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The ‘Take’ On New England’s New Culture – Brought To You By A Magazine That Defines It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Michael Kusek, Publisher & Lauren Clark, Editor – Take Magazine. A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story.

August 3, 2015

A Mr. Magazine™ Interview.  Photo by Jared Senseman.

A Mr. Magazine™ Interview. Photo by Jared Senseman.

“The biggest challenge has been, with certain people, to counter this belief that print is on its way out, rather than saying that print is evolving. In our Kickstarter video and with people who have these mindsets, we sort of describe ourselves as being the modern magazine. And that what’s going to be interesting is not whether it’s print or digital. We have a print edition and an online edition that work together. You can get certain information from our online source that doesn’t translate into print, like video and audio, and you can get information through our print edition, such as really beautiful photography, stories that demand to be on the printed page, that doesn’t translate digitally. And that’s where this industry is going; print is not going away.” Michael Kusek

“It’s exciting to see your work in both formats, (print & digital) but in different ways. Having said that; I’m not sure how to describe to you how it’s different. I guess the web is more immediate and it generates that immediate, sort of social media response. But seeing your byline in print, on the printed page, it’s like your work is going into a permanent record. And I would think a lot of writers would say the same thing. It’s thrilling in both places for those different reasons.” Lauren Clark

take_001_cover_FINAL Bringing New England’s new culture to a passionate and diverse audience is the mission of Take magazine. From dance to art to theatre to food; Michael Kusek, publisher and Lauren Clark, editor of the magazine, due to debut its first issue in September 2015, are both very determined to make this the ink on paper place to be for people who want to be in the know about New England culture and each state’s distinctive “take” on that enlightenment.

Recently, I spoke with both Michael and Lauren about the upcoming September launch and the conception of the actual idea for Take. Michael took me on an eight year journey of how the magazine was born. From the initial thought way back when (2008) before publishing as we once knew it plummeted into the depths of despair, to a few years later when things once again began to pump up a lung and breathe again.

This is a story of passion and belief in a dream’s concept, so much so that the individual almost wills it into being. Michael is a man filled with that passion and the belief that a magazine that covers the entire New England area, not just one particular section, has a place on the marketplace reserved just for its uniqueness.

And Lauren is a woman with as much passion about the magazine as its publisher and the right person to complement the publication’s leader.

It’s a win/win situation and a total team effort, from designers to photographers, writers to salespeople. It’s a magazine conjoined with its digital counterpart, yet celebrated for its very different “take” on content that just doesn’t seem to be right for the web. It’s a great read and a visual extravaganza. And of course, there are so many twists you can create with the word “Take” that one can’t help but be fascinated by it.

So, sit down and “take” 15 minutes or so to read this new magazine’s contemporary “take” on New England culture; it’s sure to enlighten and entertain you. And “take” my word for it; you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Kusek, Publisher and Lauren Clark, Editor-In-Chief, Take magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

Michael Kusek and Lauren Clark. Photo by Dominic Perry.

Michael Kusek and Lauren Clark. Photo by Dominic Perry.

On why it took Michael eight years to actually launch Take magazine:
That’s a good question. When I started I was working at an alternative newsweekly here in western Massachusetts. I had made plans then to leave and start Take magazine, but I decided to go on a vacation first and was traveling overseas when the entire U.S. market went into the toilet. I came back and that’s when so many magazines were folding and it didn’t seem like a great time to go out and seek investors, so I put it on the backburner for a little while, until it looked like the industry was changing and getting a bit healthier.

On whether Lauren thought he was out of his mind when he asked her to be the editor of a print magazine in today’s digital world:
At first I said, wow, that’s really exciting. Yes, I’d love to be involved. And then as we started really talking about it and it became more serious, I thought to myself, is this idea crazy? (Laughs again) But the more I looked at a lot of the things that Michael just told you, and the more we talked together; he really helped to enlighten me, because like a lot of people nowadays, I do read a lot of things online. But I also still read print.

On the concept of Take and what Michael is trying to accomplish with the magazine:
Take magazine is a publication about culture-makers who live in the New England area. So, unlike your standard “arts” magazine that would just cover, say, fine art or maybe just theatre; we’re taking a really broad look at culture in the region. And that includes things like fine art and theatre, but it also includes design, food, literature and dance; just many areas of cultural interest.

On how Michael came up with the name “Take” for the magazine:
It’s simply our “take” on things. It’s our lens on the creative community here in New England.

On whether Michael’s decision to cover the entire New England area was a business or editorial one:
It was a little of both. We can really talk about how we’re tackling it from the editorial side. Having worked for a very regional, localized newspaper that covered three counties and had a small arts magazine that covered western Massachusetts; I saw the limitations in audience, in terms of the business side. But the other part of that was the last sort of all-New England-magazine to launch was in the late 80s, early 90s, at least from my research; I haven’t been able to find anything any later than that time frame and it was New England Monthly.

On the process Lauren used to put together the first issue of Take which will launch in September:
Some of the content will be updated material from the prototype, but the first issue is a much bigger one that that. The first things we do are try to get stories from a diversity of disciplines and from every state in the region. So, we want content that has geographic diversity and disciplinary diversity. We need a designer from Rhode Island; we need a writer from New Hampshire, so that’s how I’m planning every issue, sort of making this grid of how do we cover the entire region so that everybody in New England feels like this is their magazine.

On how Lauren decided what the cover of the premier issue should be:
Well, we were actually thinking about having six covers at first, to represent each state. (Laughs) But that was just a little too ambitious for the first issue. So, we decided on three different covers instead. We had some terrific feature stories that had fantastic imagery.

On the biggest stumbling block Michael faced after starting the magazine and how he overcame it:
I think one of the biggest challenges has been that people have bought into this idea that print is dead or print is on its way out. And these are things I’ve heard from potential advertisers and certainly from some potential investors. They’re skeptical about the future of print. And that has been the biggest challenge because for somebody who’s in it, you can look at all of the great independent magazines that are coming out and you can see that there are a lot of dynamic things happening from all of the legacy publishers of magazines as well, and you wonder where that mindset comes from.

On where Lauren feels more accomplished in her work, online or in print, or is it the same experience for her in either format: I think it’s the same. It’s exciting to see your work in both formats, but in different ways. Having said that; I’m not sure how to describe to you how it’s different. I guess the web is more immediate and it generates that immediate, sort of social media response. But seeing your byline in print, on the printed page, it’s like your work is going into a permanent record.

On what makes Lauren tick and click and motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings: The amount of work I need to get done. (Laughs again) The amount of tasks that I have to do and the people I need to get in touch with; articles I have to assign. That’s the nuts and bolts, but I’m attached to this project because I think Michael is the guy to do it, frankly. And I’m not the only one who thinks that either. He has a really good intellect about these sorts of things and he has a super professional and personal network and he’s very persuasive. (Laughs)

On what makes Michael click and tick and motivates him to get out of bed in the mornings:
I’m an incredibly lucky guy and I work with an amazing group of people every day. And I’m so lucky that when I was putting things together, I had this dream team in my head, and when Lauren and I met and became friends, there was that epiphany one time where I just turned to her at a party and said you have to be my editor. And I’m so happy that she agreed.

On who Michael thinks the magazine’s audience is and how he defines Take’s team when it comes to delivering the best of New England’s culture to that targeted group:
I think that’s really our audience; our audience is really a New Englander first and our audience is somebody who works in the creative economy and secondarily are people who are cultural consumers and I think that if you add those groups together, you have a sizably potential audience for this as a magazine. And who are we, the people who are going to bring it to you? I think at the core it’s really our amazing staff of people who work on Take.

On anything else Michael would like to add:
Viva print!

On anything else Lauren would like to add:
We want to get the people in New England to think of themselves as New Englanders, not just “I’m from Providence,” but “I’m from New England” and there’s a lot of great contemporary culture in the region to explore and they don’t have to take the train to New York to see great culture.

On what keeps Michael up at night:
It’s making sure that my staff is taken care of and that we have the resources to keep moving forward.

On what keeps Lauren up at night:
What keeps me up at night is the haunting feeling that I need to have more information coming out of New Hampshire. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Michael Kusek, Publisher and Lauren Clark, Editor-In-Chief, Take magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did it take you eight years to launch Take magazine?

Michael Kusek: (Laughs) That’s a good question. When I started I was working at an alternative newsweekly here in western Massachusetts. We had started a small regional magazine and I saw what we had done there and I was getting ready to end my time with them and that was at the very end of 2008.

