h1

Strung Magazine: For Both The Armchair Adventurer & The Seasoned Outdoor Enthusiast, Strung Magazine Takes You to “Life At The Treeline” And Captivates You Into Staying There – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Tyler Justice Allen, Editor In Chief…

December 10, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™  Launch Story…

“We decided to go with a print publication because we wanted to create something that would leave a lasting impression on the reader. We went with an oversized format, Strung is 9.5 x 12 inches, so it’s a full inch taller and wider than you’ll find most publications. And it’s printed on heavy grade, not finished paper. So, we wanted to create something that was almost akin to a coffee table book.”… Tyler Justice Allen on why they chose print in a digital age.

 

Strung Magazine* is a new title from the same people who brought you Tail Fly Fishing Magazine, only Strung is dedicated to considerably more outdoor activities and sports than just fly fishing. As its tagline entices, Strung shows you that passionate, yet slightly dangerous “life at the treeline” and begs you to glance down from those lofty heights, throwing caution to the wind as you follow your outdoor passions. From hunting to fishing, rock climbing to snowboarding, Strung takes you on that ultimate adventure with beautiful photography and great storytelling.

For truth in reporting purposes, Mr. Magazine™ would just like to mention that I have worked with the publisher of Strung, Joseph Ballarini, on Tail Fly Fishing Magazine, so I am familiar with the passion that the people behind this magazine have. And Strung is definitely about passion, and according to editor in chief, Tyler Justice Allen, that passion for many outdoor endeavors is what makes the magazine stand out from all the others.

I spoke with Tyler recently and we talked about this new title that aims to put another option in the outdoor space when it comes to untamed adventure. Tyler said they chose print for their new magazine because they wanted to leave an impression upon their readers, and what better way to do that than with the feel and texture of the oversized book that would look so fantastic on anyone’s coffee table. It’s an experience-filled publication that also gives its readers an unforgettable experience, and it’s exactly what print should be about in this day and age.

So, join me for an exciting glimpse at “life at the treeline” as we get good and “Strung” on wild, outdoor adventure with Tyler Justice Allen, editor in chief, Strung Magazine.

 

But first the sound-bites:

On how Strung began:A little over a year ago, Joseph Ballarini and I were talking about creating a new magazine that was focused primarily on freshwater fishing, but also brought in other elements of the outdoor lifestyle. In that Strung was born. And we were able to create a publication that was targeting folks that pursue more than one outdoor activity. And in the case of Strung, we ended up going after the people who may engage in fly fishing, responsible hunting, rock climbing, alpine climbing, paddle sports, be it rafting or kayaking, as well as having a strong focus on wildland stewardship and conservation.

On the name Strung:I was trying to come up with a name that pertained to a variety of different outdoor endeavors, and we stuck with Strung because it pertained, one – to fly fishing, if you think about stringing up a fly rod, it pertained to bow hunting, a bow is strung, and also when you’re rock climbing and you are between pieces of protection, it’s referred to being “strung out,” so it’s related to three of the things that we’re focusing on.

On the magazine’s unique tagline:“Life at the treeline.” That was something that Joe and I developed when we were first coming up with the concept of Strung. For us, life at the treeline is living life right on the edge, right where things start to change. And up on a mountain, the treeline signifies the boundary between the safer, lower slopes and the more dangerous exposed areas in the Alpine area. So, it seemed fitting for our audience and with what we were doing.

On why they decided on a print publication in this digital age:We decided to go with a print publication because we wanted to create something that would leave a lasting impression on the reader. We went with an oversized format, Strung is 9.5 x 12 inches, so it’s a full inch taller and wider than you’ll find most publications. And it’s printed on heavy grade, not finished paper. So, we wanted to create something that was almost akin to a coffee table book.

On what differentiates Strung from the rest of the outdoor magazines on the market:And what makes Strung a bit different from the other outdoor magazines out there is we are tackling such a variety of outdoor endeavors that we’re unique just in that right. Most magazines are covering one or two different sports, you have large fly-fishing publications that are focused exclusively on that sport; you have hunting publications; then you have publications similar to Outside Magazine, for example, that does look at a variety of outdoor sports and recreation, but they don’t bring a fly fishing or responsible hunting component into the fold. And that’s where you find us. We’re trying to bring all of these together and I haven’t seen another publication that is really trying to tackle all of them.

On what he thinks the fascination with magazines and with print is for his magazine publisher, Joe Ballarini, since he is an emergency room doctor first:That’s a great question and I can only speculate, but I think it offered a great outlet for Joe’s creative side. Being an emergency room doctor you’re looking at things that may be very black and white, and you’re not necessarily able to utilize the creative side of your brain and utilize any sort of creative agency that you might want. So, being able to create these two publications, Strung and Tail Fly Fishing Magazine, it really gives him a chance to flex that side of his brain and do something a little bit different.

On the most pleasant moment for him in launching Strung:The most pleasant moment honestly has come in probably the last seven or eight days when our contributors, advertisers, and VIP’s started to receive the magazine and the feedback that we have begun to get. We had a pretty good idea that we had created a quality publication, but we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to be received. And as people are getting it, we’ve heard nothing but wonderful feedback. And that has definitely been validating for us.We’ve been working on this initial issue for almost a year now, and to have it finally come to fruition and be as attractive and of this caliber of quality as we could possibly imagine, has been very fulfilling. And it’s good to know that we were able to create something of this quality and to know that we’re just going to get better from here.

On if it took them a year to create the first issue, how long will it take to create the second issue: I’m actually almost finished with our second issue. I have been working on multiple issues at a time, just trying to get ahead of the game and make sure that we have adequate content moving forward. Content collection is not always the easiest thing and I’m a bit of a stickler for ensuring what we put into the magazine is the highest quality content that we could have and that means time, so if I’m able to work on two or three issues at a time and collect content along the way it just means we’re going to have a better final product.

On anything he’d like to add:I hope that folks are willing to give Strung a try. It’s a beautiful magazine and hopefully people will enjoy the variety of content that we’ve been able to include. We have some wonderful well-known contributors, incredible photographers that we have working with us, as well as newer players, newer folks who are just getting established and that I can guarantee you are going to be big names as they get their foot in the doors.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him:I think people may assume that all I typically do with my time is fish and work, but I do other things. I made a little bit of a name for myself  in the fly fishing world and have worked in a variety of roles in the fly fishing industry over the past eight or nine years. But as much as I love to fish, there are other things that I do just as much if not more frequently. I consider myself to be a hunter as well as a rock climber, as well as an alpine climber, as well as a snowboarder, as well as a kayaker; I’m not a one trick pony. I try and do a lot of things with my time.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:That whatever he undertakes to do is going to be done with maximum effort. My personal mantra is anything worth doing is worth doing right. And I don’t want to do anything halfheartedly. I would rather not do it at all than do something halfheartedly. So, if it’s coming from my hands or from my brain, you can be assured that it was my best effort.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:You still might find me fly tying or more commonly, hanging out with my dog and my wife. I do enjoy cooking. I cooked professionally for a number of years after I got into the fly fishing industry, because I needed to do something to make ends meet and I still very much enjoy cooking for my family, fly tying, reading, and brewing beer when I can.

On what keeps him up at night:Deadlines; in the end, it’s deadlines. There are a lot of things to be concerned about in the world right now, with the current state of political affairs and everything else, but really in the end just making sure that I am doing my personal best to continue to create and to put new ideas out into the world.

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tyler Justice Allen, editor in chief, Strung Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of Strung Magazine.

Tyler Justice Allen: A little over a year ago, Joseph Ballarini and I were talking about creating a new magazine that was focused primarily on freshwater fishing, but also brought in other elements of the outdoor lifestyle. In that Strung was born. And we were able to create a publication that was targeting folks that pursue more than one outdoor activity. And in the case of Strung, we ended up going after the people who may engage in fly fishing, responsible hunting, rock climbing, alpine climbing, paddle sports, be it rafting or kayaking, as well as having a strong focus on wildland stewardship and conservation.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the name; how did you end up with a name like Strung?

Tyler Justice Allen: I was trying to come up with a name that pertained to a variety of different outdoor endeavors, and we stuck with Strung because it pertained, one – to fly fishing, if you think about stringing up a fly rod, it pertained to bow hunting, a bow is strung, and also when you’re rock climbing and you are between pieces of protection, it’s referred to being “strung out,” so it’s related to three of the things that we’re focusing on.

Samir Husni: You also have a unique tagline.

Tyler Justice Allen: Yes, “life at the treeline.” That was something that Joe and I developed when we were first coming up with the concept of Strung. For us, life at the treeline is living life right on the edge, right where things start to change. And up on a mountain, the treeline signifies the boundary between the safer, lower slopes and the more dangerous exposed areas in the Alpine area. So, it seemed fitting for our audience and with what we were doing.

Samir Husni: You’re an editor and I’m sure you’ve seen your share of print magazines come and go, so why did you decide to do a print magazine in this digital age and what differentiates it from the rest of the outdoor magazines out there?

Tyler Justice Allen: We decided to go with a print publication because we wanted to create something that would leave a lasting impression on the reader. We went with an oversized format, Strung is 9.5 x 12 inches, so it’s a full inch taller and wider than you’ll find most publications. And it’s printed on heavy grade, not finished paper. So, we wanted to create something that was almost akin to a coffee table book.

It’s 128 pages and what we wanted is something that included such high quality content and that was visually appealing enough that folks might actually leave it out. Hopefully, it’s not something that they’re going to immediately put in the recycle bin or put onto the shelf, but something that they might leave out on their coffee table to go back to or for their guests to read when they come by. But we certainly have a digital presence as well, Strung is available digitally and a digital subscription comes with the print subscription or the digital version can also be purchased separately. We really wanted something with some staying power and something that people would come back to and read time and again.

And what makes Strung a bit different from the other outdoor magazines out there is we are tackling such a variety of outdoor endeavors that we’re unique just in that right. Most magazines are covering one or two different sports, you have large fly fishing publications that are focused exclusively on that sport; you have hunting publications; then you have publications similar to Outside Magazine, for example, that does look at a variety of outdoor sports and recreation, but they don’t bring a fly fishing or responsible hunting component into the fold. And that’s where you find us. We’re trying to bring all of these together and I haven’t seen another publication that is really trying to tackle all of them.

And there are more and more readers, especially folks of a younger generation, who aren’t necessarily focused on just one sport, they’re not just fly anglers, they’re not just snowboarders, they’re not just climbers; they’re doing a variety of things  depending on the season. And that’s who Strung is for.

Samir Husni:  And for truth in reporting, I’d like to mention that I’ve worked with Joe (Ballarini) before on his other magazine Tail.  And since you worked with Joe on this new venture, this new magazine, what do you think is the fascination with magazines and with print for him, since he is an emergency room doctor first?

Tyler Justice Allen: That’s a great question and I can only speculate, but I think it offered a great outlet for Joe’s creative side. Being an emergency room doctor you’re looking at things that may be very black and white, and you’re not necessarily able to utilize the creative side of your brain and utilize any sort of creative agency that you might want. So, being able to create these two publications, Strung and Tail Fly Fishing Magazine, it really gives him a chance to flex that side of his brain and do something a little bit different.

And also to create two unique publications the likes of which you don’t find out on the market, Tail being unique in that it is the only fly fishing magazine dedicated to saltwater, and Strung being what it is, focusing on this variety of different outdoor activities, it just gave him the chance to do something unique and creative.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment in your experience launching Strung?

Tyler Justice Allen: The most pleasant moment honestly has come in probably the last seven or eight days when our contributors, advertisers, and VIP’s started to receive the magazine and the feedback that we have begun to get. We had a pretty good idea that we had created a quality publication, but we weren’t entirely sure how it was going to be received. And as people are getting it, we’ve heard nothing but wonderful feedback. And that has definitely been validating for us.

We’ve been working on this initial issue for almost a year now, and to have it finally come to fruition and be as attractive and of this caliber of quality as we could possibly imagine, has been very fulfilling. And it’s good to know that we were able to create something of this quality and to know that we’re just going to get better from here.

Samir Husni: If it took you a year to create this issue, how long will it take you to create the second issue? 

Tyler Justice Allen: I’m actually almost finished with our second issue. I have been working on multiple issues at a time, just trying to get ahead of the game and make sure that we have adequate content moving forward. Content collection is not always the easiest thing and I’m a bit of a stickler for ensuring what we put into the magazine is the highest quality content that we could have and that means time, so if I’m able to work on two or three issues at a time and collect content along the way it just means we’re going to have a better final product.

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

Tyler Justice Allen: I hope that folks are willing to give Strung a try. It’s a beautiful magazine and hopefully people will enjoy the variety of content that we’ve been able to include. We have some wonderful well-known contributors, incredible photographers that we have working with us, as well as newer players, newer folks who are just getting established and that I can guarantee you are going to be big names as they get their foot in the doors.

So, I hope folks will give us a try and to keep checking back to see what new things we’re creating and putting into the magazine.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Tyler Justice Allen: I think people may assume that all I typically do with my time is fish and work, but I do other things. I made a little bit of a name for myself  in the fly fishing world and have worked in a variety of roles in the fly fishing industry over the past eight or nine years. But as much as I love to fish, there are other things that I do just as much if not more frequently. I consider myself to be a hunter as well as a rock climber, as well as an alpine climber, as well as a snowboarder, as well as a kayaker; I’m not a one trick pony. I try and do a lot of things with my time.

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

Tyler Justice Allen: That whatever he undertakes to do is going to be done with maximum effort. My personal mantra is anything worth doing is worth doing right. And I don’t want to do anything halfheartedly. I would rather not do it at all than do something halfheartedly. So, if it’s coming from my hands or from my brain, you can be assured that it was my best effort.

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?

Tyler Justice Allen: You still might find me fly tying or more commonly, hanging out with my dog and my wife. I do enjoy cooking. I cooked professionally for a number of years after I got into the fly fishing industry, because I needed to do something to make ends meet and I still very much enjoy cooking for my family, fly tying, reading, and brewing beer when I can.

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

Tyler Justice Allen: Deadlines; in the end, it’s deadlines. There are a lot of things to be concerned about in the world right now, with the current state of political affairs and everything else, but really in the end just making sure that I am doing my personal best to continue to create and to put new ideas out into the world.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

* Truth in Reporting:  I have consulted with the publisher of Strung on his previous magazine Tail and discussed the plans for the launch of Strung.  However, although my name is listed as publishing consultant on Strung, I have not worked or received any money for the listing of my name on the masthead.

 

Advertisements
h1

John L. Walters: The Editor Who Keeps An “Eye” On Graphic Design Worldwide. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

December 5, 2018

A Behind the Scenes Look at Eye Magazine: The International Review of Graphic Design…

“I think what we’ve seen throughout the maturing of web publishing is we have had to rediscover what we like about the magazine format. If you go back to 1920s when you see the magazine form come into focus with the idea of the double-page spread and the drama of the big picture across two pages, or the way you can use type to animate the page and excite the reader. That’s been developed and refined and changed for nearly 100 years and it’s what you would call a mature medium, whereas, because online technology and the actual devices used changes all of the time and it keeps getting updated and reengineered, that hasn’t had a chance to settle.” John L. Walters…

Eye Magazine is a beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about design and visual culture. Eye, the international review of graphic design, shows the design disciple the latest and most arresting visual displays and the importance of fusing all of the elements, from the editorial to the typographical, together to create the most powerful design possible.

John L. Walters is the editor of Eye, and also an author, composer, and music writer. I spoke with John recently and we talked about the power of design in a magazine and the inimitable magazine format that complements design so brilliantly. It was an absolutely delightful conversation and one that opened up an extraordinary insight into the world of design and all of its components.

