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Magazine Cover Wraps By The Numbers: What Print Can Do And Digital Can’t… A Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive From MEDIARadar

July 16, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

I know I am a magazine and print junkie, but that does not mean that I do not value digital and what it has to offer to and for magazine media.

However, like I always say, there are some areas print can’t compete with digital, and some other areas where digital can’t compete with print.

One such area where digital can never compete with print is Magazine Cover Wraps. “Ain’t” no such thing in digital. Pure and simple.

So how can one utilize that print advantage? Well, rather than just be sentimental about it, MEDIARadar’s CEO Todd Krizelman, told me he “caught David Pilcher’s article on cover wraps yesterday morning as I was commuting into the office. I was curious to learn more, so went into MEDIARadar to see what we might find. We track cover wrap advertising specifically. It turns out that he’s right. There really is still a meaningful business here. About 20% of titles have sold a cover wrap in the past year, and both b2b and consumer magazine titles are active. The numbers are posted below:

I guess the numbers speak for themselves. Enough said.

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Humanized Content & Your Very Human Audience – It’s Not Bots Out There Reading Your Stuff. A Mr. Magazine Musing & Revisit…

July 7, 2018

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

In the summer of 2008, I wrote an article for the magazine of the Custom Publishing Council called “Content.” And while I realize that was 10 years ago, some things never age, such as the content of the “Content” article. That’s a lot of “content” you might say, and I agree with you. But content, good content combined with experience making, is what magazines are all about and custom publishing is still just as relevant and prevalent as it was in ’08, even more so.

I recently published an interview that I did with Drew Wintemberg, president of Time Inc. Retail. The focus of that conversation was on Special Interest Publications, or SIP’s as they are called in the world of publishing. There is nothing more customized than a singular topic magazine that targets a singular-topic-interested audience champing at the bit to learn more about that singular topic. That’s a lot of “singular topics” you might say, and I agree with you. But singular topics are what custom publishing is all about, even if you’re not a singular topic brand, knowing the singular topics that your audience is interested in is vital to the success of your custom publication.

Which leads me to the real crux of having success with any type of publishing, custom or otherwise, you have to know your customer’s customer, i.e. – the audience and the advertiser. That is the true mark of a professionally marketed and targeted publication. If you cannot humanize that magazine and give it a pointed and rigorous personality, one that can carry on a particular conversation with both the audience and the advertiser, then you’re simply tilting at windmills, because a one-dimensional idea that has not been “fleshed” out isn’t going to work. Not for you, not for your advertisers, and certainly not for your readers.

Hence, the revisit of my article for “Content,” the magazine. In it I suggest 7 easy steps to know your customer’s customer. Well, actually, it’s six easy ways plus one, which is seven anyway you add it. And these are not only good for yesterday and today’s market, they’re even more crucial for tomorrow’s marketplace. They present the idea that protecting and promoting your brand properly is the future of your publication and your entire company. And there is no better way to do that than by knowing your customer’s customer. You have to understand each and every facet of your brand, from who’s buying it to who’s advertising in it.

So, come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we take a trip down memory lane and run into today and tomorrow there as well…

Mr. Custom
Samir Husni

Protecting the Brand
Six (plus one) easy ways to know your customer’s customer

The most essential objective on the mind of any marketing director or head of a company is protecting the brand. This is paramount because companies must ensure their brand is not tarnished. That challenge becomes a huge responsibility on the shoulders for any individuals launching custom publications. If you fail to understand and help promote your customer’s brand in the proper way, the only thing the future holds for you, your marketing director or your media company is disaster.

There is no better way to protect and promote a brand than by understanding the customer’s customer. Knowing the people your custom publication targets is important to your success as a custom publisher, but success can only be guaranteed if you know the advertisers that are targeting your audience as well.

One of the simple questions I always ask people is, “Who is your audience?” Without really knowing who it is you are trying to reach, it is impossible to be successful at custom publishing. When I hear clients telling me that “everybody” is their audience, I know they haven’t even begun to do their homework. Before you attempt to create a custom publication, here are six plus one easy steps to consider:

1. Know the brand. This may sound elementary, but if the brand becomes unclear or gets diluted, it will lead to failure of the brand across the board and media outlets. You must know the brand inside out, upside down, forward and backward. It’s not enough to just know the brand you are working with from a marketer’s standpoint. You have to know it from the customer’s standpoint as well. Become a user of the brand, and if you aren’t the target demographic, find someone in your company who is.

