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Naturally, Danny Seo: The Man,The Magazine, The Movement. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Danny Seo.

November 21, 2014

“But the reality is, to actually create a beautiful, curated, well-edited printed magazine; it’s not an easy process. And when we really looked at the space and thought about who our reader and customer was and what she’s really interested in right then, which is having some me-time, we felt the reader was looking for a publication where she could actually turn off her phone or the TV and have an appointed reading time with a tangible product that she can hold in her hands and go through page by page.” Danny Seo

naturally 1-5Living “Simply Green” is something that Danny Seo has been doing and promoting for years. Through his books, television programs, magazine columns, and his how-to lifestyle lectures, Danny Seo has shared his creative ideas on modern, eco-friendly living to millions of people.

And now he has another platform for his environmental practices and beliefs that is as beautiful as it is sustainable. Naturally, Danny Seo is the latest offering from a man who has been described as an eco-friendly lifestyle expert. And looking at and touching his newborn brainchild certainly backs up the description. The magazine is harmonious and balanced, beautiful and filled with creative and innovative ways a person can help sustain our planet in many different ways. From food, home, style, health, travel and just plain fun, Danny embraces a health-conscious attitude about life in general, instead of producing a magazine that promises you to lose 5 pounds in 5 days.

But don’t look for his face on the cover. Ever. In fact, it’s in his contract. Instead, look for sustainable topics done in an oh-so stylish way. And the paper the magazine is printed on feels amazing.

It’s just a great magazine and definitely deserves to be one of this year’s hottest new launches. So, sit back and let your earthy, inner spirit soar as you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who loves the planet and is determined to prove it, Danny Seo, Naturally, Danny Seo…

But first, the sound-bites:

Danny Seo On why he chose a printed magazine as a platform: Well, you would think being an environmentalist, doing a digital magazine would be something that I’d be interested in because there’s no trees involved, no waste; it’s as eco-friendly as possible. But when you think about digital magazines, the reality is anybody can do a digital magazine.

On whether, as an environmentalist, he thinks print adds or takes away from the environment:
I think what it is, there’s a lot of things in our lives right now that are just cheap and of bad quality.

On a stumbling block he had to face during this journey:
I think it’s what we’ve noticed in Issues 1 and 2: we need to find more women to profile in the magazine.

On where his mind is at when he decides on the covers of the magazine: The number one promise we try to make is nothing sensational, no false promises; five pounds in five days, forget it, that’s not going to happen.

On his most pleasant surprise since starting the magazine:
It’s probably going to sound cheesy, but I was at Whole Foods when the magazine hit newsstands and I was buying a sandwich for lunch, this was in New York. And a woman picked up the magazine and began reading it and I could see her stop at a page, like she was having an “aha” moment and I could almost hear her thinking: I’ve never thought of this, what a great idea. And she put it in her cart to buy it.

On whether he’ll ever be featured on the cover:
No, in fact, that’s in my contract. I will never be on the cover.

On some of his favorite magazines: I really love so many magazines. My all-time favorite magazine and it’s almost impossible to find in the United States is Jaime. It’s a brilliant magazine.

On what keeps him up at night:
Nothing, I sleep very well.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Danny Seo, Editor-in-Chief, Naturally, Danny Seo…

Samir Husni: Congratulations on being named one of the hottest new launches for 2014. We had almost 800 new magazines, with over 200 published on a regular frequency.

Danny Seo: Thank you. It was a huge honor and our publisher has been on Cloud Nine ever since. (Laughs)

naturally2-6 Samir Husni: My first question to you is: why did you feel the need for a printed magazine? Your own personal brand is everywhere, so why the printed magazine?

Danny Seo: Well, you would think being an environmentalist, doing a digital magazine would be something that I’d be interested in because there’s no trees involved, no waste; it’s as eco-friendly as possible. But when you think about digital magazines, the reality is anybody can do a digital magazine. And I’m talking about my parents could do one, my neighbor; it’s almost like there’s absolutely no betting process about the quality of the product. If you have $20, you can buy a program and create something that people can flip through.

But the reality is, to actually create a beautiful, curated, well-edited printed magazine; it’s not an easy process. And when we really looked at the space and thought about who our reader and customer was and what she’s really interested in right then, which is having some me-time, we felt the reader was looking for a publication where she could actually turn off her phone or the TV and have an appointed reading time with a tangible product that she can hold in her hands and go through page by page.

When I’m in my office in New York, I actually answer my phone when it rings and women call me and are literally in tears as they tell me what a long time it’s been since they’ve read a magazine that didn’t talk down to them. And that this is the first magazine that’s not only incredibly inspirational, positive and fun, but it’s also beautiful to feel and look at. And that’s the number one reason we did this; there’s just a lack of respect in the printed space for this audience right now.

Samir Husni: When you talk about the environment; do you think that the printed word takes away from the environment or adds to it? You mentioned the trees; what do you think causes more environmental damage, all the computers, phones and devices that we trade in or get rid of every six months, or the paper we use to print magazines?

Danny Seo: I think what it is, there’s a lot of things in our lives right now that are just cheap and of bad quality. And you look at a lot of things in different categories: fast fashion, which is in retail where you buy clothes and after a couple of wears, you just throw it away; we would never think that in the 80s. (Laughs) No one bought clothes that way.

I’ve been a magazine editor at a number of titles and what I saw on the business side happening time and time again was people would say, “Oh, paper. It’s very expensive. We’re going to have to lower the paper quality.” And paper just got cheaper and cheaper and thinner and thinner and the overall product began to feel disposable.

And on the editorial side, I would hear things like, “We don’t have the budget to actually do original stories. So, we’re going to go into the archives and we’re going to reprint a story that ran in another magazine six months ago and no one will be able to tell the difference.” And to me, as a reader, I would think that kind of thing was really disrespectful, as someone who bought magazines. They still expected the reader to pay the same price for the magazine and the paper was so thin, I didn’t even like feeling it and I could see right through it. It was completely inferior in quality and I looked at the stories and things and they appeared more like stock photos and things that I’ve read and seen in the past.

