Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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Proving Legacy Media Can Flourish In A Digital Age – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Bob Cohn, Co-President & Chief Operating Officer, The Atlantic

August 28, 2014

“I think that it would be Pollyannaish to say that print will never disappear. I do think that someday print will not be around, but I’ll have to say that it’s much farther into the future than many of us were talking about four years ago. And I don’t see it coming in the near future at all. Print is stronger than ever.” Bob Cohn

Picture 14 Legacy media surviving in this digital age? Not only surviving, but thriving? It must be a dream in the sleep-induced mind of some forgotten print publisher of the 80s. And if you believe that answer, then Mr. Magazine™ will now be known as Mr. Digital™…and you know that isn’t happening.

The Atlantic, first founded in 1857, is beating the odds and doing something fairly unheard of in print magazine media today: they’re increasing newsstand sales and making money from digital. While that may be hard to believe, it is nonetheless true.

I recently spoke to Bob Cohn, Co-President and COO of The Atlantic about the impossibilities or opportunities of being an innovator when your product is as old as time; his answers may surprise and perplex you, but definitely will enlighten you as to how the 157-year-old media company is jumping hurdles against the rest of the competition and proving that legacy media can be much more than a mere throwback to days-gone-by.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with The Atlantic’s Bob Cohn… I promise you won’t be disappointed.

But first, the sound-bites…

Bob Cohn, Editorial Director of TheAtlantic.com On The Atlantic’s “secret sauce” of success:
I think it’s a combination of having a great brand and a great legacy that we understand internally and that our readers understand and then being willing to be nimble and entrepreneurial and experiment with that legacy and those attributes.

On whether The Atlantic is an innovator or a renovator:
I think we can control for the things that oftentimes stifle innovation in a legacy company, but we can benefit from the things that create a nucleus and a core sense of what you are that you get from a legacy company.

On what he attributes the magazine’s single cope sales increase to:
The first is improved design, one that has been improving over the last few years, but under Darhil Crooks, who is the creative director, has now taken our covers to a much more successful level than they were in the past.

On how he sees the print plus digital integration:
I think one other reason that our newsstand is up is our overall brand is bigger because of our digital success and that might make a consumer stop one second longer at the newsstand.

On whether he can envision a day when The Atlantic will not have a print component:
I think that it would be Pollyannaish to say that print will never disappear. I do think that someday print will not be around, but I’ll have to say that it’s much farther into the future than many of us were talking about four years ago.

On the first thing that comes to his mind when he hears of a magazine killing its print product:
When I hear about magazines folding, I think it’s always a shame that they’re folding their print edition, but you know someday all magazines may no longer have print editions, including The Atlantic, as I said, no time that I can foresee.

On his advice to other publishers about any pitfalls they can avoid in this digital age:
There are a lot of pitfalls for all of us to worry about. One thing I think we’re worried about at The Atlantic as we look forward is the fast-moving shift to mobile.

On what keeps him up at night:
Things that are out of my control, but are kind of existential to our world, like what if there’s an advertising industry collapse?

And now the lightly edited transcript of my conversation with Bob Cohn, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office, The Atlantic…

Samir Husni: You’re making money from digital and you’re increasing your newsstand sales. Things are looking good on both print and digital sides; what are you doing at The Atlantic that no one else in the industry has discovered? What’s your secret sauce?

Bob Cohn: I think we are having a good run, but I would never say that there is no one else in the industry who hasn’t figured this out too. But I think it’s a combination of having a great brand and a great legacy that we understand internally and that our readers understand and then being willing to be nimble and entrepreneurial and experiment with that legacy and those attributes.

So we have something that has worked for 150 years and we know who we are and what we do and then we’re willing to take that model and be flexible with it. And take it in directions our predecessors may not have gone.

Samir Husni: But some people will say that because you are legacy media, because you are 150 years old, it becomes harder for you to become an innovator rather than a renovator. Are you innovating or renovating?

Bob Cohn: I think they’re pluses and minuses. The minus of having 157 years of history is that you can’t be anything that you want and there are some structures already in place, because you’re not starting from scratch. And you’re not dealing with millions of dollars in VC money; those things separate a legacy brand from something that is much newer.

On the other hand, as I said, we know based on these years of history; we know who we are and what our mission is and we know what we want to be without reinventing the editorial mission of the brand.

And the other things that sometimes stifle innovation, which we can control, is we can be purposefully nimble and innovative. We’re still a small company, even though we’re old. So we’re not caught up in the baggage of multiple hierarchies, public company problems…etc. I think we can control for the things that oftentimes stifle innovation in a legacy company, but we can benefit from the things that create a nucleus and a core sense of what you are that you get from a legacy company.

Samir Husni: What do you attribute your increase in single copy sales to? The majority of the magazines are seeing declines. But in the last six months the numbers were very good for The Atlantic. What’s going on?

Picture 13 Bob Cohn: We saw a 28% increase in newsstand single copy sales in the first half of the year. I think the industry was down almost 12%, so that was a very strong performance. I really attribute that to two main things with our magazine team. The first is improved design, one that has been improving over the last few years, but under Darhil Crooks, who is the creative director, has now taken our covers to a much more successful level than they were in the past. And that’s a big part of winning the newsstand, making people stop and pick up the magazine and take a look at it. We have two things going for us on that score: our name and what the cover looks like. And then we hope that once you have it in your hand, we’ll be a compelling buy because the content is so interesting.

And the second thing that I think has been part of our newsstand success is it’s obvious to all magazine publishers, and it was obvious to me in my previous magazine lives, the fact that we have 12 issues a year and we need 12 compelling cover topics and 12 compelling cover images to use those 12 chances to capture a national conversation and you can’t waste any of those. Well actually, we have ten because we do two double issues.

