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Forks Over Knives Magazine: The Brand That Delivers The Whole Food, Plant-Based Lifestyle In A Delicious & Passionate Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brian Wendel, Founder & President, & Elizabeth Turner, Editor In Chief…

September 20, 2018

“I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.” Brian Wendel…

“It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.” Elizabeth Turner…

Forks Over Knives is a brand that empowers people to live healthier lives by changing the way the world understands nutrition. From the film to the books, from the meal plan to the complete lifestyle movement, Forks Over Knives strives to present a whole food, plant-based way of living that is not only healthier, but tastier and more fun than anything else out there. And now there’s a print magazine to add to the repertoire. In a partnership with Meredith, Founder and President, Brian Wendel has brought his beloved brand full force into the marketplace in a soon-to-be quarterly publication that promises fun, delicious food, and a healthier way of life.

I spoke with Brian recently, along with Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief of the magazine, and Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith, and we all talked about the beautifully done, well-executed print magazine that only edifies the successful brand. It’s a partnership, according to all three, that was made in heaven – a whole food, plant-based heaven anyway.

And with the frequency about to become quarterly in 2019, the magazine is obviously resonating with readers. Beginning with the 2011 documentary film, Forks Over Knives, and then the cookbooks, meal plan and website, the brand has embraced its passion and belief in itself wholeheartedly, and with the addition of a print magazine, it now has the potential to reach even more people on a regular basis. It would seem Forks Over Knives is bringing in readers and brand-lovers hand over fist. Mr. Magazine™ says keep up the good work.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Wendel, founder and president, and Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, Forks Over Knives magazine, with comments from Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith.

But first the sound-bites:

On why there seemed to be a need for a print magazine when the brand already had books, a film, a website, and meal plans (Brian Wendel): We wanted to put something out into the public that had a regular cadence to it, and was really beautiful, fun and approachable. So, Meredith approached us on doing this kind of thing. Obviously, we felt they’re the leader in lifestyle magazines and we knew they had the capability, so it seemed like a really logical partnership. Our goal, generally speaking, is to help people transition to this lifestyle, so being able to do this with Meredith seemed like such a great idea and we’re happy that we got onboard to do it.

On how Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, approaches the magazine differently than the other platforms (Elizabeth Turner): The magazine, as Brian said, is very aspirational and glossy and it’s very heavy on recipes and very heavy on photography. Also, I think we’re approaching the front of the book, which is the non-recipe part, as sort of whole food, plant-based eating 101, so that anybody who sees it in Walmart and is curious can pick it up and get a good idea of what whole food, plant-based eating is about. Whereas our website is a bit of a mix. It’s for people who are very into it, but also for people who are very entrenched in the lifestyle. Forks Over Knives magazine is very much original and appealing to people who are maybe not familiar with the concept.

On what the role of print, especially with Forks Over Knives, will play in today’s digital world (Elizabeth Turner): Well, there’s definitely a demand for it. Our audience asks for it all of the time, so I think that print is never going to go away. It’s going to become more special, so it’s nice that our magazine has very few ads. It’s just cover to cover beautiful and aspirational content. And I think there will always be a demand for that. But I do think it will get more and more specialized. People want that and they’re never not going to want that.

On what the role of print, especially with Forks Over Knives, will play in today’s digital world (Brian Wendel): And especially because it’s a lifestyle magazine, it’s current, if you will, for a long time. So, in the lifestyle space, Forks Over Knives is still very relevant in print, more so than other types of content.

On the impact Brian’s growing up in New York around so much delicious food had on his decision to embrace the plant-based healthy lifestyle (Brian Wendel): Obviously, growing up in New York, but also growing up in a half-Italian, half-Jewish neighborhood, I think there was a lot of focus on really delicious food; we really do have a knack for it. In general, when I grew up there was no concept of vegetarian or veganism. I didn’t even know a single person who was either, to me it was a completely foreign concept. We really grew up on pizza and roast beef. The fact of the matter is the food is really good; Italian food is fantastic. But ultimately, this passion for great, awesome food is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Forks Over Knives brand and ultimately to the magazine. Just because we’re on a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean that we view our food as being medicinal in flavor by any means.

On when the brand name Forks Over Knives was chosen (Brian Wendel): The name Forks Over Knives didn’t come until after the movie was made. The idea basically predated the name. I put out an email to my friends trying to come up with different titles for the film and it was something that bothered us, we never really had a good title. And one of my friends came back with the idea of Fork Over Scalpel, which we then turned into Forks Over Knives, a knife being like a surgical knife, if you will.

On whether he has any regrets about the way the magazine was done now that he has four issues out (Brian Wendel): I really don’t have any regrets. It’s really been an awesome partnership. The first issue we came out with was sort of a test issue, so we didn’t have the liberty to really go all out and create something as spectacular as the last three. The final three magazines are 100 percent all shot by Meredith, keeping a consistent theme throughout the magazine, and that was something that we weren’t able to do in the very first issue. But I wouldn’t say that’s a regret, it was a logical progression.

On whether creating the magazine and partnering with Meredith has all been a walk in a rose garden or there were some stumbling blocks along the way (Brian Wendel): I can honestly say that there has been no stumbling blocks. I hate to be boring, but there really wasn’t any, because they’re a great partner and they really listen to our wants and needs. And I like to think on our side we do that with them too. And they give us a lot of liberty to say what we need to say and they do a great job. There really hasn’t been a single stumbling block in this partnership.

On the point of differentiation for Forks Over Knives over all the other food magazines out there (Brian Wendel): I think our brand name is really associated with the healthiest lifestyle out there, which is what we call a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So people know that someone with heart disease or Type II diabetes can come to Forks Over Knives and get great information on how to handle those conditions, but do it in a way that’s really, really a fun and enjoyable lifestyle with really delicious food. And I think that makes us stand out above the others.

On whether they will be happy with a frequency of three times per year, or they will want something more frequent (Elizabeth Turner): We’ve actually already agreed to go to four issues a year in 2019. So, it’s growing.

On anything they’d like to add (Elizabeth Turner): I would just like to say to back up what Brian said, what really makes these recipes different is just that they are all gold standard nutritious. They’re low in sodium, they’re low in fat; they’re made of whole foods and they’re plant-based. Anything that you made from this magazine would be something that you could feel very good about, which is honestly just not very common in food magazines. So, that really is a point of differentiation. And also the educational point.

On anything Michelle Bilyeu would like to add from the Meredith point of view (Michelle Bilyeu): I guess I’ll just say that Forks Over Knives is a great partner. We work really well together to support each other and create great products. And it’s ultimately about the consumer. We’re really excited with the fall issue; we’ve been able to over-double the draw that’s going out on newsstand, hopefully reaching more consumers. And introducing more and more people to such a wonderful brand.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Brian Wendel): I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Elizabeth Turner): It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Michelle Bilyeu): I would agree to that too. I think it’s all about that tactile experience with it; it’s being able to take it to your own space and get away. It’s a point of relaxation and inspiration and motivation. It’s a great place to find lots of ideas, besides just the information. So, I think they’re very inspiring. And I have a huge stack on my bed. Every night I look forward to that moment with my magazines.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Brian Wendel): I’d like to be known as a good citizen and someone who loves his family and friends. I’d like to also be known as someone who took a chance on something that I really believed in and it’s had what a lot of people believe is a profound impact on many people’s lives across the world. If that could be my legacy, I’d be thrilled to have it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Elizabeth Turner): That’s really a tough question. Always creative and always pushing forward.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Brian Wendel): I would be with my partner, Darshana Thacker, who happens to be the chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives, and who has a good handful of recipes in each issue. So we might be having a delicious meal together; it might be a corn chowder or something like that, some potatoes. We live pretty simple lives, so that’s what you might find us doing.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Elizabeth Turner): I’ll be eating fruit, probably watermelon. Brian and I have this funny thing in common that we’re both obsessed with fruit, so if you’re at my house you’re going to see a lot of good fruit at all times. And I’ll probably be eating it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Wendel, founder and president, and Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, Forks Over Knives magazine, with comments from Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith.

Samir Husni: Brian, you founded Forks Over Knives. You have the website; you have the books; you have the film, and you have the meal plans; why a magazine too? Why did you feel that you needed a print magazine to add to the brand?

Brian Wendel: We wanted to put something out into the public that had a regular cadence to it, and was really beautiful, fun and approachable. So, Meredith approached us on doing this kind of thing. Obviously, we felt they’re the leader in lifestyle magazines and we knew they had the capability, so it seemed like a really logical partnership. Our goal, generally speaking, is to help people transition to this lifestyle, so being able to do this with Meredith seemed like such a great idea and we’re happy that we got onboard to do it.

Samir Husni: Elizabeth, as editor in chief, how do you approach the magazine differently from the website, the books, the film, and the meal plans?

Elizabeth Turner: The magazine, as Brian said, is very aspirational and glossy and it’s very heavy on recipes and very heavy on photography. Also, I think we’re approaching the front of the book, which is the non-recipe part, as sort of whole food, plant-based eating 101, so that anybody who sees it in Walmart and is curious can pick it up and get a good idea of what whole food, plant-based eating is about. Whereas our website is a bit of a mix. It’s for people who are very into it, but also for people who are very entrenched in the lifestyle. Forks Over Knives magazine is very much original and appealing to people who are maybe not familiar with the concept.

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print, specifically with Forks Over Knives, in today’s digital age is going to play?

Elizabeth Turner: Well, there’s definitely a demand for it. Our audience asks for it all of the time, so I think that print is never going to go away. It’s going to become more special, so it’s nice that our magazine has very few ads. It’s just cover to cover beautiful and aspirational content. And I think there will always be a demand for that. But I do think it will get more and more specialized. People want that and they’re never not going to want that.

Brian Wendel: And especially because it’s a lifestyle magazine, it’s current, if you will, for a long time. So, in the lifestyle space, Forks Over Knives is still very relevant in print, more so than other types of content.

Elizabeth Turner: And I’ll also say, you have the recipes that you can get online, but the magazine also includes great success stories and has the medical expert backing that adds that extra layer.

Samir Husni: Brian, you mention in your editorial in the fall issue about your childhood and growing up on Staten Island, playing football on the streets, enjoying the delicious family meals. Can you explain to me the impact of your upbringing and your childhood on this lifestyle, and what veered you toward this healthy comfort food, rather than the heavier, meatier foods?

Brian Wendel: Obviously, growing up in New York, but also growing up in a half-Italian, half-Jewish neighborhood, I think there was a lot of focus on really delicious food; we really do have a knack for it. In general, when I grew up there was no concept of vegetarian or veganism. I didn’t even know a single person who was either, to me it was a completely foreign concept. We really grew up on pizza and roast beef. The fact of the matter is the food is really good; Italian food is fantastic.

But ultimately, this passion for great, awesome food is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Forks Over Knives brand and ultimately to the magazine. Just because we’re on a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean that we view our food as being medicinal in flavor by any means. I believe at heart that food is meant to be enjoyed and that’s what I really learned growing up and that’s an element that I tried to bring to the brand.

Samir Husni: Do you remember when the idea for the name Forks Over Knives hit you and you told yourself that was what you needed to create; a brand called Forks Over Knives?

Brian Wendel: The name Forks Over Knives didn’t come until after the movie was made. The idea basically predated the name. I had been into a healthy plant-based lifestyle since 2001. And overtime I just became more and more knowledgeable about it and more passionate about it. And then when I read a book called “The China Study” it really made me realize the depth and breadth of what’s out there, that we have more control over our disease outcomes than what we ever realized. And I felt like it was a story that wasn’t being told.

An analogy that I always use, and it can actually relate to the magazine, is if we could affect these outcomes with a pill the way we could with food, it would have been headline stories in weekly magazines and newspapers, but it wasn’t. So, the message wasn’t really getting out there through mainstream media. It occurred to me that it wasn’t going to come out that way, so I had to help get it out. And ultimately I decided and felt that a visual presentation through a feature film was the best way to do that.

The name Forks Over Knives really came later. I put out an email to my friends trying to come up with different titles for the film and it was something that bothered us, we never really had a good title. And one of my friends came back with the idea of Fork Over Scalpel, which we then turned into Forks Over Knives, a knife being like a surgical knife, if you will. Most people don’t know that, because the inclination of our logo doesn’t include the scalpel, but the original logo that was on the movie poster and in all of the movie’s branding actually had a scalpel on it.

So, it really means Forks Over Knives and kind of choosing what’s at the end of the fork over basically, I don’t want to say surgery, because the knife is kind of metaphorical for the medical aspect. And it’s not that I’m against the medical system, it’s just that we’re trying to get away from overuse of medication for chronic diseases when there’s a much better alternative.

Samir Husni: So far, if my calculations are correct, you have four issues of the magazine. Since the first issue came out until now, when you look back and you maybe say, I wish I had done that or I wish I hadn’t done that; is there anything that comes to mind?

Brian Wendel: I really don’t have any regrets. It’s really been an awesome partnership. The first issue we came out with was sort of a test issue, so we didn’t have the liberty to really go all out and create something as spectacular as the last three. The final three magazines are 100 percent all shot by Meredith, keeping a consistent theme throughout the magazine, and that was something that we weren’t able to do in the very first issue. But I wouldn’t say that’s a regret, it was a logical progression.

Samir Husni: And has the creation of the magazine and the teaming up with Meredith been a walk in a rose garden, or has there been some stumbling blocks along the way?

Brian Wendel: I can honestly say that there has been no stumbling blocks. I hate to be boring, but there really wasn’t any, because they’re a great partner and they really listen to our wants and needs. And I like to think on our side we do that with them too. And they give us a lot of liberty to say what we need to say and they do a great job. There really hasn’t been a single stumbling block in this partnership.

Samir Husni: Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I can’t find the magazine on your website. I can find the meal planner, the cooking course, the articles, the recipes, but there’s no mention of the magazine. Is that intentional?

Brian Wendel: No, our website is being revamped, and we’re going to have a brand new website in November. And it’s going to integrate all of our products a little bit better.

Elizabeth Turner: But we sell it in our online shop and we definitely promote it on social media, so our digital audience is very aware of it. And we have a very active product-based book group and people are showing pictures of where they’re finding it in the stores, so our audience is definitely tuned into the magazine.

Brian Wendel: I’ll also add that we have a very substantial newsletter following and we promote it enough to probably get some people irritated. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Probably 10 to 15 percent of all magazines on the newsstand are now food magazines. What’s the point of differentiation for Forks Over Knives versus all of the other food magazines out there? Is it Meredith? Is it the name? Is it the content? Is it the concept?

