“Touching the future includes the continued embrace of the printed word”
Keynote by George R. Hearst III, Hearst New York, at drupa 2016
“First, a few words on drupa’s theme this year:
… We are truly here to “Touch the Future.”
And, to quote one American baseball legend with a gift for verbal gaffes, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Who imagined a future of graphic and industrial print that wasn’t solely mechanical? … A digital future that is multi-media… multichannel… and multi-national. A future of exciting opportunities and promise for its architects.
Perhaps you find it odd that a newspaper publisher is still so excited about the possibilities for print. After all, we live in the Digital Age.
Technology surrounds us: on-demand data. Facts at your fingertips.
Web, mobile, tablet.
What does all this mean for the printed word?
… Enormous new opportunities!
We have always produced newspapers to inform and engage, inspire and entertain. What I have learned, as the Commander CL evolved our print product… and what Hearst has learned as media itself evolves… is that you can keep your commitment to do all those things in print and invest in cutting-edge digital technologies at the same time.
For us, touching the future includes the continued embrace of the printed word. It is not “either/or” when it comes to serving the public.
Technology does not displace our core values as a company… it affirms them.
To say that Hearst believes in the viability of the printed word is an understatement.
We are invested in staying in print; we publish 300 magazines in 150 countries.
Hearst has 16 daily and 32 weekly newspapers in the U.S.
We have broadcasting operations in nearly three dozen U.S. cities, where we reach one out of every five U.S. households.
We have major interests in cable television – including ESPN, the global leader in sports programming.
We are the majority owners of the Fitch Group global ratings agency. We are in medical and automotive data, digital marketing services, video and gaming.
The company that my great-grandfather, William Randolph Hearst, built on print now has more than 360 diverse businesses.
We managed our evolution to the Digital Age with five premises:
First, we realized we needed a new, sustainable business model. Our history was built on newspapers and magazines. Our future will launch from digital platforms.
We started with websites for our print products and expanded to apps, streaming video and social media. We delved into digital niche businesses like Fitch ratings, acquiring and investing in companies that would advance our goal to grow in new directions.
Secondly, we leveraged our brand strength. Many Hearst properties are more than 100 years old – the Times Union has been around for 160. Hearst already had a solid reputation and loyal consumers. We used that reputation to attract new loyal consumers who use digital and mobile media to connect with their favorite brands.
We formed business partnerships with other solidly established brands. For example, we recently partnered with the U.S. communications company Verizon on new video channels. Verizon is typical of the companies we look for as partners in new ventures. It is trusted, innovative and service-oriented.
We evaluate possible new properties and venture by how they will align with and strengthen the Hearst brand.
The third way we’ve evolved is through diversification.
Our print legacy was so entrenched that I like to say that when the magazine division sneezed, the company got pneumonia. That needed to change.
Diversifying has not been a radical move for us. Historically, we have done it all along.
Hearst went from newspapers to magazines… to film (even movie production for a brief time)… to broadcast, syndication, cable, entertainment production, and digital data-based businesses. We went from a national to a global company.
We have never stood still. The pace of digital media is simply faster than that of past technologies.
We combine electronic resources. That gives us new opportunities to develop in-house talent with a focus on innovation. It gives us the chance to invest in emerging technology and markets. We formed an investment group, Hearst Ventures, in 1995 to develop new opportunities for us.
Fourth is, going global. We knew that startups and acquisitions could only bring us real growth by going beyond America’s borders. We brought the Hearst brand to the U.K. with the National Magazine Company. ESPN is seen in 220 countries. Fitch ratings, you know. Other global Hearst brands are Zynx, FirstDataBank and Buzzfeed.
Zynx is a recognized leader in evidence-based clinical decision support for healthcare providers.
FirstDataBank also targets the healthcare market, by providing drug knowledge to help make precise medication-related decisions.
Buzzfeed is a cross-platform, global network for news and entertainment that gets 6 billion views each month.
With each new business, we do the most important thing we can to keep Hearst “Touching the Future”:
We keep our business focus on core values.
Among them: we care about our people… employees, vendors, customers, readers.
We are mindful that reporting gives people experiences beyond their own life.
Publishing has impact in the world. It can inform peoples’ decisions, save them money, even save their lives. Bearing witness is a public trust.
We also believe in doing well by doing good, and that includes not only in communities where we have a physical presence, but others across the U.S. where we don’t. My great-grandfather founded the Hearst Foundations in 1945 to serve the greater good. They continue in perpetuity, as per his Will. The Foundations make grants to advance culture, education, health and social services. So far, we have made more than 20,000 grants totaling more than $1 billion.
