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ChopChop Magazine: Inspiring & Educating Children And Families On Cooking Real Food Together For A Healthier Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sally Sampson, Founder And President, ChopChop Magazine

December 5, 2016

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“We don’t hear from the people that are using the magazine that they’re dying for it to be digital. In fact, I will tell you that we had a digital edition that we stopped doing. It cost us more to produce it, because no one ordered it; no one wanted it.” Sally Sampson

“I honestly could not begin to understand why people feel that way. I still read paper books and I love magazines. I just think that there is something really special about print. I have an iPad and I read The New York Times on it; I read little things on it. But I think there is no sensuality to digital. Touching and feeling the paper is amazing. And I think for a child, for the magazine to be theirs, is pretty incredible.” Sally Sampson (on the myth that digital natives have an aversion to print)

The mission of ChopChop is clear and precise: To inspire and teach children and families to cook real food together. The non-profit brand believes strongly that cooking and eating together as a family is a vital step in resolving the obesity and hunger epidemics that are in the world. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea and one that has grown the magazine and its brand into many different areas of need. The magazine is a useful tool for doctors, teachers and anyone who wants to see a change in the eating habits of children and their families.

The founder and president of ChopChop is Sally Sampson, a seasoned writer of cookbooks and many, many articles. Sally had a reason very close to her heart for starting ChopChop and trying to make a difference in the eating habits of children, one of her own children had a chronic illness growing up and Sally felt the need to help and give back in some way by using her considerable talents to further this wonderful and needed mission.

I spoke with Sally recently and we talked about that mission and about the past, present and future of the ChopChop brand, or maybe movement would be a better description. Thanks to Sally’s efforts, doctors are including cooking and the values of good eating habits into their well visits for children, and teachers have a curriculum that they can utilize to further this education of food in the classrooms. It’s a movement that shows no signs of slowing down, as soon there will be another magazine geared toward older adults who also need help in the kitchen when it comes to eating healthier. And the grandest thing about all of these wonderful titles? They’re all in print. Mr. Magazine™ is definitely smiling.

So, without further ado, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who knows her way around a healthy kitchen, Sally Sampson, founder and president, ChopChop magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On her motivation behind ChopChop magazine: My career experience has been as a cookbook writer and a magazine contributor. I wrote different cookbooks and I contributed to a lot of different food magazines and other magazines. And I also had a child with a chronic illness. She needed to be on a very, very low-fat diet, so as a result I learned a lot about obesity. I began to feel that writing cookbooks wasn’t what I wanted to keep doing. I wanted to give back in some way. And I thought that I could use my skills as a cookbook writer to help address obesity by getting doctors to prescribe cooking during well-child visits. So, I don’t know if you have children, but it’s now mandated that you take your kids at certain times and that doctor’s talk about healthy eating and physical activity during these appointments.

On expanding the mission: We’ve expanded the mission to obesity, poor nutrition and hunger. Unfortunately, that covers a huge portion of the population. Poor nutrition is an obesity effect, rich and poor, and hunger affects the poor and we’re focused in our brains on those most at risk, but ChopChop is written to appeal to any children. We hope that the Whole Foods moms pay for it and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food moms get it for free through their SNAP program.

On whether she sees the niche market of children’s food magazines as growing: Well, it’s definitely grown. We’ve quadrupled in volume since our first year. And we have a bit of a strange business model. We’re a non-profit and we don’t take any ads. So, it really is 39 pages of content. There is one page where we have sponsors.

On any stumbling blocks that she’s had to overcome: If you asked my staff if we had stumbling blocks, they would say yes more than I would. I’m just the sort of person who puts one foot in front of the other and I don’t worry too much. Having had a chronically ill child, I don’t worry too much about anything other than my children being sick.

On the most pleasant moment she’s had throughout this magazine journey: We went to the White House and we interviewed Mrs. Obama; we did sort of a shared 5th anniversary of “Let’s Move” and ChopChop. We both launched within a month of each other and that was really incredible. We brought two kids to the White House and they interviewed her and she was amazing; she gave us way more time than she said she would. She was beyond charming with the kids. That was an amazing experience. We also won the James Beard Award, which was also incredible. So, those things are not insignificant, but I would say that the letters that we get from kids are just really moving and very real.

chop-chop-5On whether anyone has ever told her she was out of her mind for launching a print magazine in a digital age: Oh yes, all of the time. Of course, the people who ask us if we’re out of our minds are not our readers. I think for a child to get this beautiful four-color thing that they can hold and touch, where they see a child who looks like them is important. We show kids of every color, adorable, braces, in wheelchairs; we just featured a child with Down Syndrome. We show real kids, and we don’t put makeup on them; we don’t tell them to smile. So, your grandchildren, and I don’t have grandchildren yet, but my grandchildren someday; the idea is that any child should be able to open the magazine and feel like they can relate.

On the myth that digital natives do not want anything to do with print: I honestly could not begin to understand why people feel that way. I still read paper books and I love magazines. I just think that there is something really special about print. I have an iPad and I read The New York Times on it; I read little things on it. But I think there is no sensuality to digital. Touching and feeling the paper is amazing. And I think for a child, for the magazine to be theirs, is pretty incredible.

On why she thinks it took the magazine industry so long to discover that print is not dead: I think it’s human nature and that people just have a tendency to go to extremes. First it was: no, you can’t eat any fat. Now you can eat fat. It must be the nature of human beings. I don’t know. I never felt like paper was dead and as you said in the beginning, we launched when people thought we were nuts. We launched within a very short time of Gourmet closing. Everybody asked why we were doing paper? But it just seemed like the right thing to do.

On whether she feels now that ChopChop is a movement rather than just a magazine: I do. If you think about it, we’ve got the cooking club; we have the curriculum; we’re not just a magazine. And also, when I started, not only did people ask was I crazy for doing print, but they also asked are you crazy; kid’s cooking? Like, who cares? But you look at it now and everybody sees kid’s cooking as a pipeline to many different things, whether it’s teaching kids about math or teaching them manners or teaching them to be responsible for themselves; really cooking is everything. There’s nothing that you can’t learn in a kitchen.

chop-chop-6On what she would say if this interview were conducted one year from now: I would tell you that we launched a third magazine called “Seasoned.” And that magazine is for older adults. And you would say to me, but you’re focused on kids, and I would say to you, we’re focused on people who need help in the kitchen. “Seasoned” is launching in February, 2017. The AARP Foundation gave us a grant and I believe we’re actually launching in Mississippi as one of four southern states. It’s a smaller magazine and it’s for adults who need to cook from scratch instead of buying junk, and who are downsizing.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I cook a ton. This sounds crazy, but whenever I’m emptying my dishwasher, I’m sort of amazed at how much I cook. I cook all of the time. I don’t eat anything prepared; I make every single thing from scratch.

On what keeps her up at night: Not ChopChop. The direction of the country keeps me up at night, or if my children are having a problem, that concerns me, even though they’re in their 20s. That’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sally Sampson, founder and president, ChopChop magazine.

Samir Husni: Six years ago you founded ChopChop as a bit of an experiment, but since then it has turned into somewhat of a movement. I see that you’re now worldwide and in two languages; you have different editions, one for the woman, infant and child, and one for the schools. If you can, go back six years and tell me what motivated you to begin this ChopChop journey, and then briefly bring me up to date.

chop-chop-7Sally Sampson: My career experience has been as a cookbook writer and a magazine contributor. I wrote different cookbooks and I contributed to a lot of different food magazines and other magazines. And I also had a child with a chronic illness. She needed to be on a very, very low-fat diet, so as a result I learned a lot about obesity. I began to feel that writing cookbooks wasn’t what I wanted to keep doing. I wanted to give back in some way. And I thought that I could use my skills as a cookbook writer to help address obesity by getting doctors to prescribe cooking during well-child visits. So, I don’t know if you have children, but it’s now mandated that you take your kids at certain times and that doctor’s talk about healthy eating and physical activity during these appointments.

And what doctors were telling me was that they were talking about healthy eating all of the time, but they actually had no tools. So, I conceived ChopChop as a tool for doctors, but right after we launched, suddenly other kinds of organizations were coming to me and saying that they wanted it too. After school programs, Indian reservations, food banks; just wherever you could find kids. So, we expanded it from doctors “prescribing” it to anyone that worked with kids.

Samir Husni: So, you started it for a specific reason and now you’re all over the map with it.

Sally Sampson: Well, I wouldn’t say that we’re all over the map. We’ve expanded the mission to obesity, poor nutrition and hunger. Unfortunately, that covers a huge portion of the population. Poor nutrition is an obesity effect, rich and poor, and hunger affects the poor and we’re focused in our brains on those most at risk, but ChopChop is written to appeal to any children. We hope that the Whole Foods moms pay for it and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food moms get it for free through their SNAP program.

Samir Husni: There are a lot of children’s magazines out there, but you were one of the forerunners when it comes to a food magazine for kids. But there are some imitators; even the Food Network publishes a special one once a year.

Sally Sampson: Yes, and that’s all ads. We have no ads.

Samir Husni: Do you see this niche market as growing?

Sally Sampson: Well, it’s definitely grown. We’ve quadrupled in volume since our first year. And we have a bit of a strange business model. We’re a non-profit and we don’t take any ads. So, it really is 39 pages of content. There is one page where we have sponsors.

The way we operate is you can get a subscription; so let’s say it’s you; you get a subscription for one of your grandchildren at $14.95 per year; done. Then the next step up is you could decide that you want every child in your granddaughter’s class to have a copy of ChopChop, so then you could order a teacher pack. And anyone can order that teacher pack. You pay for that and it’s very heavily discounted. It also comes with curriculum, so the teacher can use ChopChop in the classroom for math, science, social studies; now we’re doing some Spanish language skills, and that’s the next level of sponsorship. And the reason we did teacher packs is because teachers said to us that they were using ChopChop and wanted to continue to do so in the classroom, but that they were really busy, could we create curriculum? So, we’ve been doing that.

Then the next step up is you could be a doctor’s office or anything really, and you could order a case, which could be either 50 copies or 100 copies. Then the next level is a bulk order; we have people who buy 10,000 copies and they distribute them. Above that, we have people that the magazine is customized for, so we do about 12 customized versions. For instance, there are land grant universities that work with the U.S.D.A. and they use their SNAP education funds to pay for ChopChop as educational material. So, the University of Kentucky buys, and it varies from quarter to quarter, so plus or minus 150,000 copies. So, the bulk of our business is bulk. We’re not on newsstands; we do subscriptions, but that’s not the main part of our business. And, unlike other magazines, we don’t give away subscriptions because we’re not trying to get our numbers up to get advertisers.

Samir Husni: The way you operate allows you to stay truly honest to your mission.

chop-chop-4Sally Sampson: Exactly. And I’m very, very strict about that. Everything goes through the mission for us. Does this fulfill our mission? Now, that’s not to say that sometimes we don’t say this or that might be an interesting thing to experiment with, but it would never be against our mission in the first place, if that makes sense.

Samir Husni: Throughout these six years, has it been a stroll through a rose garden for you, or have you had some stumbling blocks that you’ve had to overcome?

Sally Sampson: If you asked my staff if we had stumbling blocks, they would say yes more than I would. I’m just the sort of person who puts one foot in front of the other and I don’t worry too much. Having had a chronically ill child, I don’t worry too much about anything other than my children being sick.

But there are things that have happened, such as we lost a major sponsor about a year ago. I know this may sound Pollyannaish, but it really does seem like when one door closes another door opens. There was a time when money was tight, obviously, but it doesn’t seem to stay that way. I’ve never had to lay anyone off or to make compromises that I didn’t want to make.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment for you throughout this magazine journey?

Sally Sampson: We went to the White House and we interviewed Mrs. Obama; we did sort of a shared 5th anniversary of “Let’s Move” and ChopChop. We both launched within a month of each other and that was really incredible. We brought two kids to the White House and they interviewed her and she was amazing; she gave us way more time than she said she would. She was beyond charming with the kids. That was an amazing experience.

