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Two Great Mediums Come Together to Prove Their Demises Were Highly Overrated

January 23, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Brief…

long-live-vinyl227

Long live print and vinyl – that seems to be the mantra of a new British magazine that recently had its premier issue. Long Live Vinyl is an absolutely gorgeous addition to the world of ink on paper. The magazine is featured in a spectacular 12-inch collectable size, bringing back those fond memories of albums and their great covers, and celebrating the vinyl format. It’s printed on high quality, heavy paper and looks and feels amazing. So, just when you thought vinyl went extinct with the last Def Leppard album you bought, let me remind you, the naysayers were spouting the decline and death of print the minute the first pixel hit a screen – it didn’t happen.

So, dust off your stereos and turn up the volume; print and vinyl are back together in a great new magazine!

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Dealernews Is Reborn: The Vision Of A Man Who Believes In Balance When It Comes To His Family, Business & Life – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Harley-Davidson Dealership Owner & Proud Keeper Of The Dealernews Flame, Bob Althoff

January 23, 2017

“Initially, we have to focus on the digital because; number one, it’s the immediacy of it. The dealers need that first and foremost. We would love to be back in print and I suspect that in due course we will be. Certainly, hopefully, with our Dealernews Top 100; this is our industry’s most prestigious competition, and highlights those 100 best retailers in North America. Also with buyer’s guides, annuals and that sort of thing, but to go back to a monthly print; I think that will take us a while. We’ve got some work to do to get relaunched and reengaged.” Bob Althoff

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-5-28-51-pmBob Althoff is a self-proclaimed enthusiastic evangelist. He is an evangelist for Powersports, for the dealers of those products that fall beneath that umbrella, motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidson’s, and he’s an evangelist for the people who buy them. He is a man who owns the oldest Harley-Davidson dealership on the planet, and now he is the proud steward of the 50-year-old Dealernews magazine that folded in December, 2015. The only difference is Bob is presently concentrating on the immediacy of digital in order to keep the community of dealers informed and connected throughout the industry.

I can honestly say that I have never spoken with a more genuine and sincere human being in my life. I talked with Bob recently and we discussed his plans for dealernews.com and his hope that someday he will once again have an ink on paper component in the marketplace to help uplift the industry. Bob’s plan is to make dealernews.com the resource that he feels every dealer and retailer, customer and Powersport enthusiast, needs and he’s already seeing positivity from peers and colleagues in the industry.

Bob, along with his wife, Valerie, acquired A.D. Farrow in 2003. Under Bob’s leadership, A.D. Farrow expanded from its single, historic downtown store to three thriving dealerships in the greater Columbus, Ohio area, and won Top 100 Dealer honors for 11 of the last 12 years. Bob has been riding motorcycles for more than 50 years. An avid industry historian, he acquired the Heroes of Harley-Davidson exhibit from the American Motorcyclist Association, and maintains the valuable Motor Co. archive on the A.D. Farrow website. Bob is also the 2013 recipient of the Don J. Brown Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his lifelong dedication to the business, lifestyle, community and sport.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who believes in balance throughout his entire life, and strives to implement it evenly, Bob Althoff.

But first the sound-bites:

bob-a-hd-jacketOn how he got into the magazine publishing side of the Harley-Davidson business: To be honest with you, when Dealernews was shut down by its British parent, UBM, it was done on the publication of our 50th anniversary issue. That occurred in December, 2015. And as a dealer, I will just tell you that Dealernews is where I learned from other dealers; where I was inspired by their good works; it was where we competed with one another for honors. And when this void was created it was a moment that I just said to myself how can a $24 billion industry that is not represented by an industry association; we do not have an analog to the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) in Powersports, and there are 9,500 dealers, large and small, all over North America that are left without service. And that’s just not acceptable. So, I acted on that.

On whether he thinks Dealernews’ parent company, UBM, shut the magazine down due to an overreaction about the death of print: In this case, Advanstar, which was the owner of Dealernews, sold itself in December, 2014 to UBM, which is out of the British Isles, for almost $1 billion. Their primary business is expositions. Advanstar was the owner of Magic, which is the largest fashion exposition in the United States and one of the largest in the world. So, clearly there were assets there that were worth a lot of money. It’s just that UBM decided that expositions were the be all and end all, and that the publication of Dealernews in our industry was not going to be a part of their future.

On what he has been doing since he acquired Dealernews: Since our acquisition in May, we’ve been very busy taking those assets, which amounted to lists of our industry players and all of the contact information that was all cleaned up at a great deal of time and expense; we have certainly the best records now that exist anywhere. We’ve gotten our website, which was extremely expensive. We brought it over to new webhosting and we’ve updated it dramatically. But it’s quite an archival treasure trove, with, as you might imagine, print records that go back 50 years. There are literally 10,000 how-to articles in there. So, we’ve been busy reengaging and relaunching the Dealernews brand.

On the early reaction he’s received from his colleagues in the industry: It’s been nothing short of phenomenal. We very quickly tried to reach out to some gray beards in the industry, which have great credibility and said look, we need your advice and guidance. And we have a stellar advisory board that has been empaneled. Virtually, no one turned us down on that.

On whether he has plans to bring back the printed magazine to the marketplace: Initially, we have to focus on the digital because; number one, it’s the immediacy of it. The dealers need that first and foremost. We would love to be back in print and I suspect that in due course we will be. Certainly, hopefully, with our Dealernews Top 100; this is our industry’s most prestigious competition, and highlights those 100 best retailers in North America. Also with buyer’s guides, annuals and that sort of thing, but to go back to a monthly print; I think that will take us a while. We’ve got some work to do to get relaunched and reengaged.

On the most challenging moment he’s facing and how he plans to overcome it: The most challenging really is the macro environment. Our customers have to have jobs and they have to have discretionary income, and they have to have enough confidence to make that discretionary purchase. The great thing about our final market is that everyone wants a motorcycle. It’s just that they don’t want it now. My job as a retailer is to uncover what exactly that reluctance is and try to address it.

On the lack of community among dealers: People think we sell motorcycles, but we are really cultural institutions. As dealers in a local market, large or small, we’re the glue that holds those bikers together in that firm fraternity or sorority or kinship. We’re seven-days-per-week; we’re busy being available to our customers in their leisure time, and so I will tell you this, for the last 15 years I’ve worked seven days per week to try and serve those customers of mine.

On anything else he’d like to add: You can see the vacuum into which we are really stepping here. And I think you can understand how passionate we all are about the work that we do and the impact that it has on our communities and the impact that our writers have on the larger community. We have a great story to tell, and what we have to do is find a way to be able to tell that story so that it ignites not only the dealers, but our customers around the brick and mortar and the gatherings and the social. Customers are looking for some release, recreation, identities and opportunities to pursue their charitable inclinations, and so you can see how important this work is and you can see why Dealernews is so important.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: I am a voracious reader. I do lecture at Ohio State University at three or four levels: MBA, Executive MBA and Undergraduate Honors. I am consumed by this great industry and I’m very blessed to do the work that I do. But all of this is at risk, and so that’s what I do. I get up very early and I’m 67-years-old now; I go to the gym and I come in here and I try to keep this business healthy. And obviously now I have a new hat that I wear, but as difficult as things are and as big a challenge as this is, I’m driven like most of the people who work for me and most of the people in our industry, and that is that we have a great passion for this. And we know it’s important, so we do what we do.