If you just improve the quality of the paper and do all original stories, photograph everything without using any stock images, do original reporting, recipe development and actually go out and find untold stories and then you give everyone at least 8 pages to fully tell those stories; you really can still find an audience who’s willing to pay for that quality product.

If you’ll notice, we’re not $3 an issue or $4 an issue; we’re $10 an issue. And we have not gotten a single negative response from anyone complaining about the price of the magazine. Not a single email, or phone call, tweet or Instagram. (Laughs)

It’s like Field of Dreams: if you build it, they’ll come. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Issue 2 is on the newsstands now. In the time between Issues 1 and 2, what has been the major stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Danny Seo: That’s a tough one. But I think it’s what we’ve noticed in Issues 1 and 2: we need to find more women to profile in the magazine. You know, you sort of live in a cloud, a foggy, misty cloud when you’re shooting the stories. When we were laying out Issue 2, I was thinking; you know, that’s a lot of men we’re featuring. (Laughs)

We shot a beautiful story that’s going to be in the next issue and on day nine of a ten-day shoot, I was going to the raw images and I looked at the photographer and said, “Have you shot one woman on this trip?” (Laughs) I think we’re a women’s magazine and sometimes as a male editor-in-chief, I need to remind myself that our readers are mainly women, at home or working, with children or maybe thinking about starting a family. So, I have to constantly tell myself: think like your reader, not like yourself.

Samir Husni: When I was reading your editorial, you mentioned that you would never do a story about losing 5 pounds in 5 days, or some fad diet. But rather, I see your cover lines and they read: eat bread, pasta and chocolate. I can think of one other magazine that uses a similar approach and that’s Real Simple magazine, you’ll never find a diet or a celebrity on the cover. What’s your thinking behind the cover of your magazine?

Danny Seo: The number one promise we try to make is nothing sensational, no false promises; five pounds in five days, forget it, that’s not going to happen.

We’re trying to be a place that’s very realistic, but also again it’s very timeless. And what we’re trying to create is a product that people actually want to save and archive and build as a collection. And so there are very, very few magazines that are presented in a really timeless fashion. For me one of the inspirations was the very early editions of Martha Stewart Living. Those stories could be run in 2001 or they could be run today.

What you won’t see in the pages of our magazine are product shots, like 15 sunscreens under $15, because that’s not timeless. That’s now. And what that says to the reader is this is a disposable product and when you’re done reading this, you should throw it away, because 10 years from now those sunscreens aren’t going to be on the shelves and also, who cares about how to shop for sunscreens. (Laughs)

I think the biggest example of where we’re going, and we’re already at Issue 2; a lot of the stories that we’ve created in the first two issues we’re now partnering with One Kings Lane, it’s an online site that’s all luxury home products. We’re going to be doing a fine arts sale of the images from the magazine where people can actually buy them framed as original prints and put them in their home, because that’s been the number one request from readers is how do we buy these beautiful images. It’s very few magazines that could actually sell images from today, from a story that’s been done recently.

That’s sort of our promise when it comes to the covers; everything just feels real and it doesn’t scream at you on the newsstand like you’re five-years-old. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment since you started the magazine?

Danny Seo: It’s probably going to sound cheesy, but I was at Whole Foods when the magazine hit newsstands and I was buying a sandwich for lunch, this was in New York. And the day it launched, I was thinking that I didn’t know how it was going to sell or how people were going to respond to it; I felt like I was under the gun. I didn’t know what to do. That day I saw a woman standing in line and all the magazines were lined up at the check-outs and I saw our magazine among them. She picked it up and standing there in line, she began to read it. Eventually, she put it back on the stand and went to pay for her things and I remember thinking, we’re not a library, buy the magazine. (Laughs) But then the next person behind her picked it up and began reading it and I could see her stop at a page, like she was having an “aha” moment and I could almost hear her thinking: I’ve never thought of this, what a great idea. And she put it in her cart to buy it.

After that, I followed her to the register and asked her why she was buying the magazine. And she said, this (pointing to the article) just looks so delicious and I loved this story (she flipped through the magazine) and there’s just so much more to read and I don’t have time to read it all here. The flip quality to her was very important. And she was talking and pointing out to me the articles she really wanted to read as the cashier was ringing up her purchases. At that moment, I just pulled out my credit card and told her I was going to buy her groceries. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) That’s a great story. Danny, I’ve read references that have been made about you, such as you’re the green Martha Stewart. But you’re not on the cover.

Danny Seo: Oh, yeah, I’m not.

Samir Husni: Are we ever going to see a Danny Seo cover one day?

Danny Seo; No, in fact, that’s in my contract. I will never be on the cover. It’s interesting, there is another publisher, a major magazine publisher, when we were talking about doing this magazine; we met in a room and they mocked up covers and I just saw a wall of me and I just looked at them and asked, “Why on earth would you want to put me on the cover?” And they said because you’re a brand, you have products in thousands of stores; you’re on TV all the time, so we have to put you on the cover. And I remember just saying, “Do you not want to sell magazines?” (Laughs)

This magazine is not a vehicle for me or to push me; it’s not an ego-driven project. It’s a magazine where also I don’t promote my products on the pages. People are investing $10, which is three times the normal price for a magazine, they deserve a better product. And I’m not going to advertise to my reader things that are only in my lifestyle. I have a very strong philosophy about how to live, how to eat and travel, about beauty and home and that philosophy is what I want to present. I think once you lose that trust or that bond about why you’re doing something like this, you lose the reader forever. That’s my commitment from myself to the readers. It’s about them and there is no other motive when it comes to the things we recommend or talk about.

Samir Husni: Any plans to increase the frequency from quarterly?

Danny Seo: In 2016 we’re going to six issues. We actually needed to increase the issues for Issue 2, but we couldn’t get more of the paper that we use.

Samir Husni: I know you’re a very busy man, but when you unwind or get your “me-time” and forget Naturally for a second, what magazine do you like to spend time with?

