Archive for the ‘Innovation in print’ Category

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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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John Puterbaugh, CEO, Nellymoser: Mobile Is The Best Amplifier of Print. The Mr. Magazine™ Minute

June 16, 2014

John Puterbaugh,Ph.D., founder and CEO of Nellymoser, the company that specializes in mobile computing, shares with Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni his views on why mobile is the best amplifier of traditional media in this Mr. Magazine™ Minute.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
____________________________________________________________________________________________
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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A Self-Proclaimed User Experience Evangelist Whose Passionate Belief In The Power Of Interactive Design And Engagement Returns Him To Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joe Natoli – Creative Director, Dinosaur Magazine

June 9, 2014

“Design is a part of communication and media; it’s a part of everything. It’s all very much interconnected.” Joe Natoli

Joe-Natoli-Promo What can you say about a man who has been designing creatively and passionately for over 25 years and is still filled with the excitement of a child when he talks about his work and once again designing for print as the art director of Dinosaur Magazine? The word amazing comes to mind.

Joe Natoli is a consultant, teacher and master of design and brings more to the table of interactive connection and engagement with the audience than any designer out there. He can visualize print pages as alive with movement as pixels on a screen and the best thing about his perception? He knows how to make that mobility happen.

I spoke with Joe recently about his theories and ideals on design, working at Dinosaur and the “Imposter Syndrome,” something he is definitely not when it comes to the creativity of his designs.

dinosaur2 So grab the latest issue of Dinosaur and follow along as you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™
Interview with Joe Natoli…

But first the sound-bites…

Sound-bites:

On going up onto the mountain of design and bringing down three commandments: I believe there are three components that are incredibly important and I think one of those is you have to have a mission and a focus if you’re going to put anything out onto the marketplace, magazines especially.

On the biggest challenge he’s faced in his career and how he overcame it: I think the biggest challenge that I ever faced was self-confidence, really believing enough in my ability, in my talent, in the gifts that I’m fortunate enough to have, and to sort of go out there and just do it.

On the most pleasant surprise of his career so far: I look at this from a very human perspective. When something I do helps someone in some way, I feel very good about what I do.

On what keeps him up at night: I think honestly, I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Joe Natoli, Creative Director, Dinosaur Magazine…

Samir Husni: There are hundreds of magazines out there, thousands of apps; what would be the three most important differentiation points that would say: OK, this is what needs to be done so that this picture, this article and this design is solely for Dinosaur? I mean, is this a scenario where Joe Natoli goes up onto the mountain and comes back down with these three commandments?

Joe-Natoli-Working Joe Natoli: I think so. I believe there are three components that are incredibly important and I think one of those is you have to have a mission and a focus if you’re going to put anything out onto the marketplace, magazines especially. You have to have a mission and a focus that is not presently being served. You cannot go out there with more of the same content-wise and just package it differently.

And whatever that is, it has to strike an emotional chord. From a psychological standpoint, one of the things that I tell designers all the time and marketing people as well is that a call to action is related to money and will only work if you’re not appealing directly to the act of subscribing or the act of making money. The call to action has to be in some sense, a personal connection. And we’re wired for personal stuff first, that’s what we respond to.

So if I get the idea that you’re going to make really good use of my time; you’re going to entertain and inspire me, you got me, you have my attention. I will at least take ten seconds to check this out. That’s the first part. You have to have that and it has to be something that’s not out there currently. I am a big believer in zigging when everyone else is zagging. I think that’s the first thing.

The second thing is the visual design part. The presentation has to be way beyond adequate. There is any number of templates out there for print design; web design and visually they look nice. They’re clean, everything is aligned, and the colors are nice, it’s pleasant to look at. It has to go beyond that.

Every visual design decision that you make has to support and exclusively communicate your specific vision, your mission; the design has to come to life and push all that. So it has to be extraordinary, it can’t just be good. There’s just too much out there that you’re competing with for it not to be extraordinary. You have to find a way, which means you have to spend money, to hire, not a “good” designer but a “great” designer. That’s the second thing.

The third thing is material. It’s format, size and it’s paper. One of the other things that I see a lot of is magazines have sort of been forced to cut cost and downsize, and I understand the pressure, I really do.

Also you see a lot of size changes, big magazines, oversized magazines are now getting smaller and the paper is a lot thinner. The problem with that is that you’re sacrificing the emotional components of numbers one and two that we’ve talked about. And again, the emotional component is what makes the connection with the reader. The emotional component is what makes people feel like they have a relationship with you. And the touch of that paper, the feel of it in your hand as you pick this thing up and it feels substantial, that has an impact. There’s an intangible, unconscious impact that happens because of that. Now Dinosaur is 10×14 in size. When we originally conceived this, we thought about 11×17; we wanted to go even bigger. We wanted it to be a coffee table piece and we kind of wanted to make it where people would have no choice but to pay attention to it.

But here’s the reality; paper costs money. So you hear from the printers and you say, wow, that’s a lot of money. So we had to rethink the size issue. So the way that we compensated for it, in our case, is we said we’re not sacrificing paper weight, so we moved to a different type of press and went to 10×14. It’s a compromise, but we didn’t go to 9×12 or 8½x11.

And for the first issue, we went to two colors. That saved us money, but also the real reason that we did it is at the end of the day the big deciding factor was that this was going to differentiate us because no one does this. Every other magazine is full color.

So the material form, the paper, the weight, the size, the message you use to produce it absolutely matters. People can see the difference. You can pick up two products in the store and if one feels heavier in your hand, there’s an immediate assumption that the heavier article is of higher quality. And that’s cognitive wiring, nothing more.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in your career as a designer and how did you overcome it?

Joe Natoli: Quite honestly, I think that the biggest challenge, and you may find this funny, a lot of people do after they talk to me awhile; I think the biggest challenge that I ever faced was self-confidence, really believing enough in my ability, in my talent, in the gifts that I’m fortunate enough to have, and to sort of go out there and just do it.

I don’t know if you ever completely overcome that, but what you do come to realize is that the only way to get that, and I think this holds true for my students as well, I have taught part-time for many years; the only thing that you can really do is go out there and get your nose broken. The first thing that happens when you fall hard that first time is you realize that it didn’t kill you. And then I think it also gives you a sense of what you’re made of and you start to understand just what you’re capable of. And if you keep at it what eventually happens is you start having some successes. And that hopefully gives you more confidence about what you can do and it feeds itself.

But I think it’s hard. I read something somewhere, and I don’t know if it’s just creative people or maybe smart people, but a lot of successful people in particular have something called “The Imposter Syndrome.” There’s a converse proportion where the more talented and successful and capable that you are, the more likely you are to have these moments where you say, “I’m an imposter. Everyone is going to find out that I really don’t know what I’m talking about. I really don’t know how to do any of this stuff.” It’s a weird correlation between ability and fear.

The fact is, and here’s the funny thing, you do have something that for whatever reason they’re not able to get to themselves. And that’s not a decision on anybody’s part, if you think about it it’s probably just a testament to the fact that we’re all very different. We all think about things in very different ways. And I wrestle with that a lot.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise of your career so far?

Joe Natoli: I don’t know if it’s been the most pleasant surprise, but I’ll tell you this thing that happens that makes me feel like this is absolutely what I should be doing.

When I’m in a room with people or in a room with a client’s team or with students or a one-on-one situation, coaching someone through something; when the light bulb moment happens and when everybody’s attention sort of perks up and everyone has that yes moment at the same time and they get it and when whatever it is gets implemented and the team comes back to me and says, “I cannot possibly explain to you how much this helped us.” That’s what matters to me. It may be cliché to say it, but my client’s successes are my successes. And it’s the truth.

I look at this from a very human perspective. When something I do helps someone in some way, I feel very good about what I do. It’s time well spent. It’s proof that you’re in the right place and I love that.

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

Joe Natoli: I think honestly, I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up. It seems to be getting clearer in that the more consulting and speaking that I do and the teaching moments, because consulting is teaching in many ways; I think I’m figuring out that’s what makes me the happiest, but I’m interested in so many things.

Like I hadn’t done print design in probably ten years before Steven from Dinosaur called me about this. And who knew? I certainly didn’t.

So I don’t know; the problem is so many things get my attention and I’m like the proverbial dog, when they’re constantly distracted. Some part of me feels like I’m still trying to figure it out, but you have kids and you’re supporting them and trying to be there for them and you know that you can’t go diving off into every adventure you find because you have a wife and kids; a family.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
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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Four Evocative New Trends Happening on the Newsstand Today & A Staunch One That Never Changes… A Mr. Magazine™ Report From the Field…

June 4, 2014

As I sat musing about the magazine media industry (as I often do on a minute by minute basis), my thoughts turned to some positive trends going on in the single copy sales today in the midst of all the negative news most reporters and critics are more than anxious and happy to cover. I tend to do my research at the newsstand, something that I have done for the last 52 years of my life. So on to the field and the five amazing things that led to this Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

One by one, five different directions things seem to be moving toward (at least presently) came to mind – four of them brand-spanking new and one tried and true…no extra charge for my easy rhyme, by the way…because that would be a trend unto itself.