So, I hope that you enjoy this glimpse into Eye Magazine and many of the aspects of graphic design that may or may not have been known to you. I think you will enjoy becoming a pupil of Eye (yes, pun intended). And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with John L. Walters, editor, Eye Magazine.

 

But first the sound-bites:

On two special issues of Eye Magazine that covers the subject of magazines themselves:Yes, two special issues. It’s a subject that has always interested the magazine, before my time and since I’ve been editor. And regularly we cover the subject of editorial design in magazines, because I think there is an aspect of graphic design that is constantly being renewed. The subject matter, the content, is always changing. And then the way magazines are designed is constantly evolving and the technology with which we put magazines together is also constantly changing.

On whether the changes going on today cause publishers to have to do something differently with print than digital:Well, it’s something that you referred to once, magazines have always been competing with other forms of communication, whether it’s radio or TV, newspapers, and now we have all of the myriad means of distributing information online, some of which resemble magazines, however work in totally different ways than magazines. So, I think what we’ve seen throughout the maturing of web publishing is we have had to rediscover what we like about the magazine format. If you go back to 1920s when you see the magazine form come into focus with the idea of the double-page spread and the drama of the big picture across two pages, or the way you can use type to animate the page and excite the reader. That’s been developed and refined and changed for nearly 100 years and it’s what you would call a mature medium, whereas, because online technology and the actual devices used changes all of the time and it keeps getting updated and reengineered, that hasn’t had a chance to settle.

On how he would define Eye:We have a phrase that we use on the masthead: we’re an international review of graphic design, and we try to stick to that. It’s a magazine for all graphic designers. We’ve really stuck to that all the way through the magazine and as you know, we’ve maintained exactly the same format all the way through. If you have  a shelf with copies of Eye from number one to 97, the present one, they line up precisely.

On magazines being about the experience and not just content:I think you’re right, the magazine format gives a certain kind of authority to the things that you write about. And it gives you a chance to look at what’s been happening. If it’s an overview, you’re looking at what’s happening with a particular area that connects together. If you’re doing a profile, such as the one about Michele Outland in the new issue, you’re looking at the person and you’re looking at the work, and in her case, you’re looking at two different magazines. So, that provides a way of showing that content is equal in a way that’s more than a blogpost a little news item, or a thing that focuses on just one aspect of that.

On what advice he would give someone who was thinking about starting a new magazine:It always pays to be realistic and of course, you have to look at all of the financial challenges of putting a magazine together, from paying contributors, writers and photographers, to dealing with the print bills and the distribution, and dealing with the way you promote and advertise your magazine. There are lots and lots of aspects of magazine making that can be a little hidden behind the shelves of magCulture or whatever your favorite independent mag store is. But I don’t think I’d discourage anyone from going into magazines. One of the editors I worked for used to say it’s the best job in the world.

On what he thinks is the biggest challenge facing the magazine industry today:I don’t know if I can speak in general about that subject, because I know people who work at very different magazines, they work on newspaper magazines, smaller mainstream magazines, and my wife, who’s a magazine journalist, and also works in a very mass market area of women’s publishing, which has definitely transformed in the last two years. So, I think each of those titles, each of those sectors, faces its own challenges, which are quite different. I think it’s very good that magazine people get to talk to each other to sort of find out what’s going on, because I think there’s a lot that the mainstream sector can learn from the Indie sector.

On what he thinks is the biggest misconception people have about him:The biggest misconception is that I will see someone’s email if they assign it to the editor. It’s one of the great worries of an editor, that you will just miss a great story from a great new writer, because it’s the first time they’ve emailed you and it might end up in your junk mail; it might not even look like a serious proposal and of course, as you probably know, we are always very pleased to have new contributors. Each copy of Eye Magazine, I would say, has four or five, even more, writers who are new to magazines. So, that’s one of the ways that we aim to keep it fresh and find new voices and find new experts. I’m always very keen to find new writers and hear from them.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:My job, really. I’m the editor of Eye Magazine and I’m very proud to do that. And it’s also a great responsibility, and if I go to give a talk – recently we did a film night, a  presentation, and it was very good to be able to introduce the magazine. Going back to my earlier point, it was very good to be able to introduce the magazine in a social setting, where we were showing some short documentaries about graphic design.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:It varies, because I do end up going out quite a few evenings because there’s some event going on to do with design or sometimes to do with music. I still occasionally write about music as well as design, typography and digital content. When I’m at home my wife and I like to chat and we both like to read. My wife is also an editor and writer and she’s an expert in children’s books and children’s literature, so she has a new project that she’s been working on. So, a lot of our evening activities rotate around design, literature and music.

On what keeps him up at night:(Laughs) Reading about Donald Trump and Manafort and the whole crew.

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with John L. Walters, editor, Eye Magazine.

 

Samir Husni: Why two special issues on magazines from a magazine?

John L. Walters: Yes, two special issues. It’s a subject that has always interested the magazine, before my time and since I’ve been editor. And regularly we cover the subject of editorial design in magazines, because I think there is an aspect of graphic design that is constantly being renewed. The subject matter, the content, is always changing. And then the way magazines are designed is constantly evolving and the technology with which we put magazines together is also constantly changing.

And as you probably know, the whole independent sector has reaped benefits from the fact that you can now make a magazine of very high standards and it’s much easier. You don’t have the massive startup costs that you had back in the day; all of the old methods of publication – we can now produce very good quality pages in our studios, in our bedrooms, if that’s what we want.

As magazine makers, we have taken advantage of those changes in order to change what we do and improve the quality of what we do, and it seemed like a subject that was worth paying attention to.

Samir Husni: As you look at all of the changes, the innovation that took place say 100 years ago, whether it was in the type of paper or the type of presentation or design, how do you think the changes that are taking place today, changes with the presentation, with the design of the magazine affect print? Is there something that you have to do differently with print than digital? Maybe something that says: we’re not trying to compete with digital, but here’s what we can do in print.

John L. Walters: Well, it’s something that you referred to once, magazines have always been competing with other forms of communication, whether it’s radio or TV, newspapers, and now we have all of the myriad means of distributing information online, some of which resemble magazines, however work in totally different ways than magazines.

So, I think what we’ve seen throughout the maturing of web publishing is we have had to rediscover what we like about the magazine format. If you go back to 1920s when you see the magazine form come into focus with the idea of the double-page spread and the drama of the big picture across two pages, or the way you can use type to animate the page and excite the reader. That’s been developed and refined and changed for nearly 100 years and it’s what you would call a mature medium, whereas, because online technology and the actual devices used changes all of the time and it keeps getting updated and reengineered, that hasn’t had a chance to settle.

I think what we’re seeing now is a kind of interesting golden age of magazine design where really good design is in collaboration with the writers and editors and all of the other parts of the team. They can produce something very strong and powerful that may be hitting a smaller section of the market, but it’s serving that smaller market really well. And that makes it an exciting area to still be in. Ten years ago when we went independent with Eye, the future seemed very uncertain, but right now there are things to worry about, but it feels like we’re in a very strong area of activity.

Samir Husni: If someone asked you to define Eye, what would be your elevator pitch about the magazine today?

John L. Walters: We have a phrase that we use on the masthead: we’re an international review of graphic design, and we try to stick to that. It’s a magazine for all graphic designers. We’ve really stuck to that all the way through the magazine and as you know, we’ve maintained exactly the same format all the way through. If you have  a shelf with copies of Eye from number one to 97, the present one, they line up precisely.

I would also say that it’s a magazine of design and visual culture, because designers by their very nature, in fact our readers who are graphic designers, are not just interested in design, they’re interested in aspects of the visual world that help them do their job, help them understand what’s going on, and maybe inspire them to do new things. There are things that are not strictly graphic design that we put in and that interest our readers. Of course, there’s also a big focus on typography, so every four issues we do a typography special issue, recognizing that type, design and typography lies right at the heart of graphic design.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I’ve always advocated is that magazines are much more than content, that if the magazines were all about nothing but content, then they would be dead in this digital age. Magazines are more about the experience. As an experience maker or an experience creator, can you define the process that you go through with Eye to create that experience?

John L. Walters: I think you’re right, the magazine format gives a certain kind of authority to the things that you write about. And it gives you a chance to look at what’s been happening. If it’s an overview, you’re looking at what’s happening with a particular area that connects together. If you’re doing a profile, such as the one about Michele Outland in the new issue, you’re looking at the person and you’re looking at the work, and in her case, you’re looking at two different magazines. So, that provides a way of showing that content is equal in a way that’s more than a blogpost a little news item, or a thing that focuses on just one aspect of that.

And that goes with regular things that we do in Eye, such as the “Reputations” interview, that gives us a chance to give a really meaty appraisal of someone’s work, which might go back generations, as it does in the case of David Driver. And also gives us the opportunity, with a very articulate interview, to really understand how they tick and how they think and do the job of graphic designer/art director.

Samir Husni: With your experience and background, if someone came to you and said they were thinking about starting a new magazine, what advice would you give them? Or would you tell them to just forget about it?

John L. Walters: (Laughs) It always pays to be realistic and of course, you have to look at all of the financial challenges of putting a magazine together, from paying contributors, writers and photographers, to dealing with the print bills and the distribution, and dealing with the way you promote and advertise your magazine. There are lots and lots of aspects of magazine making that can be a little hidden behind the shelves of magCulture or whatever your favorite independent mag store is. But I don’t think I’d discourage anyone from going into magazines. One of the editors I worked for used to say it’s the best job in the world.

You get to deal with such a lot of interesting people and collaborators, and the creative rapport you have with your fellow writers and assistant editor, art director/designer – it’s such a great way of collaborating and putting things together, the pages become a feature and it becomes a part of the magazine and you feel very proud. So, I think that experience, whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, it’s still one that’s worth trying. It’s been our observation with the Indie magazines that some magazines just come out for two or three issues, it’s a kind of testing ground for the makers. They learn about what they’re interested in and maybe learn then how to design, how to make a design work, which isn’t as easy as in some instances it may look in our pages. It takes a great deal of very deep thinking about material that goes on for a long time before text and images are assembled on the page.

We’ve also seen over the years that a magazine can also be a Launchpad for other things. It may be that the young magazine makes it now, but will be inheriting a very different media world in the next 20 years, and be able to use those magazine skills to make something that we can only dream about.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the magazine industry today?

John L. Walters: I don’t know if I can speak in general about that subject, because I know people who work at very different magazines, they work on newspaper magazines, smaller mainstream magazines, and my wife, who’s a magazine journalist, and also works in a very mass market area of women’s publishing, which has definitely transformed in the last two years. So, I think each of those titles, each of those sectors, faces its own challenges, which are quite different. I think it’s very good that magazine people get to talk to each other to sort of find out what’s going on, because I think there’s a lot that the mainstream sector can learn from the Indie sector.

Going back to the personal view of Eye Magazine, obviously the biggest challenge is just getting your magazine out into the market to the widest possible range of people who will enjoy it. And distributing it in a subscription base and then be able to distribute without too much hassle, things getting lost, and also getting out to shops, so that someone who has never heard of the magazine can walk into a magazine store, find it on the shelves, and decide that they like it and become one of our most ardent supporters, you know that moment when you find a magazine and it’s just right for you and you fall in love with it and you start following it. And that’s more difficult to do now that there are fewer mag stores. So, I think we need some brave new Indie mag stores to make that possible for a new generation of readers.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

John L. Walters: (Laughs) The biggest misconception is that I will see someone’s email if they assign it to the editor. It’s one of the great worries of an editor, that you will just miss a great story from a great new writer, because it’s the first time they’ve emailed you and it might end up in your junk mail; it might not even look like a serious proposal and of course, as you probably know, we are always very pleased to have new contributors. Each copy of Eye Magazine, I would say, has four or five, even more, writers who are new to magazines. So, that’s one of the ways that we aim to keep it fresh and find new voices and find new experts. I’m always very keen to find new writers and hear from them.

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

John L. Walters: My job, really. I’m the editor of Eye Magazine and I’m very proud to do that. And it’s also a great responsibility, and if I go to give a talk – recently we did a film night, a presentation, and it was very good to be able to introduce the magazine. Going back to my earlier point, it was very good to be able to introduce the magazine in a social setting, where we were showing some short documentaries about graphic design. The finale of the evening was a film we’d made about Eye – number 94, which is the Type Special Issue we did with 8,000 different numbers, covers, which has won awards and it’s probably drawn more acclaim and attention than any other issue of the magazine.  We haven’t had the opportunity to show the documentary in the United States, but we’re hoping to make that available next year.

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?

John L. Walters: (Laughs) It varies, because I do end up going out quite a few evenings because there’s some event going on to do with design or sometimes to do with music. I still occasionally write about music as well as design, typography and digital content. When I’m at home my wife and I like to chat and we both like to read. My wife is also an editor and writer and she’s an expert in children’s books and children’s literature, so she has a new project that she’s been working on. So, a lot of our evening activities rotate around design, literature and music.

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

John L. Walters: (Laughs) Reading about Donald Trump and Manafort and the whole crew.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

h1

The 2018 Issuu Generators Summit: A New Age of Storytelling – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joe Hyrkin, CEO, Issuu…

November 30, 2018

“The reason we’re doing it is because, one – it’s near and dear to our hearts, of course. And at the end of the day we believe strongly that it’s through the telling of stories in a high quality, curated, published way that people are really able to share their passions, to share the area’s ideas and content that moves them, and there’s a huge audience to connect with around that.” Joe Hyrkin (On why Issuu is holding the Generators Summit)…

In today’s magazine and magazine media world if you haven’t heard of Issuu, you’ve probably been in some kind of self-induced sleep for the last 10 or so years. So, in case you just woke up, Issuu is a digital discovery and publishing platform that enables anyone — from independent creators to global brands — to distribute, measure and monetize their digital content. Issuu strives to offer the best digital reading experience possible and provide you with tools to easily upload, share and sell content online. Joe Hyrkin is CEO of Issuu and truly believes that connecting people to content is the most important thing his company can do. And it is with that in mind that Issuu will be hosting its second Generators Summit in New York on December 4, 2018.

The 2018 Issuu Generators Summit is a one-day event for content leaders to discuss the role of stories and discover innovation in the digital narrative. I spoke with Joe recently about the event and he said there will be thought-provoking panels with content generators: change makers, student activists, and game changing brands that are creating the movements and moments that inspire breakthrough stories. It’s sure to be an exciting and innovative experience; a meeting of the minds that can bring print and all formats together to bind them ever closer together. And you know that Mr. Magazine™ wouldn’t miss it for the world, so I plan on being in the audience.

Joe said the Summit brings together businesses, tech, brands, journalists, and non-profits and creatives in the content space. Speakers include Joe himself, Lauren Alexis Fisher, Digital Editor, Harper’s Bazaar; Tavi Gevinson, Actress and Founder, Rookie Mag and current lead in the world premiere of Steven Levenson’s play “Days of Rage”; Jen Tolentino, Director of Policy and Civic Tech, Rock the Vote, and many, many more. And Mr. Magazine™ can’t wait!

So, I hope that you enjoy this enlightening Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joe Hyrkin, CEO, Issuu, and who knows, maybe Mr. Magazine™ will see you in New York. Until then, enjoy the interview!

But first the sound-bites:

On why he is holding the 2018 Issuu Generators Summit: A couple of things about it; the first is last year we launched this event called the Issuu Generators Summit and we did it in San Francisco. This year we’re doing it in New York and the reason we’re doing it; it’s not an Issuu user’s group, it’s about a conference where we’re bringing together real thought leaders in the area of storytelling, publishing, content creation, and design, of course all wrapped around technology. The reason we’re doing it is because, one – it’s near and dear to our hearts, of course. And at the end of the day we believe strongly that it’s through the telling of stories in a high quality, curated, published way that people are really able to share their passions, to share the area’s ideas and content that moves them, and there’s a huge audience to connect with around that.