Brian Wendel: I think it’s all of the above, but most importantly, I think our brand name is really associated with the healthiest lifestyle out there, which is what we call a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So people know that someone with heart disease or Type II diabetes can come to Forks Over Knives and get great information on how to handle those conditions, but do it in a way that’s really, really a fun and enjoyable lifestyle with really delicious food. And I think that makes us stand out above the others.

There’s a lot of other ways of eating that say they’re healthy or promotes something else, but I really believe that for disease reversal and prevention, the science really is on our side. And I think people are realizing that.

Samir Husni: And do you think you’ll be happy with three times per year or do you want to see the magazine going into a more frequent circulation?

Michelle Bilyeu: We’ve actually already agreed to go to four issues a year in 2019. So, it’s growing.

Samir Husni: So you will become a quarterly magazine starting in 2019?

Elizabeth Turner: We have three issues in 2018 and we’ll officially have four in 2019.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Elizabeth Turner: I would just like to say to back up what Brian said, what really makes these recipes different is just that they are all gold standard nutritious. They’re low in sodium, they’re low in fat; they’re made of whole foods and they’re plant-based. Anything that you made from this magazine would be something that you could feel very good about, which is honestly just not very common in food magazines. So, that really is a point of differentiation. And also the educational point.

Samir Husni: And Michelle, anything you’d like to add from the Meredith point of view about the relationship? We’ve seen it done before; Forks Over Knives is not the first partnership that Meredith has done. Or the first magazine they’ve brought into the marketplace with that partnership.

Michelle Bilyeu: I guess I’ll just say that Forks Over Knives is a great partner. We work really well together to support each other and create great products. And it’s ultimately about the consumer. We’re really excited with the fall issue; we’ve been able to over-double the draw that’s going out on newsstand, hopefully reaching more consumers. And introducing more and more people to such a wonderful brand.

Samir Husni: So all three of you; why do you believe in print with everything that’s available out there?

Brian Wendel: I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.

Elizabeth Turner: It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.

Michelle Bilyeu: I would agree to that too. I think it’s all about that tactile experience with it; it’s being able to take it to your own space and get away. It’s a point of relaxation and inspiration and motivation. It’s a great place to find lots of ideas, besides just the information. So, I think they’re very inspiring. And I have a huge stack on my bed. Every night I look forward to that moment with my magazines.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Brian Wendel: I’d like to be known as a good citizen and someone who loves his family and friends. I’d like to also be known as someone who took a chance on something that I really believed in and it’s had what a lot of people believe is a profound impact on many people’s lives across the world. If that could be my legacy, I’d be thrilled to have it.

Elizabeth Turner: That’s really a tough question. Always creative and always pushing forward.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Brian Wendel: I would be with my partner, Darshana Thacker, who happens to be the chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives, and who has a good handful of recipes in each issue. So we might be having a delicious meal together; it might be a corn chowder or something like that, some potatoes. We live pretty simple lives, so that’s what you might find us doing.

Elizabeth Turner: I’ll be eating fruit, probably watermelon. Brian and I have this funny thing in common that we’re both obsessed with fruit, so if you’re at my house you’re going to see a lot of good fruit at all times. And I’ll probably be eating it.

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

Elizabeth Turner: My cat. (Laughs)

Brian Wendel: I’m going to decline to answer that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you all.

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Good Company Magazine: Where Creativity Meets Business & You’ll Always Find Yourself in “Good Company” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Grace Bonney, Founder…

September 17, 2018

“I’ve really come to love the web for its immediacy and its flexibility, but it’s a place I find that people have a harder time guiding into more serious topics. As Design Sponge (Grace’s blog) evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated. So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious.” Grace Bonney…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

When you’re in “good company,” you know it. From the moment I spoke to Grace Bonney, author, blogger, and entrepreneur, I knew that the name of her brand new magazine, Good Company, was most fortuitous for both of us. Grace believes that everyone deserves a chance to follow their dreams, no matter what stratosphere of life they come from. And her dream was to create a magazine. And that she did.

Good Company magazine was inspired by a book she wrote called “In the Company of Women” and it focuses on marginalized communities of people who run their own creative practices and businesses and continues the conversations she started in the book. I spoke with Grace recently and we talked about her own challenges and triumphs and about how she wants to highlight other people’s dreams and challenges in the magazine. Grace believes there are many different paths to take to success and everyone’s story is worth telling and listening to, no matter who you are.

Published twice a year (so far), the magazine is another platform where she feels the conversations can be deeper and longer than the content she shares weekly on her blog “Design Sponge,” which she has been doing for 14 years. And soon she will add a Good Company podcast to the mix. To say Grace Bonney is focused would be true, but to say she is dedicated to offering quality content that is meant for more than just the mainstream would be more accurate. She is a woman determined to tell as many stories as she can that inspire, uplift, and showcase people from all walks of life.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who thinks everyone deserves the title “Good Company,” Grace Bonney, founder of Good Company magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she wanted to add a printed magazine to her other platforms: That’s such a good question and I think about that a lot; you know, what medium is best for what story? I’ve really come to love the web for its immediacy and its flexibility, but it’s a place I find that people have a harder time guiding into more serious topics. As Design Sponge (Grace’s blog) evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated. So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious.

On the moment that she knew she needed to do a magazine: “In the Company of Women” was the last book that I did and Good Company magazine is essentially the next step in that path. I love “In the Company of Women,” but it’s more of a short form encyclopedia of the concept, and so I wanted to keep those conversations going in a more regular way so that I wouldn’t have to wait every two years to release an addition of that and I wanted a place to stretch them out. The book had a very singular format that we repeated with each person, so the magazine gives us more room to embrace different formats. We have miniature zines and group Q&A’s, just all kinds of different things that we can do in a regular magazine that we wouldn’t be able to do in the book format.

On the concept of the magazine, merging creativity and business: I came to this work, in general, from a design perspective and creativity. When I started out I didn’t think of creativity as anything other than all the fun parts of art and design, making things and being inspired, colors and patterns. About 10 years into running Design Sponge I realized that the pure artistic end of things wasn’t as fulfilling to me as it used to be. And I found that the more that I talked to people one on one and heard about their lives behind all of the pretty things, I actually ended up finding that more inspiring.

On whether 14 years ago, when she started her blog, she expected to be where she is today: Definitely not. I started my blog as a way to hopefully get another job, I thought if I started a blog it could maybe help me get a job at a magazine one day, because I didn’t have a journalism degree and it seemed like it would be impossible for me to ever get work at a magazine, which was all I ever wanted to do. So, I thought the blog would be a sort of online resume, in a way.

On who she is trying to reach with Good Company magazine: I’m trying to reach anybody who is interested in the worlds of art and commerce, because I think that so often the design world in particular has a very particular audience that tends to be wealthy, it tends to be white, it tends to be someone in their 30s and 40s. And when we’re talking about the business world and in particular finance publications, those tend to be geared toward men. And even though Good Company is primarily focused on people who identify as women, I’m hoping that it’s not as gendered as the works I’ve done before. And I’m just trying to talk to anybody that I think is interested in picking a little bit deeper into what it is that makes a creative life successful.

On whether the launch of Good Company has been a walk in a rose garden or she has had stumbling blocks along the way: (Laughs) It’s been a walk through a very thorny road. It’s been really hard; for sure the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. But that’s good in one way. It’s kind of fascinating to see how you can be a part of a community for so long and then discover this one aspect of it that you had no idea would be so challenging.

On the theory behind the $18 cover price: I think the cover price covers the depth of information. You can find a lot of books in the store that has fewer pages than our magazine that will have a higher price. And you’re definitely not going to find an independent magazine that pays people that’s charging less than that. Most indie magazines these days, whether it’s a fashion magazine or even just some of the other ones in the market like Cherry Bombe and Kinfolk and Monocle, and things like that, that’s a pretty common cover price.

On whether the decision for the magazine to be ad-free was intentional: Yes, it was. The first two issues are ad free; we’re kind of weighing the idea of ads for the third one right now. Capping them at like two or three per issue. But we haven’t made that decision yet. I think that it would make it a lot more profitable to have ads, but I really enjoy it being an ad free magazine whenever possible, but I think now that I’m deep into the business side of the magazine, it’s really hard to make a magazine ad free because it’s so expensive to produce.

On anything she’d like to add: I just want everybody to know that I think that this is a magazine that looks different and sounds different than what they’ll see in the market right now, especially in the creative sphere and in the business sphere. This is a publication where about 90 percent of the content is written by and about people from marginalized communities.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You will find me sitting with one eye facing my wife who cooks dinner and then one eye watching one of the Real Housewives of something franchise on television. (Laughs) Usually there’s some sort of guilty pleasure on TV and then I’m trying to help out with dinner as it’s cooking.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That’s a hard one. The first thing that comes to my mind is actually inspired by a tattoo that my wife has, which is just an “and” symbol, and it’s something that I think about a lot, the word “and,” because I think that so often bloggers and writers, and people in general, we want to put each other into these boxes where you’re either this or that, and you believe this or that, and this is something that my wife Julia really taught me, it’s never about “or,” it’s always about “and.”

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Songs that are stuck in my head. My guilty pleasure is always ending the day with old reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so usually I have some sort of cheesy dance song in my head that I can’t get out. So, let that be my biggest problem, that I have dance songs stuck in my head. (Laughs again)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Grace Bonney, founder, Good Company magazine.

Samir Husni: Grace, you seem to be all over the place. You’re a daily blogger, you have books in the marketplace, and now you’ve entered the world of magazines. What do you think a magazine will add to all of your other platforms?

Grace Bonney: That’s such a good question and I think about that a lot; you know, what medium is best for what story? I’ve really come to love the web for its immediacy and its flexibility, but it’s a place I find that people have a harder time guiding into more serious topics. As Design Sponge (Grace’s blog) evolved and I got more into print projects that were about the people behind the design, I found that people on the Internet weren’t coming to read longer form pieces or to talk about things that might be a bit more complicated.

So, that’s where I find print really excels over other mediums because when you hold something in your hand and you have time to spend with it, you’re more likely to sink your teeth into something that’s a little longer and a little more serious. That’s why I wanted to move these particular stories into print. And my hope was that people would hold them in their hands, go back to them when they had time to read the full piece and really sink their teeth into it.

Samir Husni: You’ve published two books: “In the Company of Women” and “Design Sponge at Home.” Can you tell me more about the genesis of Good Company? When was that moment of conception when you knew that you needed to do this?

Grace Bonney: “In the Company of Women” was the last book that I did and Good Company magazine is essentially the next step in that path. I love “In the Company of Women,” but it’s more of a short form encyclopedia of the concept, and so I wanted to keep those conversations going in a more regular way so that I wouldn’t have to wait every two years to release an addition of that and I wanted a place to stretch them out. The book had a very singular format that we repeated with each person, so the magazine gives us more room to embrace different formats. We have miniature zines and group Q&A’s, just all kinds of different things that we can do in a regular magazine that we wouldn’t be able to do in the book format.

So, the magazine is really just an extension of what we started with the book, and for me it’s just always about how do we keep picking away at all of those layers of things that are part of being a creative, whether we’re talking about how to balance life and work or how to pay for things or how to support yourself; I just wanted a place to have deeper conversations, so that’s where the magazine came in.

Samir Husni: You merged creativity and business; you want Good Company to be the place where creativity and business intersect. Can you expand a little bit on that concept?

Grace Bonney: I came to this work, in general, from a design perspective and creativity. When I started out I didn’t think of creativity as anything other than all the fun parts of art and design, making things and being inspired, colors and patterns. About 10 years into running Design Sponge I realized that the pure artistic end of things wasn’t as fulfilling to me as it used to be. And I found that the more that I talked to people one on one and heard about their lives behind all of the pretty things, I actually ended up finding that more inspiring.

So, I started interviewing people. I started a podcast that I ran for a few years and those conversations became more interesting and I kept realizing there’s this one layer of art and design, and that’s great, but the deeper we dig and we talk about how business affects things, your race, your age, where you live in the country; all of these different factors that are intersectional, how those things affect your work, that was fascinating to me. And those weren’t conversations that were happening as much, especially not online.

For me this evolution has always been about how do we get deeper; how do we connect all of these things, because creativity isn’t creativity without business behind it. If you don’t put marketing and thought and plan and pricing into place, people can’t access that creativity. So, I think it’s important to keep pulling those two things back together.

Samir Husni: As a creative/businessperson, you started your career in your mid-twenties and with your blog in 2004. Did you expect that 14 years later you would be where you are today?

Grace Bonney: Definitely not. I started my blog as a way to hopefully get another job, I thought if I started a blog it could maybe help me get a job at a magazine one day, because I didn’t have a journalism degree and it seemed like it would be impossible for me to ever get work at a magazine, which was all I ever wanted to do. So, I thought the blog would be a sort of online resume, in a way.

And I had no idea that blogs were going to be what they were, kind of at their apex. I think the whole time the blog has been a way for me to explore creatively what I like to write about, the community that I find most inspiring, and it’s really allowed me to do so many different things. And because I’ve stayed small, we don’t have investment money or backers or anything like that. I think staying small has allowed us to stay nimble and that’s meant writing books, or having events, doing podcasts, and we’re now starting the magazine.

Staying small in some ways is actually what’s allowed us to stay sustainable, because it’s easier for us to pivot quickly and try something new without taking a huge financial risk. So, I’m definitely surprised that I’m still doing this Design Sponge project as an umbrella, and I’m grateful to have it every year, but it’s been really fun to try something new. It makes me stretch and challenge myself, which is ultimately what keeps me going every day.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about you. I flipped through the pages of the magazine and read your bio; you have a really diverse world of women featured in the magazine. Who is your audience? If someone asked you who you were trying to reach with Good Company, what would you say?

Grace Bonney: I’m trying to reach anybody who is interested in the worlds of art and commerce, because I think that so often the design world in particular has a very particular audience that tends to be wealthy, it tends to be white, it tends to be someone in their 30s and 40s. And when we’re talking about the business world and in particular finance publications, those tend to be geared toward men. And even though Good Company is primarily focused on people who identify as women, I’m hoping that it’s not as gendered as the works I’ve done before. And I’m just trying to talk to anybody that I think is interested in picking a little bit deeper into what it is that makes a creative life successful.

So, our first two issues are dedicated to those topics of fear and failure, and how you build community, because I think those are the things that keep a creative career going long-term. In terms of age-range, anybody who is interested in starting an artistic career of any type, whether you’re a writer, a painter, a designer, I think there’s something in there for you.

And in particular, with Good Company, we’re trying to make sure that we speak to an age-range that’s much more diverse than you see online, because the Internet is really kind of obsessed with millennials and folks under 30. But I think there’s so much more life and business in people who have lived longer lives, so the magazine in particular is talking to people who have more life experience, who are over 50 and 60. I think bringing in that larger range of ages is really important, because to me that’s what’s missing from the Internet when it comes to talking about creative business. We tend to hear from people who are in their 20s and they have great startups and exciting ideas, but I want to hear from people who have been around a little bit longer because they’ve been through more hurdles.

