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If Organic Were a Country, Maria Rodale Would Be Her Queen. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Maria Rodale, Chairman and CEO Rodale, Inc.

December 19, 2014

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“I’m a firm believer in print; I love print and my kids love print. My eight-year-old daughter asked for magazines on her Christmas list, which I think is a good sign. But I think every media finds its place in our lives.” Maria Rodale

CEO, Chairman, businesswoman, activist and mother; Maria Rodale is all of those things and a woman passionate about her family’s business, Rodale Inc. Devoting her life to her grandfather’s vision of an organic lifestyle, Maria believes strongly in the fundamental principles of bettering the planet for future generations and our own. She is a woman who definitely practices what she preaches, a rare trait these days.

Maria worked herself up in the ranks of her family business, learning it from the circulation aspect first, and then direct marketing, all the way up to her position today as Chairman and CEO. In 2013, she created and launched Rodale’s, an online shopping destination that offers healthy solutions for a happy life. Her tireless dedication to her legacy is honorable and was recognized recently by the 21st International Quality of Life Awards where she was one of the recipients of this year’s IQLA Laureate Award.

Upon receiving the award, she gave a moving speech at the United Nations about her passionate beliefs and hopes for our planet and its people. Maria is a woman who truly cares with a deep sincerity that cannot be questioned. Rodale’s success is proof of that.

I spoke with Maria recently about her thoughts of the past year and her vision and the innovations planned for Rodale in 2015. It was a heart-to-heart with someone who presents herself both professionally and as a comfortable friend. I’m sure you will enjoy reading the interview as much as I did participating in it.

So, sit back, relax and read the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Maria Rodale – enjoy!

But first – the sound-bites:

On her perceptions of 2014 and her vision for the New Year: This past year for all of us was very challenging, but I also feel it was a very pivotal year. We’re continuing to see our brands, and the healthy active living message, resonate overseas. We’re finishing really strong and are totally prepared for an awesome 2015.

On any unexpected surprises of this past year: Everybody in the industry was probably surprised by how the advertising industry’s year wasn’t their best when it came to magazines.

On her thoughts about print and print plus digital: Magazines used to serve the role that Google does now, but it was a more passive way of helping people find things and get answers. Now magazines are more of a relaxing enjoyable, inspirational and motivational experience.

On service journalism and its impact on Rodale’s success: The idea of service has changed. And it’s a lot more about things that you might not think you want to know, that we’re helping you discover.

On where she sees the majority of Rodale’s revenue coming from in five years: Print will always be a hugely significant revenue and contribution margin source for us, but the growth will be coming from digital, e-commerce and new products that we have not launched yet.

On what motivates and drives her, both professionally and personally: The mission of the business, my personal mission and the mission of the family are all so aligned. And I’m so passionate about that.

OL-TempLogo-BBlueOn her involvement with the remaking of Organic Life: I don’t have a formal, official role, other than Jim Oseland, who is the editor-in-chief, is constantly coming to me with questions and I’m sort of trying to guide him, but I’m also trying to give him a lot of freedom.

On her expectations for 2015: I believe it’s going to be a good year; I just have this feeling that it is. I could be wrong, I don’t want to jinx it, but as I said, things seem to be stabilizing a bit and we have some great indicators of that.

On the biggest stumbling block she sees for the New Year: That’s a good question. I don’t tend to worry too much about the future and when you asked that question, the first thing that came to mind and the second and third thing, are those unexpected happenings that crop up, those are always the most challenging.

On her thoughts about magazine media’s future and the launching of new titles: I’m inspired by a lot of the really beautiful, high-priced magazines that people are doing today. It’s not the creativity or the spirit of a magazine that’s broken; it’s the whole industry around it.

On the Internet’s capability of satisfying a need with a click of the mouse and how magazine’s need to compete with that: What the Internet has done is made that commerce frictionless. I want something, I push a button and I have it. The magazine industry hasn’t done that yet.

On her preference at home, print or digital: If it’s before my kids go to bed, it will be a laptop, because we’re all together in the kitchen or on the couch. But after they go to bed and I get into bed, I’m a book reader, a real book reader. I do not read on devices unless for some reason I can’t find a book.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m a really good sleeper. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Maria Rodale, Chairman & CEO, Rodale, Inc.

Samir Husni: First, let me congratulate you for receiving the International Quality of Life Laureate Award, you’re one chairman and CEO who actually practices what you preach.

Maria Rodale: Thank you. I’m constantly attempting to do that, yes.

Samir Husni: As we are approaching the end of 2014 and looking forward to the New Year; how would you evaluate the year that has passed, in terms of Rodale and your print and digital products?

Maria Rodale: This past year for all of us was very challenging, but I also feel it was a very pivotal year. We’ve been working to continue to strengthen our leadership in the health and wellness space by expanding our digital businesses and extending our global footprint – while continuing to cultivate our core publishing areas – and it is paying off.

Thug Kitchen Cover As we’ve worked to broaden its scope this year, Bicycling is a great example of how an enthusiast brand can thrive in a changing media, and it is now number one among monthly magazines in advertising growth. In the books space, we’ve been seeking some edgy titles and we were delighted to see Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook land on the New York Times bestseller list.

And we’re continuing to see our brands, and the healthy active living message, resonate overseas. In addition to launches like Men’s Health Mongolia, Women’s Health Portugal and Runner’s World Turkey, we are seeing great success licensing our brands in Europe and with expansion of our events programs. Men’s Health Urbanathlon was held in 20 cities in 14 countries in 2014.

We have brought some great additional talent on board to help grow our business- Beth Buehler joined as our SVP of Digital Operations last winter, Bruce Kelley is the new Editor-in-Chief at Prevention, and we are excited to have Jim Oseland back at Rodale to help launch Rodale’s Organic Life in 2015.

We’re finishing really strong and are totally prepared for an awesome 2015.

Samir Husni: Did you experience any unexpected surprises during 2014?

