Archive for the ‘’ Category

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SME: A Print Slovakian Newspaper That Demands Attention. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Tomáš Bella, Deputy Editor in Chief

October 1, 2014

samirinbratislava Editor’s Note: Last week I was speaking, interviewing and moderating at different types of conferences and seminars across three European countries. I started with the Czech Republic where I spoke at a Toray’s meeting, then Slovakia where I visited the Student Media Center of the Pan European University in Bratislava, a daily newspaper, a major magazine media house and last but not least, traveled to Cannes, France to speak and moderate the Forum day at the 59th Distripress Congress. In the next few blogs, I will be reporting from all three countries with interviews, views and observations from the global media world.

Today, is my interview with Tomáš Bella, deputy editor in chief of SME daily newspaper in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. SME is succeeding while others failed and is showing that the future of newspapers, both in print and digital, may be in long-form journalism.

tomasof sme

But, first the sound-bites…

On SME and some of its recent changes: We are almost changing into a magazine. More and more often we are moving toward big topics, such as the one we did on the Ukraine.

On the future of the daily newspaper becoming a weekly on a daily basis: Maybe we will stop publishing daily, but will do six weeklies. What we are sure of is that long-form journalism is where we are clearly heading; sometimes we even have the first eight pages of the paper as one article.

On experimenting with SME’s paywall: We will probably spend all next year restructuring the entire paper around the business of paid content.

On whether he feels journalism is better or worse today because of the Internet: Right now, it seems as though we’re in chaos, but I think we will come out of this as better journalists.

On why most newspapers are still chasing numbers and clicks in the 21st century: I spent four years traveling the world trying to pursue publishers for the switching-to-paid content, but there are a lot of publishers who are set in their ways.

On what keeps him up at night: Well, I came back to journalism because it’s really extremely exciting. And the most interesting thing is we have exhausted all our bad options now; we have tried everything.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tomáš Bella, Deputy Editor in Chief, SME Newspaper in Slovakia…

Samir Husni: Tell me about SME and some of the changes that are going on…

Tomáš Bella: We are almost changing into a magazine. More and more often we are moving toward big topics, such as the one we did on the Ukraine. Inside, there are eight pages just about the Ukraine, written by someone who is very, very knowledgeable.

Two years ago, our longest article would be one page long. Now we are doing 16-page articles.

Samir Husni: So you think that the future of the daily newspaper is a weekly on a daily basis?

tomas2 Tomáš Bella: That is the strategy of Gazeta Wyborcza, the biggest Polish daily. They are probably the best daily in Eastern Europe, with a long tradition of fighting against communism. And their strategy is clearly building very strong supplements for each day; they have six strong supplements every day.

So maybe we will stop publishing daily, but will do six weeklies. What the Gazeta Wyborcza is definitely doing is building very strong magazines, not on print paper, but on glossy. And they have a lot of magazines for each day and they’re building a strong brand.

What we are sure of is that long-form journalism is where we are clearly heading; sometimes we even have the first eight pages of the paper as one article. And this would have been unimaginable a year ago. This is something we are doing as often as we can because we are depending more and more on the income from our readers,

I was reading this article, it was my colleague’s idea, but I thought who would want to read eight pages about the Ukraine. It’s a hard topic and it’s not something you would expect. And it actually broke our record in sales online recently. For whatever reason, the people were buying to learn about Internet politics in the Ukraine.

Samir Husni: You said they bought it online; which brings up your concept about slowly experimenting with the paywall…

Tomáš Bella: Yes, I was working with this newspaper for ten years and then I left and established Piano Media, the company that bought Press Plus. I worked there for four years and then I came back here. Currently, the income from paid content online has maybe doubled in the last eight months. So we are really heavily investing in paid online content and it’s the only income that’s going up, everything else is going down.

We will probably spend all next year restructuring the entire paper around the business of paid content. Also, we don’t believe that advertising is going to come back and we don’t think online advertising is going to save us, so we will have a year, maybe eighteen months to rethink all the departments, to rethink what we should and should not be doing when the new paradigm is in place and see what people are actually willing to pay for online.

With print, it’s a bit more complicated. The paper with the Ukrainian story costs 80 cents. Normally, the paper costs 55 cents, but when we have a topic like this we raise the price of the paper. So Monday it’s 55 cents, but on Friday it’s 80 cents…etc.

It doesn’t mean that we’ll sell more of the special papers, such as the one with the Ukraine story; it’s hard to sell more on those days, but we will also not sell less and we will make more money.

Samir Husni: Do you think journalism as a whole, forget about the platform, is in better shape today than yesterday or worse and has the Internet helped or hurt journalism?

Tomáš Bella: Right now, it seems as though we’re in chaos, but I think we will come out of this as better journalists. I see it in the paper, a lot of uncertainty, but it’s definitely going to get better. Three years ago when we would do something like send a journalist to the U.S. for two weeks to write a story, the business department would say you’re crazy, you’re just wasting your money.

And now when we can measure just how many people buy the article; we are seeing that exactly the same kind of articles that we want to write, ones that aren’t about sex, but about hard issues, are the ones that people are willing to pay for. So if you switch from those terrible 90s where the measurement of your reward was clicks; when you switch from the measurement of your world being clicks to people willing to pay for content, suddenly the interest of journalists and readers seems to be more aligned. They appreciate that content, because here is the guy who wrote the article, he is a Slovak, but he’s one of the few Slovaks who is an expert on the Ukraine.

