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Cultivating A Broader Audience By Expanding Content And Topics – The Fader Magazine Celebrates 15 Years Of Publication & Welcomes Back An Old Friend…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Naomi Zeichner, Editor-In-Chief

October 20, 2014

“The Internet and print are not in competition and the way we work here at The Fader is when we’re pitching stories for web or for the print magazine, we do it in the same way.” Naomi Zeichner

Street-smart and dedicated to emerging music and artists whose stories haven’t always been told, The Fader magazine is celebrating its 15th year of publication with a new and improved attitude and a desire to expand its coverage of the music scene to many other facets of that community, from the culture of dance and comedy to the sometimes shadowy world of drugs and their usage.

At the helm for the christening of this new journey is Naomi Zeichner, who originally joined The Fader in 2010 as a music intern, and proceeded to work her way up to associate editor, and more recently senior editor, before leaving to join BuzzFeed as music editor earlier this year.

Coming back to The Fader, Naomi is passionate and excited about the direction the print magazine and its digital component is heading and was exuberant about sharing The Fader’s past, present and future with me.

So, sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Naomi Zeichner, Editor, The Fader. You won’t be disappointed…

But first the sound-bites:

NaomiZeichnerOn The Fader’s fusion of print and digital: All of that is a part of what we’re going to do here, but I think that said, in my opinion, it doesn’t come into conflict with print; they go together very well.

On whether there will ever be a day when The Fader will not have a print component: I don’t think so, not anytime soon.
On what the audience should expect from The Fader’s new editor:
I think our readers should expect that we’re going to be doing more journalism daily. People used to look to The Fader and still look to The Fader, for the very special, reported stories that drop six times a year. And now I don’t think they’ll have to wait as long.

On why The Fader has survived for 15 years when others have failed:
I think it’s much like I said before; it’s that we really stay true to our mission, which is we tell stories in a way that people haven’t told them; we dig below the surface.

On the challenges The Fader has faced:
I think with any media organization a big challenge is just how quickly the web changes and how quickly the way we are able to tell stories changes and I actually think some of the most important people in journalism right now are developers and people who know how to code, they give journalists the best tools.

On whether the changes at The Fader will alienate the magazine’s core audience or expand their audience:
I think that if we did it in a wrong way, if I said, oh I’m just going to start posting recaps of scandals every week; then yes, people would look at that and say, what the heck is this?

On whether the magazine has a mentor or another website or publication it strives to emulate:
Yes, there are lots of places that I love. I wouldn’t say that I have one mentor or one particular place that I’m looking at for ideas.

On what keeps her up at night:
So what keeps me up at night is the idea that I have the responsibility to some of these people, whose music has changed my life and made it better, and to share them with the world and bring them maybe from a small audience to a bigger one, at least to the Internet.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Naomi Zeichner, Editor, The Fader…

Samir Husni: Most people are transitioning from print to web and digital, but you’re reversing the trend; are you a futuristic person and know something everyone else doesn’t?

Picture 16 Naomi Zeichner: Well yes, I do think that I’m a futuristic person, but no, to be serious, we’re not reversing the trend, I think we’re just going to go in both directions at once. It’s a big goal of mine here to expand what we do online, we hired a new video producer, and we’re working on potentially doing more coverage at night and on the weekends, bigger interviews and more features online, doing more of what we’ve always done in our magazine more often and the place to do that is of course on the web, and doing more news reporting and really trying to expand the type of journalism that we do on breaking news daily online.

All of that is a part of what we’re going to do here, but I think that said, in my opinion, it doesn’t come into conflict with print; they go together very well. And the way I think about our magazine; our reader reads online every day, every minute on their phone and they follow everything with Fader and it’s giving and telling them information and it’s exciting, but it’s nice also at the end of a couple of months to have a yearbook of it, a little digest that gives the reader an update on everything, with what’s happened in the world over a couple of months and gives you something to keep and remember it by. And to capture that history, because I think for young people right now the world is moving so quickly, especially in The Fader’s market, which is emerging music and I think music moves very quickly today.

We have the resources to do wonderful journalism. A lot of the artists we cover, other people don’t do substantial interviews with them or there isn’t other photojournalist’s covering those scenes, so because we have the resources to do that we’re really creating a historical record with our print magazine. Also, it’s beautiful and fun to read, so we think of the magazine as an archive of all the work that we’re doing online for history, but also a gift of entertainment to our readers and something special for them to keep.

Samir Husni: Are you saying that you’ll never see the day where The Fader will not be in print?

Naomi Zeichner: I don’t think so, not anytime soon. I’m not a psychic (laughs), but for now, for the next year and the foreseeable future, we’re very committed to print.

Samir Husni: Tell me, with the experience that you gained from working with BuzzFeed and your history with The Fader; it’s my understanding that you started there as an intern…

Naomi Zeichner: Yes, that’s true.

Samir Husni: What are your plans; what should your audience expect from the new editor at an established magazine like The Fader?

Naomi Zeichner: I think our readers should expect that we’re going to be doing more journalism daily. People used to look to The Fader and still look to The Fader, for the very special, reported stories that drop six times a year. And now I don’t think they’ll have to wait as long.

Many of the people who work at The Fader, including myself, didn’t go to school for journalism and are not necessarily traditionally-trained journalists, but that’s that. Everybody here is very intelligent, creative and we all work well together, so a part of my goal is that our whole staff will become more aggressive, thorough and tenacious journalists. I think that’s a big part of it, breaking news and investigative stories that matter about the musicians we cover and also the culture surrounding them.