On how he balances his passion with business: I am an enthusiastic evangelist for all of the good things that motorcycling has brought to me in my life. I’ve ridden motorcycles all over the world; I have made great friends; I’ve had great adventures, and I’ve had great misadventures. My marriage is stronger because my wife and I ride together. I don’t go to the golf course and she doesn’t go to the tennis club. We ride together. I believe God put me on earth to do the work that I’m doing and I’m just blessed.

On what keeps him up at night: If I died tomorrow, and I could write my own epitaph, it would say on my tombstone: He led a balanced life. I don’t want to be the best husband, because if I were I would be at home right now feeding my wife bonbons and attending to her luncheon menu. I don’t want to be the best spiritual person, or the best businessman, or the best father, or the best citizen, but I’d like to think that I’m a little bit good at all of those things. And that’s why I worry sometimes the demands of my business are keeping me from being as balanced as I would prefer to be.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. magazine™ interview with Bob Althoff.

Samir Husni: I know you’re an avid motorcyclist, and you have the dealership, but what got you interested in the publishing side of this business?

Bob Althoff: I’m blessed to be the steward of a 105-year-old dealership; the oldest Harley-Davidson dealership on the face of the planet. I represent a storied, American brand. I’ve been a motorcyclist since the morning I turned 16-years-old, so now that’s been 50 years. I was fortunate enough to turn my avocation into my vocation some 15 years ago when I bought this business.

And to be honest with you, when Dealernews was shut down by its British parent, UBM, it was done on the publication of our 50th anniversary issue. That occurred in December, 2015. And as a dealer, I will just tell you that Dealernews is where I learned from other dealers; where I was inspired by their good works; it was where we competed with one another for honors. And when this void was created it was a moment that I just said to myself how can a $24 billion industry that is not represented by an industry association; we do not have an analog to the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) in Powersports, and there are 9,500 dealers, large and small, all over North America that are left without service. And that’s just not acceptable. So, I acted on that.

It’s not any grand design; it is simply that there is an important thing here. It’s important to me and it’s important to these other men and women, and it’s important to our customers, some nine million active American motorcyclists. So, here we are.

Samir Husni: In the marketplace, there are a lot of motorcycle magazines that serve the customer, rather than the retailer. The newest that came is one for people who are both in the army and motorcyclists. So, there is a market there for these types of magazines. Do you think the publishing industry overreacted to the death of print and became more fascinated with all things digital?

Bob Althoff: In this case, Advanstar, which was the owner of Dealernews, sold itself in December, 2014 to UBM, which is out of the British Isles, for almost $1 billion. Their primary business is expositions. Advanstar was the owner of Magic, which is the largest fashion exposition in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

So, clearly there were assets there that were worth a lot of money. It’s just that UBM decided that expositions were the be all and end all, and that the publication of Dealernews in our industry was not going to be a part of their future. So, they walked away from it, lock, stock and barrel.

I’m not sure exactly what the motivations were; you would know better than anyone the problems that have beset the print industry, and the disruption of the microcosm that this has caused. As a consumer of this very important information resource, I just couldn’t sit by and say OK – game over; we now no longer have that nexus where we can speak to one another, where we can learn from one another, and where we can be an industry. This is a pure B to B effort; obviously, this is of, by and for dealers. We now no longer have a corporate master in the sense that there will be no lack of clarity about what we’re doing or who we’re serving.

And we’re going to try and lift our industry. It’s an industry that has been under some assault. We sell highly discretionary products, they are big ticket and they require a bank loan many times. Our industry, therefore, is deeply cyclical. But as I said, it’s a 105-year-old business that I am charged with and I felt like this was an important thing to do, so we’re off and running.

Samir Husni: What have you been doing since you acquired the brand?

Bob Althoff: Since our acquisition in May, we’ve been very busy taking those assets, which amounted to lists of our industry players and all of the contact information that was all cleaned up at a great deal of time and expense; we have certainly the best records now that exist anywhere. We’ve gotten our website, which was extremely expensive. We brought it over to new webhosting and we’ve updated it dramatically. But it’s quite an archival treasure trove, with, as you might imagine, print records that go back 50 years. There are literally 10,000 how-to articles in there.

We have put some embellishments in that website. We have a paywall behind a paywall, so we’re going to be providing some interesting new engagement tools to our almost 10,000 dealers. We just went back into action with the website in the last month, and we’ll be relaunching our Dealernews Alerts, which is a blast email that goes out to the trade twice a week. And we’ll be doing that within the next week. So, we’ve been busy reengaging and relaunching the Dealernews brand.

Samir Husni: What has been the early reaction from your colleagues in the industry?

Bob Althoff: It’s been nothing short of phenomenal. We very quickly tried to reach out to some gray beards in the industry, which have great credibility and said look, we need your advice and guidance. And we have a stellar advisory board that has been empaneled. Virtually, no one turned us down on that.

We have announced ourselves not only to the dealers who we serve, but also to the manufacturers who produce this product for us to sell to the public. And we are getting some traction there. I will say that it’s been a little slower on the uptake, but there is obviously some concerns that they have about how exactly this tool will be used in the hands of dealers. We’re assuring them that we’re going to lift this industry and we’re going to help tear down some of the silos that have been created and be of service, ultimately, to the retail customer because retail excellence is what drives final demand and ultimately that’s what drives $24 billion worth of commerce. So, we can’t lose sight of the customer and the best ways to serve that customer.

As that message has went out, I think it’s been really terrific. Now I won’t tell you that it’s not a chore to get hold of and be able to explain all of this to all of the players in our industry. Obviously, we have a pipeline to the dealers, but the rest of the industry has to hear about this with phone calls and personal contacts and so forth. It’s a little more time-consuming.

Samir Husni: Do you think that you can accomplish that with just the website; with the virtual? Or do you have plans to bring back the printed magazine into the marketplace?

Bob Althoff: Initially, we have to focus on the digital because; number one, it’s the immediacy of it. The dealers need that first and foremost. We would love to be back in print and I suspect that in due course we will be. Certainly, hopefully, with our Dealernews Top 100; this is our industry’s most prestigious competition, and highlights those 100 best retailers in North America. Also with buyer’s guides, annuals and that sort of thing, but to go back to a monthly print; I think that will take us a while. We’ve got some work to do to get relaunched and reengaged.

So, right now for us, I think that the focus is to give the dealers what they need and quick bursts of information; explain to them the engagement tools, which will allow them to go into our website and go back behind these various paywalls to places where they can identify one another by geography, brand, problem or opportunity, and communicate with one another in confidence. They will have a public presence in that website, which will be out there and available to the general public, where we will extol the virtues of the good work being done by these men and women and their charitable endeavors in their communities. Generally, we’ll be doing community building, so that’s the first focus.

There are also some fun things that we can be thinking about that might provide some economic sustenance and would support us getting back into print, and those things are going to be along the lines of some other information services. Perhaps, on-demand online training for our staff, and there are a few other ideas that we have up our sleeve.

