February 10, 2021

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau on The Digital Transformation of MIT Technology Review


Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau is the CEO and Publisher of MIT Technology Review, the oldest technology magazine in the world. Over the past few years, the business has been going through a transformation of building out the tools and processes to run a digital-first media business.

In this episode, we talked about a lot of topics, but a few things jumped out to me…

On digital transformation

Bramson-Boudreau views where they are in their journey as the starting line, which means the past few years have been spent just trying to get to this point.

Every aspect of the business has been touched from subscriptions, advertising, marketing technology, frontend, and backend. How the business operates has fundamentally changed.

But that required hard decisions. It required finding the right team to execute on that vision. Now that they’re here, though, Bramson-Boudreau can really start investing in where they want to go.

On events strategy

Before Covid, one of the biggest growth areas for the business was events, like most media companies. Covid shut down the economy only a couple weeks before MIT Tech Review’s biggest event of the year, so it obviously jolted them.

But they were able to quickly adapt. They were able to pivot ticket revenue into virtual, offering discounts if people wanted to invite friends and colleagues. And since then, they’ve continued to charge for events, though have reduced the prices as more companies do events.

Looking forward, they’re not planning anything in 2021. There’s hope that by next March, the big event held in San Francisco can be in person, but they still see a virtual component tied to it.

On the contraction of magazines

From her perspective, Bramson-Boudreau expects that the number of magazine publishers will continue to contract over the coming years. However, that doesn’t mean people are going to consume less content in the future, which means there will remain a demand for magazines.

Her guess is that publishers will simply get larger. As an example, The New York Times will continue to expand its tech and lifestyle coverage. She referred to The Times as the “bottom of someone’s subscription stack.”

The big thing magazine publishers will have to figure out is how they differentiate their content for the next level of that subscription stack. For Tech Review, that means continuing to dig in deeper on its specific focus.

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