I had made plans then to leave and start Take magazine, but I decided to go on a vacation first and was traveling overseas when the entire U.S. market went into the toilet. I came back and that’s when so many magazines were folding and it didn’t seem like a great time to go out and seek investors, so I put it on the backburner for a little while, until it looked like the industry was changing and getting a bit healthier.

In that period of time, the iPad was born. And everyone was going to buy millions of magazines on their iPad. (Laughs) And it was that mindset that got me to look at the magazine again. I had gone back into doing public relations and communications, which had been my professional background for a very long time. But I began to look at the magazine again and at a different source of revenue for it, and while that hasn’t necessarily worn itself out, it definitely got me back into the swing of trying to start Take magazine. So, this was sort of my little side project for a number of years.

At the beginning of 2014, I was sitting with a business consultant friend of mine having a beer and he asked me when on earth are you ever going to start the magazine that you’ve been talking about trying to start for a very long time, and I said to him that I would love to start it except I’m having a horrible time trying to write the business plan. So, he pulled together a group of people and helped me write the business plan over the course of last spring and summer.

In that period of time, I had been talking with Lauren about being my editor-in-chief when we started to get some seed money to make things happen. And then in the fall of 2014, we created our prototype and soft-launched it in January 2015.

So, to make a long story longer, there have been lots of years of research and watching the market and deciding that now was exactly the right time to start it.

Samir Husni: Lauren, when Michael approached you about becoming the editor of a print magazine, did you ask him was he out of his mind?

Lauren Clark: (Laughs) No, not at first.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Lauren Clark: At first I said, wow, that’s really exciting. Yes, I’d love to be involved. And then as we started really talking about it and it became more serious, I asked myself, is this idea crazy? (Laughs again)

But the more I looked at a lot of the things that Michael just told you, and the more we talked together; he really helped to enlighten me, because like a lot of people nowadays, I do read a lot of things online. But I also still read print. And what we’re doing with Take magazine is pretty specific for a pretty targeted audience and a specific topic, which I think lends itself pretty well to print, so I’m onboard with that.

Samir Husni: Michael, tell me the concept of Take; what are you trying to do with the magazine?

Michael Kusek: Take magazine is a publication about culture-makers who live in the New England area. So, unlike your standard “arts” magazine that would just cover, say, fine art or maybe just theatre; we’re taking a really broad look at culture in the region. And that includes things like fine art and theatre, but it also includes design, food, literature and dance; just many areas of cultural interest.

This is a region rich with people making things and there wasn’t one cohesive publication that covered this entire region. And our goal is to be that magazine that ties everything that is happening here altogether.

Samir Husni: And what is the background on the name “Take?” One of the hardest things for people who are starting a new magazine to come up with is the title. How was the name “Take” conceived?

Michael Kusek: It’s simply our “take” on things. It’s our lens on the creative community here in New England. And the other part of the reason I chose Take is as a marketer, as a person who comes out of marketing and communications, there are about a million different ways that you can use the word “take” to generate a hook and to generate interest.

Samir Husni: You mention in the intro of the prototype issue, the pilot issue from January, that it’s the entire area of New England. And while I know that regional magazines are doing much better than the general interest magazines, was that a business decision or a reflection of the editorial content and you felt that the rest of us all over the country didn’t have a need to read about the culture of New England? (Laughs)

Michael Kusek: (Laughs too) It was a little of both. We can really talk about how we’re tackling it from the editorial side. Having worked for a very regional, localized newspaper that covered three counties and had a small arts magazine that covered western Massachusetts; I saw the limitations in audience, in terms of the business side. To develop a critical mass of readership, I needed to think bigger when we were looking at the business plan.

But the other part of that was the last sort of all-New England-magazine to launch was in the late 80s, early 90s, at least from my research; I haven’t been able to find anything any later than that time frame and it was New England Monthly. New England Monthly was late 80s, early 90s and was very successful. It was kind of a Harper’s/Atlantic, but for the whole region. And that was also based here in Northampton where I am.

New England Monthly’s footprints here in western Massachusetts, even though it hasn’t been around for a long time; it’s footprints still has some influence here today, and I think that also got me to look, from a business sense, at the entire region.

Samir Husni: Are you still on target to launch the first issue in September?

Lauren Clark: Yes, our first issue is at the printer now.

Samir Husni: Lauren, tell me about the process; how did you put together that first issue? Did you sit down with your team, alone, or with Michael; what was the conception mode of the content of the first issue?

take_001_cover_FINAL2 Lauren Clark: Some of the content will be updated material from the prototype, but the first issue is a much bigger one that that. The first things we do are try to get stories from a diversity of disciplines and from every state in the region. So, we want content that has geographic diversity and disciplinary diversity. We need a designer from Rhode Island; we need a writer from New Hampshire, so that’s how I’m planning every issue, sort of making this grid of how do we cover the entire region so that everybody in New England feels like this is their magazine; so that the creative people in New England feel like we really are covering the entire region and all the cool stuff that’s going on throughout all the New England states.

So, that was the starting point. Then it was just a matter of tapping into a lot of the really talented contributors that are in this region. We have a photo editor who helps us out from the Boston area and he knows people all over the region. So, we had some great photography, fantastic writers, which a lot of them started out writing for us on the website.

And we have writers from all over the region. We have some great ones in Rhode Island, in Maine and Vermont, some people out of Boston; we’re trying to get the contributors of our content to be all over the region as well. It’s really important to us to not just be Northampton-centric or Boston-centric, but to really spread ourselves out content and contributor-wise.

Samir Husni: And how did you make the decision about what went onto the cover of the premier issue?

Lauren Clark: Well, we were actually thinking about having six covers at first, to represent each state. (Laughs) But that was just a little too ambitious for the first issue. So, we decided on three different covers instead. We had some terrific feature stories that had fantastic imagery. And we featured some original artwork from one of our feature subjects, the artist Eben Kling, who lives in Connecticut, so that’s one of our covers, original artwork by him and it’s just fantastic.

And the other two are photographs from our photo editor, Izzy Berdan. So, it’s going to be exciting when these covers come out, because people are just going to kind of randomly get whatever cover they get and they’ll be able to compare their issue with somebody who received a different cover.

Samir Husni: Michael, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face since actually starting the magazine and how did you overcome it?

Michael Kusek: I think one of the biggest challenges has been that people have bought into this idea that print is dead or print is on its way out. And these are things I’ve heard from potential advertisers and certainly from some potential investors. They’re skeptical about the future of print. And that has been the biggest challenge because for somebody who’s in it, you can look at all of the great independent magazines that are coming out and you can see that there are a lot of dynamic things happening from all of the legacy publishers of magazines as well, and you wonder where that mindset comes from.

Some of the people we connect with a lot, such as some of our younger contributors, even people on our staff here at the magazine are all very much into analog. They buy vinyl, they like photographing with film cameras, and they also buy books. And we see that.

The biggest challenge has been, with certain people, to counter this belief that print is on its way out, rather than saying that print is evolving. In our Kickstarter video and with people who have these mindsets, we sort of describe ourselves as being the modern magazine. And that what’s going to be interesting is not whether it’s print or digital. We have a print edition and an online edition that work together. You can get certain information from our online source that doesn’t translate into print, like video and audio, and you can get information through our print edition, such as really beautiful photography, stories that demand to be on the printed page, that doesn’t translate digitally. And that’s where this industry is going; print is not going away.

That’s always been the biggest challenge, particularly when it comes to us accessing resources to grow as a business.

Samir Husni: Lauren, where do you value your work more? Do you feel that you’ve accomplished more when you see your work in print or when it’s in a digital format or is it the same thing for you?

take_001_cover_FINAL3 Lauren Clark: I think it’s the same. It’s exciting to see your work in both formats, but in different ways. Having said that; I’m not sure how to describe to you how it’s different. I guess the web is more immediate and it generates that immediate, sort of social media response. But seeing your byline in print, on the printed page, it’s like your work is going into a permanent record. And I would think a lot of writers would say the same thing. It’s thrilling in both places for those different reasons.

Samir Husni: Lauren, what makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Lauren Clark: (Laughs) The amount of work I need to get done. (Laughs again) The amount of tasks that I have to do and the people I need to get in touch with; articles I have to assign. That’s the nuts and bolts, but I’m attached to this project because I think Michael is the guy to do it, frankly. And I’m not the only one who thinks that either. He has a really good intellect about these sorts of things and he has a super professional and personal network and he’s very persuasive. (Laughs)

And the rest of the people on our team feel the same way and they’re all talented in their backgrounds. And some of their backgrounds are not necessarily conventional when it comes to working on a magazine, but that kind of puts them in a better position to react and be flexible to anything that’s thrown their way in this start-up.

