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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.

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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.

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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.

h1

Kitchen Toke: The First Magazine About Cooking With Cannabis & The Game Changing, Positive Effects It Can Have On Human Health – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joline Rivera, Founder & President Kitchen Toke…

November 6, 2018

“People will often hear me say that I call my magazine a very expensive business card. I believe in the power of tangibility. When I talk to people, getting them to look at my Instagram page or my website in a world that’s overwhelmed by digital media; I just think that it’s a lot easier for me to communicate who we are and what we can do, and what we’re capable of with our brand, if you can hold it in your hand. So, I believe in the power of tangibility.” Joline Rivera…

Kitchen Toke is the first magazine about cooking with cannabis. It focuses on exploring and understanding cannabis for recreational and medicinal use, covering cooking and entertaining seasonally with cannabis along with the chefs and individuals who are advancing marijuana in food and health. Founder and President Joline Rivera said the magazine has recipes and stories that help people to understand all of the misinformation that’s out there about the plant, causing unnecessary and misplaced fear for many people when it comes to using it in food or at all.

I spoke with Jo recently and we talked about the brand, and the plant that is being legalized in many states as well as many countries around the world. Jo said the cannabis industry is moving forward and making progress when it comes to legalizing and promoting the medicinal benefits of the drug, and in also recognizing that the recreational use of marijuana is becoming more and more mainstream, replacing alcohol for some people as their drug of choice.

It’s a controversial topic that has become a hotbed for both politics and ethical and moral conversations surrounding its usage and accessibility. Joline Rivera is a firm believer in the medicinal and healthful usages of marijuana. From devastating illnesses such as cancer, to the health benefits of edibles for day-to-day living, Jo practices what she preaches by using cannabis herself.

As a creative designer for many years, Jo has designed cookbooks for Meredith Publishing and contributed to various magazines, such as Sweet Paul and Uncrate, so Kitchen Toke, a quarterly, is a very design-driven magazine.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joline Rivera, founder and president of Kitchen Toke, as we learn more about a plant that could be the answer to many health-problem questions that have existed for decades.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Kitchen Toke: I started paying attention to the cannabis industry in 2011 when they were talking about legalizing Colorado. And right around that time one of my designers’ father became ill with cancer and we tried some cannabis chocolates on him. And for the first time in years, he’s been battling the disease since about 2011 to 2015 before he tried these chocolates, and we got to watch them work; we watched him eat them and we watched the effect that they had within about 30 minutes. He started to feel less pain; he started to eat; he was able to enjoy his grandkids. Shortly after that, he passed away in 2016 and it affected all of us who I worked with. And when he passed away, it was clearly on my mind. I was watching a Vice show; have you heard of the rapper, Action Bronson? I was watching one of his shows and he was getting high, smoking a joint while he was cooking. And I called my editor and said he’s getting high and he’s cooking food. She said why doesn’t he just get high while he’s eating his food and I said exactly! (Laughs again) Then we had the idea of coming up with a magazine to teach people how to step away from smoking, it’s not healthy, but also being able to medicate yourself in a helpful way.

On why she decided on an upscale, expensive, elegant print magazine, rather than a more mass-type publication: I had been used to producing magazines like that; I had been designing a magazine called “Uncrate” for a while and a magazine called “Sweet Paul” for about nine years. I do another magazine called “Gluten Free Forever.” I have been doing those Indie pubs and those upscale-looking magazines for a while. And so when I looked at the cannabis space, and you look at magazines like “High Times” or “Cannabis Now” or “Dope,” they all have a great audience and those magazines are great for that purpose, but one thing I realized pretty quickly is that cannabis magazines weren’t coming out on that level. That kind of debunk-the-stoner mentality, I guess. Creating a magazine that was a little more friendly to everyone. One that I could give to my grandmother and OG Kush wouldn’t scare her. (Laughs)

On whether launching and creating the magazine was easy and a walk in a rose garden for her: (Laughs) I’ll be honest with you, it was a lot easier for me than it was for my content director, because they were dipping their toes in an industry full of misinformation and had to work really hard and turned a lot of money to find the correct information, to talk to the right people. We had writers spread out all over the country to contribute to our magazine and we pride ourselves on creating content that is sourced and fact-based, and credited to people who know what they’re talking about, scientists and people who have been here for a long time and have been working in the cannabis space for a while.

On why she chose print in this day and age: People will often hear me say that I call my magazine a very expensive business card. I believe in the power of tangibility. When I talk to people, getting them to look at my Instagram page or my website in a world that’s overwhelmed by digital media; I just think that it’s a lot easier for me to communicate who we are and what we can do, and what we’re capable of with our brand, if you can hold it in your hand. So, I believe in the power of tangibility.

On how she came up with the name for the magazine: My content director, Laura Yee, came up with the name. She’s a writer, of course, and she’s really great with words. We started talking about the word “toque,” obviously, I don’t know if people wear those anymore. To my knowledge, and all of the photo shoots that we do with chefs, they rarely wear a toque in the kitchen anymore, but the chef hat and the idea of “taking a toke” off of a joint and then also the definition of the word also means a bit of advice, so it was a play on words.

On the biggest challenge she’s had to face: The biggest challenge is getting people to know we’re here and getting people to pick up the magazine and to really look at what we’re doing. Yes, we’re talking about cooking with cannabis, and yes, we’re showing people how, but we’re also talking about the world of cannabis as a whole and how it affects this magazine, this idea, and this industry. We’re talking about the legalities as it moves through the United States and the world actually, and who’s doing what and medicinal stories. I think there are a lot of stories. If you ask someone, everyone has a cannabis story. Everyone. They just didn’t used to talk about it. And now we are.

On whether Kitchen Toke has a test kitchen: No, we don’t. We just have various places in this country where we have recipe-testers and they work out of their own kitchens. Right before we go into production, we have all of our recipe-testers run it by a professional recipe-tester.