Danny Seo: I really love so many magazines. My all-time favorite magazine and it’s almost impossible to find in the United States is Jaime. It’s a brilliant magazine. We just came back from Ireland where we did a photo shoot and I actually went into a bookstore and bought back issues of the magazine. It was another inspiration for me in doing our magazine. I think Donna Hay is another beautiful publication; it also has that archival feel to it. Up in Canada, they do some great titles.

In the United States the titles that I really love is Real Simple, it’s one of the benchmarks that we look at and for news, I think New York Magazine is great and some of the supplement titles from the newspapers, like WSJ are fantastic too.

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

Danny Seo: Nothing, I sleep really well. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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An Italian and Magazine Love Affair: The Story of Uomo Moderno Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder and Publisher Francesco Di Maio

November 18, 2014

“I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item. So I feel it’s something that people needed, not digitally, but in their hands, something that they needed to hold on to, something physical and tangible.” Francesco Di Maio

Uomo Moderno-18 In the already crowded market of men’s interest magazines; what do you do to stand out and capture your audience’s attention? Put an Italian spin on it, of course. Uomo Moderno is everything fashionable and stylish, from an Italian perspective. It’s sleek, modern and absolutely beautiful to look at.

Francesco Di Maio is the publisher of the magazine and I reached out to him recently when I selected Uomo Moderno as one of the 30 Hottest New Launches of the year. We talked about the possible insanity of what he’d done by launching another men’s interest magazine and his motivation for doing it anyway. Francesco was gracious, honest and very passionate about his subject matter and his ink on paper product. Recognizing the collectability and ownership of print, he felt putting his magazine out there on paper in all its brilliance was the right path for him. And I would definitely have to agree with him.

So sit back, maybe in some Italian leather if you have it, and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Francesco Di Maio, Publisher, Uomo Moderno…

But first the sound-bites:

Francesco 3 On whether he was crazy to launch a men’s interest magazine in this day and age: I could be. (Laughs) People have called me crazy in the past. But, I look around me and I see people are still reading magazines and are interested in them and I think one of the most engaging things is that people are really interested in niche magazines.

On the DNA of Uomo Moderno: I was very inspired by the year 2013, which was declared by the Italian government the year of Italian culture in the United States. The magazine is what I see as a showcase of what it means to live in Italian style.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s faced:
In my opinion, it’s a common stumbling block or challenge that any new magazine is going to face, trying to get partners (advertisers) onboard. But it’s happening little by little.

On his most pleasant surprise:
The amount of high-profile people who are discovering the magazine and who want to be in it, both in Italy and America. I’m so excited about that.

On whether he expected to come as far as he has in such a short time since the magazine’s launch:
No, not whatsoever. I never dreamed on being down the road this far in just over a year.

On why he decided on an ink on paper product:
I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item.

On whether we will ever see an Italian edition: They (Italians) read the English digital version and look at the pictures, so I think one day it may very well be, especially if I see that there is a definite interest.

On what keeps him up at night:
Sometimes good things, sometimes bad things. (Laughs) There are times where I’m up at night thinking about the future, the possibilities of exciting articles.

page0001 And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Francesco Di Maio, Publisher, Uomo Moderno…

Samir Husni: First of all, congratulations on Uomo Moderno being selected as one of the hottest magazine launches of 2014.

Francesco Di Maio: Thank you very much and I am very excited about being chosen as one of your hottest new launches of the year.

Samir Husni: My first question to you is: do you think you’re out of your mind to launch a men’s fashion magazine based on the Italian lifestyle in this day and age?

Francesco Di Maio: I could be. (Laughs) People have called me crazy in the past. But if you look at the magazine market you can see several things happening.

It’s my understanding of the industry, and I’ve been in publications, not continuously, but for the most part, the last 20 years, and what I see is there have been radical, almost revolutionary changes in the way people consume information. First, with the rise of the Internet and personal websites and second, all the social media; we see that information is being consumed in different ways through postings and pictures and of course, that has upset the entire print market, not just for magazines, but for newspapers and also for books.

But at the same time, I look around me and I see people are still reading magazines and are interested in them and I think one of the most engaging things is that people are really interested in niche magazines. They’re looking to find information according to specific topics or specific categories.

So with all of this upset in the magazine market, we also see a growth of specific niche magazines and some are actually selling better now than they have in the past. I think it is probably crazy and a person would have to be a little out of their mind to launch a new magazine in this market, but at the same time I think if someone is able to create a magazine according to what people want and what they’re looking for, then possibly it’s not as crazy as it seems.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me a little about the DNA of Uomo Moderno and what you’re trying to accomplish with it?

Francesco Di Maio: I was very inspired by the year 2013, which was declared by the Italian government the year of Italian culture in the United States. And we see that within the U.S. there is a lot of interest in Italy and a lot of people don’t understand modern-day Italy. And even people who say that they are from Italian descent, second-third-or fourth generation, they claim their Italian heritage, yet they don’t really understand anything about their ancestors’ country yesterday or today. They just know that someone in their family emigrated here from Italy. But they have a great love and passion for their heritage.

These facts were part of my motivation, but also another catalyst for the magazine was that Italy has gone through a very serious economic crisis. Our country is one of the strongest countries in design, fashion and creativity, but is on the verge of collapse.

So I took all of these factors into consideration and I thought it would be great to showcase Italian fashion, style, design, décor and architecture, just everything about living in Italian style in modern-day Italy, to show the world who we are despite the economic troubles that we’re having.

The magazine is what I see as a showcase of what it means to live in Italian style. I called it Uomo Moderno, which in Italian means Modern Man. And it doesn’t have to be a man in the sense of a male “man,” it can be female. Although its focus is on the male man because I’m a man and I write from a male perspective. And I deal with a lot of topics that interest men. But I am bringing more and more topics that would interest females into the magazine, because in the United States much of my readership is female.

Basically, if I had to say it in a nutshell, the magazine is a showcase of living in Italian style and I try and make it a lifestyle and fashion magazine, which presents young and emerging entrepreneurs and designers of Italy to the United States. And not only entrepreneurs, but musicians, actors and people from all walks of life.

Francesco 2 Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block that you had to overcome when it came to launching the magazine?