Samir Husni: And Michael, what makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Michael Kusek: I’m an incredibly lucky guy and I work with an amazing group of people every day. And I’m so lucky that when I was putting things together, I had this dream team in my head, and when Lauren and I met and became friends, there was that epiphany one time where I just turned to her at a party and said you have to be my editor. And I’m so happy that she agreed.

It’s the people that I work with. And it’s an incredible amount of work; it’s an always-on type of proposition; you always have to be on and working. We soft-launched in January and received 200 pitches, and 400 people went to our website within a month and said that they wanted to freelance for us.

We just sent our first press release out at the beginning of July. We really went public with this whole idea and we’ve been able to sell close to 600 subscriptions, just in terms of people coming to our website or responding to what we’ve been putting out on social media. With every event we do, people are genuinely excited and this is a project. I get very little negatives, such as this is never going to work. People are just overwhelmingly positive and what to see this happen and that gets me out of bed in the mornings. I know we’re on the right path.

Samir Husni: That’s great. One of my new books coming out in the middle of August is called “Audience First” and I’m reading your last paragraph in the prototype’s publisher’s letter and you say: I believe that there’s an audience out there for a new, well-written and beautifully designed magazine on paper about New England. I think we’re just the people to bring it to you. Tell me who is that audience and who are you?

TAKE cover-1 Michael Kusek: That audience is culturally adventurous people and that audience member is a person who is not only interested in what’s happening in their hometown here in New England, but they have a willingness to hop in their car and drive around to see who else is in the rest of the neighborhood.

I think that’s really our audience; our audience is really a New Englander first and our audience is somebody who works in the creative economy and secondarily are people who are cultural consumers and I think that if you add those groups together, you have a sizably potential audience for this as a magazine.

And who are we, the people who are going to bring it to you? I think at the core it’s really our amazing staff of people who work on Take: my editor, my photo editor and our art director and our web guy; we just have an amazing team. It’s our circulation people who are helping us out; it’s our sales folks. So far this year, we’ve probably worked with almost 50 different freelancers from all over the region and we’re finding them to be as equally committed to us and very excited about this idea of bringing a new look to New England culture. And I think that team may look small on the masthead now, but that team is actually just going to grow larger over time.

Samir Husni: Are you still planning on 10 issues per year?

Michael Kusek: Yes, we are.

Samir Husni: Any final “take” you’d like to add about anything we’ve discussed or haven’t discussed? Pun intended. (Laughs)

Michael Kusek: (Laughs too) Viva print! That’s my final thought on magazines.

Samir Husni: Indeed.

Lauren Clark: My final Take would be it’s just something about New England. As I said at the beginning of my editor’s letter, yes, New England’s new culture is a “thing.” We want to get the people in New England to think of themselves as New Englanders, not just “I’m from Providence,” but “I’m from New England” and there’s a lot of great contemporary culture in the region to explore and they don’t have to take the train to New York to see great culture.

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

Michael Kusek: (Laughs) What keeps me up at night? When I do stay up at night it’s usually because I’m exhausted. (Laughs again) No, it’s making sure that my staff is taken care of and that we have the resources to keep moving forward.

Samir Husni: And Lauren?

Lauren Clark: What keeps me up at night is the haunting feeling that I need to have more information coming out of New Hampshire. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Between The Age Of Possibilities & The Age Of Impossibilities. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

July 30, 2015

From Lebanon With Love.

From Lebanon With Love.


Having just returned from 19 days in my native Lebanon, via the City of Lights (Paris), and meeting with an array of journalists and editors; perusing as many newsstands as possible (a Mr. Magazine™ fait accompli when he travels) and enjoying a multitude of new titles that both captivated and fascinated me; it is my opinion that print is alive and well and living abroad.

samir in lebanon Despite war and the revilement’s of the ravaging that has gone on in Lebanon and the entire Middle East region, hope is strong and the pleasant approach to media downright refreshing. With all of the problems that conflict can bring to a country and its people, Lebanon has had a renewed spirit and strength when it comes to magazine media and media in general.

While in Lebanon I did an interview with Ibrahim Nehme, founder and editor-in-chief of The Outpost magazine, which I published earlier this week this blog. The interview was nothing short of amazing due to this young man’s passion and drive when it comes to the possibilities that are out there for young Arabs. He is beyond adamant about the potential of the Arab nation, starting with the youth and continuing on through Arab adults who need his publication’s vision of hope and promise in a world sometimes gone mad with brutality and harshness.

International Blog 14-14 Ibrahim’s magazine media approach and the mission of his magazine, which seeks to promote the positive and facilitate real change within the Arab world, reminded me of a very famous adage that I use quite often in my teachings and in my own publishing philosophy, and which I also have on a plaque in my office: there is always hope. And that dictum carries so much weight not only in the Arab world, but also in our own American media: he who knows the word hope doesn’t recognize the word impossible.

That statement hit me right between the eyes when I returned to the States a few days ago. I have interviewed some of the most influential and knowledgeable men and women of the publishing industry over the years and no one has basically told me anything that even remotely goes against the statement of there is always hope.

Upon my return, I saw articles ranging in negativity from the one on Time Inc.’s CEO, Joe Ripp’s clock is ticking to the statements that have been made recently by some media critics that TIME magazine is no longer relevant, and Self and Details maybe shutting down. It was then that I said to myself, when are media critics going to stop being the bearers of “predicted” bad news? It’s not even factual, on-paper bad news; yet somehow critics always manage to spin negativity on the stories they foretell about the future of magazines and magazine media. They paint a picture so dark and sinister, that it’s totally incongruous to the hundreds of new launches that I personally record on Mr. Magazine’s™ Launch Monitor each and every month. So, who exactly is correct? The Wizards of Woe who thrive on somber speculations or the bright, exciting covers that are scanned and published each month from the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss? I challenge you to be the judge.

To all of these people who respond to my opinion with: but look what’s happening at Hearst or Condè Nast or Meredith; I ask them now; what exactly is happening? As I said; I’ve interviewed all of these CEO’s and I’ve talked extensively with them; they’re not telling media anything as apocalyptic as some are reporting. It’s how the media and some of the media reporters are taking the information and running with it as if they’re being paid to basically dig their own media graves. Instead of promoting positivity the way Ibrahim Nehme from Lebanon’s The Outpost magazine does, they’re biting the very hand that feeds them, and then repeating the obscene gesture over and over again. Isn’t that a bit nonsensical or is it just me?

And have those naysayers seen what folks in Japan are paying for the Financial Times newspaper? When all of the media reporting only reflects one side of a supposed picture, we become cocooned. I guess I’ll have to challenge people to hop on a plane and visit newsstands abroad. The news isn’t nearly as bleak as sometimes reported.

I wrote about The Outpost, of course, since I interviewed its founder and editor-in-chief, but while in Lebanon I also picked up many other magazines, such as Executive Life Magazine, a new title that just came out in English, and by the way it’s amazing how the English language has spilled over into the world, not just in Lebanon, but all over; everywhere English is not necessarily the native language, we are seeing a lot of English-language magazines being born.

From the editorial of the first issue of Executive Life magazine:

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Ceci n’est pas un magazine. (This is not a magazine) If you don’t believe me, just read further. Tired of focusing on everything that goes wrong in Lebanon – and there’s a lot – the team at Executive Magazine decided to explore what’s going right in the country; those creating beauty, exploring new frontiers, engendering hope. We found a whole new world of Lebanese artist, connoisseurs and visionaries producing a rich bounty of new ideas, designs and concepts – and now we’re on a mission to promote these people and the beauty they create…This is not a magazine, but a cause – and we want you to join it. Become a believer.

If we substitute the word Lebanon for the words magazines and magazine media and focus on the positive things that are happening in today’s magazine media world; all the new publications that are coming into the marketplace; all the established magazines that are still doing extremely well and making billions of dollars in revenue; if we focus our energies on all these creative ideas that are out there; there’s no impossibilities that can’t be met with possibilities.

International Blog 7-7 Since my ancestors, the Phoenicians, created the alphabet; what if there were never any alphabet, the ABC’s you learned in school? You wouldn’t have been able to read this book today! This is the story of the birth of the alphabet, the story of a magical link between a sound and a sign. (From the Little Book of the Phoenician Alphabet)

That magical link that we also create in magazines; those magical ideas that keep coming time after time, whether someone is creating a new magazine or a whole series of new coloring magazines, such as the ones I picked up abroad – Jeux èvasion and Flèchès èvasion, which are not for children, but for adults; one title after another of coloring magazines for adults are coming to the marketplace worldwide.

