Archive for the ‘New Launches’ Category

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A Different Kind of Storytelling: Dan Brewster’s New Adventure From Magazine Publishing to DARA’s World of Ecommerce, Global Artisans and Digital Dreams. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

September 9, 2014

“The business model for what we’re doing is not entirely dissimilar from the magazine business model except we’re doing ecommerce instead of selling advertising. Customer acquisition, customer conversion rate and average order value are going to be the three critical leverage points on the revenue side.” Dan Brewster

With a background steeped in magazines and magazine publishing, Dan Brewster is certainly no stranger to storytelling and content. Having been the president-CEO of Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing and publishing president of American Express Publishing Corporation, the man knows a thing or two about what it takes to put out a product and make it work.

DARA His newest venture, a website called DARA Artisans, dedicated to sharing the handmade work of incredible craftspeople worldwide, is beautifully done and connects artisans with a global marketplace where their work can be appreciated and sold throughout the world. The website’s name comes from his lovely wife, Dara, co-founder of the site, and coincidentally translates globally into many different words that reflect the project’s deeper mission: preserving ancestral designs and crafts that can enrich today’s world as well as mirror generations of art before they’re lost to time.

I recently spoke with Dan about this artfully done and very well-received website and about his thoughts and opinions on the magazine media world in general. The conversation was rich with thoughtful insights and lighthearted banter.

So, sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Dan Brewster and be prepared to be enlightened and entertained.

But first the sound-bites…

dan brewster


On switching from one type of storytelling in the magazine world to the art of DARA:
I decided to embark on a new course when the light bulb went off in my head and it was something that combined my passion for storytelling, travel and for wonderfully handmade goods from around the world. That was the evolution.

On where the name came from:
DARA is coincidentally my wife’s name. And we did retain a branding agency to develop alternatives and they said we can’t come up with a better name.

On whether DARA will ever morph into a print product:
It’s a possibility. We’re certainly going to look at multi-platforms, which I think is probably the future for most brands.

On his major stumbling block with the new venture:
Customer acquisition, customer conversion rate and average order value are going to be the three critical leverage points on the revenue side.

On how he plans to overcome that stumbling block:
We’ve taken pages out of many case studies. We began developing our social media platform several months ago. We now have unique visitors from over 100 countries.

On whether the timing of the website’s launch was good or bad:
You know, I really don’t make judgments according to timing, never have. Certainly the investment philosophy of our business helped.

On how he would grade the magazine industry as a whole today:
Well, I don’t know how to grade it. I think that the magazine model for the future is going to have to be multi-platform.

On where he sees DARA three years from now:
Three years from now; I can send you the executive summary of our business plan, but I see us actively involved with 500 or more artisans from around the world.

On what keeps him up at night:
Well, I did anticipate that you might ask that. (Laughs) What keeps me up at night is my obligation to the constituencies that I serve.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Dan Brewster, Founder, DARA Artisans…

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about this move from one type of storytelling and publishing to another type.

Dan Brewster: Certainly the essence of what I’ve done most of my business life is storytelling. And after I left the magazine publishing business I ran a small privately-held investment firm that I had started a number of years earlier. And I just got less and less interested in that business. Even though several people had come to me, including private equity firms with the opportunity to reenter the publishing business, the change was so imminent and the future so unclear that I didn’t want to take that step.

I remember having a long conversation with Rob Garrett, who ran an investment firm, and he asked me to try and peer into the future of media and I said, Rob, it’s going to be the intersection of data and content. And how that’s going to manifest itself exactly, I don’t know. But I wrote a paper about it back in 2003. And we had done data regression modeling at American Express going back to 1993.

So, I decided to embark on a new course when the light bulb went off in my head and it was something that combined my passion for storytelling, travel and for wonderfully handmade goods from around the world. That was the evolution.

Samir Husni: And where did the name DARA come from?

Dan Brewster: Well, DARA is coincidentally my wife’s name. And we did retain a branding agency to develop alternatives and they said we can’t come up with a better name because interestingly DARA translates into Khmer, Gaelic, Arabic, Hebrew and a number of other languages and typically means strength, hope, wisdom, integrity; all the things that we wanted to express in this adventure.

Samir Husni: Although it may seem quite a departure from publishing and magazines, looking at the website and the ideas and stories on it, somehow it feels as though you’re flipping through the pages of an actual magazine. Are we going to see a Dara in print?

Dan Brewster: It’s a possibility. We’re certainly going to look at multi-platforms, which I think is probably the future for most brands. And we began this with the intention of creating a magazine-like feel, combined with ecommerce. And that was very deliberate. In fact, our graphic designer, who had worked with me at American Express and Travel+Leisure back in the 90s, had run a studio in Venice for 11 years. I called her and five days later she was here and she hasn’t missed a day of work since. And that’s been over a year ago. We really wanted to create that sensibility, the mix of content, commerce and community.

Samir Husni: And what do you think is going to be your major stumbling block?