Samir Husni: Has your journey with the launch of Good Company been a walk in a rose garden or have you encountered some stumbling blocks along the way?

Grace Bonney: (Laughs) It’s been a walk through a very thorny road. It’s been really hard; for sure the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career. But that’s good in one way. It’s kind of fascinating to see how you can be a part of a community for so long and then discover this one aspect of it that you had no idea would be so challenging.

The magazine business in general is incredibly difficult to make profitable and so I think it’s important that people talk about that openly because you don’t want to charge this kind of money for a magazine, but you also need to pay the people involved. Having been someone who has worked with magazines since the beginning of my career so far, I know how often creative talent gets devalued. I wanted to wait to do this project until I could find someone to work with that would help us fund this, because I think it’s important to pay the people who create content fairly.

And since this magazine primarily focuses on people from marginalized communities, whether they’re people of color, career people, or women, I think it’s really important that those people are paid. So for me, this project has been great to have a partner like Artisan, because they let me support people financially and they’ve also given us this kind of freedom to talk about things that most magazines don’t talk about.

It’s been a real challenge. I think it would be easier if we focused on celebrities or people with really huge names because that’s kind of how you make a splash, but I wanted to work really hard to make sure this magazine championed regular people who don’t have millions of followers, like the support of a television show or a movie. It’s kind of a balance and how you can textualize people who might be better known versus people who maybe should be better known.

So, it’s a daily challenge, but I think 14 years of working online has prepared me for what it’s like to have frequent ups and downs at work. I can handle it.

Samir Husni: With an $18 cover price per issue, some folks might tell you for that amount of money they could get an entire year’s subscription, if not two, of some of the magazines out there. What’s the theory behind the high cover price?

Grace Bonney: I think the cover price covers the depth of information. You can find a lot of books in the store that has fewer pages than our magazine that will have a higher price. And you’re definitely not going to find an independent magazine that pays people that’s charging less than that. Most indie magazines these days, whether it’s a fashion magazine or even just some of the other ones in the market like Cherry Bombe and Kinfolk and Monocle, and things like that, that’s a pretty common cover price.

That was something that I took into consideration, because I think that it’s always a balance between how do you respect the quality that’s inside this, and also still understand that people have to be able to afford what you’re putting out there. I think of Good Company as a part of a wide range of offerings that we have, from something free like Design Sponge, to something on the higher end like the books, which are like $30 plus. So, I think of this as kind of a mid-range option.

And to be honest, the magazine actually has more content than the book does, but a lower price-point. So, I always think of the magazine as a miniature book. It comes out twice a year and it’s something that I hope people will consider saving up for and investing in, and not consider it something that you would get that’s $3 as you check out at the grocery store and then you end up throwing it out after you’ve read it. This is something I hope the reader keeps and invests in and holds onto.

As independent magazines continue to have these communities that support them, I think the price tag is something that people will get a little bit more used to. It’s really not anything we’ve gotten any pushback on. I think that the amount of pages and the quality of the material is something that people understand. But I absolutely don’t expect everybody to go out and buy a million copies when I know it’s not a $4 magazine. But I feel really good about the content inside being worth way more than $18.

Samir Husni: I always say that the future’s business plan is about customers who count rather than counting customers.

Grace Bonney: Exactly. That’s a great way to put it. And I would feel differently if I didn’t have Design Sponge because a lot of Good Company’s content gets shared on Design Sponge, and Design Sponge is free, always will be and always has been for almost 15 years. So, I feel like if you’re not somebody who can afford the magazine, I still want to support you and provide content that I think is great and high quality, but is free. If the magazine isn’t in someone’s budget, they can access really similar content on a weekly basis at Design Sponge or listen to our podcast, which we’re about to launch for Good Company in the very near future. And that will be free.

So, I think it’s important to offer a range so that if people want that content but can’t afford the magazine, they can still get some of it. I feel okay offering a range as long as we keep listening to people and if we get feedback that it’s too much, we’ll readjust. Right now I think people understand how that price tag correlates to paying all of the contributors really fairly for their work.

Samir Husni: I’m going to assume the decision to go ad free in the magazine was intentional.

Grace Bonney: Yes, it was. The first two issues are ad free; we’re kind of weighing the idea of ads for the third one right now. Capping them at like two or three per issue. But we haven’t made that decision yet. I think that it would make it a lot more profitable to have ads, but I really enjoy it being an ad free magazine whenever possible, but I think now that I’m deep into the business side of the magazine, it’s really hard to make a magazine ad free because it’s so expensive to produce.

And something I didn’t know until we got into this was the return rate for magazines. I’m used to books, which have a lower return rate, and magazine return rates for big stores are like 60 percent. So, if you’re printing these independently, I don’t know how anybody weathers that return rate. And as a publisher I know it’s difficult for our publisher to handle that too. Ads are not something that I’m 100 percent against, but I like keeping them as minimal as possible because I just don’t want to have a magazine that’s flooded with things that don’t have any connection to what the content is. It’s really difficult to work with advertisers and have control over the creative and the messaging, so I think if that’s something we’ll do, we’ll do it very limited and very carefully.

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

Grace Bonney: I just want everybody to know that I think that this is a magazine that looks different and sounds different than what they’ll see in the market right now, especially in the creative sphere and in the business sphere. This is a publication where about 90 percent of the content is written by and about people from marginalized communities.

And mainstream magazines, even independent magazines, still primarily focus on this kind of expected mass look of white people, rich people; people who are young, people who are thin, people who are able-bodied, and I think that community has had so much coverage. And this is something completely different. For me, this project has nothing to do with me and all to do with the community that I think hasn’t been served well by the creative community. So, I hope people will open it up and really look and take in all of these stories and pictures and people that they haven’t really heard enough about so far.

And I think that the issues that are coming up in particular really celebrate all of these people who deserve to have the attention they haven’t gotten in the creative community yet. So, I hope people will dive into it and enjoy all of these talented and new, hopefully just new to us, faces.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Grace Bonney: You will find me sitting with one eye facing my wife who cooks dinner and then one eye watching one of the Real Housewives of something franchise on television. (Laughs) Usually there’s some sort of guilty pleasure on TV and then I’m trying to help out with dinner as it’s cooking.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Grace Bonney: That’s a hard one. The first thing that comes to my mind is actually inspired by a tattoo that my wife has, which is just an “and” symbol, and it’s something that I think about a lot, the word “and,” because I think that so often bloggers and writers, and people in general, we want to put each other into these boxes where you’re either this or that, and you believe this or that, and this is something that my wife Julia really taught me, it’s never about “or,” it’s always about “and.”

And I think all of the work that I do is to try and embrace things that are contradictory, things that are complicated, to try and embrace all of the pretty, superficial fun parts of design and all of the parts that are difficult and messy, that we have to talk about and kind of dig apart a little bit. So, I hope if anything people will just remember that I tried with all of the work that we’ve done as a community to talk about all the ends of the spectrum and not just the pretty, easy, fun ones.

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

Grace Bonney: (Laughs) Songs that are stuck in my head. My guilty pleasure is always ending the day with old reruns of RuPaul’s Drag Race, so usually I have some sort of cheesy dance song in my head that I can’t get out. So, let that be my biggest problem, that I have dance songs stuck in my head. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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From The Vault: Getting To Know Will Welch, The New Editor-in-Chief Of GQ Magazine… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview from 2016

September 13, 2018

Bob Sauerberg, CEO and president of Condé Nast, announced today that he is “pleased to share the news that we have named Will Welch as the next editor-in-chief of GQ, overseeing all content development, production and consumer experiences for GQ’s digital, social, video and print platforms, as well as the brand’s iconic Men of the Year Awards.

Will has been part of the GQ family since 2007, rising to become the editor-in-chief of GQ Style in 2015 and earlier this year was named GQ’s creative director, and a big part of why a new generation of consumers are drawn to the brand…”

Two years ago (November 10, 2016) I published my interview with Will when he became the editor-in-chief of GQ Style. What follows is the Mr. Magazine™ Interview from the Vault with Will Welch, now editor-in-chief of GQ magazine.

GQ Style & Will Welch: Bringing The Human Soul & Style Together In The Most Wonderful of Ways – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Will Welch, Editor In Chief, GQ Style…

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“There is no news section. If you want to know about what’s happening with the fashion houses or who the most stylish young band is, or what people wore at the New York City Marathon yesterday, I would happily direct you to GQStyle.com and our social feeds. What we are going to do in print is something that could only successfully live in print. We are going to use those pages to really do something that only works on the quarterly schedule that GQ Style is released in. I think it’s all about the width of throwing some, not all, but some magazine structure and thinking out of the window and saying, ‘what should print be now?’” Will Welch…

Heart and soul for the brand, two of the most important passions a magazine maker can have. Add in an honesty that goes much deeper than just the pages of the magazine; a candor that comes from the actual depths of the human being creating it, and you have Condé Nast’s latest title and its editor in chief, Will Welch; a man who is redefining just exactly what a luxury men’s magazine is.

Will joined Condé Nast in 2007 on GQ’s editorial team, most recently serving as the magazine’s style editor. Today, Will is editor in chief of GQ Style and is bringing his own fresh approach to the art of being a man. There are no taboos when it comes to what goes with fashion, as far as Will sees it. His vision is clear and focused; men mix fashion with art, music and interior design every day, and that authentic direction, while unique, is also spot on with his readers.

I spoke with Will recently and we talked about his passionate and soulful belief and views about the magazine. His mission statement for the magazine is simple: how to succeed with style and soul. And for him that isn’t always about an expensive price tag hanging from the shirt. It’s about beauty, integrity and much more than the design of the jacket. In Will’s own words, “It is feeling like the stuff we are covering is coming from a really honest place and that’s the most important thing to me.” And you absolutely can’t argue with that.

In fact, Mr. Magazine™ was so impressed with GQ Style; I selected it as one of the 30 Hottest New Launches for 2016. It was a refreshing change of pace to have an editor in chief of a men’s magazine see that we males have quite a bit more on our minds than just clothes. GQ Style has put a new definition on the five-letter word. Being stylish involves a lifestyle more than just trendy attire.

So, I hope that you enjoy this refreshing glimpse into the world of a man who is not afraid to shake up the space of men’s magazines, especially when he does so with heart, soul, and a new type of “style” – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Will Welch, Editor in Chief of GQ Style.

But first the sound-bites:

Will Welch Photo by Jake Rosenburg

Will Welch
Photo by Jake Rosenburg

On why he thinks GQ Style wouldn’t have existed 10 years ago: There’s a real culture around fashion, art and interior design. The conversations I have with friends, and have had since I was in college, related to art had nothing to do with our means to actually buy a piece of art from a gallery. But, there was enthusiasm, excitement, awareness, and vocabulary built around that. What that means, for me, GQ Style was able to be really organic, authentic, and this word might be a stretch but I think I can explain it, and I put it on the cover of the first issue for a reason – soulful. That created the dialogue, discussion, and presentation of all of these elements that can be defined as luxury or lifestyle and culture in magazine form.On how much of his own soul he puts into the magazine: (Laughs) There are a few things that I invest myself in. I think of things that my wife and I are interested in and conversations we have that aren’t in the magazine. But pretty much a huge portion of what I’m invested in, finds itself in the magazine in one form or another.

On the Holiday issue that features a 20-page Jazz portfolio: Again, just really investing in things that we believe are a little bit outside of what everybody might be talking about in the culture of the moment or they seem a little bit offbeat. I feel like the key to GQ Style connecting with readers and an audience, and the key to being relevant for us is to continue to throw ourselves at the stuff we really believe in, whether it’s huge and mainstream or tiny and niche.

On whether that portfolio could only be achieved in print: You can’t achieve the same portfolio in digital. You can do a piece about the same guys, in the same attitude and same spirit and make it every bit as impactful and as much of a document of the moment in time. But, it would have to be rethought. Video and audio would have to play an important part of it. You would really want to conceive of it outside the standard idea of still-photography, written words, and the design that brings the two together.

On what role he thinks GQ Style plays in today’s digital world: There is no news section. If you want to know about what’s happening with the fashion houses or who the most stylish young band is, or what people wore at the New York City Marathon yesterday, I would happily direct you to GQStyle.com and our social feeds. What we are going to do in print is something that could only successfully live in print. We are going to use those pages to really do something that only works on the quarterly schedule that GQ Style is released in. I think it’s all about the width of throwing some, not all, but some magazine structure and thinking out of the window and saying, ‘what should print be now?’

On if there have been any stumbling blocks: Well, to be really honest, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Of course, there have been challenges along the way. There are quirky aspects of the way that GQ Style is designed and the way it operates that require some problem solving and some patience and smart thinking.

On writing an introduction for the Rick Ruben interview with Kendrick Lamar: I felt like there needed to be a moment where, especially because GQ Style is such a new magazine and such a new title across the platforms, there needed to be a moment where our readers understood why we had chosen Kendrick Lamar and why now.

On coming up with cover stories: It can be a moment in the middle of the night. It can be that for me or any member of my team, or someone from the GQ staff, like ‘You know who I’ve been thinking would be really cool for you guys?’ Because we all work on the same floor here together and there’s a constant ebb and flow of communication and ideas and just hallway communication like any cool collegial office. So it’s sort of like a nonstop topic of conversations.

On his expectations for GQ Style one year from now: I feel very strongly that the first three issues have been successful in that they’ve defined and sort of laid out the case for GQ Style, and why what we’re doing is relevant, and what a reader can gain by coming to us in all of our forms, social, GQStyle.com, GQ Style in print.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: Evenings at home are usually spent on the couch with my wife, and I’m not too proud of this, but we’ll be having dinner next to each other on the couch with two cats around, and there’s always a series of things going on, it could be a football game or a TV show on, or my wife might be reading a book and I might be on my phone at the same time or vice versa.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night is family-related, I’m 35 years old and it just seems to be an interesting time in my life, there are all of these opportunities for me to grow and mature, so I’m sort of trying to evolve as a man and a husband and a son and all of these things, and elements of that keep me up at night. But what pertains to GQ Style is usually there is a story I want to tell and there are some elements blocking it, it could be a budget thing or a talent booking issue, or a photography or a photographer-booking question.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Will Welch,
Editor in Chief, GQ Style.

Samir Husni: You redefined luxury in the magazine with the first issue and you created a magazine that technically you have admitted would not have existed just a few years ago. Why do think that GQ Style would not have existed 10 years ago?