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All of these new titles are hitting the newsstands, from coloring to puzzles, just look at the number of titles out there; it’s amazing. I found magazines celebrating the nightlife of Beirut (RagMag – the Beirut Nights issue), magazines celebrating the marketing and advertising resources and all the changes that are taking place (Communicate), stories of pride everywhere, magazines celebrating the international face of Lebanon, such as Taste & Flavors with Salma Hayek and the movie The Prophet.

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I just received the first issue of a new magazine called Out Living It. It’s the First Descents Magazine coming from Colorado in which the founder of First Descents, Brad Ludden, writes:

International Blog 9-9 This magazine serves to inspire and document the people, places, organizations, companies, and lifestyle choices that represent our collective desire to meet life head-on with undeniable passion. I hope its pages further inspire you to be Out Living It.

After those 19 days overseas, I returned with the conclusion that through all the gloom and doom, through all of these predictions of this or that CEO fading out, or this or that magazine dying; at the end of the day magazines and magazine media are going to be Out Living It and most probably Out Living Us and digital, mobile, or anything yet to be invented, if we continue to be strong and focus on the positive.

People, from both east and west, are exhausted from the negativism that is all over politics and the media… they never see or hear anything good. It’s time for a new wind of thinking to blow through the minds of media reporting. It’s long overdue.

Take it from me; as long as I have that plaque hanging in my office, there is hope, I’ll never give up on magazines or magazine media. They have found their own place in the marketplace since conception and they aren’t going anywhere. Except maybe new frontiers they have yet to explore. A newsstand on the moon perhaps…

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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A Magazine Of Possibilities That Was Born From The Womb Of The Arab Spring – Seeking Change & Inspiration – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ibrahim Nehme, Editor-In-Chief, Founder, The Outpost Magazine.

July 28, 2015

Reporting from Lebanon.

Reporting from Lebanon.

From Lebanon With Love. A Mr. Magazine™ Interview From Lebanon.

“Growing up, I always had a knack for physical things and I was never that great when it came to technology, so for me the printed product was a natural choice when I chose to make the magazine. For a magazine that’s mission is to ignite the renaissance of this area of the world; I don’t think digital-only can achieve that; people need to feel the tangible aspect of things.” Ibrahim Nehme

scan-20150725194142-1 The possibility of possibility was the idea-embryo for The Outpost magazine, a Beirut-based publication that seeks to promote the positive and facilitate real change within the Arab world. Ibrahim Nehme is the founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine and a young man who is adamant about his creation and about the mission he is dedicated to. An excerpt from his editor’s letter in the very first issue showcases the magazine’s reason for existence quite eloquently:

There are moments in history when humanity, with grit, passion and erudition, saliently moves forward. In moments like these, all the fears that have previously held us back, the ideas that sounded impossible, and the assumptions that defined our limits disintegrate as a breed of individuals reaffirm the notion of the possibility of possibility.

I met with Ibrahim on a recent trip to Lebanon. We spoke at Paul’s, a coffee shop on the main highway leading to North Lebanon and close to the Casino Du Liban. It was as inspiring a conversation as The Outpost’s mission statement is. Positivity and idealism and real passion are three words that can be used liberally when describing the young man who sat before me and talked about young people in the Arab nation who are ready for change and growth and a clear and concise direction for a successful future.

From the first-issue editor’s letter:

Our first issue is being published at a time when a renewed sense of possibility enshrines the Middle East. The current social, cultural and political transformations are reweaving the fabric of the societies we inherited. A new generation is emerging that is, for the most part, eager to dust off thick layer of tyranny, narrow-mindedness and impotence to embark on a cathartic journey of reform.

scan-20150725194535-2 As you can read for yourself from the inspiring editorial; the magazine is intelligent, poignant and excellently written and gives a most personal look at life in the Arab world. I spoke with Ibrahim about the magazine’s frequency change (from quarterly to bi-annual), the sustainability of the publication through the World Makers concept (allowing readers to pay for a spot in the magazine to feature their own work), and about the future of the magazine. It was a premier interview with a young man who is a premier human being, using his passion to change his world for the better.

So, I hope you enjoy this stirring interview with Ibrahim Nehme, Founder & Editor, The Outpost magazine; it certainly made Mr. magazine™ see the “possibility of possibility,” and I’m sure it will you too.

But first, the sound-bites:

Ibrahim Nehme On the background of The Outpost magazine: Basically, in 2011 I was contemplating whether or not I should leave Lebanon and go somewhere abroad and continue my studies. At the time I was working for ArabAd, which is a local magazine, and the experience with ArabAd kind of opened my eyes to the world and the situation of the country, which at that time, and in a way still is, really bad. It came down to staying in Lebanon and doing something about it, like trying to create a magazine that actually ups the standards of the local print industry, or just leaving.

On why he chose English instead of Arabic for the language of the magazine: We wanted to publish in English because we wanted to reach out to this particular target group, but for a magazine that has a mission really larger-than-life, with a mission that seeks to ignite change in this part of the world, we’re aware of the limitations of the English language and we do have plans to publish in Arabic, possibly a newspaper that will be distributed for free.

On whether he felt it was crazy to start a print magazine in a digital world: For a magazine that’s mission is to ignite the renaissance of this area of the world; I don’t think digital-only can achieve that; people need to feel the tangible aspect of things.

On the biggest stumbling block that he’s had to face: The biggest stumbling block was the fact that before starting I had a very clear plan as to how to gear this magazine forward. I had a plan for after the first year and what would happen; how we would secure revenue, but as it turned out, how things worked in my head were completely at odds with how the commercial world works.

On why he thinks the magazine is selling out at bookstores, even with the hefty cover price of $12: When we first launched Issue # 0 everyone said that it was too expensive. It’s a quarterly magazine, so it comes out every three months and you’re paying $5 technically for three months, whereas there are monthly magazines that are $7.00 here on the stands. I think because it’s all new and the market is completely immature, people aren’t familiar with the concept that you actually have to pay for quality products.

On why he changed the frequency from quarterly to bi-annual: Primarily for financial reasons because to produce this kind of magazine it takes so many resources, also time being one of those resources.

On what motivates him to get out of bed each morning: The magazine is what motivates me, because the prospect is so exciting. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can achieve with this magazine. And just the prospect of really seeing the long-term vision of where this could go and trying to work toward that is really exciting.

On where he expects to see the magazine one year from now: So, in a year’s time, if this works out, we will have three main pillars for the operation, which is the printed edition, the project that we are conceiving, as well as our digital platform, which is not going to be as much a hub for content as much as a platform for World Makers. So that will encourage people to connect with each other, because I think that it can become a facilitator for change.

On the definition of a World Maker: A World Maker is a person, in this case, really an Arab person, living in the region and who is trying to do something independently to facilitate positive change in the Arab world.

On anything else he’d like to add: I think that we’re meeting at an interesting point because for the longest of time we’ve been trying to figure out who we are and what the magazine stands for and the point of view resonates with the type of people we are trying to reach out to. I think now we have matured somewhat and really know what we stand for and we know what we’re trying to do and that dictates our editorial and our conceptual strategies. We’re really doing very well; we’re in 50 cities around the world.

On what keeps him up at night: Lately, as I said, I’ve been sleeping like a baby. Nothing is keeping me up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Ibrahim Nehme, Founder and Editor-In-Chief, The Outpost magazine…

From Lebanon With Love

From Lebanon With Love

Samir Husni: Tell me about the background of The Outpost – why Lebanon and how did it get started?

Ibrahim Nehme: Basically, in 2011 I was contemplating whether or not I should leave Lebanon and go somewhere abroad and continue my studies. At the time I was working for ArabAd, which is a local magazine, and the experience with ArabAd kind of opened my eyes to the world and the situation of the country, which at that time, and in a way still is, really bad.

It came down to staying in Lebanon and doing something about it, like trying to create a magazine that actually ups the standards of the local print industry, or just leaving. And at the time the Arab spring was happening and there was this inspiring energy going throughout the region and I felt that it was a good time to stay and do something with print.

And that’s how the magazine of possibilities was born, because at the time the region was open to all inspiring possibilities. In a way it was born from the womb of the Arab spring as a magazine of possibilities that aims to capitalize some kind of change in this ongoing revolution. It’s a political magazine; it’s a socially-conscious magazine, and it reaches out primarily to young Arabs who are the activators of change.