We also won the James Beard Award, which was also incredible. So, those things are not insignificant, but I would say that the letters that we get from kids are just really moving and very real. For instance, we got a letter recently from a nine-year-old, and they’re always drawn, there are always pictures on them. And the child wrote: I told my mother that I would give her one million dollars if we could just test one recipe. And that’s incredible.

It’s just incredible. We get these very sincere letters from kids and it feels like we’re changing their lives.

Samir Husni: We live in a digital world and yet you launched the magazine in print, and in really, the height of that digital age. And you continue in print six years later. Has anyone approached you and told you that you were out of your mind for launching a print magazine in a digital age?

Sally Sampson: Oh yes, all of the time. Of course, the people who ask us if we’re out of our minds are not our readers. I think for a child to get this beautiful four-color thing that they can hold and touch, where they see a child who looks like them is important. We show kids of every color, adorable, braces, in wheelchairs; we just featured a child with Down Syndrome. We show real kids, and we don’t put makeup on them; we don’t tell them to smile. So, your grandchildren, and I don’t have grandchildren yet, but my grandchildren someday; the idea is that any child should be able to open the magazine and feel like they can relate.

And I think that’s really important. We’ve been very diligent about that. And particularly with low-income kids and all of the Xeroxed copies of things that they receive, they don’t get that glossy and beautiful magazine. And we don’t hear from the people that are using the magazine that they’re dying for it to be digital. In fact, I will tell you that we had a digital edition that we stopped doing. It cost us more to produce it, because no one ordered it; no one wanted it.

That said we have an online cooking club, which you should get all of your grandchildren to join. It’s free. And it’s really more about skills. So, it’s not as if we have no digital presence. This year we’re also going to do an app.

Samir Husni: You’re not the first to tell me that the younger generations crave print and want to have something in their hands. I see it with my own grandchildren. They get their magazines, whether it’s Highlights or Hello for my one-year-old, and they love them. So, why do you think that there’s this myth that because we live in a digital age, the digital natives don’t want anything to do with print? Do you think we’re lumping all of print together in the same pile; the newspapers, magazines and specialty things?

chop-chop-1Sally Sampson: I honestly could not begin to understand why people feel that way. I still read paper books and I love magazines. I just think that there is something really special about print. I have an iPad and I read The New York Times on it; I read little things on it. But I think there is no sensuality to digital. Touching and feeling the paper is amazing. And I think for a child, for the magazine to be theirs, is pretty incredible. That’s the feedback that we get. So, I don’t really know.

Samir Husni: I’m starting to hear more editors in chief and more CEOs say that they’re starting to think print first again. Why do you think it took the magazine industry so long to discover that print is not dead?

Sally Sampson: I think it’s human nature and that people just have a tendency to go to extremes. First it was: no, you can’t eat any fat. Now you can eat fat. It must be the nature of human beings. I don’t know. I never felt like paper was dead and as you said in the beginning, we launched when people thought we were nuts. We launched within a very short time of Gourmet closing. Everybody asked why we were doing paper? But it just seemed like the right thing to do.

Samir Husni: Do you feel now that ChopChop is a movement rather than just a print magazine?

Sally Sampson: I do. If you think about it, we’ve got the cooking club; we have the curriculum; we’re not just a magazine. And also, when I started, not only did people ask was I crazy for doing print, but they also asked are you crazy; kid’s cooking? Like, who cares? But you look at it now and everybody sees kid’s cooking as a pipeline to many different things, whether it’s teaching kids about math or teaching them manners or teaching them to be responsible for themselves; really cooking is everything. There’s nothing that you can’t learn in a kitchen.

You learn cooperation; a respect for other cultures; it’s science. We teach kids about fermentation and we teach them about emulsification, and we teach them how to multiply. We teach them, oh, here’s this dish and it’s eaten in 10 different countries, except in this country they put cumin in it and in that country they put dill in it, and it has a slightly different name, but it shows how people are the same all over the world.

I think about when my children were small, they’re in their early 20s now and we live in Watertown, Mass., which is very Armenian. My kids would bring hummus to school. And Watertown is so diverse, and they were teased for bringing hummus, but now hummus is like ketchup. (Laughs) So, the world changes around food.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what will you tell me? What are your future expectations for ChopChop?

chop-chop-3Sally Sampson: I would tell you that we launched a third magazine called “Seasoned.” And that magazine is for older adults. And you would say to me, but you’re focused on kids, and I would say to you, we’re focused on people who need help in the kitchen. “Seasoned” is launching in February, 2017. The AARP Foundation gave us a grant and I believe we’re actually launching in Mississippi as one of four southern states. It’s a smaller magazine and it’s for adults who need to cook from scratch instead of buying junk, and who are downsizing. It’s like a cousin to ChopChop. It’s not going to look just like ChopChop, but you will look at it and get it.

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

Sally Sampson: All of the above except for the wine. I cook a ton. This sounds crazy, but whenever I’m emptying my dishwasher, I’m sort of amazed at how much I cook. I cook all of the time. I don’t eat anything prepared; I make every single thing from scratch.

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

Sally Sampson: Not ChopChop. The direction of the country keeps me up at night, or if my children are having a problem, that concerns me, even though they’re in their 20s. That’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Geraldine Magazine: A Unique Experience In Wedding Inspirations – Curating Original Concepts With Every Beautifully Done Page – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Daniel Tran, Editor In Chief and Creative Director, Geraldine Magazine.

November 30, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

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“I’ve always believed in print and I don’t think it will ever go away. About eight or nine years ago when I was still in design school, they were saying that since the industry was moving toward digital, if you’re a designer you need to make sure you know how to make a website, but I always believed in print and that was my passion. There’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling and smelling that beautiful paper, and the beauty of the cover. You don’t get all of that on a Kindle; you don’t get that experience. So, I created this magazine for print and not for digital. We never offer a digital version of the magazine, because the experience would not be the same. For me, I feel like print will never go away.” Daniel Tran

The story behind the wedding is vital to the powers-that-be at Geraldine magazine, namely Daniel Tran, editor in chief and creative director. According to Daniel, Geraldine is a wedding publication that serves as an inspiration for couples who want to create a refined and intimate event. The content between its covers is both thought-provoking and uplifting, and the photographs are nothing short of brilliant. The magazine is a breathtaking venture that proves talent and dreams certainly go hand-in-hand. The passionate entrepreneur is certainly alive and well inside of Daniel Tran.

I spoke with Daniel recently and we talked about Geraldine. It was as edifying a conversation as the magazine itself is. Daniel’s love for the world of visual design is definitely apparent as you flip through the pages of Geraldine. Having attended the Academy of Art of San Francisco, he was torn between heading for New York after graduation or staying in San Francisco and creating something uniquely different on his own. And with the artful Geraldine, we see his choice and appreciate it. Daniel calls it an inspirational force and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with him.

The magazine is a visual masterpiece and the young man behind it a true entrepreneur. So, I invite you to relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Tran, as you come inside the world of dreams, talent, and wedded bliss.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the genesis of the magazine: I graduated from design school about six years ago, the Academy of Art of San Francisco, and it was my intention to do something related to page layout and design in print. So, I was deciding if I should go to New York and work for the Martha Stewart brand, because they do amazing work and I’ve always appreciated the beautiful typography in the layouts coming out of Martha Stewart, but instead of going to New York I decided to stay here in San Francisco. That was when I started to think about whether I wanted to do branding, design, or if I wanted to start something on my own. I had been following Kinfolk magazine and Darling; these independent magazines that focused more on storytelling in an artful way. So, when I looked at what I could do that was sort of in a similar vein, but that I could tap into, I looked at the wedding industry and realized that people were spending so much money in their own weddings, but it wasn’t being displayed or communicated in an artful way. So I felt like that I could somehow take that subject and turn it into an art form. And that’s how I started the magazine.

On the name Geraldine: When we came up with the brand, my team and I, we tossed around a bunch of key words and we looked at the audience that we wanted to reach out to. There were common words and key words; meaningful words that resonated with us. So, it was this big process to come up with a name that was memorable and also strong. And we wanted a name instead of a word, so Geraldine was somehow part of the list. For me, when it comes to a brand, it can sound beautiful, but for me it also has to look beautiful written out. Or look beautiful as a logo. It has to make sense, so Geraldine was where we ended up. And there wasn’t any personal relation to the name. It wasn’t my grandmother’s name or anything like that.

On the most pleasant unexpected surprise that happened during the journey of launching the magazine: The most unexpected surprise was that the industry people were very interested in the creation, and when we shipped over a sample copy to some of the industry leaders, I didn’t expect them to respond to me in one day. They were so interested and loved the creation and the execution of the magazine. That was one pleasant, unexpected surprise.

On the biggest stumbling block that he had to face and how he overcame it: One thing was to figure out the execution part. We were working with a printer in Canada because we wanted the magazine to be printed in an artful way and executed in the same vein that the publication was offered, so we put up a huge investment in getting the light printer to print it, but after two issues we realized that the cost was way too high. So, we had to figure out another way to lower the cost of the printing and the production of the magazine.

On how he is trying to make the magazine more of an experience for his readers:
It’s not about the most expensive wedding out there; it could be a farm-to-table type of wedding that someone put together for $15,000. So, it’s not so much about money as it is about the story behind the wedding. This couple has an interesting background and the way they put together the wedding is interesting. The way they hired the team that produced the wedding for them is unique; just things like that. So, we want to communicate that to new brides who are putting together their own weddings and we want to educate them in all aspects of the wedding, from working on their stationery to working with their wedding planners and florists in these capacities.

On how he feels about the future of print: I’ve always believed in print and I don’t think it will ever go away. About eight or nine years ago when I was still in design school, they were saying that since the industry was moving toward digital, if you’re a designer you need to make sure you know how to make a website, but I always believed in print and that was my passion. There’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling and smelling that beautiful paper, and the beauty of the cover. You don’t get all of that on a Kindle; you don’t get that experience.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: You would find me on Pinterest. Before even the social media came out, I was always looking through magazines and other things for ideas. But in this day and age, I come home and after dinner I go on Pinterest. That’s my sort of downtime. I want to be inspired and so I go on Pinterest. I also collect books, so many books. I love books. I love typography books. The one element in design that I truly love and am passionate about is typography.

On what keeps him up at night: How the magazine could be evolved. In the beginning, I had a lot of angst and sleepless nights because when we first released the preorder of the magazine there were only like 50 orders coming in and I was nervous. It might look easy to sell 500 copies of a book, but believe me, it’s hard. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Tran, editor in chief and creative director, Geraldine magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Geraldine.

geraldine-issue-1Daniel Tran: I graduated from design school about six years ago, the Academy of Art of San Francisco, and it was my intention to do something related to page layout and design in print. So, I was deciding if I should go to New York and work for the Martha Stewart brand, because they do amazing work and I’ve always appreciated the beautiful typography in the layouts coming out of Martha Stewart, but instead of going to New York I decided to stay here in San Francisco.

That was when I started to think about whether I wanted to do branding, design, or if I wanted to start something on my own. I had been following Kinfolk magazine and Darling; these independent magazines that focused more on storytelling in an artful way. So, when I looked at what I could do that was sort of in a similar vein, but that I could tap into, I looked at the wedding industry and realized that people were spending so much money in their own weddings, but it wasn’t being displayed or communicated in an artful way. So I felt like that I could somehow take that subject and turn it into an art form. And that’s how I started the magazine.

I began by reaching out to a group of industry leaders in the wedding business. What I did was reached out to laser photographers that shoot more film, but also work on brands like Martha Stewart, and I really hand-selected some of the people to share the vision I had for the magazine and asked them would they like to work with us.

It’s a very candid magazine; I didn’t want to be sneaky or creep up on people with the concept. It’s pretty direct. So I just reached out to them and explained what the magazine was about. And I did reach out to a lot of the major leaders in this industry, and I received a lot of closed doors in my face, to be honest. Then some people didn’t respond at all.