On what she hopes to accomplish with Kitchen Toke within a year: I think that 2019 is going to be a big growth year. I think we’ve come leaps and bounds already from 2017. The awareness, the acceptance and the idea of cannabis being more mainstream – I just think we’ll be in a very different position than we are today. We’re going to have larger advertisers, you’ll see that in the magazine. We’re going to have people like – well, any product that has to do with your home and your kitchen, ads that are in a mainstream magazine, they’ll start coming into Kitchen Toke and they’ll start working with us. We’ll have partners with video to tell stories. I think that you’ll see more of that. I believe it will just start to be a normal thing and the more that it goes mainstream, the less of a bigger deal it will be.

On anything she’d like to add: I think the one reason to pay attention to Kitchen Toke and what we’re doing is that when you think about the cannabis landscape, we are what I call the most friendly cannabis magazine that’s around the world. Our magazine is sold in Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, Lucky’s Market, Amazon brick and mortar in the United States. In Canada, we’re in Walmart, Chapters and Indigo, Nesters, and soon we’ll be in Shoppers Drug Mart, a return of 50 stores. And this winter we’ll be in Spain, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. And I think recently the United Kingdom just went legal medicinally.

On what she thinks is the biggest misconception people have about her: It’s the same thing when people ask me am I a user, because I don’t look like one, whatever they perceive that “look” to be. I think I would surprise them by saying yes, I am a user. I would be doing the industry a disservice by saying oh no, I don’t use that. (Laughs) I am a user and I believe the misconception is that people think that anyone who uses cannabis is not functioning or not in a high-functioning position. If you think about corporate America, how well accepted is it to be able to be a cannabis user and still have your job?

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: First, I’m not a drinker, I’d probably be sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, talking creative with my significant other who’s also part of our Kitchen Toke team…I have a creative button that never seems to turn off, tidying up emails for the next day, always thinking ahead, and scrolling Instagram to make sure I keep up with new things and new followers. I’ve made a lot of Kitchen Toke friends on Instagram.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That I was creative. That I was always looking for the opportunity to do something beyond creative. I’ve always said that I can make a pretty magazine anytime, but if I can make a magazine that’s pretty and can also help people…I would like to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and think that I did something better than just create something beautiful.

On what keeps her up at night: I think about how I can get more people to know about Kitchen Toke. In a world where the laws are such that we cannot advertise, we can’t have a Facebook account, they closed down our social media accounts on Instagram here and there. If you say the wrong hashtag – you just have to be really careful. In a world that doesn’t let you really advertise a cannabis product, I think the biggest challenge and the most creative people are going to come out on top. Right now, it’s going to be really interesting to see how people can advertise their product.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joline Rivera, founder and president, Kitchen Toke magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re entering your second year with Kitchen Toke, can you tell me a little bit about the genesis of the magazine? The whole cannabis magazine feel has mushroomed (no pun intended) in the last few years, but no one took your niche, cooking with cannabis. The others are more aimed at consumers.

Joline Rivera: I started paying attention to the cannabis industry in 2011 when they were talking about legalizing Colorado. And right around that time one of my designers’ father became ill with cancer and we tried some cannabis chocolates on him. And for the first time in years, he’s been battling the disease since about 2011 to 2015 before he tried these chocolates, and we got to watch them work; we watched him eat them and we watched the effect that they had within about 30 minutes. He started to feel less pain; he started to eat; he was able to enjoy his grandkids. He hadn’t been eating at all because his lymph nodes were swelling up and literally blocking his airways. And he had been in a lot of pain. So, I got to see firsthand the positive effects of cannabis and what it can do for someone who medically might need that. And who didn’t have access to it.

Shortly after that, he passed away in 2016 and it affected all of us who I worked with. So, I had been doing magazines for 20 years, cooking magazines, cookbooks; I’d worked for the Food Network and McDonald’s Corp., so taking this ingredient and applying it to something that I was already familiar with, producing food products and being in the food industry, was simple for myself, rather than for someone who hadn’t been doing it, I guess.

And when he passed away, it was clearly on my mind. I was watching a Vice show; have you heard of the rapper, Action Bronson?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Joline Rivera: I was watching one of his shows and he was getting high, smoking a joint while he was cooking. And I kept thinking why is he smoking while he’s cooking? (Laughs) And I just kept thinking about it: he’s getting high while he’s cooking. And I called my editor and said he’s getting high and he’s cooking food. She said why doesn’t he just get high while he’s eating his food and I said exactly! (Laughs again)

Then we had the idea of coming up with a magazine to teach people how to step away from smoking, it’s not healthy, but also being able to medicate yourself in a helpful way. So, we decided to look into the legalities of launching a magazine that teaches people how to cook with cannabis for health and wellness. And that started in early 2016 and we launched in November 2017.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide on the format? An upscale, expensive, elegant print magazine? Even from the very first issue, the magazine called the attention of anybody who observes or looks after magazines or media in general. Why did you opt for the more upscale look, feel and price, rather than just a more mass, less elegant magazine?

Joline Rivera: I had been used to producing magazines like that; I had been designing a magazine called “Uncrate” for a while and a magazine called “Sweet Paul” for about nine years. I do another magazine called “Gluten Free Forever.” I have been doing those Indie pubs and those upscale-looking magazines for a while. And so when I looked at the cannabis space, and you look at magazines like “High Times” or “Cannabis Now” or “Dope,” they all have a great audience and those magazines are great for that purpose, but one thing I realized pretty quickly is that cannabis magazines weren’t coming out on that level. That kind of debunk-the-stoner mentality, I guess. Creating a magazine that was a little more friendly to everyone. One that I could give to my grandmother and OG Kush wouldn’t scare her. (Laughs)

I wanted to create a magazine that was cannabis-friendly, approachable, something that someone could learn from. And the cannabis magazines that were out were directed at the cannabis space already. I wanted to direct a magazine to people who were more curious about it, but might be intimidated by it. I also know that food magazines; if you go look at the shelves in the food space, every magazine has a food image on the cover. And while I don’t think cannabis magazines necessarily were striving to look beautiful, I don’t think that food magazines were striving to take risks, so I tried to flip that upside down for us and do exactly that.

