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Refugee Crisis? Here’s One Magazine’s View From 1938… From My Vault of Classic Magazines

September 26, 2016

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In a two-page large illustration, Ken magazine, in its July 14th, 1938 issue, ran the above image regrading the refugee crisis knocking on the doorsteps of the United States and the world. Magazines were, are, and will continue to be the best reflectors of both our culture and society… Indeed the more things change, the more they stay the same. 2016 feels so 1938!

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Elsie Magazine: The Creatively Sumptuous Publication Teams Up With Fiverr’s Website For Its Fourth Issue To Bring The Most Eclectic & Interesting Content To Its Audience Yet – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Les Jones, Founder & Creator, Elsie Magazine

September 26, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Interview from Across the Pond

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“I think, probably like you, Samir, I’m a huge lover of print. I don’t think that you can really substitute that kind of quality of sitting down with a magazine or a book. I think the online, digital environment is extremely exciting, but it’s just different for me. The production of an actual physical item that people not only read, but hopefully put onto their shelves and keep is really important to me. So, no, I don’t think digital is the absolute future; there’s still a big future for print.” Les Jones

“I suppose it was always inevitable that there would be a bit of a print backlash. Digital came in rather big and bold and everyone just assumed that was the future and print would disappear, but there’s no indication of that at the moment. I think people still like to hold a magazine and flip through the pages; it’s a completely different experience than scrolling through a digital magazine.” Les Jones

Picture a magazine with fantastic photography, eye-catching typography and a dedication to design that would make even the most studied of creators of layouts salivate. Then throw in an individualized theme or topic of content that is so totally unique in its concept that the magazine virtually stops you in your tracks with its originality of information.

Once you’ve conjured up that image in your mind’s eye, you’ll find yourself thinking about Elsie magazine, a creative and independent publication whose founder is based in England. And while the magazine may originate from across the Pond, the content is completely global in perception.

les-portrait-1-colourFounder and creator of Elsie, Les Jones, is a man who is a self-admitted thinker of thoughts – thoughts that come with rapidity and continuity. And when you peruse Elsie for the first or the fifteenth time, you’ll understand his genius. I spoke with Les recently as he had just wrapped up issue four of the magazine and had teamed up for this issue with the website Fiverr, a unique site that is a marketplace for creative and professional services. For the fourth issue, Les decided to commission a random group of individuals who use the site to advertise their skills and areas of interest, something the website refers to as “gigs,” to fill the pages of the fourth issue. The powers-that-be at the website saw the magical conglomeration of creative design and typography and decided to join the fun for this iteration of the magazine by sponsoring Les in his endeavors for the “Fiverr” issue.

It’s a spot-on idea that hits on everything good and viable for combining two platforms that offer two different experiences. I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who has a thing for print, but knows how to utilize digital to make it an original and provocative experience, Les Jones, founder and creator, Elsie magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On the creation of issue four of Elsie magazine: In order to tell you about issue four, I need to tell you a little bit about issue three. Issue three was based completely on one photograph that I took in London. It was a picture of a sign that had been covered in stickers. And when I had a look at it on my screen, I suddenly had the thought that behind every one of those stickers was a person and a story. When I came to issue four, having spent quite a while tracking all of the people down behind the stickers, traveling all across Europe to meet all of these really interesting people, I decided that I wanted to make as eclectic a magazine for number four as I had done for number three. But I gave myself the self-imposed grief of doing it without leaving my house. And I had a few ideas knocking around in my head as to where I wanted to take the magazine.

On whether the future of print is utilizing the best of digital: I’m not sure. I think, probably like you, Samir, I’m a huge lover of print. I don’t think that you can really substitute that kind of quality of sitting down with a magazine or a book. I think the online, digital environment is extremely exciting, but it’s just different for me. The production of an actual physical item that people not only read, but hopefully put onto their shelves and keep is really important to me.

On whether he’s using the magazine as an experience that he’s actually living: Yes, I would say so. For me, the reason that I said the magazine was not specifically because I wanted to publish a magazine; it was very much along the lines that I wanted to create experiences for myself. So, you might have picked up from earlier issues of the magazine that randomness plays quite a big role in what I do. You might remember from the first issue I ended up in Poland and it was a completely random visit, where I threw a dart into a map and then just went off for a week.

On whether he felt allowing the website Fiverr to be a sponsor was a wow factor for this issue: To be honest, I hit on the idea, having been pointed in the direction of their website. And I kind of lost myself in the project and I was probably at least two-thirds of the way through the magazine, if not three-quarters of the way finished, when, and why it hadn’t occurred to me before I don’t know, but it occurred to me that I was obviously doing an entire magazine through the conduit of the Fiverr website, that this might be something that Sam and the guys at Fiverr would be interested in as well.

On whether people can go to the Fiverr website and find Les Jones there: If you go to Fiverr and you search “Les Jones,” you can download a copy of the magazine, the Fiverr issue. And I have put a couple of other gigs on the site that are linked to previous iterations of the magazine.

On why he thinks it took so long for the magazine industry as a whole to realize that print is still a viable resource and very important: That’s a very good question. I think print has always been there in the background, fighting the rearguard action, hasn’t it, in terms of trying to maintain its presence within the marketplace. But what I see, and I’m sure you do too working with magazines across the world, if anything it’s a growing environment. The amount of small, independent magazines out there at the moment all just trying to carve out a particular niche; I think they’re coming in thick and fast at the moment.

On his most pleasant moment during his magazine journey: There were many, I must say. The nicest moment for me was the piece of mail art that I had from a girl in Canada. It was the most beautiful thing that she produced and in the actual words that she put in the letter, she talks about the fact that on her university campus she quite often leaves the letters around randomly for people to find and pick up. And she enjoys that experience; dropping a little bit of creativity into people’s lives even though she might never meet them.

On the biggest stumbling block he had to face and how he overcame it: If I’m honest, Samir, there really weren’t any really big stumbling blocks whatsoever. I commissioned the gigs and I worked on the process or on the basis that if it was interesting to me and I if I thought what was going to come back was interesting to other people, I went with it.

elsie-3On what someone would find him doing if they showed up at his house one evening unexpectedly: You’d have to catch me in the house and not out in one of the fields around my house walking my dog, but I also could be watching football on the television. I’m into football big time. Generally, I’d probably be on my computer doing some work. There’s usually a glass of wine in the vicinity; although I have been pretty good for the last six to eight months. I don’t have a glass of wine during the week, only on the weekends these days.

On what keeps him up at night: I tell you what keeps me up at night and I just recently had this experience when I woke up at half past four in the morning; it’s ideas. I wish sometimes that I could turn the tap off and not have the ideas swimming around in my head all of the time. I don’t particularly solicit them, they just drop in. As soon as they’re there, they announce their arrival and I feel as though I have to give them the space and think about them.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with founder and creator, Les Jones, Elsie magazine.

elsie-cover-1Samir Husni: The last time we spoke was in 2011 when the first issue of Elsie came out and you were creating individualized magazines. Now, somehow you’ve turned the tables and you’ve done a magazine created by a host of individuals in one magazine. Tell me about issue four.

Les Jones: In order to tell you about issue four, I need to tell you a little bit about issue three. Issue three was based completely on one photograph that I took in London. It was a picture of a sign that had been covered in stickers. And when I had a look at it on my screen, I suddenly had the thought that behind every one of those stickers was a person and a story.

So, I set out to try and track down all of the people behind the stickers in that one photograph. So issue three of the magazine is basically the entire journey of tracking down all of these people behind the stickers, which took me all over Europe to Italy and to Portugal, to The Netherlands and New York, where the guy was a tattoo artist, and I really just tracked all of these people down behind those stickers. It was really an interesting project. I printed all of the stickers on a sheet, and the idea was that people then would actually put the stickers on their own cover, so they created their own magazine cover.

When I came to issue four, having spent quite a while tracking all of the people down behind the stickers, traveling all across Europe to meet all of these really interesting people, I decided that I wanted to make as eclectic a magazine for number four as I had done for number three. But I gave myself the self-imposed grief of doing it without leaving my house. And I had a few ideas knocking around in my head as to where I wanted to take the magazine.

And then a friend introduced me to Fiverr; she had just had some illustrations done for her wedding invitations. So, I went onto their website and thought it was a very interesting environment, with these people all over the world basically posting their gigs, what they’re prepared to do and what their skills are, into the marketplace.

So, I started to dabble and I started to commission people all across the world to just do whatever it was they were advertising to do. And I just waited for things to come in. And as soon as they started coming in I felt that I had a really strong concept for the magazine, and rather than it be all about me and my photography and my graphics, things like that, I would create a curated magazine, where I’m putting all of these things in, and is quite random and eclectic, coming from 29 different countries. And then I would piece it all together as a whole. So, that’s kind of where it all started.

Samir Husni: It seems to me that you have utilized the best of digital to create a print collectible edition; is that the future of print?

Les Jones: I’m not sure. I think, probably like you, Samir, I’m a huge lover of print. I don’t think that you can really substitute that kind of quality of sitting down with a magazine or a book. I think the online, digital environment is extremely exciting, but it’s just different for me. The production of an actual physical item that people not only read, but hopefully put onto their shelves and keep is really important to me.

elsie-2The interesting thing about all of the stuff that came in for the magazine is that it all started with digital; you’re right about that, people sent me their content via email and download. But quite a lot of it was also physical. One of the first things I commissioned was a woman in Japan and her gig was to send Japanese sweets to post. And she was actually the first one, and then I got this envelope and I opened it, and outpoured all of these beautiful Japanese sweets in their wrappings.

