Liz Vaccariello is editor-in-chief of Parents magazine at Meredith Corporation. Here, she explains how taking a practical approach to innovation has helped the brand to evolve, and why a digital mindset can also hold great benefits for a print publication.
“85% of our magazine readers feel we are innovating rapidly,” says Vaccariello. As editor-in-chief of Parents magazine – the 2.2 million rate base title – as well as group editorial director for Parents Latina and Meredith’s lifestyle titles including Shape, Real Simple, InStyle, Martha Stewart Living, and Health, Liz Vaccariello is at the forefront of driving innovation in print and content.
As part of a recent whitepaper looking at Innovation in Publishing, which has been jointly published by UPM and FIPP, Vaccariello talks candidly about the need to balance innovation with an understanding of what genuinely works, and where resources are best placed.
“The Meredith Corporation is conservative in some sense, like the fact that Parents doesn’t have a presence on Snapchat. But it’s innovative for our audience in others – we’re very heavy on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve also innovated our print product with the renewed use of smart codes. Parents was one of the first publications within Meredith to do that.”
Vaccariello explains that the approach to innovation at Meredith is handled by a dedicated team that sits across print and digital – but that all team members are encouraged to embrace innovation.
“From a technological standpoint, innovation comes out of the Innovation Group here at Meredith. If we have an idea or an advertiser has an idea, we go to them and they help us execute it. That innovation team works across platforms – with the digital platforms to make sure the experience in digital backs up what we’re doing, and with the print team as well. That is something that I’m intricately involved in. I insist that when we’re working on new content ideas, themes for the year ahead, images for the content, or images for the covers, all of our staff bring inspiration – either from things they see in the zeitgeist on Instagram, or from quantifiable trends and insight based on research or social listening.”
When it comes to innovation at Meredith, balance is key. While the company acknowledges that months of research and preparation are not always necessary prior to the launch of new innovations, especially in today’s fast-moving industry, Vaccariello is quick to highlight that ideas need to be based on facts.
“Our Back to School issue is big deal for us. Over the years we’ve packaged it in different ways. One year we did one long story called ‘100 things teachers want to know.’ The next year however, we tested that against a format where we broke the story down by age and by grade level, so the audience could engage with their specific interest more easily.”
“More generally at a time when the more educated amongst us realise we need to put our phones down, people are taking social detoxes and social holidays. This is causing an increase in book sales and time spent with print products. That’s obviously good news for print, and we just need to keep innovating and changing to make sure we take advantage of this trend.”