So, that was the initial idea. We launched our very first issue, number zero, and it was intentionally numbered zero because we were a bunch of young people with no significant experience in making a magazine or in publishing. We just wanted to put our ideas out there.

It kind of picked up though soon after the issue was out; we were nominated for awards and the feedback was really good. It just took off from there. There have been so many changes to our strategy in how we’re approaching print.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose English and not Arabic as the language of the magazine?

Ibrahim Nehme: English was the striking point because the creative director at the time and myself, were like most Lebanese, American-schooled, and we consume our media primarily in English. And like us, there are legions of other young Arabs in Lebanon and in other parts of the region who also consume media in English and not in Arabic, which may be a shame I know, but that’s the reality of things.

We wanted to publish in English because we wanted to reach out to this particular target group, but for a magazine that has a mission really larger-than-life, with a mission that seeks to ignite change in this part of the world, we’re aware of the limitations of the English language and we do have plans to publish in Arabic, possibly a newspaper that will be distributed for free.

And also, because now we’re reaching out to Europe and America; we’ve been getting a lot of requests that are from non-Arabs. And I think publishing in English is helping to break these stereotypes associated with the Arab world. I always get messages from surprised readers, such as: we didn’t expect Beirut to be as you show it, so I think that it’s helping in that sense.

Samir Husni: We live in a digital age and you’re a young man, under 30, fully aware of the digital tendencies of your generation; are you crazy to start a print magazine today and to also try and defend the future of print in this digital age?

Ibrahim Nehme: Growing up, I always had a knack for physical things and I was never that great when it came to technology, so for me the printed product was a natural choice when I chose to make the magazine.

It was never really a matter of print or digital; I think that somehow the conversation has been skewed and framed in such a way that it’s wrong. Every media has its different pros and cons and its different features.

We started out in print and we knew that digital would come at some point down the line, so we have to start working on our digital platform, which we are now doing. And we’re thinking that we will conceive it the way that we did the print edition.

Again, for a magazine that’s mission is to ignite the renaissance of this area of the world; I don’t think digital-only can achieve that; people need to feel the tangible aspect of things.

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

Ibrahim Nehme: The biggest stumbling block was the fact that before starting I had a very clear plan as to how to gear this magazine forward. I had a plan for after the first year and what would happen; how we would secure revenue, but as it turned out, how things worked in my head were completely at odds with how the commercial world works.

And it took me almost a year to grasp that we, the publishers of the magazine, and the media industry were on a completely different page. We speak a completely different language and for the longest time we were trying to change our language to make them understand who we are and what we’re trying to do, up until we finally realized that wasn’t going to happen. Now we’re at the point of realizing what we stand for and how we’ve been doing in the market and we’re trying to turn that into revenue that will help us sustain this enterprise.

What we’re doing is scrapping advertising; starting with the next issue we will no longer publish any form of advertising; I’ll tell you more about this. We thought that moving forward and in order to keep this magazine sustainable, we could enlist the people who really believe in the value of the magazine, not advertising agencies or media companies; but the people who are really seeing the value of the magazine, the readers. And in many ways these readers are the change agents who are implementing positive change in the region, which in this issue we call them “World Makers.” A “World Maker” is anyone who lives and is trying to do something positive for nothing in return.

scan-20150725194724-3 With the next issue we have something called the World-Making Factorium, which is a poster inside the magazine. We talked about 50 World Makers and we tried to find connections between them. The idea is, for example, one woman is trying to make one place better and then collectively the whole place is going to become better because it’s inhabited by all of these caring people. These World Makers were numbered, indexed and rearranged, then connected to each other based on what they are working on. The result is a network showing the world that is constructed due to each of them making change in different clusters.

We have to take money, of course, to sustain it, but the gift that we’re giving is important involving the World Makers, who are the revenue generators of the magazine. But it’s an upfront framework for supporting the magazine.

Samir Husni: I tried to find Issue 5 when I first arrived in Lebanon recently and in every bookstore that I visited they told me it was sold out. So, even with the $12 cover price, which is a hefty price for a magazine in Lebanon, it’s still sold out. Why do you think that’s happening?

Ibrahim Nehme: Yes, it’s $12 and when we first launched Issue # 0 everyone said that it was too expensive. It’s a quarterly magazine, so it comes out every three months and you’re paying $5 technically for three months, whereas there are monthly magazines that are $7.00 here on the stands. I think because it’s all new and the market is completely immature, people aren’t familiar with the concept that you actually have to pay for quality products.

But we went bi-annual and people are buying it anyway and the price is still the same – $12 for every six months. What happened is we went bi-annual and we forgot to account for the fact that there are three more months that the magazine is on the shelves, so it was set up very fast.

Samir Husni: Why did you change the frequency?

Ibrahim Nehme: Primarily for financial reasons because to produce this kind of magazine it takes so many resources, also time being one of those resources. It’s a conceptual magazine, so we spend a lot of time developing the concept that binds everything together. And the quarterly frequency made it very short.

Samir Husni: Is The Outpost your night job or your day job? (Laughs)

Ibrahim Nehme: (Laughs too) My night and day job. It’s my life right now. And this is another source of revenue; we’ve been partnering with organizations that have been approaching us to produce some printed material for them and these types of jobs are really paying for the printing of the magazine and other costs. So, even when I’m working on that, it’s under The Outpost’s umbrella.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed each morning and say it’s going to be a great day?

Ibrahim Nehme: Recently, I haven’t been able to wake up easily because I’ve been working so hard; I’ve been really exhausted.

Aside from that because it’s just a phase, the magazine is what motivates me, because the prospect is so exciting. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can achieve with this magazine. And just the prospect of really seeing the long-term vision of where this could go and trying to work toward that is really exciting.

Samir Husni: Do you envision seeing yourself one day being the Tyler Brûlé of the Middle East and The Outpost as having the same success as Monocle?

Ibrahim Nehme: No, because we’re not a commercial magazine such as that; we’re more like an activist magazine than a lifestyle magazine, which is what Tyler has in Monocle. I love hearing his stories, they’re very inspiring and a lot of what he’s trying to do now, in terms of a business model, could inspire us in many ways, but to say that we may someday be as Monocle – no.

Samir Husni: You’ve created a very well done magazine, in terms of content, readability, design, photography, charts and infographics; you name it, it’s very well done. And all of this is rare for an activist-type magazine. If I’m sitting here with you in Beirut next year; how far has The Outpost come in one year? Where do you expect to see the magazine a year from now?

Ibrahim Nehme: Actually, we are currently working on a project that’s due a year from now. We’re trying to test different things and see how they would fit into each other. One of the things that we’re doing is developing a project, it’s an offline and online project, whereby we get the readers, as well as artists that we select from the region, to engage in a debate concerning a particular topic and then all the outcomes from the interactions and interventions that happen will be channeled into that issue.

I think that a lot of the things that happen in the process of creating the magazine remain in our heads and ideas from our closed brainstorming sessions and I think that these things are important and we need to open up the discussion and let other people in who are outside the magazine.

So, in a year’s time, if this works out, we will have three main pillars for the operation, which is the printed edition, the project that we are conceiving, as well as our digital platform, which is not going to be as much a hub for content as much as a platform for World Makers. So that will encourage people to connect with each other, because I think that it can become a facilitator for change.

Samir Husni: Give me your definition of a World Maker.

Ibrahim Nehme: A World Maker is a person, in this case, really an Arab person, living in the region and who is trying to do something independently to facilitate positive change in the Arab world. They could be an entrepreneur, an artist, an environmentalist, a lawyer, an activist or a feminist, you name it. Any person across different levels of activity who are trying to advance the region against all odds and creating worlds from scratch, because they’re living in a place where the entire infrastructure for living, for working, for production, for creation, is non-existent. That’s a World Maker.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like you’re the oddball, like you’re swimming against the current in this part of the world?

Ibrahim Nehme: For sure.

Samir Husni: Does that frustrate you or encourage you?

Ibrahim Nehme: It used to frustrate me a lot; now, I’ve made peace with it.

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

Ibrahim Nehme: I think that we’re meeting at an interesting point because for the longest of time we’ve been trying to figure out who we are and what the magazine stands for and the point of view resonates with the type of people we are trying to reach out to. I think now we have matured somewhat and really know what we stand for and we know what we’re trying to do and that dictates our editorial and our conceptual strategies. We’re really doing very well; we’re in 50 cities around the world.

Also I think that it’s helping. When you say that it’s mission is to help ignite a renaissance by basically inspiring people to do positive things, like inspiring this person to start up a business, or that person to work on fixing something else, just so many different things. We had a message from a lady in Cairo who said she had seen our magazine and she was really inspired, so she decided to buy the magazine in Egypt. If we could have that woman times 2,000 in five years, , it would be awesome. As I said, we’re just scratching the surface.

