Archive for September, 2011

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Behind Every MASK, There is a Great Woman: The Story of MASK The Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Kimberly Cabral

September 28, 2011

First it was the organization, next came the printed magazine. Next will be the movement that will take Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids (MASK) to every family, every school and every neighborhood with the aim “to educate both parents and children about the issues facing our youth today and to empower children to make safe, healthy choices.” That is the mission of MASK The Magazine and the mission of the woman behind the MASK Kimberly Cabral.

When I saw the first issue of MASK The Magazine, I was hooked. I was fascinated by the concept and puzzled about who, in their right mind, would start a magazine with such a mission. No sex, no celebrities, no chocolate recipes, no diets, just pure Engagement, Education and Empowerment. I had to get in touch with the woman behind the three Es of MASK The Magazine. I knew this magazine is much more than a business plan. It is a labor of love, and it shows.

I reached out to Kimberly with a host of questions, somehow, more about the organization behind the magazine, the movement, the passion rather than just the magazine. I felt the need to unMASK the woman behind the MASK. What I discovered, was exactly like I guessed, a labor of love that is manifested on every single page of the magazine, the web, and the organization. Kimberly Cabral is on a mission and she is not leaving any MASK undone until every child is able to “make safe, healthy choices.”

In a typical Mr. Magazine™ Interviews, here are the sound-bites first, followed by the entire interview with Kimberly Cabral:

On the reason for MASK, the organization
: At MASK we believe that educating kids is great, but in order to make a real impact, the whole family unit/community should be informed and be able to reinforce the messages.

On launching a print magazine
: Many people, myself included, see value in the hard copy of books and magazines because they can keep them and refer back to them when needed.

On the ultimate goal of MASK: If the MASK organization or MASK The Magazine can engage, educate and empower families, then we are one step closer to changing statistics.

On the intended audience of MASK: The goal of MASK The Magazine is to reach families! Specifically, families with children entering school to those who are reaching adulthood.

On what makes Kimberly click
: I love being part of something that is making a difference, and it is surreal to be doing something you feel that you were born to do.

And now for the complete interview with the founder of MASK, the organization and the magazine:

Samir Husni: MASK, the magazine came after MASK the organization… What is the story of MASK the organization?

Kimberly Cabral: The idea for MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids) came about four years ago during a car ride with my son, who would soon be entering middle school. The conversation I had with him that day opened my eyes to the realities our kids face, as early as elementary school. As a result of that conversation, I started gathering information, and I was alarmed to discover while there are great awareness/prevention programs out there, they didn’t start educating until middle school and high school. I thought, “Why are they waiting to start then, when the behaviors start in the elementary years?” From there, I approached three friends who also shared the same concerns as I did. We decided to develop a program that began in the entry level of school and would educate as they grow. We partnered with and were trained by experts in the various fields, and we began conducting meetings on a variety of topics of concern, including the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, bullying, Internet safety and self-esteem.

SH: Why did you decide to launch a print magazine in this digital age? Is there a future for print?

KC: At MASK we believe that educating kids is great, but in order to make a real impact, the whole family unit/community should be informed and be able to reinforce the messages. We soon realized that, although our meetings were informative and well-received, we live in a time-deprived society, and many people don’t have time to schedule another commitment. I feel so passionately that the information we provide can be life-saving, so in order to reach a larger audience, we launched MASK The Magazine.

Although MASK The Magazine is also available digitally, I believe there will always be those who prefer print in this digital age. Many people, myself included, see value in the hard copy of books and magazines because they can keep them and refer back to them when needed. The generational gap that has existed over decades seems to be even wider today as a result of technology. There are a still a large number of families who don’t use the Internet, or are not well educated about it. We want this publication to be available to all.

SH: It seems to me that you are more than passionate about this subject matter. What is in it for Kimberly to be doing this?