So when readers see that this is forty years of creative thinking about the topic and that experience has been put into those pages, then they are willing to pay for it when they realize the quality of the work. So I think it’s much better for journalists to be doing a job like that where you know that readers appreciate the work and are willing to pay for it, along with the advertisers. But it will still be a little painful until we get through the transition phase.

Samir Husni: And as you move into this transition phase; why do you think newspapers are still doing the same thing, still chasing clicks and numbers?

tomas3 Tomáš Bella: I spent four years traveling the world trying to pursue publishers for the switching-to-paid content, but there are a lot of publishers who are set in their ways. They are good people and they are producing good papers, but in no way are they prepared for the role they need to play. And for years at the conferences, everyone was telling them how to attract new readers through Facebook and Google and it became very important. But suddenly, it stopped working. Google and Facebook were making money, but not their papers.

So here in Slovakia when we started Piano Media and paid content, most of the publishers joined, but only two or three really understood that in three years they won’t be able to rely on advertising money because they will never win the fight with the Facebooks or the Googles for the price of advertisement; it’s just going to continue going down.

But this paper had a CEO and management that were wise enough to say that even if it is only small money in the beginning, we will keep investing into paid content because we think that it’s really important.

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

Tomáš Bella: (Laughs) Well, I came back to journalism because it’s really extremely exciting. And the most interesting thing is we have exhausted all our bad options now; we have tried everything. We have tried cutting staff by 10 percent every year and many other things and we know where it leads.

So now it’s time to rethink everything; it’s time to say OK, do we really need a sports department or foreign news. It has gotten so bad that you can only dig yourself out with creative thinking and basically starting completely over from the beginning. And to me this is extremely interesting, so I came back here because I’m really curious how the paper is going to look in two years. I know with certainty it will not look like it looks today. And that’s really exciting.

And I believe this type of model is good for journalism. When people begin to pay for content and we can think about our reader instead of advertisers.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Theologian of Vapor: Patrick Butson, Founder and Publisher, Vapor Digest & Vapor Lives Magazines. Where There is Vapor, There is a Magazine or Two. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

September 26, 2014

“Although I had my degree from Harvard Divinity School and had written many theological things, albeit not necessarily published; I’ve been a printer for 25 years. Printing is what I do and so I think the reason I chose print is because I personally would rather have a really nice magazine in my hand.” Patrick Butson

Professor PatrickAs the Founder and Publisher of Vapor Digest and Vapor Lives Magazines, Patrick Butson’s mission is to help the e-cigarette industry gain legitimacy by education and awareness. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, the theologian – turned vaping visionary vows to set the record straight when it comes to vaping and the industry of e-cigs in general. He is convinced that vaping is the answer to many smokers’ prayers and that the part he plays in educating the public is divinely-inspired and validated.

I reached out to Patrick recently and we talked about his early days in divinity school, his calling to do something on a grand scale for God and his vision when it came to the print magazines he created, devoted to vaping and the e-cig industry. The conversation was sincere and open, revealing a man who truly and passionately believes in his magazines and his mission, but doesn’t discount the toll it has taken on his personal life.

So sit back and enjoy this most unique conversation with a man who is genuinely unique in his own way, set apart perhaps by a spirit that is made so by a predestined future – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Patrick Butson, Founder and Publisher, Vapor Digest & Vapor Lives Magazines.

But first the sound-bites…

Premier Issue On why he started the vaping mission: To be honest with you, I don’t think that I’ve used the gifts that I’ve been given to their fullest potential.

On whether or not vaping has anything to do with his theological calling: Yes, it gave me this sense of calling again and I understand that sometimes when you’re looking for gold, everything you see is shiny.

On the two magazines; one trade, one lifestyle: My real intention when I started was to be more like the lifestyle magazines, but when I realized that what was needed was more of an investigative-type of magazine first, that’s why I did them both.

On the advertised emphasis of his theology degree: I did that because I believe it sets me a little apart, because what I do is try to focus on the vision of what it could be and let it lead me like the North Star.

On what’s in it for him: What’s in it for me most importantly is that I matter. I think that if I keep saying perceptive things and keep getting them right and keep giving out the information, along with the stories that people want to read, then I think I’ll have an influence.

On his ultimate goal for the magazines: My ultimate goal for Vapor Lives magazine would be for us to be a combination of Rolling Stone and Cigar Aficionado. I want it to be that important about a new social trend like Rolling Stone was.

On the major stumbling block that may prevent his goals: I think the main thing for me because I’m boot-strapping it and I don’t have the financing and the backing of some of the existing magazines that might want to get into the space.

On whether a year from now he sees himself surrounded by competitors and copycats: I do, yes I do. It’s already happening a bit. The tobacco industry’s trade publications have a couple of them that have combined with a vapor publication.

On why he decided on a print format for his magazines: Printing is what I do and so I think the reason I chose print is because I personally would rather have a really nice magazine in my hand.

On what keeps him up at night: The fact that in doing this, it’s taken a lot of work and a toll, not only on me physically, but it’s really taken a toll on my relationship with my family.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Patrick Butson, Founder and Publisher, Vapor Digest & Vapor Lives Magazines…

1st edition Samir Husni: After I read about all that you’re doing, it seems that you’re a one-man crusade. You’ve started the two magazines and the organization. You’re doing the testing and everything. Why?