Quite often, when I was going into the actual Fiverr site and looking around for things that I wanted to feature in the magazine, the physical nature was quite important. People would send me postcards, and I had a couple of people send me mail art, where they literally designed the letter, from the envelope to little drawings and the notes that they put inside. And all of that is very tactile stuff, which for me were probably the most interesting things that went into the magazine. So, no, I don’t think digital is the absolute future; there’s still a big future for print.

Samir Husni: You invite people to come to your place and stop by; you’ve put your address on all of these envelopes; are you using Elsie as more than a printed magazine? Are you using it as an experience that you’re actually living?

Les Jones: Yes, I would say so. For me, the reason that I said the magazine was not specifically because I wanted to publish a magazine; it was very much along the lines that I wanted to create experiences for myself. So, you might have picked up from earlier issues of the magazine that randomness plays quite a big role in what I do. You might remember from the first issue I ended up in Poland and it was a completely random visit, where I threw a dart into a map and then just went off for a week.

And I think that kind of setting the ball rolling and then just following where it lead was really interesting for me. And that’s where I get the creative payback, if you like. I don’t sit down and have a clear vision of a finished product; I just like to start it and then see where it leads.

So, I think you’re right. Using the magazine as a catalyst to experiences and interactions and ways of working with people, is very much what it’s about. I’m also about to start new live events with it as well. So, I’m doing about 12 Elsie magazine events around the U.K. The first one starts next week and will go into the New Year. As well as sort of gauging reactions about Elsie and the stories in the magazine; I’m also going to use those events to get the audience to actually create new content for future issues. So, they’ll be doing stuff also to actually provide content for future issues. And I like that idea and the interactions and that experience-based thing; very much so.

Samir Husni: The experience that you had this time is you were able to get a sponsor, which you have not done with the first three issues.

Les Jones: No, I hadn’t done that before.

Samir Husni: Were you that convinced that the website Fiverr and this issue of Elsie was a wow factor, so you decided to merge your efforts with them and see what happened?

Les Jones: To be honest, I hit on the idea, having been pointed in the direction of their website. And I kind of lost myself in the project and I was probably at least two-thirds of the way through the magazine, if not three-quarters of the way finished, when, and why it hadn’t occurred to me before I don’t know, but it occurred to me that I was obviously doing an entire magazine through the conduit of the Fiverr website, that this might be something that Sam (Katzen – PR Manager) and the guys at Fiverr would be interested in as well. *(See my question to Sam Katzen at the end of the interview with Les Jones…)

So, I literally sent them an email and told them about doing the entire magazine pretty much through the content on their website and that it was coming together really well and was an interesting experience; would they be interested? And I asked if we could have a conversation; I didn’t really make a formal approach for sponsorship, if you like.

elsie-2-cover-009It was when I sent the stuff to Sam that they got in touch with me and said that it looked like a really interesting project. And that they would like to get involved with it in some way. And it’s fantastic to have some sponsorship behind the magazine, because everything I do on the magazine is self-funded and I pay for everything myself, so to have that support was great.

I was very keen to point out and to be fair to Sam and the people at Fiverr, and they were also in agreement, that they had no involvement in the editorial direction of the magazine whatsoever. That was 100 percent me and they supported it from the general principle.

Samir Husni: Can I expect to be able to locate you when I go to the Fiverr website, and see your name with the statement that you’re willing to create a magazine for whoever wants one? All they have to do is submit their idea and you’ll create the magazine and this is what it will cost them? (Laughs)

Les Jones: (Laughs too) That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? If you go to Fiverr and you search “Les Jones,” you can download a copy of the magazine, the Fiverr issue. And I have put a couple of other gigs on the site that are linked to previous iterations of the magazine.

One of the things I do, and I think there are a few in issue one, are these random illustrations where I literally just put my finger in the dictionary and then create a word from Googling that image. So, I’ve put that on a as a gig, If you want me to use your name and Google your name and then whatever comes up, create a unique piece of art from it, that’s one of the gigs that I’ve put onto Fiverr. But to do a magazine, a whole magazine, knowing how long it takes? (Laughs) That might be pushing it a little bit.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it took the magazine industry as a whole almost five to ten years to recognize that print isn’t going away and that digital isn’t our sole future? Supposedly, we are some of the top creative minds in the world today; why do you think it took so long for magazine media to figure out that print is still a viable resource and very important?

Les Jones: That’s a very good question. I think print has always been there in the background, fighting the rearguard action, hasn’t it, in terms of trying to maintain its presence within the marketplace. But what I see, and I’m sure you do too working with magazines across the world, if anything it’s a growing environment. The amount of small, independent magazines out there at the moment all just trying to carve out a particular niche; I think they’re coming in thick and fast at the moment.

How long they’ll survive, I don’t know. That’s been one of the questions that I’ve often asked myself about Elsie; how long can I keep it going? One of the things that was a real spur to me is when I launched the first issue and it was reviewed by The New York Library Journal, they voted it one of their top 10 new magazines of that year, which was fantastic. And one of the things that they put in the review was, the chance of Les Jones keeping this magazine going was pretty small, but enjoy it while it lasts, is the way I believe they put it. And I kind of took that on the chin and thought OK, I am going to keep this going and I am going to keep pushing it. (Laughs)

It’s a tough journey because without the same exposure the mainstream magazines get, just trying to get the word out there and the magazine in front of people is really difficult. Slowly, but surely, it’s growing a fan base of people who value the uniqueness of the magazine.

I suppose it was always inevitable that there would be a bit of a print backlash. Digital came in rather big and bold and everyone just assumed that was the future and print would disappear, but there’s no indication of that at the moment. I think people still like to hold a magazine and flip through the pages; it’s a completely different experience than scrolling through a digital magazine. I find that I concentrate more when I have a physical thing, rather than the digital.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment for you during this journey; I mean besides receiving all of those candies from Japan?

Les Jones: (Laughs) Which I haven’t eaten yet.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Les Jones: There were many, I must say. The nicest moment for me was the piece of mail art that I had from a girl in Canada. It was the most beautiful thing that she produced and in the actual words that she put in the letter, she talks about the fact that on her university campus she quite often leaves the letters around randomly for people to find and pick up. And she enjoys that experience; dropping a little bit of creativity into people’s lives even though she might never meet them. That letter just kind of kept opening and revealing more bits of stuff and little letters and bits of typography. I thought it was fantastic.

The most humorous and the one that made me laugh the most was a crocheted beard, which I have shown it to all my friends and after the New Year, in the winter, I’m thinking of getting everyone a crocheted beard. (Laughs) So, that was great.

I love that kind of eclectic nature of some of those kinds of gigs. I deliberately chose those that were slightly off the wall, rather than some of the more mainstream things.

Samir Husni: And what was the biggest stumbling block with issue four that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Les Jones: If I’m honest, Samir, there really weren’t any really big stumbling blocks whatsoever. I commissioned the gigs and I worked on the process or on the basis that if it was interesting to me and I if I thought what was going to come back was interesting to other people, I went with it.

I curated the magazine, so not everything that I actually commissioned went in. Probably 20 percent of the stuff didn’t make it for whatever reason, I just didn’t think it fit or wasn’t in keeping with the flow of the magazine.

I suppose the only small thing was that once I’d actually commissioned a gig from someone, and then went back to them and told them what I was doing with the magazine, then asked them if they would contribute some information about themselves, where they lived and what they did, and most people responded, but I had to chase a few down for the information. Not because they were being reluctant, they just hadn’t gotten around to it. Other than that, it was really a pleasurable experience. It was great having those kinds of things drop into your email inbox or having an envelope dropping into my mailbox. It was great.

elsie-3-cover-with-stickers2-lrSamir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing, reading a magazine, reading on your iPad, watching television, or something else?

Les Jones: You’d have to catch me in the house and not out in one of the fields around my house walking my dog, but I also could be watching football on the television. I’m into football big time. Generally, I’d probably be on my computer doing some work. There’s usually a glass of wine in the vicinity; although I have been pretty good for the last six to eight months. I don’t have a glass of wine during the week, only on the weekends these days.

It’s a very relaxed environment. Probably a lot of noise with all of the kids in the house; I have four children; although they don’t all live at home now. But, yes, I’d probably be doing something creative or just catching up on things.

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

Les Jones: I tell you what keeps me up at night and I just recently had this experience when I woke up at half past four in the morning; it’s ideas. I wish sometimes that I could turn the tap off and not have the ideas swimming around in my head all of the time. I don’t particularly solicit them, they just drop in. As soon as they’re there, they announce their arrival and I feel as though I have to give them the space and think about them.

I’ve actually got lots of ideas for other magazines, other than Elsie. Hopefully one day I’ll turn Elsie into, not just the magazine it is, but into a publishing house for a range of titles. So, I have lots of creative ideas for other magazines floating around in my head, I just need to find the time, space and the resources to bring them to market.

Samir Husni: Thank you.
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*About Fiverr
A question to Sam Katzen, Fiverr manager of PR:

Samir Husni: Sam, may I ask you a question? Why are there so many people on Fiverr offering print and print related services; offering to send you a postcard or a handwritten note?

Sam Katzen: While there are a lot of people offering those gigs on Fiverr, in reality about 99 percent of our marketplace is digital services. So, most of the things are being delivered via the Internet, and that makes sense because a lot of the users and customers are small businesses. So, a lot of the services are sort of in the professional vein, but I also think that because our marketplace is so broad; we’re in 190 countries, with millions of users because of that, you have an opportunity for creativity to really flourish and be exposed from a global standpoint.