Samir Husni: As the founder of the magazine and an art director/creative director, was your journey to create Kitchen Toke a walk in a rose garden? You brought your knowledge of food, cooking and design to the magazine, was it simply easy for you?

Joline Rivera: (Laughs) I’ll be honest with you, it was a lot easier for me than it was for my content director, because they were dipping their toes in an industry full of misinformation and had to work really hard and turned a lot of money to find the correct information, to talk to the right people. We had writers spread out all over the country to contribute to our magazine and we pride ourselves on creating content that is sourced and fact-based, and credited to people who know what they’re talking about, scientists and people who have been here for a long time and have been working in the cannabis space for a while.

We talk to growers and scientists, lab testers and we work with a lot of chefs, James Beard nominated and award-winning chefs, so cannabis is another ingredient, although there is a lot of information that is to be learned about the profiles of cannabis and how it can be used in food. So, it takes a lot of work to find those people, and we spend most of our time doing that. And that’s the hard part. For me to create a pretty magazine, that’s something that was a lot easier for me than it was for my editorial staff, I will say that.

Samir Husni: While you have an online presence and the website, why did you choose print for the magazine in this day and age?

Joline Rivera: People will often hear me say that I call my magazine a very expensive business card. I believe in the power of tangibility. When I talk to people, getting them to look at my Instagram page or my website in a world that’s overwhelmed by digital media; I just think that it’s a lot easier for me to communicate who we are and what we can do, and what we’re capable of with our brand, if you can hold it in your hand. So, I believe in the power of tangibility. Will I always have a print magazine? Maybe, maybe not.

We’re working on some other legs of our company now. We have the digital aspect; we’re working on our YouTube channel and we have some other things coming up that I’m not at liberty to discuss at the moment, but this is just one leg of our company. Kitchen Toke is a brand, it has a magazine, but it will also have other things.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name?

Joline Rivera: My content director, Laura Yee, came up with the name. She’s a writer, of course, and she’s really great with words. We started talking about the word “toque,” obviously, I don’t know if people wear those anymore. To my knowledge, and all of the photo shoots that we do with chefs, they rarely wear a toque in the kitchen anymore, but the chef hat and the idea of “taking a toke” off of a joint and then also the definition of the word also means a bit of advice, so it was a play on words.

Samir Husni: When my friend, Jeremy Leslie asked you to define Kitchen Toke magazine in three words, you told him cooking with cannabis. How simple of a tagline that really identifies the USP of the magazine.

Joline Rivera: Exactly. Cooking with cannabis; cannabis food and health, yes that’s it.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block and challenge and how did you overcome it?

Joline Rivera: The biggest challenge is getting people to know we’re here and getting people to pick up the magazine and to really look at what we’re doing. Yes, we’re talking about cooking with cannabis, and yes, we’re showing people how, but we’re also talking about the world of cannabis as a whole and how it affects this magazine, this idea, and this industry. We’re talking about the legalities as it moves through the United States and the world actually, and who’s doing what and medicinal stories. I think there are a lot of stories. If you ask someone, everyone has a cannabis story. Everyone. They just didn’t used to talk about it. And now we are.

I think our biggest obstacle is really just getting people to look at us and not be afraid of what cannabis can do for them, especially the people who aren’t already cannabis users.

Samir Husni: Do you have a test kitchen?

Joline Rivera: No, we don’t. We just have various places in this country where we have recipe-testers and they work out of their own kitchens. Right before we go into production, we have all of our recipe-testers run it by a professional recipe-tester.

Samir Husni: If you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in 2019 with Kitchen Toke?

Joline Rivera: I think that 2019 is going to be a big growth year. I think we’ve come leaps and bounds already from 2017. The awareness, the acceptance and the idea of cannabis being more mainstream – I just think we’ll be in a very different position than we are today. We’re going to have larger advertisers, you’ll see that in the magazine. We’re going to have people like – well, any product that has to do with your home and your kitchen, ads that are in a mainstream magazine, they’ll start coming into Kitchen Toke and they’ll start working with us. We’ll have partners with video to tell stories. I think that you’ll see more of that. I believe it will just start to be a normal thing and the more that it goes mainstream, the less of a bigger deal it will be.

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

Joline Rivera: I think the one reason to pay attention to Kitchen Toke and what we’re doing is that when you think about the cannabis landscape, we are what I call the most friendly cannabis magazine that’s around the world. Our magazine is sold in Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, Lucky’s Market, Amazon brick and mortar in the United States. In Canada, we’re in Walmart, Chapters and Indigo, Nesters, and soon we’ll be in Shoppers Drug Mart, a return of 50 stores. And this winter we’ll be in Spain, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. And I think recently the United Kingdom just went legal medicinally.

When you think about Kitchen Toke, you think about something that can really teach you what’s happening in the industry, that’s getting away from all of that misinformation. The idea that we’ve been lied to for so long about such an amazing plant. Kitchen Toke is the most friendly cannabis magazine around the world.

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

Joline Rivera: It’s the same thing when people ask me am I a user, because I don’t look like one, whatever they perceive that “look” to be. I think I would surprise them by saying yes, I am a user. I would be doing the industry a disservice by saying oh no, I don’t use that. (Laughs) I am a user and I believe the misconception is that people think that anyone who uses cannabis is not functioning or not in a high-functioning position. If you think about corporate America, how well accepted is it to be able to be a cannabis user and still have your job?

When I think about chatting with you in a year or two years from now, I believe moms are going to move away from wine and get into cannabis. There are a lot of wine moms, so to speak; they’re going to realize that there is a weight loss benefit and a healthful benefit to use cannabis to destress and decompress, rather than drinking wine every night. I can imagine people getting up and getting into their cupboards and taking an edible as a vitamin or in place of their vitamin every day.

We recently just sent the next issue to press and it will hit shelves in early December. The issue’s theme is the future is now. We believe that if you’re not here, you’re already late. It’s happening all around us and I think the future of cannabis is happening right now, this year in 2019.