Patrick Butson: I wrote in my book why. To be honest with you, I don’t think that I’ve used the gifts that I’ve been given to their fullest potential. When I was a young man, for some reason, I really always thought that God was going to do something special through me and I was somehow going to be inspirational or something; I don’t know exactly, but I found myself at Harvard Divinity School which confirmed that I was being led in that direction. And then I got married and when my wife and I got pregnant, I kind of panicked or got nervous; I’m not sure how to explain it perfectly, it was like me having this nebulous calling to do something great was fine for me as a single man. Although my wife was pretty cool with it, but I didn’t think it was fair for a child being brought into this world to have such an unsure future.

So I felt I had to make a choice. I could go get a real job and make some money or I could continue on this path of not knowing, but feeling like I was going in the right direction. And I guess all these years later, I kind of regret that I had to make a choice and realize now that I could have done both. I could have lived a more inspiring life and meant more to more people and found a way to take care of my family like many other people have done.

Yes, a lot of the reason why I’m doing this is that I regret not taking a more adventurous path and when I saw the first person vape, I just knew instantly that it was very special and had the potential to really change a lot of lives. So I began to follow that. Something that could give me that feeling again that I mattered.

Samir Husni: Do you think being the theologian that you are the whole idea of vaping has anything to do with your calling? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you smoked before…

Patrick Butson: No, I didn’t smoke. And yes, it gave me this sense of calling again and I understand that sometimes when you’re looking for gold, everything you see is shiny. And if it’s something you want to follow, it could be fool’s gold and I might just be seeing what I want to see, but the vision and the perception I have of what vaping can become just energizes me and makes me want to do this.

Samir Husni: Almost at the same time you started two magazines, one for trade and one for the lifestyle.

Patrick Butson: In general, I got involved with it because I was excited. And when I started vaping I assumed there would be a magazine about it. I’m not a smoker per se, but once in a while I like a celebratory cigar and if I ever wanted to know what might be a good cigar, I’d go to Cigar Aficionado or if I wanted to know what’s a good craft beer, I’d go to the craft beer ratings, but when I did that for vaping I realized how you almost have to ask two questions.

Let’s say that you want to try a new honey-whiskey that Jack Daniels has come out with and you read the reviews and tried to get a sense of whether you’d like the flavor; all you really have to ask yourself is would I like it or not. You never have to ask yourself if the whiskey is safe, but that’s not true with the vaping landscape. It’s a very Wild, Wild West out there; you don’t know who you can trust, because people can make things sometimes look too good to be true. A person may have a friend who is a web designer and he could make that company look like a pharmaceutical giant. So that’s part of the reason why I did this too.

My real intention when I started was to be more like the lifestyle magazines, but when I realized that what was needed was more of an investigative-type of magazine first, that’s why I did them both.

Samir Husni: Why the emphasis on being a Harvard theologian – turned visionary? Everywhere I see your name that is very prominently written. Why?

Patrick Butson: I did that because I believe it sets me a little apart, because what I do is try to focus on the vision of what it could be and let it lead me like the North Star. But as I was trying to get people to listen to me and help me, they said don’t undersell or be embarrassed that you’ve got a theology degree and it’s true, so why not say it. I guess that’s part of why and it’s quite a unique thing to have. And it lets people know that I’m probably coming from a different angle than most.

Samir Husni: What’s in all of this for you?

Patrick V Butson - Headshot A Patrick Butson: What’s in it for me most importantly is that I matter. I think that if I keep saying perceptive things and keep getting them right and keep giving out the information, along with the stories that people want to read, then I think I’ll have an influence. That’s mainly what’s in it for me.

But I also realize that I need to monetize my efforts so that I can keep doing it and I’ve done not as well as I’d hoped, but I think I’m on my way. I have advertisers. If you have a copy, you’ll see several paid advertisements.

Samir Husni: What is your ultimate goal? Where do you see the magazines a year from now?

Patrick Butson: My ultimate goal for Vapor Lives magazine would be for us to be a combination of Rolling Stone and Cigar Aficionado. I want it to be that important about a new social trend like Rolling Stone was. It also gives the trustworthy ratings like Cigar Aficionado does. That would be my goal for that magazine. And it would be sold in Barnes & Noble and counters as you go through supermarkets. I’d love it to be a magazine like that and have that type of presence and clarity.

And I would like for the trade magazine to be the official source of the industry and the news magazine of the industry. That would be my two goals.

Samir Husni: And what do you think will be the major stumbling block that might prevent those goals from happening and how will you overcome that?

Patrick Butson: I think the main thing for me because I’m boot-strapping it and I don’t have the financing and the backing of some of the existing magazines that might want to get into the space. They would have the funds and the people and the pipelines to overwhelm me with financial might, so that’s obviously a concern.

I’m glad I was the first, but I don’t think I’ll always be the biggest, that’s not important to me. But as long as I always have my niche and my certain specialness, then I think I will have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.

Samir Husni: There’s a saying in our business: there are the groundbreakers, the copycats and then there are the cheap imitators. And being a groundbreaker; do you think that a year from now you’re going to be surrounded by competitors and copycats?