I also want to expand our cultural coverage, both online and in print. We already do a wonderful job of covering music, but I also want to dig deeper into the culture surrounding them, so things like comedy, dancing culture and drug culture; just an array of topics and just the things that matter to young people in America. Books, writers and television, things like that. So we’re going to work to expand our coverage of those things.

I really don’t have any big plans for a dramatic change. I think The Fader is wonderful and that’s why I wanted to come back and be a part of it. It’s survived for 15 years because the people that it covers really care about it and love to read it. And coming back here, I was so thrilled by how many people reached out to me, writers, friends and musicians because The Fader means so much to them and I don’t think that people necessarily feel so personal toward a publication as a whole anymore, so their caring means a lot. I think we’re just going to continue creating strong content that our readers trust.

And we’re going to continue to grow the partnership programs that we do and making sure that when we team up with Vitamin Water or whoever, that we do really amazing stuff.

Samir Husni: Why did The Fader survive where others failed in this genre of magazines?

Picture 17 Naomi Zeichner: That’s a very good question. I think it’s much like I said before; it’s that we really stay true to our mission, which is we tell stories in a way that people haven’t told them; we dig below the surface. I believe that in emerging music, like I said, a lot of these artists are not covered by general interest magazines or by newspapers and they’re certainly not covered by newspapers before they’re covered by The Fader. We’ve always been game on spending money to send reporters to travel, to send photographers places and really uncover new things. And for that reason I think The Fader is indispensable. While other people were sort of picking up what was already in air and working on expanding what they were doing online by aggregating things; The Fader was sticking true to its mission to tell reported stories.

Also, The Fader has just stayed cool. Artists really, even though we might have a more intimate audience, they want to work with us because they see The Fader as a place that’s really going to show their truth and make them look good. So I believe that’s part of the reason we’ve survived.

And The Fader has always been very bold; it has never shied away from doing a topic that’s very experimental. The result of that is a lot of people are looking to The Fader. I always say that Drake, a very famous rapper, I think is reading The Fader to decide who he’s going to work with next. It’s not just the younger readers who are looking at us, but it’s the artists as well and it creates a community and the community is able to participate in our events and because we created that whole world, not just a news organization, but an actual cultural service to everyone, that’s another part of why the magazine hasn’t gone away.

Samir Husni: You sound as though you are painting a very nice picture of a rose garden (laughs); what are some of the thorns that you have encountered or expect to along the way? What stumbling blocks do you anticipate having to face and how do plan on overcoming them?

Naomi Zeichner: I think with any media organization a big challenge is just how quickly the web changes and how quickly the way we are able to tell stories changes and I actually think some of the most important people in journalism right now are developers and people who know how to code, they give journalists the best tools. And I think about that all the time; how do we make our CMS really nimble and I think that’s a challenge, but it’s not a challenge just for The Fader, it’s a challenge for everyone.

I think change is always hard for everyone. If we at The Fader can make our authors feel free to try new things, new ways of telling stories; maybe instead of doing an interview as just a normal Q & A, doing a longer report or making it more like a list, we will continue to grow. Just experimenting with different types of storytelling and that’s something readers expect now, they want to read new and exciting things. I think the readers are more experimental than ever and get their content from many different types of media. And that can be a challenge for any writer, to always be trying to grow and do new things. As I said earlier, a lot of the writers here at The Fader don’t come from traditional journalistic backgrounds and they’re people that love music and are a part of the culture. And that’s another challenge for us as a team, to always help each other become better writers, reporters and journalists.

Samir Husni: You mentioned earlier that you are going to expand the coverage of The Fader to have more than music; you’re going to include culture, books, drug culture, you name it. Do you envision any problems with doing that, such as losing your die-hard, core audience who for 15 years have loved the magazine the way it is? Or do you think the expansion will help you gain more readers and a larger audience?

Naomi Zeichner: I think that if we did it in a wrong way, if I said, oh I’m just going to start posting recaps of scandals every week; then yes, people would look at that and say, what the heck is this? I could get this anywhere else. But if there’s a comedian that really matters to all Fader readers that is a part of the same culture that the musicians are a part of and we want to do a reported feature on them or put them on the cover, I don’t think anybody would blink an eye.

Musicians today and how they promote themselves and how they think about themselves, they’re just as much cultural figures as they are musicians and sometimes who a person is and the story they have to tell is just as important as the music they make. Knowing that, I think we’re all very eager to cover other figures in this world. People who are Internet celebrities or Internet poets and people who design programs have the same stories to tell as people who are making music. And they’re all interacting with each other on the Internet anyway and they’re all being talked about on our Twitter timelines, so I think we’re just true to telling the stories of the people who we really think matter that haven’t been told elsewhere.

Samir Husni: There is nothing new in our magazine media world; what do you look at to get new ideas? Does The Fader have a mentor, another publication or website that you look to and strive to emulate?

Naomi Zeichner: Yes, there are lots of places that I love. I wouldn’t say that I have one mentor or one particular place that I’m looking at for ideas. I love how Billboard engages their charts, I think they do a great job at really explaining them and I love the fact that they cover so many different genres with the same respect. That’s something I love.

I love how Bloomberg Businessweek looks in print, it’s amazing. I don’t follow the stock market, but I can read Businessweek cover to cover. I love New York magazine and how they blend print and online seamlessly, even though they’re two very different projects for them and I think that’s something that The Fader can aspire to. I love stuff like Adult magazine, it’s not print only, but it’s like an art-type, print-only publication. I love sitting down to read something like that.