Years ago, most of these would be unheard of, no doubt, but it’s a given that in the marketplace and on the newsstands, in order to grab people’s attention and dollars in this digital age, creative marketing and packaging is something that has to be done. And I would definitely call these trends creative, if not downright visionary.

people1usweekly
Having said that, I begin with Trend #1, which is one for the record books, I believe: selling back issues of certain titles on the newsstands. This is a practice that began when People Magazine and US Weekly started offering specific pockets on the stands filled with back issues just in case consumers wanted to pick up an old with the new; as I said an unprecedented gambit that has proven not only daring, but profitable. Once I got over my initial knee-jerk reaction of, “What – we don’t have enough current issues to sell?” I realized that this one may be right up there with sliced bread. I like it more and more as I consider the revenue potential.

peopledigitalprint
Trend #2 – Also led by People Magazine – is the method of buying the printed product on the newsstands and receiving access to the digital components of the publication as well. While this may not sound as gutsy as #1 – it really is when you consider the potential lack of profitability of the move. Usually fee versus free is a good mantra to follow; however sometimes you have to risk the farm to gain the ranch. So I’m open to this one – if not completely convinced.

cosmowal
Trend #3 – What I like to call: The Miley Cyrus Ripple Effect…when America’s former sweetheart-turned-bad-girl put out a Tweet that read: “Let’s play a game! All my fans go and put my @Cosmopolitan in front of all the magazines at the store!!! Send me pics haha!” Needless to say, her many fans complied and stuck her Cosmo cover in front of many other magazines on newsstands across the country and the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, that little episode gave birth to the action of every Cosmopolitan Magazine at Wal-Mart being displayed with multiple facing issues or covers of the same issue. Needless to say it is making Cosmopolitan reigning supreme.

bookazine1
Trend #4 – You might remember the days when magazines at the check-outs were priced under a $1…well, my friend – those days are gone. Now we have those wonderful niche dreams called Book-a-zines featured in those spots and anywhere from $9 to $15 has become the norm for a magazine presence there. It may seem indulgently expensive, but these types of printed products do draw attention from the consumer and are proving quite effective when it comes to revenue.

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Trend #5 – And then one of our “old faithful” stratagems, enforcing the statement that some things never change – most magazines on newsstand check-out counters are still aimed at women. That will probably never change and no matter how the demography of the public changes and the shopping habits of the audience change, some stuff in life (or on the newsstands) seem never to change.

So, there you go five trends, with five different perspectives and five different ways of trying to gain our audience’s attention and ultimately their loyalty to the printed product that we’re selling; all interesting points of entry for ink on paper when it comes to consumer’s shopping carts. Maybe, after all, the future of digital starts with PRINT.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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“The Core Is Always Going To Be Magazines And Print And I Think That’s As Far As The Eye Can See,” Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

May 29, 2014


“What probably keeps me up at night is the dynamic relevance of printed magazines and what they mean to the consumer and making sure that a generation of advertising and media professionals appreciates the value of the medium.”
“I think about magazines and magazine media all the time.”
“More Print Products are coming from Hearst in the coming years.”
Michael Clinton

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 9.40.38 PMA pilot, an accomplished photographer, a philanthropist who started his own charity, Circle of Generosity, a publishing director, an author of several books, a marathon runner, a traveler to more than 120 countries, an executive, a magazine rabbi and a high priest in the eyes of those who know him and work with him… In fact, there is no shortage of adjectives to describe Michael Clinton, who is also the chairman of the MPA — The Association of Magazine Media.

He and David Carey, the president of Hearst Magazines, seem to be among the few magazine executives who are not closing any magazines, downsizing, or just reducing the weight of the paper. No, actually they’re doing just the opposite. Hearst magazines has been acquiring magazines, launching very successful print products, without forgetting digital which as of today only represents 3% of the total circulation of Hearst Magazines.

So when I had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with the multi-talented Michael Clinton, my brain was racing with a million questions I was ready to fire at Michael and my eyes were roaming his office observing the pictures on the walls and the model Air-Force One on the round table among many other memorabilia scattered around his office.

I asked Michael about his favorite picture from all the photos he has taken over the years. He was quick to point to a picture on the wall facing his desk of a plane off the coast of Namibia. The same picture is also adorning the cover of his book The Globetrotter Diaries.

I chose that spot in Mr. Clinton’s office on the 43rd floor of the Hearst Tower in NYC as the backdrop for The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Michael Clinton. I asked Michael Clinton why more publishers aren’t following in the footsteps of Hearst Magazines? Click the video below to listen to his answer:

And now for the sound-bites…

On whether he thinks about magazines when he wears his other, innumerable hats: And so I think about magazines and magazine media all the time. And actually some people around here laugh at me when I say, “I was out for a long run the other day.” And they know that that means that I concocted some idea in my head while I was running that I was about to lay on them.

On the most challenging moment in his career: For many people, a dark moment was in the depths of the recession because as businesses really cut back in their spending, and it was across all media, part of my job is to keep the troops motivated.

On what he believes the other magazine professionals are doing when it comes to why Hearst seems to be one of the few publishers promoting and launching new magazines: That’s a great question, but I don’t know. We’d love more of our peer companies to step out and put out a new magazine and a new concept. But we’re happy to continue to innovate on that front.

On whether he’s a believer in print: Big time.

On what he believes is the most problematic issue we have today in the magazine marketplace: I think that we’re in a state of confusion and disruption in the media landscape in general.

On a solution for the newsstand problems: I think to do innovative things at newsstands such as working with retailers. We’re doing some really innovative things on the shopper marketing front where we’re creating customized units that are combinations of gift-with-purchase.

On what keeps him up at night: I think that what probably keeps me up at night is the dynamic relevance of printed magazines and what they mean to the consumer and making sure that a generation of advertising and media professionals appreciates the value of the medium.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst…

Samir Husni: I’ve been doing some homework, checking around the building and talking to people; three things I learned about you, some I knew before, some I did not. One is your philanthropy, which hasn’t been covered much, but people do know about it. Two is your marathons, which you cover yourself on your tweets. And third is that you’re the rabbi to most of the magazine publishers and editors in the building, they refer to you as Rabbi Michael. So as the high priest of magazines, especially the ones that you’ve been really involved with – the three most successful launches of the last five years, from the Food Network to Dr. Oz; how do you combine those three entities and juggle between them? Is it always magazines on your mind whether you are teaching, running or giving away your money?

Michael Clinton: That’s a great, great question. I think that fortunately for me I still love the magazine industry; I’ve been in it a long time. So I’m one of the lucky people who wake up every day and am excited to go to work. And I think regardless of what industry you’re in it’s great to be able to have that sense of drive, commitment and interest in your chosen profession.

And so I think about magazines and magazine media all the time. And actually some people around here laugh at me when I say, “I was out for a long run the other day.” And they know that that means that I concocted some idea in my head while I was running that I was about to lay on them.

I often find that my down time of going and running a marathon or training in the park is actually great for clearing my head to come up with new ideas or solutions, solving problems or thinking about new ways to go at what we do.

To answer your question, a lot of what I think about with regards to magazines, a lot of it solves problems, not necessarily in the Hearst Tower, but outside doing a lot of the other things that I do.

Samir Husni: And what has been a most challenging moment in your career? Maybe a time you had to run extremely far to get it out of your system and come up with a solution.

Michael Clinton: For many people, a dark moment was in the depths of the recession because as businesses really cut back in their spending, and it was across all media, part of my job is to keep the troops motivated.

And so when you see the kind of business downturns everyone faced during the recession, especially younger professionals who never experienced a recession, for some of us we’ve been through different business cycles, but for younger people it’s harder for them to see the other side and younger publishers who were coming off of those phenomenal go-go years and 2007 being kind of the penultimate one and keeping people motivated and focused, making them try and appreciate that it wasn’t the end of the world, that business cycles happen and there would be a leveling out and a rebuild, that proved challenging.

So there were a lot of long runs during that time.

Samir Husni: With the Food Network it was smooth sailing from day one. Dr. Oz was a bit rocky in terms of staffing, correct?

Michael Clinton: Yes, we had an editor change and she left on her own to go back to California. I think the thing that was very interesting in 2008 when we decided to launch a magazine, obviously it was a very bold and daring statement, and I think what happened was we were counter-contrary to the marketplace and we went out and launched Food Network Magazine in a very strange way, talking about my earlier comment. It kind of lifted the whole organization because when you do bold things in tough times, what happens is often it not only lifts the entire organization, but when you have the success, it really shows there is clear view out there for other businesses to grow. So you’re right Food Network was an instant takeoff.