Patrick Butson: I do, yes I do. It’s already happening a bit. The tobacco industry’s trade publications have a couple of them that have combined with a vapor publication. On the lifestyle side there’s several already out, with more coming every day. I think the thing that’s going to make or break the vaping lifestyle magazines would be the one that has maybe a celebrity on their cover first. And I don’t know any celebrities.

So I think that a publishing firm that already has celebrities on their roster and lined up would be the first to have one on the cover actually vaping, making them similar to how Cigar Aficionado now always has a famous person on their cover smoking a cigar. And I would think that would really establish that lifestyle magazine for vaping to have a high-end star on their cover; I believe they would definitely take the lead.

Samir Husni: There have been so many things that you have done digitally and we do live in a digital age; what made you decide on print for your magazines?

Patrick Butson: Although I had my degree from Harvard Divinity School and had written many theological things, albeit not necessarily published; I’ve been a printer for 25 years. Printing is what I do and so I think the reason I chose print is because I personally would rather have a really nice magazine in my hand. If you see my magazines, you’ll note that they’re on really high-quality paper, highly varnished, nice binding; they just look good. And that’s important to me. I really wanted it to be something that a consumer would want to hold in their hands and read.

Samir Husni: And now I see that you’re coming out with a book?

Patrick Butson: Yes, I sent you a copy.

Samir Husni: Yes, I’m looking at it now. It’s not only a showcase for the vapor industry, but it’s also a coffee table-type book.

Patrick Butson: Very much so. That was my plan from the beginning, to make it a coffee table book, mainly because I want people to flip through it. Also because I kind of did it backwards; I figured out how big I wanted it and how I wanted it to feel and look and I went to the bookbinder and he told me I needed 144 pages and I thought it’s going to be hard for me to fill 144 pages; I’m going to need a lot of pictures. (Laughs)

Another reason that I decided to do it that way is because I want people to read it. I’m going to be giving many of them away, mailing them out to people in the industry. It’s one of those things where I want you to look at it; I designed it where each page has its own integrity, its own little story. Where people may want to only look at one page, but you can learn something from that particular story.

Samir Husni: So what’s next for Patrick?

Patrick Butson: Well, I’m still operating in the red, so I’m hoping to start breaking even soon. That would be a great goal to reach. And I just want to keep doing it and doing it well. And I hope it becomes this thing in the industry where I’m one of the people that everyone looks to for hope. Right now, vaping and e-cigs, the essence of them are filled with controversy and anxiety, who’s right and who’s wrong, and I’m trying to just send a more positive message and if I can continue to do that, I will be happy. And I hope people in the industry will allow this technology to become the gift to mankind that I feel it was meant to be.

Samir Husni: As you’re talking, I realize how many hats you have worn and still wear: printer, theologian, visionary and missionary for the industry now?

Patrick Butson: Maybe, maybe so. Missionary, I’ve never thought of it in those terms, but you’re right. I think you’re right, because that’s what I’d like to do. That would be fine with me.

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

Patrick Butson: The fact that in doing this, it’s taken a lot of work and a toll, not only on me physically, but it’s really taken a toll on my relationship with my family. It’s just one of these things where I’m not sure if it’s worth it. And that’s what keeps me up at night; is this effort, which has caused a lot of stress for me and my family with the traveling, because I go to all of these vape shows and I’m tired when I get home and I don’t spend as much time with my family; is it all worth it? Are all the sacrifices my family has had to put up with, worth it? They didn’t volunteer for this, after all, I volunteered them for it and that’s what bothers me and keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Chilled Magazine Is Raising Spirits With A 360° Degree Approach To Publishing – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher Jeff Greif

September 24, 2014

“I’m fully behind magazines and magazines have lived through television, they have lived through radio and they’ll live through the Internet, but we have to adapt and make our magazines a little bit easier to read, such as with smaller stories.” Jeff Greif

ChilledCoverNew Celebrities, vineyards, distilleries, libations and having fun responsibly; these are the main attributes of Chilled Magazine and the many components that make up the brand. Jeff Greif, whose past experience in the magazine media industry includes working at Marie Claire, Vogue, GQ and just a host of prestigious and illustrious titles, is now the publisher of the trade magazine that proudly resembles its consumer counterpart.

I recently spoke with Jeff about Chilled and its interesting subscription model, the magazine’s 360° approach to publishing – using print, digital and events to promote and propel the brand and the unique feature of a celebrity cover each and every issue. The conversation was definitely enlightening and should “raise the spirits” of anyone who has heard gloom and doom preached just one time too many regarding the future of print and its place within today’s publishing wheel.

So sit back, grab your drink of choice and enjoy “Chilling’” with Mr. Magazine™ and Jeff Greif, Publisher, Chilled Magazine.

But first the sound-bites…
Headshot
On the magazine’s tagline “Raise Your Spirits” and the DNA of Chilled: We re-launched the magazine three years ago and we took that tagline on when we launched the magazine and it’s sort of a play on words because it’s a spirits magazine and all the other spirits magazines are very, very serious and very responsible, as they should be. But we wanted to have fun, because at the end of the day when you’re drinking spirits you’re having fun. We wanted to be responsible, but on a lighter note.