Maria Rodale: Everybody in the industry was probably surprised by how the advertising industry’s year wasn’t their best when it came to magazines. And one thing that surprised me in a good way was that digital, especially digital books and digital magazine subscriptions seemed to be finding their place. I think people were sort of returning to magazines as a print product and everything has stabilized today.

Samir Husni: As an advocate for everything organic and as someone who is remaking Organic Gardening into Organic Life; how do you foresee the future of print and print plus digital? Are you more for one versus the other, or integration of the two?

Maria_Rodale_0189a Maria Rodale: I’m a firm believer in print; I love print and my kids love print. My eight-year-old daughter asked for magazines on her Christmas list, which I think is a good sign. But I think every media finds its place in our lives. Magazines used to serve the role that Google does now, but it was a more passive way of helping people find things and get answers. Now magazines are more of a relaxing enjoyable, inspirational and motivational experience.

We have to be in close touch with our readers; who they are, what they want and what inspires them. And also bring them in to help us create the product that they want.

Samir Husni: As a publisher of service-oriented magazines, because all of your products, without exception, are service-oriented magazines that require interactivity from the audience. You don’t sit down and read Men’s Health and say, “Oh wow, that’s a great way to lose weight.” You have to work on it. Do you think the service journalism aspect helped Rodale with its success of those titles and also with bringing in new titles?

BI010215_NEWS HI Maria Rodale: I think it was both a plus and a minus. We use the example of: if you want to learn how to change a tire on your bicycle, you’re not going to wait for a copy of the magazine to tell you, you’re going to go online and find out how to change a tire. You need to know at that moment.

So, the idea of service has changed. And it’s a lot more about things that you might not think you want to know, that we’re helping you discover. And it’s also making sure that they can find us when they do need to change their tire. And at bicycling.com we make that very easy. It’s kind of moving the service information around.

Samir Husni: You are expanding in both directions, print and digital. Where do you see Rodale’s major revenue coming from in five years, print or digital?

MH010215_NEWS HI Maria Rodale: Print will always be a hugely significant revenue and contribution margin source for us, but the growth will be coming from digital, e-commerce and new products that we have not launched yet, but are in the works.

Samir Husni: Such as?

Maria Rodale: I would put Rodale Organic Life in that category.

Samir Husni: When I told people I was interviewing Maria Rodale, they said what I said at the beginning of our talk: here is a woman who practices what she teaches. And the speech that you gave at the United Nations; there was a lot of merging of your business and personal life in that speech. What drives you, Maria? What makes you tick? What makes you say “Wow” when you wake up?

Maria Rodale: The mission of the business, my personal mission and the mission of the family are all so aligned. And I’m so passionate about that. It may sound funny to a lot of people in the industry, but it’s really love of doing what we do and love of seeing us make a difference in people’s lives and seeing the progress.

When my grandfather started the organic movement, people said he was crazy and now everyone wants organic. That kind of change that you see over the long-term, and the fact that we as a family are in it for the long-term, is what drives all of us to be passionate about what we do.

For me personally, there’s not that much of a distinction between work and family. I love my family and I love my work and I love our company and our brand. When you operate from a place of passion, it just makes everything more fun.

Samir Husni: Are we going to see more of that passion in the new magazine Organic Life? And how much will you be involved in that?

Maria Rodale: I don’t have a formal, official role, other than Jim Oseland, who is the editor-in-chief, is constantly coming to me with questions and I’m sort of trying to guide him, but I’m also trying to give him a lot of freedom. I love to give people freedom to express their own creativity and he has tons of it, so I’m as excited as everyone else is to see how it comes out. I know it’s going to be amazing because he’s so passionate about it.

Samir Husni: What are your forecasts for 2015 and your expectations for the coming year?

Maria Rodale: I believe it’s going to be a good year; I just have this feeling that it is. I could be wrong, I don’t want to jinx it, but as I said, things seem to be stabilizing a bit and we have some great indicators of that.

The hardest thing to deal with is people’s mindset about change and getting them to be open to doing things in a new way. I feel as a company we’re in a place where everybody is really ready and excited about doing things in a new way. And I believe that’s where you have to be have a good year.

Samir Husni: What do you believe will be your largest stumbling block in 2015 and what are you prepared to do to overcome it?

RW0115_NEWS HI Maria Rodale: That’s a good question. I don’t tend to worry too much about the future and when you asked that question, the first thing that came to mind and the second and third thing, are those unexpected happenings that crop up, those are always the most challenging. Whether it’s an environmental crisis or a weather crisis, some kind of political crisis; those are the types of things that tend to impact the industry and the entire world and sometimes make people stop buying or selling and you can’t control that. You just have to be prepared to keep moving forward, no matter what happens.

And to me the most important thing is that we make ourselves really useful to people and to our advertisers and continue to do everything with as much integrity as possible.

Samir Husni: You’re known for your Tweets and the industry follows you from them. If you were going to compose a Tweet for people who want to start a new magazine or for those who want to enter our profession; what would you tell them in a Tweet?

Maria Rodale: Have cash. (Laughs) Have creativity and don’t give up.

Samir Husni: You sound on the positive side, that there is still room for more new magazines.

WH010215_NEWS HI Maria Rodale: Yes. I’m inspired by a lot of the really beautiful, high-priced magazines that people are doing today. I actually had a conversation with one woman who launched a magazine, one that I would call from the booklet publishing scene, and was very inspired by her passion and creativity and the scrappiness, but yet the beauty of it. But, in prompting her, I think we both realized it’s not the creativity or the spirit of a magazine that’s broken, it’s the whole industry around it. It’s newsstand and how people buy magazines and what they expect from the whole process.

What the Internet has done is made that commerce frictionless. I want something, I push a button and I have it. The magazine industry hasn’t done that yet. And that’s where I think we need to get to.

Samir Husni: How do you propose to solve that?