We also did a test project first because I wasn’t sure if people would even be willing to spend $30 on a magazine. But while Geraldine is a magazine, it’s more like a softcover book, where there was no advertisement. Basically we highlighted the industry, hand-selected people who were doing beautiful work and has that organic and classic aesthetic.

We were also thinking about where we could sell the magazine. The first place that came to mind was Anthropologie because they sell a hand-selected number of publications, Kinfolk is being sold there. So, I thought there is a space for us there, because they don’t have a wedding publication yet.

Initially, after finishing crafting the magazine, I sent it over there and they loved it. We only sent a sample copy with 20 or 30 pages; at that time we hadn’t gone to print yet. So, we sent it over to the buyers and they loved the magazine. And they were really interested in stocking it. So really, everything just came from there.

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

Daniel Tran: When we came up with the brand, my team and I, we tossed around a bunch of key words and we looked at the audience that we wanted to reach out to. There were common words and key words; meaningful words that resonated with us. So, it was this big process to come up with a name that was memorable and also strong. And we wanted a name instead of a word, so Geraldine was somehow part of the list. For me, when it comes to a brand, it can sound beautiful, but for me it also has to look beautiful written out. Or look beautiful as a logo. It has to make sense, so Geraldine was where we ended up. And there wasn’t any personal relation to the name. It wasn’t my grandmother’s name or anything like that.

We got a lot of people curious about why we chose that name. In fact, the first thing people ask me is why I picked the name Geraldine.

Samir Husni: You have managed to create a beautiful, coffee table book/magazine. Tell me what was the most pleasant and unexpected surprise that happened during the journey of launching this magazine?

Daniel Tran: The most unexpected surprise was that the industry people were very interested in the creation, and when we shipped over a sample copy to some of the industry leaders, I didn’t expect them to respond to me in one day. They were so interested and loved the creation and the execution of the magazine. That was one pleasant, unexpected surprise.

And there were others. You’re creating this masterpiece and it’s your baby, and then you spend so much time and you get so many people involved and you keep asking yourself whether people are going to pay $30 for it. That’s a lot because we’ve almost doubled the price of Geraldine compared to some other magazines. And that was a scary part.

One other surprise was when we went to the U.K. because the shipping costs were so expensive, the magazine sold for $40 and the fact that people were willing to pay $40 for it was awesome. That was another surprise for me.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Daniel Tran: One thing was to figure out the execution part. We were working with a printer in Canada because we wanted the magazine to be printed in an artful way and executed in the same vein that the publication was offered, so we put up a huge investment in getting the light printer to print it, but after two issues we realized that the cost was way too high. So, we had to figure out another way to lower the cost of the printing and the production of the magazine.

But once the brand was out there, people loved so much about the magazine that they would send us content without asking for payment or without us having to produce it, because when we produce an editorial it’s very costly. But of course, that doesn’t mean that we take just anything for the magazine.

We’re now working with different collaborators and partners in the industry, which is another way for their work to be featured, but we do it as a collaborative process, and not selling anything. And then the other struggle that we have is with advertisement. In this day and age, and in the digital world with Instagram and Facebook, a lot of brands do not want to advertise because the wedding industry is a little different than fashion. The wedding industry really doesn’t understand the value of advertising and with the advertisement model; it doesn’t really work for us because our magazine is more about storytelling.

In Issue #3, we tried some ad things, but it’s more like we collaborated with the brands and we produced editorial for them and then we advertised their advertorial. But we got pushbacks from our readers saying that they loved the magazine for what it stood for, and it was distracting for the magazine to feature wedding dresses and other things, so that was another roadblock for us. It wasn’t an easy task to break through.

And now we’re working on Issue #5, number four was released a couple of months ago. And we’re continually keeping the magazine without advertisements, because we’ve decided that’s the best route for us. We went from $30 to $25, because we want to reach a wider audience, where people can afford the magazine. So, we lowered the cover price by $5. And if it makes sense to do so, we’ll lower it a little more, but with no advertisements inside the magazine, I think we’re now at the right price. As I said, it’s a coffee table book more than a magazine.

Samir Husni: As you’re creating, and to quote from your mission statement, “this refined and intimate event,” how are you trying to make the magazine more of an experience for the audience, rather than just ink on paper?

Daniel Tran: When we get submissions, editorial content or real weddings, basically our magazine is to inspire new brides, and not just brides, but also industry people because they’re the ones who are working with us. So, throughout the entire process we don’t do this alone, we can’t. We have to rely on industry folks who give us the right type of content that we like to feature.

It’s not about the most expensive wedding out there; it could be a farm-to-table type of wedding that someone put together for $15,000. So, it’s not so much about money as it is about the story behind the wedding. This couple has an interesting background and the way they put together the wedding is interesting. The way they hired the team that produced the wedding for them is unique; just things like that. So, we want to communicate that to new brides who are putting together their own weddings and we want to educate them in all aspects of the wedding, from working on their stationery to working with their wedding planners and florists in these capacities.

But it’s different than how Martha Stewart weddings would guide someone during the whole planning process. We’re not trying to guide anyone in the process, because everybody has their own way; it’s a very personal thing. It’s whatever that particular couple wants for their own wedding. We always focus on intimate events and events that are unique and relatable.

We also stay away from over-the-top weddings, the ones with extravagant chandeliers and things. That’s not really our thing. We really strongly believe in our curation process. I have a managing editor that helps to filter through the content. And now that we’re working on Issue #5, I think the industry understands what this brand is about. And if there’s a certain wedding that they know doesn’t make sense for the brand, they don’t send it our way.

Samir Husni: With your background as a creative designer and art school, and now that you’re more of a storyteller and magazine maker; do you think that the future of print is going to be this combination of art, photography and beautiful things, or there’s still room for anything in print?

Daniel Tran: I’ve always believed in print and I don’t think it will ever go away. About eight or nine years ago when I was still in design school, they were saying that since the industry was moving toward digital, if you’re a designer you need to make sure you know how to make a website, but I always believed in print and that was my passion. There’s nothing like picking up a book and feeling and smelling that beautiful paper, and the beauty of the cover. You don’t get all of that on a Kindle; you don’t get that experience. So, I created this magazine for print and not for digital, so we never offer a digital version of the magazine, because the experience would not be the same. For me, I feel like print will never go away.

And yes, right now, with the social media impact, we are very conscious about what we put on our social media and it has to be in brand with the print publication. We’re actually working on our blog and our new website that will have content from our magazine. It’s another way we’re using digital to grow our print publication. It’s not going to replace our publication. But we are adapting to the digital age as well. Print is my passion though, and if people stop buying print, that is when I want to stop.

There are a few independent wedding publications out there, but for us I want it to be educational without dictating that things have to be any certain way. It’s an inspirational force. If something doesn’t inspire me, then I won’t put it in the magazine. Every issue we produce a vital fashion editorial because we want to educate the bride. We’re not telling her what to wear; we’re telling her that there are other unique gowns to choose from as a bride. And we show that through the way we style our models; the way we have the photographer that we hire shoot the story; we’re always challenging ourselves to make our bridal fashion editorial as unique as possible.

In Issue #4 we went to Aspen, Colorado, which is another wedding destination, so we used Aspen as a backdrop. We shot the two models in the snow with beautiful dresses; it was a lot of work, but we were all really inspired by it. And that’s what makes us different. We push the boundaries; we don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps.

A lot of people ask me how I started the magazine, because my background isn’t in weddings. I came into this as a designer; as a person with very little knowledge about the industry, but because of that I bring something new to the industry. I’m not following the Martha Stewart grid or I’m not following any bride’s magazine format. I’m just doing what I feel this industry needs and wants, which is this beautiful book that comes out twice a year.

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

Daniel Tran: You would find me on Pinterest. Before even the social media came out, I was always looking through magazines and other things for ideas. But in this day and age, I come home and after dinner I go on Pinterest. That’s my sort of downtime. I want to be inspired and so I go on Pinterest. I also collect books, so many books. I love books. I love typography books. The one element in design that I truly love and am passionate about is typography. It’s doesn’t make a magazine without beautiful type or typography. A book that has only photos and no type in it, then it’s a photography book; it’s not really a design. So, I love Pinterest and design blogs and that’s what you would find me doing at night.

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

Daniel Tran: How the magazine could be evolved. In the beginning, I had a lot of angst and sleepless nights because when we first released the preorder of the magazine there were only like 50 orders coming in and I was nervous. It might look easy to sell 500 copies of a book, but believe me, it’s hard. (Laughs)

So knowing that you’ve created something really beautiful and you want to share it with the world, and people can’t afford it or don’t appreciate it and aren’t willing to pay for it makes you nervous. But there has been a lot of good feedback so far. We have photographers who buy boxes and boxes of the magazine and they give them to their clients as a gift because they want their clients to be inspired by the beautiful work these shoots create.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Howler Magazine: After Four Years The Distinctive Magazine About Soccer Is Still Kicking & Scoring With Its Audience – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder/Editor George Quraishi…

November 29, 2016

“The thought of starting just a website and the monetary factors of that felt very uncertain to me. From day one, I didn’t see a way to do what we wanted to do with that model. What I’m trying to say is that it was half a business hunch and half a nostalgia play that led us to do it in print. And I think that it’s worked out from what I’ve seen since we launched. I was in London recently at Jeremy Leslie’s magCulture, and I saw all of these wonderful-looking magazines. And none of them, including Howler, should probably even exist. They’re all really heartfelt attempts by people who want to do and say something that’s important to them, but there is no spreadsheet that’s going to say that this is a great business. You have to be a bit of a crazy dreamer to try and do it.” George Quraishi

howlerSince 2012 there has been a voice on newsstands “howling” the joys and passions of soccer, and one that is inimitable in its style and stance on creativity and storytelling. That magazine is Howler. And the powers-that-be behind the brand are dedicated professionals that know a thing or two about magazines and magazine design.

Mark Kirby and George Quraishi, two of the original founders of the magazine, are former editors at GQ, Condé Nast Portfolio, National Geographic Adventure, and HarperCollins Publishers. Both are soccer fans, but more importantly they’re all fans of great magazines that are prone to providing audiences with great artwork, great content and even greater connections with the people the magazines serve.

I spoke with George recently and we talked about Howler, where it has been, where it’s at, and also where it’s headed. The magazine was first funded by one of the earlier Kickstarter campaigns and is proving that passion, fortitude and a little bit of crazy can go a long way when you’re finding your footing on the path to launching a great magazine.

So, pull out your favorite chair, grab your soccer gear and join Mr. Magazine™ as he picks the brain of a man who loves the art of storytelling and a good game of soccer, George Quraishi, Founder & Editor, Howler magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the genesis of Howler: There are four founders, and it was a group that in a sense I guess, I brought together. Mark Kirby was my coeditor, and he and I; we never worked together, but he offered me an internship at National Geographic Adventure when I was still in college. And then the art directors for Howler were the art directors that I had worked with at Condé Nast’s Portfolio after I finished up at National Geographic, and so the four of us came together to make Howler. And then we launched it on Kickstarter as a project in June, 2012. And we funded it, and it was very exciting. Then we had a few months to actually finalize the issue and it came out in October, 2012. So, that was the timeline.

On funding Howler through the crowdsourcing platform of Kickstarter: I have to say that my inspiration for the magazine was because I saw a friend of mine do a very similar thing. My friend Jamin Warren was an arts and entertainment reporter at the Wall Street Journal who loved videogames and he quit his job at the Journal and he did a Kickstarter project to fund a print magazine about videogames called Kill Screen that still exists, which was redesigned and relaunched. And he came to Kickstarter even earlier than we did, when it was a much smaller ecosystem.

On why he thinks there is an audience for a soccer magazine in the States when the sport isn’t as popular here as it is in places like Europe: You’re right; soccer in the U.S. isn’t as mature as an industry as it is overseas. It’s not as mature as other American sports, but it’s not as mature globally either as it is in countries like South America and Europe. But rather than putting us off, that was the opportunity that we saw. There are plenty of people here who love and follow the game, but we weren’t seeing the type of coverage that we as readers and fans wanted to see.