Samir Husni: And why is it that you and David Carey are among the very few who have been promoting new magazines, talking about new launches; what’s the rest of the industry doing?

Michael Clinton: That’s a great question, but I don’t know. I think that as the chairman of the MPA, we always talk with encouragement when it comes to new product launches and bringing new magazines to the marketplace, because we now have new proof points that if you put out a great product, the consumer will come and the consumer will pay. We now have three proof points on that.

We’d love more of our peer companies to step out and put out a new magazine and a new concept. But we’re happy to continue to innovate on that front. We now have the perception in the marketplace that we are the innovators in regards to new magazines in this time period. That we’re the ones that will innovate and put out new products and feel strong about new print products as well as all the other things that we’re doing digitally.

Samir Husni: You are one of very few companies that never lost its focus on print, just to swim in the digital ocean. That you actually kept both print and digital.

Michael Clinton: And don’t forget we acquired Hachette. So at the same time, aside from launching new products, we made a very big print acquisition also coming right off the heels of the recession.

Samir Husni: So are you a believer in print?

Michael Clinton: Big time. I think what we see, and once again I’ll go back to today, Dr. Oz, we have 300,000 subscriptions in hand. It has been one of the fastest ramp ups, one of the highest pay rates, where the consumer actually wrote the check; and as you know we sold out on the newsstand and went back to press.

So I think even if it was 2008 when it was Food Network, people might say, well OK, that was then and then we did HGTV in 2011 and people might say, that was then, but it’s 2014 and it’s happening again people. I think the trick is in finding a fresh voice in a cluttered marketplace and I think those three examples really had a fresh voice in their market.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the most problematic issue we have today in the magazine marketplace?

Michael Clinton: I think that we’re in a state of confusion and disruption in the media landscape in general. And I think that if you’re a CMO today of a brand and you think about everything that is coming at you, the big headline in Adweek: is TV dead? Video is taking over. What’s happening in the digital marketplace with programmatic and view ability.

Every media platform seems to have big issues as part of the overall media ecosystem that marketers are challenged with. So the print medium has a long history of tried and true audience and audience measurement, but in a world of disruption everything is sort of up for grabs.

So I think what a lot of marketers are finding and what I’m seeing is that it’s all about the media mix and magazines play a part in that mix. That when you have the correct media mix in your media spends it can actually lift all boats.

There’s a lot of noise and disruption and I think the overall noise and disruption affects all media, not just magazines.

Samir Husni: Putting the rabbi hat on and talking to the future generations, people interested in our business, in journalism, in magazines; if you’re teaching a class, what do you tell the students?

Michael Clinton: You know I think that the good news is that magazine brands used to be just print. And if I use an analogy in the retail world, I call that our bricks & mortar business. Even though E-commerce is ubiquitous, bricks & mortar is not going to go away. It’s a different experience. So when someone is in the pages of Esquire, Oprah or Cosmo, they’re having a very unique and different experience.

It’s part of the bricks & mortar story. The beauty we’ve had and I think that what gets lost in the conversation and I talk to publishers about this all the time, is that the brand footprint now for Cosmo can live in many different places. So the core is always going to be magazines and print and I think that’s as far as the eye can see. Cosmo.com, Cosmo – social media, Cosmo events, Cosmo won-off-TV-things; we now have the ability to take our brands out to other brand and media platforms that before we didn’t really have the opportunity to do.

So I think that for young people I like to say, think about it as a horizontal experience, not just a vertical experience. Because whether you’re on the publishing side or the editorial side, and this has already happened in the news marketplace, if you speak to a young reporter now, they’re producing their story, filming their story, and posting on the dot com, doing their social media; so they’re multitasking with different content and we’re doing the same thing, so it’s a big opportunity.

I think magazine media’s core is still going to be the printed page.

Samir Husni: Do you think we can ever succeed with a digital-only magazine? Even though I don’t call anything but print a magazine…

Michael Clinton: I think you have to clarify that question; are you talking about web-based or tablet-based?

Samir Husni: Can you name a tablet-based digital magazine that’s making money?

Michael Clinton: Well, that’s a great point. I think that the opportunity is there for a magazine that is a tablet-only magazine. I think the tablet world may have to mature a bit. But in our May issues we did a test; we took 10 of our women’s magazines and we embedded a 12-page beauty supplement that ran in 800,000 copies of those paid circulation magazines. Now that’s a bit of a scale play that never really existed before. You know, could that become its own magazine, who knows.

But I think that we’re in the very early days of testing whether something could have a circulation of a half million, but only live as a tablet distributed magazine. I think we’re too early in the product life cycle of magazines on tablets, but five or ten years from now it could be possible. But I think that we have a long way to go.

As you know we only have three percent in total magazine subscriptions on the tablet to begin with, so I think you almost need to have the consumer have a deeper learned experience in how they’re getting their content.

Samir Husni: Which leads me to say you are the only company that doesn’t bundle…

Michael Clinton: We do not bundle, no.

Samir Husni: If you want Cosmo on the tablet, you pay $19.95 or $14.95 and if you want the magazine, you buy the magazine…

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 9.36.23 PM Michael Clinton: Why do we do that? We have an expression: fee not free. Let me first talk about authentication. The analogy we would make is I went to go see Godzilla on Saturday night, but when you walked out of the theater they did not hand you a free CD because you just paid for your ticket or when you buy a book, say the new Hillary Clinton book, you don’t get a free download on your tablet. If you want it then you buy it two different times.

I think what’s been great about iTunes, in particular, is if you wanted the content you paid for it, hardcover book versus download book. So we took that position very early on and as a result we have about a million, almost a million-four, paid subs that are tablet-based subs and it creates a level, from our perspective, of wantedness from the consumer and also a story we can tell the advertiser. So it’s choosing your distribution.

Samir Husni: Talking about distribution; how’s Next Issue doing?

Michael Clinton: It’s coming along. It’s a fantastic consumer proposition. In their next round, where they need to go next as they continue to build their brand is a big marketing and promotional play. At a certain point they have to get the message out to the consumer marketplace at large, because while it’s growing, they need to get that lift-off. They’re going to have to get that funding to be able to promote it in a big, big way to the consumer.

Samir Husni: What can we do about the newsstands? With closings and rumors of closings…can we have a magazine industry in this country without newsstands?

Michael Clinton: It’s 10 percent of magazine circulation, so it’s small, but it’s an important piece; forget the economics because it’s an important economic contributor. But it’s an important piece for sampling, to get that magazine in front of the consumer’s eyeballs.

So the good news is as doors shrink, borders go out of business; on the flip side there are other doors and stores that are actually growing their magazine presence such as Costco and Dollar General; points that didn’t have magazines. So the answer is yes, it’s important to have newsstand.

And also I think to do innovative things at newsstands such as working with retailers. We’re doing some really innovative things on the shopper marketing front where we’re creating customized units that are combinations of gift-with-purchase. So if you buy a skincare product and if you buy a copy of Marie Clare, Elle or Cosmo and we align ourselves with the skincare product, there can be a dollar off somewhere.

Creating these customized incentive packages at floor level, which is what happens in general with retail anyway, aside from just being in the traditional slots that magazines occupy.

I think the next generation is going to be doing more inventive marketing programs at floor level, so you’re stimulating sales as opposed to magazines just sitting there stagnant. We’re doing a lot on that front here.

Samir Husni: Do you think that will solve the mobile blinders problem?

Michael Clinton: I heard a stat the other day about how many times someone checks their mobile phone, but you have to think at a certain point it’s going to be overload. So I guess the answer is probably not, but the mobile blinders affect any impulse purchase if you think about it. Unless you’re going to just buy something specifically, you’re going to have that.

But I think about something like Hudson News at the airports; when you go into that store, you’re basically going in because you are looking at the magazines versus a check-out. The mobile blinders are a big issue for every business category.

Samir Husni: This question is for you, the photographer; what’s the best picture you’ve ever taken?

Michael Clinton: There it is, on the far left. The story behind that picture is that I’m a pilot and I was on the famous Skeleton Coast of Namibia, which is in the country just north of South Africa, on the West Coast. It is a spectacularly beautiful landscape. You’re flying along the coast and the sand dunes hit the water and this is where you find these hulls of ships in the flat sand dunes because that’s why they call it the Skeleton Coast because of all these boats.

So I was literally flying up this coast for a couple of three hours, I wasn’t the pilot the entire time, there were six of us on board, but I happened to be then, and it was very difficult to see another plane in the air throughout the whole week that we were in Namibia and all of a sudden I saw that plane coming beneath us and I asked the other pilot could you please take the controls because I was flying at the time, grabbed the camera and I yelled, “Come on, we have to keep up with him.” So we tracked him and just the image of that airplane against that backdrop with the shadow is a very romantic shot. It’s actually a shot that, when I’ve had gallery exhibits, it’s one of my most popular.