Maria Rodale: I know that we’re planning on undertaking a whole series of different tests this year. Creative tests and offer tests, because if we just hand the business over to Amazon or other third party people who know how to do that, we lose quite a bit. The whole value is in the sort of multi-opportunity for sale. And we lose that when we let a third party do it for us, at least for Rodale.

Samir Husni: Let me shift gears a little and ask you: if somebody comes to visit you at home in the evening and you’re sitting on your couch; what will they see in your hands, a printed magazine, an iPad, or a book? What do you prefer when it’s your “me time?”

Maria Rodale: If it’s before my kids go to bed, it will be a laptop, because we’re all together in the kitchen or on the couch. My kids are doing their homework and I’m doing mine and we’re all in the same room together, all on our own devices.

But after they go to bed and I get into bed, I’m a book reader, a real book reader. I do not read on devices unless for some reason I can’t find a book and that’s the only way I can read it. Magazines for me tend to be more: it’s the weekend, all my chores are done and my work is done and it’s my reward. Or I just need a break.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Maria Rodale: Just that I’m generally optimistic about the future and I’m even more optimistic about the human ability to be resilient and to adapt. And I believe in our power to create a positive world, if we think in a positive way. So, I don’t let things worry me too much. I’ve had so much tragedy in my life and one thing that teaches you is to just enjoy every day as if it’s your last because you never know. Every night when I go to bed, I’m just so thankful that I’ve had another day to make a difference in the world.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps Maria up at night?

Maria Rodale: I’m a really good sleeper. (Laughs) Not much keeps me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Forbes: “Give To Print What Belongs To Print And To Digital What Belongs To Digital.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Forbes’ Editor Randall Lane.

December 18, 2014

“We’re having our biggest print magazine readership in our 97-year history right now. You just have to listen to your readers and understand the medium that you’re working in and not try to make it something it doesn’t want to be. If you try to make a magazine like a website, it’ll be a bad magazine.” Randall Lane

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With Forbes Magazine increasing readership by 10% since spring 2014 and 29% since 2013 and with its unique monthly visitors to Forbes.com rising 20.5% since November 2013, the Forbes brand is ending 2014 on a very high note indeed.

According to recently released MRI data, Forbes magazine (The ink on paper one, just in case you were asking) has achieved its highest readership ever in the U.S., increasing by over 1.5 million readers in the past year to 6.7 million. Forbes increased its U.S. readership from 5,185,000 in the Fall 2013 to 6,706,000 in the Fall 2014 — a rise of 29% and the largest figure for Forbes in MRI’s records.

Forbes Print readership and its competitive set of magazines. (source: Forbes)

Forbes Print readership and its competitive set of magazines. (source: Forbes)

And Editor Randall Lane couldn’t be more pleased with the numbers for 2014, but isn’t content to rest on those laurels as the New Year fast approaches. Randall’s vision for 2015 includes a Jan. 5th launch of the 30 Under 30 issue – now one of Forbes’ most popular franchises. He is successfully bringing to life the pages of the magazine across platforms, in digital … and spearheading summit after summit such as this year’s first-ever Under 30 Summit (featuring 1,500 game-changing millennials) and the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy.

The Forbes brand is loyal to the integration and coordination of their print and digital products, utilizing them in such a way as they enhance and embrace each other on the echelons of both platforms.

Randall and I spoke recently about his pleasure and excitement with the year 2014 and the perspective and focus he has for the New Year. From the awards the magazine won in 2014 to the controversial topic of native advertising, to the successful “Forbes Formula” that intertwines their print and digital components so succinctly they act almost as one unit; our conversation was filled with the nuances of a hopeful and positive future for the brand.

So, sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Randall Lane, Editor, Forbes Magazine.

But first the sound-bites…

Randall Lane Headshot

On the phenomenal year Forbes had in 2014: It was a huge year when it comes to our readership increase for print and we’ve been getting big reactions to our stories. We won the Loeb Award this year for a story about the looting of Angola.

On the “Forbes Formula” that seems to be working so well for the brand: The Forbes Formula is to understand that we have an editorial point of view and that we always have and always will, and then to take each media and make it as great as it can be. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

On the controversy of native advertising: The fact that The New York Times is now doing native advertising tells you everything you need to know about it; that today, this is just a mainstream way of advertising.

On whether he saw himself and the magazine where it is today when he began his Forbes journey: That’s a good question. I think that the brand is so powerful and the history so robust that it was an honor to get the job and it’s an honor to help steward the brand and its legacy.

On the acquisition of Forbes and whether there were any changes afterward in the execution of the magazine: There were zero changes. From where I sit, it’s been great. They’ve invested in current management, and Mike (Perlis) made this clear too, they’ve given him and all of us a way to continue what we’re doing.

On any stumbling blocks he anticipates facing in 2015: I think at the end of the day, obviously, we’re well aware that we’re dealing with a very choppy situation.

On whether he could ever imagine a day without a print product among the Forbes brand: Forbes magazine is fundamental; Lewis DVorkin and Mike Perlis have always been very eloquent about that. Forbes magazine has nearly a 100-year-old tradition.

On what keeps him up at night: If it’s anything, it’s just recognizing that things shift so quickly now that if we are complacent, then we run the risk of getting run over like others who grew too comfortable.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Randall Lane, Editor, Forbes Magazine.

Samir Husni: It looks like Forbes had a wonderful year. You reported in a recent press release that things were great, both in print and in digital. Can you recap 2014 for me; what were some of the highlights of the year and a few of the ups and downs?

Randall Lane: It was a huge year when it comes to our readership increase for print and we’ve been getting big reactions to our stories. We won the Loeb Award this year for a story about the looting of Angola. We won an Overseas Press Club Award and the Morton Frank Award and several others. So we’re doing great journalism and winning awards and that lets us know the formula is working in print and it’s working online. It’s very gratifying to see that, because there are so many people who see this as a zero-sum game, where online is going to take away from print or print is going to undermine online. They don’t realize that when you’re doing them well and coordinated, they help each other. And you can see that from our numbers.