Dan Brewster: The business model for what we’re doing is not entirely dissimilar from the magazine business model except we’re doing ecommerce instead of selling advertising. Customer acquisition, customer conversion rate and average order value are going to be the three critical leverage points on the revenue side.

Samir Husni: How do you plan to overcome that?

Dan Brewster: We’ve taken pages out of many case studies. We began developing our social media platform several months ago. We now have unique visitors from over 100 countries. We have a dedicated staff sending our messages out through email newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and we have also talked to Carolyn Everson, who is the chief revenue officer at Facebook about using their analytics, as well as Google analytics, to find look-a-likes and as soon as we have a sufficient customer base we will have our own in-house regression modeling capabilities.

IMG_2034bw_939c500a-a670-417e-9cb8-c2913ccef799 Samir Husni: Let me shift gears just a little bit; I looked at the website and its offerings and what really grabbed my attention is your picture with your wife in front of the Aleppo Castle. And your story, what you wrote about it; it was right before the so called Arab spring. As our global village becomes closer and closer, instead of hearing good news, we’re hearing more and more bad news. So do you think it’s the best of times or the worst of times to launch DARA?
(Picture above: Dara and Dan Brewster in Aleppo with Adam (left), a Syrian artisan, before the war broke out. Reposted with permission from DARA’s website).

Dan Brewster: You know, I really don’t make judgments according to timing, never have. Certainly the investment philosophy of our business helped. We never attempted to time the markets; it’s an unusually perilous exercise. (Laughs) It’s something that no one can forecast. Fortune Magazine I believe was launched shortly after The Depression, if not during. Very, very difficult to make any judgments on that basis, certainly it’s the best of times in terms of technology evolving.


Samir Husni: I know you mentioned that you don’t want to get involved in the publishing industry again, but will we ever see Dan Brewster back in magazine media ventures?

Dan Brewster: What I was trying to say earlier is that at the time when I left Gruner+Jahr, I didn’t want to run another strictly publishing business. But do I believe that Dara can migrate into various print vehicles, a magazine being one option? Probably, with controlled circulation and a catalog would be another option.

Samir Husni: As an outsider now with all the experience, having been there and done that; if someone asked you to give a report card on the magazine media today, what grade would we get? A, B, C, D or is it an F?

Dan Brewster: Well, I don’t know how to grade it. When I was chair of the MPA in the 90s, I remember giving a speech saying that we’ve seen fairly steady quarterly profit growth at every major magazine publisher for about a decade now and what we’re overlooking is that growth has come from increased advertising revenue and spending. But if you look at the consumer economics, they have loaded over that period of time. The cost of acquiring a subscriber has gone up even though our ability to identify prospects has improved. And we’re at an artificially low price point for our revenues to drive advertising volume, and newsstand is dissipating. This is going to become a problem the moment we hit an advertising recession, we’re going to get caught in a whipsaw where the consumer economics are going to rapidly erode and the advertising revenue will follow. And that has certainly turned out to be the case.

So, I think that the pure magazine publishing model with very few exceptions, highly-targeted special interest magazines, controlled circulation luxury magazines and some other exceptions, enthusiast publications is certainly an exception; I think that the magazine model for the future is going to have to be multi-platform.

Samir Husni: If you look at the speeches and the talks from the 90s, everybody was forecasting something similar to what happened in 2008, once the economy collapsed everyone was saying that we need to be more consumer-centric. Do you think it happened or do you see that the magazine publishing model in the United States is still not consumer-centric, but rather advertising-centric today in 2014?

Dan Brewster: Well, if I go back to the early 80s I recall an editor at TIME magazine saying, we don’t edit the magazine for what people want to know, we edit the magazine for what they should know. And TIME magazine’s profits went steadily down. (Laughs) I think that we need to be much more responsive to consumer needs and tastes. The 80s and early 90s philosophy of cramming circulation down people’s throats in order to collect advertising revenue is obviously not a model that’s going to continue working.

And by consumer-sensitive, I think that one of the things that the technology age has given us is the adaptability to identify customer prospects much better than before and to deliver to them much more precisely exactly what they want.

Samir Husni: Where do you see DARA three years from now?

Dan Brewster: Three years from now; I can send you the executive summary of our business plan, but I see us actively involved with 500 or more artisans from around the world. I see the business model beginning to shift from our taking inventory in order to control the brand to one where we have relationships that enable artisans to drop ship from various parts of the globe. I envision the brand as being a very strong brand with multiple platforms, possibly including even retail.

We are going to be the most effective consumer-direct, high-end product company out there.

Samir Husni: Just drawing on your rich background in magazines and media publishing and all the other business models you’ve worked with; is there anything that if you had the opportunity to redo or not do you can identify?

