Walking along the streets of Manhattan, the Hearst Tower is nearly impossible to miss. The stone base of the building brings images of William Randolph Hearst’s time
with the company, while the glass, zigzagged tower provides a visualization of how far it has come.
We had the opportunity to visit Hearst Tower on our last day in New York, and it turned out to be my favorite site we visited. We were greeted by Jeff Hamill, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Washington and Lee alumnus and father of a current student. He led us through the massive building, stopping at the mezzanine of the dramatic lobby as we looked around the open area in awe. We finally made our way to a conference room to listen to Hamill’s presentation.
As Hamill told us, the magazine industry is not dying – at least here, it’s thriving. So much so that last year, Hearst had its largest year in the history of the company. This success, Hamill explained, comes from the ability of lifestyle magazines to change and adapt to the times. As he put it, the magazine industry is “as vibrant, changing, and energetic as any business today.”
This plasticity is critical for companies today – we live in a world in which we expect to get what we want, when we want it. Hamill labeled this a “media disruption,” as the availability of information has completely transformed consumer behavior, forcing entertainment companies to fit these expectations. Hearst works hard to adapt to the times, continuously looking for and getting involved with the next big thing. For example, Hearst jumped onto the Snapchat bandwagon, creating a page for Cosmopolitan on the discover page. Now, their page has two million views per day.
As Hamill explained, the key to surviving the digital age is to be nimble, always looking for new ways to engage an ever-changing audience. Hamill discussed how Hearst has collaborated with many companies in creating advertisements that meet this challenge, including Revlon, Chevrolet, and Banana Republic, all of which were looking for ways to change their image. Hearst succeeded in doing just that through modern methods of advertising, including videos and personalized print ads. As Hamill explained again and again, in today’s industry, the only way to sell is to engage.