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

Michael Clinton: I’m a good sleeper. I go to sleep with a clear head. No, I think that what probably keeps me up at night is the dynamic relevance of printed magazines and what they mean to the consumer and making sure that a generation of advertising and media professionals appreciates the value of the medium. And we do a lot of things to innovate to keep that message front and center, but it is a very dynamic and growing medium with new products. And from a circulation and audience standpoint, it’s been very consistent even during the recession. You’ve heard the famous line during the recession: we didn’t have a consumer problem, we had an advertising problem.

But remarkably, from circulation and an audience standpoint, it’s been a very consistent story and that sometimes gets lost in the whirlwind of the whole media ecosystem. So how do we get that embedded into the brains of younger professionals?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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The Evolution of Change – How a Newspaper Metamorphosed Into A Multimedia Institution – The William (Billy) S. Morris III Story. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

April 18, 2014

In the life of any media company change is the only constant. But change doesn’t happen by itself; change is always searching for an innovative, passionate visionary who can ensure a successful present, based on a solid past with an eye for an even more successful future.

And change needs a leader who knows what he wants and how to execute a plan to get it, a leader who is involved in every detail of that method to the point that he is an actual foot soldier instead of the general that merely leads the way.

William (Billy) S. Morris III is such a leader. When I flew to the headquarters of Morris Communications in Augusta, GA. to interview Mr. Morris and his president of Morris Media Network, Donna Kessler, I knew there was a story here that needed to be told.

I have worked and consulted with Mr. Morris and Ms. Kessler for years and have witnessed the evolution of a newspaper company into a multimedia institution.

What follows is the Morris Media Network story, related succinctly and passionately by Billy Morris and Dona Kessler.

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But first the sound-bites…

On the evolution of Morris Communications: My father was in the newspaper business and I came in the business after I got out of college in 1956 and we continued to add newspapers until we built up a very nice cluster of papers. But along the way we started to add some magazines.

On the common thread that runs through Morris Communications: The thread that runs through them all is the mandate to excellence. We want to be the best that we can possibly be and certainly better than our competitors.

On coping with the changes in type to computers over the years: We were in front of it or up on the upper edge of it. The technological changes that occurred first in the newspaper business by the use of computers to hyphenate and justify type, we were the second or the third newspaper company in the country to use the IBM 513 computer to do that.

On following your passion and your gut instinct when acquiring titles for the company:
I have not found any negative aspects to it at all. As a matter of fact, I think you do better with things that you like and enjoy, that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about and that you do yourself. I think it’s a good thing.

On giving advice when it comes to print in our digital age:
Print obviously is what pays the bills and I think print is a very important part of what we do, but if I had to give somebody advice I don’t think it would necessarily be dollar and cents advice. I think it would be stay true to your passions.

On what keeps them up at night:
I don’t think we have enough time to go through what keeps me up at night. If I have to summarize it would be my commitment and my concern that we continue to serve our readers and our partners and our advertisers the best way that we can.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Billy Morris and Donna Kessler – the powers-that-be at Morris Communications…


Samir Husni: Mr. Morris, for background purposes, can you briefly tell us the history of the Morris Media Network? Morris is known as a newspaper company but now you have more magazines than newspapers. Can you briefly take us through the evolution of Morris Communications from a newspaper company to a multimedia institution now?

Billy Morris: You’re right, Samir. My father was in the newspaper business and I came in the business after I got out of college in 1956 and we continued to add newspapers until we built up a very nice cluster of papers. But along the way we started to add some magazines.

We started a few city magazines, we bought some magazines of various kinds and today we have a very nice cluster of magazines that’s concentrated in visitor magazines, primarily the ‘Where’ brand. We have a cluster of equine magazines and we have a cluster of sporting magazines and we have a cluster of Alaska magazines and a cluster of city magazines.

We have four or five clusters of magazines, all of which are important, all of which serve a specific audience in a specific way. And we’re just privileged to have that opportunity. We are a free people in this country and we need lots of information. We make all of our own decisions and in order to do that we must have information — information on the small items like what movie to go to tonight and what to buy at the grocery store and infinite information on the bigger items like what house to buy or what car to buy or in the case of someone who’s reading an equine magazine, what horse to buy.

And then there’s the more important decisions which we make about our democracy, who to vote for and what to do with those important issues. So we have a real calling as journalists to provide information to a variety of different people on a variety of different subjects and for a variety of different reasons and purposes.

And what we do both in our newspapers as well as in our magazines is essentially important to the people who live in our communities or the people who have the interests that we serve. And we cherish the opportunity to serve them and we hope to be able to have the highest possible standard that we can accomplish to do that for them.

We’re continuing to improve, continuing to change, continuing to recognize that there are new people coming along all along who need the information that we have. We are honored to be in the business — magazines are critically important to what we do and we are very honored to have these magazines and we are greatly privileged to have an opportunity to work with you in different ways such as your ACT conferences as well as the many other things that you do for other magazines.

SH: Thank you. What do you think is the common thread if we are going to take all of those clusters — the national magazines, the equine, the travel, the MVP — is there a common thread that goes through the entire Morris publications?

BM: The thread that runs through them all is the mandate to excellence. We want to be the best that we can possibly be and certainly better than our competitors. The standard that we hold is that we’ve got to be good at what we do. We treat people fairly, we admit our mistakes when we make one and we try to stay on top of the different segments and do a great job for the readers and for our audience. The demand for excellence is the standard.

SH: One of the things that the good Lord gave you and me is that we have been privileged to see journalism change from the hot type to the linotype to the computers…How did you cope with that change?

BM: We were in front of it or up on the upper edge of it. The technological changes that occurred first in the newspaper business by the use of computers to hyphenate and justify type, we were the second or the third newspaper company in the country to use the IMB 513 computer to do that, which greatly speeded up and made more efficient the process of setting type.

We were one of the first companies in the country to connect our three newspapers — Augustus, Savannah and Athens — to one computer located in Augusta over telephone lines, this was back in the 60’s, to use that one machine to hyphenate, justify type for three different newspapers in three different communities.

So we’ve been on the forefront of technological innovation. Efficient production and good technology has been one of the keys to our success. It has given us good profit margins, which has enabled us to reinvest in the product side — the product side, the content side and the editorial side of our business and to do a better job there.

And I’m delighted to have Donna Kessler, her background is production, and she likewise has picked up our standard and gone on to an even higher level with the good production work that she and her staff do.

So doing a good, efficient job of producing what you do is important and it allows you to a better job on the front end of the editorial and the content end. You can do a better job there if you’re efficient with how you produce it.

SH: One of the things that I’ve heard you say often is you bought this magazine out of passion, you bought this magazine because you always wanted to do this magazine like in the case of Western Horseman. Are there any dangers for a CEO of a media company to run with his passion, acquiring titles and building magazine companies or do you still believe that if you don’t follow your gut you’re not going anywhere?

BM: I have not found any negative aspects to it at all. I happen to like horses, and I like travel and I like outdoor sporting events so I haven’t found any negative to it all. As a matter of fact, I think you do better with things that you like and enjoy, that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about and that you do yourself. I think it’s a good thing. This is not to say we couldn’t efficiently run a magazine on a subject that we didn’t have any interest in. We could certainly do that but I just happen to enjoy the ones that we have because I like those activities.

SH: And through the years you’ve collected a lot of titles. You’ve collected competing companies like ‘Guest Informant’ and ‘Where’ titles. You’ve acquired national magazines; you’ve acquired city magazines. And then when you had all these magazines all over the place, then comes a lady from L.A. that you’ve put in charge of the Morris Media Network. So Donna how easy was it taking all these different titles and bringing them in one way or another to Augusta, Georgia?

DK: It wasn’t easy, it was a challenge but it was a lot of fun. We started first with the ‘Where’-branded titles and probably had in excess of 25 different acquisitions. As you mentioned, they were competing titles. We had multiple offices in multiple locations. We had in excess of five or six production centers. We probably had 200 different sales compensation plans. Really the first thing that we needed to do was the travel sector. We really needed to take the company from being a bunch of licensees into really being one solid division and functioning as such.

Part of that entire process was establishing or staying true to the philosophy of what needs to be local stays local because we have 35-plus markets outside of Augusta and we have a strong local presence.

So we wanted to make sure that the editor stayed local because as Mr. Morris said it’s very important to make sure we have our finger on the pulse and we are reporting timely, accurate curated content. We wanted the salespeople to stay local because it’s very important for them to touch their customers on a regular basis. And we wanted the circulation to stay local because they needed to be able to see where the product was going and have a relationship with our distribution partners.