Dan Brewster: Of course I can, but I prefer not to. (Laughs)

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

Dan Brewster: Well, I did anticipate that you might ask that. (Laughs) What keeps me up at night is my obligation to the constituencies that I serve and those constituencies are my investors and future investors, our staff, which is extraordinarily talented and committed to this project for both its likely business success, but also the sense of purpose that’s associated with it. And to the world of artisans who are carrying on ancestral traditions that are not as appreciated as I think they will become.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Awesome Numbers For August: 72 New Titles – 20 Promising Frequency

September 2, 2014

As summer winds down and we get ready for fall – new titles for the month of August were strong – 72 total, 20 with frequency and 52 specials.

I have always said that magazines are reflectors of our society and the titles for the month of August proved no exception to that statement – illuminating the history of the month with a tribute title for Elvis and of course, the tragic death of Robin Williams. From People to Life to Rolling Stone, magazines honored the comedic genius. The covers of these timely issues were amazing and the content extremely well-written, proving once again that magazines mirror our sadness and happiness as a whole and all that happens within.

So I hope you enjoy the August launches…up first our frequency:

01 TechnologistBlack & GreyCycloCrossEQL - weddingsEQL - weddingsFour Food MagazineIntercourseKate-1La Petite - the little onesLaterLEI-2Maroon MagazineMega Truck-1Nashville LIfestyles - At HomePopular NoiseRealRed & Blue - OIe MIss FootballRemindSteelheader's journalThe Intentional QuarterlyWake Forest 27587

And now our specials:
5sos-1250 Scariest Movies-9Best of Fine Wood Working - HandtoolsBest One Dish Recipes-20Christmas-11Cleaning-17Complete Guide to the Woodlot-21Cook's illustrated - cooking freshcrochet scene-13Crochet WorldCuisine Holiday-16Discovery - SnakesDwellEat CleanEnchanted KnitsEnquirer-4epicurious italy-18Flight Journal - WWII CorsairGlamour - Special Edition Beauty How TosGreat Empires-3Great Garden Design-15handbags-14How to grow and preserve your own food-22LIfe - Dream DestinationsLIFE Robin-7Marily and Diana - sex lies & murderNational Geographic - Best of EuropeNeil Young-23New York HealthNewsweek - Destiny video game collector's editionPC Gamer - minecraftPeople - Hollywood at HomePeople - Prince George 1st bdayPeople - style watchPEOPLE Country MusicPeople Robin-6Rebel Rodz presents - RatzRolling Stone Robin-8Scientific AmericanSeeing is believing-10Sports Illustrated Swimsuit ExtraSunset - worlds best campingSunset Weekend TripsTatoo FlashThe Animal Mind-19TIME for kidsTime LIfe - inside the mind of a criminalTIME Robin Williams-5TV Guide - ElvisTV Guide - the beatlesUSA Today Back 2 SchoolWeight Watchers-2

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Digital Dominance For $150 : Ed Young’s Big Plan for Magazine Media. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With the Founder of MagMaker Editions and Co-Founder of The Source Magazine…

August 31, 2014

“It’s not print or digital, and I can’t reinforce this enough; it’s print and digital. And MagMaker Editions is something that will allow the publishers to really enhance their print and digital offerings in a way that makes sense for the consumer.” Ed Young

magmaker

Determined to bridge the gap between print and digital, Ed Young is bringing “Digital Dominance” to publishers for $150. Young is co-founder of The Source, the powerful magazine that covered hip-hop, politics and culture like no other publication in the last two-plus decades. More recently Mr. Young is one of the three entrepreneurial forces behind a new concept in publishing: MagMaker Editions. This new entity aims to lay the stepping-stones for that all-important bridge between print and digital. MagMaker is ready to launch after the Labor Day holiday.

With MagMaker, Young offers publishers a space to provide the digital component of their product to the consumer – for only $150. Definitely a reasonably priced deal and one that he hopes publishers won’t be able to turn down.

ed young I spoke with Ed recently and the discussion was lively, vivid and totally entertaining, revolving around his past, present and future, with heavy emphasis on the future of his newest venture, MagMaker Editions. He admits with his educational background (he graduated from Harvard) most people feel he strayed entirely off course, first with The Source and then other entrepreneurial endeavors and now with his latest venture, MagMaker, but he couldn’t be more pleased with his successes and he plans even bigger things with his newest effort.

So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ed Young and be prepared to smile, laugh, but most importantly to be informed on how the publishing world is about to encounter digital dominance on a shoestring.

But first the sound-bites…


On the birth of MagMaker Editions:
MagMaker Editions has grown out of my company. I have three partners. The four of us actually have a very interesting perspective and one that I believe informs us about what the consumer is really looking for from the digital world and magazines and magazine’s place in that space.

On publishers’ ability to start making money from digital:
I think that we’re on the verge of a real renaissance in the publishing industry. And we’re providing the tools that are going to allow the magazine publishers that really understand that to address the vast audience that’s out there for them, because that’s the beauty of digital.

On why he believes MagMaker Editions will be successful:
If I can provide the tools at a price-point that isn’t prohibitive, such as the digital dominance for a $150 tagline, I can give them the tools that allow them to have the apps in the marketplace, the apps that are their brands in the marketplace.