Being cognizant of our opportunity there and the responsibility that we can’t waste any of those chances, I think has led to better covers, better topics and better execution of those covers in the last few years and that’s really helped us to improve sales.

Samir Husni: Is print driving the digital traffic or is digital driving print? How are you maneuvering that integration of print plus digital?

Bob Cohn: I think it’s symptomatic. I should have added to the previous question; I think one other reason that our newsstand is up is our overall brand is bigger because of our digital success and that might make a consumer stop one second longer at the newsstand. Because we just have a bigger brand presence than we’ve ever had before, mostly in the back of our recent digital success and I think that has spilled over to print and helped our newsstand.

Of course, it has gone the other direction very often; the power of The Atlantic in print drives our digital success in a couple of ways. First, the actual print stories which we post to the website do very well. The cover story outperforms most other stories in most months, not all stories, but most, and the magazine stories as a group, there aren’t very many of them relative to the number of stories we post every single day; we post more stories in a day to atlantic.com than the monthly magazine creates. So there are so many more digital stories, but the magazine pieces tend to outperform. That doesn’t really drive a ton of traffic except the one or two that may go viral, especially a cover story, but it is proof that the magazine stories can do very well in a digital environment.

But beyond that, I think that we approach this as two separate products with a common brand. We actually have three products; the print product, digital product and the live event product. And those are all tied to a core brand, but they express themselves very differently.

The importance of our event business as the third leg of our stool, because it really is a vital component. It’s another thing that makes us a little different from other magazines. Our event business isn’t just a brand gimmick; we don’t do just a couple of events to promote our brand. It’s actually an important part of our business and it counts for about 20% of our revenue. We’re a big staff; we have 30 people who work at our events. So I think that it’s another thing that makes us unique. We just finished the Aspen Ideas Festival that we co-hosted at the Aspen Institute and that was in late June. That was our last big event. We do more than 100 events per year.

The next big thing we have coming up is CityLab, which is an event we’re doing this year in Los Angeles and we do that with Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Aspen Institute. We have about 30 mayors from around the world and 300-400 guests who foster constructive dialogue and create solutions for city leaders to share with their constituencies across the world. And it’s really an expansion our citylab.com, which is a third of our three websites at The Atlantic. So this will bring in politicians, city managers, city leaders, academics, commercial real estate people and infrastructure experts to talk about the issues that are most salient to the global urban environment right now.

Samir Husni: Do you ever envision a day where the print product will disappear and The Atlantic will be digital and event products only?

Bob Cohn: I think that it would be Pollyannaish to say that print will never disappear. I do think that someday print will not be around, but I’ll have to say that it’s much farther into the future than many of us were talking about four years ago. And I don’t see it coming in the near future at all. Print is stronger than ever. We just talked about the newsstands. Our overall circulation is the same as it’s been for ten years and the quality of that circulation is better than ever. We’re doing better at the newsstands than we’ve ever done and ad sales, which we budgeted this time last year to have roughly a 10% decline, and that’s print ad sales, we’re way up in digital; we’re going to end up this year flat on print ad sales, which I think we’ll outperform the market.

Samir Husni: Most folks that I speak with at media companies are telling me that they’re making very little from digital. What about The Atlantic?

Bob Cohn: Just as a data point, our overall ad sales, print and digital for the first time became majority digital in November 2011. That’s when the lines crossed and we did more digital ad sales than print ad sales and that was almost three years ago. This year in 2014 our overall ad number will be about 70 % digital and 30% print. This doesn’t include events which is a different model. Digital ad sales as a percent of total revenue will be not quite a third, maybe 30%.

Samir Husni: So 70% revenue from advertising is equivalent to 30% of the total revenue?

Bob Cohn: Yes. You have to remember that obviously a huge driver in the print revenue, in addition to the ad sales, is the circulation number and we don’t have that corollary in digital hardly at all; we do a little digital circulation through the app, iPad, Nook and Amazon and the Kindle, but for the most part there is a big chunk of revenue coming in from print circ and that’s just not a fact in our digital circulation.

Samir Husni: Let me move a little bit to the industry in general; when you hear of a magazine killing its print edition or folding it, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it the medium or the content or simply the relevancy of that publication?

Bob Cohn: I would have to look at frequency. I think weeklies have a harder time because you’re stuck between. I think monthlies are in the best position; a well-executed monthly magazine can have a longer shelf life, if you will, than other magazines and the bi-monthly even more because you are liberated by definition from the news cycle. I’ve worked at a couple of different monthlies, for years on the editorial side and you’re consigned to produce stories three, four or five months out, so you can’t be part of a news cycle, therefore you’re not competing with digital in a way that the news magazines are. I spent 10 years at Newsweek and we tried to be very, very timely in those pre-Internet days and I think that’s why weeklies have had a harder time.

So when I hear about magazines folding, I think it’s always a shame that they’re folding their print edition, but you know someday all magazines may no longer have print editions, including The Atlantic, as I said, no time that I can foresee. But if and when that day comes and the audience tells us, not that they don’t like The Atlantic, but that they want to consume our content in other ways, it’ll be OK.

And what we’ve done in the last five or ten years is work very hard to make sure that we’re producing Atlantic-quality content in whatever format our readers want to consume it in, whether it’s on the web, in video, in live space, in print or on tablets. And if the day comes when print is no longer economical, I still think we’ll be fine, because we’ll be meeting our audience’s demands in other platforms.