KC: As a mother of a blended family of five, I know how important it is to keep up with the latest trends and influences in our children’s lives. I was a stay-at-home mom, living in a safe neighborhood, with time to devote to my children and volunteer at their schools. Once I became aware of what was really going on, it became my passion to inform others and help open the lines of communication between parents and their children. Growing up, I could have been the poster child for someone who easily could have “gone the wrong way” based on the choices I had in life and the decisions I could have made, but didn’t. I had my full share of deficiencies and challenges growing up. Luckily I had people who made a difference in my life: a high school Spanish teacher who took the time to listen, and a CHP Officer who took me under his wing after my uncle (his colleague) died. Looking back, I was given a gift, and as I see it now, I feel that I have been fortunate to find my “life’s purpose.” I am driven by the desire to help in any way that I can, and as an organization to help bridge that generational gap between families and communities. If the MASK organization or MASK The Magazine can engage, educate and empower families, then we are one step closer to changing statistics.

SH: You are trying to reach such a general audience, from parents of young children to those with college kids… do you think this is possible in this day and age?

KC: The goal of MASK The Magazine is to reach families! Specifically, families with children entering school to those who are reaching adulthood. I recently was able to interview our student writers of MASK The Magazine (Our S.A.T. section, list). In talking to them, I was invited into their world, and they confirmed to me what deep down I have believed to be true: kids want to be understood, they need our guidance as parents, and they want to matter and be heard. We have only published three issues so far, and not only do we have the “buy in” from parents, we are getting positive feedback from the kids/students themselves.

SH: What are some of the methods you are using to spread the word about MASK, both the organization and the magazine?

KC: In addition to spreading the word about MASK through our school awareness presentations, we also use social media to get the word out, including our website (www.maskmatters.org), blogs, facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. We are partnering with like-minded businesses and organizations. We send press releases to media outlets, conduct television interviews, attend events, and generally “pound the pavement” to inform as many people as possible about our organization.

SH: What are your expectations for MASK, both the organization and the magazine?

KC: We have received magazine subscriptions from across the United States and internationally, which is thrilling. Currently in development is MASK’s National Student Awareness Kit which will be made available to any individual school that requests it. The kit will include prevention material, videos, reinforcement strategies, and all information needed for educators to self-teach MASK’s educational programs.

SH: Lastly, what makes Kimberly get up from bed in the morning? What makes you tick and click every day?

KC: I love being a mom! I love my kids and I love kids in general. Every time I see a new baby, in the back of my mind I think “one more”. I love being part of something that is making a difference, and it is surreal to be doing something you feel that you were born to do.

SH: Thank you.

To learn more about MASK click here and be sure to check MASK’s MASKer Aide Gala, Friday Oct. 21, 2011 in Scottsdale, AZ.

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Numbers are UP for new magazine launches in Third Quarter 2011

September 26, 2011

At least 219 new titles have appeared on the nation’s stands for the first time in the third quarter of 2011. That is an increase of 33 titles than the 186 new titles that appeared on the stands for the first time in the third quarter of 2010 and 8 more than the 211 titles that appeared for the first time in the third quarter of 2009.

From the 219 titles, 47 magazines had the intention to publish at least four times a year, leaving the majority of the titles to either an annual frequency or a the ever-so-popular book-a-zines. Those 47 new magazines represent an increase of five titles over the same period of 2011.

The total number of new magazines introduced so far this year stands at 657 titles with 151 of them published with a frequency of four or more times a year.

With few of the leading major magazine publishers re-entering the field of new magazine launches, and if I may add, the ones in ink on paper, 2011 is shaping to be a good year for the new magazine titles arriving at the stands, in spite of all the doom and gloom surrounding the closings of bookstores and the shrinking spaces at retail.

The legendary John Mack Carter used to tell me every time I saw him, “New magazines are the lifeblood of our industry and the newsstands are the acid test of any new magazine.” Amen to that.

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SUCCESS Magazine is Gender Neutral, But No One Said Its Covers Can’t Be Gender Specific

September 23, 2011

How do you define Success? Well, the folks at Success Media, publishers of SUCCESS magazine since 2007 have their own definition of the word that identifies a legendary magazine founded in 1897 by Orison Swett Marden. Darren Hardy, the magazine current publisher and editorial director writes in the current issue of SUCCESS, “A successful person, by our definition, is one who has achieved five pillars of excellence: business, well-being, relationships, wealth and contribution.” Fair enough, a very gender neutral definition reflecting the tag line of the magazine, “What Achievers Read.”