To be honest with you, as I look at the landscape, I look at it from two standpoints. One, as an advertiser I’m at sea because I don’t know whether the world is really changing and I should place all of my bets on the electronic delivery, or whether it should be balanced with print, or whether I should even be in print. And as a result, I look at the Washington Post and I say they might not even be in print if Jeff Bezos hadn’t made a little money with Amazon. So, I’m going to just learn and watch people like you, and hopefully we’ll rebuild this iconic masthead that is Dealernews.

Samir Husni: As you bring that trust of the brand back to life, what do you think is going to be your most challenging hurdle, and how do you plan on overcoming it?

Bob Althoff: The most challenging really is the macro environment. Our customers have to have jobs and they have to have discretionary income, and they have to have enough confidence to make that discretionary purchase. The great thing about our final market is that everyone wants a motorcycle. It’s just that they don’t want it now. My job as a retailer is to uncover what exactly that reluctance is and try to address it. This is the biggest challenge confronting our industry; it’s the biggest challenge confronting dealers, and it’s put us all under a great deal of economic pressure. So, clearly that is the biggest challenge.

Now secondarily, it is dealers have never really had the opportunity to be an industry; it’s a lonely place being a Powersports dealer in North America. You are serviced by your OEM (original equipment manufacturer) with information, but the OEM has a certain, very pointed opinion about things, and your ability to interact with fellow retailers around some of the subjects that we’ve just discussed has been extremely limited, if not zero.

Think about the 14,000 discreet industry associations that are out there; they’re all serving their audiences in great ways. Some better than others, but at least those associations exist and they exist as information exchanges and share best practices, what have you. We’ve never had that. So, dealers are going to have to understand that a) we’re here, b) we are of them, by them and for them, and the rest of the industry is going to have to understand that we’re going to be a positive force to try and lift all boats onto a rising tide.

Samir Husni: When I think of motorcycles, I think of clubs, groups and communities, so I am surprised to hear that there isn’t that community among dealers.

Bob Althoff: Well, you’re right; you hit the nail on the head. People think we sell motorcycles, but we are really cultural institutions. As dealers in a local market, large or small, we’re the glue that holds those bikers together in that firm fraternity or sorority or kinship. We’re seven-days-per-week; we’re busy being available to our customers in their leisure time, and so I will tell you this, for the last 15 years I’ve worked seven days per week to try and serve those customers of mine.

So, part of it is just that dealers are busy, and they’re busy leading and sometimes following those communities, but those communities are very, very solid. It’s just that for whatever reason, an accident of history, we are a vastly underserved industry from that standpoint. I hope that Dealernews can begin to provide some of that glue that will make us all better at serving those great customers.

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

Bob Althoff: You can see the vacuum into which we are really stepping here. And I think you can understand how passionate we all are about the work that we do and the impact that it has on our communities and the impact that our writers have on the larger community. We have a great story to tell, and what we have to do is find a way to be able to tell that story so that it ignites not only the dealers, but our customers around the brick and mortar and the gatherings and the social. Customers are looking for some release, recreation, identities and opportunities to pursue their charitable inclinations, and so you can see how important this work is and you can see why Dealernews is so important. Wish us luck, say a prayer for us and we’ll be watching you and your website to see what we can learn there.

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

Bob Althoff: It’s certainly not the latter; my wife and I are now 11 years without a drink. But I certainly do love my motorcycle, and I will tell you that there is a little bit of tyranny involved in what I do and that is that the Cobbler’s kids have no shoes. All of my waking hours are really involved with all of the things that we just talked about.

I am a voracious reader. I do lecture at Ohio State University at three or four levels: MBA, Executive MBA and Undergraduate Honors. I am consumed by this great industry and I’m very blessed to do the work that I do. But all of this is at risk, and so that’s what I do. I get up very early and I’m 67-years-old now; I go to the gym and I come in here and I try to keep this business healthy. And obviously now I have a new hat that I wear, but as difficult as things are and as big a challenge as this is, I’m driven like most of the people who work for me and most of the people in our industry, and that is that we have a great passion for this. And we know it’s important, so we do what we do.

Samir Husni: How do you balance your passion with your business? How do you balance the relationship between your heart and your brain?

Bob Althoff: That’s a great question and I’ll just tell you this, 100+ years ago when the founders of our company, Harley-Davidson, got together and formed this company, they had a company, House Morgan, it was called The Enthusiast. It was not called The Realist; it was not called The Pessimist; it wasn’t called The Pragmatist; it was called The Enthusiast.

I am an enthusiastic evangelist for all of the good things that motorcycling has brought to me in my life. I’ve ridden motorcycles all over the world; I have made great friends; I’ve had great adventures, and I’ve had great misadventures. My marriage is stronger because my wife and I ride together. I don’t go to the golf course and she doesn’t go to the tennis club. We ride together. I believe God put me on earth to do the work that I’m doing and I’m just blessed.

Every morning when I walk up to one of my buildings, I take a moment and I just stop and look at the building. I try to see it with new eyes and I try to remember that we can change people’s lives. We do it all of the time, in small ways and in large. It’s a unique business that allows passion to be unbridled and to show the way, because ultimately people have their reluctances; our riders and breadwinners, they’re supporting multigenerational families; they’re hard workers; their police and firemen and military. And now increasingly, it’s a clubhouse that everyone is invited into. We have women who are buying motorcycles for themselves and we’re proud of that. My only problem is that there isn’t 72 hours in every day.

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

Bob Althoff: If I died tomorrow, and I could write my own epitaph, it would say on my tombstone: He led a balanced life. I don’t want to be the best husband, because if I were I would be at home right now feeding my wife bonbons and attending to her luncheon menu. I don’t want to be the best spiritual person, or the best businessman, or the best father, or the best citizen, but I’d like to think that I’m a little bit good at all of those things. And that’s why I worry sometimes the demands of my business are keeping me from being as balanced as I would prefer to be.

That’s my honest truth. When I said that I wished that I had more hours in a day, it’s for that very reason. When I was driving to work today, I was thinking that I have two daughters, one in California and one in Ohio, and my wife, all of whom would love to get some flowers from me today. And here it is halfway through the day and I haven’t had time to do that. Like a lot of people who are similarly situated, to whom much is given, much is expected. There’s a lot to do every day, that’s for sure. That would be what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Gearing Up For An Amazing ACT 7 Experience… “Magazines Matter, Print Matters”

January 19, 2017

Mr. Magazine™ says save the date: April 25-27, 2017

act7_loresAs we await spring and the month of April, we at the Magazine Innovation Center also await the exciting ACT 7 Experience, and 2017’s promises to be the most dynamic one yet. We’ve streamlined the number of speakers to enhance the actual experience in terms of the discussions that are going to take place. Our goal is to come up with solutions as the ACT Experiences are think-and-dos, not merely conferences where one comes to idly listen. ACT lives up to its acronym – Amplify – Clarify – Testify the power of print, and that’s just what we do as problems are met head-on and solutions are sought by brainstorming among some of the finest minds in publishing, printing and distribution.

Magazine and Magazine Media CEOs, Editors, Publishers, Distributors, and Marketers enjoy a cozy lunch during a break at the ACT 6 Experience. April 2016.