On any stumbling blocks that he’s had to face and how he overcame them: It has been a constant learning experience. I can only speak for myself, but I left college and I went abroad to teach English for a year in South Korea and I came back and worked as a writer and an editor at magazines and at HarperCollins Publishers in New York City. But nothing that I did prepared me for entrepreneurship or managing a “staff” of people. And those have been things that I’ve had to try and learn how to do.

On how he moved from the idea maker to the idea executioner: You go from having an idea for a magazine and then the questions become how do you found it; how do you build an audience for it; and then how do you sustain it? And those are all related questions. A lot of it was intuition and step-by-step decision-making, as opposed to a grand master plan, such as in four years we’d like to be where we are.

On the most pleasant moment he’s had throughout this experience: That’s a good question. We’ve been lucky; there are several to choose from. I would probably say one of the most gratifying moments happened two years ago when Longform Podcast had a contest. And I vaguely knew the guys who did it, but I wasn’t aware of the contest. They asked their readers what was their favorite all-time soccer story and a Howler story beat out several others. One I believe from The New York Times and one from ESPN, and a couple of others. And a Howler story actually won.

On whether he feels the Howler brand could have accomplished as much as it has without the print component: That’s another good question and something that we considered from the very beginning. Like I said before, when we went public and launched with Kickstarter, we really thought about this. We asked a lot of people that we knew for their advice and people in the soccer business. And a pretty common question that we heard from people was why were we making a print magazine? It needed to be online. This was in 2012. Our thinking and my hunch was that while this might be kind of crazy, for this to be viable and for us to deliver the kind of journalism and artwork; to make the kind of magazine that I wanted to make, there had to be a model where the reader was supporting what we’re doing.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-7-34-08-pmOn what his future expectations are for Howler: I would say that right now my goals are to diversify the ways to make money. The ways now are reader, advertising, which is a small, but healthy chunk of how we make money, and the marketing work that we do for third parties. They come to us; brands like Gatorade and Nike, especially in the early days when I quit my job, that was a big help so that I didn’t go homeless.

On anything else he’d like to add: Our website has been getting a lot of attention lately. We just relaunched our website and we changed the name from howlermagazine.com to whatahowler.com. Whatahowler is our official handle for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our attempt there was to realign the website as its own digital property and shift it a little bit away from being just a place where people go because we’ve been talking about the print magazine. And we’ve partnered with a really fantastic blog that predates Howler by a few years; it’s called Dirty Tackle. It was acquired by Yahoo in, I believe, 2009, and it had a good five year run with Yahoo before regaining its independence, so now whatahowler.com and Dirty Tackle cohabitate.

On having no advertising on Howler’s website: The types of advertising that we could get, with the page views and the readers and the metrics that we have for this small website, we would be making pennies really. The digital advertising game is really for websites that can scale or have scale and that have extremely large numbers.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up at his house unexpectedly one evening: My wife comes home, she’s doing her Ph.D. in education right now; she’s exhausted, so she’s sitting on the couch working and I’m next to her with our dog. And I’m reading or working myself, or doing something that needs doing, because there is always something.

On what keeps him up at night: Like anyone who does what I do, I think, just thinking about where media is going and can we, in some small way, latch onto some of these trends? That’s why we’ve placed some of our bets on podcasting as a low cost, but highly personal way to reach our audience. The media landscape is so exciting and I think that’s where a lot of the big players present a real challenge to us. For a company our size, it also presents real opportunity. Not only is it harder and harder to reach the mass audience, but you don’t necessarily have to in order to be a viable business.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with George Quraishi, Founder/Editor, Howler Magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re getting ready to celebrate four years of Howler; can you recreate the launch of Howler? I know that you had other founders, but your name was the name associated with the magazine from the very beginning. Tell me about the genesis of Howler.

3566138George Quraishi: There are four founders, and it was a group that in a sense I guess, I brought together. Mark Kirby was my coeditor, and he and I; we never worked together, but he offered me an internship at National Geographic Adventure when I was still in college. By the time I took it, he had moved on to GQ. So, he and I just stayed in touch and started playing soccer together.

And then the art directors for Howler were the art directors that I had worked with at Condé Nast’s Portfolio after I finished up at National Geographic, and so the four of us came together to make Howler. We did a lot of work in the beginning before we ever took it to the public, to figure out what the magazine would look like, sound like, who would be writing for it, and structurally just putting together that first issue.

And then we launched it on Kickstarter as a project in June, 2012. And we funded it, and it was very exciting. Then we had a few months to actually finalize the issue and it came out in October, 2012. So, that was the timeline.

Samir Husni: And I think you may have been one of the earlier crowdsourcing entities, because now it is becoming the norm rather than the exception. If someone has an idea for a magazine, they simply go to Kickstarter.

George Quraishi: I have to say that my inspiration for the magazine was because I saw a friend of mine do a very similar thing. My friend Jamin Warren was an arts and entertainment reporter at the Wall Street Journal who loved videogames and he quit his job at the Journal and he did a Kickstarter project to fund a print magazine about videogames called Kill Screen that still exists, which was redesigned and relaunched. And he came to Kickstarter even earlier than we did, when it was a much smaller ecosystem.

I think we had a much easier time fundraising Howler, because there was just more people familiar with the platform and I’m sure that today the audience for Kickstarter has grown and the familiarity with it has become so much more prevalent that people who are funding through Kickstarter now would probably look back at our campaign and be able to tell it was quite a while ago. (Laughs) But it’s such a wonderful platform.

Samir Husni: Soccer is getting bigger and bigger in the United States, but it’s still not as popular as it is overseas. When you hear the word football there, you know that people are referring to soccer. Why did you think there was an audience in the States for an international soccer magazine when you launched Howler? And why did you decide to publish it in its oversized format and with all of the stunning illustrations?

George Quraishi: You’re right; soccer in the U.S. isn’t as mature as an industry as it is overseas. It’s not as mature as other American sports, but it’s not as mature globally either as it is in countries like South America and Europe. But rather than putting us off, that was the opportunity that we saw. There are plenty of people here who love and follow the game, but we weren’t seeing the type of coverage that we as readers and fans wanted to see.

And I would say there are so many things you can look at to measure soccer’s growth and the maturity of the game just in the last couple of years, but one that I would point to and that I feel a bit of pride, in terms of helping in some small way to push along, is the fact that by the 4th or 5th issue of Howler I began to see more coverage of the game the way we aspire to do it in the major and more established publications.

You’re seeing more illustrations such as Howler uses; you’re seeing people realize that there’s an audience for long soccer stories. Just recently ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight site posted a new podcast on their Hot Takedown about a guy named Charles Reep, who was sort of the father of soccer analytics. And when I heard about it I knew that it sounded like an episode of Howler Radio, which is a podcast that we started a few years ago. Now, I would never take credit for any of these things (Laughs), but it’s been very encouraging to see the type of stories that I wanted to see created and that gave us the impotence to start Howler in the first place, become more prevalent in the culture at large. I don’t know if it’s our influence or just a correlation, but I just think that it’s fantastic to see.

Samir Husni: Have you had any stumbling blocks along your journey and if so, how did you overcome them?

George Quraishi: It has been a constant learning experience. I can only speak for myself, but I left college and I went abroad to teach English for a year in South Korea and I came back and worked as a writer and an editor at magazines and at HarperCollins Publishers in New York City. But nothing that I did prepared me for entrepreneurship or managing a “staff” of people. And those have been things that I’ve had to try and learn how to do. And we do have a large team now of what we call semi-professionals, most people do have other jobs, but they work on Howler as well; our editors and our copy editors; our creative director and our editorial assistants, and our podcast producers. So, it’s quite a large team.

Along the way there have certainly been challenges, in terms of just the basic tasks of running a business that I think anyone who starts a small organization has to learn how to do. Cash flow and reconciling the books; all of these foreign processes that are totally unfamiliar to someone who enjoys sitting down and editing and working with good stories. I have had to learn how to do all of that. So, yes, there have been quite a few challenges along the way.

Samir Husni: You were a journalist before you became a businessperson. As someone who is passionate about creative ideas and the subject matter of Howler, how did you move from the idea maker to the idea executioner?

George Quraishi: You go from having an idea for a magazine and then the questions become how do you found it; how do you build an audience for it; and then how do you sustain it? And those are all related questions. A lot of it was intuition and step-by-step decision-making, as opposed to a grand master plan, such as in four years we’d like to be where we are.

We started with the Kickstarter fund, which was around $70,001; something like that. And that was our capital. We’ve never taken on investors and we’ve never been in the red for longer than maybe a day. Overall, we’ve been very fortunate to have had a print magazine startup that has been at most times at least a break even proposition. And the magazine business is all about scale, and for us it’s about trying to grow the audience, which we’ve done by, up to this point, basically social media and by earned media. We were fortunate in the early days to get great reviews from some other much larger publications. We’ve built our audience via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and just by really focusing on reaching our small audience. We have a small, but very passionate audience. And I think that what we’ve done and what was smart on our part was really focusing on what we knew that audience wanted, instead of trying to be all things to all soccer fans.

Samir Husni: Are you doing this full-time now?

George Quraishi: Yes, I quit my job as soon as we funded the Kickstarter actually. So, for the past four years I’ve done this full-time.

Samir Husni: What would you consider the most pleasant moment throughout this experience?

George Quraishi: That’s a good question. We’ve been lucky; there are several to choose from. I would probably say one of the most gratifying moments happened two years ago when Longform Podcast had a contest. And I vaguely knew the guys who did it, but I wasn’t aware of the contest. They asked their readers what was their favorite all-time soccer story and a Howler story beat out several others. One I believe from The New York Times and one from ESPN, and a couple of others. And a Howler story actually won.

And it was a story from readers and I wasn’t surprised that that was a popular story, but the fact that a Howler story had penetrated the consciousness of this other audience, the Longform audience, was kind of amazing to me. And it was a wonderful feeling. It felt good just to be in the same conversation with these other venerable publications and to actually beat them out in some small way. I just wanted to pump my fist in the air and shout, “Yeah!”

Samir Husni: Do you think that you could have accomplished what you have with Howler without the print component?

George Quraishi: That’s another good question and something that we considered from the very beginning. Like I said before, when we went public and launched with Kickstarter, we really thought about this. We asked a lot of people that we knew for their advice and people in the soccer business. And a pretty common question that we heard from people was why were we making a print magazine? It needed to be online. This was in 2012.

Our thinking and my hunch was that while this might be kind of crazy, for this to be viable and for us to deliver the kind of journalism and artwork; to make the kind of magazine that I wanted to make, there had to be a model where the reader was supporting what we’re doing.

The thought of starting just a website and the monetary factors of that felt very uncertain to me. From day one, I didn’t see a way to do what we wanted to do with that model. What I’m trying to say is that it was half a business hunch and half a nostalgia play that led us to do it in print. And I think that it’s worked out from what I’ve seen since we launched.

I was in London recently at Jeremy Leslie’s magCulture, and I saw all of these wonderful-looking magazines. And none of them, including Howler, should probably even exist. They’re all really heartfelt attempts by people who want to do and say something that’s important to them, but there is no spreadsheet that’s going to say that this is a great business. You have to be a bit of a crazy dreamer to try and do it.

But I think that what we’ve learned is that people who recognize that and who love these magazines are willing to support them. It’s not easy, but finding that audience and seeing that support makes it totally doable and necessary.

Samir Husni: I’ve always said that there is a sense of community when you’re holding a print magazine, it’s like your membership card and if you’re not willing to pay for that membership, you can’t be in the club. I was in New York recently and picked up some new magazine and the cover prices were anywhere from $25 to $34.