Francesco Di Maio: I think the biggest stumbling block would be what everyone would face, because when it comes down to the content or the graphic design, the layout and creativity, there is no problem. There is so much content because we’re dealing with a country that is abundant in style, fashion and creativity. When you think about the actual magazine itself; I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks is not even distribution because people want the magazine; the biggest stumbling block is getting the sponsors and advertisers onboard, because the magazine is new and of course people have to see the value of the magazine and they have to want to be in the magazine.

In my opinion, it’s a common stumbling block or challenge that any new magazine is going to face, trying to get partners onboard. But it’s happening little by little. People are seeing and loving the magazine and they’re calling to discuss it, in terms of advertising and investments. It’s a challenge that just takes time even with a quality product.

Samir Husni: And what was the most pleasant surprise?

Francesco Di Maio: The amount of high-profile people who are discovering the magazine and who want to be in it, both in Italy and America. I’m so excited about that.

We did New York Fashion Week and we had Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants walk in our fashion show. And during Philadelphia Fashion Week, we had Brandon Boykin of the Philadelphia Eagles. What happened was having them walk in the fashion show, we were on national television two times this week, first on CBS Game Changers and then on NFL Rush Zone – Nicktoons, Nickelodeon.

For me, it was just so exciting because I didn’t expect that within a year and a half of the magazine’s existence, this would happen. I got to meet these great celebrities and it was just so exciting. These are some of the joyful moments of publishing a magazine.

Samir Husni: When you launched the magazine, did you ever expect that in just over a year you would be at the point you are at now?

Francesco Di Maio: No, not whatsoever. (Laughs) I launched the magazine with the intention of being digital only and we did a few trial runs. Then when I heard the reaction of so many people in various industries tell me how beautiful the magazine was and how much they loved it and how easy it was to read and digest the information; I knew I was on to something. But I never dreamed on being down the road this far in just over a year. And I never dreamed of being on television, for sure. (Laughs) It’s just very exciting.

Samir Husni: Why, after doing the testing on digital, did you decide to go with ink on paper?

Francesco Di Maio: I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item. I believe that the quality of the magazine, both in terms of the physical paper and print and the content, is something that people would want to save and interestingly, I have a lot of people tell me: Francesco, I keep your magazine on my piano or my coffee table and people come to my home and they really admire it.

So I feel it’s something that people needed, not digitally, but in their hands, something that they needed to hold on to, something physical and tangible. That’s what motivated me to do it in print and that has been the result so far, people have been pleased.

Samir Husni: Will we ever see an Italian edition of the magazine?

Francesco Di Maio: It’s funny you ask that because I have a very big readership in Italy on the website and Facebook and many Italians are following the magazine, but I don’t know the percentage of Italians that read English. Uomo Moderno magazine is a magazine for foreigners written in English so that they can understand about living in Italian style, but I’m noticing that a lot of Italians are reading the magazine because they don’t know about all of these emerging designers we’re writing about.

200 Samir Husni: Foreigners in their own land. (Laughs)

Francesco Di Maio: Yes, for the moment. (Laughs) They read the English digital version and look at the pictures, so I think one day it may very well be, especially if I see that there is a definite interest. Yes, I would love to have an Italian version. I’ve been looking into a Chinese version, because I know that in China there is an extremely high interest in Italian fashion and design. Just as I know that in the Middle East or North Africa, there are many followers who really love Italian design. But with English as kind of a global language, people are able to read it. So these are things I will need to figure out in the future.

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

Francesco Di Maio: The only thing I’d like to add is I’m really extremely excited about the people who are my partners. They’ve been a great support. Also, I’d like to say that it’s a great pleasure to be able to present and showcase Italy and all of its fashion, the good and the bad. And to be nominated as one of the 30 Hottest New Launches in the U.S. is a great honor and I did not expect it. I am so thankful to be recognized, to start out as no one and then to have the hard work noticed. It’s such an honor.

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

Francesco Di Maio: Sometimes good things, sometimes bad things. (Laughs) There are times where I’m up at night thinking about the future, the possibilities of exciting articles. Sometimes those things keep me up at night. Or I’ll be really excited about an edition that we’re doing.

And occasionally, I’m up at night worrying about all of the challenges that we’re facing. Those things keep me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Bringing Back the Good Times Again: Reminisce Magazine Rediscovers Its Roots. The Mr. Magazine Interview With Editor-In-Chief, Liz Vaccariello.

November 3, 2014

“The biggest challenge, and it’s a daily one, is to listen to the readers. You know, I put my personal email address in Reminisce and Reader’s Digest. I read every consumer letter and I respond to every one of them. That engagement with the audience is so very important.” Liz Vaccariello

NOV_COVER_REX In the spirit of celebrating Reminisce’s history as a place for reading and sharing memories – and to attract new generations of consumers steeped in nostalgia, Reminisce magazine has turned to the editor in chief of Reader’s Digest Liz Vaccariello and her team to breathe new life into the magazine. Ms. Vaccariello’s first goal is to reaffirm Reminisce’s mission “to touch and inspire readers with stories of cherished memories as told by some of those same readers.” ( Right: The New Reminisce)

After all, the magazine that was started by Roy Reiman in 1991 (and given the name Reminisce by his wife Bobbi) was one of the fastest growing circulation magazines in recent history. It went from zero to one million in less than a year and when the magazine was sold in 1998 it had a circulation of 2.5 million. The magazine, by design, did not carry a single ad and was totally circulation driven. Reminisce was one of many other titles in the Reiman group that in 2002 was sold to the Reader’s Digest Association (RDA).

After the sale, the magazine drifted from its original mission and DNA. The once 2.5 million circulation is now around one million. However, 12 years after the RDA ownership, an awakening is taking place. Reader’s Digest Association is moving the magazine from its original home in Wisconsin to New York City and placing it in the tender-loving hands of the editor in chief of Reader’s Digest magazine. Liz Vaccariello, who successfully reinvented Reader’s Digest magazine just a year ago, was given the additional responsibilities of Reminisce. Ms. Vaccariello brought Reader’s Digest back to its roots and reconnected the magazine with its DNA and audience.