Magazine and Magazine Media CEOs, Editors, Publishers, Distributors, and Marketers enjoy a cozy lunch during a break at the ACT 6 Experience. April 2016.

The speakers, attendees and students alike are free to speak their minds and bounce ideas off of each other; it’s a thrilling time for everyone as boundaries are crossed when present leaders and future leaders of publishing meet at the Overby Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the campus of the University of Mississippi, where the Magazine Innovation Center resides. The Experience is divided into three main mini themes this year:

Celebration of Magazine Launches (everything you need to know to launch a magazine)

Magazine Reach and Power (the changing and evolving role of advertising and marketing in the magazine and magazine media world)

Magazine Distribution 2020 (the future of the newsstands, direct mail, subscriptions, free distribution, public placement, and every other thing that has to do with distribution)

mic_amplifyAnyone interested in learning about magazine launches should make it a point to be here. We will have panels with panelists and speakers who are going to celebrate their new magazine launches by telling us the story of the launch; the positives and the negatives and the impact of the publication. And we will also have a section for people who want to start a magazine. We will have panels on printing, production, paper; anything related to the print process. During this segment I will take the audience through a memory lane trip showing some amazing magazine launches throughout history. It will be an exhilarating

What follows are testimonials from three speakers from last year’s ACT 6 Experience:

Joe Berger of Joseph Berger Associates of Chicago, Newsstand Sales, Digital and Print Circulation had this to say about the ACT 6 Experience: During the ACT conference, we heard from several publishers who are doing well on the newsstand precisely because they are paying attention to their business. It’s my hope that the discussions that were started at this year’s ACT conference continue. The alternative is a continued drift. At a certain point, we need to stop the drift and chart a new course. That point really is now.

John Harrington partner in Harrington Associates, LLC, which published The New Single Copy and the annual Magazine Retail Sales Experience; he had this to say about ACT 6: In late April, I attended the ACT 6 Conference, sponsored by the Magazine Innovation Center at the journalism school of the University of Mississippi. Samir Husni is the director of MIC. I have attended and spoke at each of these programs and as I have stated often have found them among the most significant and valuable publishing gatherings I have ever participated in, and believe me over nearly 40 years there have been a bunch of them. The unique quality of the ACT conferences is the participation of the students, undergraduate and graduate. Samir has turned the school into a pipeline of talented people into the magazine media world.

Tony Silber, Vice President, Folio: had this to say about ACT 6: The ACT conference is a different kind of event. It’s small. Only perhaps 100-130 people attend, give or take. Since it’s held at a university, the students also attend. Sometimes Samir pairs them with industry figures, mentee to mentor. It’s way off the beaten path for the media industry. That’s part of its charm. It’s a different perspective for sometimes-jaded media people. Because of his (Samir Husni) advocacy, plus his unrelenting determination to make his case and push his cause, plus his 30-year run of cataloging all the print-magazine launches of the year—and selecting the most important 30 of them—Samir is as well-known and respected as anyone in the business. Now, for the last several years, he’s added a worthwhile media conference to his portfolio—one with a decided point of view.

Part of the ACT Experience is a trip to the  Mississippi Delta that ends with food and music at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, MS.

Part of the ACT Experience is a trip to the Mississippi Delta that ends with food and music at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, MS.

An added bonus is one evening of the Experience will be spent in the inimitable Mississippi Delta, where we will sample the rich musical and palate-pleasing heritage that is the magical Mississippi Delta. And of course, have a lot of fun in the process.

To all of my fellow magazine enthusiasts; to all the magazine makers; to all the lovers of the printed word and those passionate about this art form called magazine making; we at the Magazine Innovation Center invite you to join us April 25-27, 2017 for an “Experience” into the world of magazines and magazine making unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

So, if you suddenly feel an urge to head south – “ACT” on it!! The cost to register this year is only $395 that covers the registration to all the events of ACT 7 including the opening gala Tuesday dinner, breakfast, lunch, the trip to the Mississippi Delta and dinner on Wednesday, and breakfast and closing gala lunch on Thursday.

To register for the ACT 7 Experience click here. Note that space is limited to 100 registrants.

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ACT 7 Experience: Magazines Matter, Print Matters. Save The Dates April 25 to April 27, 2017

January 16, 2017

Save the Dates

act7_loresThe 2017 ACT (Amplify, Clarify, and Testify) Experience will take place April 25-27, 2017 at the Magazine Innovation Center, located at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the campus of the University of Mississippi. This year’s theme is Magazines Matter, Print Matters.

In the spring of 2017, as the earth is celebrating her rebirth; ACT 7 will be having a celebration of its own on the power of magazines and the power of print in a digital age. The Experience will be divided into three main mini themes:

· Celebration of Magazine Launches
· Magazine Reach and Power
· Magazine Distribution 2020

The first theme, Celebrating Magazine Launches, we will have panels with panelists and speakers who are going to celebrate their new magazine launches by telling us the story of the launch; the positives and the negatives and the impact of the publication. And we will also have a section for people who want to start a magazine. We will have panels on printing, production, paper; anything related to the print process. During this segment I will take the audience through a memory lane trip showing some amazing magazine launches throughout history.

The second theme of the conference is Magazine Reach and Power. This is a segment of the Experience that will focus on making money in print and what people are doing today to ensure that the revenue streams continue, whether it’s from circulation or advertising. Magazine Reach and Power is going to be a combination of the different ways and means by which people can still generate revenue from print, whether it is advertising in established magazines; advertising in new magazines, or bookazines and how those publications are making money.

The third and very important theme of the ACT 7 Experience is Imagining Magazine Distribution and the Newsstands in 2020. Magazine distribution in all categories, mail, digital and the newsstands, has been facing challenges to say the least. We will examine the old ways, the new ways, what is working and what is not. This segment will offer solutions regarding magazine distribution from every sector of the industry. We know the questions, now it is time to find the answers.

As in previous years, the ACT 7 Experience is going to be more of a think-and-do. We’re going to have a multitude of roundtables and discussions. We’re limiting the number of speakers to enhance the actual experience in terms of the discussions that are going to take place. Our goal is to come up with solutions.

We are limiting the number of attendees to 100, in addition to the speakers and the students who are going to be a part of the Experience. Each one of the speakers and sponsors will have a student who will individually shadow them during the entire conference.

As usual we will also go and enjoy a trip to the inimitable Mississippi Delta on the second night of the Experience and sample the rich musical and palate-pleasing heritage that is the magical Mississippi Delta. And of course, have a lot of fun in the process.

Stay tuned for more information… questions, feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com

In the meantime enjoy a recap of all the ACT 6 Experience presentations here.

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Think You Know Vanity Fair? Well, Think Again! The Media Kudos Celebrating A Great Weekly Vanity Fair Circa 1850.

January 13, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Brief…

Before there was a Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair magazine (in the 1920s and 1980s until present time), there was a weekly Vanity Fair magazine from the 1850s (yes, you read that right) that was published every Saturday. With issue 38, dated Saturday, September 15, 1860, Vanity Fair received rave reviews from a bevy of prestigious publications in that era of media. Check out a bit of nostalgia that Mr. Magazine™ dug out from his Classic Vault. You won’t be disappointed…
vanity-fair222vanity-fair-opinionspres224

And to make it easier on the eyes to read, here is a retyped version of the 1860 “Opinions of the Press” piece. It’s absolutely worth the read.