Will Welch: There are a couple of reasons, but the place I’d like to start is with the awareness of men’s style and men’s lifestyle pursuits, including fashion, interior design, design, architecture, art and travel. Men have this awareness and ease with the vocabulary, and excitement about these topics has grown. The amount that these topics are a part of their lives and conversations, let’s just ballpark within the last 16 years, has really accelerated, but especially within the last 10 years. That allowed GQ Style to tackle those topics with real passion, they’re not floating off in the abstract and they’re not these exclusive pursuits of the rich and well-heeled, or people with money to burn.

There’s a real culture around fashion, art and interior design. The conversations I have with friends, and have had since I was in college, related to art had nothing to do with our means to actually buy a piece of art from a gallery. But, there was enthusiasm, excitement, awareness, and vocabulary built around that. What that means, for me, GQ Style was able to be really organic, authentic, and this word might be a stretch but I think I can explain it, and I put it on the cover of the first issue for a reason – soulful. That created the dialogue, discussion, and presentation of all of these elements that can be defined as luxury or lifestyle and culture in magazine form.

I feel like in a way, GQ style was made possible because of the culture among American men. Over the last 16 years it has been evolving at a clip that made a magazine where the discussion of this stuff was really natural and not in anyway forced. That cover line from our debut issue, which came out in May with Robert Downey Jr. on the cover, was sort of presented as the cover-line selling the Robert Downey Jr. story. But to me, it was secretly the mission statement of the magazine, which is how to succeed with style and a soul. That was my way of sending a coded signal that the content of this magazine isn’t going to be fancy, expensive or luxury just for expensive sake, and I think there’s a history of luxury magazines participating in that and I wanted a clean break. I felt that the culture had created a moment that was ready for GQ Style. So, that’s what we’ve been striving to make and we have three issues that have come out so far and it’s feeling good. It’s feeling like the stuff we are covering is coming from a really honest place and that’s the most important thing to me.
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Samir Husni: Will, you are now 35, so how much of your own soul do you put into this magazine to make it even more soulful.

Will Welch: (Laughs) There are a few things that I invest myself in. I think of things that my wife and I are interested in and conversations we have that aren’t in the magazine. But pretty much a huge portion of what I’m invested in, finds itself in the magazine in one form or another.

For example, in the debut issue, there was an 8-page spread on Sid Mashburn store. Which I think is one of the very best stores in the country. It was started in Atlanta and now posted in D.C., Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles. Sid Mashburn is an incredibly interesting guy who has started this store. He comes from a family that had small town stores in the American south, where it was really about community and value and he doesn’t use this word but I would, soul, as much as it was about clothes or profit margin. It’s just a store in Atlanta, but to me there’s something going on there and there’s a story to tell. He’s doing something really unique that brings new ideas to bear on fashion and retail and getting dressed and all these topics that are relevant to GQ Style that I felt like eight pages made perfect sense.

In the Holiday Issue there’s a four-page story on the shop in Los Angeles called RTH, which was founded about 7 years ago by this designer, but even designer feels like too small of a word. He’s really a creative and a maker of interesting worlds named Rene Holguin. It’s just a shop in L.A., they have no e-commerce presence and it’s two stores that are just three doors down from each other. You walk in and find that he has created this whole world that is truly immersive. It’s like falling down a rabbit hole to walk into this store. I thought to myself, yes this is just a store in L.A. but this deserves a feature. I knew that Erykah Badu is also a huge fan of RTH, and by chance she discovered it the year it opened so we interviewed her about her love for RTH and what she knows about Rene Holguin, who founded it.

I guess what I’m saying is that these are small passions of mine. These are two little stores that I love, but to me there is something happening in both of them that is much bigger than just the footprint of their shops, so we wanted to give them a big space in GQ Style.

Also, in the Holiday Issue there is a 20 page Jazz portfolio. Again, just really investing in things that we believe are a little bit outside of what everybody might be talking about in the culture of the moment or they seem a little bit offbeat. I feel like the key to GQ Style connecting with readers and an audience, and the key to being relevant for us is to continue to throw ourselves at the stuff we really believe in, whether it be huge and mainstream or tiny and niche.

Samir Husni: That was my next question to you because when I saw the piece on jazz, I noticed some of the people featured reached the age of 91. That’s where I felt the soul of the magazine was. When I saw that feature, I felt like nobody thinks about jazz artists and what they wear, but rather they just enjoy their music. But you were able to turn it around and it was a combination of everything.

Will Welch: I think it was interesting because basically what happened is GQ’s great, longtime design director, Fred Woodward, who’s also the design director at GQ Style, although I think he brings out a very different style of himself when he’s working of GQ Style versus GQ. We were in an ideas meeting and he says to me: ‘Think of all the great lions of jazz that are still alive today. Not only are they alive but they’re still playing, they’re still making music, still playing at Village Vanguard, still releasing new albums. We talk about soul and passion and he was fired-up when he brought up this idea. He felt like it was something that was not only a nice piece for the 3 months that this issue is on newsstands, but it could be something that would really be a permanent document, a marking of this moment.

Any good magazine strives to be a document of the cultural moments of its time. So, we started going through the list and it was unbelievable, some of the histories of these guys who are still doing it. There were a couple key things for us. One, I think that jazz is synonymous with men’s style. The way that the jazz musicians, even going back to the 1920s but especially the 40s, 50s, 60s and even early 70s. I was talking with a friend and we were joking about the dashiki period of jazz, where the style of dress changed along with the sound of the music that was constantly happening. The jazzmen were some of the most stylish men of their times and so let’s work with these guys and do a portfolio, let’s collaborate with them. Our fashion editor, Mobolaji Dawodu did just a beautiful job styling the piece. But our vision for the photography and the fashion went hand-in-hand. Let’s not try to freeze these guys in time. Let’s not do classic black and white portraiture of guys who in their 60s, 70s, and as you mentioned, even 90s. These guys were, and are, visionaries.

The piece is called ‘The Explorers Club’ and these guys really used their instruments to explore the human condition, both internally and externally. We think about space travel when we think about a lot of these musicians like Pharoah Sanders. I also think about the exploration of the human interior of the human consciousness, and so we wanted to make them look futuristic now, not freeze them in stone. That was the director for both Christian Weeber, who is an incredible photographer and did a beautiful job with this portfolio, but also the director for Mobolaji Dawodu’s work with the fashion. You know, these guys are incredibly opinionated, his (Dawodu’s) stories coming back from set were hilarious like: ‘Hell no, I’ll never wear that. Get that out of my face.’ He would slowly find a rhythm with each of them. But taking that idea and believing it. Finding a way to not do it the expected way, but to make it fresh. Then to really invest in it, as far as the pages we are giving over to it. I guess if you really include the appendix where we talk about some of their greatest albums of all time, it’s like 26 pages of content.

Samir Husni: You look at those pages and flip those 26 pages and see the life and soul of the music. Is there a way you can do that in digital or can you only achieve that same portfolio in print?

Will Welch: You can’t achieve the same portfolio in digital. You can do a piece about the same guys, in the same attitude and same spirit and make it every bit as impactful and as much of a document of the moment in time. But, it would have to be rethought. Video and audio would have to play an important part of it. You would really want to conceive of it outside the standard idea of still-photography, written words, and the design that brings the two together.

I absolutely think you could do something that ambitious, and of course we are trying to do both. When we are commissioning the piece we are thinking about the digital version of it and trying to prepare for that. We have some interesting things in the works right now so that it really is compelling in something more than just a print piece translated online in an unsatisfying way when we launch it on GQStyle.com. The two have to be conceived independently from one another. For digital to be impactful it has to be thought of as digital.

Samir Husni: Nobody can accuse you of not being a digital native at your age. (Laughs)

Will Welch: (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, as a digital native, what do you feel the role of print, as exemplified in GQ Style, is going to be for your generation?

Will Welch: I think when we are designing new print products or if someone young takes over a preexisting magazine, you have to toss out some of the institutional memory of the way a magazine is constructed. I tried to do that with GQ Style. This is oversimplifying a little bit but the traditional way a magazine is structured is there is newsy and small bits orientated beginning of the magazine called the front of the book. There is some different modular mid-length storytelling that is usually deemed the middle of the book. Which are all single pages that have ads next to them. Then you fit the feature-well, at which point the vast majority of the spreads are all editorial. There are no longer ads breaking up the editorial and that’s when you save your big visual moments and your long-form pieces. So, that is the way a magazine, again oversimplifying a little bit, but traditionally been structured.

With the launch of GQ Style, and I think anybody else my age who has the opportunity, rare though that may be these days, to launch something or alter something in print, has to look at that with a very critical eye and wonder how much of it is still relevant. I mean, a front of book news section, for a quarterly magazine especially, but I think even in a monthly as well, you’re just never going to keep up with the Internet so why even try?

So, really what happened with the launch of GQ Style, I spent a lot of the early days trying to think about, in the age of the internet, this is not the age of both the internet and print, this is the age purely of the internet, what can print do? What service can print provide the reader that they can’t already get online? I tried to build; of course with collaboration from my colleagues here, particularly Fred Woodword, the Design Director and Chris Opresic, the Photo Director, we tried to build a new structure that is specific to the digital age, specific to the concerns and topics of the imagined audience of GQ Style. This also included the out publisher Howard Mittman.

Howard deserves a lot of credit for understanding why that was going to make a difference, why that would be modern, why his advertisers would be okay with that, why that would help the fact that we cost $14.99 on the newsstand. I mean that was very collaborative and a huge leap of faith on his part and I thought pretty visionary to see the value in that and to know that that made sense from a business perspective. One very unique, and favorite aspects, there are a lot of readers who probably wouldn’t even be able to tell you that it’s happening but they feel it is that once the editorial section of the magazine begins, and earnest is all editorial spread, all the ads are backed upfront, maybe a couple in the back and add the back cover. But what would traditionally be a front of book, middle of book, and feature well is all editorial spreads. We have really tried to take advantage of that. Again, whether the reader knows it or not, they feel the difference.

There is no news section. If you want to know about what’s happening with the fashion houses or who the most stylish young band is, or what people wore at the New York City Marathon yesterday, I would happily direct you to GQStyle.com and our social feeds. What we are going to do in print is something that could only successfully live in print. We are going to use those pages to really do something that only works on the quarterly schedule that GQ Style is released in. I think it’s all about the width of throwing some, not all, but some magazine structure and thinking out of the window and saying, ‘what should print be now?’

Samir Husni: In fact, that’s what caught my attention. When I told Howard after I saw the first issue, “I have to interview Will.” I felt like you put your thumb on the heart of the problem. I am so glad you explained it the way you did. I always tell my clients or if I’m ever doing consulting, if you’re still doing the magazine as if it’s 2007 we have a problem.

Will Welch: Yes.

Samir Husni: Yours is a great example. I show my students your magazine. In fact, my teaching assistant, this is his favorite magazine. He’ll sit down and stop working to read GQ Style.

Will Welch: (Laughs) That gives me great, great joy. I’m so happy to hear that, thank you for passing that along.

Samir Husni: I mean the combination is really a new way of putting a magazine together, whether it’s a fashion magazine or any magazine that’s going to be in print.

Will Welch: I think that has to be the way to do it right now.

Samir Husni: So tell me, has it all been great, no stumbling blocks? Everything was as though you should have done this 3 years ago?

Will Welch: Well, to be really honest, it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. Of course, there have been challenges along the way. There are quirky aspects of the way that GQ Style is designed and the way it operates that require some problem solving and some patience and smart thinking. But those are little pebbles compared to the stuff about it that’s felt really great.

I think crucially it has broadened the power and the reach of GQ. I feel like the existence of GQ Style has not only been a success in its own terms but has also been a list for GQ and just the umbrella brand. One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot last week in particular, and I’m going to digress a little bit with the holiday issue; we launched it two weeks ago and we had this interesting cover package built around Kendrick Lamar. I had asked Rick Rubin, the legendary music producer, to interview Kendrick for the print piece. He and Kendrick also agreed to have that conversation videotaped and we did it at Rick Rubin’s Shangri La Studios outside in Malibu, which is how Rick Rubin likes to do things, and I said let’s do a cut. And we had 3 cameras on them, and we did a cut that was all 55 minutes of this interview and put it online. I can’t remember the exact timeline, but in a week and a half or so, it hit about a million views on YouTube alone. You know that doesn’t count all of the plays on GQ and GQ Style’s websites. It was a very proud moment for us that it got to a million views that quickly just on YouTube.

I realized that the only way to think about this title, GQ Style, in this moment, is what GQ Style is to each reader. In each moment whatever piece of content is in front of them. So, I’ve been really working, starting with myself and also with my team, as well as with Howard and his team, that how do we get rid of the idea entirely that GQ Style is a print magazine that is supported by social channels, video content, GQStyle.com, that its print with these other supportive elements or buffers.

How do we realize that if somebody is reading? If a tweet or Facebook post or something else comes across a reader’s trance at any given moment that is from us that is GQ Style, that’s what GQ Style is in the moment. In fact, with this Kendrick Lamar and Rick Rubin video the fact that it had found that big of an audience that fast meant that GQ Style is this YouTube video to more people than it is anything else so far in our very young life. So, we have to think about the brand holistically but we also have to think about each tweet, each Instagram, each Facebook post, each story in each issue, all of those things, each picture that we publish, the way that we represent ourselves as we move around the world, or do interviews, or go out on meetings. GQ Style is whatever that thing is to that person in that moment. I think it is of upmost importance that my team and myself digest that in order to have success, managing all of the many elements of this new entity.

Samir Husni: I noticed in that specific interview that Rick Rubin did with Kendrick Lamar, that you wrote an introduction to that interview, which is unusual. In the traditional way of doing magazines, you ask the person who does the interview to do the introduction or also the lead.

Will Welch: Yes, absolutely, and I just felt like it needed a moment because we had asked Rick to do this interview and he had so graciously agreed, and I had sort of said you should ask Kendrick whatever you want. I felt like there needed to be a moment where, especially because GQ Style is such a new magazine and such a new title across the platforms, there needed to be a moment where our readers understood why we had chosen Kendrick Lamar and why now. I was present for the interview and sort of done a lot of the arranging, so I felt like there should… you know it’s only a could of paragraphs long you know, it’s very short, but just a quick taste for like its only our third issue, it’s our first ever holiday issue here’s why we’ve chosen Kendrick Lamar for the cover and here’s why Rick Rubin is interviewing him and here’s just a little bit of insight into what happened that cool day in Malibu, and then I kind of get out of the way and let the two of them talk.

