The Keys to Successful Digital Experimentation
While transformation may come from the top, employees with a flexible approach to experimentation may be what’s needed to make it happen.
MIT Sloan Management Review: Tell me a little bit about your role as senior vice president and digital development person.
Kimberly Lau: First, I’ll just clarify, our parent company is Atlantic Media Inc., and I specifically work on The Atlantic brand.
Essentially all the areas of our business that are not sales or editorial report in to me. That includes the product team, which is composed of our developers, designers, and product managers, who are designing, developing, and strategizing about our website and all our digital products. It also includes our consumer marketing team, which historically was focused on print subscriptions but is increasingly focused on developing new products and growing our paid consumer base. And lastly, it includes the magazine production team, which is a very small team that literally handles magazine production, printing, buying paper, all of that.
This year, we’re building out a data team. This will be a group of people charged with servicing edit, product, consumer marketing, and sales and marketing. The team will both build out the infrastructure we need to have a complete customer database and create an infrastructure that will allow us to take in data and synthesize insights and really deliver those insights in an ongoing way with each of those different groups.
I’ve been at The Atlantic for five and a half years, and before that I was at Hearst Magazines, where I led business development for six years. I’ve been dealing with digital transformation for my entire career.
When you think of media companies, the story line is that they’re struggling with digital, that they’re having trouble reinventing themselves. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. What is it that makes The Atlantic different — that you’re in a stronger position than you were five years ago? What have you done differently than competitors?
It’s been about 10 years since we started really embracing digital and focused on that as a key point in our transformation. And we truly are a digital company — the vast majority of our revenues are coming from digital sources. We have certainly crossed that path.
I believe one of the big things that helped us as a legacy media company was that the brand had been struggling when it chose to pivot to digital.