Vanity Fair,
The New Illustrated and Satirical Journal

Opinions of the Press

“The Punch of America.” – N.Y. Herald, Jan. 19

“If such a work can succeed, Vanity Fair will and ought to do so. It has a good corps of writers, whose contributions promise to be set on a hill and shine accordingly.” – N.Y. Tribune

Vanity Fair is the best experiment of the kind yet made in the country. The paper has already contained many things worthy of Punch in his brightest days, nor is this surprising when it is known that some of the best wits and most graceful writers in the country contribute to its pages.” – N. Y. Evening Post

“There is a good deal in a name, and this name is, to our mind, better than Punch. The illustrations in Vanity Fair have been the best ever produced in a comic paper in this country. They are beautifully drawn, carefully engraved, and not so entirely spoiled in the printing as, in many illustrated papers, woodcuts are spoiled on the press. If this paper shall continue, as it has begun, to take a high moral tone, to keep its pages scrupulously free from the too common wit whose only point is its vulgarity, to attack fearlessly and conscientiously the follies of the times, there will be a fair chance of its pushing its way to success and fame.” – The Independent (N.Y.)

“The object of Vanity Fair is a good one, and the parties engaged in it, so far as we are informed, are admirably qualified for their work.” – N.Y. Saturday Press

“This new comic paper has passed the trying ordeal of success, and is most decidedly entitled to the support of all those who love pure wit, dashed off from the pen or pencil.” – N.Y. Daily News

“There is vim in Vanity Fair. Its illustrations are equal to those which have made Punch a power in the metropolis of England, and in fun, piquancy of manner, terseness and humor it equals its great trans-Atlantic contemporary.” – N.Y. Dispatch

“Especially creditable, both in matter and appearance.” – N.Y. Sunday Times

“Its illustrations are superior to any that have heretofore appeared. The literary portion of the number is varied and entertaining.” – Boston Courier

Vanity Fair promises life and usefulness.” – N.Y. Leader

Vanity Fair bids fair to become one of the ‘peculiar institutions’ of the day.” – N.Y. Sunday Mercury

“That would certainly be a very mild criminal code which should prescribe nothing worse to take than Vanity Fair. We wouldn’t mind being shut up ourselves, for a time, in such companionship.” – National Anti-Slavery Standard

“It greatly excels any similar American publication, and is quite equal to Charivari or Punch.” – American Republic (Macon, Ga.)

“Pungent and humorous, and shows much ability in its editorial management.” – Louisville Journal

“The whole affair is exceedingly clever.” – Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
vanity-fair-inside223

“There is no small degree of smartness in Vanity Fair.” – Philadelphia Press

Vanity Fair is the most piquant of hebdomadals. We could wish that it might sweep out of existence every other comic periodical we have.” – Buffalo Daily Courier

“Far in advance of any similar publications which have heretofore appeared in this country.” – New Hampshire Gazette

“The original articles possess much greater merit than we usually find in journals of this class.” – Portland Transcript

“It bids fair to be very popular, and gives evidence of a high order of literary and artistic talent.” – Hunterdon (N.J.) Republican

“Though scarcely two months old, ‘It stalks the earth and awes the world around.’ Its illustrations tinge even the cheeks of Punch. Its onslaught on vice and folly makes it a terror to knaves and fools.” – Justice Whitley’s Circuit Judge

“We heartily welcome Vanity Fair to our literary repast, and shall look greedily for each weekly number.” – Architects’ and Mechanics’ Journal

“Capital and full of fun.” – Cincinnati Commercial

“Comes nearer the object than any of its predecessors.” Newark Daily Advertiser

“One of the cleverest and brightest papers of the kind. The wittiest writers and artists of New York contribute to it.” – Providence Journal

“This is the first really clever comic and satirical journal we have had in America – and really clever it is. It is both sharp and good-tempered, and not afraid to say that its soul is its own – which shows that it has a soul. Our readers will be glad to know where they can find native fun that has something better in it than mere patois.” – Atlantic Monthly

“This paper is excellent, remarkable for originality.” – N.Y. Traveller

Vanity Fair is conducted by a vivacious, witty and intelligent corps of journalists.” – Litchfield (Conn.) Enquirer

“Will wield as potent an influence as that of the London Punch.” – Boston Traveller

“Whoever finds himself laughing at the wit of Vanity Fair, and does not return a quid pro quo, is fit for ‘treasons, stratagems, and spoils.’” – N.Y. Crayon

Special Notice

And at the end of the page there was this ad, that needless to say has been running since June 30, 1850 without any updates.

The very marked and flattering success which has thus far attended the publication of Vanity Fair enables the publisher to announce that with the commencement of the Second Volume, issued this day, 30th June, New Features, both Literary and Artistic, will be introduced, which will increase the value and interest of the paper, and fully maintain the proud position unanimously accorded to it, as the leading Comic Journal of America.

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There Is Nothing New Under The “Creative Innovation” Sun…

January 11, 2017

First of a Series of Mr. Magazine™ Musings About Classic Creative Innovation…

multum-in-parvoJust when you thought the 21st century was the ultimate time for creative innovation in the world of magazines and magazine media, up rears the head of the 20th century again (and even part of the 19th) to prove you wrong. What’s the phrase adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: There’s nothing new under the sun? That would be absolutely true, especially when it comes to creative innovation in magazines. And leave it to Mr. Magazine™ to be the one to inform you of this, seeing as how recently I have been dipping deeply into my Classic Magazine Vault.

For example, when it comes to small and convenient, there was a magazine that was published in 1894 called “Multum in Parvo,” which of course in Latin means a great deal of something in a very small space. And in this case it would be a great deal of entertaining short stories in what was self-described at the time as “the smallest magazine in the world.” It was sold by subscription and single copy. And it is very, very small, (Mr. Magazine™ of course has it on hand), and for 1894, very innovative. Today, you might call it the flash drive of the 19th century. It is exquisite.

people-today220dare215bold217Then there are the men’s magazines that were a prominent and key part of the 1940s and 1950s, such as “Bold,” “People Today,” and “Dare.” These were the magazines that slid conveniently into a man’s shirt pocket for his viewing and reading pleasure when he was out and about, either at work or other activities away from his home or desk. And while by today’s standards, what with the Internet and mobile, this bit of carrying around your passion might sound tame and mediocre, for the ‘40s and ‘50s this idea was quite creative and demonstrative of the type of innovations that could come from productively inventive minds.

esquire201true198And aside from those examples of modification and mutation, there were the oversized coffee table magazines (sound familiar?) such as “Ken” from 1938 and “Flair” from 1950, and the boxed publications, such as “Esquire’s” 1959 Christmas Jubilee issue and “True The Man’s Magazine’s” 1961 Silver Anniversary issue. As Esquire began in 1933 and True The Men’s Magazine in 1937, the latter had a tendency to follow in the footsteps of its senior compatriot. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose.