Once we were able to stabilize the travel side of our business and have things that needed to be local and centralize the things on the back end that did not need to be in the markets that’s when Mr. Morris came to me and the team that I work with and said, “Could you do the same thing for the national magazines?” We of course were delighted and thrilled to do that and it’s a model that has worked quite well for us.

SH: We all know that we live in a digital era yet you have millions of print impressions. I mean you still produce millions of copies of different titles and magazines. If somebody comes to you for advice and said, “Donna you’ve established this formula, you were able to do this with the travel sector/cluster, you did this with the equine, you did this with the national magazines — what advice would you offer somebody who is so lost in this digital era to help with the print aspect of the business?”

Donna Kessler: Well, I think first and foremost given where we are right now you can’t only focus on print. Print obviously is what pays the bills and I think print is a very important part of what we do, but if I had to give somebody advice I don’t think it would necessarily be dollar and cents advice. I think it would be stay true to your passions.

Mr. Morris told you what he thought the common threads were that ran through our different publications. Be true to your readers, be true to your advertisers, be dedicated and committed to providing the best possible content, the most usable content to the people who have these passions. And also be prepared in any way, shape or form that they want to receive that content. So I think if you are true to that and know who you are serving then the rest kind of falls into place as long as you can offer that in a variety of different ways.

SH: You have a print background. You came from a print production background. How easy or hard was the adjustment from this print background to this digital era that we’re living in and how did you use that for your benefit in a digital era?

DK: It was a difficult adjustment for me and I think if you would have asked me two years ago or three years ago I probably would have said oh yeah I get it, I get the fact that we need to make the change. But it took me about another year to truly understand what that meant. And I think once I truly embraced it then I was able to communicate that to the team. People say it all the time: If you as a leader don’t believe that this in inevitable and this is happening and you need to touch on a number of different levels then no one in your organization is going to believe it. It was difficult for me to truly feel that I get it now and I truly feel that we are a content company-serving people with different passions. What was the second part of the question?

SH: The adjustment and how do you advise someone who came from a print background…

DK: I think it goes back to what I said to the answer that I gave the question before. Again, if you focus on the content, if you focus on the passion, if you focus on the needs of the person who is consuming your content and then take that — that’s where you start. And then take that and say how can I serve that person, that passionate person about horses for example in whatever way — print, digital, e-commerce or events. I think as long as you focus on that it leads you down the right path.

SH: Where is now, in the current Morris Media Network, the manifestation of the content. Can I find it on the web, can I find it on an app, and can I find it in print?

DK: Yes, and it depends upon which title that you’re talking about. The plan of course is to analyze each title and each passion — we’ve done some of this already — and see what adjacencies if you will make sense. If you look in the travel space, we just launched a new website. We are in the process of also getting ready to launch by the end of the first quarter a native app. If you take a look at some of the more traditional publications, some of them have Adobe DPS versions, some of them just have replica versions and some of them have apps. Some of them have really, really strong social media presences depending on the products type and the passion. Some of them are aggressively going into the events space. Again, it goes back to what is the best way to deliver content to those people.

SH: Do you think there will be a day that you will give up on print?

DK: No.

SH: Mr. Morris, do you think there will ever be a day that you give up on print?

BM: Absolutely not.

SH: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

DK: You have to love your job. And in addition to being committed to the products that you serve, I think you have to feel good about getting up and going to work every day. If you don’t have that then nothing else comes from it.

SH: Mr. Morris, anything I’ve failed to ask you?

BM: No, I think we’ve got a great opportunity, and a great country and great people and a great company and I’m delighted to have this opportunity.


SH: Then my final question to you…what keeps you up at night?

BM: Nothing. I believe that we’re in a wonderful business of providing a free people with information that they need and that will change form time to time. Some people want it in print. Some people want it online, some people want it on the radio and some people want it in other ways such as magazines or books.

I just think we have a great opportunity to continue to do that. We’ll make some mistakes and we’ll have to do a few things over every now and then. But the fact of the matter is that we’re in a wonderful business, in a free society and it is not going to go away. We’ve got a great business. We’re just as important as anybody else in the structure — doctors, lawyers, accountants and professional people who do important things. We do important things too. We provide important information to a free people who need it — commercial information and non-commercial. So we’ve got a great, great business and a great country in which to live, great opportunities. So absolutely nothing keeps me up at night.

SH: So just for the record, you are the first CEO that I have interviewed in my entire history as a journalist who gave me that answer — that nothing keeps them up at night. Now we are going to put the challenge to Ms. Kessler here…what keeps you up at night?

DK: I don’t think we have enough time to go through what keeps me up at night. If I have to summarize it would be my commitment and my concern that we continue to serve our readers and our partners and our advertisers the best way that we can. That’s really what keeps me up at night. And trying to make sure that my team is going down the right path to figure out how we’re going to do that, anticipating how we can make their love horses better or whatever it may be. So take that and break it down into about 500 hundred different things and that’s what keeps me up at night.

SH: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

An article based on this interview was published in Press Check, Spring 2014 issue. Press Check is a quarterly newsletter published by Publishers Press, Inc.

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The Reinvention & Re-Launch of TIME.com – Henry Luce & Briton Hadden Would Be Proud…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Edward Felsenthal, Managing Editor, TIME.com

April 10, 2014

photo-1 On the 23rd floor of the Time & Life Building, Edward Felsenthal, managing editor of TIME.com has managed, together with a host of new editors and producers, to breathe new life into TIME.com’s website. The man from Memphis, TN, is determined to keep TIME.com’s audience first, while bulking up the new digital face of the brand with exciting interactive features and long-term, full stories reminiscent of days gone by in the world of print magazines.

I had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Felsenthal in his office in New York City, and being the true southerner himself, I was not able to convince him that my accent is the true southern accent of Oxford, Mississippi.

I asked Mr. Felsenthal about whether he believes that the fresh look of the site will complement the ink on paper product of the brand nicely and feels their 50 million digital fans will agree with him; competing with the print product isn’t his point; after all, you can never have enough time.

Our conversation ranged from the role of digital in today’s news magazines’ marketplace, to whether audiences are catching up with the changes in the magazine and magazine media world of publishing.

So before you sit back and take your “time” as you read the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Edward Felsenthal, managing editor, TIME.com watch his answer to my question about journalism and native advertising. Is he afraid that native advertising is creeping into the journalism world and impacting journalism as a whole? His answer is below in the Mr. Magazine™ Minute.

And now for the sound-bites…

On the reinvention and re-launch of TIME.com and whether it’s complement or competition for the print magazine: It’s a complement. The recognition that it’s complementary is what has enabled us to change as much as we have in the past year and grow as much as we’ve grown.

On whether it’s a mistake to focus on print or digital first, rather than audience: Yes and no. I mean, I absolutely think it’s audience first and platforms only matter to the extent that it’s where the audience is.

On whether there’s an audience for TIME 360 and its multi-platform: I think one of our challenges, or maybe better to say, one of our opportunities is there’s not a lot of overlap in the TIME.com reader and the Time print reader. They’re largely different people.

On the biggest stumbling block faced when re-launching TIME.com: So I probably would have guessed that the biggest stumbling block would have been that not everyone was brought into the mission and maybe some people were still tethered to the magazine first and foremost, but that turned out not to be the case at all.

On what keeps him up at night: So we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, but we our ambitions extend way beyond that. So getting from here to there is the next challenge. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Edward Felsenthal, managing editor, TIME.com…

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Samir Husni: You recently reinvented and re-launched TIME.com. In this digital age that we’re living in, how do you balance between the necessity of the printed version of TIME Magazine and TIME.com? Is it a complement or a competition?

Edward Felsenthal: It’s a complement. The recognition that it’s complementary is what has enabled us to change as much as we have in the past year and grow as much as we’ve grown.

My first week here, I started almost a year ago here at TIME, somebody handed me a memo that Henry Luce wrote in 1920-something about what Time should be and what’s amazing about that is it’s really spot-on for what TIME.com is today and what a smart news publication needs to be successful in the digital era.

The very name TIME comes from the fact that none of us ever have enough of it. TIME is brief was the Luce slogan. And in the original magazine no story was over 400 words. So TIME was the original aggregator.

What we’ve done on the web is totally complementary with TIME’s mission and our working slogan this year has been: we now do twenty-four-seven what the magazine has always done for the week, which is explain and shed light on what is happening in the world.

Samir Husni: The very first book I read when I came to America was “The Intimate History of Time Inc.” And I fell in love with the idea of the way Henry Luce and Briton Hadden came up with the idea for TIME. I don’t think that if Luce started TIME today he would do it any differently than going to digital and saying this is the platform where the audience is because he was an entrepreneur.

Edward Felsenthal: He won an Oscar. TIME was multi-platform before anybody.

Samir Husni: Do you think it’s a mistake today to focus on digital first or print first, rather than focusing on audience first?