However, the reason I am writing this blog is not the definition of success, but rather the way Success Media is approaching the issue of gender in a newsstand test of the magazine’s cover. As I was shopping for magazines (what else) at a Barnes & Nobel in Memphis, TN I saw a cover of SUCCESS different than the one I had at home. So far, so good. Nothing out of the ordinary. Most magazines have split covers and I am used to that and try to collect every cover I can put my hands on. The surprise was as I continued scanning and gathering my magazines to buy, I found the other cover of SUCCESS at the same newsstands, but in a different section. The green cover was at the women’s section and the blue cover was at the business section.

Flipping through the pages of the magazine I found the following note with a picture of the green cover in both copies: “If you see SUCCESS on the newsstand twice, you’re not seeing double. Look for our limited edition cover in the women’s interest section of Barnes & Noble.”

But to find both covers at Barnes & Noble get me thinking? A plan or a mistake? Why two covers and why the note sending you to the women’s interest section? Although I hate to oversimplify, but I feel that the green cover is designed with women in mind (thus the note to go to the women’s section of the stands) and the blue cover is designed with men in mind. The gender neutrality is over. How do I know? Just check the image of Dr. Oz, the cover lines or the absence of some cover lines in the green cover and the addition of “For You” to the name of the magazine. Also note the major change in the lead cover line, the blue cover offers Dr. Oz’s “11 Steps to Living Large and Living Longer,” while the green cover offers Dr. Oz’s “Rx for Looking Younger and Living Longer.” (click on the covers above to enlarge).

A new way of testing covers? Yes indeed. However here are few questions that one can’t but ask. Is business gender neutral? Is success gender neutral? Do “achievers” identify themselves as women or men first, and successful persons second? Or is it vice versa?

A whole lot of questions and only the folks at Success Media will know the answers once the results of the test are in… stay tuned and weigh in your comments. In the meantime enjoy this gender neutral blog.

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Something to hold and own for everyone and every taste: That’s what new magazines offer readers of print in a digital age

September 21, 2011

To paraphrase the old saying, “one magazine is worth a 1,000 blogs.” So, without further ado, here are some new magazines making their first debut to the nation’s newsstand this month. Some are brand new, some were never distributed on the stands before. In either case, those titles from major, minor and somewhere in-between publishers, show the vitality and variety of the new magazine titles. There is a new magazine for every taste, every gender, every race, every (you fill in the blank)…

Here is a sample of those magazines with direct quotes from the pages of each one of the titles. Enjoy, visit a newsstand and buy one or two of those magazines, or one of the many other titles you will find and discover. Contrary to rumors, there are plenty of ink on paper magazines out there. Check them out.


“Welcome to the launch issue of The Social Media Monthly, the first print (yes, print) magazine devoted to the exploration and review of social media.”

“We are proud to introduce – and welcome you to- Exploring History. Just as National Geographic has been revealing the wonders of the world to readers for more than a century, this magazine will dig deep to unlock the mysteries of time, from the dawn of civilization to the modern era.”

Bitayavon Magazine is a compilation of loads of exciting and mouthwatering recipes and tips for the kosher cook.”

“You’ll notice that we’ve now placed an emphasis on the Intelligent Collector part of the cover title. We believe this more succinctly tells readers what we’re all about.”

“The team at Overland Journal started a new adventure, one quite different from the typical border crossings and desert travel we had enjoyed as travelers – we started a magazine.”

“Vegas is a city for those who want it all, and Vegas/Rated is the window onto this world. From cover to cover, Vegas/Rated brings the city beyond its borders and tells the new story of one of America’s most iconic destinations.”

“Welcome! Strawberry Shortcake magazine is packed with all your berry best pals! This issue is full of stories, coloring, puzzles, fun facts, and MORE!”

“What better way to kick off the summer than with our first TQ Magazine Bikini Issue. Our talented team of photographers, writers and graphic designers were thrilled with the idea of a bikini issue. After countless hours of collaboration, we are truly impressed with our final product.”

Uptown Professional is the new national, cutting-edge magazine for Urban Professionals with 5 or more years experience in corporate America. Covering relevant topics for African American, Hispanic, Asian, Women and GLBT professionals.”