Now, together with her Reader’s Digest team, she plans to do the same thing with Reminisce. I reached out to Liz Vaccariello, and we made some wonderful conversational memories of our own. We spoke about the magazine’s past, present and the possibilities for the future, with a great deal of emphasis put on the importance of getting back to the magazine’s roots of being an audience-first publication.

As witnessed on Facebook and other social media sites, the millennial generation has revived nostalgia and grand old memories in mammoth proportions just with “Throwback Thursdays” alone, so wistful reminiscing is more popular than ever. And the magazine plans on returning to their roots and in turn, capturing that new gene pool through the art of “remembering when,” while keeping their loyal and long-time core audience happy as well.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Liz Vaccariello, and maybe you’ll relive the original tag-line of the magazine “that brings back the good times…by taking you on a walk down memory lane.”

But first the sound-bites:

Vaccariello_Digest_02_04_131540Mar04-2013On whether she took a reinvention or a return-to-roots route for the magazine: I went back to the roots and that’s what makes this magazine so extraordinary. Readers spend an average of 3.5 hours with this magazine. They want to lose themselves in other people’s personal histories.

On the fact that young people enjoy reading nostalgia more today than ever:
That’s absolutely right. First and foremost, it connects the generations, but more than that there has been research done on nostalgia. And people as young as six can feel the emotion of nostalgia.

On her biggest stumbling block: This is a consumer magazine. And like many publications, we hadn’t been marketing to a new gene pool, if you will, of readers. We’d been marketing to the same audience over and over again.

On whether she considers her new job an easy reward for past success with Reader’s Digest:
No, but it is an easy job when you’re given a magazine that is beloved by its audience and you have to be humble about the brand that’s now in your care.

On whether her dual-editing role gives her twice the excitement in the office than before:
Oh my goodness, I’m living the dream. I don’t know any other way of putting it.

On what she hopes to have accomplished a year from now with Reminisce:
I would hope that I can tell you that I’ve pleased the nearly one million current subscribers of Reminisce, that they feel as if they have a publication that lives up to the importance of their stories.

On whether she believes the magazine can ever attain its 2.5 million in circulation again:
I think it absolutely could.

On what keeps her up at night:
What keeps me up at night, to be honest; nothing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Liz Vaccariello, Editor, Reminisce and Reader’s Digest Magazines…

Samir Husni: Congratulations on your dual positions with Reader’s Digest and now also Reminisce Magazine.

Liz Vaccariello: Thank you, I’m so delighted. Reminisce and Reader’s Digest has a lot in common. They’re about reading and sharing and in the case of Reader’s Digest, people throughout history have shared jokes with each other, parents have ripped out articles and shared them with sons, daughters and neighbors.

Then Reminisce is all about reader’s sharing their memories and their nostalgia with likeminded people, but also with their families: “Look son, here is my first car” or “this is the story about how I met your mother” and it’s here in this magazine. So it becomes more of a collectable experience by being in the magazine.

So there is a lot of similarity in terms of the missions of both magazines and their audiences.

Samir Husni: Historically speaking, since we are talking about a magazine that deals with nostalgia and history; when the magazine launched in 1991 it was one of the few magazines that in less than 12 months exceeded one million subscribers. And then of course by the time it was sold, it had almost 2.5 million. So it was a huge magazine that back then was totally written by readers before anyone was really talking about audience-generated content. Then the magazine drifted a bit into the celebrity-oriented topics. So tell me, what is your vision now for the magazine? Did you re-invent it or, like with Reader’s Digest, did you go back to the roots?

Liz Vaccariello: I went back to the roots and that’s what makes this magazine so extraordinary. Readers spend an average of 3.5 hours with this magazine. They want to lose themselves in other people’s personal histories.

But to your point; the magazine had drifted away over the years and had become more, as I call it, “magazinified” and they put more editor’s voices in the magazine and they used stories from other places.

Reminisce is the reader’s magazine. They tell us what they want to write about by what they send in. And so the re-launch is really about committing to that user experience; which is personal histories. We’ve taken out almost all of the stock images and Getty images and now almost all of the images inside the magazine are submitted by readers.

Over the years the magazine had developed a little more white space and it tried to feel a little breezier, but our reader wants a sea of stories, they want pages that are packed with information and words. They wanted smaller photographs and more stories.

We really wanted to return it to that scrapbook feel and have that sense of discovery as the reader goes through the magazine. They don’t know if they’re going to stumble upon a story about growing up or about how someone met their first love, beautiful stories like that.

Returning the magazine to its roots is just about having as many stories as possible between the pages and gets the editors out of the way. My job is just to create a setting that does the people’s memories justice and honors them.

Samir Husni: And those stories are important. I even hear it from my students; you don’t have to be ancient to enjoy those types of stories. Even young people in their late teens and early twenties are looking for content to read about memories and life when their parents or grandparents were younger.

Liz Vaccariello: That’s absolutely right. First and foremost, it connects the generations, but more than that there has been research done on nostalgia. And people as young as six can feel the emotion of nostalgia. And they have found that people are at their most nostalgic in times of transition. They found that people who have recently graduated from college feel very nostalgic for high school or for when they were actually in college. People who have just started a family of their own feel nostalgic for their own childhoods. And of course, empty-nesters feel nostalgic for when their children were young and seniors feel nostalgic for when life was simpler and times were better.

So you’re absolutely right, there is no demographic for nostalgia.

Samir Husni: What do you think is going to be your biggest stumbling block?

Liz Vaccariello: This is a consumer magazine. And like many publications, we hadn’t been marketing to a new gene pool, if you will, of readers. We’d been marketing to the same audience over and over again. So for 20 years we haven’t found a new generation of likeminded people to subscribe to Reminisce.

The biggest stumbling block is going to be to continue to appeal to the older reader who wants to reminisce about the 30s, 40s and 50s, while also getting their sons and daughters to consider the magazine their own as well, so they can reminisce about the 60s, 70s and so on.