What Les has experienced in Elsie and what the magazine really showcases to me is that there are different varieties of what’s considered interesting and creative from all over the world and those things can all be expressed in a place like Fiverr. And that’s probably one of the reasons you see a lot of mail art, for instance.

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Up In Arms Over Native Advertising? Why? It’s Been Going On For Years. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

September 23, 2016

The Mr. Magazine™ Series “From the Vault of Classic Magazines”
Part 4…

When you start an excavation into old magazines for purposes beyond research; in my case, the sheer love of the classics with their depth of content and a type of journalistic style that isn’t seen that much anymore; you begin to notice the things that haven’t changed as well as those that aren’t as prevalent. And the one very apparent fact is that native advertising wasn’t just invented in the 21st century with the rise of the Internet.

I was amazed and a bit stunned to find blatantly “native” advertising in two of the most respected and prestigious magazines, which are still around today, I might add, in classic editions.

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From Esquire’s October, 1939 edition (well over 70 years ago), and I’m sure you could have counted that for yourself, yet I feel the need to verify it again to my own ears, just look at a Brooks Brothers ad that bears an extremely strong resemblance to an editorial page. The way the fashion is presented in the advertisement is very classy, yet appears as almost a story about the chosen garments.

And then with National Geographic, which the edition on topic is from February 1956, there is an article written by a former Ambassador to Great Britain, Lewis W. Douglas, titled “Some Sober Facts Behind the Search for Oil,” which at the end of the article you read:

This is one of a series of reports by outstanding Americans who were invited to examine the job being done by the U.S. oil industry. This page is presented for your information by The American Petroleum Institute, 50 West 50th Street, New York 20, N.Y. Mention the National Geographic – It identifies you.

If this is not a brand voice, as our friends at Forbes like to call it, I must have a different idea of the term. And if the Brooks advertising isn’t native advertisement, yes…well, you get my meaning.

So before we let the horror of it all when it comes to native advertising offend and repulse us, just remember, there really isn’t anything new under the sun out there. Where we believe we’re the first to try something, whether it works or not, chances are there has been another Adam or Eve before us who have already proven or disproven the idea.

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Until the next Mr. Magazine™ “From the Vault of Classic Magazines…”

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WOTH Magazine: “Wonderful Things” Happen Between The Pages Of This New Dutch Launch – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher, Toon Lauwen & Founding Editor, Mary Hessing

September 22, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

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“We decided to make a print magazine because we wanted it to be a beautiful thing and we thought about design and designers and the way they work, for them materials are very important. We also thought about their skills and the stories behind their ideas for the product. We figured for the magazine, for the media in which we’re telling these stories, it’s the same. So, this is something that you want to hold in your hands, something that materializes. It’s not that we don’t want to have any digital additions, but we want it to be something that you can cherish and keep and something that you can hold and feel the paper, because it’s the same with design.” Mary Hessing

“We also want to reach out to a larger community than the Dutch one, because that’s the reason we took it into an English version too, to have a larger exposure and make it possible to be more European. And that’s also a twist of the necessary optimism it takes to move forward. We tried to show the quality of the magazine with the paper, the lettering and the typeface, etc.” Toon Lauwen

Woth Wonderful Things is a new lifestyle magazine focused on interiors and design, but one done in a more personal way, with strong visuals and content about people and objects that are so interesting they make you wonder about them and the innovative creativity they display that stirs imaginations.

Real-life couple, Toon Lauwen and Mary Hessing, who are based in The Hague in the Netherlands, created this beautiful new publication, and between their support network of longstanding Dutch designers and professionals they have both been involved with for decades, Mary is a former editor in chief for Dutch design magazine Eigen Huis & Interieur, and her partner Toon has been in the business for decades, they started a crowdfunding campaign and made the design dream magazine a reality.

00000663portraitmaryhessingvoorinternet-photo-brenda-van-leeuwenI spoke with both Toon and Mary recently and we talked about their vision for this outstanding new magazine. The deep sentiments of a personal relationship with both the reader and the subject matter that Mary so strongly believes in, and the focus on good content and magnificent writing that Toon strives for with each and every word and page; it’s clear the two of them have a passion for Woth that will only grow and flourish.

So, I hope you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with two people who made a dream into a reality with hard work, creative ideas and superb content, and a network of people who believe in this magazine as much as they do, Toon Lauwen, Publisher, and Founding Editor, Mary Hessing, Woth Wonderful Things Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the idea behind the magazine and why they decided on a print product (Mary Hessing): We decided to make a print magazine because we wanted it to be a beautiful thing and we thought about design and designers and the way they work, for them materials are very important. We also thought about their skills and the stories behind their ideas for the product. We figured for the magazine, for the media in which we’re telling these stories, it’s the same. So, this is something that you want to hold in your hands, something that materializes.

On why they chose to publish it in an English version (Mary Hessing): Because we have very good connections in Holland with Dutch designers. And Dutch designers are worldwide and that’s very important in this industry. And I think that we have the best commitment for making good content. And we’re trying to broaden our scope and bring it to the world, not only to Holland.

jwk_1653On whether it was easy to market the magazine (Toon Lauwen): Initially we started out with an idea, so we made a crowdfunding campaign, Indiegogo. So, we did interviews and Mary did that to engage our public with the new idea of this magazine. As an independent, we had to start out using a network that we already had. I have been doing this for over 20 years. Mary is the figurehead, so to speak, and she has actually done a lot of good footwork with those designers and brands in Italy and all over Europe to make all of those connections, also with the advertisers.

On any stumbling blocks they had to face and how they overcame them (Mary Hessing): What was really difficult was we started out with no money, with just this idea, so we asked a lot of people to help us. We did the crowdfunding campaign, but even before that we had been asking people from our network if they would help us out with the content. And I received all positive responses, everyone was really supportive and really thought we should do the magazine. Everybody felt there was a need for a project like this and that it would definitely get off the ground. Then we did the crowdfunding campaign, and I also asked the people I used to work with, most of them are freelancers now, to help us out with making the magazine.

On how difficult it was as a couple working together (Toon Lauwen): We’ve worked together before, of course. But then I was writing for a former magazine, but now we’re really teaming up because we’re both responsible for getting it to the printer and getting the bills paid, etc. We’re a business team. And that does take some adjustment, but on the other hand it’s also something we like to do. With our house, we did it together.

On what they hope the magazine has achieved in one year (Mary Hessing): I would really like the magazine to have a solid base and have a strong and healthy existence. And that it has secured its right to exist. And I want it to stand out independently from other magazines.

01coverengOn anything else they’d like to add (Mary Hessing): I’d like to emphasize that Dutch Designer Gert Dumbar made our logo. He’s an old family friend of mine and he did this as a favor to us. And I’m really proud of it. It’s so funny because I asked this really elderly gentleman to make something really bold and daring and fantastic, and when I asked him for the logo for “Wonderful Things,” he thought the word Woth was a strange and intriguing word. It’s such a strong logo and I think in a way there’s a little bit of the 1980s influence there, and I think it’s interesting because everybody is now looking at the ‘80s for inspiration and we have the real thing.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at their home (Mary Hessing): I would probably be putting my children to bed which takes forever. (Laughs) I always like to make up with them for all of the things I missed during the day, so that takes time.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at their home (Toon Lauwen): I might be watching a documentary or reading a book. I read about history a lot.

On what keeps them up at night (Mary Hessing): Living up to expectations from other people, not normally, but especially about this project.

On what keeps them up at night (Toon Lauwen): I’m always reasoning in my head about a tagline, or just some small thing. I’ve been a worrier since I was young; it’s my nature. (Laughs)

ton-of-hollandspreadAnd now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Toon Lauwen, Publisher, and Founding Editor, Mary Hessing, Woth Wonderful Things Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me the idea behind the magazine and why you decided to launch a print publication in this digital age?

Mary Hessing: We decided to make a print magazine because we wanted it to be a beautiful thing and we thought about design and designers and the way they work, for them materials are very important. We also thought about their skills and the stories behind their ideas for the product. We figured for the magazine, for the media in which we’re telling these stories, it’s the same. So, this is something that you want to hold in your hands, something that materializes. It’s not that we don’t want to have any digital additions, but we want it to be something that you can cherish and keep and something that you can hold and feel the paper, because it’s the same with design.

Samir Husni: And why did you publish in an English version as well?

Mary Hessing: Because we have very good connections in Holland with Dutch designers. And Dutch designers are worldwide and that’s very important in this industry. And I think that we have the best commitment for making good content. And we’re trying to broaden our scope and bring it to the world, not only to Holland.

Samir Husni: Toon, as the publisher, how easy was it for you to market the magazine? You’re a great team and you have a known editor and the Dutch design is known all over the world. What was the reaction when you first went and tried to sell an ad or tried to get some sponsorship for the magazine?

Toon Lauwen: Initially we started out with an idea, so we made a crowdfunding campaign, Indiegogo. So, we did interviews and Mary did that to engage our public with the new idea of this magazine. As an independent, we had to start out using a network that we already had. I have been doing this for over 20 years. Mary is the figurehead, so to speak, and she has actually done a lot of good footwork with those designers and brands in Italy and all over Europe to make all of those connections, also with the advertisers.

That footwork really enabled us to make direct contact with the advertisers, the bosses of those brands, to ask them to support our magazine in the middle of the year, because we started out in May or June. So, our campaign was concentrated in mid-season, summer. It wasn’t a piece of cake, that’s for sure.