But I read stuff from all over the web. Readers today are not married to any publication; they’re married to a good story. So aggressively, online and in print, we’re going to work really hard on good stories.

I believe there are so many great publications out there right now. And I feel very lucky as a young editor, but also as a person who grew up loving magazines and loving the Internet that we’re actually at such a healthy place right now. There is a lot of bad news in media, but there’s a lot of good news too.

Samir Husni: And which side do you think you lean toward more; the bad news or the good news?

Naomi Zeichner: The good news.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add or emphasize?

Naomi Zeichner: Just that the Internet and print are not in competition and the way we work here at The Fader is when we’re pitching stories for web or for the print magazine, we do it in the same way. The only big difference is the content in the magazine is on a more rigid schedule and more hands touch it, because literally the printers touch it, but the editing and thinking processes are exactly the same. For me, they’ve just never been in competition. I believe we’re very lucky here to have owners who believe in print and let us do a really fun thing that we are really proud of. And we feel very proud every time we publish a story

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

Naomi Zeichner: (Laughs) I’m thinking about how to introduce new templates to my website so we can build crazier types of stories. I’m thinking about how my writers can write the best headlines. I’m thinking about all the new songs that are going to come out tomorrow or the mixed tape that I downloaded today that I love so much. I’m thinking about how much I would like to talk to the producer of a song that I love. I’m thinking about how excited I am to come into work and see what my coworkers are wearing.

I’m thinking about a lot of things, but I came back to The Fader because it’s a very exciting place. I stayed here a long time and we all worked very hard, very long days on a small team, but I’m genuinely excited to walk into this building every day and I also feel that the artists we cover are looking to us to tell their stories. So what keeps me up at night is the idea that I have the responsibility to some of these people, whose music has changed my life and made it better, and to share them with the world and bring them maybe from a small audience to a bigger one, at least to the Internet. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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A New Conversation With Consumers: The Revamping Of Consumer Reports. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor, Ellen Kampinsky & VP General Manager, Brent Diamond.

October 16, 2014

“A lot of the changes were designed to do two things: create a contemporary magazine, because readers are used to getting their information from a variety of media, particularly from contemporary, sophisticated magazines and we wanted to make our mission very obvious and clear.” Ellen Kampinsky

Consumer Reports-1 There is one rule of thumb for most any board game played; you have to roll the dice if you plan on moving around the board to win. Sometimes in the world of magazine media, the rules aren’t any different.

Since 1936 Consumer Reports magazine has been the most trusted source for reviews and comparisons of consumer products and reports from in-house laboratory testing in the world. But with the November 2014 issue, some things are changing, in fact a lot of things are changing, however the mission and focus of the magazine are not changing. Looking out for the consumer hasn’t changed nor will it change, according to Brent Diamond and Ellen Kampinsky, two of the driving forces behind the powerhouse magazine.

But is this the biggest gamble in the history of the magazine? Have they rolled the dice too hard with the revamp of a trusted brand with loyal and committed customers? And is having feature stories in a magazine that usually reports statistics, lists and reviews something the audience can relate to?

I went to Ellen Kampinsky, Editor, and Brent Diamond, VP General Manager, to find out the answer to those questions and many more about the “new & improved” Consumer Reports. I think you’ll find their answers very enlightening.

So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Ellen and Brent and learn how a 78-year-old brand can be reborn into the 21st century.

But first the sound-bites:


On the reasons for the change:
Really the impetus for the revamp was to create a much more relevant and deeper engagement with our readers and secondly to highlight all the great things that we do on behalf of consumers.

On the reaction to the November issue (the first new edition released Sept. 30) from the magazine’s readers and others:
Yes, we’ve gotten more feedback than we anticipated. Both positive, and there have been some detractors; change can be hard for people, these are very, very loyal, long-term subscribers. So, we’ve gotten a lot of both types of reactions.

On whether they went too far or this change was needed:
A lot of the changes were designed to do two things: create a contemporary magazine, because readers are used to getting their information from a variety of media, particularly from contemporary, sophisticated magazines and we wanted to make our mission very obvious and clear.

On the magazine’s “Advocate” section:
Part of the role of an advocate section is to be involved in a dialogue with the readers. It’s there for them and a lot of the information in that section is generated by them.

On whether they’re worried the revamp will shrink or obliterate the magazine’s original DNA:
The part of our DNA that will likely never change is that what we really offer that other magazines don’t is tested, unbiased information for consumers.

On why their “no advertising accepted” business model works for them:
There are people, as much today as ever before, who will pay for valuable information that helps them make smarter and better decisions.

On whether they ever envision a day when Consumer Reports will be digital-only with no print edition:
I can foresee delivering the product in various and different ways, but I don’t think the mission and the core of what we do will ever change, whether there continues to be a magazine 20 years from now or not. I don’t know.

On whether more book-a-zine type products are on the horizon:
Where we start from all the time is a need in the marketplace or a need that consumers have and if there’s a need there, we’ll try and find a way to fill it.

On what keeps them up at night:
This is not a cliché, but what keeps me up at night is the thought of not evolving and not changing quick enough to match how consumers are consuming information today. (Brent Diamond)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ellen Kampinsky, Editor, and Brent Diamond, VP General Manager, Consumer Reports…

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the revamping of the magazine. And I know that it’s much more than just a redesign. Can you tell me why you decided now was the time for this and the reasoning behind the change?