On where he sees that intersection of visual storytelling, video storytelling, audio storytelling, and print storytelling: When I think about stories, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One is I think that the story format is one that everybody is jumping onboard with: Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, even LinkedIn is rolling out stories. We’re seeing Reddit start to play with new ways of doing stories and articles and advertising. So, we’re seeing the large platforms who attract people to consume content are embracing the story format, because it provides enough depth to be interesting and engaging, but not overwhelming. And then you can go deeper into that content. So, I think it’s established as a format, but what’s happening for the most part is stories are confusing, as you just said, is it an image, is it a video, is it an article; what is it? And everybody is piling on with their capital S story format.

On being very bullish about the industry’s future and what he knows that others don’t: People always think I’m too bullish. (Laughs) This notion of the story; the breakthrough of the story is that it’s no longer just snippets of stuff; people are starting to put together a narrative of content, and that’s getting engaged with. Look at the engagement data that’s happening around people reading stories on Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook and all of these platforms, it’s accelerating rapidly because it has captured people’s attention more than just sort of the boring old viral stuff. There is a specificity and almost a personality that’s available. And I think we saw that with video and I think we’re going to see it here. The other piece is that I think we’re seeing these platforms are starting to embrace the availability of content that they hadn’t before. They’re recognizing in order for them to drive engagement, they have to provide good quality content.

On Issuu’s deal with Apple News: Earlier this year, we rolled out the Issuu Story Generator, and again what that does is it automatically pulls in articles from publications and turns that into a mobile optimized format. And we are now facilitating the distribution and access of that content. So the first partnership we rolled that out with was Apple News. We have our own Apple News channel and all of that content that’s in there is from publishers who are all recognized as the publisher and the content creator. They’re able to have their articles show up in Apple News through the Issuu channel.

On whether Issuu has had any breakthroughs with any of the major publications: It’s been interesting. We have always built our business on the massive scale of mid-tier, long tail enthusiast content. We haven’t started to take this to the largest 250 subscription publications, I like to call them the Texture publications. But where we have had a tremendous amount of success is in really high quality magazines that are on the independent side

On anything he’d like to add:
The people who are actually speaking at the conference and are actually attending is really exciting. We’re kicking off with a panel from XO Group, Quoted, Hypebeast and also Patrick Janelle, who is just a pure Instagrammer, he will also be on that panel. We’re really going to be weaving together creative publishers from simply Instagram through to large independent-minded folks like Quoted, to much larger publications that are global like Hypebeast and XO.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joe Hyrkin, CEO, Issuu.

Samir Husni: Why are you doing the 2018 Issuu Generators Summit?

Joe Hyrkin: A couple of things about it; the first is last year we launched this event called the Issuu Generators Summit and we did it in San Francisco. This year we’re doing it in New York and the reason we’re doing it; it’s not an Issuu user’s group, it’s about a conference where we’re bringing together real thought leaders in the area of storytelling, publishing, content creation, and design, of course all wrapped around technology. The reason we’re doing it is because, one – it’s near and dear to our hearts, of course. And at the end of the day we believe strongly that it’s through the telling of stories in a high quality, curated, published way that people are really able to share their passions, to share the area’s ideas and content that moves them, and there’s a huge audience to connect with around that.

We, of course, as a platform, started off in making magazines digitally available and just a whole range of content digitally available. When we started our whole idea was: what we think the world needs and what we think businesses need is the ability to make that longer-form, quality content digitally available in a whole range of formats. So print, standard distribution, digitally for the whole publication, and then ways to take advantage of distributed social platforms to share elements of that content as well.

And so that’s what this conference is about. We’re bringing together a whole set of people who are focused around telling stories. At the end of the day it’s relatively simple, but I think profound is our world, our culture is evolve and move and transform through strengthening.

And the really interesting thing is what you do; magazines have always been, for generations, at the heart of how people are telling stories. Whether it’s a huge mainstream magazine like People or some of the more independent publications that cater to a particular interest. As we’ve talked about before, I believe there’s nothing wrong with the publishing industry, there are just radical changes happening. More content is being created than ever before, but the ways to share and distribute and get that out there is sort of a new set of challenges.

Samir Husni: Since the last time that you and I chatted, we had talked about how the digital world was more like the Amazon Jungle compared to the print world. You’re bringing people who have print magazines; people who are digital-only, to this conference on Dec. 4. I know storytelling is the cornerstone, but where do you see that intersection of visual storytelling, video storytelling, audio storytelling, and print storytelling?

Joe Hyrkin: Let’s go back to the Amazon analogy for a moment, because I love it. If you use the Amazon analogy, what I think happens related to stories is we are now identifying the specific species of plant, or the specific kind of crocodile, or the specific animal in the Amazon and allowing that to be the content by which people can start to go deeper into the Amazon itself. To let me see the thing that I care most about and then use that as an entrée into the larger universe of related content. And that’s what we’re seeing and that’s what we’re doing as a company on the story level.

So, when I think about stories, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One is I think that the story format is one that everybody is jumping onboard with: Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, even LinkedIn is rolling out stories. We’re seeing Reddit start to play with new ways of doing stories and articles and advertising. So, we’re seeing the large platforms who attract people to consume content are embracing the story format, because it provides enough depth to be interesting and engaging, but not overwhelming. And then you can go deeper into that content.

So, I think it’s established as a format, but what’s happening for the most part is stories are confusing. As you just said, is it an image, is it a video, is it an article; what is it? And everybody is piling on with their capital S story format.

Samir Husni: Including advertisers.

Joe Hyrkin: Including advertisers with the story ad now. So, here’s what’s happening, and this is what is super exciting for the industry as a whole, particularly for the magazine industry. I believe that the story format is established and I think most of the content is user-generated, inconsistent, not necessarily brand-friendly, user-created images and videos that are kind of strung together as a story. It’s very similar to the idea of a cat video back in the early days of YouTube.

But what is established is as a format it’s enough content to engage people and get them interested and then you have to do more. So, what we’re starting to see increasingly happen and we’ve seen it repeatedly in many content industries before, is there will now start to be this level of semi-professional and professionally created content that revolves around the story format. And there will be two forms of it, there will be video stories and there will be article stories that people are going to read. And we’re seeing that happen increasingly. We look at Snapchat Discover, they have video content and they have article content. I think they have to revise that and create more, but that’s one piece.

The second thing that’s going to happen is we will start to see ads that are designed for the story format. Again, professionally and quality-created ads instead of just dumping a 30-second video spot into the middle of a whole bunch of images, we’ll actually start to see story ads, if you will, get created.

The exciting thing is who has the most content? Who has the best stuff available? Well, it’s the magazines, because the magazines already have full-page, spread-format ads. They already have relationships with advertisers who have brochures and marketing material and all of those things, which can be turned into paginated, page-oriented ads within the context of a story that gets created.

So, what we’re seeing is, you can now, as a magazine of any topic or any size, you can start to just take the articles from the magazine, turn those into a story for distribution as an A&P story or an Instagram story or a Snap story or whatever the platform happens to be. And then use that as a way, in its fullest it can be a story or an article that someone wants to read on its own in that story format, or it can be the thing that drives you deeper into the depth of that full publication itself. So, it’s enabling magazine publishers, in particular, the ability to start to connect with a much broader audience around content that matters most to them and then use the fullness of the publication to draw them in even more.

I believe that what we’re going to start to see will be a new business model that won’t just be relying on poorly-placed banner ads and 10-cent, one dollar CPM banner ads on top of really high quality content; we’re going to start to see a whole new industry evolve around story-oriented ads and that to me is super exciting.


Samir Husni: You seem too bullish about the future of the industry; why?

Joe Hyrkin: People always think I’m too bullish. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) What do you know that others don’t?

Jow Hyrkin: Here’s what I know, I’ve been looking at this stuff for a long time. I remember in 1999, I was with a company called Virage, we did software for publishing/managing video content, and we rolled out the first video search engine. We actually did a deal with C-SPAN in 1999, where we got access to all their coverage of the presidential campaign and we created this thing called the “Truth Tracker.” You could see video clips of anything any candidate said, anywhere, on any subject. So, you could see what George W. Bush said about gun control in Texas as opposed to when he was in California, or wherever he happened to be. It was really cool.

And then we syndicated that out to 40 different sites, all the NBC O&O’s, and the Wall Street Journal, and I think we had 40 or 50 different sites using this same kind of content. And it was early days. There were a whole set of streaming providers, most of whom were really expensive, banner ads; YouTube didn’t exist yet. It was really early days for this. And we started to see that premium content, video content, had a place in the Internet, just not in the format that people were used to watching television then. In those days, you weren’t going to watch a full, half-hour, news content yet, because it was too expensive to stream and there wasn’t enough advertising rev.

So, we started to break that content up, and we provided video search capabilities. And one of the big things we rolled out after the “Truth Tracker” thing, is we did a deal with major league baseball, where we captured every pitch of every game and on MLB.com, users could go search for Derek Jeter homerun at night and see all of Derek Jeter’s homeruns in clips of video content.

Fast forward, six or seven years later, maybe 10, MLB.com is now streaming full major league baseball games. And Twitter is streaming football games. So, we went from atomizing the contents so that people could engage with it and we could build new business models, to making the full content available again.

I think we’re seeing the same thing with magazines and long-form content. This notion of the story; the breakthrough of the story is that it’s no longer just snippets of stuff; people are starting to put together a narrative of content, and that’s getting engaged with. Look at the engagement data that’s happening around people reading stories on Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook and all of these platforms, it’s accelerating rapidly because it has captured people’s attention more than just sort of the boring old viral stuff. There is a specificity and almost a personality that’s available. And I think we saw that with video and I think we’re going to see it here.

The other piece is that I think we’re seeing these platforms are starting to embrace the availability of content that they hadn’t before. They’re recognizing in order for them to drive engagement, they have to provide good quality content.

Another thing that’s important here, the big challenge, and again, similar to video, in this early stage, there is a huge cost involved in creating this content. I think it was Spanish Vogue that announced about two months ago that they were going to have a team creating stories in Spanish for a Snapchat channel. They mentioned that they were going to have a team of five people creating one story a week, which is insanely expensive. One of the reasons that things aren’t moving as quickly is because publishers are having to choose between having a Snapchat story creation team or an Instagram story creation team or a Google App story creation team and on and on. But they’re doing it, they’re actually investing in creating these things.

So what we’re doing, and in fact what we’re going to show in a lot more detail next week, is we’re refining the Issuu story engine, which enables us to automatically identify the elements of any article in a publication and turn that into a story that can be shared on multiple platforms. So you can upload your publication into Issuu, giving you the tools to automatically turn any of the articles into a Snap story or an Instagram story or any A&P story, wherever you want to share it. And we’re not alone, there will be others who will be doing this too.

And this is part of the reason I’m so bullish, we’re going to start to see increasingly more tools. Adobe has this thing called Spark, which is trying to do this as well for their own customers. The big issue right now is that many of these tools require pretty significant technical skills to be able to use them. I think the growth that’s going to happen here will be in how those tools and the monetization elements automated for use and distribution.


Samir Husni: You have been in the news lately, with your deal with Apple News. Tell me a little about that.

Joe Hyrkin: Earlier this year, we rolled out the Issuu Story Generator, and again what that does is it automatically pulls in articles from publications and turns that into a mobile optimized format. And we are now facilitating the distribution and access of that content. So the first partnership we rolled that out with was Apple News. We have our own Apple News channel and all of that content that’s in there is from publishers who are all recognized as the publisher and the content creator. They’re able to have their articles show up in Apple News through the Issuu channel.

Up to this point, Apple News has been pretty limited, in terms of the number of publishers that have access to make their content available. What we’re doing now is, in partnering with Apple, publishers can now use their Issuu integration to start to publish that content into Apple News. So, it gives them a lot more exposure; it gives them larger connectivity to an audience, and then consumers can actually go and find their content wherever it happens to be, whether it’s in a print format on newsstands or a subscription format or they come back into Issuu to get the full publication themselves.

We also have on the Issuu App Issuu stories, so any publisher now can automatically create Issuu stories and that content can be consumed in the Issuu App. And when you read an Issuu story in Issuu, embedded into the mobile optimized story itself is the full publication, so you can actually then go directly to that story in the publication and see everything else in and around it.

Samir Husni: Are you having any breakthrough with the major publications or you’re still dependent on a lot of entrepreneurs?

Joe Hyrkin: It’s been interesting. We have always built our business on the massive scale of mid-tier, long tail enthusiast content. We haven’t started to take this to the largest 250 subscription publications, I like to call them the Texture publications. But where we have had a tremendous amount of success is in really high quality magazines that are on the independent side.

So, publications that are well-known: Mad, Culture and Stacks, and a lot of magazines that you feature as well, they are starting to use us, both for the digital sales product that we rolled out last year, and for stories and for the ability to start distributing and sharing that content initially through Apple News and other content as well.

It’s interesting, we’re going to roll out next week with a new way to see Issuu stories, essentially a new cover and experience around it. And we’re working with a range of folks, from XO Group, which is now private, but was publicly traded, with The Knot and The Bump, and various other family magazines. We’re going to roll out with them. This really cool magazine called Quoted, it’s a magazine dedicated to stories of New York City, and actually run by a Norwegian guy. It’s awesome stuff. There is great photography and stories.

And then we’re also featuring Hypebeast, they have like eight million followers on Instagram and they’re a trendsetting, hipster magazine plus website. So, we’re finding more and more of those kinds of growing publishers who are using us pretty significantly.

Now that we’ve got the ability for stories to be distributed and for digital sales, we’ll start to work with some of the larger folks. We’ve had way more interesting conversations with them than we ever used to have. We just don’t have a sales force that goes and works with them at that.


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

Joe Hyrkin: The people who are actually speaking at the conference and are actually attending is really exciting. We’re kicking off with a panel from XO Group, Quoted, Hypebeast and also Patrick Janelle, who is just a pure Instagrammer, he will also be on that panel. We’re really going to be weaving together creative publishers from simply Instagram through to large independent-minded folks like Quoted, to much larger publications that are global like Hypebeast and XO.

Then we’re moving into a panel led by one of the editors from Harper’s Bazaar, Lauren Fisher, and she’s going to be interviewing, and we did this on purpose, she’s a magazine person but she will be interviewing execs from CBS, the guy who actually runs all of CBS’s reality TV, which is includes “Carpool Karaoke” and all these kinds of things. So, it’s all about different ways of leveraging digital and tell stories. And also someone from Pixar.

And one of the most exciting components is going to be the afternoon session where we’re going to be diving into the future of journalism and the First Amendment. We have Melissa Falkowski, who is the journalism instructor from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and was actively involved in protecting kids during the shooting and then turned everything that was happening into a journalistic experience. It’s amazing what she has done. She’s a hero and she is amazing. And she has really used it, such as she is training the next generation of journalists. And Rebecca Schneid, who is a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas this year and the managing editor for their publications, and she will be on that panel as well.

And then Neha Madhira, who is the managing editor from the Prosper High School magazines and newspapers, who kind of fought her principal to be able to get her First Amendment rights to publish Op-Eds is also speaking. She just spoke at Ten Women recently. I’m really excited about that.

The afternoon wraps up with Grace Bonney leading a session and she just started this new magazine called Good Company.

Samir Husni: I interviewed Grace about her new magazine.