Samir Husni: You’re one of the few in our industry who moved from the editorial side to assume the position of co- president and chief operating officer of a media company. Most people who reach that position come from the advertising side. Do you think it makes a big difference in today’s media marketplace assuming that leadership position from an editorial ladder rather than an advertising one and if yes, why?

Bob Cohn: I don’t think it makes a big difference necessarily whether you come through the edit side or the business side. You just have to be willing to understand the entire kind of 360 degree picture and you have to be comfortable across the broad landscape of all the issues that we face. There’s really no way to be an editorial leader and not be deeply exposed to business issues, business imperatives and business opportunities, both in my time at Wired and my time running Atlantic digital editorial – those were both editorial jobs and I had those for the last 12 or 13 years, so I received a lot of business experience as anybody in those jobs had to, kind of the modern media landscape.

So I don’t feel it’s as if I have plucked from an ink-stained print world or edit world and gone into business, there is a lot about editorial leadership that requires business savvy.

On the other hand, there is still a ton of new things and a steep learning curve which has been exciting and somewhat daunting. But in the end, in terms of who would make a better leader, I think it’s more about the person than what they’ve done in their previous job.

Samir Husni: Any pitfalls you can advise other presidents and CEO’s to avoid in this digital age?

Bob Cohn: For me it’s been important to not be the guy who was the editor and became the co-president and COO. I fully embraced the business side of publishing. It’s important that revenue teams have someone to work with who is fully committed to their success. So in coming from the edit side, it’s been important to think of myself and train myself to be the business guy and not just fall back onto my previous experience.

There are a lot of pitfalls for all of us to worry about. One thing I think we’re worried about at The Atlantic as we look forward is the fast-moving shift to mobile. We’ve been pretty successful in making the transition from a pen-centric world to a digital-centric world over the last five to seven years, in terms of content, in terms of revenue and in terms of overall environment and culture of the brand.

The thing for us to worry about is that we continue to make the shift to a mobile environment because half of our traffic, half of our audience, half of our monthly visitors are coming to us from a mobile platform and we want to make sure that we know how to monetize that or we can’t continue to do our journalism.

Samir Husni: And that’s probably the challenge that faces everyone in the magazine marketplace now. It was just a few years ago we were talking digital and web and now we’re talking mobile and who knows what the next five years will bring. How can you prepare for that? As a leader in a media company; how can you prepare your staff for that and an unknown future?

Picture 12 Bob Cohn: The trepidation I have about mobile coming in and being such a big part of our business is offset by the fact that we did make the transition from print to the web, not a full transition, print is still very important, but we did move into the digital world and what we know is Atlantic content can find an audience and find a big audience in the digital space. There’s no reason to think that we can’t do that same thing in mobile or any new platform that comes up in the next five to ten years. It’s the power of the content that we create and the brand that we have and the trick is to just be sure that you’re optimizing that content for whatever platform it’s going on, both in terms of the way you present it and all the backend technology and development that you do with it.

But I’m bullish on our future, even when mobile is the dominant delivery platform and even when there is some new platform that comes in and edges out mobile because I think what we know is The Atlantic has staying power if, and this is the second part of your question, if first content is king, then our content will work on whatever platform gets thrown at us. And it only works if you’re entrepreneurial and are willing to throw away things that don’t work and you can’t be dogmatic about how you want to deliver your content or what you’re consumers want, if you really listen to your readers and viewers.

The thing that you can be dogmatic about is what your brand stands for, that you have integrity and that you are committed to maintaining what it is that people love about The Atlantic. But I don’t think that you can be dogmatic about anything else.

Samir Husni: When you go home and you want to read something, other than The Atlantic; what do you read in your leisure time and do you consume it on a tablet, on a mobile phone, or in print?

Bob Cohn: Mostly I find myself into social media and then I’m quickly reading everything that’s good on the Internet, whether it’s The New York Times or other magazines or niche websites. Sometimes following what my Twitter feed is telling me. It’s interesting in that moment, I still read a bunch of magazines in print and I still read books. They’re not as thick as I used to read (Laughs).

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

Bob Cohn: Two sets of things: things that are out of my control, but are kind of existential to our world, like what if there’s an advertising industry collapse? Of course, I read that 2015 is supposed to be the best year for advertising led by digital, which would be good for us if that forecast turns out to be true.

But if there’s a huge collapse that’s the kind of thing I worry about because so much of our revenue is based on advertising. But I can’t really control that. You spend a lot of time worrying about things you can’t control like the Facebook algorithm which is an important driver of audience. Our content works very well on Facebook and people like to share stuff from The Atlantic. But a little tweak here or there and you never know what will happen. That’s an important part of our audience and the size of our audience is important in our business.

Those are things that I can’t control and they worry me. The other things that we can control, such as can we continue to create the kind of culture here that is innovative and can make changes and can follow wherever we need to go.

And I guess you end up worrying about individual decisions within that, but I don’t actually worry about that within the big picture, because I think we have that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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WoodWing And Its CEO Roel-Jan Mouw Are Creating “Xperiences” Their Customers Will Never Forget – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

August 12, 2014

“It’s not one or the other. True success lies in the complimentary nature of digital and print, this is where we see customers deliver and increase their business and brand value.”… Roel-Jan Mouw

Mr-Magazine-and-Roel-Mouw_2 WoodWing Software develops and markets a premier, cost-efficient multi-channel publishing system and the next generation digital asset management system. Their solutions are aimed at magazine, newspaper and book publishers, corporate publishers, agencies and marketing departments to reach their goals for quality, economy and time-to-market. (Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni and Roel-Jan Mouw on the stage at the WoodWing Xperience in Lisbon, Portugal).