Samir Husni: So how do those cover ideas come to you? Do you lie in bed and think ‘Oh, we need to have Kendrick Lamar on the cover?’ Or, if I am to go inside your brain, how do you reach those moments in selecting your cover story?
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Will Welch: It can be a moment in the middle of the night. It can be that for me or any member of my team, or someone from the GQ staff, like ‘You know who I’ve been thinking would be really cool for you guys?’ Because we all work on the same floor here together and there’s a constant ebb and flow of communication and ideas and just hallway communication like any cool collegial office. So it’s sort of like a nonstop topic of conversations. I mean we’re talking about, of course, the spring 2017 cover which is our next issue that we’re currently putting together, but we’re really taking about the next year of covers, and I find myself thinking about it while I’m riding the train in the morning or driving, or on planes.

Names come up out of conversations that are completely unrelated to like editorial coverage, just some conversation with a friend or acquaintance that mentioned somebody. You kind of go ‘Wait a minute, that person could be really interesting’. From there, it’s really just about, well, another thing that I think is crucial to these early days of GQ Style is that I was kind of obsessing about this and the first couple of weeks that we had announced this launch, I was like how do you break through like we’re going to be doing this new thing and how do we break through?

Everybody knows how noisy of a time it is for media, but not just for media, there are kids with twitter accounts who have a louder voice than some of the most storied media entities in the world. I mean it’s a really intense and tricky time for any new launch; it could be a new fashion brand, I don’t know a new brand of kale chips, whatever the case may be, or in my case this new magazine title like how we break through? I think the key to it is you have to know who you are and you have to digest that and feel it in your bones. Then, you have to move forward always looking for new and interesting ways to do your thing whatever that might be, but it always has to be anchored in a real knowledge of who you are, and by who I am I mean what GQ Style is and what it’s all about.

So, I spend a lot of time in my own head and the notes folder in my iPhone and then once I kind of put a staff together with developing this together with my staff and it’s changed as different personalities have come on board and added their ideas to the mix, but we’ve really just been honing this idea of just what GQ Style is, what it’s all about, and then it gets really interesting when you’re thinking of new ideas and who should be on the cover to take this. You know for our covers so far they’ve all been celebrities, to take these celebrities and say what do they have to do with this idea of GQ Style that we’ve been talking so much about. Do they twist it in an interesting way or are they not related to it or are they perfect on message, do they seem like they’re related to what we’re doing but maybe it’s a year down the road? So, its like there’s this litmus test and you’re kind of bringing different people, different ideas, different stories, different kinds of storytelling into the mix and trying to figure out what that means for this central idea that you’re defining.

Samir Husni: If I speak with you a year from now, what would you hope to tell me about GQ Style; what are your expectations?

Will Welch: I feel very strongly that the first three issues have been successful in that they’ve defined and sort of laid out the case for GQ Style, and why what we’re doing is relevant, and what a reader can gain by coming to us in all of our forms, social, GQStyle.com, GQ Style in print. I’m very proud of the content that we’ve made.

I think we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, but evolve that in 2017 as well. We have the opportunity to really think outside the box and be creative in the way we use all of these tools that are currently at our disposal, which could be Facebook or an event that we throw, it could be any number of things. I think we’ve created a pretty cool product, I really believe that, but we need to raise awareness and there’s the opportunity to do that in new ways, print magazines certainly, but media entities in general haven’t breached yet. We’re a really small team but I think we have the creativity and the brainpower and the resources to be innovative. I hope that’s the story of 2017, I hope that’s the story we get to tell when the time comes.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; having a glass of wine; watching television; or something else?

Will Welch: Evenings at home are usually spent on the couch with my wife, and I’m not too proud of this, but we’ll be having dinner next to each other on the couch with two cats around, and there’s always a series of things going on, it could be a football game or a TV show on, or my wife might be reading a book and I might be on my phone at the same time or vice versa. So, it’s interesting to think how that relates to GQ Style; we’re relaxing but there’s also this mix of print, digital, fiber optic cable, all of this stuff swirling in the mix you know? Sometimes, like now, it’s starting to get cold so there might be a fire going and just books, but usually the TV’s off and on, books and magazines and newspapers are in the mix, but so are our iPhones, and dinner and our two pet cats.

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

Will Welch: What keeps me up at night is family-related, I’m 35 years old and it just seems to be an interesting time in my life, there are all of these opportunities for me to grow and mature, so I’m sort of trying to evolve as a man and a husband and a son and all of these things, and elements of that keep me up at night. But what pertains to GQ Style is usually there is a story I want to tell and there are some elements blocking it, it could be a budget thing or a talent booking issue, or a photography or a photographer-booking question. You know to tell a successful story there are always a lot of people and a lot of talents and expertise moving in the same direction. That usually takes some finesse, so sometimes I’m up at night figuring out the right way to finesse.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Men’s Health: Now A Hearst Legacy Brand That Still Has “Tons Of Useful Stuff,” But With A “Stronger, Faster, Better” Focus…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ronan Gardiner, VP/CRO/Publisher, & Richard Dorment, Editor In Chief, Men’s Health…

September 11, 2018


“I definitely do not. We just got the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) report for the first six months of the year, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of those reports; Men’s Health delivered against rate-base every month for the first six months of the year, our rate base is 1.8 million. MRI still puts us at 12 million readers in print. We are bringing new men, young men into our print subscriber family every day of the year. And while we’ve seen terrific growth online, which is really exciting, and we’ve seen terrific growth in social which is also really exciting, our print product remains incredibly vital, going back to that word again. And incredibly wanted and needed, and I think in many ways more relevant than ever.” Ronan Gardiner (on whether he can ever envision a day there will not be a print edition of Men’s Health)…

“When I say strong, faster, better, I don’t just mean that as far as goals for the reader, it’s really what the magazine is about. We’re hopefully a stronger brand; we’re faster at processing things and in delivering information and inspiration to our readers; and we’re just constantly trying to get better. We’re embodying the values of the brand, which is self-improvement.” Richard Dorment…

At 30 years of age, Men’s Health is speaking to more men across more platforms than ever before according to Ronan Gardiner, VP, Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, and Richard Dorment, Editor in Chief. With 12 million readers in print, 8 million online, and 15 million across all social platforms, Men’s Health is a legacy brand that is still as vibrant and as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

Now a Hearst publication, Men’s Health joins the brotherhood of men’s titles such as Esquire and Popular Mechanics which help to make Hearst the largest men’s publishing company in the country. And with a new home comes a brand new tagline for the brand, “Stronger, Faster, Better.” Richard has been editor in chief for almost five months and in that short period of time he has really wrapped his expertise as an editor (formerly at Wired and Esquire) around the evolvement of men in the 21st century. According to Rich, fitness, and health and wellness have never been more prevalent than in today’s changing male environment, hence the new tagline which epitomizes the “new” Men’s Health, where vitality is the core of the brand.

And Men’s Health veteran, Ronan Gardiner, could not be more attuned to his brand partner, totally simpatico with Richard’s vision. The two men have put forth combined efforts and are seeing the positivity of their work reflected in the growing strength of the brand: 63 new advertisers YTD, since moving to Hearst, including Tudor Watches, Missoni Fragrance, Timberland, Subaru, Hornitos, Knob Creek and Marriott, and more. The Auto (+165%), Footwear (+25%) and Food & Beverage (+8%) categories are all up in advertising YOY . The November 30th Anniversary issue will be up in advertising YOY, and the total number of men reached by Hearst across all brands, print and digital, speaks to almost half (45%) of American men.

All Mr. Magazine™ can say is Men’s Health seems to be A-Okay, no stress test needed. And with its cornerstone print product thriving, digital and social growing, the brand shows no signs of slowing down as it nears its 30th anniversary. And check newsstands as the October issue of the Stronger, Faster, Better Men’s Health hits today!

Kudos Men’s Health and enjoy your rosy cheeks and strong vitality as you ease gracefully toward your next milestone! And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ronan Gardiner, VP/CRO/publisher and Richard Dorment, editor in chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On any differences at Men’s Health with the brand now being a Hearst publication instead of being owned by Rodale (Ronan Gardiner): I don’t think we could have found a more perfect home than Hearst for many, many different reasons. Number one, obviously with the acquisition of Rodale, Hearst now has a very serious health and wellness footprint that it didn’t have before. Number two, Hearst now delivers more men than any other publishing company. Adding Men’s Health to a portfolio that included Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, Road & Track, and then of course with Bicycling and Runner’s World delivery against men, Hearst now reaches more men than any other publishing company.

On how Richard Dorment sees his role as editor in chief today versus when he was at Wired and Esquire (Richard Dorment): I see myself in the same role that I’ve always had, as an advocate for the reader. To ask the questions, and to anticipate the questions that they’re going to be asking. To look for the issues that are going to be most important for them, to try and track down the stories that will move and excite them and inspire them. And to work with the best and smartest people I know to give them the information they need to improve their lives and become better versions of themselves.

On changing the tagline from “Tons of Useful Stuff” to “Stronger, Faster, Better” (Richard Dorment): There was absolutely nothing wrong with “Tons of Useful Stuff,” but one of the things that I have been talking a lot about with my staff is a single word: vitality. And it’s not just a goal that I think all of my readers have in mind, which is that they all want to be more vital versions of themselves, they want to be stronger, smarter, more enthusiastic; they want to be better friends and partners, better employees. Vitality is really their watchword. And I want the magazine to embody that value as well. I want it to embody the best virtues of vitality.

On whether Ronan plans on following the new tagline when it comes to attaining more ad revenue – stronger, faster, better (Ronan Gardiner): I certainly hope so. One thing that I can tell you is that in a very short amount of time Rich’s vision for the brand and the evolution of the brand, which you’re starting to see with the October issue, is being very positively received by the advertising community. Men’s Health needs very little introduction to most agencies and clients, but it’s really exciting to take a 30-year-old brand that is incredibly strong and incredibly vital and relevant and work with an editor in chief who believes that it can be even better; even more timely; even more useful; even more vital, back to that word vitality. This is a very exciting time. We’re kind of 30-years-young.

On what has been the most challenging moment Richard Dorment has had since coming onboard Men’s Health (Richard Dorment): Probably the biggest challenge is that it was sort of a trifecta, not only was I a first-time editor in chief at the brand, but I was a new editor at a publication that was also new to the company, so as I was trying to take stock of where we were as far as staffing and content, I was also trying to help ease and integrate Men’s Health into the broader Hearst ecosystem, which like every media company these days is constantly changing. I’ve been away from Hearst for two years and there’s a lot about it that’s changed since I’ve been here.

On his most pleasant moment (Richard Dorment): That’s a really good question. I’m really pleased with our October issue. I think many times there is a lot of pressure put on the “editor’s first issue,” which I think most people understand is defined loosely because most magazines change month to month. But with the October issue, it’s the first time that our new creative director, Jamie Prokell’s vision has been applied to the brand, thanks to the amazing work of my photo director, Jeanne Graves, my fitness director, Ebenezer Samuel, and my deputy editor, Ben Court, we have these great dynamic four shots of these amazing NFL players, which was very difficult logistically to pull off. We did it, and we did it brilliantly.

On which of the four NFL covers would be his favorite (Richard Dorment): Oh goodness. (Laughs) I do love them all and I love them all for different reasons. I think the Antonio Brown one with him diving to catch the ball is my favorite one, because one of the things that I really love in a magazine cover is movement and unexpected composition, and again, that sense of vitality; you want to feel like the person is alive and excited to be on the cover of Men’s Health. And I think that’s what you get with the Antonio Brown cover. It’s really arresting and beautiful and he was a great sport for jumping and diving across the sound stage like 15 times. (Laughs)

On whether these covers are a reflection of the “new Men’s Health” brand more than they are to sell copies on newsstands (Richard Dorment): One of the great things about Men’s Health, and I take very little credit for this because I am new to the gig, it is one of the few magazines that really does still have a strong newsstand game. We’re one of the top 10 sellers in the country on newsstands, I think we’re the only men’s book, the latest stats I saw, we’re the only men’s book that is in the top 10, so it’s important for us. It’s important for us from a revenue standpoint, that’s dollars out of people’s pockets and that’s real money for us, but also it is one of the gauges that I use to see how the brand is resonating, if only because again there is such strong engagement on the newsstand.

On whether they can envision a day when there is no printed edition of Men’s Health (Ronan Gardiner): I definitely do not. We just got the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) report for the first six months of the year, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of those reports; Men’s Health delivered against rate-base every month for the first six months of the year, our rate base is 1.8 million. MRI still puts us at 12 million readers in print. We are bringing new men, young men into our print subscriber family every day of the year. And while we’ve seen terrific growth online, which is really exciting, and we’ve seen terrific growth in social which is also really exciting, our print product remains incredibly vital, going back to that word again. And incredibly wanted and needed, and I think in many ways more relevant than ever.

On Hearst being the largest men’s magazine publishing company in the country (Ronan Gardiner): The total number of men reached by Hearst: across all brands, print and digital, Hearst now speaks to almost half (45%) of American men. And the beauty of that is that the duplication is so low, which means we’re able from an advertising perspective to put packages together for our clients that includes Esquire, that includes Popular Mechanics. I was in a meeting recently with my colleagues at Car and Driver and Road & Track, with a luxury automobile advertiser that is focusing on the health and wellness-minded consumer.

On what Richard and his wife thought when he got the job offer to be the new editor in chief of Men’s Health (Richard Dorment): I knew that it was, A: wonderful. (Laughs) It was a rather long process that transpired over the course of a few months. And it sort of went in multiple stages as these things tend to do, and because of that, my wife and I were able to have a lot of considered, deliberate conversation, as far as what our goals were in the family and what we wanted out of life and what we do with opportunities when they come up. We loved Colorado. If anybody has the opportunity to move there I cannot recommend it highly enough. We went skiing every weekend, we hiked, we rode bikes everywhere; it was awesome. We were all incredibly sad to leave, but this was such a great opportunity , particularly for a journalist who has spent most of his career in print.

On what Richard would hope to tell someone if they were having a conversation about Men’s Health a year from now (Richard Dorment): Well, I hope that I’ve contributed to the brand’s success, and have been an advocate for the readers. There’s obviously a lot of exciting changes happening here at Hearst, and however I can support our new leaders as they move the company forward; I’m just really happy to be here. And I’m really excited about the future of both Men’s Health and Hearst. As always, however I can help out and be of service, I’m there.

On whether there is any interaction between Men’s Health and Esquire and between Richard and Esquire’s editor in chief, Jay Fielden (Richard Dorment): Men’s Health and Esquire have this system in place at Hearst that we call hubbing. We share a copy and research department. And we share some fashion resources as well. So, because of that and because quite frankly we like each other a lot, I like Jay a whole lot, I’m speaking with he and his team constantly, and it’s a great pleasure to do that because they’re really smart, talented editors. A great benefit of being in a place like Hearst is you have those resources, both formerly and informally. And Jay is a great editor and he’s been nothing but supportive and helpful and a great asset to both me personally and to Men’s Health as a brand.