To do that we’re trying something called “Decade Diversity.” We might do a story on Friday night television and no matter what the demographic; you have a Friday night television show. For my grandmother maybe it was “I Love Lucy,” for my mother maybe it was something else and for me it was “Happy Days” or “Dallas” or “Full House,” so there are ways to introduce the later decades and those stories as part of the mix.

Of course, we don’t want to alienate the readers who have been with us 30 years and who loves this magazine and wants to spend hours and hours with it. We don’t want to all of a sudden turn it into a magazine that’s nostalgic for the 80s.

Samir Husni: By the way, “Sanford and Son” was my favorite television program. (Laughs)

Liz Vaccariello: “Sanford and Son,” I love it. (Laughs) “All In the Family;” we all had a favorite and our destination television.

Samir Husni: In addition to that, which is a big stumbling block; what other hurdles do you see looming before you to clear? It’s a given that you have done great with Reader’s Digest, that it was the cruise ship you were able to turn around; so now does it feel like it’s going to be an easy job? Do you feel as though you’re being rewarded with Reminisce and the powers-that-be think you can also turn around this magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs) No, but it is an easy job when you’re given a magazine that is beloved by its audience and you have to be humble about the brand that’s now in your care. You have to have enormous respect for what made the consumer become so attached to it in the first place. You can’t be dismissive and you can’t be like a bull in a china shop, run in and think you have all the answers.

The biggest challenge, and it’s a daily one, is to listen to the readers. You know, I put my personal email address in Reminisce and Reader’s Digest. I read every consumer letter and I respond to every one of them. That engagement with the audience is so very important. They will tell you the stories they like, what they want more of, what they want less of and to respond to that is a delicate task. You have to understand who’s yelling the loudest and that’s not necessarily the person you need to listen to. You have to look at the big arrows.

Samir Husni: Since the last time we spoke, and that was mainly about Reader’s Digest; do you now feel more excitement when you come to the office in the mornings or do you ask yourself what have I gotten myself into?

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs) Oh my goodness, I’m living the dream. I don’t know any other way of putting it. To have two magazines actually in my care where the overriding emotion is optimism and looking at the world through a hopeful lens, where my job is to curate the most meaningful stories about family, history and about how to live a better life, with a sprinkle of humor in there; there is nothing to not like about that job. I love every minute of it.

And I also have a wonderful team, the Reader’s Digest team absorbed all of the work that’s done on Reminisce, so we didn’t bring the staff of Reminisce with us. We just absorbed it and threw ourselves into it and it’s been a wonderfully energizing project to work on.

FullSizeRender Samir Husni: Why do you think as a major editor in our industry; why do you think that there aren’t more of those beacons of hope and light out there on the stormy ocean of doom and gloom stories that we are told?
(Right: Cover of the first issue of Reminisce.)

Liz Vaccariello: That’s a wonderful question. I think it’s interesting because the media landscape to a large extent is this cacophony of snarky cynicism, darkness, worry and partisanship, particularly broadcast media. And I think they’re doing it, frankly, because that’s what people respond to. That’s a quick fix; the ratings heroine, if you will.

But if you look at other media and I think magazine media in particular, magazines tend to be an oasis from that, with a few exceptions. I look at the service magazines; I look at health and fitness magazines, at magazines like Oprah and Real Simple. When you get to the end of those publications, you feel wonderful.

So I believe the magazine industry has done a good job of being an oasis from that snarky cynicism. And frankly, I think radio has too. I was just reading this morning about 24-hour Christmas on radio stations. This is the number one trick that radio has found to boost ratings; go Christmas all the time and they’ve bumped it back so that now it’s happening even before Halloween, because radio knows that people want to feel good.

I think that there are pockets of cynicism and negativity, but many people, particularly in magazine media, have seen their role as being a place where people can feel good. You want to spend time with a magazine; you don’t want to spend hours with your snarky friend, you want to spend hours with the friend who’s going to make you laugh, teach you something, make you feel good and tell you a great story that will warm your heart. Those are the people who you want to spend time with and those are the magazines you want to spend time with.

Samir Husni: If we talk again a year from now; what do you hope will have been accomplished in that year with Reminisce?

Liz Vaccariello: I would hope that I can tell you that I’ve pleased the nearly one million current subscribers of Reminisce, that they feel as if they have a publication that lives up to the importance of their stories. That they feel like it’s a collectable experience and that they’re proud to have it in their home and they’re proud to have their stories inside of it.

I hope that I can say that and I hope that I can also tell you that the sons and daughters, the next generation of those readers, are starting to discover us on Facebook, Pinterest and on the web. And that they’re starting to share their photos and stories in that new digital way and that we’ve brought a new network of consumers and readers into the fold.

Samir Husni: Do you see the magazine ever going back to the 2.5 million in circulation?

Liz Vaccariello: I think it absolutely could. I think there is no limit to the amount of people to whom these sort of stories appeal to.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that you’d like to add about Reminisce specifically?

Liz Vaccariello: Just that I’m thrilled and honored to be working on Reminisce and Reader’s Digest.

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

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs) What keeps me up at night, to be honest; nothing. (Laughs again) I have to answer you very honestly and tell you that I’m sleeping really well and it may sound corny, but I am filled with so much gratitude that I get to do this kind of work with this amazing team.

Samir Husni: You must be reading Reader’s Digest and Reminisce before going to bed.

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs) And a little Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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A Cook First, A Journalist Second – Cooking Light’s New Editor Has A Passion For Food And The Cooking Light Brand…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Hunter Lewis, Editor, Cooking Light Magazine.

October 25, 2014

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be to grow print, not just maintain it. This idea of maintaining print or maintaining a slow decline; no, I’m not down with that. I think it’s going to be about growing our print audience and growing our digital audience.” Hunter Lewis

Hunter LewisCooking Light has a new editor and it’s a man whose heart belongs to the kitchen and the brand. Hunter Lewis was executive editor of Southern Living since 2012 and oversaw the brand’s extensive food-related content in print and online and managed the test kitchen team that tests over 5,000 recipes annually. So he knows a thing or two about food, recipes and how to run a magazine and its digital components.