Edward Felsenthal: Yes and no. I mean, I absolutely think it’s audience first and platforms only matter to the extent that it’s where the audience is. I think there’s a lot of reason for us to think in a digital first or even a mobile first way because the audience is moving there so quickly. And in fact 50 percent of our TIME.com audience is mobile, either phone or tablet, which is extraordinary. Higher than almost all of our competitors and we’re all growing in terms of percentages that are mobile, but 50 percent?

We have to think that way because the audience is going that way, but the thing I’m proudest of about our re-launch last month is that it was, in a sense digital first since it was a website re-launch, but it was a multi-platform event. We have lots of new elements on our website, a new look on our website and a new user experience on our website, but the stand-out feature of our launch was the One World Trade story in panorama, interactive video. It was a gatefold cover in print. It was a terrific story in the well, in print. It was at the top of our new website homepage linking to one of the most extraordinary interactive experiences; you can practically find your doorbell in your apartment in Brooklyn or Manhattan or any of the boroughs from the vantage point that John Woods stood at.

And there was a documentary film about the steelworkers with it. So it was an interactive, documentary video with incredible photography, plus a book about the making of One World Trade.

So we’re in a terrific position. We still have 3 million subscribers in print and the power of the Time cover is still, in my mind, the greatest showplace in journalism.

You phrased the question is it a mistake to think digital first as opposed to audience first, but I think we are audience first and we’re multi-platform even as we rapidly and radically reshape and speed up our digital efforts.

Samir Husni: You now have TIME 360 and it’s multi-platform. Do you have an audience that’s 360 now or is the audience lagging in becoming your 360 audience? Are we moving way ahead of them?

Edward Felsenthal: We’re not way ahead of our audience in the sense that we’ve got a huge audience like 50 million in digital, 3 million subscribers in print; so the audience is in all the places that we’re reaching them.

I think one of our challenges, or maybe better to say, one of our opportunities is there’s not a lot of overlap in the TIME.com reader and the Time print reader. They’re largely different people. So I think that’s a great opportunity for the Time brand and it’s true of a lot of brands at Time Inc. To attract the TIME.com user to content in the magazine experience to…if you like TIME, hopefully you’ll like TIME.com. It’s the same people doing all of it.

We’re lucky that we have significant audiences when it comes to getting our content on every platform. The opportunity for us is to deepen the loyalty to the brand across platforms.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block that faced you launching the new TIME.com?

Edward Felsenthal: That’s a good question. What was incredible about this experience was that I’ve been in a lot of places and I’ve done a lot of launches and re-launches, but what was pretty amazing about this experience was, and I think it’s unusual, there was a unity of purpose across every department that was involved in launching this new site.

There’s a business strategy that Todd Larsen championed which got us the funding to do this. And unanimity within the company and in edit around that strategy and there may have once been a time when print and digital in edit were not in sync, but Nancy Gibbs, who’s my boss, has made it the really fundamental principal of her tenure, so far and that is we are one editorial staff across platforms.

So I probably would have guessed that the biggest stumbling block would have been that not everyone was brought into the mission and maybe some people were still tethered to the magazine first and foremost, but that turned out not to be the case at all. And I think the reason that we had a great launch and the reason traffic has performed as well as it has and the response of the site in general has been as strong as it has is because everybody on this floor and in TIME edit offices around the world is excited about the digital opportunity and wants to be a part of it.

Samir Husni: So you feel that was the most pleasant surprise?

Edward Felsenthal: I think that was the most pleasant surprise, yes. What we’ve done here is interesting because we’ve been in a lucky position to be able to hire a lot of people all over the time. We’ve hired people in sales, in technology, product and in edit. And we’ve hired in edit from a lot of places that TIME has never hired from before, from Business Insider to Vox to Gawker.

And that new talent has brought great things into TIME and a different way of approaching content and storytelling and a truly digital metabolism. At the same time, a lot of the reasons that those people came here was because they want to work with and learn from the legends of TIME. Almost everyone we’ve hired as part of the digital expansion is writing for the magazine as well and many of them are doing big, long-term, well stories.

At the same time the long timers at TIME have benefited tremendously and are learning from the newcomers, so it’s a whole new DNA that combines old and new and if you look at our traffic and at what performs well on our website, it’s a mix. One of the top performing items on the site was the Steve Brill, “Bitter Pill” story and it was a classic in the sense that it was the opposite of aggregation.

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

Edward Felsenthal: We’ve made a lot of progress over the last year, but we have also big ambitions and a long way to go. I think the great news is that TIME.com lives up to what the Time brand enables us to do and requires us to do. It’s now a twenty-four-seven news source that brings the best of what Time has to offer all through the day and week.

Our ranking relative to competitors has grown a lot in the last 8 to 10 months. I think we all feel we have a brand that is strong enough to be really in the very top tier of destination when it comes to sites.

So we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, but we our ambitions extend way beyond that. So getting from here to there is the next challenge. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014

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On the Future of Newspapers and Print: Ole Munk to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: That’s How We Combat Newspapers Decline…

April 9, 2014

Munich, Germany: In the midst of all the doom and gloom surrounding the future of printed newspapers, one can’t help but ask, what is the future of newspapers?

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni asks Ole Munk, Managing Director, Ribergaard & Munk communication design, Denmark about the future of newspapers in print and why design of newspapers is important today. Mr. Munk was a speaker at the WAN/IFRA Printing Summit in Munich, Germany.

In this video interview (click below to hear) Mr. Munk talks about the ways to fight back the decline in newspaper circulation, the emphasis on the quality of print, the role of generational divide and the major stumbling blocks facing his work today.

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When Digital Craves Print, A New Global Food Magazine, The Cleaver Quarterly, Is Born… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

April 2, 2014

Kickstarting It Into Gear, A New Print Food Magazine Specializing In All Things Chinese Is About To Be Born: The Cleaver Quarterly Promises To Split Asunder All Doubts About The Asset Of An Ink On Paper Platform…Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview With Lilly Chow, Managing Editor, And Iain Shaw, Brand Director Of The Cleaver Quarterly.

CLEAVER COVER GRAF LOWERA quarterly print magazine that takes a “playful” look at Chinese food from a global perspective; The Cleaver Quarterly promises to be something unique and different among food mags everywhere.

Using long form writing and vivid photography; Managing Editor, Lilly Chow and Iain Shaw, Brand Director, two of the trio behind The Cleaver Quarterly, talk about their reasons for bringing a print product into today’s world and how their magazine has an audience just waiting to discover it. I could feel the passion in their voices every time they mentioned the name of the magazine. They are a team with a lot of zeal and love about the subject matter and the platform that it will manifest itself upon. The team is not just going through the motions of a magazine launch, they are creating their “Chinese food” and eating it at the same time.

Along with Jonathan White, Executive Publisher, the three have lived in China collectively for over 25 years, so they’re very familiar with their topic and very excited about their new Kickstarter-promoted platform – an ink on paper magazine.

So if you think you know everything you need to about Chinese food, think again as you sit back and enjoy Mr. Magazine’s™ conversation with two of the powers-that-be behind The Cleaver Quarterly all the way from Beijing, China…

TheCleaverQuarterly_Team
From left to right, Jonathan White, Lilly Chow and Iain Shaw.


But first the sound-bites:


On the reason for going with a print product in a digital world…

People love using Facebook and Twitter to make friends, to keep in touch with people, to share information — they love the immediacy of it. But I think many people are kind of finding that they want something they can get their hands on.

On the decision to launch a food magazine specializing in Chinese food…

We’ve all been living here for many years and in all this time we began to realize that everyone thinks they know Chinese food and we’re talking around the world but for most people that doesn’t go much further than the menu at their local takeout restaurant.

On the target audience of The Cleaver Quarterly…
It’s people that love to eat, they love to read about eating and they don’t have to be experts in Chinese food. They love exploring, they love trying new things, taking photos, putting them on Instagram. It’s people that are curious to know a bit more.

On the importance of social media when it comes to promoting the magazine…

I think social media for us has been a key and will remain a really essential way of how we promote the magazine.

On the power of a great printed product…

A great print magazine, we’ve said to each other, is like a home-cooked meal with friends and family instead of a microwaved dinner for one. We believe that great photography and writing and illustration are like good food, they’re meant to be savored.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Lilly Chow, Managing Editor, and Iain Shaw, Brand Director of The Cleaver Quarterly…

The Cleaver Quarterly - White on Black

Samir Husni: My first question to you is what gave you the idea to come up with a food magazine and to have the first issue specialize with Chinese food, but in a playful way?

Lilly: The three of us, there’s Iain and me here tonight, Jonathan, our colleague couldn’t be here. Together we’ve been living in China collectively for over 25 years and in all that time we began to realize that everyone thinks they know Chinese food and we’re talking around the world, but for most people that doesn’t go much further than the menu at their local takeout restaurant. And not that there’s anything wrong with that but because we’ve been living here for so long we’ve been lucky enough to experience so much more about Chinese food. The regional diversity is just staggering and we’ve all eaten many different things from the mouthwatering to the stomach-churning. We’ve discovered that this is truly a culture that’s obsessed with food.

