Connecting a global media empire: how Hearst uses Airtable
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Connecting a global media empire: how Hearst uses Airtable

Hearst Magazines' portfolio of more than 25 powerful brands in the U.S. publishes over 300 editions and 245 websites around the world. The company's properties attract more readers of monthly magazines than any other publisher.

When Hearst Magazines needed to streamline their operations by merging product teams across web, magazine, and subscription management, they turned to Airtable. Starting with a living roadmap that captures the needs of customers, they have developed a global publishing ecosystem that every team around the world can rely on. With this single source of truth, Hearst dramatically improved publishing speed and scale —and with their best-in-class platform, they're now able to empower smaller brands with deep insights about how to best reach and retain readers.

Connecting a global media empire

To call the Hearst Magazines a “media giant” would be an understatement. The global publishing company has been one of the world’s foremost shapers and documenters of culture for over 130 years, with brands such as Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and more in their extensive portfolio. Hearst has maintained relevance thanks to an unparalleled ability to see where the world is headed, change with the times, and keep moving forward strategically.

The challenge: merging teams while streamlining systems

In 2017, Hearst Magazines brought all of its product teams together under one umbrella. Combining operations from several independently operating teams created a big logistical challenge. It wasn't just the integration of employees—they needed to merge several rapidly changing product roadmaps so that everyone had real-time insight into what they were working on and what was in the pipeline.

The other product tools we tried could only be used for one purpose. They were unforgiving, not flexible.
Zack Packer, Director, Product at Hearst Magazines Digital Media

While the product team was combining operations, they were also streamlining processes across their web properties to improve publishing speed and efficiency. They first needed to analyze and compare the aggregate parts of their websites to make sure they were giving their audiences what they wanted. Without a single hub for their data, it was impossible to collect and analyze the information that could set them up for greater success.

The solution: a single source of truth, and a global publishing ecosystem

When they merged teams, the product team was searching for a way to increase transparency between Product and leadership. When Vlad Stojkovski, the Product Director of Incubation at Hearst Magazines, began diving into Airtable, he immediately recognized that unlike other product tools they’d be testing, he could customize Airtable to fit their unique needs.

I can't tell you how many missed communications Airtable has saved and how much smarter it's made our acquisition process, with the ability to look back at the data and have it all connected.
Vlad Stojkovski, Product Director, Incubation

His team quickly began using Airtable to integrate people processes for the product department. They built an app that gave the team a central place to share documents and information and onboard new employees. During this process, Stojkovski discovered how easy it was to change the data schema, adjusting the system as they built it out to create a workflow that made sense for all employees. He turned their re-org app into a repeatable process that Hearst now uses to integrate every new property they acquire.

A redacted and simplified version of the Airtable base Hearst uses to manage and prioritize roadmap items, as well as manage intake of feedback and feature requests. This base has provided visibility and transparency into future features for leadership and stakeholders.

With the integration under control, the team turned its focus to its roadmap. They used Airtable to catalog all the different components of their websites and find common features, functions, and content types. Using API integrations, they connected these components to Google Analytics, enabling them to understand what features audiences responded to, what designs they liked, and what areas could be improved. They then connected this information to a living product roadmap, giving their teams a clear picture of what viewers are responding to and what the team needs to focus on. With Airtable's customizable views, they can get global stakeholders the information they need to know in the way that makes the most sense for them.

A redacted and simplified version of the Airtable base Hearst uses to manage and document configuration of their Google Analytics web properties and view, as well as catalog event tracking schema across different platform analytics categories.
It's important to communicate in the way that's most effective for your audience. With Airtable, we could communicate effectively with lots of different stakeholders simply by changing the view.
Vlad Stojkovski, Product Director, Incubation

Using Airtable, Hearst Magazines has developed a global publishing ecosystem that connects all the metadata across the company’s media platforms. The product team has grown to over 300 people, with every new member being brought onboard via their acquisition and onboarding app. Everything from analytics to audits to process management is taking place on Airtable, with new uses discovered every day. Now, every stakeholder in the world, from America to Europe to Japan, is united via a single shared platform—one central source of truth for the entire organization.

A redacted and simplified version of the Airtable base Hearst uses to manage group access permissions to different datasets.

Results: serious speed at incredible scale

Collaboration: starting with a single use case for a product team integration, Airtable has helped bring a global organization together into one centralized publishing ecosystem. It has created a central source of truth that enables employees and leadership worldwide to collaborate quickly and efficiently.

Insight: the Hearst Magazines team now has a deeper understanding of their products and how viewers use them. This insight helps them create content that audiences want to see, increasing views, shares, audience, and ad sales.

Flexibility: Airtable has made Hearst Magazines faster on its feet and able to integrate new acquisitions seamlessly. They can respond to relevant global developments quickly and be more proactive about where the marketplace is headed.

In any tool you can set up a wonderful system and watch it get abandoned. But Airtable just keeps growing, and user-friendliness is its secret power. It's the tool you want to use.
Zack Packer, Director, Product at Hearst Magazines Digital Media

What’s next for Airtable and Hearst

As Hearst Magazines continues to grow, Airtable has grown with them. When new properties are acquired, they use Airtable to integrate the new company’s processes into Hearst's.

The roadmap keeps expanding, guiding everything from product development to KPIs to time management and project planning. The video team is even using Airtable to plan out video production and editing.

Airtable has become a driving force of organization, information management, communication, and creativity at Hearst Magazines. It helps them connect the dots between different departments, plan new projects, integrate new users, and discover insights that drive innovations. It unifies a global company together in one place where all the stakeholders can come together to make the decisions that enable Hearst Magazines to keep growing and building on the legacy that has made them a household name all over the world.

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