Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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The Future of Digital Begins With Print: The ACT 5 Experience

September 19, 2014

The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 5 (Amplify, Clarify and Testify) Experience is less than three weeks away. This year the theme is “The Future of Digital Begins With Print.” With 46 magazine and magazine media executives slated to speak at the Experience, the ACT 5 Experience is shaping up to be the best one yet.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, the director of the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi taped a welcoming message to the folks attending the Experience Oct. 7 to 10.

Click on the video below to hear his message and click here to see the agenda for the ACT 5 Experience

Looking forward to seeing you in Oxford, Mississippi Oct. 7. Questions? Feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com

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“Fashion with a Conscience” is What Sets Marie Claire Apart from the Rest of the Fashion Magazines and Solidifies The Standard For Fashion, Beauty & Issues Important To Women Globally – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-In-Chief, Anne Fulenwider…

September 16, 2014

“I absolutely think that the social conscience of Marie Claire is as important today as it was 20 years ago. And I believe that has a great deal to do with our present success.” Anne Fulenwider

Anne Fulenwider 2014 Passionate, hard-working and definitely driven when it comes to the success of Marie Claire, Editor-in-Chief, Anne Fulenwider has been in the magazine business for over 20 years and has certainly learned what it takes to head a major brand. From Vanity Fair to Brides, she has worked closely with some of the top editors in the industry before becoming editor-in-chief of Marie Claire. A perfect fit with the magazine that since its inception helped coin the phrase “fashion with a conscience.”

On a recent trip to New York, and in the midst of her busy Fashion Week schedule, Anne was able to carve out some time for me after hours to speak with her about the 20th Anniversary issue, print plus digital and what it takes to achieve the success she has known in the world of magazine media. We met in her office on the 34th floor of the Hearst Tower and the conversation was filled with laughter and great information as her passion for the brand illuminated the discussion and proved that she knew just exactly what the right formula for Marie Claire’s future should be.

So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with a woman who has worked hard and passionately to rise in the ranks of magazine media…Editor-in-Chief, Anne Fulenwider, Marie Claire.

But first the sound-bites:


On the role a socially-conscious fashion magazine such as Marie Claire plays in today’s marketplace:
I absolutely think that the social conscience of Marie Claire is as important today as it was 20 years ago. And I believe that has a great deal to do with our present success.

On whether we’re seeing more social issues today in print or in digital:
I think the role of social media is important because we feel enabled and empowered to do something and they are more able to participate in the conversation and to make a difference.

On her most pleasant experience since coming to work at Marie Claire:
When I was first offered the editor’s job at Marie Claire I was ecstatic because it is honestly my favorite magazine, as a reader I can say that.

On some of the stumbling blocks that she has faced:
The stumbling block for me immediately was that I had only been at my current job, the one I was in at the time, for less than a year.

On any feelings of jealousy or competition with other brands that are in the same building as Marie Claire, such as Elle or Harper’s Bazaar:
I believe the fashion space is a highly-competitive space and I feel competitive with all the fashion magazines. And certainly, we’re always competing for cover stars.

On why she chooses print when she curls up to read at home:
If I’m going to enjoy a magazine right now, for the most part, I read it in print.

On any advice she would give someone just starting out in the industry, with the ultimate goal of being the next editor-in-chief: To become the next magazine editor, I think that they should maybe do what I did: I worked really hard, kept my head up and looked for opportunities, talked to as many people as possible.

On what the industry has done wrong since the 2008 crash of the economy and the rise of digital:
I think we as an industry adapted too slowly to the tablet. When a new technology arrives on the scene no one really knows what to make of it at first or how the consumer is going to embrace it.

On what keeps her up at night:
But really what keeps me up at night is this flash I sometimes get in the middle of the night that I’ve forgotten to a write thank you note to a designer for sending me flowers or I’ve forgotten to sign my son up for karate; it’s really about the keeping-the-whole-life-together type of thing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief, Marie Claire…

Marie Claire_Oct 2014_Ariana Grande LO Samir Husni: I was consulting for John Mack Carter when Hearst launched Marie Claire in 1994. I referred to Marie Claire back then as the “fashion magazine with a conscience”. Now, 20 years later, with your biggest issue ever; do you think the social aspect of being “a magazine with a conscience” plays any role in the success of a fashion magazine today or is it strictly about the fashion?

Anne Fulenwider: I absolutely think that the social conscience of Marie Claire is as important today as it was 20 years ago. And I believe that has a great deal to do with our present success. More now than ever before, young women are very engaged in the social issues of the day, partly because of social media and the Internet. They’re more aware of what’s going on in the world and more able to make a difference and engage in those social issues today.

So, in our 20th anniversary issue for September, we celebrated 20 women who are changing the world. And some of those women are celebrities, but some are a different type of celebrity. Tammy Tibbetts, for example, is the founder of She’s The First.org, and it is an organization dedicated to helping women become the first in their family to go to college.

Women like Tammy, in this country and around the world, were able to find an issue they were passionate about, study it and then do something about it often through social media. I think that this is very relevant to today’s graduating class of college seniors and to women who are thinking about what they want to do with their lives.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing more of that in print media or are we depending on all the social media for those issues?

Anne Fulenwider: I think the role of social media is important because we feel enabled and empowered to do something and they are more able to participate in the conversation and to make a difference.

