This article is part of an ongoing series profiling participants in the PubTech Connect conference, presented on April 20, 2017 by PW and the NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Publishing.
When a company, a publication, or a brand survives the test of time, it's truly something to celebrate: it means they're doing something right. But companies don't last for decades--or longer--by just doing what they've always done. They survive and succeed by changing, adapting, finding new business models and audiences. The digital age has been a tremendous test for media companies--can they adapt and keep up with the breakneck pace of technological change? For Jay Lauf, Publisher of Quartz and SVP of Atlantic Media, which publishes The Atlantic; and Sam Olstein, Global Director of Innovation at General Electric, the answer is yes.
The Atlantic is one of America's oldest publications--it was founded in 1857. But today's readers know it as the flagship brand of print of digital powerhouse Atlantic Media, hailed for on and offline publications, innovations in Web design and native advertising, and, especially, for Quartz, the groundbreaking digital business publication of which Lauf serves as publisher.
Lauf custom built Quartz, which launched in 2012, for the growing world of digital media. It's always been free to read, made for mobile, and set up for social sharing. Quartz calls itself "a guide to the new global economy for business professionals excited by change," and boasts 20 million monthly unique visitors. Quartz followed Lauf's revitalization of The Atlantic itself, which he made into a profitable digital-first publication. Before moving to Atlantic Media, he led a similar revitalization of Wired, pulling it out of its post-dot-com-bust slump. No one knows more than he does about making old brands new again.
And of course everyone's heard of General Electric, the sprawling energy conglomerate incorporated in 1892, with its roots in Thomas Edison's companies. Today, beyond power and energy, GE has divisions for aviation, capital, appliances, healthcare, and more. Olstein's role at GE involves marketing, telling the company's story, connecting with GE's consumers across the world, and putting GE at the forefront of emerging mediums. He oversees GE's digital presence across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Periscope, Medium, Wattpad, Pinterest, and many other platforms, including, amazingly, the sneaker.
Olstein, in a My GE Story video, described one of his favorite projects, the creation of a limited-edition sneaker, the GE Moon Boot, which, he said, used "some of the same super-materials that we put in our big machines" to tell the story of the GE brand. But he's also worked on projects and campaigns involving drones, comics, apps, and lots of other things one wouldn't expect an energy conglomerate to get into. Olstein's job is to put GE in front of consumers in places they might not expect. It's a friendly kind of disruption, a new kind of outreach.
At PubTech Connect, Lauf and Olstein will take part in the panel "Electrifying Legacy Brands: The Future Is Now," a discussion of how long-established brands with deep roots in our life and culture are placing themselves in the forefront of technological transformation. Learn more about the PubTech Connect conference and buy tickets here.