George Quraishi: Yes, and you know, Samir, when I was in New York and looking around at new magazines, I noticed that most of the covers were Issue #1, Issue #2, Issue #3; there were definitely a few that were more mature, but a lot of them were very young and to me that just validated the fact that while this business is tough and not easy to sustain on the financial side for a new magazine; I really admire the people who try. I know how difficult it is and seeing that people still believe in print and are willing to pay for quality work is really heartening.

Samir Husni: If we talk again in two years, what would you hope to tell me that Howler has accomplished? What are your expectations?

George Quraishi: I would say that right now my goals are to diversify the ways to make money. The ways now are reader, advertising, which is a small, but healthy chunk of how we make money, and the marketing work that we do for third parties. They come to us; brands like Gatorade and Nike, especially in the early days when I quit my job, that was a big help so that I didn’t go homeless.

Right now we’re looking at other ways. We’ve launched our Podcast and we’re in the process of trying to make them user-supported; we’re exploring a few other things that refocus our efforts and attention on the audience we already have, while trying to grow that audience, but not at the expense of the people who are already paying attention to us.

For instance, could we go on any more trips, which might be something that we could do; it’s a great way to connect with readers, but also explore interesting things with soccer and also gain experience, rather than a product. Could that become a part of our business? I’m exploring things like that and hopefully in a couple of years I’ll have good news to report. We’ve tried to make the business a little more stable by not relying on one thing.

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

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-7-34-22-pmGeorge Quraishi: Our website has been getting a lot of attention lately. We just relaunched our website and we changed the name from howlermagazine.com to whatahowler.com. Whatahowler is our official handle for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our attempt there was to realign the website as its own digital property and shift it a little bit away from being just a place where people go because we’ve been talking about the print magazine. And we’ve partnered with a really fantastic blog that predates Howler by a few years; it’s called Dirty Tackle. It was acquired by Yahoo in, I believe, 2009, and it had a good five year run with Yahoo before regaining its independence, so now whatahowler.com and Dirty Tackle cohabitate.

This is our first move in trying to bring in other voices, those other soccer blogs that I love, but like Howler online, find it difficult to reach a big enough audience to make a living off of it. My thoughts were to put our readers together, Howler’s and Dirty Tackle’s, and maybe have a more meaningful share of the soccer world’s attention.

We moved the website from Word Press.com to Medium.com, which is a very exciting platform because it’s half CMS and half social network. We’ve already seen a really cool uptick in the enthusiasm of our readers to come and participate on our website in a way that we haven’t seen before. They’re leaving comments and highlighting things they like and part of that is due to just the tools that Medium gives them. And certainly the marriage of Dirty Tackle and Howler has helped. Bringing those readers together in one voice has been great.

Samir Husni: I see that there is no advertising on the website. Is that intentional?

George Quraishi: This is sort of a strategy question for us. The types of advertising that we could get, with the page views and the readers and the metrics that we have for this small website, we would be making pennies really. The digital advertising game is really for websites that can scale or have scale and that have extremely large numbers.

My theory is that any monetary benefit that we would get from serving up those ads would be very, very small compared to the inconvenience and the bad experience that we would be providing to readers when we had those ads. It’s actually not even a choice on the Medium site now to serve up those ads, but it was our choice to move to a platform that didn’t. It is such a vastly better experience for our users that I don’t miss seeing those little ads being served on our website. They weren’t doing much for us anyway and I think that it really aligns with our strategy to really double down on the idea that our users and our readers and our listeners are going to support Howler in more ways than just buying the magazine.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly one evening at your home after work, what would I find you doing: reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching a little soccer on television; or something else?

George Quraishi: My wife comes home, she’s doing her Ph.D. in education right now; she’s exhausted, so she’s sitting on the couch working and I’m next to her with our dog. And I’m reading or working myself, or doing something that needs doing, because there is always something.

But I’ve been really involved with TV shows like “Mr. Robot” and I’ve reached the point where I feel like watching one of these TV shows is as satisfying as reading a great book. So, that’s become part of my evenings too.

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

George Quraishi: Like anyone who does what I do, I think, just thinking about where media is going and can we, in some small way, latch onto some of these trends? That’s why we’ve placed some of our bets on podcasting as a low cost, but highly personal way to reach our audience. The media landscape is so exciting and I think that’s where a lot of the big players present a real challenge to us. For a company our size, it also presents real opportunity. Not only is it harder and harder to reach the mass audience, but you don’t necessarily have to in order to be a viable business. And when I say viable, I’m leaning more towards doing what we do, rather than making the money that we make. As long as we can pay for the work that we do and keep writers and editors in print and keep them doing what they love; I’m extremely satisfied with that.

When I think about running Howler and what that gets for us as a part of the soccer culture, it’s stories. Ultimately, we’re trying to maintain that positive balance until the next issue.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine: Not Just Another Cooking Magazine; New Ideas, New Recipes, & A New Way Of Looking At Cooking – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Chris Kimball, President & Founder, Milk Street Magazine

November 22, 2016

Print

“You can cook off of a screen or a Kindle or an iPad, or whatever you want, but most people don’t. And so print is extremely useful. It’s like everything else, certain areas of print are perfectly suited, and cooking is one of those things. That’s why 97 percent of all cookbooks bought are printed on paper. So, I don’t buy this whole notion of print is dead; it’s not dead at all. Bookstores are making a comeback; they’re smaller and more community-oriented, and they’re doing other things to make money, but they just had to reinvent themselves. So, I’m perfectly happy and there’s a lot of support for a print food magazine.” Chris Kimball

“I don’t think the digital world is a particularly good place to develop a long-term relationship for obvious reasons. But if you pick up a magazine or a cookbook, and you look at the paper and you experience the feel of it and actually spend five minutes with it, I think that’s the best brand ambassador that you can create. If you go online people can jump around; I mean, you can go to our website and we have recipes up for Thanksgiving, and I think we’ve done a very good job with that, but online is not the first place I would go to explain to people who you are and get them to spend time with you. The whole thing that you really want to do is to get people to spend time with your brand and with you. And that’s done best I think in television, radio and print. The legacy media is where you’re going to get that time.” Chris Kimball

Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street is the new home cooking. It’s a unique concept on how we create those fabulous flavors and smells that permeate our kitchens and tantalize our taste buds every time we pull out a pan. And of course, Chris is no stranger to the kitchen or the world of magazines, having founded and launched Cook’s Illustrated magazine in 1980.

Today, he is reinventing the art of cooking with his Milk Street brand; from the print magazine to the cooking classes; from the road tours to the upcoming non-profit partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to teach kids how to cook; Chris is making sure that Milk Street is on every corner of America and not just in Boston.

I spoke with Chris recently and we talked about his new venture and how important and unique these new cooking ideas and methods are when it comes to ease and flavor in our kitchens. This is something that Chris believes in wholeheartedly and is a passion that could only be realized through actually becoming a brick and mortar entity that takes the brand to new levels when it comes to extending Milk Street’s message and mission. He is adamant that teaching people a new way to think about cooking and to also help them in their daily lives is one thing that he will never ease up on or change. The magazine is also ad-free and Chris loves it that way, ensuring that with every font or designed page the magazine is all about what the reader wants.

So, come along with Mr. Magazine™ inside the kitchens of Chris Kimball’s Milk Street and enjoy reading the interview with a man who certainly knows his way around them.

But first the sound-bites:

christopherkimball

On the genesis of Milk Street magazine: That’s my thinking. I want to reinvent or change the way people cook, not by brilliantly reinventing it, but by looking around the world and getting new ideas and trying them. Every culture has chicken soup; American chicken soup is probably the dullest version. You can go anywhere and get really interesting chicken soups, so that’s the idea.

On whether he felt hesitant about launching a print magazine with no advertising in this digital age: I feel quite the opposite. If you look at, and I’m sure you have, at circulation figures for magazines; advertising is hurting certainly, no question, but the circulation isn’t hurting as much. And in fact, cookbooks for example; three percent of all cookbooks are digital, 97 percent are on paper. And I believe a few weeks ago there was a report that said digital books were down 21.7 percent, so I think a magazine for cooking is actually a great idea, because if you want to cook in the kitchen, cooking from a piece of paper is actually very useful and easy to do.

On when it was that he recognized that he didn’t have to depend on advertising to survive in the world of magazines: It was in 1993. I founded Cook’s Illustrated in 1980 and The New Yorker came in in 1983 as a partner. Newhouse bought The New Yorker in 1985 and in 1986 The New Yorker’s share of the magazine was bought out by a Swedish company, Bonnier, and at the end of 1989 I sold out my last interests. And then in 1990 Bonnier sold Cook’s to Newhouse, who folded the magazine at that point into Gourmet and combined circulation. By 1993, the trademark had expired and I bought it back and I folded it into what I was doing in Boston. I was publishing Natural Health magazine at the time. I decided at that time, after modeling it out on spreadsheets for a couple of days, that if you got rid of the advertising, which was something I never liked, then you could design the publication entirely for the reader. I could get rid of the travel and the restaurants and all of the other things and just focus on cooking, which I felt would give it a better pricing structure and also a better renewal rate. And it would be designed entirely for the reader and that would support the kind of circulation numbers that I would need.

On being a journalist, businessman and chef, and how he’s put these three passionate ingredients together to produce the magazines he has: I have always believed that everything is about the content and so we have a system, which I got from boarding school when I was in high school. We’d sit around the table and we’d argue about content and we developed a system to make sure that what we were doing was going to be of interest to the reader.

On whether he feels that print is the only medium where people can be surprised by the content and find something that they didn’t know they wanted at the time: No, I think there are other ways to surprise people. On radio, our weekly radio show and we’ve started filming our TV show for next September on public television; so, no I think you can do that in all areas. I don’t think print is the only place that you can give something to somebody that they didn’t know they wanted. I do, however, and I feel very strongly about this, feel that print is an excellent way to develop a relationship with someone.

On whether he felt that he was biting off more than he could chew with all of the many platforms the Milk Street brand implemented so quickly: At this point in my career, I really felt that it was important to build out all of the platforms quickly because I’ve done television and radio for years; these are all things that we know how to do. And we’ve actually done them. The radio show is up and running; the cooking school is up and running, I’m already teaching classes; I was on the road for a month doing Sessions; all of these things are launched. Did it look like I was biting off more than I could chew? Yes, a lot of people said that, but we did it. In this day and age, if you just have one or two platforms, I think you’re at a huge disadvantage.

milkstreetmagazine_charterissue_frontcoverOn choosing Milk Street as the name of the brand: Milk Street was chosen last December. We had looked at a number of places in Boston and we found this place on Milk Street where we are now, 177 Milk Street; it’s the old grain exchange building and it’s just perfect. We spent time talking about names for the business, actually my wife, Melissa, is my media director, and she pushed for the name. And the reason is because I’ve always wanted to have a place that was real and actually existed, where people could come and take classes, and that it would be on the map somewhere.

On whether he had any stumbling blocks along the way that he had to overcome: There were a lot of challenges. I think the biggest challenge was to figure out the editorial point of view. It took a lot of time and a lot of work and a lot of recipe testing to really figure out how to do this, because we couldn’t afford to be off by 10 percent here. You need to deliver recipes to people that they’re comfortable with, but they have to also be exciting and a mix of different things in our formula. And getting that formula down and figuring out what works and what doesn’t took quite a few months. It wasn’t until this summer when we were really working hard on the first issue, that it started to come together. We set the bar high; we only had so many recipes in the edition, so we really had to deliver.

On anything else he’d like to add: I think that it’s really important that when you do something like this that the people here are really excited about the idea. I know that sounds like a lot of promotional hype, but we are all cooking differently now. My cooking has totally changed; it’s better. And so, we really believe in this and think that it will generate a better way to cook. It’s also easier for people. Ultimately, we really think that this is really a good and useful idea.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Not watching TV. Definitely having a glass of wine, and most nights, yes, cooking. I do a lot of cooking on weekends, but I also do it during the week. And it’s simple. But yes, doing all of that. And reading a book; I do a lot of reading. I’d say drinking, cooking and reading are probably the three things you would find me doing in the evenings.