On some of his major stumbling blocks:
One of the things that comes up all the time with the bigger publishers is if they see something new they want to know what the ROI is on the new and innovative product. But the tech guys will teach you if it’s new and innovative you can’t tell what the ROI is.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night is the fact that I love magazines, that I think they are a truly vital part of our country, our democratic ideals. The integral part of our information dissemination, which makes this country great is somewhat in jeopardy and that keeps me up.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with MagMaker Editions’ founder Ed Young.

Samir Husni: You’re beginning this new venture: MagMaker Editions. And you’re a magmaker yourself. Unlike all the other Harvard graduates, having their eyes either on the White House or CEO of a major financial institution, you and three of your colleagues launched the hip-hop magazine, The Source. After that you did many other non publishing related things. Now you’re back into magazine making. Can you tell me a little about this new venture, MagMaker Editions that you’re embarking on?

Ed Young: MagMaker Editions has grown out of my company. I have three partners. One is from the advertising space (working in advertising at The New York Times), another from the newspaper space (being one of the founders of waiting room subscription services) and the other was at NeXT Computer, Steve Jobs’ company.

So we come from industries that are servicing the publishing industry or technology, with my experience being as a publisher. The four of us actually have a very interesting perspective and one that I believe informs us about what the consumer is really looking for from the digital world and magazines and magazine’s place in that space.

Originally we started producing custom digital magazine apps for publishers. And we found success with that, however we realized very early on that the advertiser support for that would probably not be sustainable because you really need to produce digital magazines in a way that is a commoditized pricing product, not in a way that is custom. Custom worked for special-sponsored publications, much the same as magazines do when they publish special issues. That makes sense for that, but that’s a unique product.

But for your regular magazine publishing the real thing that you’re trying to do with digital is to deliver your magazine content to your consumer in a way that is conducive to their environment, how they want it and when they want it. And if that’s the case you have to think how do I make a product digitally that I can produce in an economical manner. Because advertisers have been trained not to pay for the digital product if it’s just your regular magazine and so what we did was created MagMaker Editions which is an entire platform that allows publishers to easily output apps for their own custom-branded apps and that’s a very important thing. So it’s their brand, their app on the iTunes App Store, Google Play App Store, Amazon App Store and as a web viewer. That way they’re able to reach the entire market and satisfy the consumer by delivering to them a digital magazine in a way that is, I think, very satisfying for the end-user, the reader.

Samir Husni: So far no one has been able to find a way to make money from digital, very little money anyway…

Ed Young: Very little money, this is true. But there are two things going into that, I think; the lack of discovery in the existing app stores, or the lack of ease in discovering existing app stores and the fact that the products that have been available to go digital have been expensive.

We’re offering our product and I want to coin the phrase: digital dominance for $150. We’ve really worked hard to make a product that we can get out that is, in our opinion, the best-of-breed for digital magazines, in terms of user interface and user experience. People really like reading off of our apps, and when I say “our” apps, I want to reinforce it’s the magazine brand’s app. When people get it they know that it is that magazine. It’s not coming in an individual story manner or something like that, where the brand itself is being diminished and it’s just about a story.

That is something that, coming from the magazine business, has really been disturbing to me because I realized that if you segment out the stories that are in an issue and distribute them across different channels and you ask the readers of those stories, they very rarely can tell you which magazine brand the story has come from. And that’s a very dangerous thing because we have an object lesson. And I have a unique perspective because doing The Source magazine I was very close to the music industry. And I saw the music industry change from an album-CD-based business to a singles business and it has been devastating for that industry. Because when you have to just pick a hit, all of a sudden people don’t even know the singer that the hit is from oftentimes. And there’s no real artistic voice in a hit single, but there is in an album or a CD, because you’re getting a body of work.

And magazines are like albums and CDs where they’re a body of work, they’re an editorial voice each issue. And you’re trying to convey that to your reader, there’s a message; a great magazine has a theme that runs through each issue. And magazines won’t survive if they lose that part of what they are because that’s the very essence of a real magazine.

We’ve been very careful to make sure that we preserve brand. So in order to do that, you have to address what is this discovery challenge in the app stores that exist. A large part of it is the search in the app stores has not been good. I think that Apple, Google and Amazon have been frustrated by the lack of uptake initially on the magazine product. But I think that is going to change. I really believe that people are going to, if they can find them, adopt these digital magazines if the apps are good and they’re more accessible. They really will. I refuse to believe that people have given up on the concept of magazines.

I think that we’re on the verge of a real renaissance in the publishing industry. And we’re providing the tools that are going to allow the magazine publishers that really understand that to address the vast audience that’s out there for them, because that’s the beauty of digital. We’ve seen this with the evolution of the Internet, where sites traditionally were seeing a small audience grow into giant audiences because there were a lot of people who were interested in that point of view or that special interest. And that’s the beauty of digital because the cost of distribution is so low. That’s where your potential universe is so much greater.