Hunter drove to Oxford, Miss. and to the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi from his Birmingham, Ala. headquarters recently to discuss his plans for Cooking Light and how he sees the future of the brand evolving. We talked about print, digital, the power of a good team of people and the passion and excitement he feels about heading up the Cooking Light brand. It was a most savory and delightful conversation.

Click on the video below to watch the interview and you can follow along by reading the lightly edited transcript of the conversation which is below the video.

And now, sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Hunter Lewis, Editor, Cooking Light. I know you’ll find it most appealing.

But first the sound-bites:

cookinglightOn his expectations for Cooking Light: I’ve been on the job for a month and a week now and you go in with some preconceived notions about what you’re going to do and what kind of changes you’re going to make; my first impression is the state of the magazine and the state of the brand is really strong and it has a great team.

On the dating period before the Cooking Light marriage of print and digital: So it’s a lot of different things and there’s a lot of what could be distractions, but I look at each one of these platforms as a different opportunity. It’s not a one-size-fits-all case. What we do in the magazine doesn’t have to translate to digital.

On applying his experience as both a chef and a journalist to his Cooking Light position as editor: First off, it just starts with bringing a passion to the page and bringing the joy of cooking, the joy of sharing and the joy of hospitality to the page and the screen. So at the base line, there’s that.

On the incongruity of the lush, decadent covers of Cooking Light with the magazine’s “light” mission:
I think there is a power in seeing chocolate cake and Cooking Light and it’s not a lie, we’re not saying that this is good for you when it’s not; we have the nutrition rigor behind it and the nutrition that runs through the recipe to back it up.

On his biggest challenge:
We talked about digital; I think the biggest challenge is going to be to grow print, not just maintain it. This idea of maintaining print or maintaining a slow decline; no, I’m not down with that.

On his most pleasant surprise:
As a former jock and someone who believes in teams; I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how good the people on our team are and how strong they are.

On what he envisions for the magazine’s upcoming 30th anniversary:
When we’re celebrating the 30th, I want us to be seen as a digital innovator and I want people to see Cooking Light as one of the brands that really set the example about what a food magazine can do with its recipes, of what a food magazine can do to create new products, to help people live healthier lives and to help people manage their health in a better way.

On what keeps him up at night:
What keeps me up at night is still what the guy over at Microsoft says: it’s not about longevity in this business; it’s about relevance. And I think on a daily basis, if we are making a good product and if we’re making people happy with our recipes and our content is good, we’re going to be relevant.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Hunter Lewis, Editor, Cooking Light magazine.

Samir Husni: As the new editor of Cooking Light, tell me a little bit about your hopes, expectations and changes that you have for the magazine.

Hunter Lewis: I’ve been on the job for a month and a week now and you go in with some preconceived notions about what you’re going to do and what kind of changes you’re going to make; my first impression is the state of the magazine and the state of the brand is really strong and it has a great team.

For print it’s going to be business as usual; we’re going to build on the foundation that Scott built (Scott Mowbray) and we’re going to continue to produce great recipes, beautiful photos and good stories.

I think you’re going to see much more of a focus on digital over the next couple of years and it’s up to me and our team to figure out how we can shift some of our resources that have typically been dedicated to print over to digital in a smart way and not just maintain print, but grow it. And in the digital space, figure out how to tell great stories.

Samir Husni: No one is talking about the death of print anymore; people are saying print has declined, but at least the phrase “death of print” has vanished from our vocabulary. Yet, we are seeing more and more editors and brand leaders talking about the marriage between print and digital. Can you describe your plan for this dating period between print and digital before the actual marriage takes place?

Hunter Lewis: I come from a newspaper background. And when I got into journalism it was right around the point where newspapers were on the verge of dying. We didn’t know that when we were studying it and practicing it right out of college, around the year 2000; we didn’t know that there was going to be this cliff.

When I got into magazines full time, it was when there was that huge cry about the death of print and the death of magazines, but I think we know now that that was BS. What we’re finding out right now is that we’re in the Wild West of digital media. And anyone who says they truly know what’s going on and that they have the answers, I think is full of it.

But we have a great deal of opportunity right now. And if we’re doing our jobs right, if we’re giving people exactly what they want and what they’ve come to expect of print with a great experience and with great service and we’re trying new things in the digital space and trying to figure out what’s going to stick; it’s all good.

Mr. Magazine™ Interviews Hunter Lewis The cool thing right now that I love is it’s not just what’s going on at cookinglight.com, it’s what’s going on at our Instagram account, and it’s our 3.3 million Facebook followers, which is a completely new front page. And as an old newspaper guy, the idea of having that kind of front page and that kind of audience to try new things and test new posts on, is a really cool thing. It’s sharpening our focus on Twitter; it’s making a tighter tablet version with different kinds of bells and whistles.

So it’s a lot of different things and there’s a lot of what could be distractions, but I look at each one of these platforms as a different opportunity. It’s not a one-size-fits-all case. What we do in the magazine doesn’t have to translate to digital. We can parts off different pieces of content and try them in new ways online.

I think that on cookinglight.com you’re going to see much more of an emphasis on digital storytelling down the road. We are at a point right now where we’ve got a great opportunity to capitalize on the interest of food in this country; we’ve never been more passionate about food. We have a great foundation that we’re building with chefs all across the country. There is this massive interest in home cooking.

We’ve also never been unhealthier as a country and what’s going on right now with obesity rates and diabetes, there is this wonderful opportunity with Cooking Light to find out where the intersection should happen between the passion for food and living a healthier way. And that’s going to be my gig; finding that perfect intersection and getting that onto the marketplace.

Samir Husni: And that leads me to the question: it’s also an intersection in your own life. You are a cook and a journalist. How are you going to apply those two professions into the pages and/or pixels on the screen of Cooking Light?

Hunter Lewis: I identify myself as a cook first and an editor second. There are some days that I wish I was at the stove more than at my desk.

But first off, it just starts with bringing a passion to the page and bringing the joy of cooking, the joy of sharing and the joy of hospitality to the page and the screen. So at the base line, there’s that.