On what keeps him up at night: Probably not much. I go to bed at 9:30 p.m. and I fall asleep in about two minutes. There was a wonderful piece a few years ago that I loved, written by the guy; the scientist, who wrote about mistaking his wife for a hat; just a great guy. And he was turning 80 and he said that he was happier than he’d ever been in his life. And he went on to explain that he didn’t have anxiety anymore; anxiety just kind of disappeared at some point in his life. I have a lot of work to do, but I like that. As I think I said at the beginning of this project in June in a New York Times piece, what’s the worst that could happen, public humiliation? I mean, we’re doing what we like to do and it’s going well. So, I don’t really worry about it anymore.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christopher Kimball, president and founder, Milk Street Magazine.

Samir Husni: What was the genesis of Milk Street?

PrintChris Kimball: American cooking is originally Northern European; it’s changed a lot, but it’s French, English, German, Scandinavian, and for the most part that’s the editorial area that I’ve been in for 35 years. And that style of cooking is very specific geographically to a region that has a lot of fuel; coal and wood, and a lot of meats that were inexpensive; also dairy and root vegetables. It was a certain way of thinking about cooking, which was a sort of melting pot idea that was to use heat for a long period of time to create flavors, and the textures and flavors at the end of the day would be fairly homogenous, like a beef stew.

But if you look around the world, and a few years ago I started cooking out of other books, not my own; Turkish cooking; Moroccan cooking; Szechuan cooking, and I realized that most of the world doesn’t cook the way that Northern Europe does. There’s a very different approach. It’s not just the ingredients that are different; it’s the whole notion of cooking.

And too, the other thing I thought was that there was American cooking and ethnic cooking, but that’s just stupid; it’s not ethnic, it’s just cooking. So, I was thinking something like Mexican cooking is ethnic cooking, but if you live in Mexico City you don’t cook Mexican food. (Laughs) The notion that, and the fashion world and the music world have done this already; they look around the world and get inspiration and they do mashups, and they’re not replicating Reggae from Jamaica, they’re using some of the influence from that style of music to create their own music.

My feeling was let’s get rid of this ethnic idea; let’s get rid of this idea of trying to authentically reproduce something from Mexico or Marrakesh, because you can’t replicate it exactly the way it is for a whole bunch of different reasons. But, let’s look around the world and get ideas. In Szechuan they use hot oil, and they put hot oil on greens with ginger and scallions and it blooms the flavor, so there’s an idea and we can bring that idea back.

It was a matter of looking around at other ideas and seeing that there were a lot of different ways to think about cooking, with a lot of different ingredients and techniques. Let’s go investigate and talk to people and then bring those ideas back here, and try to create a different repertoire, which is a more exciting repertoire of cooking. And this happened to me a few years ago, and I found that you can actually produce and it’s less technique-based. You know, French cooking is very technique-based because you have to do a lot of things in the right order to get the flavor you want. But the French only have fines herbes; they add no spices. Spices and wine don’t go together too often. And herbs; they use a sprig of something. In the Ukraine, they put handfuls of herbs in the stew, and in the Middle East, literally handfuls of herbs; hot chilies, fermented sausage, and strong flavors like ginger.

So, when we’re using all of these different techniques and ingredients, we can get really big flavor, but the flavor isn’t all dependent on heat. And it’s not dependent on slow technique; in five or ten minutes you can get all sorts of wonderful flavors.

And that’s my thinking. I want to reinvent or change the way people cook, not by brilliantly reinventing it, but by looking around the world and getting new ideas and trying them. Every culture has chicken soup; American chicken soup is probably the dullest version. You can go anywhere and get really interesting chicken soups, so that’s the idea.

Samir Husni: The business model that you’ve followed: no advertising, good cover price for a good-sized magazine and good subscription price; did you feel hesitant about launching yet another print magazine with no advertising in this digital age?

Chris Kimball: I feel quite the opposite. If you look at, and I’m sure you have, at circulation figures for magazines; advertising is hurting certainly, no question, but the circulation isn’t hurting as much. And in fact, cookbooks for example; three percent of all cookbooks are digital, 97 percent are on paper. And I believe a few weeks ago there was a report that said digital books were down 21.7 percent, so I think a magazine for cooking is actually a great idea, because if you want to cook in the kitchen, cooking from a piece of paper is actually very useful and easy to do.

You can cook off of a screen or a Kindle or an iPad, or whatever you want, but most people don’t. And so print is extremely useful. It’s like everything else, certain areas of print are perfectly suited, and cooking is one of those things. That’s why 97 percent of all cookbooks bought are printed on paper. So, I don’t buy this whole notion of print is dead; it’s not dead at all. Bookstores are making a comeback; they’re smaller and more community-oriented, and they’re doing other things to make money, but they just had to reinvent themselves. So, I’m perfectly happy and there’s a lot of support for a print food magazine.

Samir Husni: You were one of the early adapters to this new business model, which is 100% circulation-driven. When did you recognize that you didn’t need to depend on advertising to survive in the magazine world?

milkstreetmagazine_charterissue_frontcoverChris Kimball: It was in 1993. I founded Cook’s Illustrated in 1980 and The New Yorker came in in 1983 as a partner. Newhouse bought The New Yorker in 1985 and in 1986 The New Yorker’s share of the magazine was bought out by a Swedish company, Bonnier, and at the end of 1989 I sold out my last interests. And then in 1990 Bonnier sold Cook’s to Newhouse, who folded the magazine at that point into Gourmet and combined circulation. By 1993, the trademark had expired and I bought it back and I folded it into what I was doing in Boston. I was publishing Natural Health magazine at the time.

I decided at that time, after modeling it out on spreadsheets for a couple of days, that if you got rid of the advertising, which was something I never liked, then you could design the publication entirely for the reader. I could get rid of the travel and the restaurants and all of the other things and just focus on cooking, which I felt would give it a better pricing structure and also a better renewal rate. And it would be designed entirely for the reader and that would support the kind of circulation numbers that I would need. And also you don’t have to print 200 or 300 pages; I was printing 32 pages both covers, so the physical cost of the magazine was much lower and the price of the magazine was higher.

Someone said to me, one of the Bonnier people actually, told me something that I thought was brilliant, which was, “It’s not how many recipes; it’s which recipe.” So, the idea that you needed to give someone 150 recipes every month was crazy. You don’t. You only need to give them like 10 or 12 good recipes. A lot of magazines are about quantity because they’re advertising-driven and they publish a lot of pages. You have to get that idea out of your head and realize that less is more. Google is the biggest recipe search database in the world. Nobody needs more recipes; more cheesecake recipes or whatever. People want the right recipes for them, so it’s not about pages; it’s about the content.

Samir Husni: On one hand you’re a journalist and on the other hand you’re a businessman, and then you’re also a chef or a cook, so I’m assuming these are three passions that you have. What’s your recipe for putting these three ingredients together to produce the magazines that you have and are still doing?

christopherkimballChris Kimball: I have always believed that everything is about the content and so we have a system, which I got from boarding school when I was in high school. We’d sit around the table and we’d argue about content and we developed a system to make sure that what we were doing was going to be of interest to the reader.

You know that great story when Newhouse bought The New Yorker, I think Steve Florio, who was the publisher then had lunch with Bill Shawn. And he asked Shawn how do you decide what you put in The New Yorker; how do you know what the readers want? And Shawn said that he didn’t really care about that, he chose stories based upon what he was interested in.

My feeling is always if you’re going to have advertising, it’s your job to really understand what the reader’s want, not what the editor wants. So, you have to be very, very disciplined about understanding your brand and what that brand promises, and make sure that you deliver on it.

My former life at America’s Test Kitchen; I did that very scientifically to make sure that I was giving people what they wanted. At Milk Street I’m not doing that. I’m changing a little bit. I was always behind the curve for 25 years; that is I’d figure out what people wanted and I’d give it to them, because I felt that made the most sense. I think where I’m at now is quite different because we’re a little bit ahead of the audience and so we’re going to have to give them things they don’t know they want because these recipes are somewhat familiar, but somewhat unfamiliar. So, we’re about a half step ahead hopefully of the audience. We’re taking a bit more risk because we’re depending on our own experience to decide what we think people want.

But I think that we’re at the moment where you can’t play that game anymore. I don’t think that you can just give people stuff they say they want because people are much more sophisticated about food; restaurants have changed tremendously; supermarket aisles are very different; TV shows are all over the place; the web. You’re dealing with people who are much more interested in a lighter variety of recipes, instead of different styles of cooking. And so, they know they want more, but they just can’t figure out how to get it. And that’s the problem. Our job is to say, OK, here’s how to get what you want in a way that’s going to work for you. Instead of the classic: here’s an oatmeal cookie and we’ll tell you how to make the best one, which is still of interest, we’ll say, look around the world, there are hundreds of cookies and they’re all very different. So, let’s step back and think about what a cookie is and come up with some different solutions for you.

So, we have to be more editors than we were before. We have to actually take a little bit more of a risk, but I feel that’s what the market is now. It wants to move on. It’s moved on in restaurants and supermarkets; it’s moved on in television and it’s moved on everywhere; it just hasn’t quite moved on yet in home cooking. And I think home cooking is ready for a whole new approach, because we’ve sort of run the course of where we came from.

Samir Husni: As I look at the magazine and listen to what you just said about that element of surprise; can you find that surprise any other place besides print? In digital, I know it from my own wife and children; if they want something there, they Google it. But they never find anything that they’re not already looking for, unless they’re reading a magazine.

Chris Kimball: No, I think there are other ways to surprise people. On radio, our weekly radio show and we’ve started filming our TV show for next September on public television; so, no I think you can do that in all areas. I don’t think print is the only place that you can give something to somebody that they didn’t know they wanted. I do, however, and I feel very strongly about this, feel that print is an excellent way to develop a relationship with someone.

I don’t think the digital world is a particularly good place to develop a long-term relationship for obvious reasons. But if you pick up a magazine or a cookbook, and you look at the paper and you experience the feel of it and actually spend five minutes with it, I think that’s the best brand ambassador that you can create. If you go online people can jump around; I mean, you can go to our website and we have recipes up for Thanksgiving, and I think we’ve done a very good job with that, but online is not the first place I would go to explain to people who you are and get them to spend time with you. The whole thing that you really want to do is to get people to spend time with your brand and with you. And that’s done best I think in television, radio and print. The legacy media is where you’re going to get that time.

Samir Husni: I noticed that in addition to launching the print magazine, you’re also doing the cooking school, the Milk Street Sessions; the Milk Street Tours; the radio show; the television show; Milk Street on the Road; are you biting off more than you can chew for such a new project with all of these venues, or do you think you can have your cake and eat it too at the same time?

Chris Kimball: At this point in my career, I really felt that it was important to build out all of the platforms quickly because I’ve done television and radio for years; these are all things that we know how to do. And we’ve actually done them. The radio show is up and running; the cooking school is up and running, I’m already teaching classes; I was on the road for a month doing Sessions; all of these things are launched.

Did it look like I was biting off more than I could chew? Yes, a lot of people said that, but we did it. In this day and age, if you just have one or two platforms, I think you’re at a huge disadvantage. I once talked to a guy in major league baseball who was in charge of their marketing. He told me that his job was to make sure every time someone turned around that major league baseball was prevalent and everywhere. And I feel that my job is that every time someone turns around they can find Milk Street. You can find it on TV; on the radio; you can get your Podcasts, we’re up on iTunes and Stitcher now; we have the magazine; you can go to the bookstore and get the book. You can find us everywhere and I think that has a multiplier fact. In this day and age, with all of the noise out there, if you don’t do that I think you’re hard-pressed to really launch a brand. I wouldn’t just launch a magazine, it would be too hard.

Samir Husni: When did you decide on the name Milk Street? And it’s the first time that you’ve actually used your name as part of the title: Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street.