leslies200newsweek202And when it came to service journalism and patriotism for our men and women of the armed forces, magazine weeklies in the 1940s such as Newsweek and TIME provided such a significant and important boost to our military personnel’s morale by providing issues with timely and interesting stories for absolutely free. And during the First World War, Leslie’s and many other titles provided a “notice to reader” stamp on their covers that allowed readers to place a one cent postal stamp onto the designated notice when they were finished reading the magazine and it would be sent to military personnel overseas for them to also enjoy. What an unbelievably innovative idea! Brilliant!

liberty204And another service feature that by today’s standards would probably seem ludicrous to most, but in fact, was quite the bomb in days gone by was the 1920s “Liberty” magazine, which offered readers exact minutes and seconds when it came to how long it took to read individual articles. Saving time didn’t just start with the digital natives, you see.

pic199Arguing with the quality, creativity, and yes, innovation of the titles from yesteryear would be a complete waste of time. The pioneers of magazines were not only some of the most creative people who ever lived, but also visionaries in their own right. And I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most beautiful and innovative covers that I have ever seen in my many, many years of tracking and loving magazines. It’s a magazine from 1939 that was published every other Tuesday by Street & Smith. The magazine was called “PIC” and was actually three magazines in one that covered different areas of the entertainment world, Hollywood, Broadway and Sports. So, for example, one section was “Hollywood Pic;” one section was “Broadway Pic;” and one section was “Sport Pic,” just simply a well-done, original magazine that showed creativity at its best.

st-nicholas203Another lovely magazine for children that encouraged curious minds to flip through its pages and enjoy magical stories and actual illustrations that were not produced digitally was St. Nicholas magazine that was founded by Scribner’s in 1873 and ceased publication in 1940. Mr. Magazine™ has the beautiful December 1920 issue and it’s writing is superb. Over the years everyone from Louisa May Alcott to Mark Twain enjoyed being published in this amazing title. The magazine is proof positive that children do in fact love to read and always have, it’s just today they have more options than ever before, which isn’t a bad thing at all. However, it is a fact that the innovations of technology are not the entire reason children are inspired to read; it’s much more about the craft of good storytelling.

The point I’m making is that while those of us today who live and breathe as if we were the only creative, innovative, cutting-edge, and ingenious people to have ever touched ink on paper or (in our case in the 21st century), stared at pixels on a screen, are a bit narcissistic when you look back through the years that magazines have been around. Creative innovation didn’t happen simply because the world of digital came into being. Creative innovation hit the scene when the first magazine drew its infant breath. Digital may have motivated print to recheck and reinvent itself, but it never, ever coined the phrase “creative innovation.” That credit, my friends, goes to the human being…

And from almost the very beginning there have been human beings and their original ideas – that’s nothing new…

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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AARP The Magazine: Relevant, Vibrant & Still The Largest Circulation Magazine In The Country With Over 37 Million Readers – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Shelagh Daly Miller, Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media

January 9, 2017

“I believe that magazines have devalued themselves tremendously. I think that they’ve been in panic mode for years. I’m a big print person; my dad was in the magazine business; I had a sister in the magazine business and I love magazines. I still read books; I don’t have a Kindle. I love print. And I think that it’s sad that the industry has moved toward devaluing publications by offering them for $2 and $3 in some cases, I can’t believe the offers that have come my way over the last several years.” Shelagh Daly Miller

TM51617DJ_C1_MEDIA.pdfAARP The Magazine is a mass-circulated publication that makes no apologies for its print prowess and passionate nature regarding ink on paper. The magazine is the largest-circulation publication in the United States with over 37 million readers and its AARP Bulletin reigns supreme with 29.7 in readership. Combine the two together and the numbers are a staggering testament to the power of print and its relevant audience, while never ignoring the reach and information the brand’s digital extensions offer.

So why not start the new year right from the top? Shelagh Daly Miller is Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media Sales and has been with the brand for 16 years. Coming from a background rich in advertising and publishing, she is a woman very much at home in the world of magazines and magazine media.

I spoke with Shelagh right before the Christmas holidays and we talked about the world of magazines and the extremely bright path that AARP The Magazine was on and has been on for several years, as the brand has seen exponential growth under her leadership. As Shelagh stated, while AARP The Magazine is a mass-circulated magazine, it’s also a niche title that dominates relevance when it comes to its audience.

With storytelling and vibrant, buoyant features about people and things that interest its very active and affluent audience, AARP proves that the 50-plus readers should not, will not and will never be, defined by a mere number. With consumers over 50 in the prime position of not only being able to afford their lifestyles, they can actually revel in them; the magazine is geared toward a group of people who today dominate our country’s wealth, and that is a very good group to gear to. Relevant audience, relevant content; it never fails and it never will.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very inspiring and print-positive Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman and her brand that make no apologies for their faith and commitment to print, Shelagh Daly Miller, Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media.

But first the sound-bites:

shelagh-millerOn some in the industry who believe that there isn’t room for a mass-circulated magazine anymore, yet AARP publishes its magazine and tabloid at 23 million plus: I would say that while our publications are obviously mass, considering the circulation, 22.5 is the rate base for 2017 for each of the publications, but we’re really serving somewhat of a niche audience at the same time. It’s specifically 50-plus, but not only that, it’s 50-plus people who have raised their hands and said that they were going to join the organization that’s advocating for them as people over 50-years-old. So, I think that gives us a bit of a niche focus.

On why it seems the magazine industry focuses more on the audience that it doesn’t fully have (the millennials) instead of the one it does have (the baby boomers): I honestly think that part of it is the people who are working in the industry are millennials themselves. And I believe there is a bit of self-reflection going on there; that’s one part of it in my opinion. As you can probably imagine, we’re often out talking to agency folks that are, I’d say, in their late 20s or early 30s, and we’re trying to communicate to them about how valuable the 50-plus market is. In particular, we may be talking about Boomers if it’s a pharma or a packaged goods company.

On the most pleasant moment she’s experienced professionally during 2016: Actually, that moment happened very recently. The fact that Ad Age finally recognized us is super exciting. In my opinion, we’ve been doing great things for many years and have been overlooked by the trades for a long time. So, there’s a big smile on my face. There have been lots of personal Facebook posts and many professional congratulations. I think that’s probably been my sweetest moment during the past year.

On the most challenging moment of 2016: The most challenging moment of the year was a bit of a theme, which is AARP takes the brand very seriously and as a result we have a fairly stringent ad policy team. All of our advertisers have to be approved by that team and I would say that advertising rejections from our ad policy team are the biggest frustrations because we literally have people who are out there with their dollars; their wallets opened, ready to spend money and we can’t take their advertising or their money. That’s the biggest frustration.

On the trend of basically giving magazine subscriptions away for nothing: On the topic in a more global sense, at least on your question, I believe that magazines have devalued themselves tremendously. I think that they’ve been in panic mode for years. I’m a big print person; my dad was in the magazine business; I had a sister in the magazine business and I love magazines. I still read books; I don’t have a Kindle. I love print. And I think that it’s sad that the move toward devaluing publications by offering them for $2 and $3 in some cases, I can’t believe the offers that have come my way over the last several years.

