Chief executive James Wildman has led a commercial overhaul at Hearst Magazines that has brought an end to its siloed, title-led approach in favour of two content divisions and four agency sales 'hubs' that have already delivered a "much deeper" relationship with advertisers.
The UK publisher owns 22 titles and formerly operated in a brand-by-brand structure, with individual client teams on each title. In other words, if an advertiser wanted to buy across the Hearst portfolio it would have to negotiate with 22 different sales teams.
Wildman admitted that clunky structure meant Hearst "wasn't easy to navigate" and ultimately made the business "less efficient" for its customers.
Since succeeding Anna Jones as chief executive in April, Wildman has put in place a strategy to make it easier for clients to navigate Hearst and remove silos preventing it from pushing package sells.
The business has restructured around two content divisions, overseen by two chief brand officers, and four agency sales 'hubs' to manage its relationship with the industry's major media agencies.
The first of the content divisions is centred on 'luxury, young women, fitness and health'. Titles in that division include Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Runner’s World, Men’s Health and Women’s Health. Duncan Chater, formerly chief revenue officer at Hearst, now leads this division both editorially and commercially as chief brand officer.
The second division is 'lifestyle, homes and weeklies'. Titles in that division include Good Housekeeping, Prima, Red, Elle Decoration, House Beautiful, Country Living and four weekly titles. Sharon Douglas, formerly group publishing director of its lifestyle group, leads this division as chief brand officer.
Meanwhile, the agency sales division has also been reorganised into four agency hubs, with teams for each major agency group it deals with, including GroupM, Publicis, Dentsu Aegis and Omnicom - to "reflect the agency model", Wildman said.
Those hubs are led by two incumbent sales directors and two new group account directors. Jane Wolfson, who is also director of Hearst UK's content marketing division, Hearst Made, was made chief agency officer to lead this team and manage and develop Hearst’s relationships with media agencies.
Wildman claimed this new structure has enabled the publisher to work in a "highly partnership-led way" with agencies.
"The reason for that [restructure] is putting a lot of emphasis on agency interface - that is where a lot of investment decisions are made, where planning resources sit," he said.
"Those client roles are much broader than display ad sales - [so we are] having business conversations at a senior level."
This new way of working with clients has only been in place for 8 weeks but Wildman told The Drum it is already bearing fruit.
"The dust is still settling on our new way of working but we have already had a lot of unsolicited feedback and it is enabling a much deeper engagement with our clients," he said.
While it is still early days it comes at a time when the publisher is shedding revenue - reporting a 7% slide in revenue to £262.6m in 2016 - despite halving its annual loss to £2.7m and increasing the circulation of its monthly titles by 3%.
Publishers rooted in print have been forced to rethink commercial models - with some cutting print runs to offset the rising costs of printing and distribution - while the effectiveness of display advertising has been called into question with the rise of adblocking, fraud and viewability issues.
"My sense is we should lead with these things that are interesting for advertisers which are the revenue diversification opportunities for us but for them it is a deeper engagement with brands," Wildman said.
"Display advertising is still our bread and butter - I am not saying it is not important to us - but we are having more interesting conversations around things like accreditation because there is a demonstrative sales effect for brands that get involved with us on that level."