On anything they’d like to add (Richard Dorment): The only thing that I would say, and this is another reason that I was excited to join the brand, because of how much men’s lives have changed over the last five to ten years, particularly on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, there’s a lot of looking back. There’s a lot of looking at old issues, but there’s also a lot of looking back at the way we used to live and the way we used to think and talk about things like strength and fitness. That’s changing a lot.

On anything they’d like to add (Ronan Gardiner): I think that I would really just echo Richard’s sentiments. Health and wellness, wellbeing in general, is more of a focus for more people today than it ever has been. And Men’s Health’s mission is to give our readers the inspiration and the information they need to be the best men that they can be. And that’s an incredible proposition. And it’s a proposition that our clients are really excited about and want to be a part of.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Richard Dorment): I would say either trying to put my kids to sleep or chasing them back to bed after they come out asking for a glass of water or one of the hundreds of things they typically ask for, or Peloton because it helps me unwind and relax when I get home.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Ronan Gardiner): If you come to my home this evening I won’t be there because I will be running alongside the East River. Then I’ll go home and read a magazine.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Richard Dorment): Vitality. I hope that I can aspire and embody that value. That for me physically, mentally and socially is the goal every day.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Ronan Gardiner): Authenticity. Only because Rich took vitality. (Laughs)

On what keeps him up at night (Richard Dorment): To be totally honest, nothing professional. I think people who are in our business and have sort of ridden this rollercoaster over the last 5, 10, 15 years, if you weren’t comfortable being uncomfortable, you wouldn’t still be here. There’s obviously a lot of excitement, is one way to put it, in our line of work, and I made a conscious decision a long time ago that I was just going to focus on my work and not try to get hung up on what’s going to be happening in 18 or 24 months, because nobody knows. So, I worry about my kids and I worry about the state of the country and I worry about my 401K. But as far as work, I’ve hired some amazing people. There were some amazing people here before I started and it was a really strong brand. I just show up to work and do the best I can.

On what keeps him up at night (Ronan Gardiner): Today I live in the Union Square and so sirens and honking taxi cabs keep me up at night more than anything else. I sleep really well, Samir. (Laughs) Really well. Maybe because I work at the best magazine brand on the planet.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Richard Dorment, editor in chief, & Ronan Gardiner, VP/CRO/publisher, Men’s Health.

Samir Husni: Ronan, five years ago we spoke about Men’s Health and all that was taking place with the magazine and the digital platforms. Today it’s a new era for Men’s Health. Today it’s a Hearst publication instead of a Rodale publication. Are there any differences at the brand?

Ronan Gardiner: I don’t think we could have found a more perfect home than Hearst for many, many different reasons. Number one, obviously with the acquisition of Rodale, Hearst now has a very serious health and wellness footprint that it didn’t have before.

Number two, Hearst now delivers more men than any other publishing company. Adding Men’s Health to a portfolio that included Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, Road & Track, and then of course with Bicycling and Runner’s World delivery against men, Hearst now reaches more men than any other publishing company. So, two unique transformations, if you like, for Hearst overall.

But I think for Men’s Health it’s just incredibly gratifying to have found a company that is so committed to this brand and continuing to grow this brand and continuing to see this brand prosper. Hence the arrival of editors like Rich Dorment, and I’ll allow him to speak to some of the incredible hires that he’s added to an already really strong editorial team.

Samir Husni: How do you view your role as editor in chief of a magazine with over a million in circulation, with print and digital reach? Especially since you’ve been at Esquire before and at Wired; how are you using your skills as a storyteller? Is it any different with Men’s Health than Wired or Esquire? That moment you were offered the job; what did you think?

Richard Dorment: Just to give you a bit of background, part of the time that I was editing at Wired I lived in Denver and that was when I was interviewing for this job. The reason I was in Denver was because my wife and I and our three small children had decided to try a different way of life. So, I was sort of half out of the magazine world; I was still working at Wired, but I was really interested in exploring new opportunities when the Men’s Health gig came up and Hearst first approached me. And I can tell you that I certainly wouldn’t have moved back to New York and moved back full-body and full-steam into the magazine world if it had been another brand. I think Men’s health, just because of its reach and its credibility and its authority in this space, is without peer.

And given my particular background, both at Esquire and Wired, I think it makes a lot of sense, because at Esquire I spent 10 years reporting and writing and editing features on how manhood is changing and how our concepts, our perceptions and practices of masculinity are evolving and are becoming more elastic and expansive and how it’s a great thing for everybody.

When I was at Wired, my job was really to edit and write stories about change. My boss there at the time, Nick Thompson, used to say that Wired wasn’t a magazine about technology, it was a magazine about change, and he was absolutely right. It’s about how we look at change and embrace change and absorb change. So, I think when you combine those two things and you look at what’s happening in the world of men right now, Men’s Health is really the ideal place to explore those things and about the lives of men, and how we’re approaching things like fitness and wellness, health and strength and how that’s really changing.

The first question you asked, how I see my role; I see myself in the same role that I’ve always had, as an advocate for the reader. To ask the questions, and to anticipate the questions that they’re going to be asking. To look for the issues that are going to be most important for them, to try and track down the stories that will move and excite them and inspire them. And to work with the best and smartest people I know to give them the information they need to improve their lives and become better versions of themselves.

Samir Husni: With the October issue, I noticed that you changed the tagline from “Tons of Useful Stuff” to “Stronger, Faster, Better.”

Richard Dorment: Correct. (Laughs) There was absolutely nothing wrong with “Tons of Useful Stuff,” but one of the things that I have been talking a lot about with my staff is a single word: vitality. And it’s not just a goal that I think all of my readers have in mind, which is that they all want to be more vital versions of themselves, they want to be stronger, smarter, more enthusiastic; they want to be better friends and partners, better employees. Vitality is really their watchword. And I want the magazine to embody that value as well. I want it to embody the best virtues of vitality.

So, when I say strong, faster, better, I don’t just mean that as far as goals for the reader, it’s really what the magazine is about. We’re hopefully a stronger brand; we’re faster at processing things and in delivering information and inspiration to our readers; and we’re just constantly trying to get better. We’re embodying the values of the brand, which is self-improvement.

Samir Husni: And Ronan, are you going to use that new tagline “Stronger, Faster, Better” to get stronger ad revenue, faster ad revenue, and better ad revenue?

Ronan Gardiner: (Laughs) I certainly hope so. One thing that I can tell you is that in a very short amount of time Rich’s vision for the brand and the evolution of the brand, which you’re starting to see with the October issue, is being very positively received by the advertising community. Men’s Health needs very little introduction to most agencies and clients, but it’s really exciting to take a 30-year-old brand that is incredibly strong and incredibly vital and relevant and work with an editor in chief who believes that it can be even better; even more timely; even more useful; even more vital, back to that word vitality. This is a very exciting time. We’re kind of 30-years-young.

Samir Husni: Rich, you’ve only been on the job since April 15, so in those few months what has been the most challenging moment you’ve had and how did you overcome it?

Richard Dorment: Probably the biggest challenge is that it was sort of a trifecta, not only was I a first-time editor in chief at the brand, but I was a new editor at a publication that was also new to the company, so as I was trying to take stock of where we were as far as staffing and content, I was also trying to help ease and integrate Men’s Health into the broader Hearst ecosystem, which like every media company these days is constantly changing. I’ve been away from Hearst for two years and there’s a lot about it that’s changed since I’ve been here.

So, I think managing those two things simultaneously and really trying to make sure that Hearst and Men’s Health were working together as closely and effectively as possible, that was my main goal. And I believe most of that is behind us, we’re pretty much moved in. And we have most everything figured out.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment?

Richard Dorment: That’s a really good question. I’m really pleased with our October issue. I think many times there is a lot of pressure put on the “editor’s first issue,” which I think most people understand is defined loosely because most magazines change month to month.

But with the October issue, it’s the first time that our new creative director, Jamie Prokell’s vision has been applied to the brand, thanks to the amazing work of my photo director, Jeanne Graves, my fitness director, Ebenezer Samuel, and my deputy editor, Ben Court, we have these great dynamic four shots of these amazing NFL players, which was very difficult logistically to pull off. We did it, and we did it brilliantly. And given the resources that we got from our circulation department, as far as geo-targeting our distribution with newsstands, I think it’s really going to help, not only drive newsstand sales, but also to just reinforce this strong and vibrant brand.

So that for me, the first time I really saw those covers come to life, it was like in that moment I thought, this could work, this could be what I had always thought it could be.

Samir Husni: And if I put you on the spot and ask which of the four covers would be your choice if you spotted all four on the newsstand, which would you pick?

Richard Dorment: Oh goodness. (Laughs) I do love them all and I love them all for different reasons. I think the Antonio Brown one with him diving to catch the ball is my favorite one, because one of the things that I really love in a magazine cover is movement and unexpected composition, and again, that sense of vitality; you want to feel like the person is alive and excited to be on the cover of Men’s Health. And I think that’s what you get with the Antonio Brown cover. It’s really arresting and beautiful and he was a great sport for jumping and diving across the sound stage like 15 times. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Last time that I interviewed Adam Moss at New York Magazine, he told me that his idea when it comes to the cover is to no longer sell newsstand copies, but rather to reflect the brand. Do you see those covers as a reflection of the “new brand of Men’s Health?”

Richard Dorment: One of the great things about Men’s Health, and I take very little credit for this because I am new to the gig, it is one of the few magazines that really does still have a strong newsstand game. We’re one of the top 10 sellers in the country on newsstands, I think we’re the only men’s book, the latest stats I saw, we’re the only men’s book that is in the top 10, so it’s important for us. It’s important for us from a revenue standpoint, that’s dollars out of people’s pockets and that’s real money for us, but also it is one of the gauges that I use to see how the brand is resonating, if only because again there is such strong engagement on the newsstand.

Obviously, we face the same distribution challenges that everybody else does in the print market, but we’re still very much in the game. I think if we, like some of our competitors, were not selling nearly as much, I think we would put more thought into the “brand promotion” approach to covers, but we’re still trying to move units, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a part of the job that I really enjoy and I think when you get the right person who really embodies our values, I think it’s really rewarding for everybody.

Samir Husni: Ronan, one of the things that you told me five years ago when I asked you whether you could envision a day when there would be not be a Men’s Health in print, everything would be digital, and with the changes that are taking place at Hearst, I’m going to ask you the same question today, can you envision a time when there is no print edition of Men’s Health and everything is only digital?

Ronan Gardiner: I definitely do not. We just got the AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) report for the first six months of the year, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of those reports; Men’s Health delivered against rate-base every month for the first six months of the year, our rate base is 1.8 million. MRI still puts us at 12 million readers in print. We are bringing new men, young men into our print subscriber family every day of the year. And while we’ve seen terrific growth online, which is really exciting, and we’ve seen terrific growth in social which is also really exciting, our print product remains incredibly vital, going back to that word again. And incredibly wanted and needed, and I think in many ways more relevant than ever.

Samir, you named Men’s Health, I believe, the most important launch of a quarter century. Right? After 25 years, you named us the most important launch of that 25 years.

Samir Husni: Yes.

Ronan Gardiner: And today as we speak, five years since we did that interview and many years since the first time we spoke, Men’s Health I believe is truly more relevant, more wanted and more needed today than it has ever been. There’s absolutely no question in my mind whatsoever.

Samir Husni: And you mentioned a point that I didn’t read a lot about, now Hearst, and I didn’t even think about it, but it’s the largest men’s magazine publishing company in the country.

Ronan Gardiner: By far. The total number of men reached by Hearst: across all brands, print and digital, Hearst now speaks to almost half (45%) of American men. And the beauty of that is that the duplication is so low, which means we’re able from an advertising perspective to put packages together for our clients that includes Esquire, that includes Popular Mechanics. I was in a meeting recently with my colleagues at Car and Driver and Road & Track, with a luxury automobile advertiser that is focusing on the health and wellness-minded consumer. So, the beauty of us being acquired by Hearst is the fact that there is such small duplication across the titles.

Samir Husni: Rich, you mentioned that you moved to Denver and that you are back in New York City because of the brand specifically, no other magazine would have brought you back. You said that you have three small children and your wife; what did you think when you received that phone call that you were the new editor in chief of Men’s Health?

Richard Dorment: I knew that it was, A: wonderful. (Laughs) It was a rather long process that transpired over the course of a few months. And it sort of went in multiple stages as these things tend to do, and because of that, my wife and I were able to have a lot of considered, deliberate conversation, as far as what our goals were in the family and what we wanted out of life and what we do with opportunities when they come up.

We loved Colorado. If anybody has the opportunity to move there I cannot recommend it highly enough. We went skiing every weekend, we hiked, we rode bikes everywhere; it was awesome. We were all incredibly sad to leave, but this was such a great opportunity , particularly for a journalist who has spent most of his career in print. A lot of my background is integrated; I worked for a while in digital only, but I’ve worked primarily in print. And there just aren’t a ton of these opportunities anymore. So, to be faced with one, particularly after I had sort of thought I had closed the door; I don’t necessarily believe in the universe telling you something, but it felt a little like that.

Again, we were sad to leave, but there was never a moment where we asked: are we going to take it? No, of course, I was going to take it.

Samir Husni: If we’re having this same conversation a year from now, after you’ve left your mark on Men’s Health; you’ve reinvented the brand, you’ve hired a group of talented folks to work with you, and you’ve created this stronger, faster, and better publication; where are you a year from now?

Richard Dorment: Well, I hope that I’ve contributed to the brand’s success, and have been an advocate for the readers. There’s obviously a lot of exciting changes happening here at Hearst, and however I can support our new leaders as they move the company forward; I’m just really happy to be here. And I’m really excited about the future of both Men’s Health and Hearst. As always, however I can help out and be of service, I’m there.

Samir Husni: And how’s the work going with you and Jay (Fielden), has there been any interaction taking place between Men’s Health and Esquire with Jay now being the editorial director?

Richard Dorment: Men’s Health and Esquire have this system in place at Hearst that we call hubbing. We share a copy and research department. And we share some fashion resources as well. So, because of that and because quite frankly we like each other a lot, I like Jay a whole lot, I’m speaking with he and his team constantly, and it’s a great pleasure to do that because they’re really smart, talented editors. A great benefit of being in a place like Hearst is you have those resources, both formerly and informally. And Jay is a great editor and he’s been nothing but supportive and helpful and a great asset to both me personally and to Men’s Health as a brand.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that either of you would like to add?

Richard Dorment: The only thing that I would say, and this is another reason that I was excited to join the brand, because of how much men’s lives have changed over the last five to ten years, particularly on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, there’s a lot of looking back. There’s a lot of looking at old issues, but there’s also a lot of looking back at the way we used to live and the way we used to think and talk about things like strength and fitness. That’s changing a lot.