“We want you to see firsthand just how good our crossword magazines are.” The new series of magazines under the 97 cents Value Series from Dell offers a variety of monthly titles such as Tip-Top Easy Crosswords and Take-a-Break Easy Crosswords.

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Do You Have What It Takes To Innovate? 24 Media Leaders Will Show You How at the ACT 2 Experience Oct. 26 – 28

September 15, 2011

An unprecedented gathering of some of the biggest names in the magazine and media industry will descend on Oxford, Mississippi on Oct. 26, 27 and 28 to share with an audience of industry professionals and journalism students their perspectives on the future of the printed word in a digital age.

The second ACT (Amplify, Clarify and Testify) Experience, hosted by the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, promises to be the most intimate, innovative experience to date, with seminars conducted by media CEOs, presidents, publishers, printers, marketing and advertising gurus, circulation experts, editors in chief, creative directors, software developers, brand renovators and futurists. It all makes for two-and-a-half days of great testimonials on the status of the magazine industry today, tomorrow and in the years to come. You are invited to have a center stage seat with the 24 speakers as we “think and do” the future of the printed word in a digital age.

The agenda is set and registration is still open for the remaining few seats from the 100 reserved for media professionals attending the ACT 2 Experience. Check the agenda here and register here.

Any questions, feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com

Join us for two and a half days of Magazines, Music and Mississippi. Register now.

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The Insane American Magazine Business Model is Back with a Vengeance!

September 12, 2011


What if I tell you that over the weekend I ordered 201 (Two hundred and one, I had to spell it out so folks won’t think it is a typo) issues of 18 different magazines published by Hearst Magazines and paid less than 45 cents an issue? A total of $90 dollars guaranteed me an entire-year- subscription to all but one magazine from the Hearst Magazines stable of magazines. The one exception, missing from the list, is one of the few major success stories of a new magazine launch in the last five years: Food Network magazine. This is insanity at its best. A year of Cosmo, the number one selling magazine on the newsstands for $5.00. Same can be said about the remaining 17 magazines offered at this “pre-holiday price for one week only!”

And Hearst is not alone. Condé Nast is offering its print magazine subscribers free access to its digital Apps. on your tablet. Condé Nast magazine subscribers are reminded the minute they pick up their magazines from the mailbox that “You’re missing out! Your print subscription includes access to (insert magazine name)’s iPad version- at no extra cost.” Great and thank you. However, I have a problem now because I bought a new iPad and every time I try to access the free Apps, I am reminded that I have an account already and what I know is free, I have to buy. I tried emailing customer service to solve this problem and all what I receive back is details on how to enter my account number and sign in. I even deleted the Apps from my older iPad and still to no avail.

Well that is not the end of the story. I also received emails from Condé Nast asking me to renew my subscriptions to Wired and Vanity Fair. The offers give you the opportunity to give a one year’s free subscription to a friend, receive a gift and renew your own for one low price. What is going on? I recall the early years of Wired when the price of a subscription used to be higher than the cost of buying the magazine on the newsstands and there was no “bill me later.”

As an outsider watching our industry struggle to stay afloat, I plea with my friends at the aforementioned magazine companies and the rest of the magazine industry to stop committing suicide and later wonder why did we die. The business of counting customers have departed this planet on Sept. 2008. Let us get back to the business of customers who count. The Audit Bureau of Circulation must go back to counting subscriptions that count and not just counting. A penny paid for a subscription should not count as a paid subscription. Remember when paid subscriptions used to be at least half of the basic subscription price. Those were the days my friend and they have to come back. I know that is only one of the many problems surrounding the advertising driven business model, but we have to start somewhere. It is never too late.

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Ten Years Later… American Photo Pays a Photographic Tribute to 9/11/01

September 11, 2011


On the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01 American Photo magazine released an App. reliving those horrifying moments that followed the attacks of Sept. 11 from the photographers’ own stories. The App. is free and can be downloaded here. The magazine is asking readers/viewers to donate to a list of charities listed on the opening page of the App. It is worth every penny. Check it out and join the rest of the nation as we remember the victims of Sept. 11 and their families.

