Well-respected media exec Kristine Welker has been at Hearst for 13 years. The most common question she gets: Why? Behind the question is the notion that a dynamic exec would leave behind the tired “legacy” media business of print for the jazzier world of startups.
Welker likes to play against type. She’s making a few contrarian bets, starting with the idea that real innovation can come within a large, established media company. The next is that media innovation can come in the form of, yes, a magazine. That’s at the heart of Welker’s new “intrapreneurial” endeavor: the launch, in two weeks, of “Dr. Oz: The Good Life,” a new media brand spawned by Hearst.
“People shouldn’t think of staying at a media company as a throwback,” Welker said at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Miami.
Here are some highlights from our discussion:
Big media needs entrepreneurial types.
A vendor recently related to me how his visits to traditional media companies bummed him out because of the “smell of death” lingering over row after row of empty cubicles. The very people traditional media companies need are those who might not be inclined to work there: the risk-takers. Welker, who joined Hearst to start Cosmo Girl, thinks it’s up to media company leaders to foster a culture of innovation and openness, rather than one of conservatism and defense.
“[Media] companies need to create an entrepreneurial spirit. That’s what people are yearning for. It comes down to how we as managers are managing our people and bringing the entrepreneurial spirit to the table. The biggest issue is the people who work for you need to feel like they can implement change and challenge the status quo.”
Big media can get things done pretty quickly.
The knock on media companies is they move too slow, even glacially. Welker said that can be fair “on some levels,” but there are plenty of instances where it’s not. Hearst, for instance, executed the massive acquisition of the U.S. arm of Hachette Filipacchi, was an early adopter of audience buying, and has spun out two new magazines in the past five years, counting the new Dr. Oz title.
“We pushed through those and found new ways of doing business, and creating that bridge between old models and new models.”
Brands still matter.
Welker disputes the idea she’s a media optimist. Instead, she prefers to think of herself as a brand optimist. Brands matter more than ever in media, and she believes in Dr. Oz she’s found an opportunity to build a powerful one based on his mantra of living a healthy, fulfilled life.
“What I’m excited about is not looking at this through the traditional view of how many ad pages to sell but how do you take content, data and tech to create a brand through a different lens. To me, looking at a clean slate is a lot of fun. It’s being optimistic about a startup and the opportunity to create something different.”
Watch the full interview with Welker below.
Digiday+ Research deep dive: Publishers anticipate a big drop in ad revenue this year
Digiday's survey found that publishers are not feeling great about advertising revenue as 2023 kicks off, with attitudes toward subscriptions and e-commerce shifting as well.
Media Briefing: Subscriber churn is up, but the economic downturn isn’t necessarily to blame
Even though subscription growth is declining year over year and churn rates are on the rise, this is likely more a story of returning to normalization than one of the economic downturn damaging yet another publisher business.
Bloomberg, Axios, Politico, other business publishers rethink subscriber retention during the economic downturn
Premium publishers, like POLITICO, Axios and Bloomberg, have to make sure their fees are still considered a necessity as readers recalculate their spending and companies recalculate their expense budgets.
SponsoredHow publishers are fighting clickbait ads and protecting audiences
Sponsored by GeoEdge For publishers, delivering an engaging user experience is paramount to ensuring loyalty and safeguarding monetization opportunities. One major revenue channel for publishers is selling programmatic ads, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to control the quality of the ads that come through programmatic channels. As a result, clickbait, offensive and misleading ads are […]
Why Vice, BBC, WaPo, others see new TikTok teams as the next wave of specialist publishing talent
As news publishers craft their TikTok strategies, Digiday spoke with the BBC, Vice, The Washington Post and LADbible to see who’s really behind the posts.
Confessions of a media executive: ‘As an Apple user, I love what they’re doing’
Apple is often charged with 'predatory privacy' but some media execs quietly acknowledge the upside.