Samir Husni: You said the formula is working; can you expand a little on the Forbes Formula?

Randall Lane: The Forbes Formula is to understand that we have an editorial point of view and that we always have and always will, and then to take each media and make it as great as it can be. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

Over the last couple of years with the magazine, we’ve focused on longer stories, not shorter. A lot of people try to make their magazines more like their websites; we try to make it less like the website, they’re related, but the magazine tries to take advantage of what magazines are great at, which is long-form content, investigative reporting and beautiful photography, which we’ve invested a lot of money in.

While our website has had tremendous success by being very timely and by setting up this contributor’s network of experts, so we have expert comments and takes on things as they happen. And then we have this whole world of online business and Forbes Magazine can be much more curated and that way we’re able to set them both up and not have magazine stories on a website and web stories refurbished in print.

We focus on making the print magazine experience more of what’s great about a print magazine and we focus our website on what digital is great at, which is media feed and being able to cover topics in a timely manner.

One of our big successes in print this year that we’ve added; in fact, we just recently announced this, is our 37th global edition, Forbes Austria. We’re seeing a lot of international expansion and we’re excited about the fact that we continue to grow globally, which is part of the reason we were purchased this year by Integrated Whale Media Investments (“IWM”), they see the increased global potential.

And our events were great successes this year, which also helps with your website; we had more than half dozen huge events, led by the newest one: the Under 30 Summit. We took the 30 under 30 list from the magazine, which has become a huge sensation online, and we made it a live event where we had 1,500 people, young entrepreneurs and game-changers, meet in Philadelphia, and it was an event that I would put up against any other media company event that took place last year. And it’s going to be even bigger in 2015.

Samir Husni: I noticed that quite a bit of the revenue from the digital side is coming from native advertising. There are some critics in the media world who ask: is native advertising legitimate and does it ever have an impact on the printed magazine?

Randall Lane: In terms of what?

Samir Husni: In terms of tainting the editorial quality.

Randall Lane: Honestly, I don’t understand that argument, because magazines have had native advertising for as long as I’ve been in magazines; it’s called advertorial. That’s just native advertising, right? So, what’s new? I don’t understand. Magazines have been doing coordinated advertising for decades, and frankly, less transparently than Forbes is doing now with our native advertising. It couldn’t be clearer who the person is that’s writing the story or the post.

In the battle days of advertorial, there was a fight about how small you would make the point-size, and to me, this is much more honest. It’s not trying to squeeze the point-size down; it’s completely straightforward about where the point-of-view is coming from.

I don’t get the problem, especially in magazines, because magazines have been doing this for decades.

Samir Husni: As an editor of one of the largest business magazines, and with 37 global editions; what words of wisdom would you bestow to those who criticize native advertising in magazines and on websites?

Randall Lane: The fact that The New York Times is now doing native advertising tells you everything you need to know about it; that today, this is just a mainstream way of advertising. The key is transparency and as long as you’re transparent, to me, that’s much better than the old Kabuki dance of trying to figure out how to hide who is behind what you saw in magazine advertorials for decades. To avoid criticism of the practice, you have to focus on the transparency. As long as it’s transparent; you’re treating the readers like grownups. And frankly, some of the content is very good. It’s just important that the reader understand where it’s coming from. I’m extremely comfortable with our execution of native advertising and people are following what we do.

Samir Husni: Most critics are non-readers; have you received any criticism or objections from the readers of the magazine?

Randall Lane: I haven’t received any criticisms, not one; no complaints from our readers.

Samir Husni: As we look toward 2015 and as we also acknowledge the solid numbers that were accomplished in 2014; did you imagine when you got the job as editor-in-chief of Forbes that you would be where you are today? Or did you think that they’d hired you to kill the magazine?

Randall Lane: That’s a good question. I think that the brand is so powerful and the history so robust that it was an honor to get the job and it’s an honor to help steward the brand and its legacy.

I’ve always thought, and I continue to think, that the sky is the limit for us. It’s a global brand that means something and it’s up to us to execute the journalism and live up to that brand. And when we do, as in 2014, you see the results. And again, the online results are great and the print results are very gratifying, if only because so many people love to dump on the idea of magazines continuing to be vital, which they are, as vital as ever.

And we’re having our biggest print magazine readership in our 97-year history right now. You just have to listen to your readers and understand the medium that you’re working in and not try to make it something it doesn’t want to be. If you try to make a magazine like a website, it’ll be a bad magazine. And if you try to make a website like a print magazine, it’ll be a bad magazine; it’s just all about understanding the different nuances. If you try to do a live event like a website or a magazine, you’ll realize quickly that it has to be produced with the idea that the reader, user or the attendee should be the only thing on your mind. If you do that and you have a great brand and great journalists, writers, fact-checkers and editors, there is no reason that anyone couldn’t succeed.

Samir Husni: Randall, you seem to be on Cloud Nine. In 2015, what’s your prediction; more climbing into clear blue clouds, or a few thunderstorms?

Forbes Cover 112414 Most Powerful People Sean Rad Randall Lane: (Laughs) We see sunny skies. You’re going to see a big expansion. The Under 30 Summit was a huge success, we had everyone from Sara Blakely to Monica Lewinsky, who gave her first public speech ever and was viewed by half million people on YouTube within a week. It was the number two trending topic on Twitter, only behind Ebola for the entire three days of the summit.

We had a giant music festival with 5,000 people that kicked off the Summit, where we gave away free tickets to people who had done good things for the world. We had Wiz Khalifa and Afrojack headlining, one of the biggest DJs (Afrojack) and hip-hop artists (Khalifa) in the world.

And what’s amazing is we’re only scratching the surface. There is global potential here and we’re going to be making some announcements soon about what 2015’s Under 30 Summit will feature, but it’s going to be even bigger. We had a very successful app that went along with it.