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Marking its third departure from the Red Border, TIME’s 10th anniversary cover of 9/11 displays a majestic Sliver Border

September 5, 2011

The front cover image of TIME’s special issue on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001 marks the third time in the magazine’s history that the trademarked red border was not used on the cover. TIME opted for a silver border surrounding the image created by Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, co-creators of the original Tribute in Light memorial in New York City. It shows a photo-illustration imagining the Tribute in Light as seen from space.

The other two times the magazine changed its border were on the special issue of TIME following the attacks of September 11, 2001 when black was used for the border and during the celebration of Earth Day in April of 2008 when green was used for the border. It is also the first time that I recall a weekly releases its cover four days before the magazine hits the newsstands.

Yet another example of how magazines continue to be experience makers and conversation starters. The special issue of TIME will hit the newsstands on Thursday September 8.

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NO ADS and Successful: All The Shopping, None of the ADS. Shop Smart;) Magazine Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Lisa Lee Freeman, Shop Smart’s Editor In Chief

September 1, 2011

When times are good, or so it seems, the magazine business model always seems to tilt back toward that “advertising centric” model and the business of counting and selling customers’ eyeballs to the advertisers. When times are not so good, you start hearing about publishers who want to be in the “consumer centric” model and who are looking for customers who count rather than just counting their “eyeballs.”

My friend Roy Reiman, founder of Reiman Publications, proved it once, twice and more than a dozen times that the “consumer centric” business model for your magazine can and will work if your magazine is necessary, sufficient and relevant. Roy did it the 80s, 90s and the early parts of the new century. However skeptics today say it can’t be done now. Times are different. Indeed they are, and indeed before Roy’s huge success with his titles which ranged from Country to Taste of Home (the largest selling cooking magazine in America), someone else have been publishing a “consumer centric” magazine in Yonkers, New York aptly named Consumer Reports.

For years Consumer Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports published the magazine without a single page of advertising and not only the magazine succeeded, it also thrived. Well, taking a page from Consumer Reports business model, the publisher decided to launch a new magazine five years ago in the midst of an “advertising centric” thriving magazine business model. Times were good, very good indeed when the first issue of a new shopping magazine called Shop Smart appeared for the first time on the nation’s newsstands in September of 2006. Shop Smart was born with one catch to its business model: NO Advertising. Another attempt to launch a “consumer centric” magazine, not out of necessity but rather out of a philosophy and firm belief that the model still works.

Shop Smart celebrates this month its fifth anniversary and on that occasion I had the opportunity to interview Lisa Lee Freeman, the magazine’s editor in chief. In typical Mr. Magazine™ Interview’s style, what follows are the sound bites followed by a very lightly edited full interview.

The Sound Bites:

The positives of a “consumer centric” business model: If you are always depending on your readers to pay for content and to value that content, then you have a much more solid long-term business model, in terms of stability from year to year.

The negatives of a “consumer centric” business model
: I think a lot of companies don’t have the patience to wait for something to grow using this kind of model. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.

The link between print and digital: We had decided early on that Shop Smart was going to be very Internet friendly and have a digital focus in terms of shopping.

The young ones who don’t read magazines
: For the ones that don’t, you’re never going to reach that audience with print, so you need to have some kind of digital product. You need to be able to reach them and get them in the habit of paying for your content in the digital space.

The role of an editor today
: Being an editor right now is a really big challenge. It is a big challenging time right now. You can’t just be a print editor. You can’t just think that you’re just this magazine editor. You’re a dinosaur if you think that way.

Best advice for future journalists
: If you can package content in a compelling way that is your most important skill. That’s going to help you on any platform. It’s all about knowing how to package content for different platforms.

The future of print
: I think print is still very vital and I think it will be for the foreseeable future but I do think that print is going to be translated into the digital space.

The role of printed magazines: We are in the business of delighting people and surprising people. People go on the web for more social interaction and information gathering and it’s less of that escape than curling up with a magazine. It’s a very different experience.

The function of a printed magazine
: Magazines really are about enjoyment, finding a few moments to steal for you. Magazines provide that little escape. It’s fun that people still want that experience. It’s not just about the information.

The most important role of editors
: It’s all about creating an entertaining experience. You’re a curator, as an editor and doing a print magazine you’re working within a very strict set framework that is very fun. It’s like painting a picture every month and you’re giving it to people to enjoy.

The changing role of editors
: I still have to be really hands on but that is probably unusual in the business. You have to let go, if you love writing and editing then you might not want to become an editor.