But nevertheless, we’ve found a true optimism with the people and an involvement with them at the brands, helping us out, buying advertisements, and also with the readership through subscriptions and single issues, just based on a campaign or an idea and largely dependent on an image that Mary put out as an editor in chief of the title that she worked at before.

Samir Husni: Was it all just a stroll through a rose garden, or should I say; a tulip walk…

Toon Lauwen: (Laughs).

Samir Husni: …that you had no stumbling blocks and no problems? Or did you have stumbling blocks, and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them?

portretten-ronald-vd-kempMary Hessing: What was really difficult was we started out with no money, with just this idea, so we asked a lot of people to help us. We did the crowdfunding campaign, but even before that we had been asking people from our network if they would help us out with the content. And I received all positive responses, everyone was really supportive and really thought we should do the magazine. Everybody felt there was a need for a project like this and that it would definitely get off the ground. Then we did the crowdfunding campaign, and I also asked the people I used to work with, most of them are freelancers now, to help us out with making the magazine.

So, we had the contacts and the crowdfunding. Then we had to actually make the pages. And everyone helped us for as long as they could, but at the end of the day we’re the only ones responsible for getting it to the printers. We are really grateful and happy that everybody was so supportive and helpful, but it can only stretch so far.

Samir Husni: How difficult is it for you as a couple to work together?

Toon Lauwen: It’s really easy because I’m writing a lot, so my concentration is totally different. To begin with, I work best in the mornings and Mary works at night, until 2 or 3:00 a.m. I’m always reasoning in my head what to write, which usually takes a lot of time and concentration for me. But now there was no time for that. We had to produce a lot of text.

Mary Hessing: You are two different people in your thought patterns, but also on energy levels as well. So, I work at night and normally I sleep very well. But these days, with the magazine, sleep was very difficult, so I was awake a lot. I would go to bed late and rise really early because I knew there were things we had to do for the magazine. So I would just do it.

Toon Lauwen: We’ve worked together before, of course. But then I was writing for a former magazine, but now we’re really teaming up because we’re both responsible for getting it to the printer and getting the bills paid, etc. We’re a business team. And that does take some adjustment, but on the other hand it’s also something we like to do. With our house, we did it together.

Mary Hessing: We renovated 15,000 squares and we’re still together, so I think we can argue, but we will manage. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If we’re talking one year from now about the magazine; what do you hope you could tell me that Woth had achieved in that year?

Mary Hessing: I would really like the magazine to have a solid base and have a strong and healthy existence. And that it has secured its right to exist. And I want it to stand out independently from other magazines.

Toon Lauwen: We started out as a new title, typically niche, since it’s about design. And the name itself, calling it “Wonderful Things,” we want it to reach out to people with its ideas and its motivation of people who work with design, but not only designers, just anyone creative in general, chefs and any other professions. So, we made the format a bit broader that just the theory of design only. That’s what we were trying to do with the title, “Wonderful Things,” and the brand.

mary437defbwphotokasiagatkowskaMary Hessing: Also, I wrote for many years for two other design titles and working with design can be difficult. When you look at all of the living magazines around the world, a lot are based on the same formula and it’s very difficult to make it personal, so we’re really trying to find a way to make Woth personal. And we’re doing this by focusing on the creatives. Whatever we do we want to put them central. And in a way I think this could be like a human interest idea for a design and interior decorating magazine. I think people are interested in these people in the magazine; they’re superstars in a way, and they have a very nice way of living and great view of the world, so we really want to speak to them on a personal level.

This is what we’re aiming for. We want it to be personal. What I get back from people is the way it’s written, it is really personal.

Toon Lauwen: We also want to reach out to a larger community than the Dutch one, because that’s the reason we took it into an English version too, to have a larger exposure and make it possible to be more European. And that’s also a twist of the necessary optimism it takes to move forward. We tried to show the quality of the magazine with the paper, the lettering and the typeface, etc.

So, we hope that we can answer your question about where we’ll be in a year by saying we have evolved from a local niche magazine to bit more European, and that we even have a global reach.

Mary Hessing: Because of my work, I’ve been visiting countries and people everywhere and there is this connection between people, the way that they look at their lives, the way they live them. The people I work with, the agents and photographers internationally; these are all very nice and interesting people. I feel like there’s already a connection and I’d really like this magazine to be a magnet for that as well

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

Mary Hessing: I’d like to emphasize that Dutch Designer Gert Dumbar made our logo. He’s an old family friend of mine and he did this as a favor to us. And I’m really proud of it.

Samir Husni: It really looks good.

Mary Hessing: It’s so funny because I asked this really elderly gentleman to make something really bold and daring and fantastic, and when I asked him for the logo for “Wonderful Things,” he thought the word Woth was a strange and intriguing word. It’s such a strong logo and I think in a way there’s a little bit of the 1980s influence there, and I think it’s interesting because everybody is now looking at the ‘80s for inspiration and we have the real thing. He’s from the spirit, so I think this is very interesting that all these other people are copying this idea and we have the real thing.

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

Mary Hessing: I would probably be putting my children to bed which takes forever. (Laughs) I always like to make up with them for all of the things I missed during the day, so that takes time.

Toon Lauwen: I might be watching a documentary or reading a book. I read about history a lot.

Mary Hessing: He’s also a great cook and he always says that he cooks and it’s his gift to us and it is. But actually it’s his hobby, his way to relax.

Samir Husni: And you’re based in The Hague, correct?

Mary Hessing: Yes, we are.

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

Mary Hessing: Living up to expectations from other people, not normally, but especially about this project.

Toon Lauwen: I’m always reasoning in my head about a tagline, or just some small thing. I’ve been a worrier since I was young; it’s my nature. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Art+Design Magazine: From New Orleans To The World With Love – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steve Martin, Founder & Publisher, Art+Design Magazine.

September 19, 2016

“While the Internet shows you what’s out there, it’s not what you always see. There are images that look great on the Internet, but once you see them in person, they’re not that hot. So, I think someone spending $25,000 and up for a painting rarely will buy it sight unseen on the Internet, unless it has provenance that it’s to an artist they have already experienced on some more intimate level in person. art-design

“Taking that idea and putting it back to the magazine; it’s like when people look at an artwork, they want to have a tactile experience, so picking up a magazine and looking at it, feeling the weight of the magazine in your hand, the thickness of the paper, the high visual quality of what’s on the page; it kind of creates a world that you can get sucked into. It captures your attention and your emotions, and you can experience it by holding it in your hand, take it home with you and read it at your leisure. It’s just a completely, I think, more rewarding experience than looking at an online magazine.” Steve Martin

Art+Design magazine is a New Orleans-based publication that is spreading its local wings and going global. Something its founder and publisher, Steve Martin, said has been the ultimate goal all along. The magazine is taking on the luxury market and adding a healthy dash of creative artistry to the mix by viewing each and every topic from an artistic lens, an interesting concept that certainly spices things up and changes the niche game entirely.

I spoke with Steve recently and we talked about his “worldly” expectations for Art+Design and also touched on the local insert that will soon start plumping the book with even more goodness of content, his new magazine called Canvas, an idea that came to him as he thought about some local advertisers who might get left behind with the new global slant of the parent publication.

Steve is an artist and a patron saint of the art districts of New Orleans and Miami, having galleries in both for quite some time. Today, he concentrates on his own studio in the Crescent City and his magazines that promise to bring art, fashion, photography, interiors and many other luxury topics to the four corners of the world, all covered in the creative style he knows so well, the artists’ eye. He is a man who is open about his deep and abiding faith in God and his sheer sincerity shines through each and every expression of his work that he shares.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very informative and interesting discussion with an artist and a creator of print that is both an entrepreneur and an experienced publisher in his own right, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve Martin, Founder and Publisher, Art+Design magazine.

Steve Martin

Steve Martin

But first the sound-bites:

On the history of Art+Design: I started thinking about where people were coming from when it came to my own art and it was the luxury market. And I began to think about luxury lifestyle magazines and how when you look at W Magazine, they have an art editorial in there and it really means something, and there’s Architectural Digest that has an art essay in it, and it really just stands out. I came up with the idea of creating a magazine that encompassed art, design and the experience of that luxury lifestyle and that’s where Art+Design came from.

On why he felt that a print magazine was the best platform for Art+Design: It’s like when people look at an artwork, they want to have a tactile experience, so picking up a magazine and looking at it, feeling the weight of the magazine in your hand, the thickness of the paper, the high visual quality of what’s on the page; it kind of creates a world that you can get sucked into. It captures your attention and your emotions, and you can experience it by holding it in your hand, take it home with you and read it at your leisure. It’s just a completely, I think, more rewarding experience than looking at an online magazine.

On why he decided to go global with the magazine:
New Orleans has definitely injected into the world a great number of very influential people: writers, artists and musicians. It’s the birthplace of jazz and there’s quite a bit of culture that has permeated the world from New Orleans. I was thought that New Orleans was on the same level as New York and Paris in its cultural impact. And I really thought it should be elevated and there was nothing in New Orleans that elevated New Orleans or made anyone think of anything that they weren’t already thinking, which was that we were provincial. So, when I started this thing out I wanted it to be an international magazine. It was never meant to just stay local. My long-term vision was to launch it into the international public eye as quickly as possible.

On why he thinks it took so long for someone like himself to come along and realize that the city of New Orleans was deserving of a global magazine that documented the luxury lifestyle in an artistic way: It’s a little bit of that provincial nature that everyone saw from outside New Orleans. They weren’t off; it is provincial in a way. It’s a hip little city and a tight community. It’s done a certain way.