The idea that’s been exciting to us for the last couple of years is that we’ve been able to show that the Forbes brand is actually a brand for the young. It’s very powerful among young people and what’s amazing and exciting for us is that the average age of our reader has gone down and the total number has gone up. The best part is the HHI has gone up. So, total readership up, average age down and HHI up. To bring your age down and your HHI up at the same time is very hard, but that’s what’s exciting about focusing on the under 30s is these are very, very successful people who are making a lot of money at a remarkably young age. And we are able to both lower our age demographic and increase our HHI at the same time and that’s a tough trick. And it’s something that we’re going to continue doing in the coming year.

Samir Husni: Was there any difference in atmosphere after the acquisition? With the change in ownership, were there any changes in the way the magazine is produced?

Randall Lane: There were zero changes. From where I sit, it’s been great. They’ve invested in current management, and Mike (Perlis) made this clear too, they’ve given him and all of us a way to continue what we’re doing. If you look at it, they bought into us because we are moving sharply up and they’ve been nothing but supportive of everything we’re doing.

Samir Husni: What is a major stumbling block you expect to face in 2015 and your plan to overcome it?

Randall Lane: I think at the end of the day, obviously, we’re well aware that we’re dealing with a very choppy situation. The entire media world is being disrupted, so just like everybody else, we’re well aware of the dangers you can’t see that are lurking everywhere, but we’re always looking downfield while we’re running, so it’s not that we’ve isolated anything, it’s more the idea that we know the entire landscape is constantly changing and we just have to continue to evolve and be proactive about that. We can’t sit here and pat ourselves on the back; we can’t do that because things change too much. We have to keep on innovating and pushing ourselves because the second we get on our heels, we risk falling on our fanny.

Samir Husni: Can you imagine the Forbes brand without a print product?

Randall Lane: Forbes magazine is fundamental; Lewis DVorkin and Mike Perlis have always been very eloquent about that. Forbes magazine has nearly a 100-year-old tradition. Whether or not the magazine is printed or you read it on the tablet, to me, and again if you look at our readership; we have nothing but good news to share on that front, but if you want to talk long-term, 20 years from now, there will always be a Forbes magazine.

Will it be consumed on a tablet versus dead trees, I don’t know and in some ways I don’t care as long as we’re doing great, long-form journalism, with beautiful photography and a point of view and doing our lists and turning them into great events and driving the website; as long as we’re able to execute what I think a magazine is; I think print, in some ways, is almost a misnomer, it’s the magazine that I’m focused on. But the print magazine right now is doing great.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Randall Lane: If it’s anything, it’s just recognizing that things shift so quickly now that if we are complacent, then we run the risk of getting run over like others who grew too comfortable.

What keeps me up at night is ironically what’s going to keep moving us all forward, which is we cannot get complacent because in this market, in this environment, that’s a very big risk. You can’t sit there and think that you’ve figured it all out and now you’re done. You can’t ever be done or else; if you think you’re done then that’s when you should be able to go to sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Joe Ripp, David Carey, and Samir Husni in This Week’s Edition of Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning

December 15, 2014

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 9.59.04 AMThe Dec. 15 edition of Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning is out. This week’s issue includes interviews with Joe Ripp, CEO of Time Inc., David Carey, President of Hearst Magazines and a profile story on yours truly written by Angela Rogalski, a free-lance journalist and the administrative assistant at the Magazine Innovation Center. Angela is also a former student of mine. The weekly e-mail Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning is free of charge. You can read this week’s issue here and you can have your own subscription here.
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If Magazines Were a Country — Mr. Magazine™ Would Be the Ambassador. A min: media industry newsletter re-post.

December 10, 2014

The following note and article were written by Steve Cohn, editor in chief of min:media industry newsletter and Angela Rogalski, a freelance journalist and former student of mine. It was first published on minonline.com on Dec. 8, 2014.

Picture 1 Editor’s (Steve Cohn) note. This fall, Samir Husni celebrated his 30th anniversary teaching magazine journalism at the University of Mississippi. That was the linchpin to Husni’s numerous achievements, begun with his first Guide to New Magazines in 1985 and continuing with his advising magazine entrepreneurs in Mississippi, the U.S.and around the world.

In 2009, Husni opened the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss, and his ‘ACT’ (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) conferences have turned Oxford, Miss., into a global forum for an industry experiencing much change and challenge.

Angela Rogalski studied under Husni at Ole Miss and currently works for him at the Innovation Center. Here is her story of the trademarked ‘Mr. Magazine.’


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If Magazines Were a Country – Mr. Magazine™ Would Be the Ambassador

By Angela Rogalski

Imagine a connection so strong that it’s unexplainable. There’s no tangible reason for it, other than a call from destiny, where kindred spirits meandered along their lone paths, until that point in life when they intersected.

One spirit belonged to a living, breathing human – a man.

The other to a sleek, glossy enchantress – a magazine.

Husni in his office

Samir Husni grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon and when he was a boy, he experienced a life-altering transformation; a transfusion, if you will. It was the moment that he bought his first magazine, Superman.

“I was introduced to the Man of Steel as a young boy,” Husni said, “when I bought my first magazine. It was Superman and when I held that magazine in my hand for the first time, I felt something similar to the blood leaving my body. It was eerie and at the same time, exhilarating. From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my professional life; I wanted to be involved with magazines.”

Husni had always had an abiding affinity for the printed periodicals that could transport a young child from Tripoli to anywhere in the world that he wanted to go. Like rubbing a magic lamp; reading had always provided the small boy with a way of satisfying his wishes to be immersed in the printed world.

From reading to designing his own; the young Husni had more than a fascination with magazines; he had a deep-seated passion for them.

But it wasn’t until that fated moment when he was nine that his heart actually began to pump ink instead of blood and Mr. Magazine™ was actually born.

Today Husni and his alter ego, Mr. Magazine™ is considered the leading expert on magazines and magazine media. From Finland to South Africa, from Lebanon to the United States and every country in between, Husni travels the globe, offering advice and “just common sense” on the subject of his love and obsession: magazines and magazine media.