Usage: Story: Brand: Model: Brent Diamond CU: Photographer: John Walsh Brent Diamond: I don’t know if you recall, but well over a year ago I had a brief conversation with you and that was just as we were exploring and really trying to decide where to go.

So what we have done is a fairly in depth analyses of our business and in the end a couple of things were highlighted: our subscriber base was pretty flat for the past six years. For every new subscriber that we brought in, we were losing a subscriber, so we were just maintaining and going along status quo.

Really the impetus for the revamp was to create a much more relevant and deeper engagement with our readers and secondly to highlight all the great things that we do on behalf of consumers. And we felt that if we combined those two things we could have a much more meaningful relationship with our customers and therefore we could find more customers and keep them. In a nutshell, that’s what we’re trying to do.

Samir Husni: I know the new issue has only been on the newsstand for a few days; what has been the reaction? Have you been bombarded with people sending you emails crying, “What have you done?” or have you been hearing the opposite, “Wow! We love it?”

Brent Diamond: One thing you should know is that newsstand is only about 7 % of our base of customers. And while that’s an important piece of our business, we’re more worried about the subscriber base. And yes, we’ve gotten more feedback than we anticipated. Both positive, and there have been some detractors; change can be hard for people, these are very, very loyal, long-term subscribers. So, we’ve gotten a lot of both types of reactions.

What we’ve done is invited the people who have expressed both the positive and the negative comments to join our advisory panel to help us to continue to shape and evolve the magazine.

Samir Husni: Ellen, as the editor it’s as though you’re taking this enormous cruise ship and trying to make a turn on a dime; do you think you’ve gone too far with the first issue or do you think you needed to make this drastic change?

Ellen Kampinsky Ellen Kampinsky: I think the magazine needed a couple of things to make it a successful, contemporary magazine. It needed some reorganization of the sections so that it was clear what the readers were seeing. We needed to highlight our mission; we added features that tell readers that we are working for them and tells them how they can get involved and be empowered. Some of these things are absolutely necessary I think, because we do something that no one else does; we’re there for the reader, not for advertisers, and I think it was really important to make that manifest. A lot of the changes were designed to do two things: create a contemporary magazine, because readers are used to getting their information from a variety of media, particularly from contemporary, sophisticated magazines and we wanted to make our mission very obvious and clear.

Samir Husni: And I noticed you’ve added an “Advocate” section to the magazine. So, are you going to be more involved than ever? The magazine has always had an advocacy role and a very consumer centric approach; how do you envision this new section adding to that existing role? Specifically because you’ve never had advertising and I doubt that you ever will and yet, you are one of the largest magazines in the industry.

Ellen Kampinsky: Part of the role of an advocate section is to be involved in a dialogue with the readers. It’s there for them and a lot of the information in that section is generated by them. And we get the intake on that, not just from the magazine, but also online and we recognize the reader is part of the media spectrum, so we ask them descending questions for the “Problem Solver” or “Ask Our Expert” and we ask them to get involved by signing a petition or by writing their congressperson or going online. We ask them to send in reader tips, either by mail or online and for the best reader tip we’ll pay them $100.

We just want this constant dialogue going on, this constant two-way street with the reader and that’s what the “Advocate” section is all about.

Samir Husni: Do you think that there’s a danger that you may have went too far and Consumer Reports is now competing with other magazines that focus on a single-topic cover story? I mean, do you feel that now the magazine is more in sync with the rest of the magazines that are available to the consumer? And how are you going to protect your DNA, which are the tests and the rankings that you offer your readers?

Brent Diamond: I think that particular issue (the first new issue) had fewer products in it than we normally have, that happened to be a fairly issue-oriented month for us and so while it might appear that we went a little too far, it was just the editorial make-up of that given month. I think you’ll see in the next issue that it’s much more heavily product-focused.

But the part of our DNA that will likely never change is that what we really offer that other magazines don’t is tested, unbiased information for consumers. So we have no problem telling you that this is a great product and you should buy it. On the other hand, we don’t have an issue with saying this really isn’t a great product and you should avoid it. And that will remain a very key component in what we do. And there is nobody else that does that.

Ellen Kampinsky: And the ratings will always be a part of our core product, the ratings and the listings. I mean, it’s a combination of product and services. And you’ll see a lot of that in the December issue.

Samir Husni: You are one of the few magazines left in the country that doesn’t accept advertising, not that you couldn’t get it, but you don’t take the advertising. Do you think this is a sustainable business model for 2014 and the future? And if so, why do you think other publishing houses aren’t going in your direction; you charge a hefty subscription price and you charge for your digital; why do you think it’s working for you and you’re unique?

Brent Diamond: There are people, as much today as ever before, who will pay for valuable information that helps them make smarter and better decisions. I can’t speak for why other publishers don’t do it, but for us it’s always going to be a value proposition for the reader, which really goes back to why we did all of this. We have to remain invaluable to all of these readers because that is our business and our revenue model. So the deeper we’re engaged with them, the more meaningful discussions we have with them, the more we’ve become a critical part of their lives, to the point where they don’t make big decisions without working with us.

And that’s what makes us different. I don’t know of another magazine or media company that really does that.

Samir Husni: Ellen, as an editor of a magazine that has no advertising; do you feel like you’re on cloud nine? Do you feel your responsibility is more or less?