On the story behind a subscription model that delivers immediately, instead of in 4 to 6 weeks: Well we’re a small magazine, so we have great customer service on our backend.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s faced at Chilled: We’re getting a lot of great feedback with our readership and we’re on a great trajectory. So there hasn’t been a stumbling block.

On the Chilled brand having such a complete 360° publishing model: Everything that we do is 360; we have a magazine, a tablet version, a website and we do events for clients because in the spirits industry events are very important.

On the fun and lighter side of Chilled, compared to other spirits magazines: We always have the celebrities as an overarching theme and that’s what makes us different and we try to get the celebrities involved in every part of the magazine, so that’s kind of our gift wrap, if you will.

On whether the crash of 2008 changed his thinking regarding magazine publishing: No, it didn’t. I’m fully behind magazines and magazines have lived through television, they have lived radio and they’ll live through the Internet, but we have to adapt and make our magazines a little bit easier to read, such as with smaller stories.

On whether the magazine’s glass is half-full or half-empty: I think our future still remains very positive. People are still very interested in the magazine; I think we’re doing something different in the marketplace and I think that they like the way that we work.

On what keeps him up at night: Not having enough time during the day and just trying to do everything we have to do.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jeff Greif, Publisher, Chilled Magazine…

Samir Husni: In this day and age when you have a tagline that reads “Raise Your Spirits” it’s a much-needed sentiment for the entire industry. Tell me a little more about Chilled Magazine and why you want to raise spirits.

Jeff Greif: Chilled Magazine has been really great. We re-launched the magazine three years ago and we took that tagline on when we launched the magazine and it’s sort of a play on words because it’s a spirits magazine and all the other spirits magazines are very, very serious and very responsible, as they should be. But we wanted to have fun, because at the end of the day when you’re drinking spirits you’re having fun. We wanted to be responsible, but on a lighter note. That’s why we always have a celebrity on the cover and why we always do very positive editorial.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I’ve noticed is that you have almost a completely different approach when it comes to your subscription model. If I subscribe to your magazine you will send me the current issue immediately, I don’t have to wait 4 to 6 weeks. If I subscribe for two or three years, you will send me a box of Liquid Ice energy drink and four back issues immediately. Is that in response to some experience you had in the industry with someone asking why do I have to wait 4 to 6 weeks to get my magazine? What’s the story behind the subscription model?

Jeff Greif: Well we’re a small magazine, so we have great customer service on our backend. When you subscribe to Condè Nast or a big magazine, everything is going through a third party fulfillment house that’s very big and carrying a lot of big magazines; we deal with a small, independent backend, so we’re able to sort of customize everything and give really great customer service.

Samir Husni: Since joining the magazine, what has been the biggest stumbling block for you during the re-launch and in making sure that Chilled gets the opportunity to raise as many spirits as possible?

Jeff Greif: This is one of the most amazing magazines that I have ever worked on; it’s grown consistently every year and we’re getting a lot of great feedback with our readership and we’re on a great trajectory. So there hasn’t been a stumbling block.

I think that at some point we’ll reach that maturity level and that’s when we’ll probably see a few stumbles along the road.

Samir Husni: I receive a lot of your emails, so I see that there is even more than the magazine…

Jeff Greif: Everything that we do is 360; we have a magazine, a tablet version, a website and we do events for clients because in the spirits industry events are very important. And we also work with our advertisers to help get their messages out through editorials, product-shots and through drink recipes. So everything we do is 360 and we also have email blasts; we have 20,000 opt-in subscribers for our email blasts.

Samir Husni: Compared to all the other spirits magazines and alcohol magazines; you mentioned that you always have a celebrity on the cover and always have some positive spin and you also have fun with the magazine. Tell me more about that DNA that you adapted for Chilled.

Jeff Greif: Our magazine is divided into three parts. We always have the celebrities as an overarching theme and that’s what makes us different and we try to get the celebrities involved in every part of the magazine, so that’s kind of our gift wrap, if you will.

The meat of the magazine is new products, so we try to work with our advertisers and non-advertisers to tell our readers what is new and innovative that’s coming out.

The second part of our book is about the people that make the industry happen and I think a lot of our competitors are following on the bandwagon on this. I think there were a lot of pictures of parties from other magazines and we wanted to do something where we tell our readers what other people are doing, how they are successful in the industry, so we do stories about bartenders, brand managers, presidents; people who make the spirits industry happen.

And then the editorial well is about the spirits themselves; it’s the story behind the distilleries, a story about a particular brand, and again, it’s about celebrities. A lot of celebrities own brands; such as George Clooney owns a particular brand or Kathie Lee Gifford owns a vineyard and that’s always interesting. So that’s our “gift wrap” on top of everything else and that makes it fun.

Samir Husni: In 2008, when the economy busted and technology burst onto the scene; did that in any way change your thinking about magazine publishing?

Jeff Greif: No, it didn’t. I’m fully behind magazines and magazines have lived through television, they have lived radio and they’ll live through the Internet, but we have to adapt and make our magazines a little bit easier to read, such as with smaller stories. But I think people still want the visual product. I also think everyone needs to be a 360 company.

We’re doing an original edit for our website and we have a tablet edition, but our magazine is thriving.

Samir Husni: Is print still your major source of revenue or is it the events; what’s your balance in that area?

Jeff Greif: Print is still our number one source.

Samir Husni: For Chilled is the glass half-full or half-empty; what’s the future?

