This week, WATT Global Media kicks off a year-long celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of its launch (to see a full list of activities scroll down). However, from its beginnings as the Poultry Tribune Company in 1917 to its rebranding as WATT Global Media in 2014, WATT has always been about looking forward, and it’s a mindset that the company will prioritize even as it celebrates its past.
That will encompass the launch of a special content series exploring the future of the markets it serves, forecasts of revenue growth in events, digital and even print, the launch of a subscription data business in the second quarter that could forge a new path for the company, and continued emphasis on the company’s Line-of-Sight initiative, which clarifies and re-enforces each employee’s contribution to company goals.
Here, fourth-generation president/CEO Greg Watt shares his thoughts on how WATT got to this point, where growth will come from in 2017 and how the company, which once operated a working farm to better inform its audience, still lives the markets it serves.
Connectiv: Greg, What’s it mean to be a 100-year-old, independent, family-owned publisher today?
Greg Watt: “It’s incredibly gratifying. It’s all about the support and trust that we’ve received over decades from our audience and clients. It’s about our staff. It’s about their incredible skills and expertise, and the forward look that our staff continues to have, including the ability to be curious about the future. It’s exciting to be part of a team that continues to push things forward, whether that’s through new technology that helps serve our clients better, products that serve our audience in a more valuable way, and make our process more efficient. It’s an exciting place for me personally. I can’t thank our staff enough.
Connectiv: What’s the scope of Watt today compared to its roots?
Watt: As I look back through our historical archives, the one common denominator is serving the audience. Back in the late 1920s, the company started an experimental poultry farm. It was a working farm but it was done so for content to serve the audience better. Research and practical learnings from the farm ended up in the pages of Poultry Tribune Magazine, which our great-grandfather acquired with another partner in 1917 and which launched in the late 1800s. The farm lasted until the early 1940s and we’ve evolved in so many ways since then, but that focus on serving the audience has always been one of our top priorities.
We’ve tried other markets but we came back to our core in 2011, which is serving the global animal agri business industries. We went through a period of getting smaller but we’ve been in growth mode the last six years now. Today, being able to measure and being metric-enabled allows us to react so much faster. Our revenue has changed from being primarily magazine to being significantly driven by events and digital and our newest initiative for 2017 is moving into paid data. We’re anticipating that to be an important revenue bucket to going forward.
Connectiv: What are you most excited about in 2017 and beyond?
Watt: We see tremendous opportunity for growing in areas we’ve been focused on for the last several years. We’ll see continued organic growth through our digital portfolio, which has been expanding double digits-plus each of the last half dozen years, as well as our events portfolio, which has been growing primarily organically with the exception of one small acquisition. The data business forward look is very exciting to us as well. That product is not available through any other source and we’re looking at a Q2 launch. Those are the three things that we’re tapping into right now. We still have a strong magazine portfolio that saw year-over-year growth in 2016 and we’re forecasting small growth for 2017. Print remains a vital part of our portfolio, but not where we are placing bets on our future.”
- The festivities begin this week with WATT hosting a Centennial reception at the International Production & Processing Expo in downtown Atlanta. In March, WATT will host a similar reception for its global partners in Bangkok. “We’re kicking everything off at IPPE because that’s the longest running and largest annual exhibition for the poultry industry and it’s also a show that we’ve partnered with for almost 65 years,” says Watt. “So many of our clients will be there, and between Atlanta this month and March in Bangkok, we will reach the majority of our global customers. And while we always have a large number of staff attend and work IPPE, this year we’re flying the entire staff in to be a part of the event.”
- In June, WATT will host its annual company meeting at Indiana-based Fair Oaks Farm, one of the largest “agritainment” farms in the country, offering tours and educational experiences to the public. “This is the first time we’ve located our annual staff meeting away from our main headquarters,” said Watt. “Part of our Line of Sight strategic plan is to connect all our staff to the markets we serve, and the importance of the work everyone does and positive effect that it has for our audience. Many of our staff come from an ag background, but many don’t, and this will help them understand the impact of their work throughout the food animal supply chain.”
- WATT editors are creating a special content series called “WATT 100: Future of the Poultry Industry,” that will feature articles year-round in WATT Poultry USA, Poultry International, Egg Industry and Industria Avicola. In January 2018, those articles will be compiled in a special WATT 100-Year Compendium issue that will be distributed at the 2018 IPPE Show and available as a digital edition.
- WATT also created a special website for its centennial activities, including slideshows and scans of all WATT magazines from when the company started running Poultry Tribune in 1917. A special logo commemorating the centennial is featured in all WATT marketing materials, websites and will be on the front cover of the magazines.