2. Humanize the brand. You know the brand front and back; the next step is to make it warmer and more approachable than a concept. Imagine that soft drink, that pair of shoes, whatever product it may be, as a human being. Is it young or old? Rich or poor? Male or female? If you have taken my advice and have worked to know your audience better, then you should be able to identify the exact demographic and psychographic information about the human being that your brand has transformed into. Who does this human being want to have a conversation with? Once you have humanized your brand, it is much easier to create a voice for it.

3. Identify the voice. By combining the vision and the value of the brand, it becomes easier to create its voice. Is the voice preaching? Teaching? Conversational? Confrontational? Storytelling? You name it. Humanizing the brand isn’t enough. You have to take it further and come to a realization of how to protect the voice of the brand.

4. Identify the prototype person (if there is such a thing). Now that you have identified the voice of the brand, you need to identify who will be carrying on a conversation with it. A good way to think about it is if the humanized pair of shoes or the humanized soft drink came knocking on the door, would you welcome it in? You have to identify who will respond to the product. It will be easier to pair advertisers with your customers if you know who is involved in this conversation and exactly what they are like.

5. Think of the conversation that will take place. Once you have the humanized brand and the prototype person that will be holding a conversation, you need to think about the conversation that will take place. What will they talk about? Custom publishing has multifaceted goals, from the creation and retention of customers to the engagement of customers. Which of these facets applies? Also, how long will the conversation take?

6. Find the addictive elements of the conversation. What makes the prototype customer ask the humanized brand more questions? What aspects of their conversation make the customer more engaged? Find out what will make that prototype customer come back for more. In this day of brand dilution, not providing your customers with an addictive, exclusive and timely yet timeless conversation will do nothing but make the engagement between the brand and the customer brief. And when that happens, customers have no other choice but to look other places for the conversation they need, want and desire.

7. And above all, a dash of good luck. Why seven steps and not six? Because I believe seven is a much better number than six. Hope your next project will excel with these easy seven steps.

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A Different Story About The Newsstands: Drew Wintemberg, President, Time Inc. Retail, to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: We Have To Evolve And Find New Ways To Tap Into The Consumers. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

July 2, 2018

“You ask me why I’m bullish. I believe in the power of print in this digital age for several reasons. First and foremost, we at Meredith, and you know this already, have incredible, leading, iconic, trusted, powerful brands. And in this day and age of fake news that matters to our consumers. We see it. That’s part of the reason I’m so bullish on the SIP’s, and we see that when we hit the mark, such as The Royal Wedding for People or Magnolia Journal and other titles. I won’t beleaguer the phenomenal special editions or bookazines’ growth.” Drew Wintemberg…

Today’s newsstands are a hot topic of conversation at any meeting of the minds when it comes to publishers. From worrying about the present and future of the iconic shelves that display the stuff of dreams to the fear that the time to worry has run out; lately newsstands have been the bane of many publisher’s existence. Not so much for the powers-that-be at Time Inc. Retail. President of the division, Drew Wintenberg, is excited and hopeful when it comes to the status of the Special Interest titles that he oversees at Meredith.

With around 900,000 pockets out there in the retail world for Time Inc., Drew, has a different story to tell about the newsstands. He sees SIP’s as the wave of the immediate publishing future. I spoke with Drew recently and we talked about the phenomenon that is the special interest (bookazine) magazine. With high cover prices and their niche and targeted topics, they’re singular existence is only better for their owners the second time around. Or the third. The life of the reprinted SIP knows no boundaries. It’s an intriguing and profitable business model.

Drew is a firm believer in the power of print in this digital age and would go a step further than that by calling himself bullish on these successful goldmines called special interest publications. And he has the numbers to back it up.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview as we step into the world of retail, Time Inc./Meredith style, and learn our way around from a man who definitely has the roadmap to success, Drew Wintemberg, president, Time Inc. Retail.

But first the sound-bites:

On how his job has doubled in titles by adding all of the Meredith publications: We already had that. Meredith was a client of ours. At Time Inc. Retail, we act as a sales agent, a broker, so Meredith was a sales and marketing client of ours and has been for over 20 years. From a sales perspective, we were already representing Meredith.