Jeff Greif: I think our future still remains very positive. People are still very interested in the magazine; I think we’re doing something different in the marketplace and I think that they like the way that we work. This year we broke a few accounts and next year they’re not going to be supporting the trade spirits market, but they still want to figure out a way to work with us because we’re adaptable. We listen to what our client’s needs are and we don’t try to sell them something; we try to help them grow their business.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little more about that adaptability and the DNA that makes you continue to tick and click with the consumer.

Jeff Greif: I think again it’s the product that we offer, it’s a great product. I came from Condè Nast and Hearst before I started with Chilled and those are consumer magazines, and I think that we made Chilled look beautiful; we have glossy pages, spreads in the front of the book, we look like a consumer magazine, so even though we’re a trade magazine, the brands love it because there is a luxury perception about it.

They also can get in the magazine, people like the brand managers and the brand presidents, so they feel good about the magazine and I think that’s why we’re doing so well.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Jeff Greif: Just that we’re very excited about the publicity that is going to surround the October issue. It will have a triple cover and this will be our first “spectacular” cover such as this and I believe it’s really going to take us to the next level.

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

Jeff Greif: (Laughs) Not having enough time during the day and just trying to do everything we have to do. We’re a small team and we wear many hats and I love what I’m doing so I’m always staying up to think of more ideas.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Overlooked Piece Of The “Puzzle”…The Print Product That Has Always Been Interactive – Puzzle Magazines…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Bruce Sherbow, Senior Vice President, Penny Publications

September 22, 2014

“I don’t think digital will be the demise of print at all, in fact, I don’t know why we keep talking about the death of print because I don’t think it’s happening.” Bruce Sherbow

Often when the world thinks of successful magazines its first mental vision are of titles such as Cosmopolitan, People or Better Homes & Gardens. Granted, those are all very prestigious and popular magazines and certainly can be described as successful.

But there is an entire category of print publications that is often overlooked by the industry and the consumer when it comes to thinking about profitability and being extremely lucrative. The puzzle category is one that has been an audience favorite for many, many years and in actuality has seen more interaction with the consumer than any digital site or app ever created.

Bruce Sherbow small web Bruce Sherbow is Senior Vice President of Penny Publications, the reigning queen of all things “puzzling.” I reached out to Bruce recently to find out more about the category and all its retail and distributive proponents. The conversation was both interesting and very informative.

From discussing the future of Penny print to the digital realms of puzzle mania, Bruce remains focused on one thing: providing the best in puzzle entertainment to the consumer and making it as comfortable and easy as possible to implement that goal for the buying public.

So sit back, grab a pencil and your favorite Penny Publications Crossword and follow the clues as you solve any questions you might have about the puzzle category with the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bruce Sherbow, Senior Vice President, Penny Publications.

puzzle7-5

But first the sound-bites…

On the well-kept secret of the puzzle category:
It is an interesting category and I think generally speaking, people who are not intimately involved with puzzle magazines, in one way or another, think of them as interchangeable; crosswords is a big melting pot term that’s used.

On Penny Publications being the major player on the puzzle field:
In 1996 we purchased Dell Magazines and we combined those lines and now we have about 62% of the North American retail market in puzzle magazines.

On why Penny Publications brought Sunshine School to the print marketplace:
This particular line, Sunshine School, was formed in a conversation with Wal-Mart. They were looking for something in the way of a periodical-type of magazine that had a lot of worksheets that you find in books that maybe change once or twice a year.

On the impact, or lack of, that digital has had on their print products:
It’s not very easy to measure that. We think that our print customer is a little bit of a different person.

On his biggest stumbling block: Our biggest stumbling block is probably along the same lines as every publisher on the newsstands today and that’s just the disruptions that are going on in the marketplace and in our channel and the difficulty in getting copies where they need to be.

On his most pleasant surprise:
It’s a great business. The newsstand business and I’m not just talking puzzles now, I’ve been in puzzles for the last 15 years, but the newsstand business is tremendous.

On what publishers can do to help retailers:
I think that we need a continual education program in this business with retailers and I think at the highest levels we can and down from there.

On what keeps him up at night:
I think a lot about some of the things we’ve talked about, especially educating the retailer about the category and also about trying to work with wholesalers on merchandising aspects at the fixture to make sure the products are displayed correctly.

puzzle6-4 And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bruce Sherbow, Senior Vice President, Penny Publications…

Samir Husni: The whole puzzle category has been almost like the little secret of the industry, nobody really talks about it, yet it takes up a big chunk of the newsstands with so many titles. Tell me a little bit more about the category.

Bruce Sherbow: It is an interesting category and I think generally speaking, people who are not intimately involved with puzzle magazines, in one way or another, think of them as interchangeable; crosswords is a big melting pot term that’s used.

In fact, there are really six different categories within the actual puzzle magazine publishing industry. The largest segment on the newsstands today is Word Seeks and Word Searches and that’s about 40% of the category. And then Crosswords follow that with about 22%. Of course, a phenomenon that everyone is aware of is Sudoku, which came into real mass awareness about six years ago and had a zero part of the category then and now has settled in at about 11 or 12% and at its heyday probably got up to about 20%. So there is a lot of variance there.

And Sudoku is also interesting because where most of the other categories within puzzles show the demographics to be older and female; Sudoku is all over the board: young, old, male and female. Everybody likes Sudoku.