And now, for the lightly, very lightly edited transcript of the interview with Lisa Freeman, editor in chief of Shop Smart magazine:

Samir Husni: We have heard a lot lately in our business, every time the economy is down, that we need to return to that consumer centric model instead of the advertising centric model. Why do you think, even a shopping magazine succeeds in this consumer centric model, and why do you think other people are not imitating what you are doing?

Lisa Lee Freeman: The truth of it is that when you start a new magazine and you’re not allowed to take advertising, it almost feels like you’re tying your hands behind your back. It’s like eliminating revenue that most magazines have. It is kind-of a crazy business model in some ways, but in other ways it brings discipline to the process because it requires you to make money on your content and not rely on advertisers. We’re not growing quickly in terms of subscriptions. We have to make money on every single subscription we sell and that’s a very high bar. You do sacrifice growth for profitability. In these times, I think a lot of magazines have gotten too dependent on advertising and that ultimately hurts a lot of magazines. If you are always depending on your readers to pay for content and to value that content, then you have a much more solid long-term business model, in terms of stability from year to year. You’re not going to have as much fluctuation. Once you have a subscriber they tend to stick with you and they are the ones supplying the funds.

SH: We live in an age now where nobody is patient anymore. Everybody wants everything now. Everybody wants to break even within six months, make money within nine months, and yet you are telling me that the consumer centric business model is more of a model that is slowly building, step-by-step. Does that drive you crazy as an editor?

LF: YES. We could have gotten much bigger much faster, if we had a different model. With that said, I think that people really value our content and when you charge for what you provide people are paying a price for the value. It has taken awhile for us to make money. At the end of the day, it takes years to get up to a level of profitability. You just have to have patience. I think a lot of companies don’t have the patience to wait for something to grow using this kind of model. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.

SH: Do you think Shop Smart’s business model would have worked if Consumer Reports was not behind it?

LF: No, I don’t think it would have actually worked. I think the Consumer Reports brand has provided a lot of support for the product. I think it would be very difficult to launch a magazine into the market place right now, especially given our economy. That foundation and that brand recognition we had right out of the gate really helped us. With that said, a lot of our customers are new to the brand and have never purchased any Consumer Reports products. While CR has helped because it has given a certain amount of brand recognition that is not the only reason people are buying it. What Shop Smart has done is really broaden the audience for the content we produce at Consumer Reports, which has been very satisfying for me.

SH: Lets go back five years in history… Can you recreate that first time you were told that you were going to publish a shopping new magazine, with no hypes, no ads, just great buys? When you first knew that Consumer Reports was going to do this magazine?

LF: When I came here I saw the need for a women’s magazine. I proposed this magazine and it was originally turned down. This was six years ago and I had just come on board at Consumer Reports. A lot of my friends weren’t reading CR because they thought it really wasn’t for them. It was boring and it was all about charts and graphs. They bought it but only when they absolutely needed it, like if they were buying a refrigerator they would pick it up or they would subscribe to the website. I thought that with the kind of information we had here we could create something really compelling without the charts, without the graphs. It could really be focused on just the best. Women don’t have a lot of time. Just tell people what to buy, what not to buy, and give them some tips on how to find a good deal. That was the genesis of my idea. I wrote a long proposal. Elizabeth Crow, the editorial director, at the time was wowed and thought it was brilliant. I had proposed that we really needed to test more women’s products. The company said they didn’t have money to test for a new magazine. We had several meetings and it kind-of got kicked to the side.
The art director, Tim LaPalme, at Consumer Reports, had pitched a magazine for young men and it was very visual and very much what I had envisioned for Shop Smart. It had short, little charts, it was quick and fast moving and more visual. He actually did some mock-ups. When they saw them the marketing department said “Wow, you know what, maybe we should do some focus groups.” The marketing department here is really smart and they invited a few women. The men in the focus groups were asking about the charts and icons for ratings. The women in the groups felt that this was something they might be interested in. The head of newsstand at the time came running down the hallway after the focus group and said “Lisa, you’ve got a magazine!” She explained to me that she was in the meetings for the original concept that I had come up with and she said, Lisa you should work with Tim, who was the designer for this other magazine. We came up with some more mock-ups. In my vision it was the women’s magazine that I had envisioned. We took out all ratings, even mentions of ratings, made it visual, gave it a completely different voice, a different look and feel, and added a lot of the how-to and the service stuff that women’s magazines are known for. We then went back out and did some more focus groups. Women went berserk— they loved it. Online shopping was really coming into it’s own, it was still early on but people were still really eager to learn about the websites they should go to and that sort of thing. We had decided early on that Shop Smart was going to be very Internet friendly and have a digital focus in terms of shopping. For the focus groups I put together all these fake websites and descriptions of them. I also added some wacky cleaning tips that I made up, like use pencil shavings and alcohol to clean all your chandeliers. We knew we had a winner when women in the focus groups were literally taking this made up stuff jotting down. They wanted to take the materials with them. I had to run in there after the groups were done and let them know these are not real websites and don’t use pencil shavings on your chandeliers. We had more focus groups and shortly after we launched Shop Smart.