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?

Joline Rivera: First, I’m not a drinker, I’d probably be sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, talking creative with my significant other who’s also part of our Kitchen Toke team…I have a creative button that never seems to turn off, tidying up emails for the next day, always thinking ahead, and scrolling Instagram to make sure I keep up with new things and new followers. I’ve made a lot of Kitchen Toke friends on Instagram.

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

Joline Rivera: That I was creative. That I was always looking for the opportunity to do something beyond creative. I’ve always said that I can make a pretty magazine anytime, but if I can make a magazine that’s pretty and can also help people…I would like to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and think that I did something better than just create something beautiful.

I also believe that as we legalize cannabis, we have a social responsibility to pay attention to the things that have happened because of this drug. I think as Illinois or any other state begins to legalize, we have a responsibility to pay attention to what has happened to people of color as a result of having cannabis that white people get to do with impunity. And if I don’t pay attention to that, I’m no better than any other corporate giant coming into the industry just to make money. The social awareness is very important to me, especially in Chicago, people on the Southside and west side of Chicago have suffered terribly and been punished for having a dime bag of cannabis. And they’re still in jail.

To be honest with you, I think that if there was more political courage in Chicago that would have happened by now. And throughout the entire country. There are many reasons to legalize marijuana, people need it medically, they do. I think we have a social responsibility that we cannot ignore. We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people are doing with impunity.

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

Joline Rivera: I think about how I can get more people to know about Kitchen Toke. In a world where the laws are such that we cannot advertise, we can’t have a Facebook account, they closed down our social media accounts on Instagram here and there. If you say the wrong hashtag – you just have to be really careful. In a world that doesn’t let you really advertise a cannabis product, I think the biggest challenge and the most creative people are going to come out on top. Right now, it’s going to be really interesting to see how people can advertise their product.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

BizBash’s Founder & CEO David Adler To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Love What We Do As Publishers. I Think It’s The Most Exciting Thing That You Can Do In The World Because You Are The Mayor Of The Niche In A Sense.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

November 4, 2018

David Adler, photo by Rodney-Bailey

“I took the NYU publishing course back in the ‘70s and the first exercise that we did was to ask what is the personality of a particular magazine. Who would that magazine be if it was a person? And I believe that we’ve gotten away from that. And I think that digital is making it harder to do that. So, what a print product does is; when you’re creating a print product, you have to pace it like a human being and it has to be like a human being. It has to have good days and bad days; it has to have good taste and bad taste; you have to take risks. And that’s my advice.” David Adler…

Ideas, inspiration and things that make people do their jobs better. This is how David Adler, founder and CEO of BizBash describes what his company and its annual New York event, held at the Jacob Javits Center, is all about. BizBash covers the event industry completely, from planning, production, new openings, events and trends in marketing, design and style, to food rules planners need to follow for meeting menus. There is no stone left unturned for David and his company when it comes to connecting with people and their products. It’s “contact” not “content” that is king for him and as publisher of the BizBash recently relaunched print magazine, David is “mayor of the niche,” as he thinks all publishers of magazines are.

But he’s not only a publisher but a media entrepreneur as well, one who is always working on collaboration as a tool to change the world. From the Washington Dossier Magazine, which he founded, to working for PriMedia where he was VP of corporate communications, David is a man who has both intriguing ideas and the experience and knowledge to back them up. His belief that augmented reality and the printed page is where the future is headed is hard to argue with when he puts his proof on the table.

I spoke with David recently and we talked about BizBash magazine’s return to print with its debut of augmented reality-enhanced content. The relaunched print and digital magazine brings editorial features and advertising to life through an app-based augmented reality program. And as far as the future of print, David believes this is the new “reality.” Merging the printed page with the digital screen to have true integration is the goal, and bringing the print magazine experience to digital could possibly humanize online so that it doesn’t feel like a reader is freefalling through cyberspace. It’s innovation at its best.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Adler, founder and CEO, BizBash.

But first the sound-bites:

On the successful BizBash event that recently took place: This was our 18th year of doing our BizBash Trade Show. The first year that we did it was 9/11. We had scheduled it for around the end of September, so we had to move it a month and a half because the Jacob Javits Center was being used for the emergency situation there. And even the first one started out really well too, because it became a reunion of the whole industry and it helped to bring the entire industry together. That’s kind of where I learned that leadership is an important aspect of it. The way I think about media is that when you publish a magazine, you’re the mayor of your niche. And that’s like you’re running a political office almost.

On what exactly the event is about: The New York event is held at the Javits Center in one of the big halls. And you walk in and you feel like you’re walking into the brand. It’s packed with ideas and inspiration, things that make people do their job better and love their job. For example, one of our exhibitors was a grandma hugging. Grandmas came and they hugged you as you entered. (Laughs) It was incredible. Every year there are new things that are in the business, such as we had a used meditation van that somebody brought in, because meditation is now part of events. People want not only to get together, they also want to have some private time alone.

On being in the “contact” business not the “content” business: I believe that because content is everywhere, you can find it everywhere, contact is king, not content as much anymore. You have to have good content, but you can get that anywhere, but you can’t get you and me in the same room together, having a conversation that we can build this relationship on that extends online and in all different ways. And so the Holy Grail now is the contact, especially in the B to B world. The contact is the king element. In order to make it contact is king, it also has to be experiential. And experiential is very hard because every time you have an experience once, you have to up it the next time.

On bringing his print product back after stopping it: We did magazines in five or six different markets in New York, L.A., Chicago, Miami, and Toronto for years. Then what happened after the recession is that everybody said that print was dead and all of my brilliant advisors, who were in the investment banking field, said that I wasn’t going to get any valuation if I ever wanted to sell, so I made the decision to kill print while we were still doing good. You know, for a few years you couldn’t just rely on the cash flow from online and events and print became a really important aspect, but we found that out later after we’d killed it. So, we brought it back.

