Doug Olson on the Magazine Updates, Pandemic and Digital Assurance

November 3, 2021

 

Doug OlsonAAM is launching an initiative to support magazine media by developing more intuitive guidance, streamlining reports and eliminating outdated requirements. These changes aim to reduce publishers’ workloads while addressing buyers’ needs for up-to-date, transparent data. As an AAM director, magazine committee chairman and formerly with Meredith Corporation, Doug Olson spearheaded many of the discussions around the changes and he talked with us about the updates to magazine rules and how the pandemic has impacted the industry.

AAM: How did the changes for magazine media come about and why were they a priority for the AAM board?

Doug Olson: It started about a year ago following some similar changes for news media. We thought there was an equal opportunity to look at the magazine side with the goals of simplifying the rules and making it easier to do business with AAM while maintaining transparency. AAM staff deserves a lot of credit for pushing this forward. The board spent time reviewing the suggestions, analyzing how we do business today and deciding how to take AAM into the future. We eliminated a lot of things that are not impactful in today’s world and kept the things that are important to media buyers.

 

AAM: Why are you a proponent of the changes?

Doug Olson: It’s important that all magazines say yes to having their media audited. As a larger company, Meredith has the resources to do this regardless of AAM’s rules, but smaller companies may not be in the same position.

We want everyone to have the opportunity to do the right thing. If a few magazines take short cuts, that can reflect on the whole industry. This update is very business friendly, and I encourage everyone to take a fresh look at what AAM is offering.

 

AAM: How would you explain these changes to magazine media buyers?

Doug Olson: We took a very practical approach and many of our decisions were overwhelmingly supported by usage data provided by AAM staff. We eliminated a lot of rules and categories that just aren’t relevant to today’s world.

 

AAM: What opportunities do these changes offer unaudited magazine media?

Doug Olson: On behalf of the AAM board, I invite any unaudited magazine to take a fresh look at the new guidelines. These changes may be more impactful than you can imagine. If you are serious about media, we would like to see you join us.

 

quotes
It's important that all magazines say yes to having their media audited. This update is very business friendly, and I encourage everyone to take a fresh look at what AAM is offering.

 - Doug Olson

 

AAM: You’ve been involved with AAM for several years. Why do you continue to donate your time to the industry?

Doug Olson: AAM is in the fabric of how we do business with transparency. Someone must hold and set the standards for how we conduct business, and I want to be part of shaping the rules and deciding what makes sense.

 

AAM: Why do you think AAM still remains relevant after more than 100 years?

Doug Olson: It boils down to magazine readers and their passion for the content. That gives magazine publishers an opportunity to aggregate passionate audiences and connect them to marketers. Anytime you’re transacting in media, there needs to be assurance that you’re getting what you paid for and that’s where AAM comes in.

 

quotes
AAM is in the fabric of how we do business with transparency. Someone must hold and set the standards for how we conduct business.

 - Doug Olson

 

AAM: What impact are you seeing from the pandemic?

Doug Olson: There have been different stages to the pandemic. Initially, we were faced with the decrease in newsstand sales and pass-long audiences when people were staying home and concerned about surface contamination. But subscriptions skyrocketed and our renewal rates were unprecedented.

Now, people are learning how to live with a pandemic and things have moderated. Newsstand sales are back up, subscriptions are still good but not crazy.

Our biggest challenge continues to be in advertising. Early on there was a shift to digital platforms with the shorter lead times and immediate ROI. But now there are the supply chain issues. We have marketers who want to advertise but don’t have enough product. Once the supply chain issues are behind us, I think we’ll see a nice rebound.

Through it all our employees have been amazing at learning how to adapt. We didn’t skip issues, change frequencies, or miss a beat. They kept our businesses running with creative solutions.

 

AAM: In the digital space, Meredith has taken an all-in approach to digital assurance with your involvement in numerous industry initiatives including TAG and AAM’s Digital Publisher Audit. What is your motivation for that approach?

Doug Olson: It goes back to our core principles: we believe in transparent media and we want to showcase our great brands. We’re very proud of our work, and we want to be a leader in this space. It mirrors what we’ve always done in print: be a good partner to the media buying community and just do the right thing.

 

Topics: Magazine Media, Interview

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