Roel-Jan Mouw is CEO of WoodWing software and is proud of the work his company does and in the series of “Xperiences” they are doing which involves a meeting of the minds of some of the most notable leaders in the industry.

I spoke with Roel-Jan recently and we discussed a few of the “Xperiences” which I have been graciously invited to speak at. The conversation surrounded innovation, creativity and excitement.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Roel-Jan Mouw as much as I did conducting it. So sit back and prepare to be enlightened on the support system WoodWing offers its customers through a variety of multi-channel publishing.

But first the sound-bites.

On the mission of WoodWing: We support companies to manage and deliver content to their audiences in efficient and innovative ways.

On the “Xperiences” and what WoodWing hopes to accomplish:
Xperience is a great opportunity to hear from leaders, meet existing WoodWing customers, and listen to their experiences – publishing through a variety of channels or managing millions of assets as part of their daily businesses.

On why a software company spends so much time and money on such “Xperiences”:
Listening to inspiring content for customers and thought leaders and spending time with peers is of great value to us and our customers. Xperience in that context is worth investments in both money and time.

On how he sees the relationship between print and digital:
It’s not one or the other. True success lies in the complimentary nature of digital and print, this is where we see customers deliver and increase their business and brand value.

On the similarities and/or differences of a global company based in the Netherlands from media companies worldwide:
As with many businesses there are many similarities. Many big media companies have the same challenges, finding the right strategy for smartphones is a great example.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night are jet-lags, airports and trying to sleep on planes, trains and automobiles. I try to be customer facing all the time, traveling the globe, engaging and inspiring customers.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Roel-Jan Mouw, CEO – WoodWing.

Samir Husni: Let me start with the obvious first question, what is the mission of WoodWing?

Roel-Jan Mouw: We support companies to manage and deliver content to their audiences in efficient and innovative ways. We are on a mission to support brands engaging through multi-channel (publishing) strategies, increasing reach, loyalty and overall revenues for our (publishing) customers globally

Samir Husni: In addition to the software and help on the technical side, you are doing a series of “Xperiences” that I was gratefully invited to speak at. You recently did one in Lisbon, Portugal and you are doing another one in New York City this September… tell me a little bit more about those “Xperiences…” whom are they aimed at, what do you want to accomplish from them, who attends or who should attend them?

Roel-Jan Mouw: Xperience is a great social event, and an opportunity to learn about innovation, both on the product side and also within the industry. Cloud and BigData are two themes this year, as their inroads in our industry are accelerating. This alone makes the event worthwhile for C-level audiences who deal with a shift to Cloud and BigData in the publishing business.

Xperience is a great opportunity to hear from leaders, meet existing WoodWing customers, and listen to their experiences – publishing through a variety of channels or managing millions of assets as part of their daily businesses. Xperience is for every customer and partner who wants to learn more about how we support top publishers in 120 countries around the world.

Samir Husni: Why is a software company spending so much money and time in hosting such “Xperiences?”

Roel-Jan Mouw: Listening to inspiring content for customers and thought leaders and spending time with peers is of great value to us and our customers. Xperience in that context is worth investments in both money and time. Time is likely the most valuable resource, therefor our management team is available for meetings next to the event content to listen to customer challenges and share thoughts that resonate in our industry globally during the event.

We have seen great synergies between regions and customers, strategies and challenges. This is where we can add a lot of value to our customers and prospects’ challenges and why we believe this investment is truly worthwhile. Next to this we can connect our customers who are always happy to talk to peers. It’s simply a great opportunity to hear from leaders in the industry either 1:1 or through the formal agenda.

Samir Husni: How do you see the relationship between print and digital? Is there a future for print?

Roel-Jan Mouw: With the appearance of the iPad, WoodWing has been a front runner enabling publishers globally to publish Apps. In the last 4 years iPad and other digital devices, challenging economic turmoil and marketing automation & analytics have disrupted the traditional print and advertising business for publishers. Print publications are still critical to brands and together with social media, Apps and Websites, Brands can build a true multi-channel strategy driving more frequent engagement with their customers and maintain or grow revenue streams. It’s not one or the other. True success lies in the complimentary nature of digital and print, this is where we see customers deliver and increase their business and brand value.

Samir Husni: As a global company based in The Netherlands, what are the similarities that you see in media companies worldwide? What are the differences if any?

Roel-Jan Mouw: As with many businesses there are many similarities. Many big media companies have the same challenges, finding the right strategy for smartphones is a great example. Many companies are trying to find the best ways to capitalize on this opportunity.

Another trend we see is media companies realizing plane copy of print content into Apps is not supportive to stop decline of print and they are rethinking their strategies. Another aspect is the challenge for many customers to build their digital Apps. Off-shoring seems the logical thing to do today, and focus on content remains. Key differences clearly are economies (of scale) and geographical situation. In a city like Jakarta physical distribution of content becomes so problematic, this aspect alone is a key driver for new strategies for newspapers in Indonesia, where in Peru our customer El Comercio is able to geo their printed newspaper to record breaking circulation for Latin America.

Local economic aspects remain a key differentiators. But don’t be fooled, technology is a barrier; 4G is available in all major cities in most parts of the World. This accelerates the opportunity for Multi-Channel publishing and accelerates our business in Asia and Latin America as we speak.

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

Picture 25 Roel-Jan Mouw: What keeps me up at night are jet-lags, airports and trying to sleep on planes, trains and automobiles. I try to be customer facing all the time, traveling the globe, engaging and inspiring customers. WoodWing has a great footprint in the market and with so many great customers being awake can be very inspiring! I’m looking forward to being awake in New York, meeting you and many others again.