SH: Lilly, you’ve written before, you’ve published and you’ve edited books, so how does the magazine offer information different than let’s say Beijing Eats, the book that you’ve edited?

Lilly: Beijing Eats was a restaurant guide in book form and so it was perfect for tourists and perfect for expats who you know had been living in Beijing and wanted to continue exploring the regional diversity of China in a single city. It was well received but many people who heard about the book felt, “Oh I wish there was a version for Shanghai,” or another city. They loved the resource that it was but they felt it was a shame that it didn’t travel — it was very specific to Beijing.

What we aim to do with The Cleaver Quarterly is to have a global focus and a global audience and a global pool of contributors. It presents a challenge logistically in terms of finding all the people that we want to get great content from and then finding the audience and making sure everybody gets what they want out of it. But it also increases the pool of everybody who has ever experienced Chinese food.

For example, we’ve joked about publishing a story by someone who’s only ever had one Chinese meal in their life and it just so happened to be very memorable. That could be a great contribution — it doesn’t have to be somebody who grew up in China or has been eating it all their life. In fact, the person who encounters it in a completely novel way might have a much more interesting story than somebody who takes it for granted and only eats the same thing, the same Chinese meal every day.

SH: Iain, you’re the brand director and if somebody stops you and says, “Iain, you’re bringing this new food magazine, The Clever Quarterly, you’re in China trying to publish a global magazine all over the world, what’s your strategy as a brand director to ensure that this new launch succeeds? There’s no shortage of launches and there’s no shortage of food magazines, so what’s your brand strategy to create a better and different strategy than what’s out there especially since it’s coming all the way from China?

Iain: The first thing is it starts with knowing your audience, it starts with knowing who we are, who we are aiming this magazine at. We start with a pretty clear idea of that. It’s people that love to eat, they love to read about eating and they don’t have to be experts in Chinese food. They love exploring, they love trying new things, taking photos, putting them on Instagram. It’s people that are curious to know a bit more. We know who they are and the next step is finding them.

I think the key piece of the puzzle has been social media here, and social media plus the existing food blogs that are out there. But getting out there and finding out what people are saying about Chinese food and really finding those people who’re already writing about it, taking photos, and then making contact with them, building a relationship with those people. I think social media for us has been a key and will remain a really essential way of how we promote the magazine.

Up until now we’ve used Twitter; we’ve used Facebook and Instagram. Those have been the three key planks and we have had a blog more or less since the beginning. It’s been a really slow process, but yet we’ve uncovered more and more people out there that a lot of them aren’t even writing for anyone. They’re in it because they love it. Some of it is because they’re ethnically Chinese and some of them it’s just because it’s a cuisine that they really enjoy. We’ve found an Indian guy that’s living in the south of China and he’s all over Instagram. He’s got quite a bit of followers on Instagram but he doesn’t seem to have a blog, for example. This is all quite ironic because it’s a print magazine but in many ways digital has been our friend and will continue to be our friend.

SH: I’m hearing that from a lot of people and new magazine publishers that digital is an important asset in publishing or in communicating where social media can put you in touch with the audience. Why then is there a need for the print magazine? Is it to fulfill; to close that circle? Is it to create reality out of virtual relationships? Why the need for a printed Cleaver?

Iain: Well, social media, it’s one medium. What I was about to say is that social media is the medium by which we’ve built an audience so far but it’s not really the message. The message for us I think is also kind of putting a different face on Chinese Food from what people are used to. I’m sure if I say Chinese Food right now all kinds of images will come flooding into your mind, the usual clichés of Chinese food and Chinese restaurants in North America and in the UK, these are global in some ways. We want to take those clichés and as much as possible throw them out of the window and present a more dynamic sight to Chinese food. Social media is one way.

That’s what we want the Cleaver to be; we don’t want it to look like your aunt’s Chinese cookbook that she’s had at home since the 70s. We want it to look fun, we want it to look dynamic and we think that a print magazine is still one of the best ways of creating that kind of a feeling.

We also think that everyone is using social media now but I think people are finding the limits of what they can find with technology. I’ve got my iPhone, I’m doing crosswords on my iPhone now, it’s much more convenient to do a crossword on my iPhone than in a print newspaper because I won’t buy a print newspaper.

But people will also think that there are limitations to where technology can take them and I think you’re finding that across many different industries. A lot of things that were considered to be dying are coming back, the old is being revised and that’s happening in things like food and drink, craft beer, for example, people want beer that they can taste, that’s interesting, that’s got interesting names and interesting flavors. People want their hair cut by a local barber. They want things that someone’s taken time over and they want things that are well crafted. And I think that’s happening in many different industries.

I think in our industry, the print magazine and the sort of unlikely revival of the print magazine is the expression of that. So people love using Facebook and Twitter to make friends, to keep in touch with people, to share information — they love the immediacy of it. But I think many people are kind of finding that they want something they can get their hands on, they want something that they can take time over on a weekend, they want something that they can hang onto for longer, for however long it takes to punch out 140 characters.

SH: Lilly, you are a digital native and here you are preaching about the beauty and the power of print. What gives? Besides what Iain said, for you as an editor and as a writer; does print provide you with a better medium to release your inner creative soul into the pages of a magazine? Do you feel any better seeing your work in print as opposed to digital?

Lilly: I would have to answer yes to that. I have to answer this from two perspectives, as a writer and then as an editor. Personally, I grew up reading magazines, flipping through them, subscription drives, looking over all the magazine options, the excitement of getting it in the mail, that’s part of me. And there’s something so exciting about creating that tangible product that there’s no replacement for that. And that’s true for all three of us, we love print and we love making magazines.

A great print magazine, we’ve said to each other, is like a home-cooked meal with friends and family instead of a microwaved dinner for one. We believe that great photography and writing and illustration are like good food, they’re meant to be savored. So there’s that aspect to it. But as a writer, yes, seeing my work in print, that’s an incomparable feeling.

As an editor, being able to provide that to other people is also a great privilege. There’s also something to be said for print from the editorial point of view which is you can have higher standards when you have limited real estate. When people come to you and say, “Hey, I have this idea for a story,” if you have a website you can’t say “Oh I’m sorry, I don’t have room for it.” You have all the room in the world. But if you say we only have 80 pages and it’s filling up quickly and you have to show me that you’re really adding value, it’s a great excuse if you will, to encourage people to raise their game from a writing point of view or from a design point of view because they understand it’s limited and they have to bring their best in order to win the right to be in these pages.

And I like being at the top of my game and I like challenging other people to be their best. And the so-called limitations of print, the fact that it’s limited and not infinite, an infinite number of pixels, that compels people to make the most of their creativity.

SH: As a digital native, is it easier for you to promote a brand that has a print entity or just a digital brand?

Iain: Well, I think it’s certainly a challenge to promote a brand whose main entity is print, no doubt, because if you’re only digital, then maybe your content is going to be video which you can easily share on social media. And if it’s print obviously you can’t send paper across Twitter or Facebook and so yes, there’s a certain challenge because you have to kind of convey the excitement and the feeling and the experience of reading your print magazine using digital forms.

But then the challenge is to find unique ways of doing that. I just gave the example, we haven’t used video a lot, but I noticed for example a lot of print magazines are putting up short videos on Instagram when they have a new issue out. And it’s a very simple video of plop down the magazine is simply there on the table and somebody is flipping through the pages and the camera captures it, 15 seconds put that up on Instagram. I’ve had the preview of several print magazines in the past month just because of that.

And you know, it’s challenging promoting print across digital media but then you know it’s always been challenging promoting a print magazine to a global audience because unless that magazine is stocked in your local news agents then you don’t have any sense of what it’s about.

SH: So tell me about your launch plan. I know you are launching a Kickstarter campaign later this week. The first issue will be coming out in May — is it going to be coming out in the states, globally, in china?

Iain: Kickstarter starts this week and that goes on for a month. The first issue should be back from the printers early May and then as soon as it’s back from the printers we’re ready to distribute.

Now we don’t have any physical stock initially so the first issue is going to be mailed out from China direct to subscribers. The first round of subscribers is mainly going to be people who have backed our Kickstarter because the magazine is one of the rewards for that.

We don’t have any distribution points in North America or anywhere else for issue one. We’ll be selling mainly via a shopping cart on the website. The first issue’s distribution will be direct from China to the people’s homes.

SH: Any idea what you would be happy with? Maybe 5,000 subscribers?

Iain: For issue one, I think our initial print run will be smaller than that. So 5,000 would be beyond expectations. If there are 5,000 subscribers that would force us to do a second print run so that would really be incredible. I think a few issues down the line we’d certainly like to be at 5,000. But it’s hard to say at the moment.