Joe Hyrkin: She’s great. She’ll be running one of her podcasts from the conference, where she’ll be interviewing, speaking too, but also interviewing Tavi Gevinson from Rookie Magazine. And then the director from Rock the Vote, who will be talking about how they have been using publishing and digital and content to drive voter engagement, which is very much tied to the journalism experience of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas folks. And from the New York Art Week, one of their senior directors will be joining us and they’re all about distributing content-related art and they actually use Issuu as well.

So, we’re excited about the way we’re weaving together large, mid-tier, and magazine publishers as well as some of the other platforms that are being used.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Troy Young, President, Hearst Magazines, On Creating Content With Purpose And Making Life Better For Customers. An Exclusive In-Depth Interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni.

November 18, 2018

Troy Young On The Role Of Print In A Digital Age; The Role Of Digital In Today’s Magazine Media; Legacy Brands and Digital; Hearst Global; Data & Research; Magazine Launches & Closures; And On Troy Young Himself. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

“I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better. Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like a celebration or an event that happens once a month. And there’s something really wonderful about that. And it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that. So, print plays a really important role in saying this is important and this has a place in culture, and take a moment to think and read about this and consume it. And I think our magazines are going to play an important role in how we do that for a long, long time.” (On the role of print today) Troy Young…

“I think digital performs a different role in that it’s about being relevant in the moment and responding to the news cycle, as well as reinforcing a very clear point of view that the brand has. There is a very complementary role that they play to each other. And I would actually add that video is largely an entertainment medium. Obviously, also useful or valuable as a service delivery mechanism, helping people do things.” (On the role of digital) Troy Young…

Troy Young was president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media since 2013 and this past summer was named president of Hearst Magazines, succeeding David Carey, who stepped down as president and is now chairman of the division. In his new role, Troy will oversee Hearst Magazines’ global business, encompassing more than 300 print editions and 240 digital brands. In the U.S., Hearst publishes 25 magazine brands in print and 6 additional digital-led brands, and of course in January, the company also acquired Rodale, the health and wellness publisher, with brands including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World.

It’s certainly a diverse and wide array of both print and digital brands that might be a daunting task for just anyone to oversee, but not for Troy, who is a man that knows what’s important in today’s magazine media world: research, data, and an all-encompassing conjoining of print + digital across all platforms. There is nothing more important, in Troy’s opinion, than having the data needed to serve the reader and deliver content with purpose and excellence in the ways in which the audience wants to consume that content.

I spoke with Troy recently and we talked about his new role at Hearst magazines and the concept of content with purpose. And how an even more prominent print + digital role can complement an already solid foundation of success, such as Hearst has. It was an informative and most pleasant conversation with a man who says he is not defined by digital, even though he has spent a portion of his career studying the ins and outs of it, but instead, he’s a lover of all media. And one who realizes that a successful magazine media company in the 21st century must have a vastness of both. And now the Mr. magazine™ interview with Troy Young, president at Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On some of the pleasant moments he’s had so far since becoming president of Hearst magazines: It’s a great privilege to have this job and it’s a great privilege to follow David Carey, who did so much for Hearst and built such a solid foundation for me to build on. I love the job because there are so many amazing people here and I think when you go to work every day, a big part of it is laughing and enjoying your time with smart people. So, that part of it is incredibly rewarding.

On what have been some of the challenges or stumbling blocks that he’s had to deal with: To be quite honest, it’s a really complicated time. It’s a very complicated business because we operate in many markets around the world, because we have in general businesses like CDS. and it’s complex simply because we produce basically every media type for multiple distribution endpoints. And that means you have to be an incredibly agile, nimble company.

On whether it’s easier or harder for a legacy brand to move into digital: I think it’s an advantage. You know, creating a new brand has its advantages, but the great advantage of a legacy brand is the trust that it has with the consumer. I think that you can evolve your voice and point of view while still being true to what made the brand great. Media trust matters and that trust is built over a long period of creative time, so having a 100-year-old brand as a starting point is a really good opportunity.

On how he would define the role of print in this digital age: I would certainly be broad in answering that question and I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better.

On his reaction to naysayers who say or think that because decisions were made to, for example, close Redbook or change Seventeen, the entire industry is going to hell in a handbasket: Well, it’s definitely not going to hell. Seventeen will continue being published, but we will always evolve as a company. And we’ll always evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our brands across channels and figure out what the best mechanism is to deliver that brand and that content to the target market. We’ll invent new products and we’ll look at how to best deliver existing brands.

On the new research team of 12 and which area of the business this team will focus on: I won’t comment on the specific numbers, but I think that our ability to turn data into insight and to augment that with research is incredibly important across all aspects of the business, not the least of which is our editorial team. As I described a minute ago, this notion of content with purpose is supported by the idea of pulling a lot of the insight and knowledge out of our readers. I think that for a long time there has been the research practice in magazines that really involved face-to-face dialogue with readers, now we have so much data because we’re connected with consumers every day that we need a group that can help take that information and make it really actionable by editors.

On any new magazines or products that are up and coming that he can talk about: Nothing that I can really talk about. I think we have deep, deep expertise in how to create an incredible print product and get that out to people. And so to the extent that that’s relevant to building a new brand in partnership with someone else, we’ll look at that. I think in all cases now we want it to have some kind of digital companion and really understand how digital and print will work together in a really complementary way. But absolutely, new products are really important. And our work on Pioneer Woman and Airbnb are the two most recent indications that we’re really open to partnering and creating new print products.

On whether Hearst Global in the magazine media world is going to be reflective of all of the changes that are taking place at Hearst Tower: I think that the mechanics of the business in every market are very similar. The timing of what’s important or urgent in any of those markets is a bit different. The big difference between where we are today and where we were when we started those companies is that there’s no difference really in the relevancy and importance of these brands or types of content in those markets, but increasingly media is becoming a platform-driven business and there’s a lot of complexity on the tech and data side that is harder for smaller markets to master. And I would say that if you were to do it all again, you would roll out your international markets, it would be no less important, but you would do it on the back of a single, global platform.

On what he thinks is the biggest misconception that people have about him: You’d have to ask them that, but I’d say that maybe I’m cast narrowly as a digital guy, and I think of myself as a media executive, so I’m not defined by digital. I have spent a lot of my career thinking about how the pieces fit together in the digital world, but I’m more of a media person and a media lover and someone who really appreciates media brands and how they meet consumer’s needs.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Let me answer this in a different way; I did tattoo something on my body and it wasn’t a message to other people, it was a message to me. It was a sticky note on my body. And it says that faith is greater than fear. And I think that fear often gets the best of us and I think having faith in ourselves, that we can solve complex problems, that we can do things that we might not imagine. Having faith in other people, that they can do things that are remarkable. And having faith that people are fundamentally good was something that I wanted to remind myself of every day, because again, when people start from a place of fear it’s never good.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: That’s a good question. I would say I’m a voracious media consumer so you’d likely find me, if I wasn’t having dinner with my family, you’d likely find me – I have a room that has incredible stereo equipment and vinyl records and I would probably be sitting down there reading my iPad or a magazine and I might have a Scotch.

On what keeps him up at night: I would go back to how I answered one of the previous questions. What keeps me up at night is how do I make Hearst Magazine media a better culture for creators, and everybody who supports the process of creating media? So, how do I create a culture of excellence is something that I think about a lot because it’s a big company. And how do I get to a new time of stability in this category of media? What’s it really going to take to find that stability? And I think closely related to that is what can we do to simplify the business and empower all of the people who work here to make better decisions to grow our business?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Troy Young, president, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: Congratulations are in order, I haven’t had a chance to congratulate you since you became president of Hearst Magazines. You’ve been on the job for a few months now; what have been some of the most pleasant moments where you were extremely glad you took this job, and what have been some moments where you maybe wondered “why” you took this job, if any?

Troy Young: It’s a great privilege to have this job and it’s a great privilege to follow David Carey, who did so much for Hearst and built such a solid foundation for me to build on. I love the job because there are so many amazing people here and I think when you go to work every day, a big part of it is laughing and enjoying your time with smart people. So, that part of it is incredibly rewarding.

Obviously, the brands that we have are incredible, and are foundations on which to build a lasting media company upon and to navigate these channel-ships. And the leadership of the Hearst Corporation is incredible as well, and it’s a company built on evolutions, so all of that makes it an exciting, supportive place to continue to reinvent the magazine business.

Samir Husni: What have been some of the challenges or stumbling blocks that you’ve had to deal with?

Troy Young: To be quite honest, it’s a really complicated time. It’s a very complicated business because we operate in many markets around the world, because we have in general businesses like CDS. and it’s complex simply because we produce basically every media type for multiple distribution endpoints. And that means you have to be an incredibly agile, nimble company.

On the positive side, I have the great privilege of starting to integrate our business more. And what that means to me is, take the great things that existed historically in the print world, that really made our brands so important and famous, and that is the authority of editors and the insight they bring to creating content, and balancing that with what is the virtue of a digital organization, which is, they live in the moment, they’re incredibly nimble; it balances editorial expertise with technical and data expertise. And it’s a highly iterative, more data-led business. So, you bring those two things together and I think you have an incredible competency in which to navigate through the new world of magazine media.

Samir Husni: You’re the president of a company that has at least five titles that are over 100 years old; is it easier or harder for a legacy brand to move into digital?

Troy Young: I think it’s an advantage. You know, creating a new brand has its advantages, but the great advantage of a legacy brand is the trust that it has with the consumer. I think that you can evolve your voice and point of view while still being true to what made the brand great. Media trust matters and that trust is built over a long period of creative time, so having a 100-year-old brand as a starting point is a really good opportunity.

I think that you have to continually make a media brand relevant and make it relevant for the time and for the medium in which people discover and consume it. And there are lots of examples in our world of how we evolved brands that have a legacy, whether that’s Cosmo, which has an incredible legacy, but it evolves all of the time. And clearly environments like Snapchat and Instagram and our dot com has examples of how we stay relevant to a young woman and I think we’ve done that incredibly well.

Cosmo, again, is an example, it has a bigger audience than it ever has. And that audience extends across every digital touchpoint and in print, so I think it was a good starting point. You know, we’ve taken our fashion and luxury brands, like Elle and Bazaar, and made them part of the daily dialogue. And being daily and being in the moment with brands like that changes what you cover; you’re thoughtful about what underpins the brands and how that shapes what you do moment to moment.

I like where we are and I like what positions our brands have. If you look at a brand in a different category like Good Housekeeping, its reputation through the seal as a symbol of trust and the rigor it brings to testing products, is incredibly valuable when consumers are trying to make decisions. And I would say that’s also true for many of our other brands, whether that’s Car and Driver, Road & Track, or Elle Décor.

I think you use your position and you try to invest in how you keep it relevant for a new distribution environment and that’s what we’ve done.

Samir Husni: How do you define the role of print in this digital age? And tell me a little more about that integration; what’s the role of print and what’s the role of digital, especially with your legacy brands as you move forward?

Troy Young: I would certainly be broad in answering that question and I would say that in all mediums we have to serve the customers and understand how we are serving those customers. And I call that content with purpose. And I think we just have to be incredibly mindful, whenever we’re delivering a magazine into someone’s home or we are engaging that consumer on YouTube, why we’re there and how we make someone’s life better.

Print is heavily edited and curated and it’s like a celebration or an event that happens once a month. And there’s something really wonderful about that. And it’s a lean-back experience that I think gives a consumer a break from the intensity of the digital world. And I think increasingly that people are going to look for that. So, print plays a really important role in saying this is important and this has a place in culture, and take a moment to think and read about this and consume it. And I think our magazines are going to play an important role in how we do that for a long, long time.

I think digital performs a different role in that it’s about being relevant in the moment and responding to the news cycle, as well as reinforcing a very clear point of view that the brand has. There is a very complementary role that they play to each other. And I would actually add that video is largely an entertainment medium. Obviously, also useful or valuable as a service delivery mechanism, helping people do things.

But we look at all of those mediums in very different ways. What do those mediums need to do to be purposeful? And underneath that is, how are you establishing whether or not something is doing its job, whether it’s pleasing a consumer, whether it’s bringing delight. And that’s where data insight and research become really important in the modern media world.

And I look at it really simply; there’s a huge amount of media in our world, we are awash in media. We produce literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces of content every day in the Hearst Tower and we distribute those to fifteen different imports, whether that’s in newsstand or Instagram. And so the company that is able to do that in a very nimble way and in a way that is informed by insight from the consumer is going to do really well.

We sit in a different place in the media ecosystem than pure news, so we focus on passions and we focus on point of view and we focus on things that people do in their lives that are not just defined by the news of the day. And I think as such we play a really vital role in the media ecosystem and if we can get the different channels working together in a way that is complementary it’s a powerful mix.

Samir Husni: When you hear people in the media talking or writing about the fact that, for example, Redbook was just killed or Seventeen is changing, what’s your response to people who are very reactionary to one or two decisions that may have had to be made and now the entire industry is going to hell in a handbasket?

Troy Young: Well, it’s definitely not going to hell. Seventeen will continue being published, but we will always evolve as a company. And we’ll always evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our brands across channels and figure out what the best mechanism is to deliver that brand and that content to the target market. We’ll invent new products and we’ll look at how to best deliver existing brands.

That kind of criticism doesn’t really bother me. I think that we are very visible as a media business and people are going to look at us and comment on what we do. I look at it like that’s just going to work, we have to keep inventing. And if I were to summarize what I think is really important to us as a business, in terms of how we operate, is that our goal is to bring a new stability to this type of media, one that existed for many, many years when it was a print-only business. And to continue to create and grow a culture of excellence in the business or in the content that we create. Now we have different tools and we have to look at that differently than we used to.

And I think in all cases what I really try to do is find the fastest way to feedback. To me that means that we live in a world where it’s pretty easy to get data signals back from the market. And so our goal in anything that we create is to ask, how do we get the water flowing? How do we understand that what we’re doing is working quickly? Or if it’s not working we move on.

So, I think that’s the kind of culture we’re trying to create, one that’s rooted in excellence, but one that is good at listening. And we’re highly critical of why we do things. I think that if we can do all of that and we can learn how to work together more closely across the print and digital world, we’ll keep evolving and we’ll have a really healthy business.

Samir Husni: There is talk of this new “team of 12,” a research team. Is this going to be for editorial, for the business side, or for launching new products? Can you expand a little on this research team of 12?

Troy Young: I won’t comment on the specific numbers, but I think that our ability to turn data into insight and to augment that with research is incredibly important across all aspects of the business, not the least of which is our editorial team. As I described a minute ago, this notion of content with purpose is supported by the idea of pulling a lot of the insight and knowledge out of our readers.

I think that for a long time there has been the research practice in magazines that really involved face-to-face dialogue with readers, now we have so much data because we’re connected with consumers every day that we need a group that can help take that information and make it really actionable by editors. I would say that at the same time our advertisers have never been more hungry for data and they’re looking at how we help them understand their audiences better. From cosmetics to luxury fashion, they’re all becoming more CRM-driven. And they want to understand more about their audiences. And our goal is to help them do that. The role of data science and analysts and researchers is just becoming more important in our business and I think that comment was a reflection of that.

Samir Husni: Hearst has gotten us accustomed to seeing one or two new magazines coming out for the last decade or so, is there anything up and coming or on the backburner that you can talk about?

Troy Young: Nothing that I can really talk about. I think we have deep, deep expertise in how to create an incredible print product and get that out to people. And so to the extent that that’s relevant to building a new brand in partnership with someone else, we’ll look at that. I think in all cases now we want it to have some kind of digital companion and really understand how digital and print will work together in a really complementary way. But absolutely, new products are really important. And our work on Pioneer Woman and Airbnb are the two most recent indications that we’re really open to partnering and creating new print products.