On how even the advertising industry has responded well to it as the current issue is over 200 pages: Oh yes. It’s a big thick issue that we say has that “plop” factor. Over 250 to 300 pages, it has been an incredible success and I was able to pack it with videos of me on the front page, explaining what the hell it was. We had an overlay of every single ad that had all of the details behind the ads, because the key to it is not to go crazy with it, but make it a data-driven thing so someone can sit and look up the page and click on it and make a phone call, to click on it and find the website you’re going to have, and click on it and see other information.

On the launch of a photo essay type segment within the magazine: We’re doing more large photo essays, but we’re combining them – and we’re also using podcasts – I’m doing very multimedia podcasts, photo spread stories and everything so that you can take one piece of content and use it in every possible place. We’re doing it with customers as custom-content as well. I think that the sponsored content is so boring sometimes that you need the editorial voice in the content to make it better. We’re using large photography for that of the people in our industry and we’re kind of doing it in ways that are more provocative as opposed to safe.

On now that he has brought the printed product back if he thinks the future will be an easy path: It’s not that I’m bringing print back, what I’m doing is turning the printed page into digital. And that answers the question that all of these brilliant investment bankers have of how do you create a digital product out of a print product? And I think that’s going to solve the investment issue, because the print product becomes a screen on top of the printed page.

On some of the challenges facing the B to B community: That’s easy. They’re not taking risks. They’re so busy being me too and follow the leader. The fact that I was able to do this and all of the big companies are just so far behind is kind of amazing. And I made the decision to do it within a very short period of time. And was able by using technology, and not the most expensive versions of it, to test it out and practice. A colleague at PriMedia used to say, we have to practice before we do, so we’re kind of in the practice stage of all this stuff, because the minute you stop practicing, you stop innovating.

On whether there was any different feeling working for a company, such as PriMedia and being an entrepreneur as he is with BizBash: I loved PriMedia; I loved the idea. And what I found to be the common denominator among the magazine people was the innovation of the content and the business side together. I love communications and I knew all of the magazines; I had a newsstand in my office with 350 magazines from Hog Farmer to New York Magazine. And we were doing incredibly interesting things that helped promote the whole company. So, you had to look at it a little differently.

On anything he’d like to add: I think the magazine business is really hard now and it’s all corporate-driven, so everybody is afraid to do things and they’re afraid to make changes. That’s a hard thing and I don’t know how to solve that problem entirely. But I think scaling in certain areas is a good thing and trying things that don’t work makes you stronger.

On what he believes is the biggest misconception about himself: I think some people think that what I do is lightweight. And what I have found is that I have studied the social physics of how humans gather and how important it is. People used to not take us as seriously as they should. I used to feel that people in the event industry were sitting at the children’s table for Thanksgiving, but now when you see the books about social physics and the studies of how important conversations are at an event and how important learning and development is and how important having fun at events actually adds to the learning experience. I think people begin to take me more seriously the minute I start talking to them about the most powerful word in the English language is the word “let’s,” because whenever people get together they say “Let’s go to lunch,” “Let’s go to dinner,” “Let’s hook up and start a revolution.” It actually is true.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m doing a lot of audio books now. And I’m totally into things like sapiens and I’m listening to “Civilization,” which is a 40-hour, 10-book series on all of the different civilizations. And I get such joy out of listening. I’m an auditory learner, so listening to books is really good. I love watching television too; I’m a total news junkie. I grew up in Washington D.C. and the idea that I’m the mayor of the news comes from the idea that I grew up in Washington and I always wanted to run for office. Then I found out that being the publisher of a media company or a magazine is even better. You get all the good, but not the bad.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Here’s my theme thing: I believe there’s something in the world called managed serendipity, that everything is just right in front of your nose, but you have to put yourself in the right atmosphere where you have a chance to see who’s right in front of your nose. And to me, it’s everywhere. Whenever I come up with a story idea, first I’ll ask what’s going on right outside of the window? So, managed serendipity is something that I would put on my tombstone. (Laughs)

On what keeps him up at night: One of the things that I get ragged on is that I have a million ideas and I am obsessed with actually executing the ideas that I come up with. And making sure that the ones I want to do, I really do well. And to me it’s I want to finish that job; I want to finish this job. But at the same time, I want to go to the next thing too. So, it’s like there’s not enough time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Adler, founder and CEO of BizBash.

Samir Husni: You recently returned from New York where you had a very successful event.

David Adler: Yes, this was our 18th year of doing our BizBash Trade Show. The first year that we did it was 9/11. We had scheduled it for around the end of September, so we had to move it a month and a half because the Jacob Javits Center was being used for the emergency situation there. And even the first one started out really well too, because it became a reunion of the whole industry and it helped to bring the entire industry together. That’s kind of where I learned that leadership is an important aspect of it. The way I think about media is that when you publish a magazine, you’re the mayor of your niche. And that’s like you’re running a political office almost.

Samir Husni: As the mayor of BizBash who has been elected for 18 consecutive years, tell me a little bit about the New York event that took place recently.

David Adler: The New York event is held at the Javits Center in one of the big halls. And you walk in and you feel like you’re walking into the brand. It’s packed with ideas and inspiration, things that make people do their job better and love their job. For example, one of our exhibitors was a grandma hugging. Grandmas came and they hugged you as you entered. (Laughs) It was incredible. Every year there are new things that are in the business, such as we had a used meditation van that somebody brought in, because meditation is now part of events. People want not only to get together, they also want to have some private time alone.

There are all sorts of different types of photo booths, you can take a photo in a DeLorean, for example. So it’s all of these ways that people are getting engaged at live events. And what we do in the magazine and in our media play is allow people to peek over the fence and see what other people are doing to give them the inspiration to create these things on their own, give us that emotional touchpoint.

So I think that we achieved it. We basically do a conference called “The Event Innovation Forum,” which I call a live journalism piece, where we bring in six speakers who are not necessarily professional speakers, for example, one was the head of Condé Nast events, Erica Boeke, who talked about how Condé Nast uses events to engage. We had agencies with clients like BMW that were talking about how events were the way to touch clients in ways that they had never done before.