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

Ibrahim Nehme: Lately, as I said, I’ve been sleeping like a baby. Nothing is keeping me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning: The Story of O. A Double Issue.

July 20, 2015

6f3ca72f-2050-4b1e-8583-3d829f31d820 The new issue of Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning is out. It is a double issue for the weeks of July 20 and July 27.

Click here to read the latest issue of the Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning and here to receive a free subscription in your in-box each and every Monday Morning.

The Mr. Magazine™ blog is going to take a very needed and deserved break and will be back next week. Here’s to a great summer and all the best.

In the meantime, go a newsstand near you, pick up a magazine or two. Reading a magazine will help you cool off the summer heat… reading a magazine is more fun under the sun!

See you next week.

All my best.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

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Inside The Great Minds Of Magazine Makers: “The Mr. Magazine™ Interviews” In A Book.

July 17, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 8.04.21 AMPutting my money where my mouth is, I am publishing a host of Mr. Magazine™ Interviews in a book this coming mid August. The book, Inside The Great Minds Of Magazine Makers, contains interviews with 30 “Magazine Makers” that first appeared on this blog. Believing that the only way for great works to be permanent is to be in print, I am taking 27 of those interviews and publishing them in a 240-page-book. The book is published by the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi and printed by Trend Offset.

Mary G. Berner, President and CEO of MPA: The Association of Magazine Media, wrote the introduction to the book. In her intro she writes, “In Inside the Great Minds of Magazine Makers, Samir invites you to join him in his conversations with some of the most powerful and creative people in magazine media today. As these strategists and story tellers navigate the exciting frontier of digital content distribution, measurement, and monetization of magazine media brands, we get a unique fly- on-the-wall perspective on how they continue to deliver engaging, curated and valued content to a rapidly expanding audience.”

In my preface I write, “This is NOT a book about magazines and magazine media. It IS a book about the people who create magazines and magazine media. It is a journey inside their brains to find out what makes them tick and click. A journey that will help readers of this book understand where the creative, the editing, the storytelling, the business, and the marketing skills of today’s magazine and magazine media CEOs, presidents,editors, and publishers come from.”

The 27 chapters in the book (published in random order but keeping interviewees from the same magazine and magazine media company together) include interviews with:

Joe Ripp – CEO & Chairman, Time Inc.
Norman Pearlstine – Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer, Time Inc.
David Carey – President, Hearst Magazines
Michael Clinton – President, Marketing & Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines
Ellen Levine – Editorial Director, Hearst Magazines
Maria Rodale – Chairman & CEO, Rodale, Inc.
James Oseland & Ellen Carucci – Editor-in-chief & Publisher of Organic Life, Rodale, Inc.
Chris Mitchell – Publisher, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast
Lewis DVorkin – Chief Product Officer, Forbes Magazine
Randall Lane – Editor, Forbes Magazine
Mark Howard – Chief Revenue Officer, Forbes Magazine
Bob Cohn – President & Chief Operating Officer, The Atlantic
Andrew Clurman – Chief Executive Officer & President, Active Interest Media
Carol Brooks & Ian Scott – Editor-in-chief of Simple Grace, & President and Publisher, Bauer Media U.S.
John Temple – President & CEO, Guideposts
Scott Dickey – CEO, TEN: The Enthusiast Network
Liz Vaccariello – Editor-in-chief, Reader’s Digest
Tony Romando – CEO & Co-founder, Topix Media Lab
Tinu – Publisher, Shoeholics Magazine
Todd Paul – President, Open Sky Media, Inc.
Adi Ignatius – Editor-in-chief, Harvard Business Review
Steve Giannetti & Victoria Pope – Publisher & Editor-in-chief, Smithsonian Journeys
Diane Anderson-Minshall – Editor-in-chief, Plus Magazine, Here Media
Mariette DiChristina – Editor-in-chief & Senior Vice President, Scientific American Magazine
Dana Points – Editor-in-chief & Content Director, Parents Latina, Meredith
Daren Mazzucca – Publisher, Martha Stewart Living, Meredith
Lesley Jane Seymour – Editor-in-chief, More Magazine, Meredith

The book is available for a $100 donation to the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi. All the proceeds from the sale of Inside The Great Minds Of Magazine Makers will be used to create a magazine student scholarship to help with the costs of students’ internships and such. Please send your checks to Magazine Innovation Center, 114 Farley Hall, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, U.S.A.

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15 Years And Counting – O, The Oprah Magazine Celebrates The Major Milestone With A ‘Circle Of Friends’ That Continues To Grow Every Day – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Lucy Kaylin, Editor-In-Chief.

July 14, 2015

“I know that magazines have always been and continue to be a really rare and wonderful thing. I think, especially with a magazine like ours, it is a uniquely, immersive experience. It’s such a pleasure to have this beautifully curated collection of stories, ideas, sometimes quizzes, exercises; things that have been put together to challenge readers and to lift them up and get them to see their own life in a new way.” Lucy Kaylin

“I suppose it could, simply because there are so many other ways to express one’s ideas. There are obviously so many formats and platforms out there today. But I wouldn’t love that; I wouldn’t think that would be a positive thing. O, as a print publication is incredibly special and it’s lush and beautiful and it’s tactile and something that is very well-enjoyed in bed, in a hammock, on the couch or in the tub. The physical nature of it is one of the very special things about it.” (on whether the magazine could exist without the print component) Lucy Kaylin

O Mag August Cover Fifteen years is a major milestone for anything these days; sometimes our fast-paced lives, inundated with notifications and distractions coming from all directions make everything seem fleeting and surreal. That’s when Mr. Magazine™ grabs his drink of choice (usually coffee), reclines in his chair and reads a great magazine.

O, The Oprah Magazine is one such relaxing and immersive escape. Celebrating 15 years of publishing success with beautifully curated content and amazing photographs; the magazine is as welcoming and compelling as its namesake.

From the launch one year ago of the engaging ‘Circle of Friends’ subscription model to the new cover treatments, inside changes and more; O, The Oprah Magazine is pushing the boundaries on creative innovation and proving once again that there is power in the printed word and allure in good content.

Lucy Kaylin became editor-in-chief of O, The Oprah Magazine in May 2013, having been deputy editor since 2009. I spoke with Lucy recently about the magazine’s 15th anniversary and the ‘Circle of Friends’ subscription model and Oprah herself and the magnetic connection Oprah has with her audience, both the woman and the magazine.

It was a very enlightening conversation and one that proved fame and fortune doesn’t always change the core of a person’s true nature or the ink on paper that bears her moniker. Genuineness and quality always shine through.

So, I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lucy Kaylin, Editor-In-Chief, O, The Oprah Magazine; it was a true joy for me.

But first, the sound-bites:

OPR
On the secret to O, The Oprah Magazine’s longevity:
The magazine is the same; it’s never just about celebrities. It’s always had, arguably, the world’s most famous celebrity on the cover every month anyway. It’s been about big, resonant, rich, important ideas for real women. So, there have always been lots and lots in the magazine for women who have great ambitions for themselves, in terms of living a realized life. And that’s for all time, that’s not something that goes in and out of fashion; it’s something that I think we all want.

On the process of putting together an issue of the monthly magazine: We have what we call ‘Big Idea Meetings’ and that’s where we get the entire staff together and talk about themes, such as what would be worthwhile themes for each of our issues. And we’re in constant communication with Oprah, she’s very interested, obviously, in what we’re doing and she often has great ideas for us, but she’s absolutely wonderful in trusting us and letting us be the magazine-makers, but she’s there for us whenever we need her.

On whether she feels she channels Oprah with each and every issue: To an extent. We really do like to have a multiplicity of voices, of course, so there will be people who have had all different kinds of experiences, sharing what they know and what they’ve been through, within our pages, so in that sense it’s not a strict first-page-to-last channeling of Oprah. But we do have a very, those of us who work here, have a very clear sense of what matters to her.

On how she continuously engages the audience whether Oprah is in the forefront of media or not at any given time: We are blessed with a really wide readership and the readers that we have and our subscribers are quite passionate and quite loyal, so I don’t have the sense of fighting to find readers or fighting to keep them. I think the real secret is that what we’re putting out there is of such sustaining quality; it’s sustenance and it’s the stuff of life. Again, it’s not superficial; it’s not fleeting; it’s something that I feel certain millions upon millions of women and men are looking for.