Samir Husni: I know you’re used to skeptics, being one of those Harvard business graduates that launched a Hip-hop magazine, everyone thought you were all crazy. So the skeptic in me is now going to ask you; why do you think this little engine named MagMaker Editions is going to succeed where, almost with no exception, most of the legacy media companies have failed or semi-failed?

Ed Young: That is a great question. I’m a geek, OK? Let’s put that out there. (Laughs) I love numbers. If we reflect back on the early days of The Source, it’s hard for people to believe now, but 1988 or 1989 when I went out and said, “Hey everybody, the next pop music is going to be rap or Hip-hop,” that sounded crazy. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Especially coming from a Harvard graduate. (Also laughs)

Ed Young: Exactly. And so here’s this young black guy going around the country to the old traditional wholesalers, and I’m telling these older guys rap music is going to be the new pop music. And they would just look at me and say, Ok…and it was a very interesting discussion, but the reason that I had come to the conclusion wasn’t because I was a fan of rap music, it was because I went back and crunched numbers. And I looked at historical trends in music and overlaid that with sociological trend minds and then looked at the capitalization that had occurred in the music business relative to different music genres and when I tied it all together, the thing that popped out was interesting. It was that music genres actually follow an S-curve life-cycle just like any product.

And if you think of music genres as a product, Hip-hop or rap was the new product that had been the one that was winning and had been capitalized by the music companies and it was at the last two years of the innovation phase of that new music genre S-curve product life-cycle, which meant after the innovation phase, the next phase is the growth phase. So I went and I told my partners, I said listen, guys, this is incredible. We’re on the verge of this crazy growth for rap and the numbers say that, so what we have to do is if we position ourselves appropriately, we’re going to ride this wave up and the periodicity of each segment of that S-curve product life-cycle is 13½ years. And if you ask, why would that be? Think about it. Think about the age of kids when they start really getting into music and the big music consumption periods; it’s that 13-year stretch. It’s very fascinating and it worked.

We were fortunate. It’s not about being smart; we were at Harvard, sure, but it’s not that we were smart; it’s that we were in the right place at the right time and we didn’t mess it up. (Laughs) And that’s so much of it.

Samir Husni: So how is the Geek going to save the magazine industry? (Laughs)

Ed Young: Right. (Laughs) Well today, I’ve done essentially the same thing where I said OK – I was able to back then get in my car and drive around to the distribution channels, which you can’t do today, the newsstand is basically broken for smaller publishers. I couldn’t do today what I did back then because back then I was able to make money off of the newsstand, back then I could make a LOT of money off of the newsstand if I could figure out where my purchases actually were and get the wholesalers to allow me to dictate where my magazine would be distributed. I owe so much to these guys who own these wholesalers around the country because they actually did relent and let this crazy young kid go into their wholesale back offices and do distributions. It was just incredible that they let me do that, but they ended up benefitting tremendously as well, because our sell-through was always easily over 50%.

But that situation doesn’t exist today. You’re not able to travel around to the wholesalers; newsstand is, as I said, pretty much a break-even proposition for the smaller guys. So if I look at it and say how can I give tools to the smaller guys, because remember, looking at history, the small guys are going to be the big guys; can I provide them the tools of distribution that are going to allow them the bridge this transition period from print-dominated revenues to digital-dominated revenues? If that transition occurs, there’s going to be this period where it’s print and it’s digital; so it’s not an either/or proposition.

Continuing with how does the Geek save publishing; if I can provide the tools at a price-point that isn’t prohibitive, such as the digital dominance for a $150 tagline, if I can give them the tools that allow them to have the apps in the marketplace, the apps that are their brands in the marketplace, I then have to go back and ask how do I replicate that wholesaler model that used to exist for the physical presence of their magazines?

So what we’ve done is built other products that are tied to MagMaker Editions, the MagMaker platform. We have public place, for example, I mentioned that one of my partners is a founder of waiting room subscription services, so we have a Waiting Room Reader that we’re going to launch shortly, we’re working on partnerships with some professional organizations and some other very interesting companies that are in the space, so that’s a Public Place discovery engine. We have already launched what we call The Inflight Reader App, which is a library of magazines that is a pure discovery engine for travelers. When they go to an airport there is a library that’s unlocked for them that allows the traveler to discover any of the magazines, download and read them; you can actually download ahead and when the customer gets to the airport the library unlocks and they are able to read what they’ve downloaded.

This is a way that you’re able to expose people to magazines that they may have never heard about, but in a digital manner. You can, of course, buy from the app directly at any point in time; you get a free 24 hour reading period, but at any time you can buy and keep that issue. You can subscribe to whatever digital offerings the magazines have and you can even get a print subscription through the app, of course, that’s up to the publisher.

But it’s these kinds of things such as how do you extend this physical public place discovery that’s occurred in digital. We’re working on that. We’re also looking at, and this is to the skeptics because print is not disappearing, digital has not taken off in the way that it should have, and what we’re working on to address that also is some very interesting partnerships with traditional print and distribution people. And I think we’re going to have some very exciting announcements in the very near future, because there needs to be a hybrid approach to digital space. It’s not print or digital, and I can’t reinforce this enough; it’s print and digital. And MagMaker Editions is something that will allow the publishers to really enhance their print and digital offerings in a way that makes sense for the consumer.