Husni has never seen a magazine he didn’t like, or a first issue he didn’t buy. Regardless of the language, regardless of the price; if it says, new, first, or special, that magazine has to be his.

“It’s beyond a compulsion,” he said. “It’s a need.”

In the world of publishing and magazine media, Husni is renowned for being able to pinpoint problems and then execute solutions when it comes to the industry he loves.

“When everyone was shouting ‘print is dead, print is dead,’ I was rebuking the naysayers and amplifying print, preaching its value and the stability of its foundation for the brand.”

Not being content with spreading his positivity about print and magazines to just the media industry, Husni recently celebrated his 30th anniversary and that of the magazine service journalism program he initiated at the University of Mississippi.

“With the help of a lot of people from the Meredith Corp. in 1984, we developed five courses, and we began to offer the program,” Husni said. “Students needed to know more than just your basic reporting, writing, editing and designing and that was uncommon for the 1980s. Ole Miss was the first school to include journalism and the business side of magazines in one program.”

Since then, Husni has been teaching and emblazoning his magazine precepts into young minds at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the campus of Ole Miss. Imparting his passion and love of journalism, and magazines in particular, to the many students that often have to waitlist his classes just to get in.

From his Mr. Magazine™ Musings to the thousands of interviews he has conducted with industry leaders and entrepreneurs across the globe of magazine media and publishing, Husni knows the topics to cover and the questions to ask when it comes to anything dealing with the world of magazines.

He has interviewed up and coming pioneers such as Editor-in-Chief, Margarita Restrepo from Naked Food Magazine to seasoned vets like Joe Ripp of Time Inc. and David Carey of the Hearst Corp. and many, many in between. The mutual respect and admiration Husni and the commander’s-in-chief of the industry have for each other is palpable. They recognize Husni’s absolute loyalty to the industry and its print components and Husni treasures the people who take care of and put to bed his beloved magazines each day and night.

“The most important contribution that I feel I can make to the magazine media industry,” Husni said, “is to continue to amplify the power of print and to stress the importance of integration when it comes to digital. In the 21st century, there is no reason any one human being should ever have to decide whether it’s going to be “print” or “digital.” Obviously, it has to be both. And while many still tout the declination of print, many, many web entities are producing or completely going to a print format. Collectability and the forever quality of print are characteristics that make ink on paper very seductive and a heady motivation to produce a print product. It’s what the audience wants.”

One telling factor of Husni’s passion for print is the over 30,000 first editions he has in his personal collection. The only rival the magazines have for space is his equally large collection of neckties.

As an ambassador, Husni has visited many countries in the name of magazines. In 2014 alone, his journeys have taken him to South Africa, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Finland, Lebanon, Slovakia, Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, Mexico, and Russia with many more adventures to come.

As someone who has earned his envoy accreditation, leaders in the magazine media world are ready and willing to recognize his contributions.

These questions were presented to industry notables:

1. In your opinion, what impact has Samir Husni had on magazine media, in terms of his advocacy for the industry and its products?

2. If you could turn the tables and interview “Mr. Magazine™” what would be the first question you asked him?

3. Someone recently commented to Dr. Husni: if magazines were a country, you should be its ambassador, duly noted because of his extensive travel promoting and bringing awareness to every aspect of the medium. As someone else who deeply believes in and loves magazines; what trait or characteristic do you believe makes the ambassador to the country of Magazines so suited for the job?

And these were their answers:

Matt Bean.jpg

Matt Bean
Editor-in-Chief, Entertainment Weekly

1. I thought I was a magazine fanatic, trolling the basement in Gallagher’s for old copies of Spy and obsessing over the old Fortune magazines, the early era at Sports Illustrated, the spread of zines and the development of premium, low-run titles of late. But Samir’s the biggest fan of magazines there is–a hoarder with a mission–and in this time of turbulence and converging media worlds, having someone like him remind you of the power of print is a shot in the arm when you’re a magazine editor. He’s a consistent voice in inconsistent times.

2. If I were to ask Samir one question it’d probably be this: Choose your favorite magazine. Just one. The only title you could bring with you, or put into a spaceship to explain to beings in another galaxy why we smear ink onto pulped paper. Which one would it be, and why?

3. An ambassador’s greatest skill is diplomacy–and Samir has that in spades. He makes it a point to know everyone in the business–he’s fearless in a way–and so upbeat that it’s contagious.

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Mary Berner
President and Chief Executive Officer
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media

1. Samir is the ultimate evangelist. He is tireless in his pursuit of an accurate narrative for the industry. That commitment has impacted how the media covers us, and that impacts everything!

2. I would ask: If you were a magazine, what would the name be? And, what would some of the cover lines be.

3. Samir is endlessly passionate about – and fascinated by – the magazine media industry. But, what makes him such an extraordinary resource is that he also takes a very balanced view of the business and its challenges. There is a reason that he is considered an authority.

Vanessa Bush pic - ACT 5 (2)


Vanessa Bush
Editor in Chief
ESSENCE Magazine

1. Dr. Husni is the industry’s most visible and vocal champion in support of the power of print. He has a deep understanding of what drives engagement between print magazines and their audiences, and what makes for a successful relationship with the audience. And he uses his platform to advocate for the importance of magazine media.

2. Ha! I would ask him what keeps him up at night!

3. In a word: passion. His enthusiasm and sheer devotion to magazine media is unmistakable, and he’s not afraid to share it—even when others in the industry are questioning the value of printed media. He truly believes in the power of print to not only influence others but also transform lives. His confidence in this medium has encouraged countless others in this industry to feel the same.

Michael Clinton pic - ACT 5 (2)

Michael Clinton
President, Marketing, Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines

1. By his dedication to the magazine industry, Dr. Husni has kept the medium top of mind in marketing, media, associations and other influential circles.