There is a lot of education that we have tried to do over the years with retailers and wholesalers about the category, so that there is some distinction between the different kinds of products and how they should be displayed.

For instance, generally speaking, puzzles are displayed on the lower tier of a magazine fixture around comics or teen titles, when really they should be displayed more in the middle so that some of the demographic, our older customers, don’t have to bend down to the ground and try and get what they’re looking for. These are just some things that we try and educate people on.

Samir Husni: We used to have so many different publishing groups that published the puzzle magazines and now technically we have one major player in the field: Penny Publications.

puzzle3-3 Bruce Sherbow: Yes, we had Harris Publications and Dell Magazines at one time. Dell was our largest competitor when we were Penny Press. And in 1996 we purchased Dell Magazines and we combined those lines and now we have about 62% of the North American retail market in puzzle magazines.

Samir Husni: And you keep on expanding. Late last year and early this year you launched a new line: the Sunshine School aimed at children – Kindergarten and First Grade. So in the midst of this entire digital environment; why are you bringing more print titles to the marketplace and specifically for children?

Bruce Sherbow: This particular line, Sunshine School, was formed in a conversation with Wal-Mart. They were looking for something in the way of a periodical-type of magazine that had a lot of worksheets that you find in books that maybe change once or twice a year. Wal-Mart was looking for something a little fresher, such as each month or with a higher frequency so that’s why we started this line.

We’ve also had in the past a license with Nickelodeon where for a number of years we had a children’s magazine, so this was an opportunity for us to really provide a high-quality, four-color type of product to compete with the book-type of worksheets. And you know puzzles are more black and white, so it’s easier for consumers to work on a pulp-type of stock page, but with this we wanted something that certainly competed with some of the higher-quality color products.

It’s just launching; we’re now quarterly. And we’re looking forward to some good returns on it.

Puzzle2-2 Samir Husni: What was the impact of digital on your products? Have you seen your sales in the majority of the puzzle magazines plummet or you’re keeping your status quo in the marketplace? I do hear people saying: let’s do some Sudoku on my tablet or my iPad; did you see any tangible impact on your print puzzle magazines?

Bruce Sherbow: It’s not very easy to measure that. We think that our print customer is a little bit of a different person. We actually launched a website about a year ago called Puzzle Nation and it was an online place to go and do different types of puzzle magazines and do them interactively. And we distribute millions and millions of copies at newsstands of puzzle magazines and we did a lot of advertising within those magazines about the site. And frankly, the bad news is that the website didn’t do very well, but the good news is we don’t think there was any major conversion from our print people flocking to an online site. (Laughs)

Now you’re talking more specifically about mobile. We just haven’t seen a measurable move from print over to mobile. We do know that there are lots of people playing those kinds of games and perhaps they’re skewing a little younger than our print customer, but we actually have Crossword, Word Seek and Sudoku apps in the marketplace and in the app stores, such as Amazon. But we’re not seeing a lot of crossover there.

Samir Husni: One of the most unadvertised features of the industry is the fact that puzzle magazines have always been an interactive publication; you don’t just buy it to look at the pictures. And yet we surrendered those terms like “interactive” to the new technology; you rarely hear anyone in the magazine media industry describing a print magazine as being interactive with the audience. Yet puzzle magazines have always been the leaders of that interactivity; why do you think that the magazine media business has surrendered a lot of the great characteristics of print to digital technology?

puzzle-1 Bruce Sherbow: I think that it’s certainly a lot easier for a consumer to get in their mindset a celebrity-type of information or fashion information, cooking information, which is also a hot print category now too: food and cooking, but it’s also easy for the consumer to pull up a recipe online or put it on their tablet while they’re in the kitchen cooking. A lot of people find it convenient to go online daily and see what the celebrities are up to as well.

But I think that the real impact with the printed material is that the magazines, for example with the untimely deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, the print magazines showed what they really could do within a matter of days when it came to getting information out in a printed format to the streets.

But on a regular basis I think people might be tending to gravitate toward the Internet for current information whereas with puzzles we’re really finding that people like to carry them around and have that piece of paper with them and work on it when they can.

Of course, we’re not blind to the fact that the app side of it is a growing side of the business. And we’re certainly there to try and capture what we can. But right now it’s a little bit different customer, we think. That could change as some of our older print customers die off, quite frankly, and a younger generation that’s now maybe teenaged and has grown up with interactivity and all the technology, who might discover puzzles and find them attractive, that demographic could gravitate more toward online.

Samir Husni: What has been your biggest stumbling block when it comes to all the titles that you have?

Bruce Sherbow: Our biggest stumbling block is probably along the same lines as every publisher on the newsstands today and that’s just the disruptions that are going on in the marketplace and in our channel and the difficulty in getting copies where they need to be, when they need to be there and on a regular continuing basis.

I’ve been in this business for over forty years and 28 or 30 of those years has been as a wholesaler, so I understand certainly the other side, but hopefully when the dust settles on some of the disruption, we’ll be able to really, and when I say “we” I mean the channel or the industry, we’ll be able to focus on getting back to basics, because to me that’s the biggest stumbling block right now. I mean, we can print the copies and we can ship the copies, but with what the wholesalers are going through right now and the infrastructures that have to be created for all this new business, the key is to get it merchandised well.

