A Rebel (Magazine and Man) with a Cause? The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Rick Cabral, CEO of Rebel Media, LLC.January 20, 2012
Do you have what it takes to be a rebel? Well, you can easily say yes if your name is Rick Cabral, CEO of Rebel Media, LLC. and publisher of Rebel magazine. The magazine is on a mission and so is the CEO of the company that publishes it. Started by a group of men with no prior publishing experience, one of Rebel’s mission “is to have men ask deeper questions about their life purpose and their interdependence to others.” A noble mission, but not an easy one to execute. However, Mr. Cabral, a rebel with a cause, is determined to make a go from the magazine (and all the additional channels) regardless of the hurdles and is enhancing Rebel’s business plan to ensure it is well set for the future.
So, in the typical Mr. Magazine™ Interviews style, first the soundbites followed by the entire interview revealing the story behind Rebel the magazine and the man:
On the purpose of Rebel magazine: To shine a spotlight on some of the false masculine stereotypes and behaviors, or thought processes that have become accepted cultural norms for men today.
On the publishing industry today: The publishing industry is fraught with land mines – particularly for a self-published men’s magazine, launched in this tough and prolonged economic downturn.
On the business model of Rebel: Until 2012 – Rebel took no advertising revenue, we provided free advertising space to our growing base of charitable and brand partners – some of which were very well established, while others were in need of, and deserving of, a voice in our publication.
On who Rebel is: Someone who represents human imperfection and all the truth that statement implies.
On the toughest hurdle so far: The most difficult challenge for us at Rebel has been without a doubt…distribution.
On the future of print in a digital age: Today, print still dominates, while digital supports that. That trend will reverse, and likely sooner than later
And now for the entire interview with Rick Cabral, CEO of Rebel Media, LLC.
Samir Husni: When you hear the word Rebel, you do not think of a magazine devoted to fathers and fatherhood… What is the story behind Rebel?
Rick Cabral: Well to be honest, Rebel is much more than a magazine about fathers, although fatherhood and the responsibility associated with that title, grace the pages of the publication frequently and we dedicate a feature piece to “fatherhood” in each issue. But Rebel provides readers a fresh perspective on a variety of topics such as: cultural interests, value based living, social responsibility, career and family challenges, relationships, sports, entertainment and more.
Rebel has an interesting history since the founding partners had no previous publishing experience. The magazine and overall mission really began as a response to my partners and I looking for a channel in which to reach men in a more authentic fashion. We hoped to shine a spotlight on some of the false masculine stereotypes and behaviors, or thought processes that have become accepted cultural norms for men today. We thought maybe we could encourage men to examine how they interact in the world, and/or evaluate their broader life purpose. We also hoped to inspire men through “real world” examples of other men, we like to call – ‘Rebels With A Cause’ – who are making an extraordinary impact on the lives of others through their work related endeavors, philanthropy, entertainment, humanitarian and/or cause related initiatives.
I guess to sum it up – by examining broader cultural paradigms, personal character and values, relationships, and ethical and moral issues – we hoped to have men asking deeper questions about their life purpose and their interdependence to others. We hoped to inspire individuals to get proactively involved in serving the interests of others before themselves and through our editorial content more accurately represent what men are experiencing in today’s cultural climate.
SH: So many other magazines aimed at fathers (and men) were published in the past and with rare exceptions all failed. Why do you think Rebel will have a different future?
RC: Well again – fatherhood is only one aspect of our overall editorial – so I think Rebel has a much broader appeal to men in general, when compared directly to publications focused solely on reaching fathers. Rebel is a very unique publication – certainly a dramatic departure from traditional men’s magazines – which have been more focused on external issues such as fitness, grooming or say, fashion. We are not opposed to that per say, but we thought men today are facing a variety of personal and professional challenges in our modern world, and we tried to create a publication that more accurately reflected that.
One of the more interesting and unexpected aspects to Rebel since its inception is the response we get from female readers who continue to read and subscribe to the magazine and purchase it for their sons, husbands or brothers – we have a couple of interesting features called ‘VS’, and ‘Women on Men’, in which women have an opportunity to talk directly to our male readers, from their perspective, about a variety of subjects, in a very open and authentic way. Men always want to know what women are thinking anyway, so we thought this would be a great avenue to challenge gender perspectives and positively impact relationships in an sophisticated and edgy format.
SH: Funding and lack of advertising have always been cited as the number one reason for new magazine’s failure. How are you dealing with funding and advertising for and in Rebel magazine?
RC: Very true – the publishing industry is fraught with land mines – particularly for a self-published men’s magazine, launched in this tough and prolonged economic downturn. It has been a challenge to say the least. Rebel is privately financed, which has given us autonomy to create this type of publication. I’m not sure the same could be said if this magazine were developed under a large media umbrella. But it also has required a different approach to both advertising and/or brand partner relations.
