|Lynne Segall, THR and Billboard’s publisher/SVP flew from the left coast to claim her honor (she was one of four publishers inducted into min’s Sales Hall of Fame).|
Q&A: Lynne Segall and Janice Min, The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group
GUEST BLOG--By Michele Shapiro, Writer, Minonline.com
Recently at min’s Awards for Marketing & Sales Excellence breakfast, most of the publishing execs who were honored took the subway, or maybe an Über, to the Yale Club for the event. But Lynne Segall, THR and Billboard’s publisher/SVP flew from the left coast a day earlier to claim her honor (she was one of four publishers inducted into min’s Sales Hall of Fame). Introducing her that morning was Janice Min, co-president and chief creative officer of both brands.
Min taking the time to be by Segall’s side—on Emmy week nonetheless—speaks volumes about their close working relationship. It’s clear from the way they finish the other’s sentences and laugh at each other’s jokes that they genuinely enjoy one another’s company. When asked what famous couple best illustrates their relationship, Min is quick to respond. “Brad and Angelina—the most dazzling and multi-talented pairing in Hollywood,” she says, before breaking into laughter along with Segall.
Attempting to transform an ailing trade publication that spent decades trying to play catch up with Variety is no joke, particularly when it involves uprooting your family and moving them to Los Angeles. As Min did with Us Weekly, she revived THR, which currently has around 72,000 subscribers including influential players as well as a huge digital footprint (15 million monthly visitors; Billboard, the other publication she oversees, has 13 million). Min wasted no time shutting down the daily and creating a sought-after and much-discussed weekly with star-caliber covers.
THR‘s blend of lifestyle pieces, news and provocative features makes it desirable to advertisers both in and outside of the industry. Which has led to opportunities for Segall and her team that THR‘s former publishers would never have believed possible. “We’ve had double digit increases every year in revenue,” she says.
Before hopping a flight back to L.A. to ready themselves for a weekend of Emmy festivities, Segall and Min sat for an interview in which they discussed their top priorities and challenges for the year ahead.
min: Janice, you joined THR in July 2010 and Lynn returned as publisher in 2011. Why at that point did you MinAwardsBreakfast140CJthink it was the right time to bring her on board?
Janice Min: After doing a crash course in Hollywood quickly, it became clear I needed a persuasive insider to come on board and lead sales. Everyone in Hollywood knows Lynne. All businesses are relationship businesses, but Hollywood in particular is a relationship business. It’s a club. Lynne is definitely a member of the club. There are legendary stories about how persistent, persuasive and determined she is as a publisher. Those were things it was incredibly important to have in order to get the business off the ground. We developed that spirit quickly on the editorial side, but we needed a comparable spirit on the business side and she was integral to that.
min: How do you think your personalities complement each other?
Lynne Segall: When Janice and I first met at the Academy Awards and I saw what she’d done in terms of reinventing the brand, I understood her vision. She understood both the lifestyle and business sides of industry. I could come in and monetize that because I knew how viable it was in terms of a business.
Min: I respect people in publishing who like and read the content. Lynne brings a metabolism to the environment that’s akin to mine. Also, she likes and appreciates news, which is a big part of what we do. The thing I value in Lynne as a publisher is she’ll absorb the brunt of people who complain to her about certain stories we do. She doesn’t care. She says, “Gotta talk to Janice.” That’s a radical shift for anyone who’s worked at a trade. Because of her love of content, she has a healthy respect for editorial boundaries.
Segall: I totally know the boundaries. My sales team likes to complain about certain things. I’m very protective of the content and the editorial team.
Min: Lynne realizes you lose influence if you do anything other than the best stories. Our influence in Hollywood has only given her more tools to sell.
Segall: This week we have hard-hitting story about Netflix. They’re one of our biggest clients. It’s fair and balanced. We’re never out do a hatchet job on anyone. We’re a news organization. That’s what we do.
Min: Lynne and I are fundamentally nice people. There’s a level of trust to doing business with her. She has no agenda.
min: Given how large THR’s digital footprint is, do you continue to make the print product a priority, or are you mainly focused on digital growth?
Min: We find ways to lean into the conversation that’s going on. We make stories applicable to those not sitting and eating lunch at The Ivy. Our video presence has exploded this year. There’s a conscious effort. Our biggest recent success story is that we won a Webby Award for Video. We also have a TV show on Sundance, “Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter,” that’s now in its second season; and Facebook Live has been an enormous success for us. Facebook’s happy with what we’re doing; we’re happy with it, too. When we decided to go deep into Facebook Live, everyone was on board. We have the ability to do fun things. Celebrities are constantly dropping by the office. One day, Jerry Seinfield’s here, another it’s Harvey Weinstein or Amy Schumer. We’ll include her in a podcast, a print interview, and a Facebook Live chat as well as a digital interview. We’ve become smarter and faster in many ways.
Segall: When it comes to our Roundtables [which feature a mix of Hollywood heavyweights both behind and in front of the camera], we re-edit them several times—once for the magazine, once for online. Our content is re-purposed and pushed out and we can sell it in different ways.
Min: We do a lot of this, without radical growth to content costs, which is ideal. That’s the beauty of digital.
min: Tell us about your most successful events.
MinAwardsBreakfast124CJSegall: We have a lot of power lists.