To register and attend the free New York Xperience click here
.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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A Reader’s Digest Genius… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

August 8, 2014

Reader's Digest 1-1Reader's Digest2-2Reader's Digest3-3 Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest, has taken the single-topic niche to the next level with the September 2014 issue of RD. It is absolutely transcendent in presentation, design and content. The contemporary lines, while complex and unique, remain simple in effect, always the earmark of Reader’s Digest. Simplicity, style and beauty in each and every spread of the magazine denote a very compelling modernity, while maintaining the refined dignity of the publication’s past.

Liz is Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer of Reader’s Digest; so to say she wears many hats might be an understatement, but one thing that isn’t is her excitement and inspirational creativity that she has brought to Reader’s Digest.

The September 2014 issue is aptly titled “The Genius Issue” and is the brainchild of Liz who told me back in March when I interviewed her:

“We wanted to return Reader’s Digest to what it had always been for most of its 90 year history and that is a place for reading.”

And she has certainly done that… kudos to Liz and the entire Reader’s Digest staff.

Now the only thing missing form the magazine is the book excerpt and if brought back, I believe, Reader’s Digest will be the 21st century magazine build on the same foundation established by its founders DeWitt and Lila Wallace!

A good comfy read. A job very well done. Check some of the sample pages below…

Reader's Digest4-4Reader's Digest5-5Reader's Digest6-6

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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Magazine Innovation Center Presents: A Think and Do Experience. Meet the Speakers of the ACT 5 Experience

August 7, 2014

act5_poster What has become an obligatory annual pilgrimage to the Magazine Innovation Center in Oxford, MS, the Amplify, Clarify and Testify (ACT) Experience, is the only think and do experience that puts the magazine and magazine media experts together with other industry experts from all over the world in addition to 25 to 30 magazine students (future industry leaders) from The University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The goal of the Experience is to generate executable ideas for the magazine and magazine media industries. Space is limited so the sooner you register, the better the chances that you will be able to join the ACT 5 Experience. Click here to register or get more information.

This year’s experience takes place Oct. 7-10 and features (as of today with many more to come) some of the biggest and brightest names in magazine and magazine media industry leaders. The confirmed speakers so far are (in alphabetical order):

Gil Brechtel
President, Magazine Information Network (MagNet)
Alysia Borsa
SVP, Data and Mobile, Meredith Corp.
Vanessa Bush
Editor in Chief, Essence magazine, Time Inc.
Craig Chapman
Producer, Real Food Real Kitchens
Michael Clinton
President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst Magazines
Steve Davis
President, Kantar Media’s SRDS
James Elliott
President, The James G. Elliott Company
Robert Hanna
Co-Founder, SVP Sales, Burst Media
John Harrington
Publisher, The New Single Copy
Brian Hoffman
EVP/Chief Creative Officer, Hoffman Media
Dana Points
Content Director, Meredith Parents Network
John Puterbaugh
EVP & Chief Digital Officer, Nellymoser
Malcolm Netburn
Chairman, CDS Global
Bob Sacks
Founder, Precision Media
Lisa Scott
Executive Director, Periodical and Book Association of America
Greg Sullivan
Co-founder and CEO, AFAR Media
Espen Tollefsen
CEO, Interpress, Norway
Bryan Welch
Publisher & Editorial Director, Ogden Publications
Haines Wilkerson
Chief Creative Officer, Morris Media Network
Tom Witschi
EVP, Women’s Lifestyle Brands, Meredith Corp.


Click here to register.

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Traveling the World One New Magazine at a Time… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

July 31, 2014

When many people travel they attempt to learn words and phrases from their host countries in order to communicate and understand the local citizens better – and while that is a most noble and natural cause; when Mr. Magazine™ travels, not only is communication a priority, but also the word “new” is paramount on his list. Whether it’s nouvelle, noveau, jadīd or neu; Mr. Magazine™ revels in the many ways to say the word new.

husniinriga At the newsstands in Riga, Latvia.

Why, you might ask? Because new inserted before the word magazine is an exciting prospect to me and when you put the word stand behind it (OK – plus an extra “s”), the word newsstand is born. And I ask you; what could be more thrilling than new magazines and newsstands in foreign countries?

I can’t think of anything.

While most people when traveling to foreign lands are picking up a guide or a map to the best museums or the best places to visit, such as the National Museum of Beirut, Belem Tower in Lisbon or Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, Mr. Magazine™ is searching for newsstands, asking locals to show him where the best in the city he’s visiting is located and the quickest route to get there.

And visiting I did. In the last five months or so, my travels took me to Cape Town, South Africa…Riga, Latvia…Paris, France…Amsterdam, The Netherlands….Lisbon, Portugal…Helsinki, Finland…Munich, Germany and Beirut, Lebanon to name a few.

I have delivered presentations and seminars ranging from trends in magazines to the need to place the customer or the audience first in these wonderful countries and while the presentations and the meetings went very well, it is that newsstand street education that was the secret ingredient that held all the seminars and presentations together.

A newsstand in Riga No shortage of magazines in Riga, Latvia.

There is a lot to be learned from a visit to a newsstand anywhere in the world, they remain the best reflector of any society and the latest magazines found there are the new blood of any newsstand. And as I traveled the globe this summer, it dawned on me that this revelation must be shared to be appreciated. So typically, I began to buy these new magazines, searching nooks and crannies of cities so beautiful, they took my breath away, to find sometimes quaint, sometimes immense newsstands across the world. And from my determined hunts, I gathered some of the finest and most creative ink on paper products that I have seen in a long time.

So for your viewing pleasure, take a look at the treasures I brought back from a few of the world’s newsstands and…Vive le pouvoir des revues imprimées!

Until my ship sails again…
Mr. Magazine™
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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Coming Home: God Bless Magazines…One. A Magazine and Bella Grace: Two Blessed Beauties

July 29, 2014

samirinlebanon As some of you may know, I took a much-needed vacation during the month of July to visit family (and newsstands) in Lebanon. It was nice to find upon my return to the office that the publishing world continued on without Mr. Magazine™, even though I’m sure it was extremely difficult – please note the wry tone clearly audible in that last statement. The reason I know magazines went on without my normal eagle-eye upon them is due to two pieces of very pleasant reading material that were amongst my mountain of mail.

The first is called One. A Magazine. To explain the uniqueness of this particular ink on paper product, allow me to quote from the introductory letter that I received along with the magazine:

One. A Magazine, the magazine for creatives in advertising and design, has announced that it is transitioning from an online publication to an all-new medium. The new format, a thin material produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically derived from wood, rags or grasses, called “paper,” will be launched at The One Club Gallery in Manhattan on July 16.

One-62 Notice the magazine’s own sense of wry humor in describing the move from digital to print. The description is priceless. And while Yash Egami, Director of Content of The One Club made it clear in the letter that print would be their main focus, he did say they would continue to publish an online version temporarily to satisfy the digerati.

The intro letter uses tongue-in-cheek humor to poke fun at the new “8.1” version of the magazine, calling on the array of boastful features it offers: from the crinkling and crackling sound of turning pages to the fact that this new version can be read, bent, folded rolled or turned into a paper airplane if the customer should want.

The One Club, producer of the prestigious One Show and Creative Week, is the world’s foremost non-profit organization recognizing creative excellence in advertising and design. The One Show honors the best work across all disciplines, including Advertising, Interactive, Design and Branded Entertainment.

As I perused the simplistic artistry of the premiere issue, I realized that print is the most interesting of bedfellows; nowhere online could I ever experience the sensation this folded and stapled product evoked within me, nowhere. And while unconventional in its presentation, it was totally mesmerizing within the covers. One. A Magazine basically rocks.

Bella Grace-61 The second surprise that sent a breath of fresh air blowing my way was Bella Grace, the latest contribution from Stampington & Company. With the tagline: Life’s A Beautiful Adventure and a first cover that certainly sat out to prove that fact; Bella Grace is one beautiful magazine. No one could say it better than Christen Olivarez, Editor-in-Chief:

Bella Grace is meant to be savored. It is meant to get tossed in your beach bag, or tucked under your pillow to enjoy before bed. It is meant to be read over and over again. It is meant to inspire you to see the beauty and the magic that surround you, no matter where you are. It is meant to be written in and dog-eared It is meant to accompany you on this beautiful adventure called life.

Bella Grace is a 160-page book-a-zine which is quite the departure for Stampington & Company, who is known for their arts and crafts-type publications. Throughout the pages of the first issue there are striking photographs and beautifully-penned stories that touch the heart and soul of the reader.

There are unique features to this beauty as well such as a folding book-jacket cover, more than 12 thought-provoking prompts with worksheets, where readers can fill in their responses directly on the page; and zero outside advertising. Bella Grace is scheduled to hit newsstands beginning August 1.

The feel and touch of this magazine is unbelievable. When your fingertips flex across the pages, the sensation is full and complete, an experience not easily forgotten. Bella Grace is exquisite.

Sharing these two wonderful additions to the family of print with you has been not only a pleasure, but an honor. My advice: get your own copies as soon as possible.

photo Well, the vacation is over and we had a wonderful time. But it’s great to be back at home. And to steal a line from the August cover of Esquire Magazine: God Bless Magazines.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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Teen Vogue: More Vogue and Less Teen. VP & Publisher Jason Wagenheim Shares With Mr. Magazine™ The Secrets Behind The Magazine’s Survival. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

June 18, 2014

“There’s something people like, whether you’re fifteen or fifty, about the printed product. You don’t have to charge it, no worries if it gets sandy or wet at the beach; you don’t panic if you leave it on a plane and that’s not changing. I don’t think digital will ever fully replace that.” Jason Wagenheim

JasonHeadshotJason Wagenheim has been Publisher of Teen Vogue for just over two years and has already made a tremendous impact on the magazine. In 2012, he transformed the Back-to-School shopping experience with the debut of a new national shopping holiday, Teen Vogue Back-to-School Saturday that has become a unique experience for students during that busy time of the year. He calls it Teen Vogue’s Super Bowl.

An apt description for an idea from the man who has seen record-breaking ad page growth, market share wins and new business and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2013, Teen Vogue marked the largest August and September issues in 5 years and Teen saw +9% in ad pages through the September issue.

I spoke with Jason recently about his perspective on why Teen Vogue withstood the test of time and economics when others, like CosmoGirl and Ellegirl weren’t quite so fortunate. His answers are spot on and very informative.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vice-President and Publisher of Teen Vogue – Jason Wagenheim.

But first the sound-bites…

On his secret for why Teen Vogue outlasted most of the other teen titles:
Overall we survived because we maintained our relevancy. When we launched this magazine 11 years ago, it was 2003, we had this perception that there wasn’t a young fashion magazine out there.

On the idea that teens don’t read print anymore, only digital: Fashion and beauty magazines still work really well in print, even if you’re fifteen-years-old or fifty; our category is thriving from an audience perspective.

On whether he anticipates any changes during the next three years for the magazine:
A lot is changing and it’s changing very quickly. I think our biggest opportunity is to continue to evolve like we have the last 11 years.

On his biggest stumbling block since coming to Teen Vogue:
The hardest thing in general has been this economic climate that we’re in. There’s a lot less out there and a lot more people going for it.

On whether he believes the brand can exist without print:
I don’t think so. I think the mix of our audience and how they come to Teen Vogue in five years might look totally different.

On his most pleasant surprise:
I think it’s the relationship we have with our audience. Our median age is actually twenty-four-years-old and they’ve grown up with us.

On adding events to the Teen Vogue mix, such as Back to School Saturday:
We simply decided and declared that we were going to have August 11, 2012 to be the first-ever back to school Saturday. That was it. We just went out and told everybody we were putting all of our resources behind this day.

On what keeps him up at night:
I do lie in bed thinking about what are the things that I’m going to do that next day or during that week that is going to get me business right now, keep me healthy and profitable and contributing to Condè Nast.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jason Wagenheim, Vice-President and Publisher, Teen Vogue…

Samir Husni: Ten or fifteen years ago, teen magazines were rediscovered. Titles such as Teen People, Cosmo Girl, Elle Girl and Teen Vogue to name a few; however your magazine ended up being the sole survivor from the group. What’s your secret? What kept Teen Vogue going when the other magazines, including Teen People that had an even larger circulation, all vanished?

Picture 17 Jason Wagenheim: Overall we survived because we maintained our relevancy. When we launched this magazine 11 years ago, it was 2003, we had this perception that there wasn’t a young fashion magazine out there. Not a teen magazine, but a magazine that was the youngest fashion title. And that’s what we set out to do and 11 years later that’s what we’ve really accomplished. We’ve owned this position as being the youngest fashion magazine and not just being teen.

We have stellar edit, a killer product that Amy Astley puts out every month and on top of that we’ve really been able to take advantage of being only 11 years old and growing up in this age of digital, social and now mobile and capitalizing on that without having to adapt. We’ve grown up at the same time that our readers have with all of this new technology.

So we’re using those other platforms to drive relevancy back to our print product and it’s working really well.

Samir Husni: I assume since you are still a print product that you didn’t subscribe to the same mantra those other three teen magazines did: that teens don’t read anymore, they are always on their digital devices so let’s fold the print and stick to digital?

Jason Wagenheim: Not at all. And I think a lot of it has to do with our category in particular. Fashion and beauty magazines still work really well in print, even if you’re fifteen-years-old or fifty; our category is thriving from an audience perspective.

We were up 39 percent in total audience with the Fall MRI numbers. We just posted a six percent gain in total audience with the Spring release this week and teens are reading magazines in the fashion and beauty space. We’re doing really well.

I think that every time somebody texts, posts or tweets a story from our product and our brand, that’s a new audience development opportunity for us that we didn’t have ten years ago. So we’ve really tried to capitalize on that.

I think also that there’s something about print that’s very tangible in the fashion and beauty space; it’s very engaging, big, pretty pictures of clothes and beauty products and great looks still sell product. And marketers know that and audiences know that.

Samir Husni: You were one of the early adapters in the United States for the Teen Vogue size, which was originated by Glamour in the U.K. and now is all over. Is this still working? You are still unique in that space.

Jason Wagenheim: Yes, coincidentally it’s the same size as the iPad seven or eight years later. The format does work, girls love it, they can carry it around like a textbook or it fits in their backpack or nicely in their purse. We’ve always had this size long before the iPad and it continues to work really well for us.

Samir Husni: If we’re having this conversation three years from now; do you think anything will have changed?

Jason Wagenheim: A lot is changing and it’s changing very quickly. I think our biggest opportunity is to continue to evolve like we have the last 11 years. We have to constantly be challenging ourselves to think outside of our core product in print and invent new innovate with social, mobile and video products that we can connect our audiences and marketers together like we have.

We have a really big social footprint. We’ve continued to double-down on our efforts to grow our social strategy. We’re growing Teen Vogue.com, we’ve doubled our traffic in the last year, and we’ve also doubled revenue. We’ve launched video, really great video product and I think that you’ll see all of these things become part of continuing to be a factor in this Teen Vogue eco-system that’s rooted in print, but lives in all these other places.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the relevancy of the Mother Ship – Vogue Magazine – and its position in the marketplace?

Jason Wagenheim: I think it’s the most important fashion magazine that’s ever been and is the total arbiter of fashion magazines. It’s the category leader; there’s no doubt. They will continue to have that position and they also evolve and live in these other places like social, mobile and digital. They launched an Instagram commerce strategy this week that’s gotten a lot of nice pickup for them.

That is the game right now, to constantly be reinventing yourself. And those brands that do will survive.

Samir Husni: When you were offered the job of publisher of Teen Vogue a little over two years ago, what was the first thing that came to your mind?

Picture 18 Jason Wagenheim: I was coming from Glamour and I was talking about what a great opportunity it was with Anna Wintour and Amy Astley and we’d been talking about how much untapped opportunity there was with Teen Vogue and how much potential it had to grow, because the combination of brand DNA and the audience was a really powerful one. Teens and millennials were and are driving the whole conversation. And a lot of it was just really around the opportunity to take this thing to new levels.

Samir Husni: What has been your biggest stumbling block since taking the job?

Jason Wagenheim: The hardest thing in general has been this economic climate that we’re in. There’s a lot less out there and a lot more people going for it. Our competitors now aren’t just other teen or fashion magazines, we’re competing with a lot of the Pure-Play digital sites, broadcast networks, radio, outdoor and a lot of new start-ups that are out there vying for advertising dollars and it’s hard to sort through what’s really good and what’s going to work in the long term.