On whether he believes that as long as there is art, there will be print: Yes. I think that the demise of print magazines is premature. I don’t think that the Internet can give the experience that a magazine does. Now, will it kill off the weaker magazines; yes, it’s already done that. You’ve seen the decline in the print market and that’s due to the weaning process that’s heightened by the Internet. I don’t think that you get a chance to hang around if you’re not staying alive by figuring out how to stay alive. You have to be proactive in it. You can’t just create it, then let it coast.

On how he is being proactive with Art+Design:
We’re assignment driven, so we get submissions all of the time, but that’s never really worked out for us, so it’s really just keeping our eyes opened and looking at world trends. One of the things that I try to do, and is an interesting direction, I think, is that because New Orleans is that international city; we look for stories that are in the world and either have some thread back to New Orleans, and that can be really thin, or from a story that’s already here and has some effect out in the world.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face and how he overcame it:
I guess it was the money because I started with none. I didn’t have a backer; it’s self-sustaining, I guess. The way that I created it was I took a notepad and I laid out 80 pages, hand-drawn in the notepad, and then I went into Vanity Fair, Vogue and Architectural Digest and Art News and tore pages out of those magazines and then created an 80-page, stapled together copy of those stripped out pages and I walked around the city and I showed people my notebook of what I wanted to design and what I wanted the layout of the magazine to be and the concept behind it, and then I showed them the ads and the stories that were in the stripped out pages that I had, and I said this is what I’m shooting for, for my magazine to be of this caliber and quality and this level of publication.
And I basically sold enough ads from that to start it, so the difficulty has been every issue for the first four years now has been hand-to-mouth.

On what kind of art he creates: My website is stevemartinfineart.com and I paint, sculpt and draw. I make prints. I’m self-taught, so I haven’t run into anything that I haven’t tried. (Laughs) I’m always experimenting. Again, I came from a little town and I have always been an artist. I won a competition when I was five years old and I got to go on television for an art piece that I did. And that’s when I decided that I wanted to be an artist. I got all that attention and some candy. And I’ve stayed with it.

On anything else he’d like to add: Art+Design is meant to be the global magazine, I want it to be on par with Vanity Fair, Town & Country, Architectural Digest; all of those magazines. That’s been the goal, to be in that peer group. Now that I have launched into that arena and we’re striving to get there, the local market at some point may get left behind, not in content all the way, but the ability for some of the local advertisers to hang. So, I came up with the idea of Canvas, our new magazine, and the name came from the art side; a blank canvas full of infinite possibilities. And then the other side of the coin is when you move into a new area you canvas the area to see what’s cool and what’s going on. So I took that as the catalyst for Canvas and decided that could be the growth vehicle, a certain level where the main focus would be Art+Design, but we could create an attachable magazine called Canvas Chicago; Canvas New Orleans; Canvas Atlanta; Canvas Miami, and then grow it from there.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: Sleeping, because I don’t stop. A few years ago, I sort of started over in my life, and I started the magazine at that same time. And I had a painting studio uptown New Orleans that’s literally a 10×10 room and I moved into that and basically took everything that I could make or create and I would put it into the magazine. So, I still live in that 10×10 room; I don’t need anything else because I just come here and sleep. I’m typically always working. If you want to catch me in the afternoon; I’ll probably be at work and we could have dinner, but when I go home, it’s just to fall into bed exhausted.

On what keeps him up at night: Nothing; I’ve come to a place in my life where, and I think it was in the last publisher’s letter before this, you can see some of the stuff I write a lot about, my experiences. One of the things that I used to do was come up with an idea; work like hell to make it come to pass, and then worry it to death. I’d worry about it all of the time. I have since learned through my faith to change my attitude from worrying about everything to having faith that things will work out. So, I haven’t changed my work ethic, I still come up with a zillion ideas and I still tenaciously work hard at it, but rather than worrying about it all of the time, now I have faith that it will either be or not be and I’m leaving that up to God to decide and then I just keep moving forward.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve Martin, founder and publisher, Art+Design magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the national launch of Art+Design. I picked up the magazine recently and loved it.

Steve Martin: Thank you. We’ve been working on it quite a while. We actually, through Curtis Circulation, went global with this issue, so we’re shipping magazines from Iceland, throughout Europe and down into Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and then Panama, with more countries coming.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of Art+Design.

Steve Martin: I’m an artist and I have a gallery on Julia Street in New Orleans and have had one there since the 1990s. It has always been a challenge as an artist and a gallery owner to build a sustainable branding campaign through advertising. The cash flow was always so uneven. And it made it difficult to assign contracts to get breaks for advertising in the magazine that we thought would bring buyers to the door.

So, I had always been interested in magazines since I was a kid. I grew up in a little rural town near Alexandria, Louisiana called Tioga. I’d joke around and say the only art they had in the whole town was the calendar that was at the gas station. It was very rural. But somehow in that rural setting I would get my hands on interior design magazines and I was amazed at all of the architecture and interiors that I saw in them. So I started looking at magazines and magazine design, and that was back in the 60s and 70s.

I moved to New Orleans in 1987 and was “discovered” by a gallery owner and I began having one-man shows, building my art career up from there. In the process of my art career, I became the president of the arts district here in New Orleans. And I did that up until Katrina hit. And when I moved to Miami to keep my New Orleans gallery going, I opened up two places and for three years I flew back and forth each month, from New Orleans to Miami. While in Miami, I created an arts district down there called “Miami Art Design and Entertainment District,” which was in what’s now the Design District, and later became Wynwood.

In the process of creating that district, I was trying to figure out a way to advertise the district and what we’d done in New Orleans was to create a walking brochure that basically had a little blurb about each gallery and a map and directory. So, I posed that to the people who became members of that organization down there and we had something that we’d never had in New Orleans, which was money to operate on. We had 110 members and they all put about $2,500, so we had $250,000 of operating cash for the 501(c) (3) to promote ourselves.

The young man that I was working with to create the walking brochure; we sat down and we started thinking about it and he said that this was kind of an opportunity to create something like an airline magazine for our neighborhood, where it’s only shown around in the district and it only writes about the people, the members, who are in the district and it would contain the brochure, but it would have editorial about the galleries and the shops, content that we can basically control. Then all of those people could place their ads around it.

So, we created something called the “Miami Design District Guide.” And it’s still going. The young man that runs it is John White. And he was the publisher; I was just helping with sales and getting the members to come on board.

Then when New Orleans got on its feet and I moved back from Miami, I brought that idea back here and I created a little magazine called “Art New Orleans.” And it was just for the New Orleans arts district. The editorials were about the galleries and artists in the district and advertisers were the art galleries around it. It was very myopic in its vision and it was only about art, therefore subject to the cash flow problems that galleries and artists generally always struggle with. So, it was never really viable; it couldn’t grow. It was a 32-page, saddle stitched magazine and it was promotional in nature. We only wrote about the people who advertised in there, or the district. And it stayed around for seven years; it was just kind of there. But it gave me an opportunity to learn a whole lot about the nature of publishing and what people are looking for and how to work within the industry.

When John White decided that after seven years of not making any money, actually losing money, that he didn’t want to be a part of the New Orleans one anymore, I offered to buy him out and he said no, let’s just let it kind of go away, and I told him that I was going to start another magazine and he said OK, and he went his way and I went mine and it was all on good terms.

I sat for a year thinking about how I wanted to move forward. And what I determined was magazines, basically being myopic in their vision, really got attention from the academic crowd, from other gallery owners and from other artists and teachers. And those were people interested in art and interested in seeing themselves in print and interested in what was going on in the art world. But it didn’t really bring a lot of art buyers in. And that’s what sustains the business.

So, I started thinking about where people were coming from when it came to my own art and it was the luxury market. And I began to think about luxury lifestyle magazines and how when you look at W Magazine, they have an art editorial in there and it really means something, and there’s Architectural Digest that has an art essay in it and it really just stands out.

I came up with the idea of creating a magazine that encompassed art, design and the experience of that luxury lifestyle and that’s where Art+Design came from. It’s a simple name, and because it’s so simple, I guess that’s why it was still there. I started looking for magazine names to name the publication and it seemed like everything that I could think of for a name had already been taken and was a magazine somewhere in the world. Finally it just came down to Art+Design, which is what it is, and that wasn’t taken and it worked, and it said what we were going to do.

So, the whole concept behind the magazine’s vision looked at every aspect of the luxury lifestyle through an artistic lens, and used that as the catalyst to write about whatever we wrote about, so it could be fashion or whatever; it’s an artistic view about fashion. Or if it’s an interior design, it’s an artist’s residence or an artistic view of the residence, because it’s different or it has a great art collection. And I thought that was something that may show up in other magazines, but it isn’t really focused on in other magazines. And that was the catalyst for the nature of what we were going to put out.

Samir Husni: Why did you feel that a printed magazine was the best platform for you to promote the art district and that luxury lifestyle?art-2

Steve Martin: Having experience with art, I know the Internet is a great research engine and it allows you to get out and look around to determine where things are that you might like or what you might like, but it’s not a great vehicle for selling art. You don’t know what you get until you have bought it and received it by mail basically. When you buy a painting, I think it’s a lot more of a tactile experience. You want to walk up to it and look at it; you want to touch it and have that intimate experience of being next to it when you’re thinking about bringing it home and putting it on your wall.