On whether being owned by Meredith now makes a difference in how Time Inc. Retail handles all of the SIP’s and other titles: I think it gives us a chance to really manage our overall portfolio. Meredith was making their own decisions when they were a stand-alone company, as we did at Time Inc. I think now it gives us a chance to really look across the portfolio and optimize what we deliver to the consumer from an SIP perspective. We’re very, very bullish on the whole SIP category and have been. It’s certainly one of the areas that’s growing at an accelerated rate relative to the rest of the business.

On whether he thinks it’s time to define all of the many SIP’s that are on newsstands as “magazines” rather than “bookazines” and specials: We call them special editions or special interest publications and the reason we call them that is because they’re normally of a singular topic that people are passionate about. That’s really what we’ve seen and is the story of our success, tapping into that. You look at a Magnolia Journal or some of the things that we’ve done around the Time brand, particularly as it relates to health. Who would have thought that two years ago mindfulness would be such an incredibly hot topic to the tune that we’ve released it four times and have had incredible sales on that.

On his assessment of what’s happening in the world of retail today when it comes to magazines: It’s not just magazines, I think it’s the entire landscape of bricks and mortar that is being challenged. It almost doesn’t matter what category you’re in. Look at the “center of the store,” that’s being squeezed. I think with the consumer or the shopping behavior dynamics changing and the onset of things like self-checkout, or scan-and-go, or things like the Omni-channel, where you do click-and-collect; I think any product that’s an impulse product at the frontend, you’re going to have to evolve yourselves. You’re going to have to use the existing space that we have, but also find new ways to tap into the consumer.

On whether he believes the recent Supreme Court ruling that states can collect taxes on Internet sales will bring people back to more brick and mortar shopping: No, not really, maybe a small percentage. Again, not speaking about magazines but in general, Amazon has what, 90 million Prime users or something? I mean, I don’t see, even though the state’s get to take some taxing, and there are a couple of states already doing that, I don’t see this massive swing back to bricks and mortar. Even the bricks and mortar retailers are trying to figure out the ecommerce piece as well, whether they’re trying to figure that out in order to compete with the Amazons, or more importantly for them, to compete with what’s happening as far as the way the shoppers’ buying behavior has changed.

On the biggest challenge that he’s facing today: There are really a couple. The first is the misnomer on what’s happening in the magazine category overall. There are segments of the category that have declined, but if we can get folks to focus on the special interests, special editions; they are growing. So, that’s the first thing. When I wake up it’s how do I get the right message out to everybody involved that magazines, in fact, are not going the way of newspapers, to your point.

On the fact that so many companies are producing special interest magazines (bookazines) today, does he foresee the market ever reaching a saturation point: Nothing is forever, but I can tell you that certainly for the foreseeable future this is…you know, we used to have the Seven Sisters, then we had the Seven Celebrities, I think the way the consumer is moving and that news is instantaneous, these single topic, high-interest publications are the rave of the foreseeable future. I don’t see it being a saturation thing like coloring books; I don’t see this as a fad. I look at our results over the last five years, there’s no way this is a fad that’s going away anytime soon.

On whether he bases his bullishness about SIP’s on actual numbers and figures: Yes, absolutely. I look at two things; I look at what’s been going on when you see the launch of a Magnolia Journal. How phenomenal that was. If you get the topic right and the right persona, in the Magnolia Journal’s case, it can be incredible. Then I look at the legacy Time Inc. special editions and I just see…because of the way that we go about picking the topics with in depth research, and I’ve seen the sales results since 2014; I am extraordinarily bullish on that trend continuing because of the research and the rigor that we put into picking what titles we’ll put on newsstand.

On any stumbling block he envisions when it comes to Time Inc. Retail being the leader in the number of published SIP’s: The only thing that could derail it is if you stop delivering on what the consumers’ expectations are. And I don’t foresee us doing that.

On how closely his team works with the editorial team on selecting topics for the SIP’s: We have a group of folks in our marketing team who manage the entire process. We occasionally will provide an idea, but they’re doing all of the consumer research and everything else, so we leave what the topics are going to be to them.