2. How did you develop such a passion for the magazine medium?

3. Loving all people (magazines) equally, acknowledging the successes of the big players, but also celebrating the success of entrepreneurs. Passionate citizens will always follow a leader who is passionate about their world. “The country of magazines” will also welcome Dr. Husni as their Ambassador.

Steve Cohn-1 (2)

Steve Cohn
Editor-in-Chief, Media Industry Newsletter

1. The impact that Samir has on the magazine industry is immeasurable. I recall when he published his first Guide to New Magazines in 1986. He was considered a gadfly back then, but his expertise quickly became highly regarded by magazine watchers. Further, Samir quickly spread the magazine “gospel” around the world. No one can match his impact on the business in Finland and elsewhere. Finally, Samir has given added respect to Ole Miss, which had long been considered an academic backwater since the violence that accompanied James Meredith integrating the university in 1962. He gets some of the credit for bringing one of the three 2008 presidential debates to the school. And look at how many people attend his ACT conferences.

2. I would ask Samir that what in Lebanon induced him to do what he does. I presume that he grew up speaking Arabic, so reading an American magazine as child had to be difficult.

3. Samir leaving the Ole Miss campus many times to write, lecture and teach the magazine business makes him special. My only objection is his trademarked Mr. Magazine. That is too “vanity” for me, but it has worked to make Samir a “brand.” He is a great “ambassador.”

Lisa Scott photo - ACT 5 (2)


Lisa Scott
Executive Director, PBAA – PERIODICAL & BOOK ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA

1. I’ve known Samir for approximately 25 years, and throughout all that time his absolute dedication to and passion for the unique products that are printed magazines is unwavering; his advocacy message is portable to and translatable into every language and society on earth.

2. One thing I’ve always wanted to ask him is to actually do a brief business/editorial plan for a magazine that he believes would be a success in today’s market. He’s had such fabulous exposure to so many of the greatest entrepreneurs, editors and researchers, so there must be a lot of “yet unborn” magazines that he’s thought about.

3. Samir is a “citizen of the world”- no one presumes that his message is grounded in one country, culture, or language, or even economic or political system. His ability to find common ground with publishers everywhere is a tremendous asset, while at the same time empowering publishers to still find their own solutions and successes.

CGX


Vicki Wellington
VP, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer – Food Network Magazine, Hearst Magazines

1. He is a fair third party source who speaks the truth and is not swayed by any group.

2. How do I create a brand and become Ms. Magazine when he passes the baton.

3. His genuine passion for magazines which is clear when you see his office and the thousands of copies of every magazine piled throughout.

—————–

With many of magazine media’s leaders depending on and looking to Mr. Magazine™/The Ambassador’s opinions and projections about the future of print and its place in the industry, the only entity that hasn’t presented a point of view is the “Magazine” itself. And of course, if that were possible there is no doubt the passion and love Husni has for ink on paper in its purest form (the magazine) would reciprocate the emotions.

So for the sake of unexplored possibilities and an idea that manifested itself from the depths of the unexplainable; here are “Magazine’s” answers to the questions presented to industry leaders:

magazine ambassador

Magazine
Editor-in-Chief of Magazine Media

1. His impact on my existence has been phenomenal. Mr. Magazine™/The Ambassador is my biggest advocate and sometimes my only friend. When the world was ready to bury me in a shallow grave, he was my life support and refused to let them pull the plug. He is my human counterpart.

2. He always asks publishers and editors if they could strike their magazine with a magic wand and a human being could appear in place of the magazine, who would it be? So, I would ask Mr. Magazine™/The Ambassador how it feels to strike ANY magazine and see himself emerge?

3. The characteristic that makes him most suited for the job as my ambassador is tenacity. We ink-blooded organisms are a stubborn lot. And we will not be denied. So he travels the globe evangelizing the world on the value, collectivity and power of print!

The consensus is unanimous: Mr. Magazine™ is definitely the ambassador to the country of Magazines…

Thank you all. I am truly humbled and blessed to be doing what I do. Thank you for your support and keep those magazines and magazine media coming.

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Innovation in Print: Country Life’s Advent Calendar Cover

December 9, 2014

25 windows to open on this cover.

25 windows to open on this cover.


Country Life, Time Inc.’s weekly publication in the United Kingdom, offers one of the best examples of innovation in print.

The November 26 issue, which looks and feels like a monthly, has an Advent Calender Cover with 25 windows to open every day in December. The magazine asks readers to find “What’s behind the windows?”

The cover illustration was done by Fred van Deelen.

I have opened my first nine windows as the cover image to the right shows… This is a keeper.

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Hearst Magazines President David Carey to Samir Husni: Our Business Is One Part Innovation and One Part Aggressive Management. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

December 8, 2014

“In fact, our new magazines plus digital, now account for 32% of the profits of our U.S. companies. These are businesses that 5 years ago either did not exist or were in a loss position.” David Carey

david_carey_by_frank_veronsky-7985 As 2014 winds down and the world prepares for an exciting new year; magazines and magazine media also look to the future with hope and potential in both their print and digital products.

Just moments before he heads to a Hearst Board of Directors meeting, David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, took few minutes to chat with me about the year that passed and the year to come. David has always been a strong believer the power and reach of print and digital as well as in the power of new magazines. He doesn’t see any of the aforementioned changing in 2015. David’s positivity is absolutely contagious.

How can it not be? After all, the last three new print titles launched by Hearst and their partners, together with the digital initiatives, is responsible for 32% of the profits at Hearst Magazines now.

So, between Hearst’s print and digital innovations and the aggressive acquisitions the company is making, David believes that Hearst is looking stronger than ever as it approaches a new year and a new season of engaging with its audience.

So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with the president of Hearst Magazines, David Carey.

