MSLO’s Upfront Puts The Emphasis On Cross-Platform, Consumer Control

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) held its advertising upfront yesterday and unlike the traditional TV upfront events that are getting under way, the focus here was the company’s range of cross-platform offerings, all of which are tied together with social media elements. The centerpiece of the presentation was a preview of a new eight-episode, unscripted series, Help Me, Martha!, which is produced by reality show maven Mark Burnett. MSLO execs also showed off what the Martha Stewart Living magazine will look like on Apple’s soon-to-be released iPad.
“We’re trying to show how digital and other platforms, our magazines, our TV programming, all revolves around close interaction with our audience, and how digital is central to that,” said Janet Balis, MSLO EVP of Media Sales & Marketing, after the presentation. “For example, with Help Me Martha, we’re going to find the stories we feature in the shows online. At the end of the day, digital is the glue between the interaction and the content.”
The expanded cross-platform push comes follows a significant turnaround for MSLO in Q4, when, in addition to returning to profitability, the company’s online ad dollars jumped 30 percent.
Among the 12 cross-platform ideas MSLO will be promoting in the next few weeks — executives are taking the upfront show on the road to Chicago and Los Angeles next — are At Martha’s Table, which touches on chef Emeril Lagasse and MSLO, along with PBS’ Everyday Food hosts Lucinda Scala Quinn and Sarah Carey, bringing in other star cooks together for a talk show about food. In addition to touching on the Everyday Food mag, paid iPhone app and PBS series, as well as The Martha Stewart Show (which is moving to Hallmark), At Martha’s Table will also spawn a new original web series featuring Emeril.
“I’m hoping that marketers will engage us in a conversation in taking Lucinda and Emeril and create a deeper, more social experience with these programs,” Balis told paidContent. “I hate to use the phrase ‘branded entertainment,’ but I do think there are opportunities there as well, especially on the web. The other fundamental shift here is that it’s not just about distribution on our platforms, it’s also about distribution seamlessly on other media companies’ properties.” While the iPad is an example of outside distribution in a sense, Balis didn’t say whether there were other, more typical content distribution deals in the works with other media companies. But the company appears to be keeping more of an open-mind when it comes to distribution.
There is also going to be more willingness to give its audience more influence. As an example, during her introduction, Martha Stewart read an e-mail from an Everyday Food subscriber who asked the company to come up with an iPhone app, saying she would be willing to pay for both. Last month, MSLO granted the reader’s wish. “Everyday Food was the number one paid app the week it was released and for the past month, has remained in the top four,” Stewart told attendees, noting that more use of mobile was also on the way.