Samir Husni: You just came back from Europe, and I heard that the CEO of Hearst Magazines in Spain just resigned or retired. There are so many changes taking place; do you think that Hearst Global in the magazine media world is going to be reflective of all of the changes that are taking place at Hearst Tower?

Troy Young: I think that the mechanics of the business in every market are very similar. The timing of what’s important or urgent in any of those markets is a bit different. The big difference between where we are today and where we were when we started those companies is that there’s no difference really in the relevancy and importance of these brands or types of content in those markets, but increasingly media is becoming a platform-driven business and there’s a lot of complexity on the tech and data side that is harder for smaller markets to master. And I would say that if you were to do it all again, you would roll out your international markets, it would be no less important, but you would do it on the back of a single, global platform.

And that’s really what we’re working on. How do we connect all of these countries so that they can innovate at the same pace as the U.S. market that’s had more investment. If you look at the customer, the advertiser, what you’ll see is – I was just in Milan last week and the luxury advertisers want our help to connect real storytelling and brand-building expertise with performance advertising. And they all appreciate our literacy and data and they want those solutions rendered in multiple markets. And they can come to us through our team in London or our team in Milan and get a single solution from any international market. So, I think to the extent that those clients drive a big part of our business, they’re global and they’re thinking globally and they want global solutions.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about you?

Troy Young: You’d have to ask them that, but I’d say that maybe I’m cast narrowly as a digital guy, and I think of myself as a media executive, so I’m not defined by digital. I have spent a lot of my career thinking about how the pieces fit together in the digital world, but I’m more of a media person and a media lover and someone who really appreciates media brands and how they meet consumer’s needs.

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

Troy Young: Let me answer this in a different way; I did tattoo something on my body and it wasn’t a message to other people, it was a message to me. It was a sticky note on my body. And it says that faith is greater than fear. And I think that fear often gets the best of us and I think having faith in ourselves, that we can solve complex problems, that we can do things that we might not imagine. Having faith in other people, that they can do things that are remarkable. And having faith that people are fundamentally good was something that I wanted to remind myself of every day, because again, when people start from a place of fear it’s never good.

So, that’s how I remind myself. In terms of what other people might think – I have to tell you the first thing that comes to mind is remember to laugh. That would be it.

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?

Troy Young: That’s a good question. I would say I’m a voracious media consumer so you’d likely find me, if I wasn’t having dinner with my family, you’d likely find me – I have a room that has incredible stereo equipment and vinyl records and I would probably be sitting down there reading my iPad or a magazine and I might have a Scotch.

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

Troy Young: I would go back to how I answered one of the previous questions. What keeps me up at night is how do I make Hearst Magazine media a better culture for creators, and everybody who supports the process of creating media? So, how do I create a culture of excellence is something that I think about a lot because it’s a big company. And how do I get to a new time of stability in this category of media? What’s it really going to take to find that stability? And I think closely related to that is what can we do to simplify the business and empower all of the people who work here to make better decisions to grow our business?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Our/Los Angeles Vodka: Taste. Listen. Read. Building The Brand Through The Immersive Experience Of Voice & Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Anton Van Der Woude, Managing Partner, Our/Los Angeles Vodka…

November 15, 2018

“We felt that it completed the package. It’s another way of collaborating and tying in links with local artists. The local zine artist is pretty well-respected. Also with the three, we have the taste – the vodka; we have the listen – the podcast; and we have the read – the zine. So, it’s full circle really. Taste, listen and read.” (Anton Van Der Woude on why he felt in this digital age he needed a zine and voice to build the brand)…

Our/Los Angeles, a distillery in Los Angeles, California, has created a unique concept to build, promote and elevate their brand using taste – the vodka, listen – a podcast they have launched about their beloved L.A., and read – a zine that is illustrated by local artists and that accompanies each episode of the podcast. Taste. Listen. Read. A first for the spirits industry and something that Managing Partner, Anton Van Der Woude, feels sets them apart from other liquor brands out there.

Anton has spent the last 10 years in the alcohol industry, working on different brands in various countries. Today he is thankful to be working on his own brand: Our/Los Angeles. I spoke with Anton recently and we talked about the global/local aspect of building the brand. Our/Los Angeles has several micro distilleries in the Our/Vodka family, from New York to London to Berlin, and this global/local identity serves to further their ties within the communities of each city’s distillery, giving the brand that warm, fuzzy feeling of closeness with local ingredients used in each location, while remaining international and a player within the spirits industry.

Anton said that using voice and the zine to connect with the people, either locals or visitors to L.A., to help them understand the creativeness and beauty that lives within the City of Angels, is just another leg of the stool that connects the brand to L.A. and its various cultures. And while Our/Los Angeles is the only one of the micro distilleries using the concept of taste, listen and read for now, Anton said who knows what the future may bring for all if the unique idea becomes a huge success.

Mr. Magazine™ will keep an eye out on this emerging brand – and be “taste buds” ready for the possible expansion. Who knows – Our/Oxford may be on the horizon.

So, I hope that you enjoy this fascinating Mr. Magazine™ interview as we take a trip to Our/Los Angeles and immerse ourselves in the Our/Vodka culture with Anton Van Der Woude.

But first the sound-bites:


On what he is trying to do with his Our/Vodka, Our/Los Angeles brand and its podcasts and zine:
Our/Los Angeles is the name of our brand and it’s really a celebration of the city and the people in it. Given the fact that the name of our brand is Our/Los Angeles, we’re doing a lot of things to further our ties with the city. And really, we want to be synonymous with everything that’s iconic to L.A. And there are so many weird and wonderful, crazy things going on in this city and everyone is so different here, but the one thing that everyone shares is a love of this wonderfully crazy city.

On whether they plan to expand the concept into more cities: Right now it’s just the focus on L.A. We do have a distillery in New York and we have a distillery in London, and although we’re part of the same family, each distillery is run independently. They’re the same brand; the same P&L with the same positioning. But right now Los Angeles, we’re the only one that has developed this concept of the podcast and the zine. If we have tremendous success with it, the other cities may pick it up and follow a similar concept, but for now it’s just us.

On whether he feels he is a content marketer, content provider or just someone who loves L.A. and its many cultures: This is more of a celebration of the city. Myself personally, I have a sales background and a commercial background. And that’s the part of the business that I run. My business partner is the marketer, he’s had a long distinguished career in the world’s top agencies. He ran Vista Innovations for Leo Burnett and opened several of their American offices. And this was his idea. One of the reasons that we decided to go this route as well is no alcohol brand has ever used voice as a medium to build their brand. So, given that we’re called Our/Los Angeles, we can turn this into not being just about vodka. And we feel that there is a really good opportunity to use voice to build the brand.

On why he felt in this digital age he needed a zine to go along with the voice: Because we felt that it completed the package. It’s another way of collaborating and tying in links with local artists. The local zine artist is pretty well-respected. Also with the three, we have the taste – the vodka; we have the listen – the podcast; and we have the read – the zine. So, it’s full circle really. Taste, listen and read. And we felt that was the complete local package for hotels.

On what he would hope to tell someone the brand had accomplished a year from now: I would like to say that it would be a staple for all major hotel groups in the Los Angeles area. I would like to feel that’s what we are known for. This package is pretty different; there’s nothing else out there like it, no alcohol brand has used voice as a medium to build their brand. And so we think it’s pretty exciting and innovative. And for us, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be in every single major hotel in Los Angeles.

On what reaction he is aiming for with his audience: It’s to help them understand this city and what’s going on here. And all of the wonderful things they can enjoy when they’re visiting it. Also, the rich, creative culture of Los Angeles; it’s pretty incomparable to anywhere else in the world. One in every six jobs is creative in this city and people come from all over the world, specifically, for that very reason. There’s just a lot going on and we really want to expose that, and to associate our brand with everything that’s going on in the city. And we want to educate and to share.

On anything he’d like to add: The concept of the brand itself is very unique. Again, this is the first time it’s ever been done before in the history of the spirits industry. It’s been done in other industries, but not in liquor. We are the first brand ever to have both a global and local identity at the same time. What I mean by that is earlier I referred to us as having sister distilleries in London and New York and we have one in Berlin; we’re all micro distilleries and we all run independently, as I said. However, we all distill to the same uniform global recipe, but we use local ingredients at every distillery. So, Our/New York tastes different from Our/Los Angeles. The branding looks the same, the bottle looks the same, it’s just says Our/New York or Our/Berlin instead of Our/Los Angeles on the label.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: For me, I would like it to be the success of Our/Los Angeles. I’ve worked on a lot of brands all over the world and I’ve been in the alcohol industry now for over ten years and I finally have one of my own. I’ve always worked for other brands, and one of the reasons this opportunity is so exciting for me is because I get a chance to build my own from scratch. It takes years to build a brand; it’s a very saturated market. There’s not a lot to differentiate each of the brands out there. I would hope that, in years to come, my name will be associated with the success of the brand along with the rest of the team.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:
Given the nature of the business, for the first part of the evening, almost every evening, I’m out, picking up relationships, visiting cocktail bars, etc., so that when I get home, I live in a little bit of a zoo. I have 10 animals and animals are very important to me, and so when I get home I tend to the zoo.

On what keeps him up at night: When you’re starting out, and this goes back to the fact that it takes a long time, it takes years to build a brand, and you can be working 24 hours a day and things can be going brilliantly well, but it takes a little bit of time for those successes to be reflected in the P&L of the business. And of course there are moments that can be disheartening, that you’re working so hard and you essentially feel that you’re making so much progress when it comes to the P&L and making money; but it takes a while for those day-to-day wins to be reflected. So really, I guess if I’m ever up at night it’s due to lack of management on my part on that front. I just occasionally get a little impatient and worried that there will be difficulties with all of this.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Anton van der Woude, managing partner, Our/Los Angeles Vodka.

Samir Husni: Give me that combination of Our/Vodka brand, with the podcast, and with the zine; what are you trying to do with these entities?

Anton van der Woude: Our/Los Angeles is the name of our brand and it’s really a celebration of the city and the people in it. Given the fact that the name of our brand is Our/Los Angeles, we’re doing a lot of things to further our ties with the city. And really, we want to be synonymous with everything that’s iconic to L.A. And there are so many weird and wonderful, crazy things going on in this city and everyone is so different here, but the one thing that everyone shares is a love of this wonderfully crazy city.

And we’ve designed a local package essentially; it was originally designed as an idea for a hotel and an in-room package for hotels. And the idea was our little .375 bottle really lends itself to portability, gift-ability and share-ability. It has won design awards and it’s great in the rooms. We really wanted to further the local package, so we came up with the idea of podcasts. And the podcast is not about vodka, it’s about Our/Los Angeles. And we’ve had a wonderful range of speakers, everything from local politicians to music venue owners; we even had the Drag Queen of L.A.; we had a white witch, we’ve just had everything under the sun, in terms of guest speakers.

And we also created a little physical zine to accompany the podcasts and the idea is that in the room you can taste, read and listen to something local. It appeals to locals and tourists alike. If you want to tune in to a little bit of culture, little bit of history, you can do that. Or if you’re simply looking for the latest cool hotel roof to go and have a drink at on your trip, there’s information on that.

And the zine accompanies the podcast; we have a zine for each episode. It’s done by a local artist who is well known in that world. As I said earlier, we really want to be synonymous with everything that’s iconic to L.A. and there are so many creative things going on here that we felt this was a good way of furthering our ties with the city without just being about a vodka brand. This isn’t just about vodka; it’s about the love for Los Angeles.

Samir Husni: So, is it about the love of Los Angeles today; maybe tomorrow it’s the love of New York and San Francisco; do you plan on expanding this into more locations than L.A.? Or are you L.A. bound and kept?

Anton van der Woude: Right now it’s just the focus on L.A. We do have a distillery in New York and we have a distillery in London, and although we’re part of the same family, each distillery is run independently. They’re the same brand; the same P&L with the same positioning. But right now with Los Angeles, we’re the only one that has developed this concept of the podcast and the zine. If we have tremendous success with it, the other cities may pick it up and follow a similar concept, but for now it’s just us.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself a content marketer or a content provider now, or is it simply because you’re in love with L.A. and its culture that you’re doing this?

Anton van der Woude: This is more of a celebration of the city. Myself personally, I have a sales background and a commercial background. And that’s the part of the business that I run. My business partner is the marketer, he’s had a long distinguished career in the world’s top agencies. He ran Vista Innovations for Leo Burnett and opened several of their American offices. And this was his idea. One of the reasons that we decided to go this route as well is no alcohol brand has ever used voice as a medium to build their brand. So, given that we’re called Our/Los Angeles, we can turn this into not being just about vodka. And we feel that there is a really good opportunity to use voice to build the brand.

Samir Husni: In this digital age that we live in, why did you feel that in addition to voice you needed to have a zine to go along with the voice?

Anton van der Woude: Because we felt that it completed the package. It’s another way of collaborating and tying in links with local artists. The local zine artist is pretty well-respected. Also with the three, we have the taste – the vodka; we have the listen – the podcast; and we have the read – the zine. So, it’s full circle really. Taste, listen and read. And we felt that was the complete local package for hotels.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you’ve accomplished in 2019?

Anton van der Woude: I would like to say that it would be a staple for all major hotel groups in the Los Angeles area. I would like to feel that’s what we are known for. This package is pretty different; there’s nothing else out there like it, no alcohol brand has used voice as a medium to build their brand. And so we think it’s pretty exciting and innovative. And for us, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be in every single major hotel in Los Angeles.

Samir Husni: How will the vodka be allocated, in the minibars?

Anton van der Woude: Yes, it will be in the minibars in the rooms. The bottles of vodka are small .375 bottles.

Samir Husni: You have the concept of taste, listen and read and it has been tried before with craft beer. I have a magazine from Australia that was published with the help of the craft beer industry, where with every beer you read an article. After people have experienced those three elements, taste, listen and read, what do you expect their reaction to be? What are you aiming for?

Anton van der Woude: It’s to help them understand this city and what’s going on here. And all of the wonderful things they can enjoy when they’re visiting it. Also, the rich, creative culture of Los Angeles; it’s pretty incomparable to anywhere else in the world. One in every six jobs is creative in this city and people come from all over the world, specifically, for that very reason. There’s just a lot going on and we really want to expose that, and to associate our brand with everything that’s going on in the city. And we want to educate and to share.

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

Anton van der Woude: The concept of the brand itself is very unique. Again, this is the first time it’s ever been done before in the history of the spirits industry. It’s been done in other industries, but not in liquor. We are the first brand ever to have both a global and local identity at the same time. What I mean by that is earlier I referred to us as having sister distilleries in London and New York and we have one in Berlin; we’re all micro distilleries and we all run independently, as I said. However, we all distill to the same uniform global recipe, but we use local ingredients at every distillery. So, Our/New York tastes different from Our/Los Angeles. The branding looks the same, the bottle looks the same, it’s just says Our/New York or Our/Berlin instead of Our/Los Angeles on the label.

What this means is that people can resonate with the brand around the world, but drink locally in each city. And that’s genius. It’s the way the market is going, with globalization, today the world is so small, everyone has roots everywhere. People want to be able to drink under and recognize a trusted name, but yet drink locally in each place with individual characteristics. And until now, you’re a cross distillery or you’re a big national and there’s no one who has this global/local identity, and for me, it’s the way the market is going. And one of the reasons that I’m a part of this project.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about you?