And I think too that a lot of retailers have over the years, because of the DSD (Direct Store Delivery) nature of our business, not taken enough responsibility once the product enters their store and certainly with SBT (Scanned-Based Trading) they take even less responsibility. It would be great if we could as an industry educate retailers about how important it is to check their check-outs, to check their mainlines and make sure at the end of the day, when it’s all a mess, it gets straightened. It’s just like bottles of shampoo or cans of beans; they have got to be visible in order to be sold. I believe that’s a big stumbling block right now for our business.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant surprise that you’ve experienced in your 40+ years in the business?

Bruce Sherbow: It’s a great business. The newsstand business and I’m not just talking puzzles now, I’ve been in puzzles for the last 15 years, but the newsstand business is tremendous. We get a lot of information out to people on a very timely basis and there are not a lot of other industries and I’m not talking on the technology side, but on the bricks and mortar side, that can move that quickly and be that nimble. And I think that that is really key for us when it comes to maintaining a growing business, as long as we educate our retailers about that. But I think it’s a great channel.

Samir Husni: And now in your responsibility also with the Periodical and Book Association of America; do you think that we can do anything as magazine publishers to help retailers? And do you think retailers understand the value of the printed magazines today or are we devaluing our own publications?

Bruce Sherbow: I think that we need a continual education program in this business with retailers and I think at the highest levels we can and down from there. Jerry Lynch just gave a great little summary of the Willard Bishop latest study, I won’t go into those details, but magazines are very, very important to retailers. The magazine-buyer within a location represents 32% of sales in that store. So the magazine-buyer is very important. It’s a very profitable picture for the retailers, but because we as a channel do so much work for that retailer that they don’t have to do anything, it’s kind of an unknown, invisible little area, I think that is the cause of some of the troubles this industry has had in terms of declining sales and weakening infrastructure. I think retailers tend to get tired of hearing some of the negativity and I think that we need to educate them.

But what can we do and what can PBAA do? I’m hopeful that as an industry group perhaps that we can come together as a group and speak with one voice to retailers and let them know how important it is in real numbers and what it does for their sales of other products in their stores.

And also I’d like to be able to see a group work with the wholesale magazine distributors on merchandising concepts. I’m not talking about fancy new racks and those types of things; I’m talking about the basics. How can we as an industry create a check-list or something so that we all know what’s expected when that merchandiser gets in the store; what are they going to do and how are they going to do it? And there are a lot of people who are in retail stores every day who are in our industry and if they had a check-list that they could look at a magazine fixture as they’re working in that store and then give feedback, I think that we could correct a lot of the problems, because again, we have got to have that merchandising correct so that it can be seen by consumers.

Samir Husni: Some retailers that I have spoken with have told me that the magazine industry is one that is digging its own grave. Every time I pick up a newspaper or read an interview with an industry leader all they ever say is that the future is digital. Why should we help? If they don’t believe in their own futures, why should we be involved?

Bruce Sherbow: I can understand that feeling because there has been a lot of doom and gloom being professed by trade publications. There is no question that sales have been on a downward trend for lots of reasons and I think some of those reasons have nothing to do with our business, it has to do with the economy and other things in general, but we also have titles that we publish digitally. When we bought Dell Magazines we acquired Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock, Asimov’s, Analog and Horoscope Magazine and those are titles that are a heavy subscription base, not really a newsstand base except in bookstores. And then about five years ago we started digital publishing these and it was a great business for those titles. But it’s also now plateaued out.

Part of that reason, and I was in a meeting recently in New York where this suggestion was made as to the reason why they plateaued, five or six years ago the digital publishing was a kind of new concept and a lot of people wanted to try it out, tablets and readers were a bit newer, people would move over from the printed side to digital. But now it’s plateauing and people who have decided that they’d rather have digital are already there, people who have tried it but don’t like it are back to print and are staying there and there is not a lot of excitement anymore about the hardware or software that is associated right now with digital publishing.

So I don’t think that digital publishing is in fact going to take away or be the demise of all print, but I’m also not blind, because I know certainly there are advantages to some degree of interactivity, we talked about that a little bit. If you’re online reading a fashion magazine you can click a link and go see a video of someone wearing the fashion or something like that. But there are also some interesting things happening in print which are more interactive, but we’re not a magazine that engages in a lot of the new technology with advertising, so I can’t comment fully on that, but there is some happening. But I don’t think digital will be the demise of print at all, in fact, I don’t know why we keep talking about the death of print because I don’t think it’s happening.

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

Bruce Sherbow: That’s a good question. There is no single thing that keeps me up; this has been a great business the entire time I’ve been in it. We’re going through some challenges; there is no question about that.

But at certain times things keep me awake, like in March and April with the confusion about Source Interlink. Things like that keep me awake. And I think a lot about some of the things we’ve talked about, especially educating the retailer about the category and also about trying to work with wholesalers on merchandising aspects at the fixture to make sure the products are displayed correctly. Those are the things that I think about a lot and certainly wanting to stay engaged with our audience.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

September 16, 2014

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Fulenwider: No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Fulenwider: Do you mean at Hearst?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Fulenwider: It’s me. (Laughs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

September 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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



Now for the sound-bites…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Yes, all at once.

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

Samir Husni: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: And the biggest stumbling block?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

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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