The 2019 Publishing Hot List: The Print and Digital Media Brands Paving a Way to Profitability

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Media is dying? Don’t tell that to the winners of this year’s Publishing Hot List. Whether legacy media outlets or digital upstarts, these publishers are creating groundbreaking work, finding new revenue streams and otherwise nimbly adapting to an unstable landscape. Even as the president attacks the media on a daily basis, these outlets are working tirelessly to show the profession at its finest. Here are 2019’s Hot List winners in publishing.

Publishing Executive of the Year
Meredith Kopit Levien

Meredith Kopit Levien, Adweek’s Publishing Executive of the Year, reads at least 10 New York Times articles per day.

Overseeing a publication that puts out 200 stories per day on average, and has offshoots in games, TV and radio, Meredith Kopit Levien has to consume a lot of New York Times media to keep up. The Times evp and chief operating officer listens to at least two podcasts per day, including the Times’ news podcast, The Daily, on 1.5x speed when she runs. She reads at least 10 Times stories daily, and winds down by spending time on the Times’ mobile app, “both reading and working to understand how we’ve presented our stories,” Kopit Levien says.

Her diligence—in continuing to grow digital subscriptions, in understanding the Times work and thinking about how the newsroom can further innovate with potential brand partners—has paid off for Kopit Levien, Adweek’s Publishing Executive of the Year. The Times reached close to 3.8 million paid, digital-only subscribers, according to its second-quarter results, an increase of 200,000 over the past year. The publisher’s diverse revenue sources are also expanding. In that same quarter, the Times grew its digital ad revenue, including through podcasts, to $58 million; other revenue (including The Weekly, its new TV series with FX and Hulu) increased by $10.3 million. “We’re moving into a new space, into people’s lives that was previously reserved for entertainment,” Kopit Levien says.

Kopit Levien, who previously was the CRO of Forbes Media, joined the Times in 2013 as its head of advertising. Two years later, she was named evp and CRO, overseeing ad and subscription revenue. Under Kopit Levien, digital paid subscriptions grew to over 2.2 million, and the Times launched its T Brand Studio to create custom content. The key to growing the Times’ subscription business, Kopit Levien says, was having a model already in place requiring its users to pay for content. “That’s played a huge role in the improvement of the Times’ business directly and in scaling our digital subscriptions business, and in making our ad business more successful,” says Kopit Levien, who has been in her current role since 2017.

Among Kopit Levien’s major media vehicles this year are The Weekly, the TV show based on the Times’ daily news podcast, and The Daily, which debuted in June on FX and Hulu (a second TV series, Modern Love, based on the Times’ weekly column and podcast, premiered last week on Amazon). The Daily just hit its own milestone—1 billion downloads since its release in 2017‚ and the publication’s new game development team released its third offering, Tiles, over the summer. The Times has also gotten more aggressive about showcasing the news at the heart of the whole operation, with a marketing campaign called “The Truth Is Worth It” that spotlights the reporting behind some of its biggest news stories. “We’re much more explicit about showing people how it all works than we’ve ever been,” says Kopit Levien, “and you’ll continue to see us do that.”

Looking ahead, Kopit Levien is focusing on new areas of growth, including audio, which the editorial newsroom has built a team around following The Daily’s success and which “presents a new space in people’s eyes for journalism,” she says. “We’re thinking very hard in a time of profound change in the world—what are all of the ways quality and independent journalism can play a bigger role in people’s lives.”

This story first appeared in the Oct. 21, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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