On anything he’d like to add: You ask me why I’m bullish. I believe in the power of print in this digital age for several reasons. First and foremost, we at Meredith, and you know this already, have incredible, leading, iconic, trusted, powerful brands. And in this day and age of fake news that matters to our consumers. We see it. That’s part of the reason I’m so bullish on the SIP’s, and we see that when we hit the mark, such as The Royal Wedding for People or Magnolia Journal and other titles. I won’t beleaguer the phenomenal special editions or bookazines’ growth.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’d be having a glass of wine, relaxing with my wife by our fire pit and just recounting the day. After that it would be cooking and probably grilling, more than likely.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: He made a difference in our lives.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s what you and I talked about earlier. Part of it is the speed in which bricks and mortar are morphing into this Omni-channel transformation. I think the last piece is as a leader of this organization, am I doing everything in my power to prepare our organization and our people for the future.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Drew Wintemberg, president, Time Inc. Retail.

Samir Husni: Suddenly, within a year, with Meredith, your job has almost doubled – you have more titles at Time Inc. Retail now.

Drew Wintemberg: We already had that. Meredith was a client of ours. At Time Inc. Retail, we act as a sales agent, a broker, so Meredith was a sales and marketing client of ours and has been for over 20 years. From a sales perspective, we were already representing Meredith.

Samir Husni: Does being owned by Meredith now make a difference, in terms of how you’re going to treat all of these SIP’s and all of these titles that are hitting newsstands?

Drew Wintemberg: I think it gives us a chance to really manage our overall portfolio. Meredith was making their own decisions when they were a stand-alone company, as we did at Time Inc. I think now it gives us a chance to really look across the portfolio and optimize what we deliver to the consumer from an SIP perspective. We’re very, very bullish on the whole SIP category and have been. It’s certainly one of the areas that’s growing at an accelerated rate relative to the rest of the business.

Samir Husni: One of the things that’s been seen in the last five or ten years is that we have company’s now being formed and doing nothing but the so-called bookazines. Do you think it’s about time for the industry to change or to just use the word “magazine” to define all of these SIP’s, because when I look at the newsstands today there are probably more “bookazines” than regular magazine titles?

Drew Wintemberg: We call them special editions or special interest publications and the reason we call them that is because they’re normally of a singular topic that people are passionate about. That’s really what we’ve seen and is the story of our success, tapping into that. You look at a Magnolia Journal or some of the things that we’ve done around the Time brand, particularly as it relates to health. Who would have thought that two years ago mindfulness would be such an incredibly hot topic to the tune that we’ve released it four times and have had incredible sales on that.

So, I think they are part of the magazine category. I think the challenge that we’ve always had is you have AAM (Alliance for Audited Media), which doesn’t include any because it’s advertising rate-based driven, so it doesn’t include any SIP’s. But for us, to answer your question, we would still call them special editions or special interest publications. They are part of the magazine category, obviously.

Samir Husni: As we look at the retail market, you’re actually in the marketplace as opposed to people who look at it from the outside in, give me your assessment of what’s happening in the world of retail today when it comes to magazines.

Drew Wintemberg: It’s not just magazines, I think it’s the entire landscape of bricks and mortar that is being challenged. It almost doesn’t matter what category you’re in. Look at the “center of the store,” that’s being squeezed. I think with the consumer or the shopping behavior dynamics changing and the onset of things like self-checkout, or scan-and-go, or things like the Omni-channel, where you do click-and-collect; I think any product that’s an impulse product at the frontend, you’re going to have to evolve yourselves. You’re going to have to use the existing space that we have, but also find new ways to tap into the consumer.

So, that’s one aspect of it. And everybody, certainly at the checkouts, is going through that when you look at Mars, Hershey, Wrigley, or the Coca-Cola folks; it’s how do you capture that impulse sale in an environment where the consumer is shopping differently? So, we’re working very hard on an ecommerce strategy to tap into that.

Samir Husni: Do you think the recent Supreme Court decision to allow states to begin collecting taxes on all Internet sales will help the brick and mortar stores bring more customers back to their way of shopping since costs will be relatively the same?

Drew Wintemberg: No, not really, maybe a small percentage. Again, not speaking about magazines but in general, Amazon has what, 90 million Prime users or something? I mean, I don’t see, even though the state’s get to take some taxing, and there are a couple of states already doing that, I don’t see this massive swing back to bricks and mortar. Even the bricks and mortar retailers are trying to figure out the ecommerce piece as well, whether they’re trying to figure that out in order to compete with the Amazons, or more importantly for them, to compete with what’s happening as far as the way the shoppers’ buying behavior has changed.