Anton van der Woude: Maybe that I’m British and I don’t know L.A. as well as I claim to. (Laughs) Apart from that, the biggest misconception about me…I’m not sure. I guess that would be my answer.

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

Anton van der Woude: For me, I would like it to be the success of Our/Los Angeles. I’ve worked on a lot of brands all over the world and I’ve been in the alcohol industry now for over ten years and I finally have one of my own. I’ve always worked for other brands, and one of the reasons this opportunity is so exciting for me is because I get a chance to build my own from scratch. It takes years to build a brand; it’s a very saturated market. There’s not a lot to differentiate each of the brands out there.

And again, this is one of the reasons that we’re trying to do things really differently, like launch the podcast. I have a marketing campaign that’s – you know, alcohol is always traditionally done inside and because of our little .375 and its’ portability, we’ve got a whole marketing campaign about the short trip space. We’re really trying to do things a little differently and innovate, and the only way to survive in this market is to be constantly innovating and be one step ahead. I would hope that, in years to come, my name will be associated with the success of the brand along with the rest of the team.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Are you drinking Our/LA; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Anton van der Woude: Given the nature of the business, for the first part of the evening, almost every evening, I’m out, picking up relationships, visiting cocktail bars, etc., so that when I get home, I live in a little bit of a zoo. I have 10 animals and animals are very important to me, and so when I get home I tend to the zoo.

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

Anton van der Woude: When you’re starting out, and this goes back to the fact that it takes a long time, it takes years to build a brand, and you can be working 24 hours a day and things can be going brilliantly well, but it takes a little bit of time for those successes to be reflected in the P&L of the business. And of course there are moments that can be disheartening, that you’re working so hard and you essentially feel that you’re making so much progress when it comes to the P&L and making money; but it takes a while for those day-to-day wins to be reflected. So really, I guess if I’m ever up at night it’s due to lack of management on my part on that front. I just occasionally get a little impatient and worried that there will be difficulties with all of this.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Chuck Howell: Meredith Corporation’s Vice President Of Strategic Sourcing, Newsstand & Production Operations Talks To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni About Newsstands, Educating Retailers And Buyers & The Overall Importance Of Magazines And That Lean-Back Experience…

November 12, 2018

“I don’t think it will be Newsstands 101. I think it needs to be educating the buyers. It’s the readership that’s looking for that content at newsstand that will ultimately carry the message. We just need to make sure that we stay viable at the front end long enough for that message to be had, because to your point, I think the younger buyers out there who don’t have an intrinsic knowledge of what the magazine brings and that lean-back experience, they traditionally get their information and their news off the Internet, but the buyers aren’t necessarily there yet. Eventually, that will evolve.” Chuck Howell (on educating buyers on the importance of magazines and that lean-back experience)…

“If we’re talking newsstand-specific, it’s managing the rate-based sales and how do we extend that runway, while best leveraging the uptick in the special interest publications. So what keeps me up at night is making the right long-term decisions for what seems to be short-term problems.” Chuck Howell…

Providing leadership and vision to Meredith’s procurement activities, ensuring that the sourcing and negotiation strategies employed complement overall business strategy and deliver value by reducing costs while improving the quality of purchased goods and services, Chuck Howell values his role as vice president of Strategic Sourcing, Production and Newsstand Operations. Chuck Howell is also a man who knows there has to be a way to make the supply chain healthier and more economically savvy than what’s out there today.

And whether through more consolidation of critical services and functions or some unknown cure that lies beneath all of the temporary bandages that have been applied to newsstands, Chuck sees the glass as half full. He believes that there are ways to integrate better with consumer marketing so that extending the runway on newsstand leveraging data is possible. And data is an important part of Chuck’s modus operandi. With his educational background in accounting and his past accomplishments at Meredith, such as helping bring Meredith’s very large consumer marketing database in-house from a previously outsourced environment, he is a man who knows the value of information.

I spoke with Chuck recently and we talked about newsstand and sourcing and about how Meredith remains bullish on print SIPs and their value. It was a very interesting conversation, one that I think you will find just as informative, So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chuck Howell, vice president of Strategic Sourcing, Newsstand and Production Operations.

But first the sound-bites:

On the climate in today’s magazine and magazine media industry and his take on things: We know that the trend in this industry isn’t a favorable one across the board, if you’re talking about magazines. Media is better. But there is a lot of consolidation, and one not mentioned is paper mills, there has been a lot of consolidation there too. I think in this kind of supply chain, where you have all of this consolidation and all the way up the supply chain, you’re not going to get to a point where you have a publisher who’s fully integrated all the way down the supply chain. But I think collaboration across that supply chain and opening up communications and speaking critically about what we’ve done in the past and how we should move forward together, given the climate, I think that’s what is going to save the day for us.

On what he is changing or planning to change as he moves forward in his role at Meredith: I don’t know where other publishers sit, but since we brought sourcing up, we’ve always looked at the total cost model and we know that changes that happen in our consumer marketing department impact production, impact our distribution, impact our paper vendors and others, but what does that mean altogether? So, we’ve started looking at collaborative value creation across this supply chain, which means how can I work better with the printer perhaps to drive mailing solutions, as an example, so that I can take money out of the total cost of things and maybe the printer can leverage that and sell it to other publishers and I can certainly leverage it, from a cost production standpoint, and drive efficiency into the channel that way.

On Meredith now being the largest magazine media company in the U.S. and whether he thinks others will observe them and try to follow in their footsteps: At Meredith we’ve always kind of forged our own road, if you will. I think now we’re just more visible and more public than we were in the past. We’ve always been known as an efficient operator; we’ve always tried to make decisions that made the best financial sense for our employees and our shareholders. As far as moving an industry, it is a firmly entrenched industry; I know we’re not specifically talking about newsstands here, but what I think we have at Meredith is a lot of outside-of-the-box thinkers who are good at reacting to the environment.

On how he views the newsstands today: Our view of the newsstands has kind of changed with this acquisition. And you’re right, we are bullish on the SIPS. Traditionally, if the marginal economics didn’t make sense for us, for our rate-based titles, we could acquire readership through consumer marketing less expensively than we could on newsstands, so we would pull the newsstand titles down. We would change it to book of record and we would pull it off of the mass distribution at newsstands. And that’s kind of how we view our books; we take that critical eye toward the legacy Time Inc. books as well, as they relate to newsstand. Obviously, People is the number one runner and will never change. I don’t think anybody can ever knock People out if its spot.

On whether he thinks America’s newsstands are shifting from frequency-based titles to more SIPs: It all goes to what’s going to resonate with the readers, and People has had its declines as well, it’s just that the mass of that magazine’s distribution and how closely people hold it, it will be out there for a while. I do think personally that entertainment and sports and things like that, where you can follow your favorite actor on Twitter with their feeds, or your favorite athlete, that information is almost instantaneous to you, so that’s why I believe we’re seeing a downtick in some of those categories and an uptick in the special interest media. And here at Meredith, we call Magnolia, it started off as a special interest media title that just happen to have a rate base, but the business model was built around the bookazine, if you will.

On any challenges he and his team face today that maybe didn’t exist five or ten years ago: Ten years ago maybe, I don’t know about five years ago, because we’ve been dealing with this and it’s been changing at what seems to be an accelerated pace over the course of the last five years. I don’t know if you know this, but when I took over the responsibility for newsstands, it was right before Source went out, like a week before Source went out, so I kind of drank from the firehose there for a while, trying to understand what this whole channel was about. But with the consolidation of wholesalers and the shrinking rack space up front, as you mentioned, a lot of the newsstand category managers are younger and I think all of those things kind of coalesced to give us an environment where we need to be hypersensitive to their time, hypersensitive to understanding that the newsstand buyer is declining and going to retail with a crisp message.

On whether he thinks educating retailers about the importance of magazines and newsstand will be an uphill battle or more like Newsstand 101: I don’t think it will be Newsstands 101. I think it needs to be educating the buyers. It’s the readership that’s looking for that content at newsstand that will ultimately carry the message. We just need to make sure that we stay viable at the front end long enough for that message to be had, because to your point, I think the younger buyers out there who don’t have an intrinsic knowledge of what the magazine brings and that lean-back experience, they traditionally get their information and their news off the Internet, but the buyers aren’t necessarily there yet. Eventually, that will evolve.

On his background in data analysis and what that experience tells him about the future based on the science and data: I’m an accountant by education and I came to Meredith about 15 years ago and I was one of the people responsible for bringing the database in-house from Acxiom. We’re on the Teradata platform internally, and this is our consumer marketing database. I was responsible for implementing the CRM, and I went from that into, as you mentioned before, strategic sourcing and then picked up pre-media operations, production operations and newsstands. So, I started with data and Meredith, obviously, getting the right data in to our analytics team. And we leveraged that to a huge extent, maybe the best in the market, at leveraging that subscriber data to sell subscriptions.

On whether he sees the cup of the future as half full or half empty: I see the cup half full simply because, again, Meredith didn’t leverage that data in analytics as much as Time did, so there’s green ground there for us to work. Then I also think there are ways that we can integrate better with our consumer marketing brother across the street so that we can, again, extend the runway on newsstand leveraging data.

On what he would hope to tell someone one year from now that his areas at Meredith had accomplished: I would say that we are leveraging the resources that we have. We’re leaning into the things that give us a competitive advantage in tier point, that’s our marketing data analytics and our shopper insights. And we have outsourced our commodity functions like billing and collections, which makes us leaner and more efficient in leveraging those critical resources.

On anything he’d like to add: Everything is always a pendulum. It’s eventually going to swing back the other way. I think for the channel to be healthy there is going to have to be more consolidation, and when I say that; back in the day when there was 50, 60, 70, I don’t know how many different wholesalers out there, there was a need for a national distributor presence. I think there are functions that the national distributor traditionally does that needs to be done. I think there are functions that the wholesaler does that needs to be done. I also think that there’s a lot of synergy between those two that if we were to sit down as a channel, the big players: the publishers, the wholesalers, the national distributors, and the retailers. And we were to take a processed view of things, and without deference for how the industry grew up, but with deference to the critical functions that need to happen, and we were to place the critical functions in the right places and we were to part everything out; I’m a content creator, should I necessarily be in the best position to tell you where the magazines will sell the best at retail?

On what he would say is the biggest misconception people have about him: Sourcing has given me quite a reputation. (Laughs) I would say that a lot of folks think that I’m a bull in a china shop. And I would say that I’m a calculated bull in a china shop.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I haven’t been told yet what I’m doing tonight when I get home. (Laughs) We have a small acreage outside of town that keeps us busy during the summer. We’re always doing landscaping projects, hauling rocks or cutting trees down, things like that. And that’s how we keep busy. Our kids are all grown. We have two big dogs that are now our kids. We have a 185-pound St. Bernard and a 180-pound Newfoundland. So, after a long day’s work, we’ll be sitting around a campfire, probably drinking wine and feeding the dogs hot dogs off the campfire.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I think that the biggest compliment that somebody could give me would be that I do what I say that I’m going to do. That I’m a man of my word.

On what keeps him up at night: These have been crazy days with the acquisition, right? (Laughs) Meredith digesting this huge acquisition that we just did. I say just did and it’s been nine months now. I would say that what keeps me up at night is the responsibility to our employees and our shareholders, and that’s across the breadth of my responsibilities. That’s sourcing, newsstand, production and operations, and pre-media. And by that I mean making the best decision so that it matches the value in the longer term. There are a lot of decisions that we can make in the short-term that will get the job done, but how is that going to impact tomorrow or impact next year? That responsibility is what keeps me up at night.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chuck Howell, vice president of Strategic Sourcing, Newsstand & Production Operations, Meredith Corporation.

Samir Husni: With everything that’s happening in the magazine industry and magazine media, in today’s climate, such as magazine companies buying out magazine companies, printers buying other printers, wholesalers buying other wholesalers, the shrinking retail space; do you think there’s a better time for you to be a senior vice president of all of Meredith’s strategic sourcing, production, and newsstand? What’s your brief elevator pitch of what’s going on today?

Chuck Howell: That’s a tall question there. (Laughs) We know that the trend in this industry isn’t a favorable one across the board, if you’re talking about magazines. Media is better. But there is a lot of consolidation, and one not mentioned is paper mills, there has been a lot of consolidation there too. I think in this kind of supply chain, where you have all of this consolidation and all the way up the supply chain, you’re not going to get to a point where you have a publisher who’s fully integrated all the way down the supply chain.

But I think collaboration across that supply chain and opening up communications and speaking critically about what we’ve done in the past and how we should move forward together, given the climate, I think that’s what is going to save the day for us. But from a strategic sourcing standpoint, it just means our strategies need to change. It needs to be more about collaboration and honesty and working together than it is about leveraging one vendor off of another, because we’re not going to have that too much longer.

Samir Husni: In your role at Meredith, what changes are you doing or planning to do when it comes to the sourcing, the production and the newsstands?

Chuck Howell: I don’t know where other publishers sit, but since we brought sourcing up, we’ve always looked at the total cost model and we know that changes that happen in our consumer marketing department impact production, impact our distribution, impact our paper vendors and others, but what does that mean altogether?

So, we’ve started looking at collaborative value creation across this supply chain, which means how can I work better with the printer perhaps to drive mailing solutions, as an example, so that I can take money out of the total cost of things and maybe the printer can leverage that and sell it to other publishers and I can certainly leverage it, from a cost production standpoint, and drive efficiency into the channel that way. So, I would call it collaborative value creation across the supply chain.

Samir Husni: Now, as the largest magazine media company in the United States and one that is putting more titles, both the SIPs and the regular frequency titles, in the marketplace, do you think that you’re now the cruise ship that’s going to be observed and followed, that other companies are going to follow your navigational route? Are you creating some new way of doing business?

Chuck Howell: At Meredith we’ve always kind of forged our own road, if you will. I think now we’re just more visible and more public than we were in the past. We’ve always been known as an efficient operator; we’ve always tried to make decisions that made the best financial sense for our employees and our shareholders. As far as moving an industry, it is a firmly entrenched industry; I know we’re not specifically talking about newsstands here, but what I think we have at Meredith is a lot of outside-of-the-box thinkers who are good at reacting to the environment.

What do we see coming down the road? And how can we best leverage our resources to address those things? I said in another interview that nothing is off the table, the senior management team here is very open to listening and understanding what folks are seeing and what they believe might be the change of the day, what might be the next thing coming down the road that we need to embrace and to leverage. So, I think in the past we may have been more nimble, but I don’t think we’ll lose that with this acquisition.

Samir Husni: Let’s dissect your role as a senior vice president; let’s start first with the newsstand operations, because again, Meredith has always been a big player on the newsstands, mainly with their SIPs. It’s my understanding that this year you’re putting over 400 SIP titles or bookazines on the nation’s newsstands. Is this too much; is this overwhelming? How do you view newsstands today?

Chuck Howell: Our view of the newsstands has kind of changed with this acquisition. And you’re right, we are bullish on the SIPS. Traditionally, if the marginal economics didn’t make sense for us, for our rate-based titles, we could acquire readership through consumer marketing less expensively than we could on newsstands, so we would pull the newsstand titles down. We would change it to book of record and we would pull it off of the mass distribution at newsstands. And that’s kind of how we view our books; we take that critical eye toward the legacy Time Inc. books as well, as they relate to newsstand. Obviously, People is the number one runner and will never change. I don’t think anybody can ever knock People out if its spot.

But yes, we’ve seen an uptick in SIPs over the course of the last couple of years, the bookazines, and the content that we provide there. So, we are leaning into those books. Newsstand became a thing for us because with the acquisition of Time Inc.’s People and just the critical mass and volume and the revenue that People brings, and certainly Time had more SIPs out in the market than we did and we’ve increased that again this year.