Samir Husni: You did it once with The Source, but these are different times; what are some of the major stumbling blocks that you’ve faced with this new venture?

Ed Young: These are different times. And that’s something that I think about. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and say – hmm. I really need to humble myself and realize that just because I had success with The Source it doesn’t mean that I’ll have success with anything else and so I need to relearn. One of the biggest challenges, being a print publisher, I love magazines; the biggest challenge for me in the text space is realizing that the things that worked for me in print and the things that worked for me in my early career, are not necessarily going to work in this other space, and that there are younger people, non-business trained people who I had to learn a whole lot from. It’s been a very humbling experience.

But I’ve really gotten to the point where, and with my team, we get both spaces and we realize that’s a very unique thing. Dealing with magazines right now, you have people who have tendencies to be either/or and we’ve really been humbled. We’ve had to say, “You know what, that just doesn’t work.”

And one of the things that comes up all the time with the bigger publishers is if they see something new they want to know what the ROI is on the new and innovative product. But the tech guys will teach you if it’s new and innovative you can’t tell what the ROI is. (Laughs) That just goes part and parcel with the new and innovative description.

But the big thing is, and this is why historically legacy companies don’t make it, because it lies largely in the fact that they’re not willing to make those leaps, they don’t understand that they can’t have an ROI that is defined for these new things. And the other part is that when you’re going into this new tech-reality the cost of failure is very cheap. And that was the hardest thing to understand and we built our platform with this in mind. One of the things that Mark Zuckerberg got is release fast and things will be broken. Now we’re to the point where our stuff isn’t broken, but what we have done is we’ve made it modular, so that as the consumer changes, we’re able to change stuff for our publishers really quickly with the update – boom – it pushes out. We’re not dependent upon the app stores updating as much as others are; we actually have a platform where all the approvals are in place, all of the functionalities in place and it’s modular on the view side.

But what Zuckerberg was so brilliant at understanding was that when you put it out, when the consumer demands something or they find something, the fix is a couple of hours of programming and when you fix something the user has asked for, or if they found a bug even, and you respond, they love you more, because they feel ownership now in your product, because they pointed something out and you addressed it.

Whereas when I was doing print, if there was a mistake or something you needed to change; you had to do a whole new print run.

Samir Husni: When is the launch date? When is MagMaker going into action?

Ed Young: We’re going to start taking our orders for this new offering the day after Labor Day, September 2nd and the website will be up to start accepting the intake for publishers; it’s very simple and based on PDF. It’s PDF-based, we pull it in, there’s a viewer that they have to approve once we process. The $150 doesn’t come into play until they approve the build. We’re trying to make this as risk-free as possible and as painless as possible. There’s a dashboard where they’re able to put in links to the social media, properties that they have, they can put in links naturally, language-named links or whatever pages they have in the app; it’s very user-friendly. It’s a digital-replica type concept, but made to feel like a custom app. And that is key, that is the biggest point for us, that we wanted to make something that allowed the user-experience to be what users really want, not what the publisher would necessarily think the user wants, but what the user really wants, which is a huge difference.

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

Ed Young: What keeps me up at night is the fact that I love magazines, that I think they are a truly vital part of our country, our democratic ideals. The integral part of our information dissemination, which makes this country great is somewhat in jeopardy and that keeps me up.

I look at that and think: we can’t lose that. If we lose that, we lose so much more than people realize. That has really driven my team to come out with something that we think gives, not just a fighting chance, but gives people an opportunity for an amazing future. I was with my mother-in-law, my wife and son and I were driving up to a family event with her and she was in the backseat of the car the whole time and she was reading. On the way back she was reading; she read up and she read back. I finally looked at her and saw she was on her iPad and we had gotten her a Nook before and she’d now gone to the iPad. So I said, “You like reading on the iPad now” and she said, “Yes. You know it’s great.” But the thing that struck me when we were talking was that she lives in a very nice, active, adult community. And she’s in a book club. There’s book clubs, Bible study clubs; all of these different things in the community. What I realized was the reason that she had jumped to the iPad was because of the book club. And one person had it, they showed her that you could change the text size and everything and now all of them have the devices. And all they use are the devices.

There’s just so much focus on the millennials, but the adoption rate for her group, which is late sixties to seventy years old, was magnitudes greater because when one person discovers it in this active adult-type community living that is so prevalent, fifty other people went out and got one. (Laughs) And that kind of massive adoption is about to happen over the coming months, this isn’t far into the future, because they’re discovering the utility that these devices offer and they have the cash. And they have the desire and what’s really great for magazines is these are the magazine “readers.” And if we can give them a product that they like, they’re going to adopt it on their new devices like we’ve never dreamed. And we have the tools for them to be able to do that in a way that makes sense for them.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Intercourse, The Magazine: No, It’s Not What You Are Thinking… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor & Director Of Education Development, Catherine Despont.