And while the Internet shows you what’s out there, it’s not what you always see. There are images that look great on the Internet, but once you see them in person, they’re not that hot. So, I think someone spending $25,000 and up for a painting rarely will buy it sight unseen on the Internet, unless it has provenance that it’s to an artist they have already experienced on some more intimate level in person.

Taking that idea and putting it back to the magazine; it’s like when people look at an artwork, they want to have a tactile experience, so picking up a magazine and looking at it, feeling the weight of the magazine in your hand, the thickness of the paper, the high visual quality of what’s on the page; it kind of creates a world that you can get sucked into. It captures your attention and your emotions, and you can experience it by holding it in your hand, take it home with you and read it at your leisure. It’s just a completely, I think, more rewarding experience than looking at an online magazine.

Samir Husni: And why did you make the decision to have a magazine that is still based in New Orleans, but now also global?

Steve Martin: I’ve always thought of New Orleans as an international city. And I experienced a little bit of frustration in Miami because it was another international city and I thought the closeness in the culture would make it a really easy transition. I really enjoyed Miami but the perception that people from different parts of the world have of New Orleans is quite different than what people in New Orleans think. We had Katrina going on at that time, and then there was the mayor of New Orleans who was always in the news with something he had done, and most of what people thought of about New Orleans was that it was a great place to visit, very historic, a lot of fun because of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but other than that people thought of it as being very provincial.

And being from Louisiana and New Orleans; New Orleans has definitely injected into the world a great number of very influential people: writers, artists and musicians. It’s the birthplace of jazz and there’s quite a bit of culture that has permeated the world from New Orleans. I was thought that New Orleans was on the same level as New York and Paris in its cultural impact. And I really thought it should be elevated and there was nothing in New Orleans that elevated New Orleans or made anyone think of anything that they weren’t already thinking, which was that we were provincial.

So, when I started this thing out I wanted it to be an international magazine. It was never meant to just stay local. My long-term vision was to launch it into the international public eye as quickly as possible.

Samir Husni: In your letter from the publisher you quote Tennessee Williams: the United States has three major cities, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans. And everywhere else is Cleveland.

Steve Martin: Yes, that was in my publisher’s letter. art-design-pl-2

Samir Husni: There are plenty of magazines in New Orleans; why do you think it took so long for someone like yourself to come along and recognize what a cultural hub New Orleans is and that it should be made more global than it already is by documenting that globalization?

Steve Martin: It’s a little bit of that provincial nature that everyone saw from outside New Orleans. They weren’t off; it is provincial in a way. It’s a hip little city and a tight community. It’s done a certain way.

One of the things that I run into a lot is there are some advertisers here that aren’t global, but could be global advertisers. And I’ve approached them with the magazine and they’re not interested in advertising because we’re not a social magazine. All of the other magazines in New Orleans pretty much are social. There are pictures of who’s who, where they work, and the party, who they were with and so on. And that’s the local attitude. I don’t think they thought they could be more than what they were. They’ve been like they have for so long and that’s all that has mattered. New Orleans is somewhat isolated in its business culture; people do a lot of business out of New Orleans in different places, but it’s kind of closely-held here. I guess. And I don’t think they’ve dared to have the vision to see themselves in that arena somehow.

And there was really nothing else out there for them to do, it was kind of just what was available, I guess. I haven’t seen anything like that available to them in the 20 years that I’ve been here, a magazine that would not be just locally oriented.

Samir Husni: As an artist, do you believe that as long as there’s art, there will be print?

Steve Martin: Yes. I think that the demise of print magazines is premature. I don’t think that the Internet can give the experience that a magazine does. Now, will it kill off the weaker magazines; yes, it’s already done that. You’ve seen the decline in the print market and that’s due to the weaning process that’s heightened by the Internet. I don’t think that you get a chance to hang around if you’re not staying alive by figuring out how to stay alive. You have to be proactive in it. You can’t just create it, then let it coast.

Samir Husni: How do you do that? How are you being creative and not just letting it coast? How are you being proactive with Art+Design?

Steve Martin: We’re assignment driven, so we get submissions all of the time, but that’s never really worked out for us, so it’s really just keeping our eyes opened and looking at world trends. One of the things that I try to do, and is an interesting direction, I think, is that because New Orleans is that international city; we look for stories that are in the world and either have some thread back to New Orleans, and that can be really thin, or from a story that’s already here and has some effect out in the world.

We just try and keep our ears to the ground and really look for interesting things to write about because we want our editorial to be strong. It’s not a pay-to-play magazine, so we have a wall of separation between the editorials and the advertising, which is another thing that New Orleans is kind of bad about. It’s like all of the advertising here drives the editorial in most of the magazines. Not all of it, but a lot of it; a good portion of it.

In my experience with Art New Orleans, which was a little art promotional magazine that I did, it was all promotional and one of the comments that we received was, after a while people realized that you were only written about if you paid for it, and so it lost some of its impact. So, we made a decision to, with the creation of this magazine, or I made a decision, to keep that completely separate. You cannot buy an ad and get an article. It has to stand on its own legs. We don’t punish you if you’re an advertiser with a good story, we’ll write about it. But the key is it has to be a good story.

So with that said we look for good interesting stories. We’re not investigative journalism, it’s a lot of feel-good stuff; it’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff, we just like to write entertaining stories with witty and pithy commentary and points-of-view that people will enjoy reading. If you have a strong, visual content with no story behind it, it’s going to be just fluff, so we put in what we think are strong readable stories and then try to amaze everybody with the visual content, which is the art side of it.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Steve Martin: I guess it was the money because I started with none. I didn’t have a backer; it’s self-sustaining, I guess. The way that I created it was I took a notepad and I laid out 80 pages, hand-drawn in the notepad, and then I went into Vanity Fair, Vogue and Architectural Digest and Art News and tore pages out of those magazines and then created an 80-page, stapled together copy of those stripped out pages and I walked around the city and I showed people my notebook of what I wanted to design and what I wanted the layout of the magazine to be and the concept behind it, and then I showed them the ads and the stories that were in the stripped out pages that I had, and I said this is what I’m shooting for, for my magazine to be of this caliber and quality and this level of publication.

And I basically sold enough ads from that to start it, so the difficulty has been every issue for the first four years now has been hand-to-mouth. There hasn’t been a cash cushion, so that makes things pretty nerve-wracking from time to time. And it’s based on what we sell in ads as to how thick the magazine is going to be and we’ve been blessed by people getting onboard and staying with us.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you’re an artist, so do you paint or sculpt; what type of art do you create?

Steve Martin: My website is stevemartinfineart.com and I paint, sculpt and draw. I make prints. I’m self-taught, so I haven’t run into anything that I haven’t tried. (Laughs) I’m always experimenting. Again, I came from a little town and I have always been an artist. I won a competition when I was five years old and I got to go on television for an art piece that I did. And that’s when I decided that I wanted to be an artist. I got all that attention and some candy. And I’ve stayed with it.

My father was a contractor, a practical man who taught me business and the values of hard work and determination. A lot of what I’ve done is that I haven’t known any better. I didn’t know that I couldn’t do something, so I just tried it and was determined to make it work.

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

Steve Martin: Art+Design is meant to be the global magazine, I want it to be on par with Vanity Fair, Town & Country, Architectural Digest; all of those magazines. That’s been the goal, to be in that peer group. Now that I have launched into that arena and we’re striving to get there, the local market at some point may get left behind, not in content all the way, but the ability for some of the local advertisers to hang.

So, I thought about how I wanted to expand this thing, what model I wanted to follow. One of the models that I looked at was modern luxury magazines and they have the different city magazines, such as Houston, C.S., and D.C. They have 26 labels. A certain percentage of each magazine is national content, similar across the board, and then depending on the local sales team’s ability, another percentage is for that city. And I thought that was one growth model, but it seemed cumbersome for what I had to work with here.

So, I came up with the idea of Canvas, our new magazine, and the name came from the art side; a blank canvas full of infinite possibilities. And then the other side of the coin is when you move into a new area you canvas the area to see what’s cool and what’s going on. So I took that as the catalyst for Canvas and decided that could be the growth vehicle, a certain level where the main focus would be Art+Design, but we could create an attachable magazine called Canvas Chicago; Canvas New Orleans; Canvas Atlanta; Canvas Miami, and then grow it from there. canvas

That was the thinking, how to bring local promotional content into magazine without compromising the integrity of the magazine. And I came up with creating a separate magazine that goes along with it where you could write profiles and you could put in advertorials and do things that were a little bit more local-based. I jokingly say that it’s going to be a cross between Scout Guide and Where Magazine.

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

Steve Martin: Sleeping, because I don’t stop. A few years ago, I sort of started over in my life, and I started the magazine at that same time. And I had a painting studio uptown New Orleans that’s literally a 10×10 room and I moved into that and basically took everything that I could make or create and I would put it into the magazine. So, I still live in that 10×10 room; I don’t need anything else because I just come here and sleep. I’m typically always working. If you want to catch me in the afternoon; I’ll probably be at work and we could have dinner, but when I go home, it’s just to fall into bed exhausted.

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

Steve Martin: Nothing; I’ve come to a place in my life where, and I think it was in the last publisher’s letter before this, you can see some of the stuff I write a lot about, my experiences. One of the things that I used to do was come up with an idea; work like hell to make it come to pass, and then worry it to death. I’d worry about it all of the time.