But first, the sound-bites:

On Hearst and his thoughts about 2014: I think 2014 was a very complex year. The bankruptcy of Source Interlink threw a big wrench into the middle of everyone’s single-copy strategies.
On why he believes so strongly in new launches: Our new magazines plus digital, now account for 32% of the profits of our U.S. companies. These are businesses that 5 years ago either did not exist or were in a loss position.
On his reaction to people who say digital is the future and there is no room for print: Our corporate mantra here is unbound, which indicates our belief in both our print and digital products. You have to be good at both, so we would strongly disagree that there is no future in print.
On the biggest stumbling block facing the industry in the coming year: The biggest opportunity for us and all media, I think, is we have to make sure our content is really engaging consumers. This is true if you’re a television producer or a magazine or newspaper publisher.
On the benefits of acquisitions: The managers that we pick up through these acquisitions are remarkable. So not only do you get the businesses and the underlying profits, you also get managers you can empower to help drive your next level of growth.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Carey, President, Hearst magazines…

Samir Husni: As a leader in magazine media, how do you sum up 2014 and what are your predictions for the new year?

David Carey: I think 2014 was a very complex year. The bankruptcy of Source Interlink threw a big wrench into the middle of everyone’s single-copy strategies. The market is now recovering, thank goodness, but it made for a longer year than we would have liked.

The same rules and thinking that has been in place for some time is still valid: A. The industry needs to continue to rethink its orthodoxies; how does it organize its teams; how does it produce its content; how do print and digital expressions work together and how do you structure your investment in content?

We’ve been doing a lot of that here at Hearst and I was pleased with my year.

Samir Husni: Hearst is one of the few major companies that has launched and continues to launch print magazines, while others are still gambling that the future is digital. You launched Dr. Oz The Good Life, HGTV magazine, and the Food Network magazine; why do you still believe so strongly in print?

David Carey: And more to come; Trending New York and others that we are thinking about for the next year. We believe very strongly that both consumers and advertisers welcome new magazines. We have found that just like people enjoy seeing new TV shows, new books, films; new everything, people also like to see new magazines.
We do these mostly with partners, so that helps us because we start with an established brand name. And we’ve found that we can get support for these businesses very quickly.

Let’s take Dr. Oz, for example, which maybe a year ago had virtually no subscriptions at that point and now has about 530,000 subscriptions. And the first few issues sold over 300,000 copies at newsstand.
That’s indicative of all the opportunities, so we’ll continue to bring new products to market on a schedule of at least once every 24 months.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I’ve heard recently is that some are placing all their bets on digital, there is no future for print. How do you react to a statement like that?

David Carey: Our corporate mantra here is unbound, which indicates our belief in both our print and digital products. You have to be good at both, so we would strongly disagree that there is no future in print. But we know that in order to succeed, you’re also going to have to be a highly-skilled digital publisher and a very innovative print publisher. You can’t just do one; you have to do both.

Samir Husni: What do you see for the industry as a whole, not just Hearst, as the biggest stumbling block to be faced in 2015?

David Carey: The newsstand ecosystem will have calmed down in 2015, so that’ll be a plus. The biggest opportunity for us and all media, I think, is we have to make sure our content is really engaging consumers. This is true if you’re a television producer or a magazine or newspaper publisher.

Consumers today, by virtue of the amount of time they spend with a little device connected to their hand at all times, people spend 2-3 hours a day on the mobile web, even if you’re producing websites or magazines; you have to make sure that your content will pull people away from other things and engage with you. In this, it’s an absolute battle for readers’ attention and every media form under the sun is facing that same problem of getting people’s attention away from that short-form device focus and have them engage with their content.

Samir Husni: As you walk into the board meeting and one of the members asks you, “David, what will be your Tweet on New Year’s Eve?

David Carey: My Tweet on New Year’s Eve would be – my deepest thanks to my team for a year of creativity, strong management to their business and optimism.

Samir Husni: And for the rest of the world?

David Carey: This is a business that’s one part innovation and one part aggressive management of the business. We saw our web audiences explode and our digital businesses are now a key piece of our profit, very much so. We were losing money in digital in 2010, but today those profits are quite strong and very meaningful.

In fact, our new magazines plus digital, now account for 32% of the profits of our U.S. companies. These are businesses that 5 years ago either did not exist or were in a loss position.

So, I can only say to that – thank goodness we took those risks and thank goodness these teams executed so well because our U.S. companies would be far less profitable if we had not gone down those paths.

Five years ago those numbers from that same set of properties would have been a bracketed number and now it’s a pretty big number. And that means we keep at it, in terms of new products. We’ll keep at the process and our goal is that all of them work, some may not along the way, but that’s OK too.

Samir Husni: I also noticed that you’re buying back a lot of your franchises overseas; I heard in Moscow that Hearst is coming to buy Cosmo again and they did it in Amsterdam; is that a new strategy for the company as a whole, to reacquire your franchises from overseas?

David Carey: We’ve been on that path for a bit. We bought Cosmo in Italy, Amsterdam and we have some other markets planned. It’s not an exclusive strategy except that when those moments come up, we will act upon them. I think especially on the digital front that it helps when we can coordinate all the digital activities under an owned platform.

But we have partners around the world and we’re proud of them. This is more led by our partners and the moves they make and they might be restructuring their businesses. Just to be clear, we’re not pushing anybody out; it’s more a function of if they’re going to restructure their businesses anyway, we’re offering an alternative.

One last thing, since we’re talking about acquisitions, we also get fantastic diversification of management. The managers that we pick up through these acquisitions are remarkable. So not only do you get the businesses and the underlying profits, you also get managers you can empower to help drive your next level of growth. We think not only about new launches, but future acquisitions as well. It’s all important.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning: From Russia With Love. A Special Issue.

December 8, 2014

Picture 2 The new edition of Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning is out. The Dec. 8 issue is a special issue recapping Mr. Magazine’s™ four blogs from Russia and a blog entry written by Alexander Oskin, my host in Russia.

To read this week’s issue of Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning click here.

To subscribe to the free weekly delivered to your in box click here.

To read Mr. Oskin’s blog chairman of the Russian Press Distributors Association click here.
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