I think women and women’s service publications are sort of out front, in typical fashion they’re ahead of us, but I think men are really catching up, as far as not only investing their time, but their resources and their energy into living better lives. They’re taking better care of themselves, they’re investing in their bodies and their wardrobes and their futures and careers. So, because of those changes happening on a society-wide level, I think Men’s Health is really optimized to take advantage of that. And it’s not like it’s a trend; it’s not like we just happened to do this one thing and it’s really in season now, but next season we’re going to be screwed. This train has left the station and we’re in charge.

And I think the more that we can reinforce our integrity and our authority in this space, and we can capitalize on those 30 years of trust that we’ve built with our readers, The better position will be to continue to take advantage of its growth and its interest in self-improvement and in living stronger, better and faster lives.

Samir Husni: Ronan, would you like to add anything?

Ronan Gardiner: I think that I would really just echo Richard’s sentiments. Health and wellness, wellbeing in general, is more of a focus for more people today than it ever has been. And Men’s Health’s mission is to give our readers the inspiration and the information they need to be the best men that they can be. And that’s an incredible proposition. And it’s a proposition that our clients are really excited about and want to be a part of.

When I started at Men’s Health 14 years ago, we would have to explain to a lot of advertisers why a health-minded audience mattered. Why a health-minded or focused audience could be their best consumers. We don’t need to do that today. I had a recent meeting with a luxury automobile advertiser; I had another recent lunch meeting with a luxury grooming advertiser; I ended that day with an upscale fashion advertiser. Every single one of whom wants to speak to this new generation of health-focused consumers because they truly are their best consumer. And Men’s Health delivers more of them than anybody else.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Richard Dorment: I would say either trying to put my kids to sleep or chasing them back to bed after they come out asking for a glass of water or one of the hundreds of things they typically ask for, or Peloton because it helps me unwind and relax when I get home.

Ronan Gardiner: If you come to my home this evening I won’t be there because I will be running alongside the East River. Then I’ll go home and read a magazine.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Richard Dorment: Vitality. I hope that I can aspire and embody that value. That for me physically, mentally and socially is the goal every day.

Ronan Gardiner: Authenticity. Only because Rich took vitality. (Laughs)

Everyone laughs.

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

Richard Dorment: To be totally honest, nothing professional. I think people who are in our business and have sort of ridden this rollercoaster over the last 5, 10, 15 years, if you weren’t comfortable being uncomfortable, you wouldn’t still be here. There’s obviously a lot of excitement, is one way to put it, in our line of work, and I made a conscious decision a long time ago that I was just going to focus on my work and not try to get hung up on what’s going to be happening in 18 or 24 months, because nobody knows.

So, I worry about my kids and I worry about the state of the country and I worry about my 401K. But as far as work, I’ve hired some amazing people. There were some amazing people here before I started and it was a really strong brand. I just show up to work and do the best I can.

Ronan Gardiner: Today I live in the Union Square and so sirens and honking taxi cabs keep me up at night more than anything else. I sleep really well, Samir. (Laughs) Really well. Maybe because I work at the best magazine brand on the planet.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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Launch Monitor: August Gave Us 19 New Titles For An Amazing Summer Wrap-Up

September 4, 2018

The hottest new online video game out there deserves two new magazines devoted to it in the month of August – Fortnite has an “Ultimate Guide” and an “Independent & Unofficial Guide.” Choices for the avid player, no doubt, and available at your newsstands.

Another hot topic in the forefront of the marketplace is cannabis and its many uses. From medical to recreational, as more states come to terms with the legalization of marijuana, magazines dealing with the culture and the growing industry abound. Ember is the latest offering from a collaboration from the teams over at Paper and MedMen. It’s an interesting look at incorporating cannabis into anyone’s lifestyle and making it as matter-of-fact as lighting a candle. And it has a feel of artsy-ness abouti it that can’t be ignored.

And other new titles such as Retro Fan, a new title that revisits the CRAZY, COOL CULTURE WE GREW UP WITH in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, or so the tagline insists. And since Mr. Magazine™ interviewed the editor of the new title, Michael Eury, I can tell you that’s exactly what it does. From The Hulk to The Andy Griffith Show, this new magazine hits the mark when it comes to our TV and cartoon memories of yesterday. Good Company also joins the ranks, a magazine inspired by Grace Bonney’s latest book, “In the Company of Women”provides motivation, inspiration, practical advice, and a vital sense of connection and community.

So, I hope that you enjoy our beautiful August covers and are awaiting a splendid September as anxiously as Mr. Magazine™ is. So, until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

******And please remember, if Mr. Magazine™ can’t physically hold, touch and purchase the magazine, it does not enter the monthly counts. And counts now include only the titles with a regular frequency that are either new, first-seen on Mr. Magazine’s™ radar, or arriving to the national newsstands for the first time.

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Weekend Escapes: A New Magazine To Help You Escape Reality For A Relaxing Weekend Getaway – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Monique Reidy, Publisher & Editor In Chief…

August 31, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I don’t know why people are having this print meltdown; we love magazines; everyone we talk to loves magazines. If you go to any Barnes & Noble or any newsstand, people are sitting around reading magazines. I don’t understand what the hype is all about. I know this is nuts, and maybe I could be way off base, but I think partly us, as a publication community, are partly responsible because we keep talking about it. I think we should just move on and not even make it an issue.” Monique Reidy…

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you´re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I´m the love that you´ve looked for, write to me, and escape”…Rupert Holmes

Mr. Holmes probably said it best, but there are times when we all need to “escape.” Whether it’s from the daily grind or simply from the bells and whistles that our non-stop digital connection forces upon us with every millisecond notification we receive. And for just such moments, there is a new magazine on the scene that will help us to do that – Weekend Escapes. And of course, as busy as we all are, sometimes a weekend is all that we can manage and according to Monique Reidy, publisher and editor in chief of the new title, that is exactly the hyper-niche audience she is looking for with her baby.

I spoke with Monique recently and we talked about the new magazine and its target market. The idea “is to take us to a new level of escapism with the beautiful print magazine, tempting us to visit as many of the locations featured as possible, without having to book a two-week vacation. It’s quick, yet magnificent, getaways that hopefully we won’t be able to resist.” The concept is alluring and the first issue very intriguing. Mr. Magazine™ is looking forward to seeing more from this new title, published by the same folks who give us the regional Southern California Life.

Monique is a passionate dreamer who believes in print magazines and loves them dearly. Something she has in common with Mr. Magazine™, and she has plans to continue with the stardust by publishing even more titles down the road. So, I hope that you enjoy this momentary “escape” into the world of print dreams in the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, publisher & editor in chief, Weekend Escapes magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether she believes she is out of her own mind for starting another print magazine: I don’t know why people are having this print meltdown; we love magazines; everyone we talk to loves magazines. If you go to any Barnes & Noble or any newsstand, people are sitting around reading magazines. I don’t understand what the hype is all about. I know this is nuts, and maybe I could be way off base, but I think partly us, as a publication community, are partly responsible because we keep talking about it. I think we should just move on and not even make it an issue.

On the new magazine Weekend Escapes: Our first magazine, Southern California Life, is primarily about where to go and what to do in Southern California. But we were getting so many requests for media trips, stories about travel outside of Southern California, so we started a special section called “The Weekender” in Southern California Life magazine because we thought we should give residents or locals, even the tourists who read our magazine, because we are in-room in numerous hotels, we should give them an opportunity to see what is beyond Southern California in case they want to travel.

On what’s in her future: I’d like to launch more magazines. They say that magazines are dying, we keep hearing that, but I don’t believe that’s true. I do feel that maybe some different themes are maybe contracting, like all of the celebrity magazines, and there’s quite a number of fashion and beauty magazines, but travel is something that peaks the interest of most people. Most people are tired; they’re stressed out; we live in a society now that’s just pushing us forward, making us think about work, think about achievement, about all kinds of things. We just need to relax; we need to go away; we need to spend time away from the hustle and bustle.

On whether it’s always going to be just weekend escapes in the magazine: The one thing that I believe will either make or break a publication is it has to be super-niche now because you can’t just join in and do another finance magazine, there are so many of those. And of course, news magazines are gone because by the time you buy a news magazine, you’ve already got the news on your device. So, I think finding this super-niche that’s lacking out in the marketplace is probably key. I don’t necessarily believe that I’ll have to do a travel publication, but certainly with the next launch it’ll be something that doesn’t exist yet.

On whether her journey from being a student of magazines to a publisher has been a walk in a rose garden:
Oh no, and I think anyone in any of those big publishing houses, if they spent 10 minutes with me they would think I was absolutely nuts because we don’t have a business plan, we fly by the seat of our pants, but you know what, when you have a passion for something and you have determination and you’re going after it like a heat-seeking missile, the resources show up. And I know that’s a whole different mentality than many businesspeople are accustomed to, but truly if you’re determined and you’ve got fire in your veins, it just happens because you just make it happen.

On whether she has any regrets or she is having the time of her life: Well, I’m not going to say it’s a piece of cake, it’s a challenge. Because we’re not funded by anyone, this whole ordeal is self-funded, and it’s not easy. However, it does have its positive points. We don’t have a huge board that we have to consult every time we need to make a decision. I don’t have to run it by several departments every time I need to make a change. We’re small, most of our staff, or I should call them team members because they’re not really staff, they’re freelance, and it works, it really does. And I don’t have any regrets.

On what she would hope to tell someone a year from now when it comes to what she has accomplished: Well, I hope to launch another title. We have a really big office and I plan to fill it up and we’re growing every month. It’s something that I believe I’ll be doing my whole life, so I’m hoping that a year from now we’ll have grown exponentially and have new goals and new things we’re hoping to achieve. It’s an exciting experience for me, where things just show up. Trust me, I know this is very unconventional, but it’s sort of the way we work around here, and it seems to work.

On what she would tell a magazine student if they came to her with an idea for a new magazine:
We do work with one of the professors from Pepperdine University, from the business school, who does, oddly enough, he evaluates business launches. And we had him do a little bit of research for us prior to launching the first publication. I would suggest that a student do a bit of research prior to just launching any old magazine. The other thing I would say is don’t do something that already exists, and then I would suggest that they find funding first. I put my entire life’s savings into this venture, but not everybody has a little stash put away, so find a partner, find someone who will help support the operation, that’s crucial.

On whether she would have done anything differently with her magazines:
I don’t think so. I was so passionate about what I wanted to do that I feel as though if I had a partner who I was just bringing on for financial support, I’d have to start doing what they dictated and I am very driven because I believe in what I’m doing and unless the partner had that same passion, I think there would have been a lot more emotional baggage, so to speak.

On anything she’d like to add: Well, because you’re involved with students, my suggestion would be; if a student has a desire to be involved with magazines at any level, I think getting as many internships as possible prior to graduating would be smart. You know, we’ve had interns come to us who really know nothing about magazines and they are journalism majors. There is a lot more involved to magazine work than just writing, even if you are a writer.

On what keeps her up at night: I get a great night’s sleep every night. I never have sleeping problems. I have a very big faith in God and I believe that this is a business that I was blessed with and if it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen, and no biggie. We just move on to Plan B. But so far we feel really blessed, and again I’ll stress that it’s not without its challenges, because the magazine business is tough, but you have to learn to roll with the punches and that applies to everything outside of business as well. I think anybody looking to make a happy, successful life needs to learn to be adaptable and to not let the small things keep you up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, publisher & editor in chief, Weekend Escapes magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me, are you out of your mind, or do you see something others do not see in starting another print publication?

Monique Reidy: I don’t know why people are having this print meltdown; we love magazines; everyone we talk to loves magazines. If you go to any Barnes & Noble or any newsstand, people are sitting around reading magazines. I don’t understand what the hype is all about. I know this is nuts, and maybe I could be way off base, but I think partly us, as a publication community, are partly responsible because we keep talking about it. I think we should just move on and not even make it an issue.

Look at Gwyneth Paltrow, she started Goop magazine, she started online and decided she better have a print publication. And with the quantity of pictures we get from products and services to be included in our print magazine, it’s outrageous. We get at least 400, and we’re a little regional in Southern California, it’s not like we’re a major national magazine. And we get that many pictures a day, I can only imagine what the others get.

But if that were the case, if print was dead, why does everybody want to be featured in a magazine? It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t measure up.

Samir Husni: Tell me about Weekend Escapes, the name is obvious, but tell me more about the concept.

Monique Reidy: Our first magazine, Southern California Life, is primarily about where to go and what to do in Southern California. But we were getting so many requests for media trips, stories about travel outside of Southern California, so we started a special section called “The Weekender” in Southern California Life magazine because we thought we should give residents or locals, even the tourists who read our magazine, because we are in-room in numerous hotels, we should give them an opportunity to see what is beyond Southern California in case they want to travel.

And then we thought that people just don’t have the time to do these week-long or two-week-long trips any longer and it’s pretty pricey now if you want to travel well. But if people want to escape for a long weekend or even a short weekend, it’s refreshing; it’s rejuvenating; people do need to unplug and get away. So, we started doing pieces about places you can go outside of Southern California for a short trip that is just as nice as taking a more extended vacation.

And then we were getting so many requests that we thought we couldn’t possibly include all that content about destinations outside Southern California, it really required its own publication. So, that’s why I launched this new one. And it’s 100 percent travel content.

I took the advice of one of your speakers at one of the ACT Experience conferences, and it hit me pretty hard in the face when they said you should recycle your content, that’s what other magazines do and I decided that we were going to do that too. So, our launch issue is primarily regurgitated articles from our past magazines, but the publication is beautiful and it features back-to-back places that anyone can visit for an extended weekend and have a wonderful time.

Samir Husni: What’s in your future?

Monique Reidy: I’d like to launch more magazines. They say that magazines are dying, we keep hearing that, but I don’t believe that’s true. I do feel that maybe some different themes are maybe contracting, like all of the celebrity magazines, and there’s quite a number of fashion and beauty magazines, but travel is something that peaks the interest of most people. Most people are tired; they’re stressed out; we live in a society now that’s just pushing us forward, making us think about work, think about achievement, about all kinds of things. We just need to relax; we need to go away; we need to spend time away from the hustle and bustle.

Travel isn’t going anywhere, people will need to take a break, and I think that the travel magazines seem to be doing well. I read over the new MPA guide that has the current research and on every level the travel magazines appear to be doing very well. So, I’d like to stick to that theme. It’s a happy magazine and people like happy things.

Samir Husni: Is it always going to be just weekend escapes?

Monique Reidy: The one thing that I believe will either make or break a publication is it has to be super-niche now because you can’t just join in and do another finance magazine, there are so many of those. And of course, news magazines are gone because by the time you buy a news magazine, you’ve already got the news on your device. So, I think finding this super-niche that’s lacking out in the marketplace is probably key. I don’t necessarily believe that I’ll have to do a travel publication, but certainly with the next launch it’ll be something that doesn’t exist yet.