Another Hearst core value is careful oversight of our balance sheets. We are not a public company – we are still family-owned. We take risks, but we choose them wisely. We ask, “Will it grow our business? Will it benefit all involved?”
And, we are not afraid to sell a business when it’s time. One of our unofficial company mottos is, “Fail fast.”
We also take America’s freedom of the press very seriously. We seldom close or sell our legacy newspapers because they are what keeps freedom of the press alive. We evolve them. Some, like our paper in Seattle, are now online-only.
While the ways we deliver information evolve, the value premise of our product stays the same. In journalism, that used to be called the story. Now we call it “content.”
There will always be a connection between printing technology and content. Companies must innovate in technology to be poised for innovations in content. Content providers like Hearst must create new paths for growth in your industry.
We are seeing some trends that promise opportunities for you, along with us.
We see that users want more control of content. They want to choose it on-demand, share it, interact with it, etc. They swipe with enthusiasm.
Many of the innovations in mobile optimize user control. Features like “Buy” buttons on apps. (This is brilliant for sales, but a sad day for impulse control.)
We see increasingly sophisticated smartphones.
I have not yet gotten used to touching my smartphone to someone else’s or holding it over a scanner to pay for an espresso. But the millennials have and they are leading us. (According to one study, 87% of millennials say their smartphone never leaves their side!)
We see growth in on-demand services from mobiles… services like Uber, making taxi drivers mad, the world over.
We see new forms of commerce emerging, including the growth of consumer drone services.
And we see that the hottest markets today are China and India.
These are just some of the trends helping to guide Hearst’s current development activities in both the consumer and business areas.
We’ve all seen how tech trends drive user demand. A few years ago, the tech trend was miniaturization and everything got smaller. I went to a conference some years ago where the buzzword was “wearable technology.” Sure enough, along came Google glasses and wrist watches. If you do an internet search on “edible technology,” you’ll find something called a “Foodini” that uses a form of 3-D printing to create, among other things, burgers, pizza and chocolate.
Hearst isn’t betting on that one, but we are excited about some of the other trends. Smartphones, for one.
There’s a mobile marketing platform called Swirl for beacon technology. Retailers now use “beacons” – small, battery-powered devices equipped with a Bluetooth signal – to target shoppers by location in the store. They send alerts to beacon-enabled smartphones. With two-thirds of consumers using their smartphones in stores, this sounds like a solid idea.
Alerts may be exclusive offers, current sales and in-store promotions… anything to engage shoppers already in the store.
NEXAGE is another mobile service we’ve invested in. It’s a real-time bidding platform for mobile ads. We also have a stake in Yieldex – a service that offers advertisers price protection in ad exchanges and networks.
Hearst television saw opportunity in on-demand services. We have a stake in Miso, an app you can use to “check-in” to TV content and then interact with it. ESPN delivers appointment sports programming.
We have interests in companies as diverse as online auctions, mobile safety communications and optimized data and analytics.
We are capitalizing on the market in China with platforms there for car rentals and home furnishings.
We are even exploring opportunities with a drone racing company. (My great-grandfather would be staring at me right now and asking… “What is he talking about?”)
Drone racing is gaming in a real venue… pilots’ race their drones through obstacle courses in the air by game consoles and the internet. The effect is a high-action video game come to life. The pilots are serious players; there is even a Drone Racing League.
The message here is that every content provider is chasing audience, no matter what the delivery system. If it builds brand, serves consumers well and even delights them, why not buzz around the sky?
At Drupa, I urge you to touch the future in your industry.
There’s no better place to discuss progress than Dusseldorf. It is the hub of inventiveness, from electronic music to altbier from trade to fine arts.
It is exactly right that the largest printing and graphics showcase in the world convenes here to incubate new printing technologies that will touch the future.
Experience has shown Hearst that you can touch the future by applying inventiveness to core values.
So, while “The future ain’t what it used to be,” staying true to your core values opens up a bigger, brighter one.
In the broad sense, we all share a goal. And that is to bring information into the wide, wide world. To inform… to engage… to entertain… to inspire.
Shared information has gone from hieroglyphics to Gutenberg to Google. Consider this:
There are more than 1 billion websites today. An estimated 1.5 million mobile apps have been downloaded more than 100 billion times from Apple’s App Store, alone.
And information will be shared further and farther because you are here to “Touch the future.”