SH: The magazine was born and it was ink on paper in this digital age. You have a very successful marriage between print and digital and CR has the same thing. Do you really think any magazine today can exist for 5 years without a digital presence?

LF: You have to have the right digital presence. I think a lot of publications made the mistake of thinking, ‘well, we’re just going to throw up a website and put a bunch of free content up there, so that we’re there and our brand is out there in the digital space.’ In some ways that was a big mistake because a lot of people got used to not paying for stuff online because they have all this free information out there. What Shop Smart is focusing on and what I hope to accomplish over the next several years is digital model with applications that will play off our material, things that people are going to pay for. The reason we all have to do this is even though we’re not going to make money off of it right away and there are not a lot of big bucks even where people are paying, we have to be there because if you spend any time with people in their 20s, you’ll find out that print magazines are not one of their things. A lot of them do read print magazines but a lot of them don’t. For the ones that don’t, you’re never going to reach that audience with print, so you need to have some kind of digital product. You need to be able to reach them and get them in the habit of paying for your content in the digital space. You can’t do that just by throwing up a free website and thinking that they’re going to become familiar with your brand and then they are going to start buying your print magazine. I don’t think this generation is going to do that. I don’t think we can count on that kind of transition.

SH: So, how do you capture them? How do you reach them?

LF: I think you have to reimagine the content that you provide and figure out a way to provide it in new platforms that people are willing to pay for; mobile apps, iPad apps, tablet apps, and things of that nature. A lot of companies are now creating TV shows and they have products that they’re selling with their brand. You have to find new ways to reach those audiences and you have to think about your brand in a whole new way. Being an editor right now is a really big challenge. You can’t just be a print editor. You can’t just think that you’re just this magazine editor. You’re a dinosaur if you think that way. We all know this. The challenge is finding the time and the resources to figure out what to do with all these product extensions and figure out how we are eventually going to make money off of these things. No one’s really making big bucks off these product extensions yet.

SH: Did your education help you or prepare you for this new role as an editor? What should we be doing in terms of educating and preparing for the future editors? Should we add marketing, should we add digital skills? If someone graduates with the basics, writing, editing, reporting, design, critical thinking… are you telling me this is no longer enough?

LF: I think it is no longer enough. We can’t lose sight of it. If you can package content in a compelling way that is your most important skill. That’s going to help you on any platform. It’s all about knowing how to package content for different platforms. That’s how you’re going to succeed. It doesn’t hurt to have some knowledge of digital, social media; editors need to be in the social media space. Editors need to be familiar with how it works and how it gets done. If your not doing it in school, you need to keep up with it and figure it out. If you don’t have the business and marketing skills, then you need a strong team behind you and really you need a partner. I don’t work with an ad sale rep, a traditional publisher that’s selling advertising, but I do have to partner with the business side in order to make the products get off the ground. So far, we only have a digital version of Zinio and on the Nook but we’re planning other things. If you don’t have those business skills, you certainly have to partner with the people on the business side to figure out how to make this stuff work. Sorry I’m stating the obvious, but it’s something I wrestle with everyday.

SH: A lot of magazines are killing their print editions and opting to stay online only. I tell whoever is willing to listen that if your magazine is dying in print, online only is not your ticket to the life after. If you are failing in print, digital is not the salvation. What do you think?