You can see why magazines and media products are moving to events, because it’s the only place that you can actually look your audience in the eye and can see them and touch and feel them. And an editor can actually get correct feedback, which is something that hasn’t happened for years in magazines because everyone is always in their ivory tower, and they relied on surveys which don’t really work.

Samir Husni: In this age of screens or this age of isolated connectivity, where everybody is attached to their laptops or to their mobile phones, you mentioned recently when I saw you in New York and we were chatting that you are not in the content media business, you’re in the “contact” business. Can you expand on that a little?

David Adler: Yes, I believe that because content is everywhere, you can find it everywhere, contact is king, not content as much anymore. You have to have good content, but you can get that anywhere, but you can’t get you and me in the same room together, having a conversation that we can build this relationship on that extends online and in all different ways. And so the Holy Grail now is the contact, especially in the B to B world. The contact is the king element. In order to make it contact is king, it also has to be experiential. And experiential is very hard because every time you have an experience once, you have to up it the next time.

Samir Husni: Part of that contact and part of that deal is that you had a print magazine and you stopped it, and then you came back to it. Can you tell me that story?

David Adler: Yes, I came back. Let me give you the context of the entire company. I started the company in 2000 as an online venture only. I was head of corporate communications for PriMedia and I was spending millions of dollars on events. We did everything from Seventeen magazine’s 50th anniversary to New York Magazine’s 25th and the Daily Racing’s 100th anniversary. We were using events for all of these different products and I saw that there was no marketplace. You just talked to friends and said who can do this and who can do that, so we realized that there was a need for it in the marketplace. So we started, basically, this directory business with the event industry.

Then I started going to events and seeing who did what at the events to conclude a contextualized database. My family started something referred to as real estate by the month, and what I’ve figured out with BizBash is that we’re the real estate by the hour business. The first thing that anybody needed to do was create a place to have an event. And once they had the place, they needed then to do other things to engage people.

And so we started out as an online product, then got very involved after 9/11 helping to promote New York City, so we started a print product. Then we went to the Javits Center and the people there said they wanted to get all of their customers together and asked could we do a trade show for them. So, for the first three years the Javits Center gave us a free trade show, which launched our whole company.

We did magazines in five or six different markets in New York, L.A., Chicago, Miami, and Toronto for years. Then what happened after the recession is that everybody said that print was dead and all of my brilliant advisors, who were in the investment banking field, said that I wasn’t going to get any valuation if I ever wanted to sell, so I made the decision to kill print while we were still doing good. You know, for a few years you couldn’t just rely on the cash flow from online and events and print became a really important aspect, but we found that out later after we’d killed it. So, we brought it back.

And the reason we brought it back was because last year I was at a Will.i.am event for one of my customers, one of the people that we cover, and I heard Will.i.am talk about his graphic novel that he’d created. And he made this really compelling case about using print and then he talked about his augmented reality that he overlaid on top of print. And then it was a blinding light in my brain that said augmented reality is the ultimate “use” case for magazines because there’s a boundary to a magazine that makes it usable. It’s not like Pokémon Go where you’re holding your phone in the air and you’re seeing all of these crazy things going on. If you use augmented reality correctly and create a CMS for your AR, it’s all about data and it will be a way to enhance the experience tremendously with print. And I think that we’re still in the beginning stages of it.

We started the magazine last year and we did really, really well. And we’re now going to go from three times a year to probably four or five times a year within the next couple of years. And when I announced it at our L.A. show back in the Spring, the audience stood up and cheered because there was a need, especially in our industry, to touch it and to see it. And to have a place where they could go back and explore things, because we’re basically the brainstorming tools of the event industry in an era that experiences have to get better every year, so everyone is under pressure to keep scoring for good, new ideas.

Samir Husni: It seems that even the advertising industry has responded well. Your current issue is almost 200 pages.

David Adler: Oh yes. It’s a big thick issue that we say has that “plop” factor. Over 250 to 300 pages, it has been an incredible success and I was able to pack it with videos of me on the front page, explaining what the hell it was. We had an overlay of every single ad that had all of the details behind the ads, because the key to it is not to go crazy with it, but make it a data-driven thing so someone can sit and look up the page and click on it and make a phone call, to click on it and find the website you’re going to have, and click on it and see other information.

It can’t be too complex in the beginning right now and it has to be built on a CMS the same way that content is built on a CMS, so it’s easy to do. And we’re evolving and learning how to do it and it’s not as expensive as people think. I hired some outside developers who are not in the magazine business, who are in the gaming business, and I sort of had to drive the ship in terms of what I wanted. We wanted to keep it sort of like that movie “Minority Report” that had that overlay of all the data; we tried to make it more of a “Minority Report” model as opposed to a very graphical thing, because that made it much cheaper and also you can’t have a lot of bandwidth, right now at least, in an AR. So there’s a certain way to do it correctly.

I think it’s going to be everywhere in our industry at some point. It certainly is going to revolutionize the event industry because you’ll be able to go into an event, hold your phone up, and you’ll have all of the information about the speaker around them while they’re speaking. So then you don’t have to necessarily print more documents and you’ll have queues and all sorts of deeper data that you’ll be able to put into the presentations. You’ll be able to go to a booth at a trade show and hold up your phone and you’ll be able to know all of the data around that. Eventually, you’ll be able to hold your phone up and see who the person is because of the AR aspect of it. I think it’s going to be incredible.

You’re also going to be looking at an hors d’oeuvre and you’ll know how many calories are in it. It’s just the beginning. It’s even better than virtual reality, because an augmented reality situation makes you part of the room as opposed to a VR situation that makes you sort of isolated in your own world.

Samir Husni: In addition to that, you’ve also launched in the recent issue “First Impressions,” which is more of a photo essay.