Rebel started out with the understanding that we could not succeed operating as an island. We also understood the financial ramifications of starting a magazine, and the distribution pitfalls that come along with it. We were determined to establish “like-minded” partner relationships that would ultimately become win-win situations for all involved. Until 2012 – Rebel took no advertising revenue, we provided free advertising space to our growing base of charitable and brand partners – some of which were very well established, while others were in need of, and deserving of, a voice in our publication. By working together, Rebel has developed new distribution channels and in turn creating brand advocates through each of our partnership communities.
Rebel has also taken a unique approach to our brand partners – we are actively pursuing those companies who have committed CSR initiatives and want to showcase them in our publication. We aren’t so much interested in having brands advertise their specific products and services solely, but rather engage with our community and partner communities at a different level, by introducing our readers to their “good purpose” initiatives. This way, consumers begin to see these brands as more than just commodities and more as ally’s in the ongoing struggle to improve our communities, take care of those in need, or find solutions to social injustices where present.
Taking that thought a step further and we get to the heart of the Rebel mission outside of the pages of the magazine – that is our service work. Rebel has created a service calendar much like our editorial calendar, and it is being developed as we speak for the remainder of this year. We do this because we believe strongly in the idea of serving others – it is a core mission and we think it is as important as the work we dedicate to the development of our editorial content. By partnering with like-minded brands and charitable organizations, Rebel becomes a catalyst to assist others; not just by talking about solutions but by creating them and engaging directly in their outcome. This is accomplished with the help of our community volunteers, and we thank them for their time and commitment to our cause work. There is so much need out there right now – we are just scratching the surface of our collective potential. Through these Rebel sponsored or co-sponsored initiatives we can bring the power and reach of our brand partners to positively and dramatically impact the lives of others in deeply personal ways.
SH: If you have a magic wand to strike the magazine and a human being comes out from the ink on paper pages, who will that person be? Please describe.
RC: Well I think the way we would approach that is to say that the individual who walks out of our magazine is someone who represents human imperfection and all the truth that statement implies – because all of us, at our core, are a unique and specific piece of the greater whole. All of us are alike in that fact that we are a work in progress – we have made mistakes we wish we could erase, probably have been the beneficiary of a blessed moment or day, maybe we’ve experienced the gain or loss of loving another, or hope to be someone remembered for the good we brought to those around us. I would like to think the human being who walked out of our pages would look something like the rest of us. You and me, each trying to do the best we can with what we have been given. So eventually we come to some understanding of why we were here.
SH: What has been the most pleasant moment in the history of the magazine launch so far? What has been your worst nightmare?
RC: Without question the most pleasant moment for our magazine came when we were notified that we had won two Folio Awards back in October. I remember it so vividly, because all of the staff, as well as my partner and I were at a point that we were thoroughly exhausted from the last 12 months since launching our publication. We had submitted one of our magazines to Folio back in May, 2011, and felt that we had created a magazine unlike anything in the industry, however, finding out that we were being recognized on a national scale sent a surge of gratitude through our entire office. The timing of our awards could not have come at a more appropriate time for Rebel.
I hate to call it a nightmare, but the most difficult challenge for us at Rebel has been without a doubt…distribution. Being independently published poses obvious financial obstacles that larger publishing houses may not have. With that being said, we have spent a tremendous amount of energy trying get Rebel and its unique content in as many hands as we can. Our print circulation has ranged from 20,000 to 35,000 per issue, and we’re finding that through our combined digital distribution(currently over 500,000) we can effectively and inexpensively reach a fairly large audience.
SH: You’ve started in print and now you are adding digital editions on the tablets. What are your futuristic plans? Are you going to be digital only? Both? What about the future?
RC: We recognize the landmark shift that is occurring within the publishing industry and the importance of titles to provide their content across all platforms and not just in print. We envision our iPad or tablet digital edition eventually playing a greater role in expanding our circulation and becoming an important revenue stream. Today, print still dominates, while digital supports that. That trend will reverse, and likely sooner than later, our iPad/tablet digital publication will become the primary driver within our model and print will transition into a supporting role.
SH: What makes Rick tick and click every morning? What makes you say wow, I love my job!
RC: If you were to ask anyone that really knows me they would tell you that it doesn’t take a lot to get me going in the morning. Typically, I am up by 4am and getting on with my day. What keeps me going and makes me say, “I love my job,” is the responses that we get from readers that let us know that what we have embarked on at rebel, is making a difference. So whether it is the 65 year old war veteran who found our magazine at a hospital and immediately offered his assistance in moving our message forward, or the divorced mother from New York City that was so moved by what she read in our magazine and bothered by what traditional men’s media discusses that she bought a subscription as a Christmas present for her 13 year old son. It is these and countless other stories that inspire me to get up each day and try to produce content that will help men become better men; better husbands, better fathers, better friends and/or leaders in their community.
SH: Thank you.