Samir Husni: Do you consider the shoppers’ buying behavior as your biggest challenge every morning when you come to the office? What is your biggest challenge today that you’re facing?

Drew Wintemberg: There are really a couple. The first is the misnomer on what’s happening in the magazine category overall. There are segments of the category that have declined, but if we can get folks to focus on the special interests, special editions; they are growing. So, that’s the first thing. When I wake up it’s how do I get the right message out to everybody involved that magazines, in fact, are not going the way of newspapers, to your point.

And the second would be the speed in which the bricks and mortar, in-store/Omni-channel transformation is taking place. I use this example quite often; I was at Mars when convenience stores went to pay-at-the-pump, and I feel this is maybe not quite that moment, because I think there will always be checkouts, but I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to sort through this new shopping dynamic and how we tap into that. We know that when, and this is why I am so excited about the SIP’s, the sales on those things are just incredible, whether it’s Mindfulness or it’s Star Wars or Beauty and the Beast. Consumers will buy those; it’s making sure that we give them access as they shop in an Omni-channel environment.

Samir Husni: You said that you’re bullish on the special interest publications and Time Inc. Retail owns many pockets out in the retail field.

Drew Wintemberg: We have on the special interests alone around 900,000 pockets, I think that’s pretty close.

Samir Husni: Which means you need to have at least 900,000 issues to fill them, if you were only going to put one issue in each pocket.

Drew Wintemberg: Between our Meredith legacy brands and the Time Inc. legacy brands, we’ll probably have 320 releases next year, something like that.

Samir Husni: With those 320 releases, add to that what’s coming from Topix Media, Centennial, from AMI, from Bauer, you name it; will we ever reach a stage where the shopper is bombarded by all of these titles, with the average cover price of $10 or $11? Or you don’t see ever reaching a saturation point?

Drew Wintemberg: Nothing is forever, but I can tell you that certainly for the foreseeable future this is…you know, we used to have the Seven Sisters, then we had the Seven Celebrities, I think the way the consumer is moving and that news is instantaneous, these single topic, high-interest publications are the rave of the foreseeable future. I don’t see it being a saturation thing like coloring books; I don’t see this as a fad. I look at our results over the last five years, there’s no way this is a fad that’s going away anytime soon.

And that’s the beauty of these special interest titles. Let’s take mindfulness, as I said, we will have released that four times in two years. You and I would spend hours if not days researching mindfulness in order to curate what is in that issue of Time’s Mindfulness. So, that’s the beauty of it. If you think about some of the other things like celebrities, celebrity news is instantaneous. Either it’s on Twitter, Facebook; it’s on a title’s website, so that’s part of why I’m so bullish on these. I just see the incredible success of these SIP’s.

And the other thing that’s tied to that is we used to have the belief that we needed to wait a couple of years before we would put out a reprint, and we talked about giving away consumer shop; the chances of the 140 million consumers who go through a Wal-Mart every week seeing that particular issue of Mindfulness that particular week is probably fairly small. So, you’re just exposing the brand and that particular topic to more people more often by changing how often you release it.

Samir Husni: From a retail point of view, I must say, you sound more bullish about SIP’s than a lot of people I have spoken with. Are you saying that because you actually have the numbers and figures to back up that bullishness?

Drew Wintemberg: Yes, absolutely. I look at two things; I look at what’s been going on when you see the launch of a Magnolia Journal. How phenomenal that was. If you get the topic right and the right persona, in the Magnolia Journal’s case, it can be incredible. Then I look at the legacy Time Inc. special editions and I just see…because of the way that we go about picking the topics with in depth research, and I’ve seen the sales results since 2014; I am extraordinarily bullish on that trend continuing because of the research and the rigor that we put into picking what titles we’ll put on newsstand.

And the other thing is now that we’re managing the entire portfolio, I think we even have a greater opportunity to optimize the portfolio and maximize the sales results. So, I’m very bullish on the SIP’s. I think that’s been the growth engine that offsets the decline. I also think it’s important that special interest magazines are a newsstand only product. You can’t get them on subscription.

Samir Husni: Some of your competitive set, such as Centennial Media are doing around 150 titles per year and Topix about the same thing. Bauer is putting out about the same and so is AMI. What’s the strategy for Time Inc. Retail? You have the largest number of pockets and the largest number of titles being put out, is there any stumbling block that you envision stopping you from that?