On why she believes Oprah and the magazine is inimitable to other publications: I really think that Oprah is 100% unique. She’s just a very powerful person and I mean that in the nicest way. She’s very impactful, the way that she’s able to connect with an audience, for instance. The way that she’s able to open up a person who’s sitting across from her that she’s interviewing. These are just incredibly rare gifts and skills that she has. She’s extremely tuned in to the human experience. She’s so not distracted by the trappings of fame and success.

On Oprah’s down-to-earth nature: I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been around her many times when people are encountering her for the first time and it’s really quite something to see the impact that she makes. I can’t imagine that there are too many people you could compare her to in that respect. She peers right into your soul; she’s very much an authentic person with everyone she meets. That’s part of her magic; all that is completely real.

On the most pleasant moment in her career: There have been so many. I can certainly say that one of them was getting this job, which is being the editor of Oprah’s magazine. It really touched me in a very profound way, the responsibility that I was being given.

On the major stumbling block she’s had to face: For me, I think probably it’s just like with most people when you’re starting out. I was a writer at GQ magazine when I was quite young, in my 20s, and I do remember trying to figure out what I wanted to say. I was always good at putting words together and making pretty sentences, but I remember being challenged by my editors at GQ who were great mentors and very talented people, who made it clear, especially at a magazine as great as GQ, that it wasn’t enough to just write well, you had to have a point of view and something to say.

On what she knows for sure as editor of O, The Oprah Magazine: I know that magazines have always been and continue to be a really rare and wonderful thing. I think, especially with a magazine like ours, it is a uniquely, immersive experience. It’s such a pleasure to have this beautifully curated collection of stories, ideas, sometimes quizzes, exercises; things that have been put together to challenge readers and to lift them up and get them to see their own life in a new way.

On whether O, The Oprah Magazine could exist without the print component: I suppose it could, simply because there are so many other ways to express one’s ideas. There are obviously so many formats and platforms out there today. But I wouldn’t love that; I wouldn’t think that would be a positive thing. O, as a print publication is incredibly special and it’s lush and beautiful and it’s tactile and something that is very well-enjoyed in bed, in a hammock, on the couch or in the tub. The physical nature of it is one of the very special things about it.

On what makes her click and tick and motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings: I really love the work itself. As social as I can be, which is what makes me take such pleasure in my colleagues; I love the solitary work of magazines; I love working on copy and I love wrestling with ideas. I love the process of taking the wet clay of a concept and molding it, figuring it out and turning it into something wonderful that you can share with literally millions of people. It’s very pleasurable work.

On anything else she’d like to add: Just that it’s a very exciting time. As you know we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary and I’m really thrilled with the momentum that I’m feeling, creative and commercial, in terms of just the excitement that surrounded our May issue, which was officially our anniversary. And the great sense of a new chapter beginning that we all have.

On what keeps her up at night: I would say that even though this is a volatile time in the magazine business, happily, I don’t feel like anyone is dying from it or suffering deeply or terribly from it. In that sense, I reserve my sleeplessness for what’s happening with my kids. But the magazine business is there and I think it will survive and be there for me, no matter how much sleep I get or don’t get.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lucy Kaylin, Editor-In-Chief, O, The Oprah Magazine.

O Mag May Cover Samir Husni: When O, The Oprah Magazine was launched, there was a lot of talk about how long a celebrity magazine could last; we had Martha Stewart and Rosie, yet, 15 years later, the magazine is still going strong. What do you think is the magazine’s secret to longevity?

Lucy Kaylin: I think it’s a couple of things. The first thing really is Oprah herself. She’s so much more than just a celebrity. She’s a person who is admired the world over for her completely unique and inspiring journey and her approach to life, for her endless curiosity and creativity and her love of challenge and innovation.

I think people realize that they’re not just looking at a really famous face when they see Oprah; they’re seeing a very authentic person who lives in a very big way the life that they see for themselves, which is one of creativity, passion and self-realization, all of those things that are quite genuine and not all just about fame.

And for the other part of my answer; the magazine is the same; it’s never just about celebrities. It’s always had, arguably, the world’s most famous celebrity on the cover every month anyway. It’s been about big, resonant, rich, important ideas for real women. So, there have always been lots and lots in the magazine for women who have great ambitions for themselves, in terms of living a realized life. And that’s for all time, that’s not something that goes in and out of fashion; it’s something that I think we all want.

We’re the very best DNA in the business, I think, and we’re really about something. It’s not about fads or gossip; it’s about what really matters most to the human experience.

Samir Husni: As you channel this human experience with every issue of Oprah; can you describe for me the dynamics of how you put each issue together? How involved Oprah is with the actual magazine? There’s a lot of talk that Oprah reads or looks at everything. Just describe for us the process of putting an issue of O, The Oprah Magazine together every month.

Lucy Kaylin: We have what we call ‘Big Idea Meetings’ and that’s where we get the entire staff together and talk about themes, such as what would be worthwhile themes for each of our issues. Ideas of themes that we’ve had in the past are: ‘Who’re you meant to be,’ ‘The 20 most important questions a woman should ask herself,’ or ‘Aging brilliantly,’ How to love the skin you’re in;’ those kinds of ideas that, again, are really about helping women to live a fuller and better life.

So, when we settle on a theme, we kick around how that would play out in the pages, such as who would be some of the writers that we’d like to contribute stories and who knows someone who has a cool story to tell about the topic at hand.

And we’re in constant communication with Oprah, she’s very interested, obviously, in what we’re doing and she often has great ideas for us, but she’s absolutely wonderful in trusting us and letting us be the magazine-makers, but she’s there for us whenever we need her. She’s certainly not interested in micro-managing and she loves to see what we come up with.

Not long ago my senior staff and I were at a retreat at her house on the West Coast and that was just an incredible opportunity over the course of a couple of days to really pick her brain and to share with her some thoughts that we had for the magazine and her feedback was valuable. We treat her instincts like the gold that they are and listen very carefully to that feedback.

Samir Husni: Do you feel as though you channel Oprah with every issue? Do you transform Oprah the person into Oprah the ink on paper?

Lucy Kaylin: To an extent. We really do like to have a multiplicity of voices, of course, so there will be people who have had all different kinds of experiences, sharing what they know and what they’ve been through, within our pages, so in that sense it’s not a strict first-page-to-last channeling of Oprah.

But we do have a very, those of us who work here, have a very clear sense of what matters to her. And the kinds of things that she likes to see in the magazine and the kinds of positions that she takes on things. We’re all pretty likeminded here. We came here to her magazine for a reason, so it’s not a struggle to figure out or to understand what’s important to her. It’s top of mind, for sure, all the time, what would Oprah think or what would she do and would this please her; whatever the story at hand might be.

Samir Husni: The title of one of my new books that’s coming out in August is called “Audience First” and when I look at the Oprah magazine and hear some critics, such as when Oprah stopped her television program, people were saying that’s the end of Oprah. Or whenever Oprah does anything remotely different, people cry that’s the end of her; how do you continue to capture that audience who are either enthralled with Oprah the magazine or even with what Oprah represents, not necessarily with the human being, Oprah, but her teachings, messages, her lifestyle, or they’re convinced she’s a thing of the past? How do you retain that steadfast audience, regardless of whether Oprah has a television show or not, and keep that magazine relationship flourishing?

Lucy Kaylin: We are blessed with a really wide readership and the readers that we have and our subscribers are quite passionate and quite loyal, so I don’t have the sense of fighting to find readers or fighting to keep them. I think the real secret is that what we’re putting out there is of such sustaining quality; it’s sustenance and it’s the stuff of life. Again, it’s not superficial; it’s not fleeting; it’s something that I feel certain millions upon millions of women and men are looking for.

If you’re putting out high quality content and you also have the benefit of an extremely high profile, extremely well-known face for the entire enterprise, such as Oprah and of course Gayle too, that’s a wonderful double-whammy for us. We have the great content, but we also have the extremely appealing and well-known face of what we do being the billboard for us, in a sense, as we look to attract new readers.

Samir Husni: To me, Oprah is one of the first magazines in the United States that broke the race barrier; it’s more of a melting pot for any woman or man who can relate to that lifestyle or approach. Why do you think that no one else has been able to imitate Oprah?

Lucy Kaylin: I really think that Oprah is 100% unique. She’s just a very powerful person and I mean that in the nicest way. She’s very impactful, the way that she’s able to connect with an audience, for instance. The way that she’s able to open up a person who’s sitting across from her that she’s interviewing. These are just incredibly rare gifts and skills that she has. She’s extremely tuned in to the human experience. She’s so not distracted by the trappings of fame and success.