Ellen Kampinsky: (Laughs) I absolutely do feel like I’m on cloud nine. It’s so terrific to be able to call a spade a spade, this works, this doesn’t work. It’s freeing and it makes you appreciate what journalism can do at its best.

Samir Husni: If the November issue is an indication of the future; where do you think the point of differentiation will be between Consumer Reports in 2015 and Consumer Reports before then?

Ellen Kampinsky: I think taking into account the people who consume their information in various ways, that the visuals are as much a part of the information as the text, they work hand-in-hand, recognizing how smart our readers are, how varied their lives are, and then I think it’s just cranking it up another notch to create the ultimate, ultimate service magazine; we’re already in first place there anyway, but then taking it up to the next level of service.

Samir Husni: You are doing all of these changes, but I read one of your comments where you said that you would never put one of the Kardashians on the cover. (Laughs)

Ellen Kampinsky: (Also laughs) Are you asking am I planning to change that? Maybe Justin Bieber? No, I don’t think so.

Samir Husni: You’re investing a lot of money in the revamp of the print edition, but do you ever envision a day when Consumer Reports will be only online or digital?

Brent Diamond: I don’t know. I think the way we all consume media is continually changing, but will there be a day when you don’t get a print edition of Consumer Reports? I can foresee delivering the product in various and different ways, but I don’t think the mission and the core of what we do will ever change, whether there continues to be a magazine 20 years from now or not. I don’t know. As long as people continue to want to consume media that way, we’ll continue doing it. But I believe the point is, we’ll evolve with our readers and the way they consume information.

Samir Husni: Ellen, do you think it would be different editing a magazine that does not have a print edition from an editorial point of view, one that is digital-only?

Ellen Kampinsky: Yes, it would. I think there is always going to be a role for print and that’s what we’re trying to do, evolve our print edition in concert with all our other products online and offline, into the highest form possible. I mean, we look at the graphics as one of our multiple entry points, we look at different ways to engage the reader and I think that’s our job right now, finding all those entry points and all those engagement points for them, that makes the print magazine being in concert with everything else we’re doing absolutely essential.

Samir Husni: Brent, I noticed you’re adding to the roster of special editions and SIP’s, having just launched the Reliability Guide; are we going to see more spinoffs along the lines of book-a-zines and the SIPs on the newsstands, from Consumer Reports?

Brent Diamond: What we always look for are our needs for information, so an SIP and a magazine is only one way of distributing that kind of information. But I think what we’re trying to do is give consumers information in the way that they want to consume it. Rather than us make the judgment as to how people should consume it, we’re kind of letting them decide.

Where we start from all the time is a need in the marketplace or a need that consumers have and if there’s a need there, we’ll try and find a way to fill it.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add or focus on that we haven’t discussed yet?

Brent Diamond: Well, I believe what is really key here is that by involving the consumer so heavily, we, in theory, should never have to go through a major revamp again, because if we do this right and we are having an ongoing dialogue with our customers, we should be able to evolve and change based on their input and their usage of what we’re doing. I think that’s a key component of what we’re trying to do, involve them in the process and not just be the spreader-of-all-wisdom; we’re trying to involve them in this process.

Ellen Kampinsky: I think a key point that Brent made is, OK – we’ve revamped the magazine, let’s sit back, we’re done now. No. This will continue to evolve as the readers respond, as we seek new ways to make it better and better. And that’s almost as exciting as not having any advertising. (Laughs) Almost, but not quite. (Laughs again)

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

Ellen Kampinsky: What keeps me up at night? Well, there’s always another issue to put out. I think any editor would say the next issue always keeps you up at night. Is it going to be the best, are we going to make the deadlines and is it being done to the very highest degree that we can.

Brent Diamond: This is not a cliché, but what keeps me up at night is the thought of not evolving and not changing quick enough to match how consumers are consuming information today. I worry about that all of the time. We have to continually evolve and change to help them make better decisions. That’s key.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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“Magazine Media 360” Explained. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mary Berner, President & CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media.

October 13, 2014

Capturing Demand For Magazine Media Content By Measuring Audiences Across Multiple Platforms And Formats.

“What this does is make us the first-ever media to capture as an industry, basically the cross-platform demand by brand. No other industry does this.” Mary Berner

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Magazine Media 360 is a newly created industry metric that captures demand for magazine media content by measuring audiences across multiple platforms and formats (including print/digital editions, websites and video) to provide a comprehensive and accurate picture of magazine media vitality. Magazine Media 360° uses data from leading third-party providers and from the reader universe. This is the first time ever by any media to measure and communicate cross-platform consumer demand by brand.

Mary Berner, President & CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, believes in the driving force of this new metric that can measure platforms as a whole, rather than just from the print side.

I reached out to Mary recently and our conversation was focused on the new consumer centric and audience-first mentality Magazine Media 360 promotes and advocates. The time for this type of thinking in the magazine media industry, Berner believes, is one that has finally come and will help to change the reality of the way the industry measures and monetizes the many platforms offered to the consumer today.

So sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mary Berner, President & CEO, MPA.

But first the sound-bites…


berner-mary-mpa_0 On the purpose of Magazine Media 360:
For us as an industry, this is a game changer. What it does is reflect a very seismic shift away from communicating and capturing print-only metrics to a whole ecosystem metric.

On the timing of the new measuring system:
I don’t think the industry was ready for it yet, I think we needed some critical mass in terms of multi-platform distribution content and frankly the third party research providers weren’t yet ready to get the data; so I think the time is right now.