Min: We have Women in Entertainment. It’s a storied event in Hollywood. It was immortalized on “Entourage.” It’s one of these moments at the end of the year that the entire town shuts down for two hours every year for the breakfast. Everybody is there. One great thing in THR‘s reinvention is we’ve been able to make franchises more glamorous and newsworthy. We feel it’s our role to drive the conversation around the moment in Hollywood. I want to be responsive to the conversation going on in the world.
min: What’s the conversation about now in Hollywood?
Min: There’s a lot of TV discussion now that Netflix is potentially the new Google or Apple monopoly that changes the way business is done in Hollywood. It’s both exciting and terrifying. The sands shift under people, and the winners will figure out how to make it work. The big fear is what Apple did to music, Netflix will do to Hollywood.
min: Lynne, what have been your greatest successes in terms of capturing new business or working with ad partners in the past year?
Segall: THR tends to be very industry; the readers all make a lot of money. We can generate consumer advertising. In our current issue, we have Bulgari and other luxury advertisers. We go from B2B to more luxury ads. Luxury used to be 5% of our advertising. Now it’s 30%. What we have that no one else has is that awards season is a year-round business. It’s a very significant business. We met with Amazon and for them it’s important to win awards. Everybody’s competitive. You have new companies like Amazon and Hulu coming in. They want an awards halo.
Min: One way to distinguish your show is to get an Emmy. That can make or break the show.
Segall: On the business side, we’ve been really smart. We’ve figured out where the veins of gold are. How do we go from industry advertising to non-industry advertising, whether it’s auto, travel, fashion beauty advertising? Janice has created Stylist issues. A Beauty issue. We bring in the brands that wouldn’t normally think about advertising [in a B2B]. Pret a Reporter is a channel she launched a few years ago. Right now we’re working on a video campaign with Tiffany’s. There’s a lot of things we’re doing where the limitation is imagination. We’ve grown several categories that we’ve broken in the last couple years—airlines, fashion, beauty travel, auto.
Min: You can’t underestimate how important the Hollywood audience is for luxury. In this Instagram culture we live in, fashion and beauty trends are emanating out of the west coast as much as off the runways.
Segall: Janice created a city magazine for Hollywood. We have the Top 25 Realtors in the issue this week. We’re able to go after categories of business that wouldn’t normally advertise with us. She’s created an environment where all these companies want to talk to our audience. We live in a bubble in LA. You can go to any restaurant on any night and it’s packed. In Southern California, entertainment does drive the economy.
Min: Also, in Hollywood, there’s no self-conscious behavior around conspicuous consumption, which makes it a perfect market for luxury. Someone said to me there’s a hushed silence that falls over the town when the issue arrives.
Segall: The covers are very competitive. People will opt to go with with a THR cover over, say, Entertainment Weekly because they’ll get on Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon. We have a great PR person.
Min: We are leaders not followers. We became the entertainment voice that sets agenda for everyone else. That has a lot of value for advertisers.
min: What are your biggest challenges?
Min: Time and bandwidth. You have to rely on and trust your lieutenants to do things the way you want the brand t[o be represented]. Some of that is being able to let go. If something’s important to me, I’ll take the time to make sure it’s good.
Segall: I’ve worked with a lot of editors. Janice is among the most talented. She touches everything. She’s so involved with every detail.
Min: For the most part.
min: You’re both working on two publications…
Segall: And she has three kids.
Min: THR is the one I spend the most time on by virtue of geography. I trust Billboard‘s editorial director. I work on the covers all the time. I run the editorial meetings at THR; I don’t run them at Billboard. Doing 100% at both would be impossible.
min: Janice, you’ve said, “The things I’ve been able to do here would be pretty hard to do at a legacy media organization.” Can you elaborate?
Min: Because the company was sold before I came on, there were no hangups about the way things have been. It was helpful that the brand was in such decay, no one cared if it survived or died. It gave me a huge amount of freedom to rethink, blow it up and put it back together. We have an owner who doesn’t have that publishing legacy. The new owner’s main interest is success. There weren’t hangups that this isn’t a THR story, or THR doesn’t carry Cartier ads. There weren’t hand-wringing off-sites where you figure out what your future is. We just went in and did it.
Segall: In terms of legacy brands on the business side, my team used to sell a lot of covers. It was a hard thing to get the sales team not to sell hard covers. Now we do wafer covers that detach, so you can always see a cover. There were definitely some business legacy things that we had to get the sales team to rethink.
min: Lynne, are there ad partnerships of which you’re particularly proud?
Segall: American Airlines has been the official airline of THR for two years, and they sponsor several of our tentpole events throughout the year, including the Toronto Film Festival Video Studio and Oscar Nominees Reception. They also are the launch sponsor for the new THR Travel Channel on THR.com with custom city guides in Q4.
min: What are your top priorities for the brand?
Min: More video. I’m optimistic that the sales side will find ways to monetize it as the demand is very much out there, and more television—we’ll have more shows on TV.
Segall: We did a custom-published section on Diversity and Entertainment with a company called AG Capital. I’d like to do more custom-published content, more special issues. I think in looking at what the categories are that we don’t have—wealth management, finance—there’s a lot of people who want to talk to our audience that we haven’t talked to yet. We have some banking clients, but there’s a lot of opportunity. It’s actually an event when this magazine comes to people’s offices.
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