Samir Husni: If you look at retail and you look at the shrinking space, is America’s newsstands changing from more frequency-related magazines to more bookazines and SIPs?

Chuck Howell: It all goes to what’s going to resonate with the readers, and People has had its declines as well, it’s just that the mass of that magazine’s distribution and how closely people hold it, it will be out there for a while. I do think personally that entertainment and sports and things like that, where you can follow your favorite actor on Twitter with their feeds, or your favorite athlete, that information is almost instantaneous to you, so that’s why I believe we’re seeing a downtick in some of those categories and an uptick in the special interest media. And here at Meredith, we call Magnolia, it started off as a special interest media title that just happen to have a rate base, but the business model was built around the bookazine, if you will.

That was a homerun for us and I know you’ve talked to Doug Olson about that. That was and is a homerun for us. And that’s what it’s all about, is finding the content that will resonate with readers.

Samir Husni: As you and your team find that content, what are some of the challenges that you’re seeing today on the newsstands and on the retail front that maybe didn’t exist five or ten years ago?

Chuck Howell: Ten years ago maybe, I don’t know about five years ago, because we’ve been dealing with this and it’s been changing at what seems to be an accelerated pace over the course of the last five years. I don’t know if you know this, but when I took over the responsibility for newsstands, it was right before Source went out, like a week before Source went out, so I kind of drank from the firehose there for a while, trying to understand what this whole channel was about.

But with the consolidation of wholesalers and the shrinking rack space up front, as you mentioned, a lot of the newsstand category managers are younger and I think all of those things kind of coalesced to give us an environment where we need to be hypersensitive to their time, hypersensitive to understanding that the newsstand buyer is declining and going to retail with a crisp message. And TIR had always been the 800-pound gorilla in the market with People and I think they’ve been a good steward of the industry. But what we’re doing is trying to scale our business better and position the channel to scale better as well, which is what we did in outsourcing our billing and collections.

So, we’re trying to scale the business better in light of the decreasing wire up front; we’re trying to position Comag to go in to the retailer with a crisp message about the value of magazines instead of TIR going in and Comag going in and you have RS2 going in and talking to them about magazines, then TNG going in with a different strategy or approach. So, we’re trying to work more collaboratively with the channel so that we can go in and not confuse, but deliver a crisp message to the category manager. I think what we’ve done in outsourcing some of that work that our field-facing sales force had done is enabled or begun to enable that conversation to be had in a more succinct way.

Samir Husni: Between you and Comag, when it comes to educating retailers on the importance of magazines and newsstands, do you think this will be an uphill battle or more like Newsstands 101?

Chuck Howell: I don’t think it will be Newsstands 101. I think it needs to be educating the buyers. It’s the readership that’s looking for that content at newsstand that will ultimately carry the message. We just need to make sure that we stay viable at the front end long enough for that message to be had, because to your point, I think the younger buyers out there who don’t have an intrinsic knowledge of what the magazine brings and that lean-back experience, they traditionally get their information and their news off the Internet, but the buyers aren’t necessarily there yet. Eventually, that will evolve.

What we’re trying to do at retail is again, instead of me going in and talking to a young buyer about the strategies they should take on the front end and Comag coming in with a completely different message because of the interests of their client base, and RS2, who the retailers have contacted to help them make some of these decisions, coming in with their two cents on what should happen, and TNG, who actually owns RS2, coming in and maybe aligning with RS2 or with a slightly different tweak on what should happen; it has to be confusing for those guys.

So again, we’re trying to take that fight back upstream and turn it into an empirically-based analysis on the planogram, if you will, and the wire up front. If we can break that down to empirically-based analysis; what’s going to make the retailer the most money; what’s going to make the wholesaler the most money, and what’s going to make the publisher the most money.

And if we can find the middle ground on all of that, then I think this channel can be healthy again. I don’t think it’s healthy now. Part of the reason that I don’t think it’s healthy is because there is not a cost of entry for some of the smaller, I call then ankle biter publishers who – I might drop an SIP in the market and do all of the research and my editorial staff has done all of the research and amalgamated all of that content, we drop in a quality product and it sells well. And then somebody comes along who is a small ankle biter, and who puts out almost the exact same cover, with almost the exact same content, but not procured with as much discipline, and drops it on the newsstand and it sells just as well. But they didn’t have the cost of entry that I had getting to the table. I think that’s going to have to eventually rationalize before this industry is healthy again.

At the end of the day when we talk about the ankle biters, it’s really how do we resonate with the reader. Time Inc. and that iconic brand, people know that brand. And people know the Meredith brand, but the readers are the ones who give us a license to educate them, right? So, to me, especially on newsstand and especially with our SIPs, it’s me as a reader and me as a newsstand buyer, who am I going to give license to educate me? Whose book am I going to pick up? Am I going to pick up Meredith’s SIP because I know that they’re the expert in these categories? Or am I going to pick up the ankle biter because maybe it’s less expensive?

I don’t know what the answer is, but somehow we have to pull it up from just the content or the category or the cover to who am I giving, as a reader, the license to educate me?

Samir Husni: With your background in data, data analysis and data processing, as you look at all of the data, do you see the cup as half full or half empty? What’s your gut feeling telling you based on the science and data?

Chuck Howell: I’m an accountant by education and I came to Meredith about 15 years ago and I was one of the people responsible for bringing the database in-house from Acxiom. We’re on the Teradata platform internally, and this is our consumer marketing database. I was responsible for implementing the CRM, and I went from that into, as you mentioned before, strategic sourcing and then picked up pre-media operations, production operations and newsstands. So, I started with data and Meredith, obviously, getting the right data in to our analytics team. And we leveraged that to a huge extent, maybe the best in the market, at leveraging that subscriber data to sell subscriptions.

What we didn’t do well, and we shied away from, again, because legacy Meredith wasn’t that reliant on newsstand sales for rate-based titles where we had subscriber data, and we certainly were for SIPs, but what we didn’t do well is leverage data as well as legacy Time Inc. does on newsstand. Legacy Time Inc. retail can go in and tell us through some of the programs that they have, they can tell us that Chuck Howell bought People 10 out of the last 12 weeks. And so, I might not want to market for a subscription to Chuck Howell because he’s a retail buyer and we want to keep him as a retail buyer. We don’t want to offer him a subscription.

The data analytics is key to how we put the right product out in the right pockets at the right time. And we’re well-poised to do that now as larger Meredith with the analytics teams; I can’t say enough about the highly-regaled, seldom-seen analytics team that sits at TIR, and the retail marketing team that also sits at TIR. And the knowledge that they have about the buyers couples with the people who do the retail analytics in-store.

Time Inc. leveraged newsstand data way better than Meredith did, so that’s a little bit of a learning curve for us legacy Meredith folks, but these people are incredibly talented and incredibly respected in the industry around retail analytics.

Samir Husni: Back to my original question, do you see the cup half full or half empty as you look toward the future, based on your data background?

Chuck Howell: I see the cup half full simply because, again, Meredith didn’t leverage that data in analytics as much as Time did, so there’s green ground there for us to work. Then I also think there are ways that we can integrate better with our consumer marketing brother across the street so that we can, again, extend the runway on newsstand leveraging data.

Samir Husni: If you and I are talking a year from now and you’re giving me a recap of what Meredith has accomplished in 2019 in the areas that you oversee, what would you hope to tell me?

Chuck Howell: I would tell you that we are leveraging the resources that we have. We’re leaning into the things that give us a competitive advantage in tier point, that’s our marketing data analytics and our shopper insights. And we have outsourced our commodity functions like billing and collections, which makes us leaner and more efficient in leveraging those critical resources.

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

Chuck Howell: Everything is always a pendulum. It’s eventually going to swing back the other way. I think for the channel to be healthy there is going to have to be more consolidation, and when I say that; back in the day when there was 50, 60, 70, I don’t know how many different wholesalers out there, there was a need for a national distributor presence.

I think there are functions that the national distributor traditionally does that needs to be done. I think there are functions that the wholesaler does that needs to be done. I also think that there’s a lot of synergy between those two that if we were to sit down as a channel, the big players: the publishers, the wholesalers, the national distributors, and the retailers. And we were to take a processed view of things, and without deference for how the industry grew up, but with deference to the critical functions that need to happen, and we were to place the critical functions in the right places and we were to part everything out; I’m a content creator, should I necessarily be in the best position to tell you where the magazines will sell the best at retail? Or shouldn’t somebody closer to the retail pockets, like a wholesaler, be in a better position to do that? If we were to part out all of those critical functions and put them with the right player, what would that industry look like?

I have upward of 15 different data systems that can track pockets for me in the industry, in the ever-shrinking industry. (Laughs) I have 15 systems that can tell me their view of the world on how many pockets are out there and who has what pockets. And that’s just not efficient in this day and age. There should be one that everybody can leverage.

With this condensing industry, this channel does not have the volume running through it to afford all of this overhead that the channel has. And I’m not talking about just the publisher or just the wholesaler, I’m just saying the channel in and of itself has way too much overhead and we need to find a way to scale it back, scale our collective business, if our business is newsstand, how do we scale our collective business down? And we’re not going to be able to do that without collaboration across the channel.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Chuck Howell: Sourcing has given me quite a reputation. (Laughs) I would say that a lot of folks think that I’m a bull in a china shop. And I would say that I’m a calculated bull in a china shop.

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; analyzing data or something else? How do you unwind?

Chuck Howell: I haven’t been told yet what I’m doing tonight when I get home. (Laughs) We have a small acreage outside of town that keeps us busy during the summer. We’re always doing landscaping projects, hauling rocks or cutting trees down, things like that. And that’s how we keep busy. Our kids are all grown. We have two big dogs that are now our kids. We have a 185-pound St. Bernard and a 180-pound Newfoundland. So, after a long day’s work, we’ll be sitting around a campfire, probably drinking wine and feeding the dogs hot dogs off the campfire.

Home is therapeutic, and it’s maintaining that place and throwing something on the grill and trying to realax.

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

Chuck Howell: I think that the biggest compliment that somebody could give me would be that I do what I say that I’m going to do. That I’m a man of my word.

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

Chuck Howell: These have been crazy days with the acquisition, right? (Laughs) Meredith digesting this huge acquisition that we just did. I say just did and it’s been nine months now. I would say that what keeps me up at night is the responsibility to our employees and our shareholders, and that’s across the breadth of my responsibilities. That’s sourcing, newsstand, production and operations, and pre-media. And by that I mean making the best decision so that it matches the value in the longer term. There are a lot of decisions that we can make in the short-term that will get the job done, but how is that going to impact tomorrow or impact next year? That responsibility is what keeps me up at night.

If we’re talking newsstand-specific, it’s managing the rate-based sales and how do we extend that runway, while best leveraging the uptick in the special interest publications. So what keeps me up at night is making the right long-term decisions for what seems to be short-term problems.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Your Teen For Parents Magazine: A Resource For Teen Parenting That Strives To Shed Light Into The Sometimes Scary Darkness That Is Adolescent Parenting – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Borison, Cofounder & Editor In Chief…

November 9, 2018

“The experience of holding a magazine feels like an entirely different experience than sitting at my computer getting information or looking at my phone for information. I’m on the couch; it’s just a different interaction. I even feel as though I retain things differently when I’m touching paper. Obviously, my kids don’t have the same attachment, because they’ve grown up with their brains learning how to read textbooks online. For our demographic at that time, it seemed like a natural and everybody was excited to have it.” Susan Borison (on why she chose print for the cornerstone of the brand)…

Almost 12 years ago, Your Teen for Parents Magazine was born out of a personal passion, but grew out of a universal need that cofounder Susan Borison and her business partner, Stephanie Silverman, along with a group of other concerned women, saw in the marketplace when it came to a resource for teen parenting. Susan and the other ladies saw that their own parenting concerns and fears resonated with most everyone they polled. As they were wondering whether their teens’ struggles were normal, or whether their parenting woes were typical, other parents were dealing with the same insecurities. Unfortunately, the books and magazines they had relied on when their children were younger didn’t help much with teenagers. And so, Your Teen Magazine for Parents was born.

I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about this concerned niche that she and the others were trying to fill as they created the cornerstone print publication, which later became a multiplatform brand with the magazine’s digital website. Launching a print magazine 12 years ago, at the height of the digital onset, was something that may have seemed odd to naysayers, but according to Susan, seemed only natural for them at the time. But it hasn’t been a walk in a rose garden for them either, she added. However, what began 12 years ago is still growing today and this year the magazine won Best Print Publication for Editorial at the Content Marketing Awards, something that Susan said proves there are still people out there who prefer print.

So, I hope that you enjoy this conversation with a mother of five who decided to let her passion and her concerns drive her toward a print dream that she didn’t really know she had until she began, much like the effect a print magazine has on you when you discover a pleasant surprise between its covers. And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Borison, cofounder and editor in chief, Your Teen for Parents Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Your Teen for Parents: I have five children and when they started getting older, I started feeling like I didn’t have the resources that I needed, that I had when they were younger. And I could only equate it to walking into my house with my husband with my firstborn and we looked around and said, “Where are the grownups?” And we felt very much unqualified to be in charge of this child and keeping her alive. So, as time went on, you get better at parenting, but it’s not really a cumulative skillset all the way through; you hit early adolescence and what I saw happening made me realize that the way I had been parenting was not going to work anymore. It wasn’t working, and so I didn’t know what to do. And I was looking for resources, but I didn’t want to read books on every issue. And there really wasn’t any resource that kind of mimicked Parents Magazine when our kids were younger, so I felt at a loss. So, I brought a group of women together and we started from there. No one had a background in media; I was a lawyer before, my business partner was a banker, we had a host of women who were just looking for this kind of resource. And that’s how it started.

On why she thought a print magazine should be the cornerstone of the brand: We were probably late to the game, in terms of understanding that print was not the future, although we jumped onboard later and understood that we had to be a much bigger platform, rather than just creating great content that gets distributed wherever you are. But at that time, I guess what I was locked into was replicating what had mattered to me when my kids were younger. And the experience of holding a magazine feels like an entirely different experience than sitting at my computer getting information or looking at my phone for information. I’m on the couch; it’s just a different interaction. I even feel as though I retain things differently when I’m touching paper.

On what she’s doing right in print to win the Best Print Publication at the Content Marketing Awards: I think there are still many people who prefer print, not exclusively, because there is no way to live in that space. It is just a different experience. You dog-ear something that you read when you want to go back to it; you store it as a resource. How many times do people store something on their computers, never to go back to it again? Or even be able to figure out where they saved it. Our magazines are a resource. And they cover adolescence through applying to college, so wherever you are on that scale, you might say to yourself this article is interesting, but it doesn’t apply to me at the time, but I know that I’ll want to go back to it. So, you keep the magazine and use it as a resource later on. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time.

On whether it has been a walk in a rose garden to publish the magazine: I would not call it a walk in a rose garden; it’s a struggle for everyone right now. One of the things that we did in the beginning was build relationships with schools. The bimonthly magazine is predominantly a regional and the bulk of it goes to the parents whose kids are in the district where the school wanted the parents to receive it. It’s free; we have a free distribution for that model. We have another print magazine that is a parents’ guide to the college process and we created our own databases, schools and college counselors, and again we offer that as free distribution. The business model is advertising sponsorship and the distribution is predominantly free in those arenas.

On her plans for the future: Well, we have lots of plans. Some of them are underway and some of them are about to move from the backburner to the front burner. What we’re trying to do is take this arsenal of really valuable information and figure out where it gets distributed so that it has a broader reach.