On whether she believes the magazine media industry’s problems have all been self-inflicted:
I would say that print is a part of the consumer consumption experience, an extremely important part, but I would say that we haven’t told the story in regards to consumer demand up to this point.

On the major stumbling blocks she believes will be encountered along the way:
To be truthful, our attention in trying to figure out all the things that could and might go wrong ahead of time and addressing any and all challenges before we actually launched this, puts us in a position where we’ve asked and answered many of the stumbling blocks.

On what’s next for Mary Berner and Magazine Media 360:
This is just the beginning. I think it’s a good first step, but what we need to show is engagements, because we know from research in various companies the engagements in these brands of these multi-platform experiences are really extraordinary.


And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mary Berner, President & CEO, MPA… Keep in mind, that since this is a brand new tool the MPA is using in measuring the strength of magazines and magazine media I’ve opted for a full explanation and presentation that Mary shared with me. It is essential to document and understand this new milestone marker in the history of magazines and magazine media..


Samir Husni: Explain Magazine Media 360 and the reasons behind this new magazine media measurement plan.

Picture 14
Mary Berner: For us as an industry, this is a game changer. What it does is reflect a very seismic shift away from communicating and capturing print-only metrics to a whole ecosystem metric. And as such when you look at the data, it actually redefines the state of magazine media. We believe that consumer demand also means money.

The idea for this and I believe you and I talked about it and debated it, but essentially the word magazine was the impetus for this entire idea. The word magazine for most people almost always refers to the print product. And yet every company pretty much operates as multi-platform, multimedia companies.

So the impetus was the shift from being magazine companies to magazine media companies and every single one of them does this and this is an interesting concept, so keep this in mind when you think about our methodology. The one thing that’s unique about magazine media and we’re defining it as a content brand that is anchored in a print magazine, but also disseminates magazine media content across many platforms and formats, so the magazine media content strategy is, for the most part, a platform-specific strategy, which means you create the content specific to the platform, as opposed to, for example, a television strategy which is platform agnostic. And that means you have an everywhere, anywhere strategy where the consumer gets the same content wherever they are, whenever they want it.

And by definition the audience augmenting, or differentiating content has actually been audience augmenting, because any one of these experiences, for example on Sunset, you consume as a consumer on its own and you would do so because you understand the Sunset brand means something, whereas the audience fragmented television strategy is audience fragmenting because obviously, you wouldn’t watch the same program again and again.

And this pretty much applies…this kind of platform-specific content strategy, to just about every brand, at least the major ones. So, for example, I could consume the video content from Woman’s World, which for them would be focused on exercise, without ever being a reader of the print version of the magazine media content. And we’re finding that the numbers bear this out, that digital-only consumers are going to the brand experience under the magazine media brand and this applies to just about all of the major magazines.

Essentially, here’s how we got to where we got to; right now what we have is print metrics and with advertising, for example; out of 10 advertisers only two limit their investment in that brand to the print version, only two. Eight of the others also invest across the multiple platforms. So it’s 80% that do something besides print. Yet a PIB (Publishers Information Bureau) or an advertising paging number only captures one part of it and in no way captures an advertiser’s commitment to a brand. So by definition it’s incomplete and therefore inaccurate.

And that played out again and again this fall. For example, the September issue of one of the big fashion magazines had a PIB number that was down, yet their advertising performance was the best it had been in 15 years, because the advertisers committed to multi-platform packages. In isolation, a print advertising page number just isn’t a great metric anymore.

And ditto for circulation if you look at the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media, the former ABC, Audit Bureau of Circulation) statements. Circulation is basically the counting of copies sold or distributed. Yet, if you add up all the AAM titles, they represent only 30% of the total print magazine audience, which is how planners buy. So, it doesn’t really tell the whole story. And then when you actually apply that to the whole ecosystem, the AAM circulation represents only 21% of the total audience. So using a circulation number in isolation, I think it does certain things, but in isolation by definition, it’s like pegging the audience or the vitality of the Super Bowl based on the number of people in the stadium, it essentially under captures.

Picture 14 Yet, in light of all that, what we’ve asked ourselves is what is the common courtesy and how do we measure what’s really going on, because, this is the data we got for July; we did three months of data and essentially what we’re seeing is that the lion’s share of the business is still print and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, if not forever, but other platforms and formats are gaining scale. And when you look at the whole ecosystem and you leave out those others: video, mobile, web, desktop, laptop and digital; you leave out 35% of the business essentially. And when you look at the total pie, it was up 7.8% overall.

People say that the lion’s share of revenue and profit is in the print publications and I say, yes, that’s absolutely true for now. However, that is rapidly changing. Look at Meredith; Meredith is up to almost 20% of their revenue coming in from digital sources and that’s kind of an old school company. And it’s rapidly growing. The only proxy really for vitality, I would argue, for current health or future promise would be consumer demand. It’s certainly how brands like BuzzFeed are measured. And it’s also the only common currency among all media. In a world where you can’t define what makes television television, consumer demand is an important one.

So, what we did was we created Magazine Media 360 and essentially it’s an attempt to present a comprehensive picture of consumer demand for magazine brands. And in such, it captures print and digital editions; it captures websites, including desktop, laptop, mobile and video. Next, this month we’re going to release a social media report that’s separate, it doesn’t roll up into that because it’s a whole different animal.