I have since learned through my faith to change my attitude from worrying about everything to having faith that things will work out. So, I haven’t changed my work ethic, I still come up with a zillion ideas and I still tenaciously work hard at it, but rather than worrying about it all of the time, now I have faith that it will either be or not be and I’m leaving that up to God to decide and then I just keep moving forward. If something fails, it’s a learning experience that I can incorporate into the next thing. I’ve had enough successes and failures in life to know that it’s life and mountains and valleys come and you never know where they’re going to be, you just have to have your head on right so that you can get through whatever. If you’re at the top of the mountain, don’t let it give you the big head, and if you’re in the valley, don’t despair.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Forbes’ Editor Randall Lane Celebrates Five Years & Proves The Golden Age For Print Magazines Has Only Just Begun – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Randall Lane, Editor, Forbes Magazine

September 6, 2016

Randall 2016

“We just got our new MRI numbers a few weeks ago. Forbes magazine is at the highest print readership in its 99 year history; print readership. Not online, but print. And that’s MRI, independent research. We’re well over six million and pushing toward seven million readers in print, and we’ve never hot those numbers before.” Randall Lane

“This year, we had our highest, best-read print magazine ever; the cover with Ashton Kutcher had 8.8 million readers for that issue. So, when you do it right, the market for print magazines is as big as it’s ever been, maybe bigger than it’s ever been, as shown by the numbers. Our newsstand sales over the last five years have crept up, while our draw has gone down and our average price point has gone up. It’s a hard balance, but we’re able to do it because we’re putting out a more focused product and being smart about it.” Randall Lane

forbes cover 072616 celebrity kardashianAs Forbes magazine prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2017, the legacy brand’s editor, Randall Lane is celebrating his fifth year at the helm. And according to the title’s latest numbers, there is much for Randall and the magazine to be excited about.

Randall has taken Forbes magazine to peak levels of readership. According to this spring’s MRI report, the title’s readership is at 6.8 million in the U.S., a new all-time high in their 99-year history. And the magazine’s most-read issue ever, featuring Ashton Kutcher on the cover, was published this April and had 8.8 million readers. Over the past five years, Randall has also focused on investing more in the magazine, as well as uncovering new ways to develop and deliver content for today’s magazine reader. For example, he uses data from online content to learn about what content readers want most. And it is these innovative ideas that have given birth to the realization that the golden age of print may have just begun.

I spoke with Randall recently and we talked about the upcoming 100th anniversary of Forbes and about his five-years as captain of the very large ship. Internationally, Forbes content and its mission of entrepreneurial capitalism continue to resonate, particularly with emerging economies. As he sees it, when people from around the world look to the United States for present-day heroes, it’s at the entrepreneurs that continue to bravely climb those mountains that most wouldn’t dare to.

Randall has also been focused on capturing the millennial audience and, based on the numbers; a new generation of doers is highly engaged with Forbes content across multiple platforms. Over the last seven years, Forbes magazine has seen a 50% increase with readers aged 18-34 – the largest increase of all 144 publications measured by MRI. Shortly after joining in 2011, Randall launched the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list and has since transformed it into one of Forbes’ most successful franchises. Today the Forbes’ Under 30 franchise is a global multichannel platform, which comprises 30 Under 30 lists published in print and online all over the world; live summits in the U.S., Asia and Israel; an Under 30 channel on Forbes.com and a Forbes Under 30 app.

So, having all of this to celebrate, and an upcoming centennial anniversary to boot; well, needless to say, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Randall Lane was a creative and interesting conversation about Forbes, past and present, and the bright future of print that he is a strong believer in. And Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with him.

Up first the sound-bites:

On how his role as an editor has changed over the years: That’s a good question. In my opinion, the editor’s role has gotten so much more interesting and three-dimensional. You can’t look at a magazine as simply an inorganic printed media product, but as one platform of a multiplatform entity that’s really about telling a story and using a brand to reach as many people as possible, and be as groundbreaking as possible. So, to me, over the last five to ten years, the job has become much more interesting and rewarding.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face over the years and how he overcame it: The stumbling blocks are really only opportunities. Forbes is all about entrepreneurship and it’s been that way for 99 years. And entrepreneurship is all about problem-solving and taking advantage of opportunities, and both the stumbling block and the opportunity over the last five years has been how do you take a brand, and Mike Perlis (President & CEO, Forbes Media) has said it many times; how do we build a company as big as the brand, and specifically for Forbes magazine; how do we take that reputation that we have, one that’s almost a century old, where you have people like Bruno Mars singing “I want to be on the cover of Forbes magazine,” we’re one of those iconic brands that means something, and everybody knows what it means; so how do you build a product that over delivers on their promise, so that’s what we’ve done over the last five years.

Forbes First EditionOn his plans for Forbes magazine as it celebrates its centennial anniversary next year: We are neck-deep in planning. We’re almost exactly a year-out from the anniversary, and we have a team of about 10 people that’s been working on this already for about six months. I don’t want to give away any secrets, other than it will involve a lot of very big names, and most important, a lot of very cool innovations.

On whether he thinks print will always be around: Well, I think so. Magazines are inherently, if produced correctly, a form that humans love consuming. We just have to understand why they’re consuming them and understand that there was a point 30 or 40 years ago where magazines had, again, an oligopoly on information, because people had to read them. No they don’t have to read them, so you have to make it where they love to read them. That’s a challenge, but it’s also a huge opportunity.

On his secret recipe for gaining a new audience, while maintaining his long-time readers as well: It’s respect for the brand. And I started with Forbes out of college, so I respect the brand. We have so many veterans on the management team, such as Lewis DVorkin. We have so many people who have entrepreneurial experience who also respect the brand, so we’re not trying to change what Forbes is; we’re making it more Forbes. And expand that base to a larger audience.

On the need for the printed Forbes with all of the information that’s out there on the web: What the magazine isn’t trying to do is compete with all of that information, because it just can’t. What the magazine is meant to do is, in a world where there is so much information, we curate a package that’s inspiring and teaches lessons; it reveals things that you’ve never seen or read before, and thus it becomes kind of a beacon in a world where information is everywhere.

RandallLane with Hat 2016On how the term “brand voice” differentiates Forbes from everything else out there: Brand voice is our product in native advertising, but it differentiates because Forbes was a pioneer in doing that. It’s now become sort of an industry standard and a salvation. But again, Lewis and Forbes were the pioneers and took a lot of criticism, which I never really understood, because there has always been advertorial in native advertising for decades. The only difference is they were trying to disguise it as editorial. The innovation in the power brand voice is that it’s completely transparent and it gives brands a way to tell great stories in a completely transparent way.

On what he thinks the focus of Forbes will be in the near future: We’re focused on entrepreneurship, and it’s only going to get stronger coming out of the election. The future of America and the strength of America is entrepreneurship and the greatest stories of America are the Facebook’s; the Snapchat’s; and the Instagram’s; and the Uber’s, and these young innovative companies. These are the heroes of America right now. It’s very hard to look at politics and get anything more than a little queasy.

On Forbes’ investigative pieces: We won a Loeb Award a year ago for an investigative piece looking at the looting in Angola and actually following the money, and looking at how the daughter of the president suddenly became the first woman billionaire from Africa.

On whether we are in better or worse shape as journalists today in the U.S.: I think it’s two things: journalism is in better shape just because there is no longer a system where only a few people have the power of the press in a few companies; today, anyone with talent can be a journalist. Now, anybody who is talented can be a journalist and break stories and get noticed, in terms of doing it themselves, and/or having the opportunity to do it within an organization.

On what keeps him up at night: Continuing to innovate enough and not resting on our laurels. Complacency is part of human nature. Our numbers are good, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and say we’re done. This fall, we’re going to tweak the editorial formula, not really tweak, but we’re in constant reinvention.

FORBES 011816 gatefold
And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Randall Lane, Editor, Forbes Magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re approaching your fifth anniversary at Forbes, and over your entire career, you’ve technically done it all; from a food and restaurant critic to the editor of Justice Magazine and financial magazines. Can you tell me how your role as an editor has changed over the last five to ten years?

Randall Lane: That’s a good question. In my opinion, the editor’s role has gotten so much more interesting and three-dimensional. You can’t look at a magazine as simply an inorganic printed media product, but as one platform of a multiplatform entity that’s really about telling a story and using a brand to reach as many people as possible, and be as groundbreaking as possible. So, to me, over the last five to ten years, the job has become much more interesting and rewarding. And if it’s done right, the outcome is much better, because you’re able to reach people in so many different ways and change lives in so many different ways.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face over the years and how did you overcome it?

Randall Lane: The stumbling blocks are really only opportunities. Forbes is all about entrepreneurship and it’s been that way for 99 years. And entrepreneurship is all about problem-solving and taking advantage of opportunities, and both the stumbling block and the opportunity over the last five years has been how do you take a brand, and Mike Perlis (President & CEO, Forbes Media) has said it many times; how do we build a company as big as the brand, and specifically for Forbes magazine; how do we take that reputation that we have, one that’s almost a century old, where you have people like Bruno Mars singing “I want to be on the cover of Forbes magazine,” we’re one of those iconic brands that means something, and everybody knows what it means; so how do you build a product that over delivers on their promise, so that’s what we’ve done over the last five years.

We’ve honed in on how we can make the magazine experience richer and more “magazinier,” to coin a new word. How do you look at the environment of magazines that no longer have an oligopoly on information, and realize that it’s no longer enough to just print information on dead trees for the audience? We have to create an exceptional magazine experience specifically for our audience. We’ve made the articles longer and more in depth; we’ve invested a lot in photography, and we’ve invested in paper. We’ve strengthened the classic Forbes point of view, so that every story has an attitude and a voice. We’ve focused on packaging, so that when you read the print product, you see different elements on every page. Those are all things that are accentuated by print magazines. Again, we’ve focused on what makes magazines great, because quick stories that are timely and on the news are better for the website.