On what she believes that she can do to make the magazine business model work again: That’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you that I know what I can do, and what I can do is wake up every morning with a great attitude about going out into the marketplace and representing two amazing print brands that deliver on their promises to both advertisers and readers. I don’t know that every magazine can say that they do that. I don’t know that every magazine is attracting the kind of talent that is passionate about magazines the way that I know our staff is.

BUDEC16_001A.pdfOn breaking the stereotype that AARP The Magazine is more of a membership read than a great storytelling vehicle: I think that’s more of an editorial challenge or opportunity than it is an ad sales opportunity. Of course, the better the editorial product, the easier it is for us to attract advertisers, so obviously they all work together. And our MRI numbers are a testament to the fact that our publications are vibrant and have evolved. And hopefully we’ll continue to evolve. We got a tremendous amount of MRI growth over the last few years. I’m sure you saw the latest release where our total readership is up almost one million from spring 2016. And it’s the highest readership we’ve had in the magazine’s history, so clearly the editorial is on point.

On anything else she’d like to add: I think the only thing that I’d like to add is that I’ve been in the advertising business now for 31-plus years, with a few years on the agency side, but most of my career has been on the print side. Of course, we took on digital about seven years ago, but I grew up in this business for 31 years, and I’m happy to say that I still wake up every morning with a smile on my face knowing that I’m coming to work. Not necessarily when it’s 13 degrees and I have to get in my car in the mornings. (Laughs)

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly at her home one evening: You would definitely catch me cooking; cooking is a passion. You may catch me having a glass of wine while cooking. I have long work days and I travel a lot, so when I am home, I love to cook. And oftentimes you’ll find that you’re not the only guest; my husband and I entertain quite a bit. We love having people over and I love cooking for people.

On what keeps her up at night: On a business note, I would say that what keeps me up at night is being able to keep up this momentum. We’ve had year after year after year of bucking industry trends; am I going to wake up at some point and it’s all going to come crashing down? That’s something that weighs on me, I’d say. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s something that sticks in the back of my head.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Shelagh Daly Miller, Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media.

Samir Husni: You hear a lot in different industry circles about the changes in magazines, and how there’s no room anymore for a mass-circulated publication, yet you publish a magazine with over 37 million readers and the Bulletin at 29.7 million readers. What gives?

octnov-2016-warren-beatty-70Shelagh Daly Miller: I would say that while our publications are obviously mass, considering the circulation, 22.5 is the rate base for 2017 for each of the publications, but we’re really serving somewhat of a niche audience at the same time. It’s specifically 50-plus, but not only that, it’s 50-plus people who have raised their hands and said that they were going to join the organization that’s advocating for them as people over 50-years-old. So, I think that gives us a bit of a niche focus.

When you look at, for example, a women’s service book that’s really trying to be everything to everyone in that women’s group, you might have an editorial piece on dealing with “terrible two’s,” and as we know the age of those publications has gone up significantly over the last 10 years, so you may also be talking to someone who is my age, 53, who’s well beyond the point where the “terrible two’s” are relevant. Therefore I think that’s a harder mass appeal to address. Whereas we’re talking to this group who are not only age-wise for the most part over 50, but again they’re sort of the cream of the crop of the 50-year-old’s. We know that they’re more educated than non-members; they’re more affluent than non-members, but most importantly, they’ve raised their hands and paid their money and have said that they want to be a part of this.

Samir Husni: You make a very good point about having a niche audience or a specialized audience, although there are plenty of them. In this country we have almost 72 million millennials and 72 million baby boomers; why do you think that the magazine industry focuses so much of its attention on the audience that it doesn’t fully have, such as the millennials, and ignores the audience that it does have?

Shelagh Daly Miller: I honestly think that part of it is the people who are working in the industry are millennials themselves. And I believe there is a bit of self-reflection going on there; that’s one part of it in my opinion. As you can probably imagine, we’re often out talking to agency folks that are, I’d say, in their late 20s or early 30s, and we’re trying to communicate to them about how valuable the 50-plus market is. In particular, we may be talking about Boomers if it’s a pharma or a packaged goods company.

And I don’t remember this myself, Samir; I don’t remember thinking 50 was old, because I’m 53 now and I’m so young, hip and cool (Laughs); it’s hard to believe that at 28, fifty years old seems so far away, but the truth is, it really does seem so far away to them. They can’t even imagine it. And they don’t necessarily think of their parents when they consider who we’re trying to reach. When we ask them how old their parents are and they might answer 55; and we ask, well, what are they doing? My parents both just retired and they took a biking trip around the world, which we can then say, this is the kind of vibrancy that we’re talking about.

So, again, I think a lot of it has to do with that it’s almost like an ethnocentric focus. You have largely brand managers and agency folks who are in their mid-twenties to late thirties, and that’s who they think about when they want to sell their brand. So, I feel that’s one of the challenges.

And then the other reason that I think the focus is younger is the fact that the target many years ago when you wanted to reach households and get consumption and volume, was moms 18 to 34 or 18 to 49 with kids. And I think that has just stuck, as opposed to moving with those 18 to 34 or 18 to 49 year olds who are now Boomers and beyond; the industry has stayed in that age group and I think it’s almost habit.

Samir Husni: As you reflect on 2016 at AARP The Magazine and the Bulletin, what has been the most pleasurable moment for you during the past year?

Shelagh Daly Miller: Actually, that moment happened very recently. The fact that Ad Age finally recognized us is super exciting. In my opinion, we’ve been doing great things for many years and have been overlooked by the trades for a long time. So, there’s a big smile on my face. There have been lots of personal Facebook posts and many professional congratulations. I think that’s probably been my sweetest moment during the past year.

Samir Husni: And what was the most challenging moment of the year?

Shelagh Daly Miller: The most challenging moment of the year was a bit of a theme, which is AARP takes the brand very seriously and as a result we have a fairly stringent ad policy team. All of our advertisers have to be approved by that team and I would say that advertising rejections from our ad policy team are the biggest frustrations because we literally have people who are out there with their dollars; their wallets opened, ready to spend money and we can’t take their advertising or their money. That’s the biggest frustration.

But on the other hand, that’s a good thing because it really does speak to the integrity of the brand and the fact that advertisers in our publication benefit from the halo effect of a brand that is so stringent. So, it’s kind of a challenge, but it’s a positive at the same time.

Samir Husni: I’ve been known to say that we don’t have a magazine problem; we have an industry problem, because we technically give our magazines away. In your case, it’s part of the membership, but in the case of the major publishers; with some you can pay $5 and get an entire year of magazines. Do you think it makes a difference if you charge me $20 or $10 per year for a membership? Will that stop me from getting the magazine and the bulletin?

Shelagh Daly Miller: If we were to increase our membership dues; I think naturally you would lose a certain number of members who just don’t want to afford an increase like that. But ultimately what you’re left with is likely the members who are most committed to AARP and all of the good work that we do.

I believe that people feel when they join AARP; one of the benefits of their membership is receiving these two publications in their homes, six times per year for the magazine and 10 times per year for the bulletin. I think that if we took that away we would have a great deal of vocal dissent from our members.