What this does is make us the first-ever media to capture as an industry, basically the cross-platform demand by brand. No other industry does this. Television gives Nielsen ratings when they want to; they don’t give them as an industry, they don’t give them by brand and they certainly don’t give any revenue numbers. So, what we’ve done with this is capture that additional 35% which makes this a comprehensive and a consumer centric and really a more accurate barometer, if you will, of a company and an industry’s vitality.

But how do we figure out how to do this? Well, we decided we had to use third party reputable information, otherwise people would game it. You had to qualify it; you had to actually be multi-platform to qualify. So we used very reputable data from Nielsen, comScore and others and we had a very, very rigorous process about how to get the data and what to pull.

What we’ve essentially decided to do after consultations with many, many experts is we’re pulling, not page views, not traffic, but unique visitors and unique viewers and audience numbers. It’s a more conservative number and it gives us a more accurate picture.

So with third party data we’ve covered the whole pie and the story it tells is interesting. We have 95% industry buy-in, which essentially means we had 30 companies to buy-in and that represents 147 brands. We only had three brands not do it that qualified. One was the Shank titles, the other was a tennis magazine, mostly because they just didn’t respond to emails and the other is Wenner, because you have to also be a MPA member to qualify and there are only two major companies that aren’t, Wenner and Bauer, but it didn’t affect the numbers, even with them not in here, it covers 95% of the magazine reader universe and basically represents the entire industry.

The process works with all 147 brands giving their data to us and they pull it from comScore, Nielsen and other reputable companies. We then aggregate the data and post it publicly, so every single month we will post 147 brands and their consumer-demand number by platform and then a total aggregate 360 number. So it’s really an unprecedented model of transparency and it took an enormous amount of courage, if you ask me, from all these publishers. And we at the MPA will show the trends.

For the first one we launched publicly, it was August over August; we do the same period over the same period; what we saw was a 10% growth in total audience and we saw that was coming from mobile web, a lot of mobile web growth. And print, while it’s a smaller part of the pie, was actually up 1.1%, so it’s just a smaller part of a growing pie.

Picture 14 We’ll soon begin social media reports, which we’ll do toward the end of the month and the response was uniformly positive. Most importantly the advertising community and these are three of the biggest buyers representing three of the biggest agencies and every single one of them was applauding because the concept is you can’t sell what you can’t measure; you can’t sell it to a consumer and you can’t sell it to an advertiser. So, what we’ve done is thoroughly obvious; while it’s not easy to get everyone to agree, it’s obvious we should be capturing consumer-demand across all the platforms. And this is a very, very important indicator. The press was uniformly positive as well and I love what Mashable said because they’re always trashing magazines (laughs) and they said: if we assembled the study in an attempt to refute the assertion that magazine audiences are dwindling, the data vindicates them and that kind of said it all.

Also The Wall Street Journal said: magazine publishers can collectively point to some positive trends. Of course, we’re not saying that there aren’t problems because there certainly are, but we’re saying that the first step is to figure out what the consumers are doing, because there is no business if there isn’t consumer demand. And consumer demand is actually quite robust. Now this is not a report that shows everybody up, about 45 titles were down, so it’s pretty accurate.

That’s what this is all about. It’s really a reflection of how the business has changed, how we operate and how our content is consumed across multiple platforms. It’s the first step in capturing, measuring and communicating those reflections.

Samir Husni: I was just in Cannes at the Distripress Congress and my presentation was about “audience first.” And this is what Magazine Media 360 is saying: let’s focus on and be consumer centric. Why did we wait so long to do this?

Mary Berner: You know why? Because it’s really hard to get 147 brands and 30 CEO’s to agree. And I really didn’t wait that long, I’d been here two years and we got this done in six months. I also don’t think the industry was ready for it yet, I think we needed some critical mass in terms of multi-platform distribution content and frankly the third party research providers weren’t yet ready to get the data; so I think the time is right now.

The other question people ask is why don’t other media do it and my response is: they should. But it requires consensus, it requires industry consensus. And that’s a heavy lift.

Samir Husni: It’s as you said, magazine media is unlike any other medium, and you don’t get the same experience. If I’m watching a video, regardless of which platform, it’s the same video, where the magazine experience is completely different.

Mary Berner: All the content is created under a brand umbrella. So if I’m a Vogue person, the brand gives me permission to experience a whole lot of things under that umbrella. We’re the only media that’s actually set up well for that. CBS isn’t a brand. Other media are; I think ESPN is a brand; they actually do a great job at it.

Samir Husni: The new buzz phrase today is: print isn’t dead, it’s just in decline, but it’s still the cornerstone of our industry? Do you agree?

Mary Berner: I would say that print is a part of the consumer consumption experience, an extremely important part, but I would say that we haven’t told the story in regards to consumer demand up to this point. And when you do that, when you don’t tell the whole story, what fills that vacuum is a relentless and inaccurate story about one part of the business.

It’s inaccurate, like circulation. Everyone harps on newsstand. Newsstand is 8% of the total, 8%. And at its peak, 20 years ago, it was less than 20%. So there’s a kind of common narrative around print. Advertising paging over the last five years is down less than 8% in total. So, print has its challenges, but what isn’t even captured in those numbers is the migration of advertising dollars to other platforms. Therefore, it doesn’t tell an accurate story. We haven’t told an accurate advertising story or an accurate consumer-demand story yet.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be your major stumbling block? The honeymoon has been great, the reaction has been great; do you think it’s going to be smooth sailing from here or are you expecting some turbulence along the way?