Samir Husni: What are your plans for Forbes magazine as it celebrates its 100th anniversary next year?

Randall Lane: We are neck-deep in planning. We’re almost exactly a year-out from the anniversary, and we have a team of about 10 people that’s been working on this already for about six months. I don’t want to give away any secrets, other than it will involve a lot of very big names, and most important, a lot of very cool innovations, because what we’re going to do with the centennial is not just honor and focus on the past, but also focus on the future and use it as a springboard to show what business, entrepreneurship and also what magazines can be like for the next 100 years.

Samir Husni: Can you think of any other product or any other entities, besides magazines in print that have lasted for such a long time?

Randall Lane: Electricity. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Randall Lane: Telephones?

Samir Husni: So, as long as we have electricity and telephones, we’ll have magazines?

forbes cover midas kutcher domestic 04-19-2016Randall Lane: (Laughs) Well, I think so. Magazines are inherently, if produced correctly, a form that humans love consuming. We just have to understand why they’re consuming them and understand that there was a point 30 or 40 years ago where magazines had, again, an oligopoly on information, because people had to read them. No they don’t have to read them, so you have to make it where they love to read them. That’s a challenge, but it’s also a huge opportunity.

We just got our new MRI numbers a few weeks ago. Forbes magazine is at the highest print readership in its 99 year history; print readership. Not online, but print. And that’s MRI, independent research. We’re well over six million and pushing toward seven million readers in print, and we’ve never hot those numbers before.

This year, we had our highest, best-read print magazine ever; the cover with Ashton Kutcher had 8.8 million readers for that issue. So, when you do it right, the market for print magazines is as big as it’s ever been, maybe bigger than it’s ever been, as shown by the numbers. Our newsstand sales over the last five years have crept up, while our draw has gone down and our average price point has gone up. It’s a hard balance, but we’re able to do it because we’re putting out a more focused product and being smart about it. If you look at our readership; the average median age, and I think this is key to the driver, has gone down. We’re now at age 42 as our average reader. So, we have a bigger and younger readership. And looking at our research numbers, we also have the same HHI or slightly up, so we’re able to make it a richer readership too. That’s a very trick to pull off, but if you’re focused on the product, this can be a glorious time for print.

Samir Husni: You’ve managed to attract new readership without losing loyal, long-time readers; it hasn’t been either/or with you as it has with so many other magazines, and I give you and your editorial team and all the other people working at Forbes all the credit for that. What’s your secret? So many other magazines have tried, but many lose their old audience and never really gain traction with a new audience. But in your case, you’ve kept the old audience and gained a new audience as well. What’s your secret recipe?

Randall Lane: It’s respect for the brand. And I started with Forbes out of college, so I respect the brand. We have so many veterans on the management team, such as Lewis DVorkin. We have so many people who have entrepreneurial experience who also respect the brand, so we’re not trying to change what Forbes is; we’re making it more Forbes. And expand that base to a larger audience.

The core message of Forbes: entrepreneurial capitalism, has never been more resonant, because if you think about it, especially for young people, when they come out of college their career aspirations aren’t to get some job with a big corporation and work there for 40 years; they want to start their own thing. They want to be Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. And that’s always been what Forbes is about, so we happen to have a very resonant message. Entrepreneurship has never been more important, and we’ve been able to pivot slightly and also understand that we can embrace young entrepreneurship. The 30 Under 30 franchise has become an incredibly important driver for us. Every year we do the Under 30 Summit, it is the biggest live event that Forbes has ever done.

So, we’re able to reach that younger audience, but this is also very relevant information for the more mature audience as well. It’s respectful of the core brand. There’s nobody craning their necks and saying, wait a second, this isn’t the magazine that I’m used to. Hopefully, it’s just a better, more relevant version of what they’ve always enjoyed.

Samir Husni: As you move forward and we, as a country, get through this crazy election year, do you think as you enter your centennial anniversary, you’ll find there’s more need for Forbes than ever before? There is so much information out there, but who is doing the curation?

Randall Lane: That’s a really smart question and the answer is, you’re so right about there being more information out there, that’s why forbes.com, and we just got our comScore numbers recently, and forbes.com just hit its highest ever readership; we’re at 52 million on comScore, which is more than twice of the Wall Street Journal. So, for all of that information out there, we have an amazing website to juggernaut business media and it’s able to do that.

But what the magazine isn’t trying to do is compete with all of that information, because it just can’t. What the magazine is meant to do is, in a world where there is so much information, we curate a package that’s inspiring and teaches lessons; it reveals things that you’ve never seen or read before, and thus it becomes kind of a beacon in a world where information is everywhere. It says, OK, here’s your regular dose of inspiration and cool stories to get yourself motivated to go out and change the world as much as you can.

Samir Husni: You’re the first entity that I remember to use the term “brand voice.” Why do you think coming up with the term “brand voice” instead of native advertising or content marketing, or whatever the current buzzword terminology is; how does the term “brand voice” differentiate from everything else that’s out there?

0524_forbes-cover-self-made-women-06-21-2016Randall Lane: Brand voice is our product in native advertising, but it differentiates because Forbes was a pioneer in doing that. It’s now become sort of an industry standard and a salvation. But again, Lewis and Forbes were the pioneers and took a lot of criticism, which I never really understood, because there has always been advertorial in native advertising for decades. The only difference is they were trying to disguise it as editorial. The innovation in the power brand voice is that it’s completely transparent and it gives brands a way to tell great stories in a completely transparent way. It’s something that has been copied, but we’re still the innovators in that area. It’s been a great driver in terms of allowing our company to produce great journalism.

Samir Husni: Looking into the future and at you celebrating your sixth anniversary as editor at Forbes; with the elections behind us, what do you imagine the focus of Forbes will be next year?

Randall Lane: We haven’t really focused much on the elections because the core purpose of Forbes is entrepreneurial capitalism. I actually personally wrote a story on Donald Trump last year for the Forbes 400, detailing his 30-year dance with Forbes. We have decades of history on questioning what his net worth was and is.

We’re focused on entrepreneurship, and it’s only going to get stronger coming out of the election. The future of America and the strength of America is entrepreneurship and the greatest stories of America are the Facebook’s; the Snapchat’s; and the Instagram’s; and the Uber’s; and these young innovative companies. These are the heroes of America right now. It’s very hard to look at politics and get anything more than a little queasy. But when you look at what people around the world are looking at when it comes to America; who are the icons of America that people look up to in every country as entrepreneurs and innovators? And that’s what Forbes has always celebrated and that’s what we’re celebrating now to a degree that we’ve never done before. We’re really trying to focus on those people who are changing the world.

We also do a lot of investigative stories. My mentor, Jim Michaels, used to call Forbes the drama critic of capitalism, because we’re all for calling out the bad guys too. We’re the place you can go to look for heroes, lessons and people who have done wrong as well.

Samir Husni: I remember you not only questioned Trump’s wealth, but also Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia’s wealth…

Randall Lane: We won a Loeb Award a year ago for an investigative piece looking at the looting in Angola and actually following the money, and looking at how the daughter of the president suddenly became the first woman billionaire from Africa. How does that happen? (Laughs) We were able to give a very definitive blueprint of how, in reality, a country can be looted. And what was hailed originally when she hit our billionaire’s list was kind of a moment, because we had a woman billionaire from Africa. When we kind of rooted and dug into why, it actually became quite a sensation. We had 400,000 views online for a story about Angolan money and it also won a Loeb Award, so there is a civic good to following the money.

Samir Husni: Separate yourself from Forbes for just a bit and put on just your journalist’s hat; are we in better or worse shape today as journalists in the United States?

Randall Lane: I think it’s two things: journalism is in better shape just because there is no longer a system where only a few people have the power of the press in a few companies; today, anyone with talent can be a journalist. Now, anybody who is talented can be a journalist and break stories and get noticed, in terms of doing it themselves, and/or having the opportunity to do it within an organization.

We’ve never had a more diverse set of media options, in terms of what you read; we’ve never had more opportunity if you have a story to tell when it comes to ways of putting it out. If you have a story that’s true, in this environment, it will find a way to get out and you don’t have to convince somebody in one of the ten places that matter to tell your story. And I think that’s very powerful.

The second thing is that the journalistic model, the model to produce journalism in a way that allows the journalist/storyteller to make a living is challenged and there are ways around that. Places like Forbes are thriving, but it is challenging. And that’s something that we obviously have to keep an eye on.

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

Randall Lane: Continuing to innovate enough and not resting on our laurels. Complacency is part of human nature. Our numbers are good, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and say we’re done. This fall, we’re going to tweak the editorial formula, not really tweak, but we’re in constant reinvention.

I don’t really like redesigns or re-architectures, because I think you only do that in a situation where things are really not good, but I think on the flipside, if you are constantly kind of renovating, such as with your house; what can we do better? You can look at things room by room to see what can be done better or differently. We want to be cutting edge and do things that continue to push our readers.

So, again this fall, you’ll see another kind of twist where we’re going to focus on context and make each page a little more contextual, so that you’re getting more and more things out of every page you turn, which again makes the print experience that much more relevant. It’s a new way of looking at it. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but we’re going to turn up the wheel a little.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor: August 2016 Vs. August 2015

September 2, 2016

Launch Monitor August 2016 vs 2015

To see all the new titles of 2016 so far please click here.

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