David Adler, photo by-Rodney-Bailey

David Adler: Yes, we’re doing more large photo essays, but we’re combining them – and we’re also using podcasts – I’m doing very multimedia podcasts, photo spread stories and everything so that you can take one piece of content and use it in every possible place. We’re doing it with customers as custom-content as well. I think that the sponsored content is so boring sometimes that you need the editorial voice in the content to make it better. We’re using large photography for that of the people in our industry and we’re kind of doing it in ways that are more provocative as opposed to safe.

We’re in an era in the event industry…and I think in the magazine industry we’re trying to break the fourth wall; we’re in an era where intimacy is more important. And you want to see the producer actually come up onto the stage in a sense and say, “Okay, now you have to do this” or “Now you have to do that,” because we all want to be behind the scenes.

And whether you’re political or not, you see what Trump is doing and you see what YouTube is doing and what all of the different Instagram’s are doing, it’s all about the breaking of the fourth wall. And magazine people have to get less uptight about that. And it’s hard to do, but you can have video content that is about how you did your interview, within the interview using AR too. So, you’re able to get that emotional piece.

Samir Husni: Since you brought print back and since you’re seeing growth in the contact industry, do you think the path ahead will be a walk in a rose garden now?

David Adler: It’s not that I’m bringing print back, what I’m doing is turning the printed page into digital. And that answers the question that all of these brilliant investment bankers have of how do you create a digital product out of a print product? And I think that’s going to solve the investment issue, because the print product becomes a screen on top of the printed page. And also the joke is with millennials, they get a magazine and say, “Oh my, they printed it out for you!” And it’s kind of funny that we go back to the concept of the dominant theory of media, but the stuff that you thought was all gone becomes even more important and becomes more specialized if done well.

Samir Husni: What are some of the challenges facing, not specifically BizBash, but the entire B to B community and media brands?

David Adler: That’s easy. They’re not taking risks. They’re so busy being me too and follow the leader. The fact that I was able to do this and all of the big companies are just so far behind is kind of amazing. And I made the decision to do it within a very short period of time. And was able by using technology, and not the most expensive versions of it, to test it out and practice. A colleague at PriMedia used to say, we have to practice before we do, so we’re kind of in the practice stage of all this stuff, because the minute you stop practicing, you stop innovating.

The sales people learning how to use it is a really hard thing. Having a CMS for this was part of the key learning. We put it out right at the same time the new iPhone came out and some of the technology wasn’t ready for it, so we also learned that we have to future-proof it in different ways. We’re also now getting feedback directly from customers, because the other thing that I don’t believe in is survey feedback. I believe in observational feedback. That’s one of the things that we did at our trade shows and that we do on our magazines. Talking to a customer, especially for a CEO or something like that, to actually talk to customers and have lunch with people, is great.

Tom Peters was on a podcast recently with Kara Swisher and he was talking about the whole AI (artificial intelligence) movement that’s happening and that it’s going to kill us if we don’t move to the idea of radical humanism. And his version of radical humanism was going out to lunch with people. Take a 27-year-old out to lunch and you’ll learn more than all the surveys that you’ll never really analyze anyway. And for me, that’s what I do.

And the one thing great about the event industry and when you go to an event, is you’re talking to people at the event. And it becomes your built-in focus group. It makes us sharper than ever before because we actually have to talk to our customers. I think that CEO’s are terrible hosts, and so now what I do at all of my events is I am at the receiving line at the door of the events and I talk to everyone as they walk in. I do a dinner and I go to every single table and I encourage every person there that is in the magazine industry to do that.

I took the NYU publishing course back in the ‘70s and the first exercise that we did was to ask what is the personality of a particular magazine. Who would that magazine be if it was a person? And I believe that we’ve gotten away from that. And I think that digital is making it harder to do that. So, what a print product does is; when you’re creating a print product, you have to pace it like a human being and it has to be like a human being. It has to have good days and bad days; it has to have good taste and bad taste; you have to take risks. And that’s my advice. I love what we do as publishers. I think it’s the most exciting thing that you can do in the world because you are the mayor of the niche in a sense.

Samir Husni: One of the phrases I use in my consulting and in all my work since I graduated in the early ‘80s is “humanizing print.” I give the editors a magic wand and ask them to strike their magazine and describe the human being that would appear.

David Adler: That’s it. That’s why we love what we do because we see it that way. It’s the context in which we look at what we do. If we’re just selling ad pages, we’re dead. I do this poll before every event I do and it’s to see how many people love their job. And every hand in the room goes up. And then I say, okay forget the technology, just look around and take it all in. It all comes down to Maya Angelou and her “it’s not what people say, it’s how you make them feel.” A magazine and a human being can make you feel really great. When I get my magazine that I love, I feel like I’m in that club. And I think that’s what people need to have again. And sometimes I don’t get that when I go online.

Samir Husni: If you reflect back on your life, between the entrepreneurial part with the Washington Dossier and BizBash, and working for a company like PriMedia, is there a different feeling? When you were with PriMedia, did you really want to wake up and go to work?

David Adler: Yes, I did, I really did. I loved PriMedia; I loved the idea. And what I found to be the common denominator among the magazine people was the innovation of the content and the business side together. I love communications and I knew all of the magazines; I had a newsstand in my office with 350 magazines from Hog Farmer to New York Magazine. And we were doing incredibly interesting things that helped promote the whole company. So, you had to look at it a little differently.

And going to each one of the brands and seeing the passion that each one had was really interesting. Now the corporate people needed more of the feeling of what it was like to be in the brand. At the corporate level the interesting thing that we did was we kept the event budget for all of the magazines, the brands at the corporate level, so we were able to get the management team involved in the local events for Seventeen and Soap Opera Digest and brands like that. So, the main reason was we wanted to use it to engage the street and Wall Street so that the analysts could see what was inside these brands. And it was a really interesting strategy because you want to get the investors to feel as well. It still comes back to Maya Angelou, you know? It comes back to what do they feel about this thing.