Mary Berner: To be truthful, our attention in trying to figure out all the things that could and might go wrong ahead of time and addressing any and all challenges before we actually launched this, puts us in a position where we’ve asked and answered many of the stumbling blocks. Many of them had to do with methodology or transparency, things like that, so the only thing that I can imagine is maybe somebody won’t like their numbers.

I think the opportunity is that what we’ll see is a set of tools that will start people talking about it. How do we figure out how to use this to help us to buy?

Samir Husni: What are some of the criteria that you’re now going to use at The New York Times box score?

Mary Berner: It’s already changed. We’ve affected with this, just look at the numbers. They’re all up, two weeks in a row, a 100%. Let me tell you why The New York Times doesn’t use ad pages and why the entire industry was behind that, because it doesn’t tell an accurate story, by definition it tells an incomplete story. So, we don’t have something to replace that with, in terms of the advertising performance. We don’t, but until we do we have an obligation, in fact a responsibility, to stop reporting inaccurate data, because it is used to peg the vitality of an industry and it doesn’t do that. You could have had a spectacular PIB month and had a terrible advertising month. You could have had a terrible PIB month and a spectacular advertising month. It only captures the print performance. And as such, it’s just not comprehensive. And the reaction to that has been a little bit of, well, what am I going to use? But once I explain it to analysts and reporters, everybody gets it. You can’t argue with it, because it’s true.

Now what people will argue about is, they’ll say we need to get some replacement advertising data and what I’d like to remind the world of is, we’re the only industry that has released advertising data for decades as an industry. No other industry does it. We’ve been doing it and we’ve been doing it up to the point where it’s not accurate anymore. We had enormous transparency. Think about television, there’s no revenue numbers. They talk about the upfront when it’s good, but they don’t do it as an industry. Radio doesn’t, digital doesn’t; none of them do.

So we were in the forefront of transparency, but now that it’s not representative of the advertising performance of a brand, company or the industry, we have a responsibility to stop promoting and communicating it.

Samir Husni: You have a very nice feather in your cap now, so what’s next for Mary?

Mary Berner: This is just the beginning. I think it’s a good first step, but what we need to show is engagements, because we know from research in various companies the engagements in these brands of these multi-platform experiences are really extraordinary and that is a differentiator for magazine media and so, how do we do that? And I really wasn’t looking for a feather in my cap, I really wasn’t. (Laughs) But you can’t change the narrative about magazines until you start capturing and talking about magazine media. You have to start talking about the business the way the business is now.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Woman’s Weekly (UK) Magazine: 103 Years & Still Going Strong. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor Diane Kenwood

October 1, 2014

husnionredcarpet 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.

While many women’s magazines are being reported by some as hearing a death knell when they roll off the presses; the U.K.’s 103-year-old Woman’s Weekly continues to press forward with confidence, inspiration and an eye on the next 103 years.

In the second report from across the pond, I spoke with Diane Kenwood, editor in chief of Woman’s Weekly magazine. Ms. Kenwood had just finished her presentation at the Forum Day at the 59th Distripress Congress in Cannes, France. Her passion and confidence when she spoke about the magazine is evident in the Mr. Magazine™ video above…

So read along as you enjoy the brief, but inspiring, Mr. Magazine™ interview with Diane Kenwood, Editor-in-Chief, Woman’s Weekly, U.K…


But first the sound-bites…

On whether she feels Woman’s Weekly is on the endangered list: It’s so not true. It’s absolutely not true; we’re incredibly fortunate.

On whether or not she’s afraid of the future: No, I’m not scared of the future. I’m really excited about the future. I think it has its challenges; it’s hard, but I think challenging and hard makes you more creative.

On whether she ever envisions a time when Woman’s Weekly will not be in print:
Never! And certainly not during my time as editor, no. I genuinely can’t see a time when the magazine won’t be an absolutely critical part of the whole brand offering of Woman’s Weekly.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Diane Kenwood, Editor-in-Chief, Woman’s Weekly, U.K.

Samir Husni: A lot of folks in the United States and other countries say that general interest women’s magazines are dying; how about Woman’s Weekly?

Diane Kenwood: It’s so not true. It’s absolutely not true; we’re incredibly fortunate. And the thing about lifestyle magazines is the breadth of their content means you can constantly inspire, entertain and surprise people across any number of different content areas.

I think the magazines that are in real trouble in the U.K. are the celebrity magazines, because they’re all too similar and there isn’t enough celebrity news to go around. Also, TV titles because there are so many of them and they have to conglomerate their magazine titles.

But in the lifestyle market, I think the opportunities are enormous. And Women’s Weekly remains today as it has been from the day it was first published, the bestselling magazine in the lifestyle market.

Samir Husni; Is there anything that makes you afraid of the future?

Diane Kenwood: No, I’m not scared of the future. I’m really excited about the future. I think it has its challenges; it’s hard, but I think challenging and hard makes you more creative, more inventive and because we’re all in the same boat, everybody is being more creative, so there’s more opportunities for kinds of partnerships and joining together of ideas and making them happen and delivering them, that never really existed before. I’m tremendously invigorated by the future.

Samir Husni: My last question; do you ever see Woman’s Weekly not in print?

Diane Kenwood: Never! And certainly not during my time as editor, no. I genuinely can’t see a time when the magazine won’t be an absolutely critical part of the whole brand offering of Woman’s Weekly. We’ve been around for 103 years; we’re definitely going to be around for another 103.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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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.

h1

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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