On that a-ha moment when she said: yes, we’ve done it: I feel that over and over again, and maybe in the same day having the same opposite emotions, so I can’t give you a moment where that happened. The pace is too quick, the change is too quick. We get onboard with something and it’s doing great and then Facebook changes its algorithm or Google makes a change or something else happens where we have to keep pivoting. And I think that our biggest strength is we started in an industry where people who were in it for a long time said things like, we’ve always done it this way, and so it was very hard to pivot.

On the biggest challenge facing her and how she plans to overcome it: We’ve really always felt like we could be Parents Magazine, a household name where somebody has a friend or a relative who has a kid, a daughter who just got left out at a table in the lunchroom because she’s 11 or 12-years-old, and the mother is as devastated as the child and the friend said, I have to get you a subscription to this magazine or sends the link or shares Pinterest or Facebook or any other platform and says, you have to be a part of their Facebook group, just whatever it is. And to us, that will make us feel like we have succeeded with what our goal is, which is to be a resource for all parents who are looking for information about raising teenagers.

On anything she’d like to add: I’d just like to say that we are women who started this and we’re now called entrepreneurs. We didn’t go at it thinking we were going to be entrepreneurs, we went out and tried to sell a niche that we were looking for. And the journey along the way has just shown us how many times you have to go with your gut and not listen to people who are naysayers and it’s so easy to find that advice all over, with everyone’s story. But when you’re in the thick of it – we would be having these meetings and feel our bodies retreating as someone was telling us basically that it was a dumb idea or that what we were doing would never work, and then we’d say, well, we’re just going to keep going until we find people who tell us this is a great idea. So, we rejected the “no’s” and we embraced the “yeses” and 12 years later, we’re still here.

On her reaction to a reader’s less than agreeable comment: I’ll tell you a story that recently happened and I’ll tell you why I think people were surprised by my reaction. We reposted an article that we had originally posted a year ago with no comments whatsoever. And the article was by a mom who had wrote: I had teenagers come to my door trick or treating, the guy had facial hair, I think she wrote that he had a beard, and he didn’t have a costume on and there was a little suggestion of a sneer. And she wrote, what I thought was tongue-in-cheek, an article about how the next year she was putting up a sign that she was not giving out Halloween candy to teenagers, but she was going to go buy extra cleaning supplies.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: The real answer is that I’m still working. (Laughs) But the other answer is my youngest child is a senior in high school, so he just finished his last football season and so he’s actually home some now. So, I’ll sit and watch a TV show with him and we’ll have dinner. So, I guess that’s my new normal for a short time and then my husband and I will have to figure out a new normal as we hit empty-nesting.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: In relation to Your Teen magazine, I hope people will think that my business partner, Stephanie Silverman and I, built something that has enhanced their family lives and has helped them to enjoy parenting and to know how to navigate the really tough times that happen during adolescence, and coming out on the other side saying we did a good job and we thank your team. And we get those emails all of the time and it’s so satisfying.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) I think the world. Sometimes it ties into access to information and some of it is just terrifying. In my world, I find leadership to be entirely significant in the tone of a conversation. And I see that happen over and over again. I see it happen on a very grand way in families, when parents scream, kids seem to scream. And I find that in schools, in organizations, that leadership matters. So, when the tone is caustic and the tone has attack, I think the culture changes around that. For me, that’s very unnerving.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Borison, cofounder, editor in chief, Your Teen Magazine for Parents.

Samir Husni: Tell me about this little engine that could, and has been going now for almost 11 years, Your Teen for Parents.

Susan Borison: I have five children and when they started getting older, I started feeling like I didn’t have the resources that I needed, that I had when they were younger. And I could only equate it to walking into my house with my husband with my firstborn and we looked around and said, “Where are the grownups?” And we felt very much unqualified to be in charge of this child and keeping her alive.

So, as time went on, you get better at parenting, but it’s not really a cumulative skillset all the way through; you hit early adolescence and what I saw happening made me realize that the way I had been parenting was not going to work anymore. It wasn’t working, and so I didn’t know what to do. And I was looking for resources, but I didn’t want to read books on every issue. And there really wasn’t any resource that kind of mimicked Parents Magazine when our kids were younger, so I felt at a loss. And I always felt like I wished someone would do this and no one had done it. I decided to see if this idea would resonate with other people, so I kept asking friends who had young adolescents and the unequivocal answer was that we’re all struggling. And we’re all unsure as to how to navigate this new space.

So, I brought a group of women together and we started from there. What we realized very quickly was there are a number of reasons why we were sitting around the table at that moment. One was, we all had the resource of Parents Magazine when we were younger, so if you look at why things happen generationally, we had all had that experience of having quick, easy access to short tips that might change our day, and cumulatively might change your whole parenting experience. So, that didn’t exist for this demographic.

Also, I had playgroups when my kids were little. We sat around as moms, sharing the things that were challenging to us. And they were topics that were a little more neutral: my kid isn’t sleeping through the night, they still use a pacifier; they were topics that didn’t carry so much judgment with them. Also, the stories weren’t so threatening, my baby, my toddler, they didn’t own those stories yet. So, for all of those reasons, it became much harder to get bolstered and even to know whether something was normal or not normal. And even erratic, crazy behavior in adolescence can be normal and might require intervention, but how do you go about figuring that out.

So, we were all onboard and we just said let’s do it. No one had a background in media; I was a lawyer before, my business partner was a banker, we had a host of women who were just looking for this kind of resource. And that’s how it started.

Samir Husni: Between a lawyer, a banker, and a group of other parents, why did you think that a print magazine should be the cornerstone for this whole endeavor, especially since it was born around the same time that the digital age was really taking hold?

Susan Borison: We were probably late to the game, in terms of understanding that print was not the future, although we jumped onboard later and understood that we had to be a much bigger platform, rather than just creating great content that gets distributed wherever you are. But at that time, I guess what I was locked into was replicating what had mattered to me when my kids were younger.

And the experience of holding a magazine feels like an entirely different experience than sitting at my computer getting information or looking at my phone for information. I’m on the couch; it’s just a different interaction. I even feel as though I retain things differently when I’m touching paper. Obviously, my kids don’t have the same attachment, because they’ve grown up with their brains learning how to read textbooks online. For our demographic at that time, it seemed like a natural and everybody was excited to have it. That’s not true, from the business side of things, it didn’t get a lot of respect, but from the user end, people were really excited to have it.

Samir Husni: You just recently won Best Print Publication at the Content Marketing Awards. What are you doing right in print to continue that community that you started 11 years ago?

Susan Borison: I think there are still many people who prefer print, not exclusively, because there is no way to live in that space. It is just a different experience. You dog-ear something that you read when you want to go back to it; you store it as a resource. How many times do people store something on their computers, never to go back to it again? Or even be able to figure out where they saved it. Our magazines are a resource. And they cover adolescence through applying to college, so wherever you are on that scale, you might say to yourself this article is interesting, but it doesn’t apply to me at the time, but I know that I’ll want to go back to it. So, you keep the magazine and use it as a resource later on. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time.

Samir Husni: As a mother of five and in trying to reach this community for parents with teenaged children, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you, so easy to do, with the weekly newsletter online and the bimonthly magazine? Has it been simple?

Susan Borison: I would not call it a walk in a rose garden; it’s a struggle for everyone right now. One of the things that we did in the beginning was build relationships with schools. The bimonthly magazine is predominantly a regional and the bulk of it goes to the parents whose kids are in the district where the school wanted the parents to receive it. It’s free; we have a free distribution for that model. We have another print magazine that is a parents’ guide to the college process and we created our own databases, schools and college counselors, and again we offer that as free distribution. The business model is advertising sponsorship and the distribution is predominantly free in those arenas.

Samir Husni: As you look ahead to 2019 and beyond, what’s next on your plate? Anything new on the horizon or just staying the course? What’s the plan?

Susan Borison: Well, we have lots of plans. Some of them are underway and some of them are about to move from the backburner to the front burner. What we’re trying to do is take this arsenal of really valuable information and figure out where it gets distributed so that it has a broader reach.

One of the things that we hate hearing from somebody is, how did I not know about this? There are very few parents, moms in particular, hitting adolescence who aren’t feeling uncertain. And the stakes are so high, if you miss certain cues and red flags, you go back and relive that in a horrible way. But if you know up front that this is the moment when you can say to yourself, this is so typical and they’re going to get through it, or I really have a problem and I better get someone in here to help us.

We try very hard to give those tips over and over again to parents in different environments, so when we’re talking about technology, it might be the exact same advice, but you hear it differently when it’s around technology than if you’re talking about driving or letting your kids become independent, which is a topic today and Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote this whole book about it, I believe she was the former dean of freshmen at Stanford. Her book is all about how we’re letting our kids down by not getting them to adulthood before we send them off to college.

So, in every print issue we talk about move-out skills and we do that online and we have digital-only editorials. We’re starting to do online courses and there’s going to be a lot of attention to that this year. We’re just looking at all of the different ways that we can repurpose the content so that wherever you are, you know about us and you’re benefiting from the great advice.

Samir Husni: Since you started Your Teen for Parents, what has been the most pleasant moment? Can you look back and remember that a-ha moment where you said, we’ve done it?

Susan Borison: I feel that over and over again, and maybe in the same day having the same opposite emotions, so I can’t give you a moment where that happened. The pace is too quick, the change is too quick. We get onboard with something and it’s doing great and then Facebook changes its algorithm or Google makes a change or something else happens where we have to keep pivoting. And I think that our biggest strength is we started in an industry where people who were in it for a long time said things like, we’ve always done it this way, and so it was very hard to pivot.

And because we started as it was crashing we said, we’ll try that, so we’ve basically grown up in a culture of pivoting. I don’t know that you can ever get to the point in media where you’re saying, ah-we’re there, but we’re really good at seeing what’s coming down the pike and how we can integrate that into what we’re doing. And we’re really good at reaching out to people who know better than we do and getting advice.

Samir Husni: What’s your biggest challenge, opportunity or stumbling block that you’re facing and how do you plan to overcome it?

Susan Borison: We’ve really always felt like we could be Parents Magazine, a household name where somebody has a friend or a relative who has a kid, a daughter who just got left out at a table in the lunchroom because she’s 11 or 12-years-old, and the mother is as devastated as the child and the friend said, I have to get you a subscription to this magazine or sends the link or shares Pinterest or Facebook or any other platform and says, you have to be a part of their Facebook group, just whatever it is. And to us, that will make us feel like we have succeeded with what our goal is, which is to be a resource for all parents who are looking for information about raising teenagers.

And on the business side, when that audience gets big enough and we’re not hearing from people: why didn’t I know about you, then in selling a course, we’ve created an easy pipeline for that, so that’s our 2019 for us.

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

Susan Borison: I’d just like to say that we are women who started this and we’re now called entrepreneurs. We didn’t go at it thinking we were going to be entrepreneurs, we went out and tried to sell a niche that we were looking for. And the journey along the way has just shown us how many times you have to go with your gut and not listen to people who are naysayers and it’s so easy to find that advice all over, with everyone’s story. But when you’re in the thick of it – we would be having these meetings and feel our bodies retreating as someone was telling us basically that it was a dumb idea or that what we were doing would never work, and then we’d say, well, we’re just going to keep going until we find people who tell us this is a great idea. So, we rejected the “no’s” and we embraced the “yeses” and 12 years later, we’re still here.

Samir Husni: Here’s a question that I borrowed from one of our graduate students who now works for 60 Minutes, she asked Paul McCartney: what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Susan Borison: I’ll tell you a story that recently happened and I’ll tell you why I think people were surprised by my reaction. We reposted an article that we had originally posted a year ago with no comments whatsoever. And the article was by a mom who had wrote: I had teenagers come to my door trick or treating, the guy had facial hair, I think she wrote that he had a beard, and he didn’t have a costume on and there was a little suggestion of a sneer. And she wrote, what I thought was tongue-in-cheek, an article about how the next year she was putting up a sign that she was not giving out Halloween candy to teenagers, but she was going to go buy extra cleaning supplies.

So, we posted it last year, had some readers, and no negative reactions. We post it this year, and there’s a climate right now where everybody is on edge, it was right after the week of the Kavanaugh hearing, and there’s probably a host of reasons why people were just waiting for an opportunity to really ream somebody. I didn’t know that trick or treating wasn’t benign. You know, kids go trick or treating and either they get candy or they don’t get candy, I did not know how loaded a topic it was. And neither did anyone else on my team because no one flagged it. And we had ran it last year.

So, I came out of a movie after that and I had a text that read: check out Facebook, what should we do? There were 800 comments. Now, I guess some people might see it as constructive criticism, but the comments ranged from: I will never read another thing from Your Teen and I’m going to tell everyone I know to never read anything to one woman who sent me a private message saying: I am going to your advisory board to tell each one of them what you did. (Laughs) What did I do, right?

It was so over-the-top, calling names to the writer; it was such an assault. And so I took it down and I posted it on my own personal page, asking people to give me a clue as to what was tone deaf about the article. And I got similar comments, but what you could see, the closer you got to friendship, was that people spoke nicer. It was the same range. It turns out trick or treating is a hot button for many people. People who have kids with disabilities, minorities; there’s a host of hot buttons about trick or treating that I did not know a few weeks ago, but I know deeply now.

But on my own personal Facebook page, people were polite in their disagreement, but in a somewhat anonymous situation on Your Teen’s Facebook page, people did not feel like they had to be. So, I lived with that. I couldn’t sleep at night. I felt personally invaded and I also felt vulnerable in a very weird way. And I think people would be surprised – I think there’s a certain sense when women run something, start something, own something, of this, thick-skinned isn’t the right word, but we can navigate a lot and deal with a lot of ups and downs and you have to figure out how to keep smiling through all of it.

And this situation really threw me in a way that – I just got an email from one of our writers, she had to further the conversation this week, and I sent it to someone else who was copied on the email and said you have to reply, I just can’t do it.

So, I think that’s the biggest surprise, that no matter how tough we appear and how tough we are, at the end of the day all of us have feelings and all of us feel, when someone points a finger at you in your face and calls you names, you feel assaulted. And that’s true, we see it in the media all of the time, it’s coming out now. I watch Monica Lewinsky’s “Ted Talk” and I feel like I have to email her and apologize to her because when I was that age, which when it was happening with her I was probably in my late 20s, she was free game. It was like a unifying fun. And now that she’s put a face to that name and told her story, I’m horrified at my behavior.

So, I think that Facebook has a little bit of that same feeling, not even a little bit, probably even an exaggerated feeling, of “no one on the other side is going to get hurt.” That’s my opinion.

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 Borison: The real answer is that I’m still working. (Laughs) But the other answer is my youngest child is a senior in high school, so he just finished his last football season and so he’s actually home some now. So, I’ll sit and watch a TV show with him and we’ll have dinner. So, I guess that’s my new normal for a short time and then my husband and I will have to figure out a new normal as we hit empty-nesting.

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 Borison: In relation to Your Teen Magazine, I hope people will think that my business partner, Stephanie Silverman and I, built something that has enhanced their family lives and has helped them to enjoy parenting and to know how to navigate the really tough times that happen during adolescence, and coming out on the other side saying we did a good job and we thank your team. And we get those emails all of the time and it’s so satisfying.

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

Susan Borison: (Laughs) I think the world. Sometimes it ties into access to information and some of it is just terrifying. In my world, I find leadership to be entirely significant in the tone of a conversation. And I see that happen over and over again. I see it happen on a very grand way in families, when parents scream, kids seem to scream. And I find that in schools, in organizations, that leadership matters. So, when the tone is caustic and the tone has attack, I think the culture changes around that. For me, that’s very unnerving.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: