At home, it always seemed as though there was so much to do and so little money. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my dad worked in a foundry, earning an income that supported a family of five. In those days, Levi’s and Baby Jane shirts were the bomb, but we couldn’t afford those luxuries unless my parents saved up for a gift for a birthday or another special occasion. I knew what I wanted and I knew that I was on my own to achieve my goals, so I proceeded to apply for jobs at basically any business that would consider hiring a child of 12. Delivering papers, collecting pop bottles, picking up groceries for the elderly and selling magazines over the phone were just a few of my early gigs.
It wasn’t until I was 16 that I experienced my first real position in sales. I was hired for a summer job to sell advertising space to local businesses in a community sports program. I was a star! Number one in sales every week. That came with (what I considered at the time) huge financial gains. I was getting bonuses on top of my minimum wage that almost doubled my salary. It was the perfect fit for me, and the beginning of a long career in media.
I landed my first “big girl job” in sales, as a senior account executive with Yellow Pages, which back then was known as Tele-Direct. I loved influencing the buying decisions of a well known brand, and having an impact on people’s lives with my recommendations. I would often have the same clients year over year, and looked forward to their success stories. It was deeply satisfying watching small business owners grow, open new locations, hire more staff, build their brand and reputations, and of course, spend more of their budgets with me. It was all so rewarding, this era when print budgets were huge and digital was non-existent. (Much more simplified when it came to revenue streams, I must say.)
My next career move was into a sales management role, with a leader in the credit collection and credit reporting industry. I wanted to have more influence on the overall numbers, not just my own. I found opportunities to drive revenue in everything I did, and wanted to share those wins and vision with others. I thrived on growth and the bottom line, building new business portfolios and relationships. Coaching and mentoring became a part of my everyday accomplishments; building a strong team came naturally to me.
But I missed the media world, and now, with management experience, I ventured back to where my passion was: in advertising. I wanted more; more responsibility, challenges, control, and accountability. Along came a publishing opportunity that ticked off all of those boxes.
Still in my twenties, I was offered a senior role with Auto Trader Magazines. It meant more responsibility, bigger challenges, and a higher degree of control and accountability. I jumped at the chance to “own” something, and that particular something was the launch of a magazine that’s now known as Auto Mart. I would have full autonomy to build the business from scratch, hiring every role required, building out the pricing model, marketing plan, editorial content, distribution channels and more. It was a dream come true, with one caveat: a cut in pay that represented half of what I’d been earning previously, with a large opportunity to earn 4 times my earnings, should I be successful in this new role. I took the risk, jumped in with both feet, and kicked off my publishing career.
While with Auto Trader, I had many different roles, including senior director, director of dealer services and group publisher. I launched numerous magazines, some of which are still in publication today. Walk along any street in Toronto, and you can still see the original yellow Auto Mart boxes, now reused by other titles. Auto Mart was launched in seven different markets across Ontario, reaching sales (at peak) of $21-million. It was a true success story.
While I was at Auto Trader, the digital world emerged. To me, it felt like a lion in a cage, desperately wanting to break out! I made it my goal to learn everything about this exciting new media (and revenue) opportunity. I was involved in every senior management meeting from the very beginning of autotrader.ca’s inception. I saw it grow from the early days when each webpage was a PDF with no functionality or search ability to where the website is today.
We were one of the first to adapt the print business to a digital platform, and in the process, successfully transferring print revenue to digital revenue without taking a huge bath along the way. It was a very exciting time in my career, and I was lucky to have been mentored by the best: John Francis, owner and president of Auto Trader. John inspired me to take strategic risks, innovate without fear of failure, and to work harder than I’ve ever worked, while still having fun. I live by those philosophies and I try to create that same culture today.
After Trader, I dabbled in a couple of other digital and print media ventures that came my way (4Rent.ca, CarandTruckClassified.ca, MediaClassified.ca), mainly on the consulting side, helping build business plans and successful launches. I owned the projects until stability was met within the business unit and then moved on to the next challenge.
Along this journey, I met an entrepreneur who owned (and was continuing to amass) local community newspapers. I started off as a consultant but he quickly recruited me as a full-time employee, overseeing 10 local community newspapers as publisher and VP of sales. It was an uphill battle. Each paper was a different size, with different rates, a different printer and inadequacies that proved detrimental to the success of the business. It was clear that change was needed, and over the next three years, we completely transformed those papers, launching automotive and real estate supplements, developing partnerships and synergies within the community and bringing the business to scale. We doubled overall sales within those three years, and with that mission accomplished, my work there was done. It was time to begin another chapter.
That chapter turned out to be a wonderful opportunity with Reader’s Digest, as publisher for Canada. The brand resonated with me, having vivid, fond memories of the magazine from my childhood. I knew that there would be challenges with the brand, as it’s a Canadian icon as a print magazine. How could we develop a digital strategy to reach a different audience while leveraging the brand’s unassailable reputation for truth and engaging storytelling?
We made significant changes to the brand websites and content deliverables to meet the needs of a younger demographic, while ensuring the quality of our content remained at Reader’s Digest’s legendary standards. We built a strong programmatic & Ad Ops team, and partnerships within this segment, that would deliver a revenue opportunity that was nonexistent in past years. We hired a new sales team that has proven to be passionate about their contribution and willing to share each other’s assets to bring in team wins. Last but not least, our marketing solutions team is the best I have ever worked with. Their creativity and innovative ideas have brought on new clients who had never imagined we have the capabilities to do the things that we do. It’s been a challenge, but we feel confident with where we are today and with what the future holds.
I feel fortunate and privileged to have worked with some of the best in the industry, to have had the opportunity to steer well-known brands and to have helped the underdog find success along the way. It’s been a great ride.
Karin Rossi is the publisher of Reader's Digest Brands, Canada
Reader’s Digest conducts an annual Trusted Brand™ survey in which Canadians are asked in an open-ended question to identify the brands they trust the most. In this study, Canadians voted for brands across 30 product categories from consumer packaged goods, to financial institutions and Canadian retailers. It has been estimated that 49% of Canadians agree that they buy items solely based on price, more than half do not, which leaves other influences, like trust, to drive their purchase decisions. Trust influences how Canadians spend and invest their money.
This is an independent opinion poll commissioned by Reader’s Digest, Ipsos Canada conducted an online survey of 4,009 Canadians to identify brands they trust from Sept 9-16, 2016. Respondents were asked for their most trusted brand within each category, in an open-ended question format. Results were weighted to census data to be representative of the population. Using a credibility interval, the overall results are considered accurate to within +/-1.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had the entire population of adults been polled.
Overwhelmingly, 93% of Canadians say they tend to buy products or services from companies they trust more. In fact, 81% of Canadians disclosed they would be willing to pay a little more money to support a product or service from a company they trust. Trust also influences investment decisions, given that 91% of Canadians reported they are more likely to invest their money in trusted companies. “Companies compete for share of wallet; and to influence purchase decisions, companies need to present consumers with a point of difference—trust is that difference,” said Karin Rossi, Publisher, Reader’s Digest Brands-Canada.
Findings from the study indicate that 86% of Canadian consumers pay more attention to trusted companies. Furthermore, 77% say they are more likely to remember advertisements from companies they trust. Six in 10 Canadians (63%) say they trust third-party recognition of products and services such as awards and seals of excellence—up 4% from 2016. “Companies have the responsibility of earning and nurturing consumers’ trust in their products and services. The Trusted Brand™ award program celebrates the 2017 winners, and is also a means for companies to effectively communicate Canadian consumers’ confidence in their brands throughout the year,” said Rossi.
Here are the 30 Reader’s Digest 2017 Trusted Brand™ Winners, including GOLD WINNERS, who have been voted as a most Trusted Brand™ for five or more consecutive years.
In 2013, before the launch of the tablet application, La Presse’s average weekly paid circulation was 200,000 copies, with a record of 221,000 dating back from 1971.
Today, the print edition is discontinued on weekdays and maintained only on Saturday. The app La Presse+ reaches 260,000 unique tablets every day, with a peak at 300,000 the day after the American elections.
Crevier explained that discussions of a change in business model started back in 2010, under the pressure of shrinking readership and decreasing advertising revenues.
La Presse found in the tablet the technology that would allow a seamless transfer of the work of the 250-journalist newsroom into the digital world, without losses in terms of quality.
"We have always been convinced,” said Crevier, "that the best way for us to differentiate ourselves (from the Facebooks and Googles of this world) is continuing to produce high quality contents and to sustain a large newsroom.”
He added that in his opinion the tablet is the only digital device available at the moment that enables the best possible storytelling, while ensuring the revenues necessary to sustain quality journalism.
Free subscription model
The development of La Presse+ cost in excess of C$ 40 million, including $ 2 million invested in research only. It has a free subscription model and one of the most impressive results concerns the change it enabled in the readers' profile.
La Presse paper edition used to reach 46% of readers aged between 24 and 54, the most attractive audience for advertisers. La Presse+ managed to "over index" the Quebec population in this age group (52%), Crevier said, rising to an astonishing 63%. The time spent on the app is 40 minutes on average on weekdays, with 52 minutes on Saturdays and 50 on Sundays.
Regarding advertising “the readers are always in full control of their experience: there are no pop-ups, no pre-roll, no intrusive items” said Crevier.
Nevertheless, the remarkable level of engagement enables La Presse+ to maintain a CPM at the unprecedented level of $ 51 - in print it was $ 37.
Precise performance reports
In turn, the tablet app allows for precise performance reports, which detail for each campaign not only the number of impressions but also activated interactions, videos and consulted websites, as well as time spent on an ad beyond the 5 seconds threshold. Today, 92% of La Presse advertising revenues come from digital.
In a market where competitors face steady revenue decline, La Presse finds itself in a growing business, both in terms of readership and advertising.