Chris Kimball: Milk Street was chosen last December. We had looked at a number of places in Boston and we found this place on Milk Street where we are now, 177 Milk Street; it’s the old grain exchange building and it’s just perfect. We spent time talking about names for the business, actually my wife, Melissa, is my media director, and she pushed for the name. And the reason is because I’ve always wanted to have a place that was real and actually existed, where people could come and take classes, and that it would be on the map somewhere.

I did that with Cook’s Country; I bought a house in my town and fixed it up and we used that for the TV show. And I felt that investment was important because it was a real place. And so having a real place for me is really important. It goes back to years ago when I did the public television special on Fannie Farmer and we cooked a 12-course meal on a coal stove in Boston, replicating a Fannie Farmer dinner. The Fannie Farmer Cooking School; the Boston Cooking School, was obviously a real place in Boston, and I have always wanted to recreate that. I think Boston having a real place that you can go and take classes is part of a bigger brand and it’s important.

In this day and age, being real is very important. Just being digital is too ephemeral. I think if you really exist it means more. We had people this summer, during construction, who would just stop by. And they would ask if that was where Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street was going to be. They were interested. So, I think that’s just part of being a real place and inviting people into the brand. It feels right to me, so that’s why.

Samir Husni: Did you have any stumbling blocks along the way that you had to overcome?

Chris Kimball: There were a lot of challenges. I think the biggest challenge was to figure out the editorial point of view. It took a lot of time and a lot of work and a lot of recipe testing to really figure out how to do this, because we couldn’t afford to be off by 10 percent here. You need to deliver recipes to people that they’re comfortable with, but they have to also be exciting and a mix of different things in our formula. And getting that formula down and figuring out what works and what doesn’t took quite a few months. It wasn’t until this summer when we were really working hard on the first issue, that it started to come together. We set the bar high; we only had so many recipes in the edition, so we really had to deliver.

We killed a lot of recipes because they just didn’t do what they needed to do for us. It’s much more difficult than doing a really good recipe for roasted chicken, or whatever. We have a number of other things that we have to do, so getting that formula right and knowing when we’re on target and when we’re not is important. Recently, we just killed two or three recipes in development because they didn’t really meet our standards, in terms of what we wanted to do. So, I think that was the hardest. When it comes to doing a TV show, a radio show; we know how to do that. Crafting the editorial content so that’s it’s consistent with Milk Street was another matter. That took the most amount of time.

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

Chris Kimball: I think that it’s really important that when you do something like this that the people here are really excited about the idea. I know that sounds like a lot of promotional hype, but we are all cooking differently now. My cooking has totally changed; it’s better. And so, we really believe in this and think that it will generate a better way to cook. It’s also easier for people. Ultimately, we really think that this is really a good and useful idea.

The woman that runs my education part; she comes from a lot of non-profit work and in January we’re launching a non-profit with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to teach kids how to cook and it will be for free. And that’s part of our mission. We’re really excited about this because it is very different; it’s not just another cooking magazine. I think there is a better way to cook and part of our mission is to reach out and help people. Again, I know that sounds a little promotional, but we do really believe in this, and I think that’s really important.

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

Chris Kimball: Not watching TV. Definitely having a glass of wine, and most nights, yes, cooking. I do a lot of cooking on weekends, but I also do it during the week. And it’s simple. But yes, doing all of that. And reading a book; I do a lot of reading. I’d say drinking, cooking and reading are probably the three things you would find me doing in the evenings.

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

Chris Kimball: Probably not much. I go to bed at 9:30 p.m. and I fall asleep in about two minutes. There was a wonderful piece a few years ago that I loved, written by the guy; the scientist, who wrote about mistaking his wife for a hat; just a great guy. And he was turning 80 and he said that he was happier than he’d ever been in his life. And he went on to explain that he didn’t have anxiety anymore; anxiety just kind of disappeared at some point in his life. I have a lot of work to do, but I like that. As I think I said at the beginning of this project in June in a New York Times piece, what’s the worst that could happen, public humiliation? I mean, we’re doing what we like to do and it’s going well. So, I don’t really worry about it anymore. I have a wonderful cabin on top of a mountain in Vermont and I’m leaving soon for hunting season; so I always have that.

If you visit here, which I hope you do someday, we genuinely love doing this and the people here are enthusiastic and it’s fun. So, I don’t worry about it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Anniversaries Show That The Power Of Magazines Is Like No Other Medium…

November 22, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Join me to celebrate the power of print and the power of magazines as we proclaim a loud congratulations this week for several magazine anniversaries ranging from 15 to 150 years.

For someone who treats magazines like friends, I am privileged to have both younger and older comrades. I never get tired of celebrating with both the new, the young and the old.

So regardless of the fact that we live in a digital age, these ink on paper (which, by the way, is a great technology yet to be replicated successfully) magazines have survived the test of time and the test of all the innovations that came after the invention of paper.

I invite you to celebrate the following magazine anniversaries and to witness the power of print and the power of magazines. Other inventions may come and go, but magazines are here to stay.

Celebrating 150 years Harper’s Bazaar:
harpers-bazaar

Celebrating 125 years Scholastic Teacher:
tefa16cover

Celebrating 50 years Ranger Rick:
ranger-ricks-1

Celebrating 40 years Horse Illustrated:
horse-illustrated

Celebrating 30 years Lancaster County:
lcmnov2016

Celebrating 25 years Heavy Duty:
heavy-duty

Celebrating 20 years Latina:
latina

And celebrating 15 years Donna Hay:
donna-hay

Until the next round of celebrations, relax and get ready for there is more to come. The power of print, the power of magazines.

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Scholastic Teacher Magazine: From The Very First Tagline 125 Years Ago: “Devoted To The American Schoolteacher” – To That Same Mission That Still Holds True Today – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Tara Welty, Editor In Chief, Scholastic Teacher Magazine…

November 21, 2016

“My focus is really the print magazine first and then I think about the ways that I will get the content from the print magazine out into the world in other ways. So, we start with the print magazine and we start with the timing of when that’s going to arrive in mailboxes, and what content will be the most useful at that time. And then we sort of repackage it for the web and then we use the web content to push it out to the social media platforms.” Tara Welty

tefa16coverIn the case of Scholastic Teacher magazine, a milestone anniversary might be somewhat of an understatement. This year marks the 125th year that the publication, devoted to American teachers and their students and classrooms, has been in publishing existence. And what a wonderful anniversary issue the magazine has put together to earmark this auspicious occasion.

Scholastic Teacher is America’s longest-running magazine for teachers, and since its first print issue in 1891 to its impressive presence today online and in print with 525,000 monthly readers, the magazine has remained an innovative source of ideas and inspiration for teachers. The anniversary issue of Scholastic Teacher gives readers an opportunity to witness the history of education and the evolution of the teacher in America as seen through its pages. This special issue explores facts found in the magazine’s archives, and according to Editor in Chief, Tara Welty, gathering and researching those facts was no small feat for her and her team. But it was a labor of love and an experience that they will never forget.

I spoke with Tara recently and we talked about how proud she was of all of the hard work and creativity her team had put into this anniversary issue. And about the teachers across the country who they did this for; servicing and supporting those teachers, according to Tara, is the most important job the magazine has and does with its very existence.

So, welcome to the celebration of an informational and inspirational magazine for teachers that has been around for 125 years. Here’s to the next 125 – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tara Welty, editor in chief, Scholastic Teacher magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

tara-new-photo

On the fact that in this digital age Scholastic Teacher is still going strong in print after 125 years: It’s quite a remarkable thing and we certainly look around at the industry and see what a challenging time it is for magazines. I think that what we’ve really tried to do is to make sure that if we’re going to be in print we have a reason to be. So, let’s make it very visual and very fun to read and let’s make it something that you really can’t accomplish digitally. Hopefully, when you hold this issue in your hands it feels like it couldn’t exist in any other format to have this rich experience.

On whether she discovered a common thread that connects the issues from yesteryear to those of today as she researched for the 125th anniversary issue: Absolutely. The magazine was founded in 1891 by a man named Frederick A. Owen and he was a former school administrator in South Dansville, New York and he really noticed that across the country not all teachers had the opportunity to go to teaching colleges, which were called “normal” schools at the time. And what the magazine really became was an area where teachers would share their best ideas with one another. One might be the only teacher in their community and it might be a very rural community with no other teacher to really confer with. And so teachers would send letters to the magazine with their best ideas, things that really worked for them, and I think that’s the heart of what Scholastic Teacher is today. It’s teachers sharing their best ideas with one another.

On any major stumbling blocks that she and her team had to overcome during the making of the 125th anniversary issue: The process was very time-consuming and it was extremely dusty. (Laughs) You’re buying old magazines on eBay; you’re getting a lot of dust. Digging into that research, going through 125 years of issues of frequencies that have been at different points; it was a lot of research. It was really all-hands-on-deck for our team.

On the most pleasant moment throughout the process: Just uncovering little gems of information. I’ll read you one that was published in the magazine: “You are a lady before you are a teacher. In your pocket should be a pure Irish-linen, handstitched handkerchief.” That’s from 1903. And one of us would find one of these little gems in the magazine and in order to keep it organized we had kept a Google doc that we were putting in bits and pieces that we were all contributing to, broken down by decade. Once somebody found one they’d just go running around to different offices to share what they had found.

On whether it makes a difference that her audience is teachers when it comes to the thinking behind the creativity of the magazine: When I became the editor four years ago, the most important thing to me was that we celebrate and support teachers. It feels as though teachers are under attack a lot of the time from every which way and this magazine is for them and about them and to help them with their teaching practices. So, one of the things that I really focused on was making sure that, one: the articles are very scanable, because teachers do not have a ton of time to try and figure out what the main point of an article is, so I wanted them to get a key takeaway and decide if they wanted to read it right away by putting in subheads and making the images very clear. Then I wanted to make sure that every article came away with a practical application. How can the teachers use this article in their classrooms?

On whether she feels the need for a publication like Scholastic Teacher is needed more today than ever before with the bombardment of information out there: A teacher always needs a creative idea for how to come at a topic that they teach on all of the time and they’re looking for a new twist on it, something that’s going to really engage their students, especially right now with the technology boom happening. Classrooms and teachers want to use that technology in a way that’s thoughtful and not just tech for the sake of tech.

On as an editor how she decides what content goes into print and what goes online or another platform: Scholastic as a company publishes a lot of things that are online only, but my focus is really the print magazine first and then I think about the ways that I will get the content from the print magazine out into the world in other ways. So, we start with the print magazine and we start with the timing of when that’s going to arrive in mailboxes, and what content will be the most useful at that time. And then we sort of repackage it for the web and then we use the web content to push it out to the social media platforms.

On how she felt when she first saw the 125th anniversary issue: Up until just recently, I only had the unbound copy. And when the mail delivered the box of magazines, my entire staff began jumping up and down and shouting, “It’s here; it’s here.” (Laughs) Everybody grabbed a copy to see which facts they had pulled out and who had written what and it was great. I’m just so proud of this issue. It really took a lot of collaboration and teamwork from not just our internal team here, but from our freelancers and contributors. I just couldn’t be more proud of the way it turned out.

On the secret to longevity with a magazine like Scholastic Teacher: That’s a great question. I think it comes back to just always servicing your reader and always thinking about whether or not you’re providing something that your reader really needs and is useful to them. For us, Scholastic has a real focus company-wide on education and on celebrating teachers and on getting students to develop a lifelong love of reading and learning. We just always circle back to that mission and we try to make sure that every article that we publish is supporting the mission of our company and supporting the teachers that we service.

On the future of print in a digital age and the impact it will have on next generations: That’s a great question and it’s something that I think anybody who is working in print media right now is really grappling with. We don’t know what the future is going to bring in terms of where our readers are going to go and if they will still want print in five years. But what I do know for certain is that great content is always needed and the way that we deliver it is not necessarily the most important thing. I happen to love holding a magazine in my hands and I have far too many magazines stacked up on my dresser at home, but if people decide that they don’t need print anymore, I still think that they’re going to need information; our readers, teachers, will need information about how to support the kids that are right in front of them.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up one evening unexpectedly at her home: The first thing that I do when I get home is walk the dog. I have a fabulous rescue dog named Phoebe and she brings a lot of joy to the house. Then I usually cook dinner; I love to cook. And sitting down with my husband and enjoying dinner with him. After dinner, I’m looking at that stack of magazines that I was telling you about, and thinking about how I should tackle some of those before they really get out of control.

