asking, and could not find answers to elsewhere.

Further Information

For more detail on about Bumble’s print magazine, click here. You can also check out this article about Airbnb Magazine.

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Publishers and Subscription Video-On-Demand

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As the publishing industry continues to evolve, publishers are beginning to investigate and try new forms of content distribution to add to their mix. Currently, one of the most unique options is subscription video-on-demand.

What is Subscription Video-On-Demand (SVOD):

Cable and satellite are directly delivered program video, requiring the viewer to watch based on the pre-set schedule; if you want to watch 60 Minutes, you have to be on your couch at the right time on the right day. This is what is commonly known as traditional video, and while publishers can leverage it, it is not an ideal medium in most cases.

Youtube is the most common example of video on-demand (VOD), the opposite of traditional video. VOD is a service that provides internet-based video that can be watched anywhere at any time, hence the “cutting the cord” terminology that gets thrown around a lot. Most VOD content is user-generated and would not include content that is normally accessible through cable or satellite.

That is where options like Hulu and Netflix come in. These are subscription video on-demand, or SVOD services. The “anywhere, any time” concept is maintained, and content that would normally be found on cable or satellite is also included. It comes with a small subscription fee, but it is more affordable than traditional video options, and more and more video content producers are starting to include SVOD in their content distribution strategies, if not shifting to this form of distribution only.

How Can Publishers Use SVOD:

Publications are the owners of the subscription market. Sure, not every publication uses a subscription model, but the system was built for and by publications. It is about time it took authority in that realm once again. Subscription video-on-demand is a great place to start!

Video in general is a highly-consumed form of content, which means professional content producers like publishers should be leveraging it. It can provide a unique angle that complements editorial, or can cover content that might be hard to express in editorial. Using video just makes sense for publishers, especially when you consider that with SVOD, your content itself can be monetized.

Second, video does not have to be a massive, terribly expensive undertaking. The attention span for video is much shorter than that for written content, so you only need each video to be a few minutes to generate results. Also, with smart phones that wield incredibly high-tech cameras and numerous, affordable editing softwares, it is easy to shoot and produce quality video content on a budget. Considering that SVOD generates revenue, developing a strategy that balances video content costs can ensure profits from SVOD.

Third, subscription video is easy content to distribute. Publications today already have a social media presence and websites, and both those options have numerous ways to set up subscription-based video content distribution. A publisher can also sell their video content to larger subscription video services, like Amazon Prime, who already have a massive audience and subscription setup, and distribute the content on the publisher’s behalf for a fee.

The SVOD Decisions Publishers Face:

The most important thing for publishers to know is that VIDEO IS NOT FOR EVERYONE! While publishers as a whole benefit from SVOD and video in general, each case is unique; there are audiences who are not a right fit for video content, and visa versa. Publishers should investigate their audience and test before jumping on the video bandwagon.

If video is right for the audience and publication, the next hurdle is picking the content. It is not simply a question of what content the audience prefers, because some topics or content cannot be made into video format easily or in a short-form fashion. The publisher will need to develop a strategy to determine when editorial content can be expanded with video, or when topics can be made into standalone video.

SVOD also brings up the lifetime value issue. Many publications make their money with time-sensitive or time-contextual content. For video, this is a great option, but from a subscription standpoint, the content should be developed to provide value long-term. Of course, if a publisher develops enough video content consistently, this becomes mute, but for the publishers that prefer to do only a few videos a month, long-term value is how you ensure subscribers stick around, and new subscribers buy in.

The biggest challenge for publishers looking to leverage SVOD relates to distribution. SVOD may be easy to deliver, but it does take skill and setup if a publisher wants to rely on their own channels, and not a service like Amazon Prime. The system to accept payments and manage the subscriptions needs to be built or integrated into the existing subscription system. The means to host all of the video content needs to be dealt with. Most importantly, a strategy to drive traffic and sell those subscriptions needs to be made (bundle with print subscription, offer exclusive content to increase the value, etc.).

In general, video and SVOD provide value when executed well and for the right reasons. These decisions all help determine the worth to invest in SVOD, as well as how to ensure it has positive ROI if implemented.

Further Information

To read more on how publishers can leverage subscription video on-demand, click here. For information on how publishers can make use of video in general, click here.

If you would like more great content from Publication Printers and the Publication Printers Marketing Group, click here.

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2019 Strategy & Ideas from Top Publication Execs

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A recent Folio: article covered an incredibly powerful story for magazines regarding the 2019 year. The article features 9 media executives, all of whom have print publications, and details on the strategies they have in mind for the new year. Here are some of the general takeaways:

What did they learn from 2018:

The lessons and ideas these executives took from the previous year run the gamut. That said, there was one overarching theme for almost all of the executives: people are the most important aspect of keeping print and publishing a thriving industry.

2018 was a year where newspapers and magazines alike sought to lower overhead and drive more revenue. One of the big pushes was to decrease staff (the largest expense, on average), and increase advertisement sales. While this helped solve issues for some, overall it scared the industry. Content does not write itself, and quality content is hard to come by these days. Losing staff means more strain and work for those left, and when quantity is forced, quality suffers.

The executives all agreed that putting faith and energy and money into their staff can make the difference. To quote the original story: “the difference between success and failure will come down to the most important capital we have: people.”

What are they focusing on for 2019:

First and foremost, the 9 mentioned executives were all from businesses that avoided the heavy cutting of their staff. Thus, they were able to maintain quality content and look for new innovations for 2019.

So on top of optimizing the way they use their personnel, each executive has their own action plan for 2019. Some of the executives are planning to relaunch their brands to drive new engagement. Others developing new business models to expand their streams of revenue. Some are investing in new content solutions of entirely new product lines. What is important to note is that, across the board, all of them are looking at 2019 with positivity, and as an opportunity for growth and progress.

Along with positivity, they do also share a drive to expand beyond the pages of their publications, print or digital. Each of these executives is incorporating an idea that has been slowly adopted by the printing industry over the past decade: convergence. Simply put, specialize in one thing, but build an expertise and offering in complementary areas to your specialty. From events to storefronts to agencies, each executive and their publications are broadening what they do, to better serve both their audiences and other businesses.

Further Information

To read the original Folio: story, click here.
Executive Perspectives: How 9 Media Leaders are Strategizing for the New Year

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