It’s so interesting to me that there are lots and lots of actors and actresses today who have achieved tremendous fame and wealth and have, as a result, lived very strange lives sometimes and have been sort of walled-off from their public because it’s all become just too stressful and paparazzi-driven. It becomes, again, a kind of strange life.

And that’s just never happened to Oprah, even though she’s the most famous of them all, because she’s really tuned in to the human condition. And what made her famous was, of course, her TV show where she was very much surrounded by and interested in real people and real people’s issues and what was happening with their families and their pasts and childhoods, jobs and marriages.

She’s always been an authentic person in our world. And that doesn’t go away; she’s as real as they come and she’s been fabulously rewarded for it, but that doesn’t change her.

Samir Husni: I met her once when the magazine was launched at the launch party. And with all of the celebrities that I have ever met, I’ve never met anyone so down-to-earth. I felt like when she was shaking my hand and talking to me that we’d known each other forever.

Lucy Kaylin: I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been around her many times when people are encountering her for the first time and it’s really quite something to see the impact that she makes. I can’t imagine that there are too many people you could compare her to in that respect. She peers right into your soul; she’s very much an authentic person with everyone she meets. That’s part of her magic; all that is completely real.

And I think that’s why it’s such an advantage for us at the magazine. The heart of what we do is so real; it’s so authentic and it all stems from her.

Samir Husni: Speaking of real, for everything in this life, including life itself, there is a lifecycle. There’s a time to be born and a time to die, Heaven forbid. That being said; is the life of the magazine attached to the life of Oprah?

Lucy Kaylin: I don’t think I could comment on that. I hate to even think of such a thing, if what we’re implying is what happens when she’s gone. I don’t know.

I think we are just as grateful as we could possibly be for what she’s put into the world and what she continues to bring into the world and that we get to be a part of it. Who could possibly speak about the future?

Samir Husni: Reflect a little on your experience as a magazine editor and working in magazines. Can you recall the most pleasant moment in your career; one where you said, “Wow!”

Lucy Kaylin: There have been so many. I can certainly say that one of them was getting this job, which is being the editor of Oprah’s magazine. It really touched me in a very profound way, the responsibility that I was being given; the trust that the people around me had in my abilities; just the privilege, the privilege of being the chief custodian for something as wonderful as O, The Oprah Magazine.

Samir Husni: And what has been one of the major stumbling blocks that you’ve had to face in your career and how did you overcome it?

Lucy Kaylin: For me, I think probably it’s just like with most people when you’re starting out. I was a writer at GQ magazine when I was quite young, in my 20s, and I do remember trying to figure out what I wanted to say. I was always good at putting words together and making pretty sentences, but I remember being challenged by my editors at GQ who were great mentors and very talented people, who made it clear, especially at a magazine as great as GQ, that it wasn’t enough to just write well, you had to have a point of view and something to say.

And I remember struggling with that and trying to get my arms around the idea that my opinion on things and my point of view on things was worth broadcasting to the reading public. I got over that, but it took me some time.

Samir Husni: If someone asked you today then; Lucy, you’re the editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, what do you know for sure?

Lucy Kaylin: What do I know for sure? I know that’s a very good question. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Lucy Kaylin: I know that magazines have always been and continue to be a really rare and wonderful thing. I think, especially with a magazine like ours, it is a uniquely, immersive experience. It’s such a pleasure to have this beautifully curated collection of stories, ideas, sometimes quizzes, exercises; things that have been put together to challenge readers and to lift them up and get them to see their own life in a new way.

I feel like that there is something that’s just so fun and unique about a magazine. And of course it can be incredibly beautiful; the photography; the illustrations; it’s an art form for all time, even though we are constantly these days finding ways and brainstorming ideas to extend our brands and to do clever things off the page. But a magazine is the wellspring of all of that and it’s just a joyful thing. And I feel very lucky that I found my way into this business.

Samir Husni: Do you think O, The Oprah Magazine could exist without the print component?

Lucy Kaylin: I suppose it could, simply because there are so many other ways to express one’s ideas. There are obviously so many formats and platforms out there today. But I wouldn’t love that; I wouldn’t think that would be a positive thing.

O, as a print publication is incredibly special and it’s lush and beautiful and it’s tactile and something that is very well-enjoyed in bed, in a hammock, on the couch or in the tub. The physical nature of it is one of the very special things about it.

That said; we made a very beautiful app for the E-reader and we’ve made beautiful books out of our content and we have a wonderful website and of course, there’s O, The Network that we sometimes do things with. So, again, there are all kinds of ways to be O, but I’m partial to print and I’m hoping it’s going to be around for a long time.

Samir Husni: What makes you click and tick and motivates you to get out of the bed each morning and say, wow, this is going to be a great day?

Lucy Kaylin: I love the work. I absolutely love the work. One of the things that I discovered when I got into this business a few decades ago, where I started as a fact-checker at Vogue; one of the first things I noticed was the incredible caliber of people that are attracted to the magazine business. They’re all just so smart, funny and well-informed, so that’s always been a huge draw for me. I’ve worked with really fantastic people over the years and it’s just great to spend your day with people you like. That’s always been something that’s quickened my step on the way to work.

But I really love the work itself. As social as I can be, which is what makes me take such pleasure in my colleagues; I love the solitary work of magazines; I love working on copy and I love wrestling with ideas. I love the process of taking the wet clay of a concept and molding it, figuring it out and turning it into something wonderful that you can share with literally millions of people. It’s very pleasurable work.

Samir Husni: Are you a serial comma person?

Lucy Kaylin: I am a serial comma person, for the most part. I’m open to the conversation for those who aren’t, but my instincts say yes; the serial comma is the way to go. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Anything else you’d like to add?

O's Circle of Friends premium subscription model.

O’s Circle of Friends premium subscription model.

Lucy Kaylin: Just that it’s a very exciting time. As you know we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary and I’m really thrilled with the momentum that I’m feeling, creative and commercial, in terms of just the excitement that surrounded our May issue, which was officially our anniversary. And the great sense of a new chapter beginning that we all have. So, I suppose that’s what I would add.

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

Lucy Kaylin: I would say that even though this is a volatile time in the magazine business, happily, I don’t feel like anyone is dying from it or suffering deeply or terribly from it. In that sense, I reserve my sleeplessness for what’s happening with my kids; how am I going to get my daughter ready to go off to college in a month; concerns for my loved ones that I can’t escape from, for the most part.

But the magazine business is there and I think it will survive and be there for me, no matter how much sleep I get or don’t get.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First… Introducing The 4Cs Strategy For Survival And Success. The Must-Have New Book.

July 9, 2015

Audience First Allow me, for a change, to indulge in a little self promotion for my new book that I have authored with two of my colleagues. Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First, puts in practice what I have been preaching for years. Teaming up with my colleagues from the broadcast and online media world, gives the book a holistic approach to success in a news media world that now recognizes and respects the power of audience. The book will be published on August 18. To order the book click here.

Here’s what the book’s publisher CQ Press an imprint of Sage wrote on their website about the book:

The business of journalism is in the midst of massive change. Managing Today’s News Media: Audience First offers practical solutions on how to cope with and adapt to the evolving media landscape. News media experts Samir Husni, Debora Halpern Wenger, and Hank Price introduce a forward-looking framework for understanding why change is occurring and what it means to the business of journalism. Central to this new paradigm is a focus on the audience. The authors introduce “The 4Cs Strategy” to describe how customers, control, choice, and change are all part of a strategy for successful media organizations. Every chapter in the book relates to one or more of these four key principles:

Customer – Each platform must offer a unique experience to the customer.
Choice – The audience has more options than ever, and news organizations must work harder to be the preferred choice.
Control – Sharing power and control with the audience is now a necessary part of running a successful news operation.
Change – Companies can manage change through adaptation.

Real-world case studies, important theoretical grounding, and a focus on understanding rather than resisting the customer’s desire for choice and control make this an unbeatable resource for students and managers alike who want to succeed in this changed media business landscape.

KEY FEATURES:

Leadership Reports offer insight into what the job of a media manager entails by providing in-depth interviews with major news media managers representing some of the top news outlets in the country, including The Wall Street Journal, Hearst, Forbes.com, CNN, and Bleacher Report.

Think and Do Segments
simulate real-world management decisions through exercises and case studies that test the reader’s ability to apply the techniques discussed in each chapter to good decision making.

Basic Business Principles
that drive the success or failure of the organizations are explained to help students understand the business of media and prepare these future managers for jobs in today’s media organizations.

To order the book click here.

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