Drew Wintemberg: The only thing that could derail it is if you stop delivering on what the consumers’ expectations are. And I don’t foresee us doing that.

Samir Husni: How closely do you work with the editorial team? Is it a two-way street, you come up with an idea that you feel consumers want and bring it to them?

Drew Wintemberg: We have a group of folks in our marketing team who manage the entire process. We occasionally will provide an idea, but they’re doing all of the consumer research and everything else, so we leave what the topics are going to be to them.

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

Drew Wintemberg: I’d just add a couple of points. You ask me why I’m bullish. I believe in the power of print in this digital age for several reasons. First and foremost, we at Meredith, and you know this already, have incredible, leading, iconic, trusted, powerful brands. And in this day and age of fake news that matters to our consumers. We see it. That’s part of the reason I’m so bullish on the SIP’s, and we see that when we hit the mark, such as The Royal Wedding for People or Magnolia Journal and other titles. I won’t beleaguer the phenomenal special editions or bookazines’ growth.

If you think about, for example, The Magnolia Journal, over 70 percent of The Magnolia Journal’s sales are from new category buyers, which is fantastic. We’re not cannibalizing the business. One of the challenges that we’ve always had is millennials and Gen Xer’s, so The Magnolia Journal’s index is at 113 with that segment. People magazine achieved a 50 percent share. The bottom line is in my opinion, consumers are still very much interested in quality, trusted content in print. And we work extraordinarily hard every day to deliver on that commitment and promise to them.

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

Drew Wintemberg: I’d be having a glass of wine, relaxing with my wife by our fire pit and just recounting the day. After that it would be cooking and probably grilling, more than likely.

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

Drew Wintemberg: He made a difference in our lives.

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

Drew Wintemberg: It’s what you and I talked about earlier. Part of it is the speed in which bricks and mortar are morphing into this Omni-channel transformation. I think the last piece is as a leader of this organization, am I doing everything in my power to prepare our organization and our people for the future.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Rosa Magazine: In The Spirit Of The Phenomenal Rosa Parks, A Magazine That’s Intention Is To Be A Catalyst For Change As It Honors Women In Power & Politics, Both Past And Present – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sandra Long, Publisher/Editor In Chief, Rosa Magazine…

June 28, 2018

“I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.”…Sandra Long


A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Rosa Magazine is a new title that honors women in power and politics, past, present and future ones. Its goal is to always be non-partisan and simply tell the stories of these important women of history and of those that will someday have a page in our world’s chronicles of time. It’s an arduous goal, but one that Publisher and Editor in Chief, Sandra Long is determined to reach.

Sandra is a woman who is very much Rosa material herself, having once held the position of Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, second in command of Maryland’s chief agency on commerce and industry. Her historical appointment marked the first for a woman or African American to this post in America. Quite an achievement and one that certainly qualifies her for the magazine’s tagline: Women in Power & Politics.

I spoke with Sandra recently and we talked about this fantastic new magazine that encourages women to make a stand for change in whatever areas of interest they may have. And as Sandra writes in her publisher’s letter in the premier issue: sometimes to change the system and the outcome of issues that we care about, we must hold political office.

And as for why she chose print as the perfect format for Rosa, according to Sandra, it’s about the look and feel of Rosa and how that resonates with readers right along with the content. And her firm belief that print is still a viable and prosperous technology for today’s world.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a delightful woman who knows her way around the world of politics and is quickly learning the many facets that make up the magazine universe, Sandra Long, publisher and editor in chief, Rosa magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Rosa magazine: Rosa magazine is actually my second magazine, but I started it because I came out of, when I was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I came out of that political environment and I’ve always been politically active and my family has too. One of my distant cousins served in the United States Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, and my folks are from Dallas. We just believe in telling good stories, and for Rosa it’s about telling good stories of what women have done politically and how we have impacted everything from the starting of the country to our political system today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve done in our past and also what we’re doing currently as we look to run for office and impact change.

On naming the magazine Rosa: Naming it Rosa was just in the spirit of Rosa Parks, in her image, that honesty and integrity, making a stand for something. And even though it’s not named after her directly, it is in that spirit. We wanted it to be able to tell people that Rosa Parks stood for something against all things. She made a stand. And today when we look at our political environment, it’s the things that we can do; we can make a stand. And it doesn’t have to be rowdy and unruly, but it can be where someone is just making a point.