So, when we’re able to bring them to the New York magazine events, they got this feeling of this company has something below the surface that is important. And the fact is, we knew all of these niche markets because we controlled the budgets on them, and it was collaboratively, it wasn’t like it was a Wizard of Oz type of thing. But they were able to get more money from us from the corporates, so they were very nice to us too. And it solved some of the political problems.

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

David Adler: I think the magazine business is really hard now and it’s all corporate-driven, so everybody is afraid to do things and they’re afraid to make changes. That’s a hard thing and I don’t know how to solve that problem entirely. But I think scaling in certain areas is a good thing and trying things that don’t work makes you stronger.

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?

David Adler: I think some people think that what I do is lightweight. And what I have found is that I have studied the social physics of how humans gather and how important it is. People used to not take us as seriously as they should. I used to feel that people in the event industry were sitting at the children’s table for Thanksgiving, but now when you see the books about social physics and the studies of how important conversations are at an event and how important learning and development is and how important having fun at events actually adds to the learning experience. I think people begin to take me more seriously the minute I start talking to them about the most powerful word in the English language is the word “let’s,” because whenever people get together they say “Let’s go to lunch,” “Let’s go to dinner,” “Let’s hook up and start a revolution.” It actually is true.

So, they really think what we do is very lightweight. When I’m advising people like Hillary Clinton, or I recently had this big talk with Cory Booker, telling him that he wasn’t connecting with people and the State Department; they understand that it’s all about people. And it’s all about the humanism of things, and that’s the biggest misconception I think I have. People just think I’m the party guy. (Laughs)

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?

David Adler: I’m doing a lot of audio books now. And I’m totally into things like sapiens and I’m listening to “Civilization,” which is a 40-hour, 10-book series on all of the different civilizations. And I get such joy out of listening. I’m an auditory learner, so listening to books is really good. I love watching television too; I’m a total news junkie. I grew up in Washington D.C. and the idea that I’m the mayor of the news comes from the idea that I grew up in Washington and I always wanted to run for office. Then I found out that being the publisher of a media company or a magazine is even better. You get all the good, but not the bad.

So, I’m totally a sponge all day long. And I think this lifetime learning thing is great. And I love when I go home that I can’t wait to get up in the morning and go to work. (Laughs)

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

David Adler: Here’s my theme thing: I believe there’s something in the world called managed serendipity, that everything is just right in front of your nose, but you have to put yourself in the right atmosphere where you have a chance to see who’s right in front of your nose. And to me, it’s everywhere. Whenever I come up with a story idea, first I’ll ask what’s going on right outside of the window? So, managed serendipity is something that I would put on my tombstone. (Laughs)

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

David Adler: One of the things that I get ragged on is that I have a million ideas and I am obsessed with actually executing the ideas that I come up with. And making sure that the ones I want to do, I really do well. And to me it’s I want to finish that job; I want to finish this job. But at the same time, I want to go to the next thing too. So, it’s like there’s not enough time.

And I love the idea of learning how to do stuff. I think what technology has given me is the ability to try stuff on my own so that I know enough about it that I can go to another person and say what about this? Or what about that? Like I learned how to do my podcasts, so I completely learned how to do everything about audio editing. And I learned how to remove sound; I learned how to remove noise and change pitch, just all of that. But I don’t do it myself anymore, but I ask can we remove this sound or that? And sometimes I have to do it myself, but most of the time it’s me managing other people. Learning and development is the key to life I think.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Tyler Brûlé Of Monocle Fame To Magazine & Book Retailers: “Cut The ‘Digital Transformation’ Bullshit.”

November 1, 2018

In the November 2018 issue of Monocle magazine, Tyler Brûlé, the magazine’s editor in chief, “wants to know why (book and magazine) retailers insist on watering down their print offering — literally — and has a few ideas about what they can do to turn it around.”

Call it a cry from the heart or a call to action, Tyler Brûlé’s sensible and dare I say, spot-on advice should resonate with every magazine and book retail manager at any store, big or small, chain or indy. If more publishers and editors follow Tyler Brûlé’s approach, I am willing to bet that we will see a reverse in the trend of shrinking retail space for the many great magazines and books that are out there.

So, without any further ado, here are Tyler Brûlé’s five thoughts on “what’s the industry to do?”

1. Cut the “digital transformation” bullshit. We’re in the business of selling print so let’s not dress it up as something else.

2. Follow the lead of the luxury-goods industry and improve the overall retail experience – less strip lighting and bargain bins and more wooden shelves and lamps.

3. Surprise the consumer with an exciting offer. This might be stating the obvious, but the offer is so dumbed down that there’s little reason to visit most kiosks.

4. Airport and rail-station operators need to seize the cultural high ground and not pack concourses with Subways and Starbucks. Consumers need intellectual nourishment – give it to them. Demand more of tenants.

5. Move away from the idea that people on the go only want to read from screens. Sure, a mobile device is part of our daily news diet, but there is a drive to move our eyes back to paper.

Thank you Tyler Brûlé.

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Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor: 15 New Magazines Arrive In October…

November 1, 2018

From the burnished yellows and bronzes of Autumn to the beautiful varied covers of the new magazines this month, October was definitely a breathtaking 31 days of fantastic entertainment and information.

I was beyond excited to see two new titles that showcased their exclusive premier issues this month from the same publisher: Bed & Breakfast and Chateaux & Castles, two magazines that present humble, but fantastic, photography and great content in both. And isn’t it wonderful to see a publisher coming out of the gates with two new magazines in the race. Kudos to Colette Publications in Carson City, Nevada!

And along came a really intriguing new travel magazine themed around a single destination with each issue. The premier features Mexico City and is absolutely wonderful with riveting photos that are earthy and raw with the emotion of the region. According to the Kickstarter definition, where publisher Abby Rapoport began the first issue: Stranger’s Guide is a nonprofit magazine redefining travel writing by bringing in voices from across the globe and giving a holistic view of locales. And it’s a great addition to the newsstands.

And of course, our other 12 titles are just as amazing. So, enjoy October’s offerings and we’ll see you in November for another bountiful harvest of new titles.

Until then…

See you at the newsstands…

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

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