I’m certainly seeing print media, as far as women’s magazines, doing something related to women’s issues. And I’m seeing this in the advertising campaigns as well; all types of media are paying attention to women and what matters to them, but Marie Claire has been addressing this for all of its life.

Samir Husni: Every editor that comes to a magazine experiences pleasant moments and those that become more of a challenge. When you were first offered the job at Marie Claire; can you tell me the most pleasant thing that happened and also some of the stumbling blocks you encountered?

Anne Fulenwider: When I was first offered the editor’s job at Marie Claire I was ecstatic because it is honestly my favorite magazine, as a reader I can say that. It’s something that I can identify with because of its mix of fashion, beauty, social issues and its journalistic approach as well all of the things that make a women’s magazine great.

The stumbling block for me immediately was that I had only been at my current job, the one I was in at the time, for less than a year. That was really a stumbling block for me because I was enjoying the job that I had and I didn’t think that I had finished it and I had just hired a whole group of women, mostly women, a few men, that I had encouraged to join me in this adventure of evolving that brand, which was Bride’s Magazine.

So, I really had to think about it from that point of view. That being said, timing is never perfect in life and I went home and talked to my husband and he was very helpful. He said, “The head coach job only comes around once in a while and you have to think about the brands where you would really want to be in charge.” And he knew there were really only three or four places that I would want to be head of. In the end, I just had to make the leap.

marie claire sept Samir Husni: We are no longer talking about magazines in our industry; everyone now refers to them as brands, so the magazine becomes one of the many items or products in the brand. How do you view Marie Claire? The magazine has a worldwide presence, of course, but does that really matters for the American audience? What role does this brand now play in the marketplace?

Anne Fulenwider: First I would say that I think the American audience, our reader, is interested in the fact that we have a global presence. I think that the Marie Claire reader does have a global view of the world. I believe that the print magazine will always be one of our core businesses and products. If you hadn’t just spent time with him, I’d try to steal this phrase, but Michael Clinton was just recently interviewed about what he calls print magazines: bricks and mortar businesses.

But our audience is also incredibly engaged on their mobile phones, on the web and on their social media voice. So, I think of print and digital working side by side, complementing each other and all of them being very valuable to our reader because she’s reading the magazine. I love to read magazines too; I crawl into bed and read one after the other in print and then when I’m traveling I read my iPad. And people are the same, so the reader is engaging with the brand in many different ways throughout her day and her life.

But it’s important that the Marie Claire voice, sensibility and point of view is communicated in the appropriate form for each media, so that when we’re speaking to you on Twitter, we’re catering our message to Twitter. When we’re speaking to you on your phone and showing you a Marie Claire story on your phone it has to be short, visual and popping up one after the other.

I believe print will always be central and a major part of the brand, but digital is becoming more and more important.

Samir Husni: Do you ever envision a day where there will be no printed edition of Marie Claire?

Anne Fulenwider: No.

Samir Husni: How about all the brand extensions from print? You have Marie Claire @ Work, Marie Claire @ Play and you’re introducing women to football – NFL…

Anne Fulenwider: (Laughs) I have a new brand extension that we’re introducing in the October issue that is very exciting and another big part of women’s lives. What about the other extensions?

Samir Husni: Any of them spinning off on their own to become separate magazines?

Anne Fulenwider: Yes, I would love that. In fact, there are certain venues, for example, Marie Claire at work, separate booklet, Marie Claire at play, separate booklet or digital editions and absolutely, I would love it if they became more. I really have a great idea for “at work” for example, in which the digital edition of that could be distributed on its own. And we are always innovating, in terms of where we can put our product and where we can put the catered message and the specific sections and spinoffs. So, yes, that is very much a part of our plan.

Samir Husni: You’re a part of a major brand media company, Hearst, and you have two other competitors in the same building: Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. Do you ever feel any sense of competition or jealousy?

Anne Fulenwider: On a personal level, I get along very well with Robbie and Glenda, I see them in the building and I’m always happy to see them at shows. I think they have great magazines. I believe the fashion space is a highly-competitive space and I feel competitive with all the fashion magazines. And certainly, we’re always competing for cover stars. Plus, I’m a very competitive person; I played three varsity sports in high school and I think that’s healthy. I think it’s healthy for the marketplace and helps you make the best product and I think complacency is never good.

I don’t feel more competitive with magazines in the building than I do with others outside of the building. I just have pride in Hearst and what we’re achieving in this space right now.

Samir Husni: Almost with no exception all the fashion magazines in September have seen their largest issues ever; what do you attribute that to?

Anne Fulenwider: Do you mean at Hearst?

Samir Husni: At Hearst and your competitors. InStyle had its largest issue; People StyleWatch had its largest ever…

Anne Fulenwider: I think the fashion industry is very healthy and is enthusiastic about what we’re all doing in magazine media. I believe the fashion designers and companies love to see their beautiful ad campaigns and designs photographed by some of the most fantastic fashion photographers in the world, in the magazines. There is no better place to see those beautiful pictures than in large format print on paper. By the way, I also think it looks fantastic on the iPad in large format digital. We’ve felt greatly supported by our partners and I think they’re doing very well.

Samir Husni: For anyone who doubts the future of print; I carry around the Fashion Box filled with three magazines. It’s 9 lbs. of ink on paper for $13. (Laughs)

Anne Fulenwider: (Laughs) I take two of them home and just lift them up at night, try to do a couple of reps and that’s my workout. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: You mentioned that when you were at home and in bed, you read in print. Why?

Anne Fulenwider: I’m omnivorous; I love magazines and I love to read. I read The Sunday Times in print as well. But I also read lots on my phone and on my tablet; I read a lot of news on my phone on the way into work when I take the subway. So I do a lot of reading on my phone and on my tablet. But if I’m going to enjoy a magazine right now, for the most part, I read it in print. I read home magazines, fashion and news magazines; I read a lot.

Samir Husni: Other than Marie Claire; what’s a magazine that you feel you can lose yourself in or have an experience with when you’re just sitting and having a glass of wine and enjoying reading?

Anne Fulenwider: The World of Interiors and The Atlantic; two completely different experiences. One is more visual and one is more about the issues that I care about.

Samir Husni: Being the editor-in-chief of a women’s fashion magazine with a lot of social interaction; what advice would you offer someone entering this field? What can you tell them that might prepare them to become the next editor-in-chief?

Anne Fulenwider: That’s a really good question. I think that they should read magazines, of course, if they don’t already. And I’m sure they’re all really adept at social media. They should focus on just exactly what it is they love about whatever it is they’re reading. I love speaking to young people and to students who are still in college and I tell them all to do what they love and to pursue it with ferocity.

To become the next magazine editor, I think that they should maybe do what I did: I worked really hard, kept my head up and looked for opportunities, talked to as many people as possible. They really need to become knowledgeable about the industry, read the business news, read the trades and pay close attention. Try to be as useful as possible to whomever they’re working for.

One of the most important things is to become incredibly adaptable, because this business is changing so fast. Someone asked me the other day, “How has the magazine industry changed since you got to New York?” (Laughs) I said that I didn’t have email at my first job; there were computers, but no email. It’s completely changed over my 20 + years in the industry. And that’s exciting to me, because you always have to embrace change and the velocity in which it changes. You have to be able to innovate and take charge of the future and look forward to change.

Samir Husni: Do you think we’re doing ourselves an injustice by trying to replicate our success in print on digital devices? Or do you think we need to leap toward digital and be even more creative with it?

Anne Fulenwider: We are no longer trying to replicate the print experience on digital devices. The minute the iPad came out or all these digital devices, the trick should have been to see how the reader and the user interacts with them and likes to play with them.

We need to delight and surprise them in the voice, mood and point of view that is Marie Claire. And I always think of Marie Claire as really a point of view, a way of viewing and experiencing the world and seeing the fashion shows or reacting to news about women of the world. So I don’t think about it as just the print magazine and we need to be duplicating that digitally, I think of it as this is Marie Claire and a Marie Claire reaction.

So this can be translated into a game or a photo-shoot; we could take photographs and leak them online; so I certainly don’t think we should just be replicating things. I don’t think, for example, we should just put the contents of our magazine on the website, which we don’t do; we create unique content for the website. The unifying theme is the Marie Claire point of view and the Marie Claire voice and style of images.

Samir Husni: If someone asked you to humanize the magazine; if I gave you a magic wand and you struck Marie Claire and a human being popped out, can you define that person who is going to engage all these women in that conversation?

Anne Fulenwider: It’s me. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Perfect. (Laughs) So when you look at the magazine industry as a whole, and you’ve seen quite a few changes during your tenure; what do you feel was the biggest mistake the industry committed as we are seeing all these rapid changes?

Anne Fulenwider: I think we as an industry adapted too slowly to the tablet. When a new technology arrives on the scene no one really knows what to make of it at first or how the consumer is going to embrace it. No one really knew Twitter was going to end up being a news delivery system, for example. With the advent of the tablet, we as an industry thought the right move was either to replicate the print product or to add a whole bunch of bells and whistles that readers were not necessarily interested in.

But, we know now that that’s not the right tactic—it’s not how people want to interact with a tablet. Mostly, they want to watch TV shows and play games. The answer for every platform we publish on is to create a product that suits the medium. For mobile we have to create a product that fits with our reader’s behavior there.

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

Anne Fulenwider: Honestly? I have always been a very good sleeper, but sometimes we have a feature in the magazine about women’s issues, such as women in refugee camps, I don’t want to get too heavy here, but a feature that bothers me and I’ll think, we’re doing a story on that, but what else can we do.

But really what keeps me up at night is this flash I sometimes get in the middle of the night that I’ve forgotten to a write thank you note to a designer for sending me flowers or I’ve forgotten to sign my son up for karate; it’s really about the keeping-the-whole-life-together type of thing. It’s more about the full, busy life and less about the real things I should probably be worried about.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Time Inc. Is “Ripping” Away The Past And Getting Ready For The Next 100 Years. An Exclusive Mr. Magazine™ One-Hour Conversation With Joe Ripp, CEO and Chairman, Time Inc.

September 12, 2014

“I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.” Joe Ripp

The first book I read when I arrived in the United States in 1978, as a graduate student, was Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise by Robert T. Elson. Joe Ripp, current CEO of Time Inc. is reading the same book now. Not that he needs to, but it is a very good refresher history into the ins and outs of a company that was, is and always will be more than “just a magazine company.”

Joe Ripp – CEO & Chairman of the company, returned in September 2013. Joe started with Time Inc. in 1985 and spent many years involved in the digital aspects of the company, along with advertising and publishing. Mr. Ripp is quick to remind you that Henry Luce has created much more than magazines. From newsletters to newsreels, Luce used all the media platforms available to dispense the different content that was created by the folks at Time Inc.

So when people mention to Joe Ripp that Henry Luce would be turning in his grave with all the changes Time Inc. is making today, Mr. Ripp is quick to answer that Luce would be turning in his grave if we were not engaged in all these changes. “After all, Henry Luce was a multi-platform person himself and we ought to be.”

Samir Husni and Joe Ripp I reached out to Mr. Ripp on a recent trip to New York City and over a one hour conversation in his new executive office on the second floor of the Time-Life building (the former private dinning room for Anne Moore, Time Inc.’s former CEO) we discussed the power of the Time Inc. brand, the role of the Internet in today’s publishing world and where the future of the brand is heading for the next 100 years. His answers were open, honest and very informative. A man who believes the audience and how they want to consume their content always comes first; Joe Ripp knows Time Inc. and that audience just like a childhood friend. The bond between the man and the magazine is palpable.

So before you take some “time” to sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ one-hour conversation with Joe Ripp, click on the video below to watch the Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Joe Ripp and hear what the CEO of Time Inc. has to say about the many false perceptions surrounding the company.



Now for the sound-bites…

On how he plans to utilize the power of the brand to achieve even more success today and in the future: I come at it with a fundamental belief that there is real value in brands. Brands have always driven consumer interest, consumer affection; consumer purchasing power is created with brands, because brands convey to us a sense of trust, a sense of quality in what they are.

On why the publishing world didn’t follow the same business model as cable TV when it came to the Internet:
I have no idea why. I know that when the Internet first came out there were a lot of people dismissing it, a lot of people saying that it wasn’t going to work; some people called it a Black Hole, as I recall.

On Sports Illustrated’s continued success and creativeness:
They’ve been very inventive in thinking how else can I get high quality content and information to consumers of sports and maybe that’s the brand.

On whether mobile technology will be the future of the brand:
I don’t see mobile as the future, because it has its own problems, but I think there is more and more people who are going to access mobile and if you create the kind of great, quality content that people are looking to consume on mobile, they’ll come back to you and your brand.

joseph_ripp On whether today’s editors and publishers in the media world understand the value of data:
I would think that most of them don’t. I came from the big data industry, so I understand what’s going on with big data and I understand how data is really changing the way B to B sales work.

On millennials not getting their important content from the web: Right, because there is so much silliness on the web. The world is collectively wasting its time, people sharing just a bunch of things. But the reality is there is also important information that we produce and we think we’ve got great, quality content.

On whether Time Inc.’s print editions will ever disappear forever:
I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline.

On the role book-a-zines play in Time Inc.’s present and future:
Book-a-zines are very, very topical, they’re very high-priced as you know, and they’re very profitable for every publisher that does them with us.

On the most pleasant surprise he faced when he came back to the company:
The most pleasant surprise that faced me when I came back? That I’ve still got a great company, with great people, the talent is still here, that the enthusiasm for this company is stronger than ever.

On his biggest stumbling block:
The biggest stumbling block, quite frankly, is just can we change fast enough? I don’t think we’re moving fast enough. I’m impatient on that.

On what keeps him up at night:
The reality is that I work very, very hard and think about where this company is going. You worry about if you can move it fast enough with the decline so that the investors will leave the cash.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Joe Ripp, CEO & Chairman, Time Inc.


Samir Husni: In a few years you’ll be celebrating 100 years of Time Inc. As you get ready to celebrate this momentous milestone, you have brands, they were magazines, but now they’re brands; how are you going to utilize the power of these brands to achieve even more success?

Joe Ripp: I come at it with a fundamental belief that there is real value in brands. Brands have always driven consumer interest, consumer affection; consumer purchasing power is created with brands, because brands convey to us a sense of trust, a sense of quality in what they are. And Time Inc.’s brands have always stood for quality, for trust, for respected journalism, for incredible information; whatever it is, our brands have stood for that. That’s why we can get $115 a year for People magazine, because it’s a good magazine with really good quality content.

I think what you’re going to see moving forward are those brands manifesting themselves in other places. When I came back to Time Inc., I was talking to Jeff Bewkes and he asked me: what do you think the company missed, this is before I even knew he was talking to me about a job. I told him when I left Time Inc. 14 years ago, the magazine had this ad campaign on the air, and it was very effective. It said: join the conversation, Time Magazine. When I was down at AOL a new technology was deployed for the first time in the history of the human race; the human race could now actually have a conversation about every topic they want to talk about and they could find groups of people who wanted to talk about that same topic.

Time Inc. didn’t join the conversation. It was still printed pages pushing out the opinions of its editors and it didn’t engage in a conversation with those audiences who now wanted to really talk about all those things that the magazine was covering. And had the magazine simply understood what it was, a subject matter expert that really had important things to say in that conversation and had embraced that conversation more readily, it probably would have been a lot more successful. But because of the AOL merger, because of Turner, because of a lot of things, Time Inc. was told no, don’t join the conversation, you’re still editors pushing things out.

And I think that’s the change; that’s the only thing the company missed and it’s not too late for that. We’ve been able to demonstrate when we started thinking about the conversation, for example, Time.com is doing very well right now. I had a group of millennials here, around 150 of them we had for interns, and some of them said, “My favorite website has become Time.com.” And they weren’t sucking up to me, it was private conversations. They just wanted me to know it had become their favorite.

There is no reason in the world why Time with its brilliant content can’t reach audiences in the way they want to consume their content. We just haven’t tried as hard as we should have in the past, because we had this sense that we were editors pushing out this one-sided conversation. That’s changed now. We’re now embracing those audiences and going after those crowds and making sure we’re a part of the dialogue going on out there.

When Rick (Stengel) put on the cover of Time Magazine Jamie Lynne Grumet breast-feeding her child, there were probably a billion conversations around the world about that cover, it was one of the most widely reported covers that we’ve ever done and I think it was on every TV show that week, every news program, but none of that conversation came back to us, because we didn’t have the technology or the outreach, but it fueled massive amounts of social conversation and sharing; yet none of it came back to us. Why? Why would we let that happen?

Samir Husni: If that cover had been digital-only; do you think it would have generated as much buzz?

Joe Ripp: No, if it wasn’t TIME Magazine it wouldn’t have generated that much buzz. If it would have been Gawker or BuzzFeed, any of those other guys out there, it wouldn’t have generated that kind of controversy. It was Time Magazine and the respect that the brand has that allowed it to generate that kind of controversy and covered that subject in an important way. It was the brand that created that.

Samir Husni: So what went wrong? When I look back into the history of Time Inc., you founded HBO…

Joe Ripp: When I first started, we put the money into it, $20 million.

Samir Husni: And you went to the utility companies and said, “You wire this home, they’ll pay you $9 and we’ll split the money.” Why didn’t we follow the same model with the Internet?

Joe Ripp: I have no idea why. I know that when the Internet first came out there were a lot of people dismissing it, a lot of people saying that it wasn’t going to work; some people called it a Black Hole, as I recall. (Laughs)

The reality is that the Internet fundamentally changed the way we all consume content and get information. It may fundamentally change the way democracy works in the future, who knows? None of us know if the Internet is a good thing. The founding fathers created the Senate and the House. The Senate was supposed to protect us from crowds, so the crowds couldn’t do all the nutty things that crowds sometimes do. Well the nuts can all find themselves on the Internet. So the Internet can be a very powerful force for good, like in education, because it brings the world’s libraries to the rest of the world, but it can also be a very powerful force for evil, because all the nuts can find each other. So I don’t think the story of the Internet has been written yet.

But I do think that Time Inc. can play a very active role in the Internet with the digitization of assets and content and our ability to reach consumers. We have right now 83 million unique’s and it’s going up rapidly. We’re redoing all of our websites. When I came in, quite frankly, all of the websites were pretty awful. They didn’t have a lot of video content. You couldn’t share or comment on the stories; you couldn’t do all of the things that you’re supposed to be able to do.

You look at our iPad edition; what is it? It’s a PDF version of our magazine. Why would you take that device with all of its wonderful features and technology and do a PDF version?

So if you got TIME Magazine right now, I think you’d see a lot more singing and dancing and a lot more video on the iPad edition. What we’re trying to do is utilize the devices, utilize the way people want to consume our content and reach them and it’s one of the reasons we have a big video initiative going one. We’re producing thousands and thousands of videos now in this organization and that’s going to go up even more dramatically next year because video is an important component of the way we tell stories and people want to consume video. They want to see it on their phones and sit at the airport and watch them.

Samir Husni: In your interview last week, you mentioned that you want the company to look at SI as the guiding light of the video…

Joe Ripp: I wouldn’t call them the guiding light because then they’ll get their heads too expanded. (Laughs) What I want to look at them and say is I wish more of my company was like you, because they’ve been in a scrappy, competitive environment for years with ESPN. Sports are all over television, it’s one of the biggest things on television. Advertisers love it because it’s safe, reliable content; you don’t have to worry about anything when you advertise on an NFL football game. And I think it’s a great opportunity for growth. SI, because they’ve been scrappy, has done a lot of work creating new products and services, newsletters, new websites; the SI Swimsuit Issue has become a major business by itself; they’re doing an awful lot to promote the brand and expand the audience that they’re reaching. You know, we just got into FanNation and we did the 120 sports deal with the leagues, created two minutes of sports clips, about 8 hours a day of that and it was distributed on cell phones.

They’ve been very inventive in thinking how else can I get high quality content and information to consumers of sports and maybe that’s the brand. Extra mustard goes out and you don’t really know that’s SI, it’s just a newsletter. Then MMQB from Peter King, which is a newsletter that goes out from him, very widely read. What we’re doing is saying we’ve got this great content, how else can we find audiences for it, how else can we distribute it and advertisers are willing to promote it with us.

Samir Husni: One thing I’ve always said is we have two competitors out there: time (not the magazine) and attention span. And when we read and see that 50% of people in Europe, and I just saw the statistics today, access the web through their mobile phones and cell phones, rather than the desktops or laptops; do you think the future of the brand is going to be in mobile technology?

Joe Ripp: I think it’s a problem for everyone, because people are asking, how can I track it; the amount of tracking going on right now is enormous. Everybody is tracking everyone’s behaviors, but on the mobile market it makes it a lot harder to track behaviors and the results of advertising.

In addition, you have to be a lot more creative about it, because how many times have you looked at an ad on your mobile phone? Not so often, right? So you have to be more creative. I don’t see mobile as the future, because it has its own problems, but I think there is more and more people who are going to access mobile and if you create the kind of great, quality content that people are looking to consume on mobile, they’ll come back to your brand on websites, on printed editions, newsletters and whatever else.

I think mobile becomes just another form of distribution, but what people haven’t developed yet is what’s the real monetization formula for mobile. That’s a little harder; because advertisers can’t get the specific kind of information they think they’re getting at websites.

The reality is that we’re working very hard right now to find a chief data officer, because I believe that we have this huge data base, we track 150 million U.S. adults, we have billions of interactions a year with people; there’s a way for us to monetize that in ways that others have. One of the reasons that Facebook is doing so well is because of the data that they provide back to advertisers. I think that data can be an important component of what we can help advertisers to see: that we can be just as effective for them, so I think you’ll see a lot more of that coming.

And mobile can be data-sourced, data-collection efforts, so you can understand what’s going on. There are ways that once you tag people, if you tag it right, you can get a sense of generally where a person went, here or there, so you can get a lot more information for advertisers.

Samir Husni: Do you think our current crop of editors and publishers in the magazine industry as a whole, not necessarily just at Time Inc., have an understanding of how valuable that data is?

Joe Ripp: I would think that most of them don’t. I came from the big data industry, so I understand what’s going on with big data and I understand how data is really changing the way B to B sales work. It’s certainly changing the way B to C sales is working. And I think there’s a huge opportunity for us in the data play.

Part of the problem that we have is we’re considered non-measured media. The reality is most of the stuff being measured is silliness. There’s a lot of click-fraud going on. I call it click-bait, but there’s another term that people call it. We write a catchy headline and it doesn’t mean anything, billions of people show up to look at the headline and that’s all they do, they show the headline. They’re not really engaging in the content, not really looking and there’s seems to be, as I was quoted at the last conference, there seems to be a bubble going on, there’s a traffic bubble. There’s an evaluation bubble in traffic. Suddenly, anyone who has traffic seems to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even if they haven’t figured out to monetize it yet.

And there is a lot of traffic being generated by creating traffic traps that look at this and you’ll share it and throw it around ten times; you didn’t do anything with it.

The reality is that we’ve got really good content to engage in. I think we’ve got really good opportunities to engage people more wisely and I think that at the end of the day good content will prevail. I certainly hope that our kids don’t get raised on 10 ways to feed your gerbil. There’s a real opportunity to give them good quality content and information about serious issues, because there are serious issues in this world. And there’s a place for serious dialogue, for good, quality entertainment, for great information about how-to and there’s a place for that.

Samir Husni: There was a study just released this morning by the Pew Research Institute about millennials aged 16-28. One of the things that they discovered is that a big chunk of that age group spends a lot of their time on digital devices, but a hefty number of them said if they really need something serious or important they don’t find it on the Internet. And this was a higher number than our generation.

Joe Ripp: Right, because there is so much silliness on the web. The world is collectively wasting its time, people sharing just a bunch of things. But the reality is there is also important information that we produce and we think we’ve got great, quality content. I firmly believe that there is a role for quality journalism, for quality content and quality information going forward and will be forevermore.

Where it’s distributed, what form it takes, how people consume it; that will all change and it’s morphing over time. I began my career when HBO started out and we all got five channels for free; now look at what we have. Look at the transformation that will occur in cable going forward. What’s going on with the cable mergers? They’re all deathly afraid of over-the-top video. They’re realizing that cable companies created these pipes into the home that they can’t control anymore.

In the beginning when it all rolled out, if you remember, these full-service networks; the cable guys all thought they’d control that. That they would be in charge and everyone would pay a toll to come over that. The Internet said no, no, no, that’s free. Now the cable guy has this pipe into the home and it’s actually dislocating them, because fewer millennials are getting cable television. Fewer of them are watching television on TV, they’re watching it over-the-top with Netflix and Amazon Extend Video and some of the stuff that we’re producing and will produce going forward.

So that whole eco-system of cable is changing and that’s why you’ve got these marketers going on, because people are all looking at the morphing technology like over-the-top video. I look at it and say that it’s pretty exciting for us.

It used to be if I tried to get a cable channel going, I’d have to pay a couple hundred million dollars to some cable guys to allow me to get one station for them. Now, quite frankly, I can create all sorts of channels and content that gets distributed to consumers and I don’t have to pay anybody any toll. And that’s kind of an interesting opportunity for us. Those days have changed. It used to be that the cable guys were in charge of video distribution, they’ve lost that. Over-the-top video is now the next rage, everyone is talking about it.

Samir Husni: A lot of my students they wait until the end of the season…

Joe Ripp: And then they watch it all at once.

Samir Husni: Yes, all at once.

Joe Ripp: They can watch the entire season in a day.

Samir Husni: Yes.

Joe Ripp: That’s very common right now. And that’s actually troubling the Comcast’s of the world and the other cable companies. They’re looking at this and asking what does all of this mean? In part, the merger. If you look at some of the disclosures of the cable companies, none of their disconnects have gone down. They’re still seeing disconnects, because the millennials aren’t getting cable. They’re getting a broadband connection and they’re calling it a day. They’re getting Hulu, Netflix or whatever they want, whenever they want to watch it and they’re binge-watching. So they’re very, very different and we’re all trying to adjust to this. This is the first time we’ve ever really had a true digital generation becoming adults. And they’re going to change the way they do everything and a lot that goes on in the world. The way they think, act, share, talk; they’re just different.

Samir Husni: Yet, they still love magazines, as is evident by your newest magazines that were launched in the last 20 years, InStyle, People StyleWatch or Real Simple; these magazines are still printing their biggest issues ever.

Joe Ripp: Yes, InStyle just did over 700 pages.

Samir Husni: Exactly. And I know that People is really the cash cow of the company; will we ever see those print editions disappear completely, including InStyle?

Joe Ripp: I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.

But print is in a slow decline and will continue to shrink. And I believe that is going to happen. And even if it doesn’t; I still have to plan for that. As I’ve said, I’m going to plan for it anyway, because I think for too long people were saying that that wasn’t going to happen; we’ll find a way to turn it around. I say that we’re going to do everything that we can to stabilize those trends; we’ll invest in our core businesses to stabilize them and make sure they decline at the slowest rate possible, but I have to believe as an organization that we’ve got to focus on the fact that it is going to continue.

And if we do that; we’ll plan for that future and not deny it. But if it does plateau out a little bit, that’s fine too. Because then we’ll be in much better shape. But I have to keep making sure that this organization says, yes, that will change. Therefore let’s get into more digital, more video, more experiential; let’s think about new digital magazines we can launch, new ways of reaching consumers, more newsletters, etc. How else can we reach consumers.

Samir Husni: What role do the book-a-zines play? Time Inc. has around seven book-a-zines per week. You’re doing it for National Geographic, the American Bible Society; you’re doing it for your own brands.

Joe Ripp: We have a lot of other publishers too talking to us about doing more of it, so it’s actually doing quite well. Book-a-zines are very, very topical, they’re very high-priced as you know, and they’re very profitable for every publisher that does them with us. We have 280,000 pockets in supermarkets and newsstands around the United States where we sell book-a-zines. They’re highly profitable for the retailers and they’re highly profitable for the publishers. And as you can see; we can turn them out on a dime.

When Robin Williams killed himself, we had no advance warning of that. We had three book-a-zines out in 3 or 4 days, in the marketplace and on the shelves. We can turn that out pretty quickly because we have really good people who can do that. They have the distribution vehicles to get it out there.

Samir Husni: The problems on the newsstand did not impact that?

Joe Ripp: No, that’s a great, growing strong business for us. And that business continues to prosper.

Samir Husni: Even after we lost Source Interlink and others?

Joe Ripp: We’re actually back up now to 100% distribution since Source Interlink; we’ve recovered fully from that. When that whole thing happened we went into action really quickly and we’re fully recovered as far as we can tell.

Samir Husni: What’s the next big thing from Time Inc.?

Joe Ripp: If I told you that, I’d have to kill you. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: I won’t ask you why you don’t take the company private…

Joe Ripp: I don’t plan on taking the company private. I think that we’re just finding the public markets. We’ve got a great stable base of shareholders, people who are very interested in the story, who we are talking to very, very publicly and often about where we’re going and what we’re raising. I’m very happy with the capital structure we have; we’re not debt-laden. If you look at what we came out with, $185 million cash, 1.4 in debt and the cash will be up even further by the time you get to the third quarter. We’re in a pretty good position.

But I think that we’re in a great position; I wanted to make sure that we had the right capital structure. If I go private I’ve got to borrow out the wazoo. Lever the company up strongly and then the company loses its ability to grow.

Because a private equity transaction is usually not, for the company this size, about the best thing; it’s about stripping it and taking the values out and monetizing. They all want to get in and out in five years. So, you could have done that transaction with Time Inc. and you could have probably made a lot of money, stripped into little pieces.

The reality is this company needed to be saved and I came back to do that, not strip it. And I think by investing in this company we’re going to find the right way to grow the business and to employ the resources that it generates. It has rich cash flow; I have access to every CMO in America, I have a data base of 150 million U.S. individuals, I’ve got one of the best direct marketing operations in the United States, I have 2000 of the best content producers in the States and I have incredible brands, many of which have been around for over forty years, with one for 165 years. And I have a great company; why can’t I do things with that? Stripping that and layering that up with debt is not a good idea.

One of the things I was very focused on when I came back was making sure that we did not get burdened by debt on the way out the door, because I did not want to operate in that company. Once you start tripping over covenants, you lose your ability to invest in your future, because you’re always paying the piper.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise that faced you when you came back?

Joe Ripp: The most pleasant surprise that faced me when I came back? That I’ve still got a great company, with great people, the talent is still here, that the enthusiasm for this company is stronger than ever. I have more people talking to me about how great Time Inc. is and that it needs to be saved. People respect and love the brand more and more and come up to me and say I love People or TIME or I’m a Fortune person.

The passion that we generate among the people who know us is incredible. So the most pleasant thing, despite all the years of being beat up and under-invested in and stripped of its cash; you’ve got a company that everyone still loves. And everyone wants to be successful. That’s been actually the most surprising part.

Samir Husni: And the biggest stumbling block?

Joe Ripp: The biggest stumbling block, quite frankly, is just can we change fast enough? I don’t think we’re moving fast enough. I’m impatient on that. And yet, when I look back everyone tells me that we’ve made a whole lot of changes in a year. But it’s just not fast enough. We have to keep on going and stop clinging to the past and wishing that it was like it was before. I wish it was like it was. When I left here we were having a great run. We had 8 straight years of solid growth. So I wish it was like that again too, but it’s not. So what? So what, it’s not.

The reality is I’m impatient about the pace of change and I think that impatience is what’s making us grow faster. And what I really want is to encourage my own organization; if I can teach a $3.4 million operation to think like a start-up, to have the paranoia of a start-up, to have the paranoia of a private equity shop, trying to figure out the value; we’d be in great shape.

Everyone is thinking about how do we grow, what can we do, what new ideas do we have…the problem right now is I probably have more great ideas than I have the time or the people to do them. But I’d rather have that problem, whereas before people did tell me, you should just leave that thing, you probably can’t grow it, and so you should just leave it.

Samir Husni: I hear that people are just waiting in the wings to see if Joe Ripp is going to sell the Southern Progress part or when is he going to sell Sunset so they can jump in and buy it.

Joe Ripp: They’ll be waiting for a while. (Laughs) Everyone is thinking about what pieces they want; they all want to carve out my empire. It’s what I’ve always said, and others warn me that I shouldn’t say this; if someone asked would you ever sell Southern Progress? I always said if someone walks in with a billion dollar check, it’s theirs. No problem, I will sell it.

When I was the CFO of Time Inc. and Time Warner, I asked the question every year in our budget meetings; are you worth more to someone else than you are to me? And if so, why? And if so, what would they do that I can’t do? And why aren’t we doing it?

And if it turned out that we really can’t do it, you really are worth a lot more to someone else; I should probably sell you to them, because we should be generating value. We should be generating value, because if we do we’ll get the funds to invest and create more value, create new businesses.

My biggest problem right now is I’m a brand new entrant into the marketplace; we’ve only been out a couple of months; Wall Street has been behind us, we’ve raised over $4 billion in cash, between debt and equity, it’s all there, but they’re saying where are you going with this business. Can you generate returns for me? If I don’t generate returns for them, people will say, oh, that’s pandering to Wall Street; I don’t own this company, the shareholders do. And if we don’t generate good returns for them, that they get excited about our growth prospects, they’re going to want their money back. So they’re going to say to me, you know all that cash flow you got. The $300 million cash flow that you have at the end of the year? I want that back. I want bigger dividends and buy-backs; I don’t want you to have it, because you don’t seem to know what to do with it.

I have to find a way to reinvest in this business. It’s been starved for cash for years. I think it has great opportunity for growth and the only way I get to keep their money is by proving to them that this management team, this company is wise enough to invest it and provide growth that they will get excited about. That’s how I get the money and that’s how capitalism works. I know that very clearly and I have to demonstrate very clearly what I can do with it. And if I can do that, then I get to keep the cash to invest back into this company.

Samir Husni: I love what you said once, “Show me a single person who would not like to work for Time Inc.”…

Joe Ripp: You know when I became the CEO some people called me up and said, “Why did you do that? That’s crazy.” And I said, really; it’s crazy to be the CEO of Time Inc.? It’s the greatest honor of my life. This is a great company and it has really defined my life. It’s one of the best institutions that I can imagine in journalism and in media. Look what it did; it created cable television. It used to be you couldn’t do anything in Pennsylvania because the mountain got in the way. When it launched HBO, cable television became an entertainment medium and then we wired the country as a result of that.

Before cable became entertainment it was just something for signals. This company has done incredibly great things and it has the opportunity to keep doing that.

I think it’s a great company and it needs to be successful. And I think that we have the greatest shot in the industry to pull it off. It’s just a matter of how fast you can get ahead of the secular trends. And it’s a fun job. Trying to sort through this problem, it’s complicated and there have been lots of opinions, as I’m sure, you’ve read in the press. (Laughs) Lots of opinions of what we’re doing right or wrong. But quite frankly, I’ve just learned not to listen to those things, because if I’m trying to do the right thing; I don’t really care what a couple of pundits on the side have to say. We have got to make the right decisions and we have got to find a way to make this company great again. And we’re going to do that, we’re going to make some changes and as I keep telling everyone, if we make a mistake, we’ll do the other thing. Just stop worrying about the mistakes. The company, I think, was paralyzed by: it may not work. Who cares? It definitely will not work if you don’t try.

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

Joe Ripp: I sleep very well. I think about this company; I come in every morning on most days between 6:00 a.m. and 7. I try not to do dinners because I’m too fat. (Laughs)

The reality is that I work very, very hard and think about where this company is going. You worry about if you can move it fast enough with the decline so that the investors will leave the cash. And that’s what I’ve been working toward; trying to make sure the capital structure is right, trying to make sure the investment base is correct, make sure that we’re talking to them correctly, because I have to make sure that the investment base goes along with us. I don’t own this company, the investors do.

We have to make sure that we’re generating the right kind of story and we’re attracting the right kind of talent to make it work, so far, so good. But we’re only one year into the marriage, right? We’re attracting really great talent; we just brought in Mark Ellis, who was practically the head of sales for Yahoo. He was really a great hire for us.

We just brought in a new editor for Fortune magazine and its doing great. We’ve got really good people saying, “There is something going on and I’d like to work there.” And the more we can bring in great talent with different kinds of experiences, who can contribute to what we’re doing and believe in our brands and what we can do, then we should be just fine.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

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. Darhil Crooks, who is the creative director, has 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. 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 editions, but you know someday all magazines may no longer have print editions, including The Atlantic. But 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 there are 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 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. Darhil Crooks, who is the creative director, has 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 and this is obvious to all magazine publishers, and it was obvious to me in my previous magazine lives, is 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 symbiotic. 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. 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.

Then there’s 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 have 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 with the Aspen Institute. 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. 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 factor 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 editions, but you know someday all magazines may no longer have print editions, including The Atlantic. But 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 lader 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 are 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 your 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. Just following what my Twitter feed is telling me. I still read a bunch of magazines in print and I still read books. They’re not as thick as they used to be (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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