August 18, 2014

INTERCOURSE-1INTERCOURSE BACK COVER-2 What’s in a name? I just did a blog about that very topic. However, I didn’t include a magazine that is relatively new and devoted to the creation, synthesis and discussion of art, science and education.

The name of the magazine is Intercourse and just mentioning that moniker is cause for conversation. Indeed, isn’t that the sign of captivating content?

The magazine was created within the confines of Pioneer Works, a non-profit organization that according to its Founder & Director, artist Dustin Yellin, fearlessly bridges the chasm between disparate disciplines.

TheBuilding15 (2) The organization is housed in a building built in 1866 and was first occupied by Pioneer Iron Works, one of the largest machine manufacturers in the United States- constructing ships, boilers, tanks, sheet iron, detachable railroad tracks, grain elevators, and machinery for sugar plantations. The building was completely destroyed by a devastating fire in 1881 and rebuilt shortly thereafter.

As for the magazine, Yellin describes it better than I ever could in his letter from the editor in the current issue of Intercourse:

“Ballet or blitzkrieg, Intercourse is not the sickeningly sweet swill used to fatten you at the trough. It is not cotton candy confirming old prejudices. Burning up in the synaptic pop, boiling over in the cosmic crucible, drowning in a million possible futures, it is a swath of spinning galactic organisms coalescing. Intercourse is a capsule to treat tunnel-vision tremors. Anyone can swallow it. You’ll soon feel it dissolving, swimming up your bloodstream, mincing and chirping, to make your beautiful brain grab someone and dance a jig.”

catherinedespontCatherine Despont is the Editor of the magazine and is in charge of Education and Editorial Development. I reached out to Catherine to discuss the magazine’s title and mission and discover more about Pioneer Works in general. The Mr. Magazine™ interview follows and I think you’ll be both amazed and inspired by her answers.

But first the sound-bites…

On the background of the magazine’s title: For us it was about being in this space in a world that was increasingly virtual, when this space is really about being physically present with other people and to that sense, an idea of both intellectual interchange and dialogue, but also physical presence, community and closeness is tied up in the word Intercourse for us.

On why they decided to do a print product instead of just a digital entity: Because the printed product really has the physical presence and so much of this space is about the physical.

On consumer reactions to the ink on paper magazine: People think it’s very beautiful and say it feels like a real object. It has more of a book-like quality because of the format.

On the drive behind the magazine and the non-profit organization, Pioneer Works: To me it’s the opportunity to start a different conversation here. To look at art not just as a fine art object, but as a creative methodology that can be used to understand the world and to approach any kind of subject.

On how they can assess the success of the magazine and Pioneer Works: I believe that step-by-step we’re experiencing success with all we’ve done so far. It’s just a matter of getting the word out to people and getting people to the space and obviously getting them engaged with the magazine, even if they’re in cities that aren’t next door to us.

On what keeps her up at night: Deadlines keep me up at night, dreams of who I could entice into this building; I’m constantly thinking about who I can reach out to, who I can talk to, who I can bring in and do a lecture with and who I can start a conversation with.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Catherine Despont, Editor, Intercourse Magazine…

Samir Husni: My first question has to be about the title. To see a magazine called Intercourse has to stop you. Can you give me a little bit of background on the title?

Catherine Despont: It’s important to know that the magazine is associated with a large exhibition space in Brooklyn called Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation. And it’s a 25,000 square foot old factory space and it houses a museum, with museum-style exhibitions. We have art and science residencies, so artists and scientists have studios in the space for anywhere from 1-6 months to work on their projects. And we also have a big education department.

And this whole project is the vision of an artist named Dustin Yellin. Dustin is an artist who makes these large sculptures out of glass. He has very big studios and he’s always had kind of a stream of having a place where artists can work together in a common space and just share ideas. He’s always had environments where lots of people have been working together at one time. He had a large studio in Red Hook, just up the street from this space for many years. This place became available and it was always his dream to buy it. And so he bought it just under three years ago and initially thought that he would live in it and have his studio in it, but this project has grown exponentially in that time, so he’s moved his studio out of it, but now runs it and oversees the project.

I’m the editor of the magazine, which ties together all the contents that comes out of this space and I also do the educational programming here.

To answer the question about the title Intercourse, it was always a word that initially Dustin thought he might call the space, but it was a bad choice for a lot of reasons. Intercourse really, obviously, has this idea of discourse, of interchange and catches the eye, but for us it was about being in this space in a world that was increasingly virtual, when this space is really about being physically present with other people and to that sense, an idea of both intellectual interchange and dialogue, but also physical presence, community and closeness is tied up in the word Intercourse for us.