My wife is an RD (registered dietitian) and she always says that you pay the grocer now or the doctor later. And I believe that. The best way to be healthier is to cook at home and cook with the right things. I’ve been more impressed with the test kitchen and the healthy recipes we produce more than anything else since I’ve started in the past month. And there’s nothing else like a Cooking Light recipe. We need to be proud about that, especially in this day and age with Pinterest and blogs; there is a lot of dilution of recipes out there, they’re undervalued. So a Cooking Light recipe is a special thing. It’s something that we need to go out into the marketplace and do a better job of promoting and finding new partnerships.

For people who don’t cook; a recipe is just a recipe. It’s kind of a diluted product, but our recipes, if you think about them like a product, like a baguette, they’re a top-notch baguette, being produced in a kitchen by a really, really talented crew of cooks and editors. That will be part of my job as a cook and as an editor; getting the message out about the value of Cooking Light recipes.

Samir Husni: Cooking Light has been known for its shocking covers. For example, the brownie on the November 2014 cover, someone might say what’s “light” about this. Is that going to be part of your technique as the new editor; are we still going to sell to the eye and then let the brain ask later, is this really light?

Hunter Lewis: Absolutely. We eat with our eyes first. Back in the day you could run recipes without images and people would understand, but we’re such a visual society today that the image has to be just as good as the recipe. And when it comes to our covers, there is a power in that tension between the logo of Cooking Light and an indulgent chocolate cake that you may see there. It just so happens that Deb Wise, who is our recipe goddess, our dessert goddess, created a 5-ingredient cake that takes no time to make; it’s indulgent and it’s not bad for you, it’s good for you.

So I think there is a power in seeing chocolate cake and Cooking Light and it’s not a lie, we’re not saying that this is good for you when it’s not; we have the nutrition rigor behind it and the nutrition that runs through the recipe to back it up.

Samir Husni: What’s going to be Hunter’s biggest challenge?

Hunter Lewis: We talked about digital; I think the biggest challenge is going to be to grow print, not just maintain it. This idea of maintaining print or maintaining a slow decline; no, I’m not down with that. I think it’s going to be about growing our print audience and growing our digital audience.

The biggest thing for me is figuring out with all these different platforms that I was talking about, with everything from Facebook to our site, our blog and Instagram; it’s about delivering the best kind of content and the sharpest content to the right platforms as quickly as possible.

The other thing is Cooking Light is now a mature brand. When it spun out of Southern Living in the 80s, it was seen as a very innovative product. I still believe it’s an innovative product, but I think we need to get out into the marketplace more and we need to get out faster. There is so much paranoia right now that’s going on with health and wellness; there are all of these different trends and studies with whether it’s good fats, bad fats, good carbs, bad carbs; Cooking Light reports on this. We’re at the point right now where we’re bound by the magazine news cycle. We have to get out the “day of,” the “week of,” the moment when these things are being reported on and we need to step out and have more of a point of view.

That would be a big challenge and that’s something that I’m excited about taking on and being in charge of; putting Cooking Light more into the national conversation. It’s a magazine for home cooks and it will always be a magazine for home cooks, but it’s also a magazine and a brand, both print and digital, that people are going to use as a resource to figure out how to live a more balanced life.

Samir Husni: With these multiple audiences and as you grow into these multiple platforms, let’s say, I just want the magazine, the print edition because it is necessary, sufficient and relevant to me, and then if I go to Instagram or Twitter or the digital edition and that’s not necessary, sufficient or relevant to me and there is no link between those audiences; do you think there can be a completely different audience?

Hunter Lewis: Absolutely. What we’re going to find and what we’re already finding is that oftentimes there is very little crossover between people who are consuming our mobile edition, our mobile version of our site, or the print, Instagram, Facebook or our books. I think we’re going to see over the next couple of years that we have our core print audience and we want to grow that, but we’re going to gain a whole new audience over the next few months and in the next year with new digital products. And if that’s how they come to Cooking Light, in that way and that’s how they consume our content and use our recipes, I’m OK with that and if that springboards into a subscription, that’s great. But it’s up to us to create new digital products that people want and that they use. And if that’s all they’re going to use, that’s great too.

We’ve got this Cooking Light diet that we’re watching right now. It’s in beta mode. And we have more than 3,000 subscribers to it. It’s unlike anything else in the magazine world; it’s unlike anything else under the Time Inc. umbrella. And if that’s how people learn about Cooking Light and that’s how they come to it, that’s great. It’s a whole different product.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise that you have encountered since you assumed this new position that you’ve had for less than two months?

Hunter Lewis: As a former jock and someone who believes in teams; I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how good the people on our team are and how strong they are. From the art department to the test kitchen to the production team; we’ve got a really, really great crew that looks after one another, that works hard, that believes in the brand and that number one believes that giving and producing great content for our readers is important. So I’m really lucky. I don’t have to build a whole new team. It’s just about cultivating and refining what we do.

I think that’s my biggest surprise and probably the biggest blessing is that we have a great crew.

Samir Husni: In a few short years you’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Cooking Light and if we’re sitting here at the Magazine Innovation Center talking about it; what will you tell me about the 30th anniversary?

Hunter Lewis: Well, I’d love to come back, but I hope you’ll come over to Birmingham and break bread with us for the 30th. But when we’re celebrating the 30th, I want us to be seen as a digital innovator and I want people to see Cooking Light as one of the brands that really set the example about what a food magazine can do with its recipes, of what a food magazine can do to create new products, to help people live healthier lives and to help people manage their health in a better way.

So I think the big message that I expect us to convey on our 30th, that I expect us to be celebrating is that we’ve been innovators of the visual space.

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

Hunter Lewis: Last night it was my one-year-old, the next was my three-year-old. (Laughs) No, what keeps me up at night is still what the guy over at Microsoft says: it’s not about longevity in this business; it’s about relevance. And I think on a daily basis, if we are making a good product and if we’re making people happy with our recipes and our content is good, we’re going to be relevant.

And if we’re getting it to people on the right platforms quickly, then we’re relevant. But it’s not about longevity.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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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

Picture 13

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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