On the topic in a more global sense, at least on your question, I believe that magazines have devalued themselves tremendously. I think that they’ve been in panic mode for years. I’m a big print person; my dad was in the magazine business; I had a sister in the magazine business and I love magazines. I still read books; I don’t have a Kindle. I love print. And I think that it’s sad that the industry has moved toward devaluing publications by offering them for $2 and $3 in some cases, I can’t believe the offers that have come my way over the last several years.

In the same way, when I was a media planner at William Esty back in 1986 and magazines started to negotiate off rate card, I think it’s bad that we did that too, because a rate card means very little. And I believe that started devaluing the benefit of being an advertiser in a particular brand, and that’s sort of a B to B erosion and a B to C erosion when you chop your subscription prices. I think it’s a shame that it’s moved in that direction. I don’t know how you shift it back, but I do think that there’s a human nature aspect of, and my parents used to refer to it as something being “dear,” being expensive and important. If we could move the needle back the other way with brands like AARP that are going to stay in the print business, and make them a little bit more costly because of their value, I think that would be terrific. But it’s very hard to swing the pendulum back the other way.

Samir Husni: Recently, I did an interview with Linda Thomas Brooks from the MPA, and I told her that I was going to use a line from a button that she found in a bookstore, and incorporate it into a new mantra following along the path of our recent presidential election, “Making Magazines Great Again.”

Shelagh Daly Miller: I love that! That’s awesome.

Samir Husni: Linda doesn’t allow anyone to say either “print is dead” or “print is not dead,” she banned both statements because she believes that even if we say that print is not dead, we’re making it appear that at one time it was.

Shelagh Daly Miller: Yes, we’re acknowledging that some people think it is dead, even if we tell them it’s not.

Samir Husni: Yes, so she banned that phrase from the MPA, which as I told her, is a breath of fresh air. With everything you’re doing and everything that you see happening around the magazine industry, what can you do to, not necessarily move the needle back, but to help change our business model? From somebody who was on the ad side and who is now on the publishing side; what will it take to change things? We’ve really been our own worst enemies; we haven’t changed yet; what do you think it will take?

Shelagh Daly Miller: That’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you that I know what I can do, and what I can do is wake up every morning with a great attitude about going out into the marketplace and representing two amazing print brands that deliver on their promises to both advertisers and readers. I don’t know that every magazine can say that they do that. I don’t know that every magazine is attracting the kind of talent that is passionate about magazines the way that I know our staff is.

We may not have the 27-year-old media planner who just got into sales, because frankly, we’re not really a cool, sexy brand to those people, but if you want a great print operation to be a part of, come on over here, because we’ve got people who are passionate about print; we’ve got marketers who are passionate about print, and not to sell our digital properties short, which are also an amazing growth medium for us, but if you walk around these offices, you’ll see that most of the people here have a rich print background. And are, to this day, still excited about being out in the marketplace talking about our print properties and what we can do for their brands.

That’s my own little corner of the world and I do believe that if there were more operations embracing who they are and being true to themselves, maybe that’s part of the answer, instead of trying to become something that they’re not, or instead of walking away from their original DNA and what the brand means. Make the brand relevant again to the people who are reading it; don’t try and be relevant to a group of people who aren’t. I guess that’s my thinking.

Samir Husni: I’ve been following AARP The Magazine since before it was called AARP and you have a great editorial team. The magazine today is not the same magazine that if my father had been in this country he would have read. And granted, the recognition from Ad Age is a big step forward, but how can you combat that stereotype that the magazine is just a membership read and not a great editorial storytelling package?

Shelagh Daly Miller: I think that’s more of an editorial challenge or opportunity than it is an ad sales opportunity. Of course, the better the editorial product, the easier it is for us to attract advertisers, so obviously they all work together. And our MRI numbers are a testament to the fact that our publications are vibrant and have evolved. And hopefully we’ll continue to evolve. We got a tremendous amount of MRI growth over the last few years. I’m sure you saw the latest release where our total readership is up almost one million from spring 2016. And it’s the highest readership we’ve had in the magazine’s history, so clearly the editorial is on point.

I too have been following AARP in one form or another for a long time. When I was at William Esty, I worked on Vaseline dermatology formula and we advertised in Modern Maturity, and I remember it being frustrating because AARP had lowered their age from 55 to 50, so their rate base was changing every couple of months. And I remember it being a little bit frustrating to work on that publication from a planning standpoint.

But then when I joined AARP, we still had a publication called Modern Maturity and we had just launched a separate publication called My Generation. And I think this goes back to a question that you asked before about being relevant to your audience; we wanted to have My Generation focused on the Boomers, and what we realized after a year or so was that AARP members referred to their magazine as AARP Magazine, so why were we trying to create a new brand when AARP was already such a strong brand, and that was when AARP, Modern Maturity and My Generation became one age-versioned magazine, which is what we have today; AARP The Magazine.

So again, I think that was an example of understanding your audience and not trying to be something that you’re not. And from an editorial standpoint, we started to take a very different direction back then and it’s just continued, and I would say it has become even more accelerated since Myrna (Blyth – editorial director) came onboard, and Myrna brought Bob onboard; the types of people we’re getting on the covers; the types of editorial: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen’s new book; Helen Mirren and Sally Field, somewhat iconic, but still very relevant today, even to younger folks.

Again, I think it comes down to making sure that you’re relevant and I believe our editorial product has done a great job of evolving into a more and more relevant publication. The fact that we do, for the magazine, the age-version, is another USP that enables us to be particularly relevant within the mass number, but the niche audience.

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

Shelagh Daly Miller: I think the only thing that I’d like to add is that I’ve been in the advertising business now for 31-plus years, with a few years on the agency side, but most of my career has been on the print side. Of course, we took on digital about seven years ago, but I grew up in this business for 31 years, and I’m happy to say that I still wake up every morning with a smile on my face knowing that I’m coming to work. Not necessarily when it’s 13 degrees and I have to get in my car in the mornings. (Laughs)

But I really love what I do and I love this business. And I love the evolution that I’ve had; I’ve been at AARP for 16 years, and I never expected that. Up until that point I had the pretty typical career where every three or so years I moved from title to title, but I really found a home here for a lot of reasons. It’s an amazing brand and it’s an amazing organization that does really great things. We have really terrific high engagement media properties and we have an amazing team of people, which is definitely part of the reason we finally were recognized by Ad Age. This is my family away from home and I do wake up every morning excited to go to work. I know my own peers, my friends, are often envious of me that I still love what I do. It’s just been really fun and I hope to be doing for a while longer.

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

Shelagh Daly Miller: You would definitely catch me cooking; cooking is a passion. You may catch me having a glass of wine while cooking. I have long work days and I travel a lot, so when I am home, I love to cook. And oftentimes you’ll find that you’re not the only guest; my husband and I entertain quite a bit. We love having people over and I love cooking for people.

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

Shelagh Daly Miller: I think this will be a little bit reflective of my personality because I like to think that I’m kind of funny, but frankly, my dog hogging the bed and my husband snoring is really what keeps me up at night. I have a 67 lb. dog and he thinks that he owns the entire bed.

On a business note, I would say that what keeps me up at night is being able to keep up this momentum. We’ve had year after year after year of bucking industry trends; am I going to wake up at some point and it’s all going to come crashing down? That’s something that weighs on me, I’d say. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s something that sticks in the back of my head.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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