LF: I think print is still very vital and I think it will be for the foreseeable future but I do think that print is going to be translated into the digital space. Already we are seeing some interesting stuff with the iPad apps. Those really are magazines, it doesn’t matter that they are not on paper, they are still more or less traditional magazines the way they are put together. Print or digital, the way that they are imagined and the way that they are packaged are very similar. Add video, add some pyrotechnics but at the end of the day it’s all about creating an entertaining experience. You’re a curator. An editor who is doing a print magazine you are working within a very strict set framework that is very fun. It’s like painting a picture every month and you’re giving it to people to enjoy. We just finished a bunch of focus groups and from some of the informal discussions the one thing that we are finding is what magazines were to them. The thing that came about over and over again is that magazines really are about enjoyment, finding a few moments to steal for you. Magazines provide that little escape. It’s fun that people still want that experience. It’s not just about the information, it’s about providing an experience and entertainment, a little relief and maybe you’ll come away with some ideas you didn’t have before. We heard a lot of people in the focus group saying “wow, I didn’t even know I didn’t know that” or “I didn’t even know that was something I might be interested in.” We are in the business of delighting people and surprising people. People go on the web for more social interaction and information gathering and it’s less of that escape than curling up with a magazine. It’s a very different experience.

SH: What’s your biggest challenge today, as someone who has a success story on his or her hands?

LF: Time. I have no time. I do a lot of media as part of my job. I have three television appearances this week. Over the weekend I was on the Early Show, yesterday I was doing the Nat Burke show and I was there all afternoon, tomorrow morning I have the Today Show. I have to be out there being the spokesperson. I have my people out there too but there is so much media. I feel that I have to be part of that media machine. I have to be a solider for the magazine and be a spokesperson and engage with other media outlets; newspapers, radios, TV stations. We need to be part of the conversation. I feel like I need to be twittering. I think as editors you can’t just sit in an air-conditioned building all day, at your desk, cooking up page layouts. You have to be out there engaging with your audience in new and different ways that includes not just being a spokesperson but also figuring out ways to extend your brand and to reach people in different ways. There are a lot of days that I don’t even know what to do first and I feel overwhelmed because I know that there is so much work to be done. I haven’t even launched any of these products yet. I am working on all of these different angles. You are pulled in a lot of different directions, the biggest challenge is figuring out what do I do first every day, how to prioritize. There are days that I can’t do any editing at all. So little of my time these days is devoted to sitting down and planning and editing. I have such a small staff that I still have to be really hands on but that is probably unusual in the business. You have to let go, if you love writing and editing then you might not want to become an editor.

SH: What makes Lisa get up in the morning? What’s the source of energy that gets you going everyday, even if your day is a 20-hour day instead of an 8-hour day?

LF: I am so excited everyday, in spite of the time and prioritizing, I am really excited about what we are doing here and being a part of this brand, of this place, of helping people make good choices in their life when it comes to being a consumer. I feel like we do a lot of really good work here on safety, on getting good deals, and in so many areas of people’s lives. People get so excited about shopping and they are interested in making good choices and getting good deals and keeping their family healthy and safe. I feel like we are doing really good work here. I talk to people and they really feel gratified by Shop Smart. We have this cult following, we don’t have huge subscribers but the people that we do have are engaged. I get letters everyday saying how wonderful this magazine is. I feel so gratified every day because of the impact that we are having. Even though the magazine is not as big as I would like it to be, I feel like the impact goes way beyond the magazine because of all the media that we do.

SH: In 2016 you’ll be 10 years old, where do you see Shop Smart? Five years from now, what can you tell me about Shop Smart?

LF: I would hope that we would be a lot bigger. I would like to see us at 1 million. Even though we are growing so painfully slow right now. We are going to be a lot bigger and a lot more than just a print magazine. We are going to have a lot of other properties and a lot of other ways that we are reaching out with our information. I am hoping we will have all the apps, a much more enhanced website, and outreach through social media. I am hoping that the fruits of all my efforts right now will be seen in the next five years. It will be seen, as it’s own brand and come out of the shadow of Consumer Reports. It’s poised for really good growth and to be a recognized brand in it’s own right.

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