On what keeps her up at night: Usually all of the deadlines and all of the things that I have to do. Also, just thinking about what’s going on in teachers’ minds and how can I help alleviate some of their stress, because teachers really do feel under the gun all of the time. And as stressful and challenging as my job can get, theirs is ten times more stressful than that. So, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to help them to make their jobs a bit easier in my own small way.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tara Welty, editor in chief, Scholastic Teacher magazine.

Scholastic Teacher through the years...

Scholastic Teacher through the years…

Samir Husni: Congratulations on 125 years strong in print.

Tara Welty: Thank you very much. It’s a pretty exciting time for us. We started planning this issue about a year ago, so it’s been very thrilling to have it out in the world now.

Samir Husni: I have seen a lot of anniversary issues, but what you’ve done through that historical perspective from “back then” in 1891 is amazing. I was so fascinated reading all of the information. For example, where teachers started the day with prayer and all of the other trivia items that you included in the anniversary issue; as you were developing this edition, and you said that you had been planning this for almost a year, did you ever stop and think: wow, in this digital age, we’re still doing print? And doing it for 125 years, which is amazing.

Tara Welty: It hits me constantly. It’s quite a remarkable thing and we certainly look around at the industry and see what a challenging time it is for magazines. I think that what we’ve really tried to do is to make sure that if we’re going to be in print we have a reason to be. So, let’s make it very visual and very fun to read and let’s make it something that you really can’t accomplish digitally. Hopefully, when you hold this issue in your hands it feels like it couldn’t exist in any other format to have this rich experience.

We have a full archive in our library at Scholastic of our magazines; some are on microfilm and some are in print. But then we really wanted to dig into the issues and some of the older issues are quite delicate so we started buying the old issues on eBay and we were delighted to find that they really are out there and available. So, we got in hundreds and hundreds of magazines from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. They’re just sort of lining our offices here. (Laughs) Once we started digging into those old magazines and uncovering these fun facts, we just knew that our readers would love learning them to. And that’s when we really started to focus on all of the history and some of the really outlandish things that we published in the magazine and they’re really fun to read. I think anybody who is a teacher or interested in education would love to see how their profession has evolved.

Samir Husni: As you were digging into these old issues and researching; did you find a common thread that weaved through and connected the soul of Scholastic Teacher from those historic issues to the ones of today?

Tara Welty: Absolutely. The magazine was founded in 1891 by a man named Frederick A. Owen and he was a former school administrator in South Dansville, New York and he really noticed that across the country not all teachers had the opportunity to go to teaching colleges, which were called “normal” schools at the time. And so he wanted to establish the magazine to spread teaching “norms.” As I said, there were teachers across America who may not have had the opportunity to attend a teaching college.

And what the magazine really became was an area where teachers would share their best ideas with one another. One might be the only teacher in their community and it might be a very rural community with no other teacher to really confer with. And so teachers would send letters to the magazine with their best ideas, things that really worked for them, and I think that’s the heart of what Scholastic Teacher is today. It’s teachers sharing their best ideas with one another.

The very first tagline in the very first issue from 1891 was, “Devoted to the interests of the American schoolteacher.” And that is really so true today. And it’s been true throughout the history of our 125 years. I really think of the magazine as being a conduit for teachers to share their ideas with one another and there are a lot of other ways that teachers do that today, but seeing it in print in a collection with other teachers is really the heart of our magazine.

Samir Husni: Was there any major stumbling blocks that you and your team had to overcome during the making of this 125th anniversary issue?

Tara Welty: The process was very time-consuming and it was extremely dusty. (Laughs) You’re buying old magazines on eBay; you’re getting a lot of dust. Digging into that research, going through 125 years of issues of frequencies that have been at different points; it was a lot of research. It was really all-hands-on-deck for our team.

What we tried to do was go decade by decade and identify trends that were happening in education at that time. So, we were comparing certain things that we knew had happened in the history of education, like the progressive movement in education in the 1920s, education reform in the 2000s, and then we were sort of going back to our pages of the magazine to see how we had covered it and what kind of advice we had given. So, it was a really in depth research project. The stumbling blocks were just the enormity of it, but our team worked so seamlessly together I could not be more proud of the work that they did.

Samir Husni: And what was the most pleasant moment throughout this process?

Tara Welty: Just uncovering little gems of information. I’ll read you one that was published in the magazine: “You are a lady before you are a teacher. In your pocket should be a pure Irish-linen, handstitched handkerchief.” That’s from 1903. And one of us would find one of these little gems in the magazine and in order to keep it organized we had kept a Google doc that we were putting in bits and pieces that we were all contributing to, broken down by decade. Once somebody found one they’d just go running around to different offices to share what they had found. It was really fun.

Samir Husni: As someone who is in charge of editing a magazine aimed at teachers; what goes through your mind? Do you feel that you’re dealing with a group of colleagues, or people who are watching everything you write to see where they can criticize you? Does it make a difference that your audience is teachers when it comes to the thinking behind the creativity of the magazine?

Tara Welty: When I became the editor four years ago, the most important thing to me was that we celebrate and support teachers. It feels as though teachers are under attack a lot of the time from every which way and this magazine is for them and about them and to help them with their teaching practices. So, one of the things that I really focused on was making sure that, one: the articles are very scan able, because teachers do not have a ton of time to try and figure out what the main point of an article is, so I wanted them to get a key takeaway and decide if they wanted to read it right away by putting in subheads and making the images very clear. Then I wanted to make sure that every article came away with a practical application. How can the teachers use this article in their classrooms?

And I wanted it to be filled with great ideas that didn’t come from our offices in New York City, because we’re not in the classroom everyday; I wanted the advice and the ideas to come from real teachers. We do a lot of really reaching out to teachers, getting their advice, seeking their counsel and asking them what’s really working in their classrooms right now and would they share that with our readers?

And I also wanted to make sure that there was no jargon; it’s just a very straightforward and practical magazine. The feedback that we get in every issue is that the magazine is something that the teacher can take away and use in his or her classroom. I feel like the purpose of the magazine is not to wade into some of the controversial aspects of teaching, because there are other places where they can get that information. It’s kind of coming at teachers all of the time. The magazine should really be a place where they can get great ideas for their classrooms. And I think that we do that very well.

Samir Husni: Do you feel there is a greater need today for Scholastic Teacher and other publications like it than ever before with the bombardment of information out there?

Tara Welty: A teacher always needs a creative idea for how to come at a topic that they teach on all of the time and they’re looking for a new twist on it, something that’s going to really engage their students, especially right now with the technology boom happening. Classrooms and teachers want to use that technology in a way that’s thoughtful and not just tech for the sake of tech.

And there are a lot of different places teachers can go for great ideas, so when the magazine comes in their mailboxes and they pull it out and it’s just the lesson that they need for that time; that’s a very valuable thing.

And we also know that teachers are engaging with our content not just through the print magazine, but through our social media and our online. And so we want to make content that’s accessible, no matter which platform they’re consuming from. If they’re finding it on Pinterest or our Facebook page or on our website; the print magazine or from a colleague who has it from one of those platforms and they’re telling them about it because they used it in their classroom and found it amazing. Great ideas and creative ideas are always needed, but we have to think about the different ways that teachers are finding them.

Samir Husni: And as you’re thinking about that as an editor; how do you make the decision about what content should be in print and what should go online? Do you anguish when you’re making those decisions or it just comes easily and naturally to you now?

Tara Welty: Scholastic as a company publishes a lot of things that are online only, but my focus is really the print magazine first and then I think about the ways that I will get the content from the print magazine out into the world in other ways. So, we start with the print magazine and we start with the timing of when that’s going to arrive in mailboxes, and what content will be the most useful at that time. And then we sort of repackage it for the web and then we use the web content to push it out to the social media platforms.

Our Facebook pages are particularly lively places; it’s where we have a lot of teachers engaging with our content and I think that’s been such a wonderful addition to our publishing, because it allows us to have a conversation with our readers right away and get feedback on our articles.

Samir Husni: When you received that first copy of the 125th anniversary issue of the magazine; can you describe the feeling you had when you saw it?

Tara Welty: Up until just recently, I only had the unbound copy. And when the mail delivered the box of magazines, my entire staff began jumping up and down and shouting, “It’s here; it’s here.” (Laughs) Everybody grabbed a copy to see which facts they had pulled out and who had written what and it was great. I’m just so proud of this issue. It really took a lot of collaboration and teamwork from not just our internal team here, but from our freelancers and contributors. I just couldn’t be more proud of the way it turned out.

Samir Husni: Over the last year there have been a lot of milestone anniversaries celebrated in the magazine industry; something that is unheard of these days in radio, television and certainly when it comes to the ever-changing web. How many other mediums can boast of a 125-year-old product? What do you think is the secret to longevity with magazines like Scholastic Teacher?

Tara Welty: That’s a great question. I think it comes back to just always servicing your reader and always thinking about whether or not you’re providing something that your reader really needs and is useful to them. For us, Scholastic has a real focus company-wide on education and on celebrating teachers and on getting students to develop a lifelong love of reading and learning. We just always circle back to that mission and we try to make sure that every article that we publish is supporting the mission of our company and supporting the teachers that we service. And I think that’s the secret to longevity; just making sure that your publication is really working to support the people that it services.

Samir Husni: For the teachers, how do you balance ink on paper with pixels on a screen; what tips are you getting about the future of print in a digital age and how it will impact future generations?

Tara Welty: That’s a great question and it’s something that I think anybody who is working in print media right now is really grappling with. We don’t know what the future is going to bring in terms of where our readers are going to go and if they will still want print in five years.

But what I do know for certain is that great content is always needed and the way that we deliver it is not necessarily the most important thing. I happen to love holding a magazine in my hands and I have far too many magazines stacked up on my dresser at home, but if people decide that they don’t need print anymore, I still think that they’re going to need information; our readers, teachers, will need information about how to support the kids that are right in front of them. And those kids are always changing and their needs are always changing. And hopefully, we will always be there to help them with the challenges that they face in the classroom.

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

Tara Welty: The first thing that I do when I get home is walk the dog. I have a fabulous rescue dog named Phoebe and she brings a lot of joy to the house. Then I usually cook dinner; I love to cook. And sitting down with my husband and enjoying dinner with him. After dinner, I’m looking at that stack of magazines that I was telling you about, and thinking about how I should tackle some of those before they really get out of control.

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

Tara Welty: Usually all of the deadlines and all of the things that I have to do. Also, just thinking about what’s going on in teachers’ minds and how can I help alleviate some of their stress, because teachers really do feel under the gun all of the time. And as stressful and challenging as my job can get, theirs is ten times more stressful than that. So, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to help them to make their jobs a bit easier in my own small way.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Long Before There Was President-Elect Trump… Playboy’s Hefner Discovered The TRUMP Brand

November 19, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

trumpLong before there was a President-Elect Trump, long before there was a Trump Tower, and long before there was a Trump brand, Hugh M. Hefner, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine owned and launched Trump magazine in 1957, almost three years after he launched Playboy magazine.

Needless to say Hefner’s Trump magazine did not have the same success as Playboy magazine, however it is quite intriguing to see what the premise of Trump magazine was as stated in the prospectus of its very first issue in January 1957.

trump-3The prospectus reads:

This Prospectus shall set forth our purpose.
Trump proposes to be a magazine with ideals.
Trump proposes to be a magazine that will hew to its ideals with a steadfastness of purpose.
Trump will not be distracted nor frightened.
Trump will work toward our goals, unbiased.
This, then, shall be the purpose of Trump.
Making money.
You have the money.
You give the money to us.
This is our Prospectus. We invite you to stand at the magazine rack and examine our product.
-the editors

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