Samir Husni: Here is this community of artists; you have this whole venue – why did you decide to actually do a printed product, in addition to everything else you’re already doing? Why not just the web or digital?

intercourse spread-4 Catherine Despont: Because the printed product really has the physical presence and so much of this space is about the physical. And the idea is we don’t just have artists here; we have artists and scientists; we have a Microscopy Lab, geneticists in residence, we’re working with a new community bio-genetics lab to set up a wet-lab for people to actually do bioengineering here.

For us the space is really about access to subjects and disciplines that would be traditionally sort of reserved for institutions or university settings. And we felt that we really did need the space where lots of different ideas could come together so that a person who is a creative thinker can access any idea, resource or type of person that they need in order to bring their vision to it as well as to voice their expression.

And in that sense it’s also important to have a printed document, both as a way of archiving, as a way of having a tangible trace of the work that’s going on here and also because a lot of internet magazines and print magazines in general also tend to have this very specialized feeling. Either they’re specialized to a particular content or they’re directly targeted to a specific audience.

And it was important to us to have a document that captured the compendium, like the full range of the discussions that happen in this place. The magazine has been our best resource for visitors coming to the space and in trying to get people to understand what we’re doing in a nutshell.

cathedralspace.4 (2) The space itself is very dramatic; it’s a former ironworks and it was built in 1866 and it has this large cathedral-like hall because they originally built train cars in it. There’s something very stunning about walking into it and seeing it. People have a hard time understanding how all of our programming comes together until they see the space and so the magazine is another platform for us to get people to understand the scope and the range of what we’re talking about.

Samir Husni: When people pick up the magazine for example at Pioneer Works; have you been able to track any reactions to it?

Catherine Despont: People think it’s very beautiful and say it feels like a real object. It has more of a book-like quality because of the format. The word Intercourse has this very interesting resonance against the image of the cover that it’s on, because it’s such a fine art image. So immediately there is this tension between the actual word and the elegance of the drawing that’s on the cover. It’s a very dense document and there is a lot of different material in it. There is a lot of strange sort of connections between the articles and people are just very excited. It’s like their way of touching and holding what’s been going on here.

We have so many events and classes, so many exhibits that people like to feel like they’ve taken a part of the place away with them when they leave and that they’ve interacted with it.

Samir Husni: What’s the drive behind Pioneer Works and the magazine? What is it that keeps Catherine going every single day?

Catherine Despont: To me, it’s establishing a new paradigm in education and the creative arts. I think we have a real crisis in education right now; it’s much too expensive and it’s incredibly specialized and competitive. I think it really stalls ideas from just reaching their fullest expression because of the silos that things exist in.

To me it’s the opportunity to start a different conversation here. To look at art not just as a fine art object, but as a creative methodology that can be used to understand the world and to approach any kind of subject.

What drives me is just feeling like I’m really at the forefront of a new movement, in terms of education, in terms of the way we understand the relations between creativity and science and the way in which all of these things can have real effects on people and their lives. So this is really about a community of change and an experiment in envisioning what kind of structures we want for the future; how we want to learn about the world and how we want to engage with the world.

Samir Husni: How can you assess your success; when can you say that you’ve met your goal?

Catherine Despont: We’re launching new programs all the time, for example, when we have 500 people come through our door for events. All of this when we have hundreds of applications for our residency program; all of those things signal success to us.

We’re still in the process of capitalizing within the space and there are a number of building projects that we want to complete. We’re building a science lab, a music recording studio; we want to build a woodshop and a metal shop and an observatory and eventually we see this operating as a canvas.

Once we’ve secured an endowment and once we have people regularly enrolled in this full time as a school and people see us as a resource for a new way of thinking, I think that will definitely be success. But I believe that step-by-step we’re experiencing success with all we’ve done so far. It’s just a matter of getting the word out to people and getting people to the space and obviously getting them engaged with the magazine, even if they’re in cities that aren’t next door to us.

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

Catherine Despont: I just wish there were more hours in the day to do the work that we have to do. Deadlines keep me up at night, dreams of who I could entice into this building; I’m constantly thinking about who I can reach out to, who I can talk to, who I can bring in and do a lecture with and who I can start a conversation with.

It’s the most exciting opportunity I’ve had and my mind is constantly racing about making the most of it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

July 31, 2014

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

husniinriga At the newsstands in Riga, Latvia.

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

I can’t think of anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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First Half of 2014 Ends with a Bang! 123 New Magazines Launched + 311 Book-a-Zines.

June 30, 2014

The first half of 2014 ended up with a bang. More new magazines and book-a-zines arrived at the marketplace this first half compared with the same period in 2013.

A total of 434 new magazines arrived on the marketplace divided into 123 new titles published with an intended frequency of four times a year or more and 311 book-a-zines.

The aforementioned numbers reflect an increase of 23 titles from the 100 regular frequency titles published in the first half of 2013 and 10 more book-a-zines from the 301 book-a-zines published in the same period in 2013.

The variety of the titles continue to be amazing, even for one who has followed this industry since 1978. Below are a few late arrivals…

Animal Tales-16All thiings sports-18Bizou-19LGBT Wed-17New American-15Underground-13

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