We are confident now that there is a real audience for this and what we know now compared to one year ago in terms of the studies that are out there, the food scene that is popping up and growing across different cities, we know so much more about than when this idea came about and we are confident that the audience is there for this that they are waiting for somebody to come along to tell these stories, to start giving them the space that they deserve to start telling these stories and basically to treat Chinese food more than just another ethnic cuisine or a niche interest.

Lily: As a global phenomenon.

Iain: As a subject that has endless variety and endless stories to be told. To answer your question, 5,000 subscribers is a little bit in the future we think. We’re confident that the audience is there.

SH: Did the two of you grow up in China?

Lily: No, I am Chinese American; I was born in the U.S. I grew up in Southern California.

Iain: I started to “grow up” in China when I was 25 years old. I come from quite a small town in Scotland, which probably had about 2,000 people but two Chinese takeaways. I think they say you need 1,000 people to sustain one Chinese restaurant in a small town. The town I grew up in is a small place. I’ve been in China for 10 years now but this is where I live.

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

Lilly: I would have to say personally it’s my to-do list. Sometimes I do manage to fall asleep and then I will wake up and it’s like on my mind’s eye, this checklist and then I keep thinking of things to add to it. Part of me just wants to get up and write it down so that I don’t have to keep thinking about it anymore. It’s amazing like all the things I forget to do during the day I remember at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Iain: For me I would say what keeps me up at night is sort of checking Twitter every 20 minutes to see if we have any more followers. Constantly looking at that number.

SH: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2004
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Picture 18 Stay updated on everything Mr. Magazine™. Every Monday morning, the Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning delivered right into your in-box. Click here to start receiving.

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Numbers Are Down, Prices Are Up… So Is This the Right Solution for the Celebrity Titles on the Newsstands? MagNet Experts Beg to Differ… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

March 31, 2014

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An ongoing series of interviews with MagNet’s Luke Magerko.

Luke Magerko was a consistent contributor to my blog in 2013. Luke has partnered with MagNet to provide retail analytics for the publishing industry. Today, we pick up our conversation from two two weeks ago and, going forward, MagNet will provide me with an interview with Luke every other week highlighting retail analytics.

So Here is my first question of this segment of the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with MagNet’s Luke Magerko.

WHY ARE WE FOCUSING ON CELEBRITY COVERS AGAIN THIS WEEK?
MagNet is reporting on sales results from the weeks of 2/10/2014 (“week seven”) and 2/17/2014 (“week eight”) to analyze cultural topics on regional sales. In light of recent celebrity price increases, we want to provide an alternative marketing/editorial strategy to increase sale.

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WHO WON THE WEEK: THE ISSUE CATEGORY STANDINGS (“ICS”)
In week seven, there were strong performances by both People Magazine (1.28 Seasonal Performance Index) and Life & Style (1.25 Seasonal Performance Index).
Titles generally underperformed in week eight with only two issues showing average results: In Touch and Life & Style both garnered 1.00 Seasonal Performance Indices while all other titles were below average.

SINCE THE PERFORMANCE INDEX IS STILL A NEW CONCEPT, LET’S LOOK AT ONE EXAMPLE AND WALK ME THROUGH THE RESULTS:
People Magazine, Issue 7, posted great results in sell-through efficiency (50.0%) and both performance indices. Looking at the performance index (1.15), People indexed 15% higher than one year of previous issues. The seasonal performance index (1.28) indicates the 2014 issue 7 outperformed previous issue sevens by an index of 28%. This is a spectacular result and an early candidate for 2014 celebrity magazine of the year.

DID ANY ISSUE STAND OUT FOR YOU THESE WEEKS?
Yes, we will focus on InTouch (issue 7) and briefly mention that OK! Magazine results (issue 8) are similar. Both issues were average nationally, however when we mined the data, the results were anything but average.
At MagNet, we have been tracking cultural topics and regional sales. To do so, we produced performance indices at the regional level. We found the two country celebrity titles had specific areas of strength (the American South* and states of the West North Central United States*) and areas of weakness (The Northeast* and Pacific United States*).
For example, in the West North Central United States*, InTouch seasonal performance index was an incredible 1.44. Similar results were found in the American South. Unfortunately, while some areas did extremely well, others regions tapered off almost as much. The Pacific region showed double-digit declines in the seasonal performance index and the northeast season performance index was 0.79.
Although the national performance suggests an average issue, a lot is going on at the regional level.

NEWSTANDS SO WHY IS THE SALES VARIANCE BY REGION SO IMPORTANT?
Editors need a more granular level of detail to make informed editorial decisions. We are proponents of the split cover, especially when we can prove certain content significantly increase sales in certain regions of the country.

WHAT IF EDITORS DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH CONTENT FOR A SECOND COVER?
We understand there are editorial constraints on cover production. However, our findings might incentivize editors to consider ensuring there is enough content to provide a cover worthy of nearly half the population.

AND WHAT DID YOU FIND WHEN YOU ANALYZED THE CELEBRITY TITLES?
Our goal was to monetize different cover results. To do so, we needed to create an index that identified a yearly average sales index per store. We created Sales above Replacement (“SAR”). SAR is a formula that asks: what would happen to sales if we replaced the existing cover with average result or replacement cover? For this week’s analysis we analyze all 2013 – 14 cover results highlighting Kim Kardashian or Blake Shelton (including Miranda Lambert where applicable) on the cover.

DID THE REGIONALITY ASSUMPTION HOLD?
Yes. Blake Shelton easily outperformed a replacement cover in most of the Midwest and the Deep South from Arkansas to Alabama. His covers performed very poorly in the Pacific and New England. Other regions were essentially flat. Kardashian was average in all regions but one, the Mid-Atlantic (essentially the I-95 corridor between Washington D.C. and New York) where results were significantly above average.

CAN YOU MONETIZE THIS SUCCESSES AND POOR PERFORMANCES?
In order to monetize our findings, we looked at one title specifically. In 2013-14, one of these five celebrity titles carried both Kardashian and Blake Shelton multiple times. We found the Shelton covers would have provided a 12 – 25% sales gain in the Southern regions and a 12-13% loss in the Northeast and Pacific Regions. Kim Kardashian’s garnered 15% increase in all the Northeast and flat in all other regions.

SO WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THERE WERE TWO COVERS?
Knowing what we now know, MagNet would have recommended a split like this:
∗ NORTHEAST: Kardashian
∗ MIDWEST (West North Central): Shelton
∗ MIDWEST (East North Central): Kardashian
∗ SOUTH: Shelton
∗ WEST: Kardashian
The strength of Shelton in the Midwest and South plus the strength of Kardashian in the Northeast would compel shoppers to buy more copies. However, the weakness of Shelton in the Pacific would be masked by the consistently average results of Kardashian.
MagNet estimates that if the covers were split between the two celebrities, this publisher would have received an 11-16% sales gain.

YOU CAN’T JUST HAVE A CELEBRITY WAITING IN THE BACKGROUND, YOU NEED TO USE SOMETHING FROM THE MAGAZINE!

I couldn’t agree more! MagNet’s goal is to provide a regional sales above replacement number for any celebrity, topic or other attribute that has been on the cover of a magazine. This would allow an editor to cull their content and find the two best images for the week.

HOW WOULD THAT WORK?
Imagine the editor looking a simple index table that would show Miley Cyrus’s regional rating or Duck Dynasties’ regional rating (hint, these two celebrities are stronger in different parts of the country). Then the editor and newsstand team could create a galley reflecting the cover splits. MagNet would be happy to walk any publisher through this process.

OPERATIONALLY, CAN WHOLESALERS SHIP TWO DIFFERENT COVERS?
Yes, I worked for with a publisher which split covers more than 100 times over the years. Publishers cannot send two covers to one wholesaler location, but other than that restriction, there should be very little standing in the way of a cover split.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO THE PRICE TEST?
The publishing industry focuses on increasing revenue from the internet, mobile devices, and a myriad of other platforms such as print on demand. However, it seems as if the only strategy for newsstand is acceptance of newsstand declines and price increases. Samir, we will continue to mine the data, finding insights for publishers and editors but our editorial knowledge is limited. We ask editors to reach out to Josh Gary at MagNet jgary@magnetdata.net or me, lmagerko@market-analytics.com and we will confidentially consult with them. We understand that each title is unique; we will identify trends that are of specific interest to each individual editor. We look forward to those conversations.

ENDNOTE: CENSUS BUREAU REGIONS:
The United States Census Bureau provides a regional breakdown by state. There are four regions and nine sub-regions (sub-regions in parenthesis): Northeast (Mid-Atlantic and New England), South (South-Atlantic, East South Central and West South Central), Midwest (East North Central and West North Central) and finally the West (Pacific and Mountain).
You can visually see how each state is categorized here.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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