AW Insider: Q&A with Rich Battista, President and CEO, Time Inc.

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Few American companies can claim the rich history Time Inc. can. For 94 years Time Inc. has been at the center of U.S. and world events and culture, covering nearly every facet of humankind through any one of its dozens of publications. Last month, when former CEO Joe Ripp stepped down, Rich Battista found himself in charge of Time Inc.'s future – no small task to say the least. We caught up with Rich at Advertising Week to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for the venerable publisher.

Q: Nearly every print publisher has faced challenges evolving into digital. What specific challenges does Time Inc. face in 2016?

Rich Battista: The digital transformation provides extraordinary opportunities for Time Inc. to serve larger global audiences and to extend our brands like never before. Time Inc. is creating an entrepreneurial and digital culture, and we are investing to develop new technologies and products—at scale—to better serve our advertisers and marketers.

We are extending premium content capabilities to advertisers. Our investments—including The Foundry—are helping to drive very strong growth in native advertising revenues, where we expect to be a major player.

Our acquisition of Viant enables us to target advertising down to the individual level and measure performance, including tracking in-store sales. Today, Time Inc. is the only premium content company that can do people-based targeting. We also have an opportunity to leverage our subscription marketing expertise to sell consumer products and services beyond magazines.

We are very excited about the opportunity to participate in the shift of TV audiences into digital video. In 2016, we will create 40,000 individual pieces of video content, and we recently launched the People/Entertainment Weekly Network, a free streaming service with distribution on the web, mobile and internet-connected platforms.

We continue to produce our print magazines with the greatest care. Print audiences remain massive for Time Inc. (numbering more than 120 million people every month), and they are an important complement for advertisers seeking to lift their ROI.

Q: What unique advantages does Time Inc.’s more than nine-decade history provide for its future and to its readers?

A: Trust, access, influence and scale. Our brands have forged relationships with audiences across generations. For that reason, there is tremendous value in our brand portfolio—brand equity that has been built up in some cases over 40, 50 or 100 years. Our brands are in their homes and on their phones. We set the dinner table conversation, give them the final score and offer advice about the best places to live, work, dine, travel and play. We connect them to world leaders, change agents, entrepreneurs, celebrities and athletes who speak exclusively to us because they trust us and the editorial standard we have set for nearly a century. Through war, peace, moon landings, missions to Mars, recessions and recoveries, consumers have turned to Time Inc. This is the bedrock of our company and why we are so excited about our future in a multi-platform world.

Q: What insights and experience does your history in video bring to Time Inc.?

A: As someone who has worked in video my whole career, I have always seen the great potential to extend our iconic brands through both short- and long-form video. In the past three years, the company has built a formidable video operation, which is now seamlessly integrated into our editorial functions. As I mentioned earlier, we will produce over 40,000 videos this year, and in August, we garnered over 500 million video views across our owned-and-operated sites and social platforms, our highest month ever. In addition, we have made great progress in producing for television, with several shows on the air this year and numerous projects in development with top creators in television. We also believe our opportunity is significant in the OTT space and are excited about prospects for our new People/Entertainment Weekly Network.

I believe that one day Time Inc. will be as renowned for its video programming as it is for its cover stories. 

Q: Beyond the obvious sharing of content by readers, how can social media be used to leverage Time Inc. content?

A: Social media is intrinsic to our “content everywhere” strategy. Today, Time Inc. has a social footprint of more than 200 million people. Our social audiences amplify everything we do on our owned-and-operated sites. As social networks grow, we will grow. For example, the People channel on Snapchat Discover is one of the most popular on the platform.

Q: Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, InStyle, People, Entertainment Weekly are all household names. What is it like overseeing the growth and success of so many of America’s favorite publications?

A: I am honored to lead this iconic company. Our powerful brands are a strong foundation for our transformation into a multi-platform, multimedia company. Time Inc. is filled with brilliantly talented, driven people with energy and passion for what they do. They understand our heritage and that we need to lead the company into a new era. Together, we can achieve great things for Time Inc., its consumers and its advertisers.