Media Voices: Time Inc's Neil Robinson

Media Voices: Time Inc's Neil Robinson

By Chris Sutcliffe

Neil Robinson is digital director of Time, Inc, having been at the company in various roles for over twenty years. In this Media Voice, he discusses how the role of publisher is changing and how Time Inc’s acquisition strategy allows it to grow without losing focus on its core audience.

In the ten years you’ve been a publisher, what’s been the major sea change?

With digital businesses, because of the nature of the fact that they’re growing and changing all the time, I think they tend to fall into the reality of needing quite a lot of specialisms. In the last five years we’ve been talking more and more about social, ten years ago we were talking about search. The point about it is it just keeps ever-changing, so I think the publisher’s role is a bit more tricky.

Also I think there’s a purity to the commercial model more in a lot of cases. You’re either in eCommerce, you’re either in advertising, therefore, that can sometimes define exactly the way you’re going to run the business.

At Time Inc a lot of the brands are very consumer, luxury focused. How does publishing to that audience affect how you think about distribution?

Inevitably the advertising market overall is now very audience driven and obviously what people are now trying to do is maximise the quality of the audience that they can capture, but they tend to be bigger and wider than they would’ve done previously. Arguably [we used to have] a much smaller market and our scale has grown significantly to meet that demand because you realise that whereas previously we thought everything was about what was owned and what was within our business, what we control and what we put on our page.

With distribution on Facebook and elsewhere, our audience is obviously present in many, many different places and being influenced by what we write or how they want to comment and be part of the community of people, or stories and storytelling that we’re doing.

We wouldn’t build scale anywhere that we couldn’t monetize. There are areas that we haven’t got a complete solution on, we think we know how to get there but we haven’t got it completely right.

To be honest with you, even when you break it all down, there is still too high a dependency on two areas: Google and Facebook. They are way too big arguably. We are actually dependent on third parties and more traditionally recently the news teams have suffered because obviously Facebook has changed its algorithm and everyone is up in arms.

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And check out our interview with Subrata Mukherjee, VP of Product at The Economist. 

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