Marketers are enamored of a lot of the new stuff out there, so our biggest challenge has just been maintaining our share. And we’re doing it. We’ve had nice growth in our digital and social and mobile revenue. And we’re holding onto print as best we can.

Samir Husni: Do you think the brand can exist without print?

Jason Wagenheim: I don’t think so. I think the mix of our audience and how they come to Teen Vogue in five years might look totally different. My challenge now in the near-term is protecting my core product in print which still makes up a lot of our revenue, overwhelmingly so and growing and scaling those other parts of my business. I’d like to see more of a balance and when that happens I think the print product will always be the root of our overall business.

There’s something people like, whether you’re fifteen or fifty, about the printed product. You don’t have to charge it, no worries if it gets sandy or wet at the beach; you don’t panic if you leave it on a plane and that’s not changing. I don’t think digital will ever fully replace that.

Samir Husni: What has been your most pleasant surprise so far in your job at Teen Vogue?

Jason Wagenheim: I think it’s the relationship we have with our audience. Our median age is actually twenty-four-years-old and they’ve grown up with us. We’ve actually aged-up over the last few years. And our audience has aged-up right along with us. They’re young, smart and so credible; they have more influence than any generation prior has ever had with what they have in the palms of their hands, their devices in particular.

And their relationship with Teen Vogue is so strong and so credible; it’s very different than a woman in her thirties or forties who has sort of been-there-done-that-seen-that a million times. They still have hope in their eyes and believe that they can take over the world and that’s a really powerful place for us to be in, being they’re big sister and mentor as they’re growing up.

Samir Husni: With the median age as twenty-four; when do you think they grow up from that teen mentality and say, “OK, now I can move to Vogue.”

Jason Wagenheim: I think that they’re starting to read Vogue certainly earlier too; it’s a very sophisticated fashion customer that both of our brands have. What Teen Vogue has done really well is mix the highs and lows. A woman’s first experience with luxury is not a $15,000 couture dress; it is a $300 pair of sunglasses from Gucci or a $500 pair of shoes from Prada or maybe it’s even a lipstick for $30 from Chanel. That’s how they enter luxury.

What Teen Vogue does great and what separates us is we mix high and low really well together. It’s OK to wear H&M, Gap and the Topshop and mix it with that Chanel lipstick and that Gucci pair of sunglasses. That’s always been our secret sauce and that has been what has separated us from many of the other fashion brands.

It’s also what’s been able to keep us healthy and relevant because it’s very real and how young women shop.

Samir Husni: When you look at the marketplace now, and the only other teen magazine still out there is Seventeen; do you use that as a competitive set or you don’t really consider them a competitor to Teen Vogue?

Jason Wagenheim: No. There are only a very small handful of mass beauty advertisers where we are really competing for the same business. If you look at our mix of business, we have a much stronger mix of retail, fashion, jewelry and accessories advertising. We’ve also done a great job of growing some of our non-endemic businesses and the stuff we’re competing for is really coming from the person targeting the fifteen and sixteen-year-old from a mass market perspective.

The good news is there are only two of us in town when it comes to that particular part of our business, so we both fare pretty well with those brands.

Samir Husni: You’re adding events to the mix; can you tell me a little bit more about this?

Jason Wagenheim: This is a great example of when I talked about evolution. We saw that the back-to-school space in 2012 when I started here was wide open for an experiential event-based holiday, similar to a Black Friday or even a Fashion’s Night Out, which the Mother Ship Vogue created several years ago. There was no rallying moment or galvanizing moment, I should say, for teens and college-aged kids to shop and for going back to school.

So we created a day. We simply decided and declared that we were going to have August 11, 2012 to be the first-ever back to school Saturday. That was it. We just went out and told everybody we were putting all of our resources behind this day. And if you put promotions and offers and gifts-toward-purchases and you had great social and digital strategy against this day, together we will get people shopping. And we did. In the first year we had about 60 malls participate and in the second year we had 130, this year we’ll have more than 100 through our relationship with Simon Malls and we’ve expanded it to be four Saturdays starting August 9th and rolling through the Labor Day weekend. Forty-five different brands participate in the fashion and beauty space. And it’s really our moment that we very uniquely own. There’s no other brand that can create such a galvanizing moment during the back to school season. It’s our Super Bowl.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give a newcomer to the field?

Jason Wagenheim: Be extremely well-rounded. First and foremost, no matter what side of the business you’re on, either the business or the edit side, there’s something happening where kids are coming out of school now and they’re not paying enough attention to how they write and communicate in business. And I would tell them to really hone their communication skills. And work hard at that.

The second thing is to be really well-rounded and understand that we do not live in a myopic world where it’s just magazines or just TV or just radio; you have to know everything. When you’re producing content now you have to think about the implications across every different platform and know that what you do in print is very different than what you do on the web, or on social, but how are you going to tell that same story to those different platforms in the most relevant way.

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

Jason Wagenheim: I do lie in bed thinking about what are the things that I’m going to do that next day or during that week that is going to get me business right now, keep me healthy and profitable and contributing to Condè Nast, but also what are the things that I should be doing this week that will keep me evolving so that in three years’ time my business continues to be as healthy as it is now. And that’s what I think about. I don’t think you can look beyond three years, but there are things we are doing and putting into place, strategies that take years to implement and recognize the fruits of and those are the things that keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
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Rights to excerpts and links to the blog are hereby permitted with proper credit. Copying the entire blog is NOT permitted and is a violation of the copyright laws.

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