Samir Husni: Since you moved from being a student of magazines to a magazine publisher, how has that journey been? Has it been a walk in a rose garden?

Monique Reidy: Oh no, and I think anyone in any of those big publishing houses, if they spent 10 minutes with me they would think I was absolutely nuts because we don’t have a business plan, we fly by the seat of our pants, but you know what, when you have a passion for something and you have determination and you’re going after it like a heat-seeking missile, the resources show up. And I know that’s a whole different mentality than many businesspeople are accustomed to, but truly if you’re determined and you’ve got fire in your veins, it just happens because you just make it happen.

And we have people who come to us from places that we didn’t anticipate, they just call and ask for an ad, which in a lot of industries that’s unheard of. But I think that’s largely due to providing a product that people like and people need. So, I was helping other friends, to answer your question, to launch their magazine, because magazines are what I know, it’s what I’ve learned, I have a master’s degree in journalism. I just decided why am I helping everyone else launch magazines, I need to be doing my own.

I will say the one issue that doesn’t quite translate from being a journalism student to being a publisher is you forget that there is the IRS, there’s the EDD, there’s accounting and HR issues, all of those things for those of us who love magazines might not factor in when you’re first launching, (Laughs) but you learn quickly because you have to. That takes a little bit away from the joy of the whole experience, but if you’re going to be an owner of a magazine, a publisher of a magazine, those are things you have to factor in.

Samir Husni: Any regrets? Or you’re having the time of your life?

Monique Reidy: Well, I’m not going to say it’s a piece of cake, it’s a challenge. Because we’re not funded by anyone, this whole ordeal is self-funded, and it’s not easy. However, it does have its positive points. We don’t have a huge board that we have to consult every time we need to make a decision. I don’t have to run it by several departments every time I need to make a change. We’re small, most of our staff, or I should call them team members because they’re not really staff, they’re freelance, and it works, it really does. And I don’t have any regrets. I think that you do the hard work on the frontend, sort of counting the cost of what you’re looking at. I feel hopeful and encouraged, and I love magazines. I love being a part of it. And everyone on my team loves magazines.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in this past year?

Monique Reidy: Well, I hope to launch another title. We have a really big office and I plan to fill it up and we’re growing every month. It’s something that I believe I’ll be doing my whole life, so I’m hoping that a year from now we’ll have grown exponentially and have new goals and new things we’re hoping to achieve. It’s an exciting experience for me, where things just show up. Trust me, I know this is very unconventional, but it’s sort of the way we work around here, and it seems to work.

Samir Husni: As you go through this lifelong adventure, as you called it, if a magazine student came to you with an idea for a new magazine, what would you tell them?

Monique Reidy: We do work with one of the professors from Pepperdine University, from the business school, who does, oddly enough, he evaluates business launches. And we had him do a little bit of research for us prior to launching the first publication. I would suggest that a student do a bit of research prior to just launching any old magazine. The other thing I would say is don’t do something that already exists, and then I would suggest that they find funding first. I put my entire life’s savings into this venture, but not everybody has a little stash put away, so find a partner, find someone who will help support the operation, that’s crucial.

Samir Husni: In your case, would you have done anything differently with your magazines?

Monique Reidy: I don’t think so. I was so passionate about what I wanted to do that I feel as though if I had a partner who I was just bringing on for financial support, I’d have to start doing what they dictated and I am very driven because I believe in what I’m doing and unless the partner had that same passion, I think there would have been a lot more emotional baggage, so to speak.

There are always trade-offs, it would have been easier from a funding standpoint to have a partner, but this way we just move along and we’re flexible. We can adapt and we can do what we believe must be done, and sometimes at the very last minute. We’ve changed covers just before we go to press, and that would probably be a much more daunting task if there were more people involved.

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

Monique Reidy: Well, because you’re involved with students, my suggestion would be; if a student has a desire to be involved with magazines at any level, I think getting as many internships as possible prior to graduating would be smart. You know, we’ve had interns come to us who really know nothing about magazines and they are journalism majors. There is a lot more involved to magazine work than just writing, even if you are a writer.

You need to learn to interview correctly; how to research and how to fact-check. I’m going to guess that you do that, because when I had Eden (Eden Sandlin – a Mr. Magazine™ service journalism magazine student) here as an intern, she seemed to already know, but we get students from other schools who know how to write a piece, but that’s where it all stops. And in order to be marketable in the magazine industry, you have to be pretty well-rounded. And my advice to students would be to get as much of an education as possible while you can.

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

Monique Reidy: I get a great night’s sleep every night. I never have sleeping problems. I have a very big faith in God and I believe that this is a business that I was blessed with and if it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen, and no biggie. We just move on to Plan B. But so far we feel really blessed, and again I’ll stress that it’s not without its challenges, because the magazine business is tough, but you have to learn to roll with the punches and that applies to everything outside of business as well. I think anybody looking to make a happy, successful life needs to learn to be adaptable and to not let the small things keep you up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Farmhouse Style: A New Quarterly Title That Transports You Easily To The Downhome Comforts Of The Farm – From The Publishers Of Country Sampler Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Wagner, Editor…

August 27, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.” Susan Wagner…

Available on newsstands and by subscription, Farmhouse Style celebrates the casual, comfortable appeal of today’s popular farmhouse decorating and lifestyle movement. From the folks who bring you Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style is a new quarterly title that celebrates step-by-step DIY projects and fully illustrated decorating tips to create an authentic farmhouse-style look.

Susan Wagner is editor of the magazine and special projects director at Annie’s Publishing, the company that owns Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style, Good Old Days and a variety of titles in crochet, knitting, quilting and cross stitch. But when it comes to their latest offering, Farmhouse Style, they’re “crowing” loudly about its downhome and easy style.

I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about the new magazine and about its $9.99 cover price, something that Susan said reflected the quality content and overall aesthetic of the magazine. With around 50 DIY projects in each issue, complete with full instructions on how to do them, she believes the magazine is worth every penny paid for by their readers. And from the initial response of its audience, the people must agree.

Susan said the tangible product of print had to be the cornerstone of the new brand. While all of the digital components are in place: website and social media, the laid back experience the reader gets from the print foundation is irreplaceable. And the beautiful photographs could only be justified in ink on paper.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy a moment in the “Farmhouse” as we take a walk around the place with our tour guide, Susan Wagner in the Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Farmhouse Style as a quarterly and why now: We have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies. Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do. And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription.

On a letter from a reader begging them not to change anything inside the magazine: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

On why print for the magazine: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

On the $10 cover price and why people are willing to pay it: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

On the future and if she expects to add a younger, more active audience to Farmhouse Style that will also add to Country Sampler’s readership: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

On what other “style” might be in store for Country Sampler: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

On anything she’d like to add: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating. So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Wagner, editor, Farmhouse Style.

Samir Husni: You decided after one test issue to go ahead with Farmhouse Style and publish it as a quarterly magazine, give me some background on this decision. I know you’ve done Country Sampler for years, but why now and why Farmhouse Style?

Susan Wagner: As you said, we have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies.

Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We started a few years back, in 2014, doing some SIPs that were focusing a little bit more on DIY decorating, where Country Sampler really is more home tours and this unique kind of magalog area in the back, with these SIPs we did more of an individualized kind of decorating styles and more of these DIY angles.

We did some Christmas ones; we did prairie-style ones; we did different kinds of genres. Last year we decided we would do a farmhouse SIP that would come out in January 2018 and that particular SIP pretty much blew all of the other SIPs away, that one did really well when we compared it to our newsstand figures and our advertising revenue for the other SIPs. It was comparable to when we put out the first Christmas issue, which did really well.

So, we knew that it was a genre and a magazine that resonated very much with our current subscriber base, the people who enjoy Country Sampler, but were also looking to refresh and brighten their homes a little bit more, because the Farmhouse issue is a lighter kind of country and it’s more typical of the type of country decorating we’re seeing or showing up in Today’s Homeowner, a little bit more of the younger and more urban crowd, and a lot of what the shows on the DIY Network and things like that are airing.

That hit really well, so we combined it with our unique look that we’ve created for the SIPs, where we had some home tours of farmhouse decorating, but then we also had our designers work on DIY projects, so we were able to incorporate that. And I think that’s what makes our magazine definitely different than some of the other SIPs or other publications that touch on this look as well. We have that project DIY base in there so that people who love this style can not only see how others are decorating, but they can also create things for themselves to put in their own homes for this style.

So, that first SIP issue did really well for us. As I said, it came out in January 2018 and our sales team had a great success selling it and it had wonderful crossover with our existing subscriber database, plus we had also picked up a lot of new people from the newsstands.

With the success of that first we figured we would do another SIP. And once we started working on the second one for 2018, we just continued to get way above what our plan was as far as the newsstand sales and a lot more advertiser encouragement and we knew that this was an area where we wanted to expand. As a company, we had been looking to see if there was an SIP or title that we could turn into another subscription because we wanted to have an additional subscription besides Country Sampler that could also work within that country decorating realm.

We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do.

And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription. And it seems that we were on target with what we did because we’ve been marketing it now, as far as some direct mail pieces and to our existing subscribers for Country Sampler, some ads in the other publications we do, and we have a big chunk of subscribers so far.

And then we have a big direct mail piece that we’ll be sending to outside lists at the end of September. Right now, the early results and the subscriptions that we’re happy with so far that we’ve gotten, have all come from internal outlets. So, we’re expecting of course, once we reach out even farther, to increase that even more.

Samir Husni: I was reading your editorial in the autumn issue and you singled out one reader from Arizona, Kay Connelly, where she is technically begging you to not change a thing in the magazine.

Susan Wagner: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

Samir Husni: Can you in reality hear the crunch of hay under your feet, feel the fresh breeze in your hair and smell those cinnamon buns rising on the stove in any other form than print? Can you do the same thing in digital? Why print?

Susan Wagner: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.

Samir Husni: How do you explain the audience who’s engaging with the magazine and willing to pay the $10 cover price?

Susan Wagner: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

If you’re browsing on the web and trying to find items for decorating your home and you’re all over the place, but if you know and you trust the Country Sampler editor to give you what you’re looking for because you follow them along and you know they’re really hitting the target, you’ll get that all in that one magazine. And it saves you time, you’re not browsing and browsing online for hours or you’re not getting a magazine somewhere else for $5.99 or $6.99 and maybe one or two articles apply to you.

For a $9.99 price we have a whole section of DIY projects and we’re typically looking at 50 different projects with complete instructions and that’s a lot of content right there. Plus we have the traditional home tours and things that are great to look at. And then we have recipes; various articles, such as growing your own organic produce or raising backyard chickens, things like that.

So, all of that is combined into our Farmhouse Style magazine. And when you think of all of that pulled together, to me, that is definitely worth the $9.99 cover price. And I think nowadays people, if something really resonates with them and they feel like it’s something they can get right in their hands without having to run around all over the place for that, they will pay that higher price point. We definitely see where people are paying a bit of a higher price point for a convenience or something that is really targeted completely to them.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, if you and I are having this conversation a year from now, do you think would you tell me you were able to acquire a younger, more active millennial audience for Farmhouse Style that added to the Country Sampler or do you envision the same audience as Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

In the whole general trend of farmhouse decorating, like urban homesteading and things like that, it is a millennial thing. It is a younger audience. It’s people who want to grow their own fruits and vegetables and they want to have fresh eggs in their backyard. If you look at the blogger world and home decorating, it’s a lot of the younger people who are decorating and are out in the blogosphere and showing things.

In fact, in our spring issue we’re doing an article about these two men who used to live in Philadelphia, Penn., in more of an urban area, and they wanted to raise chickens and were getting pushback from the city, and finally that was kind of the impetus they needed to say, okay, we’re definitely moving to the farm, which was something they had always wanted to do. So, they ended up buying some land up in Vermont and now they run an organic flower farm. One of the guys does the organic flower farm and the other one does a bakery, foods and catering. And we’re seeing that a lot. People moving out of the cities or buying land in areas where they can have chickens in their backyards or raise goats or grow fruits and vegetables.

Samir Husni: You have Prairie Style that you still publish on a quarterly basis, so what other style is in store for Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

Having said that, there are definitely some people in the Chicago area, the urban areas, Indianapolis, places like that, who are more of the un-urban dweller, but we are a smaller town, we’re more middle America; we’re not an L.A., New York kind of audience.

And I think some of the other farmhouse SIPs or some of the other magazines that will touch on farmhouse style, and even some of the TV shows, it ends up being a little more of an upscale kind of farmhouse, where somebody maybe took an old barn and they brought in a designer and paid the designer $500,000 to revamp it for them. And ours is more of a casual, easygoing, relax, this is a place where you can decorate in that look and still have your four little children running around and not worry about them messing something up or breaking something. So, it’s a very approachable, very easy look and I think that’s what makes who our audience is and who we’re reaching with that little difference than some of the others.

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

Susan Wagner: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating.

So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks. Or maybe it could be more of a Southern look or we’ve talked around the idea of doing an SIP that would be American bungalows or something. It would all be very much the casual, common man with a DIY aspect to it. More so than the designer look of that style.

As far as anything else, we are very much putting everything behind this Farmhouse Style. We’ve created a website; we have the social media sites out there, we have Pinterest, Instagram and a Facebook page for it. We will be doing some additional work with it, because nowadays I feel like print media is not solely print only and I’m sure all the other publishing companies would agree. But what we’re providing to our readers is decorating ideas, decorating styles, inspiration, for this and they can get them in a variety of ways. They can be inspired by looking at the magazine; they can hit an emotional chord by looking at the magazine, they can love the beautiful pictures.

But we can also provide them quick tips and maybe some ideas and some links to other blogs through our website. We’re thinking of doing an editor’s blog where we talk about more of the day-to-day farmhouse related topics and bring in other people. Bring in people to share their memories. With the older crowd we see that people love that about the Farmhouse look, they like being able to share their memories about how they were doing blueberries in their grandmother’s kitchen or something like that.

So, we do have a lot of this in the works, as far as putting more on the website, doing more social media, where we’re really connecting with the readers in a lot more ways. We definitely want to incorporate events, we’ve talked about that, doing different contests and just really trying to connect with them on their level, so it’s not so much just us giving them info, but more of a feel that we’re all part of this Farmhouse family together.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Susan Wagner: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

I want to have something interesting to create or work on or to do, whether it’s a new project we’re doing at work and I’m really excited about it, or whether it’s planning a get together for the afternoon with my friends, such as a scavenger hunt that’s really cool. So, she was always coming up with new ideas and very enthusiastically implementing them in a way that got everyone else excited about the project or event as well.

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

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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