On whether she is not only launching a magazine, but a movement as well: Our intent is to be able to start a movement. We want it to be able to grow naturally and organically; we think the time politically is right now when you look around and see what’s happening. There are more women who are running for office, and so this is probably the best time to launch a magazine around women in politics. I think it can be the beginning of a movement that helps spur more women into political office, locally and nationally. But it’s something that I’m not going to push out into the world, but just let it evolve naturally. And I think it will. I think women will gravitate toward having a magazine that is politically for them.

On why she decided on a print magazine: My family has been in print for almost 100 years. My great-grandfather did print and these were the old black newspapers, and my family also owns one of the oldest black newspapers in Dallas today. And so, I’ve always been partial to print. And contrary to popular belief, I do not think print is dead. I think the Internet is so large and there’s so much to search for, it’s still nice to be able to pick up a magazine and read.

On which career was easier, being the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, being in politics, or being a journalist/publisher/editor: That’s a great question. Really, it’s an easy question, because I’m going to tell you, I really think being deputy secretary was easier than being a journalist and a publisher. It’s difficult, because you have to try to understand your marketplace and who you’re writing for, you have to get the story right. We have to engage writers of all backgrounds, there is a lot to it, and that’s just the editorial side. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, you already know all of this. There are so many moving parts to it.

On whether she can really keep Rosa magazine non-partisan: The mission of Rosa is to definitely be non-partisan, to write about both sides of an issue and leave the readers to make their own decisions. We’re not trying to lean them either way, which honestly is the difficult part. And I’ll give you a great example. In the inauguration issue we had a story about political rhetoric and in that we just happened to use President Trump and the gentleman who started this big thing on political rhetoric, we used those two photos. And I’ll tell you, we did get some emails about using those, but had they read the story instead of just thinking that we were making a play after President Trump, they would have found that we were not. But he is a master at political language; he is a master at that and you have to give him that. So, I think it’s going to be hard, a very difficult task.

On what she hopes to say about Rosa magazine after the next 12 months: That’s a great question. I sit and think about what impact Rosa can make over the next 12 months, because we’ll be knee-deep in looking at that next presidential election; we’ll be approaching 2020. So, the impact that we want to be able to have, that I think Rosa will have, is to be able to bring women together, to say here is a magazine that has stories with women in political office, whether they’re running or whether they’re in their communities, what are they doing politically, and that they will see Rosa as a connector across the country. If we have done that and done that well, then we’ve accomplished what the mission of Rosa is meant to be.

On the largest stumbling block she thinks she’ll have to face: Here is the largest stumbling block, because sustainability in any effort, any venture, is key. Once you feel like you’re hitting your niche, then how are you going to sustain that? For us, one of the toughest challenges is that sustainability looks like advertising, because there is only so much self-funding that I can do. And we’re going to need to get advertisers; we’re going to have to take on people who are experts in the industry to be able to help us get the right advertisers.

On the most pleasant moment so far: The most pleasant moment was actually getting the magazine in my hand and being able to turn that page when it came from the printer, and just to look and ask was this the intent when we put this into print? Our designer, Matt Williams, is just brilliant, and when we turned that page, I have to tell you, I felt like it was a great nod to the women of our past and to the ones that are now, I think it was a job well done. That was an exciting moment.

On why she chose to publish in Nashville: Nashville, for me, is home and I know a lot of people here. And it’s a growing city. Nashville in its heyday was a publishing city and we had Printer’s Alley. We did a lot of the major magazines and we still do a lot of work on major magazines in print. I know some people might say that we need to be in New York or in Washington, but we can get there from Nashville, Tenn. I think it’s just a different mindset in Nashville. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, it’s always been my spiritual center. And so when I come to Nashville, I get clarity on what it is I feel like I’m supposed to be doing to impact the world personally.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I’m doing one of two things, I’m either on Texture looking at magazine design, because that’s one of the things that I just love and it relaxes me. I just want to look and see what other designers are doing, it keeps us creative. And I’m probably watching some girly show – Real Housewives or something, if I’m not reading. But I have to tell you, to relax sometimes I’m watching some kind of reality TV show. I’ll indulge for at least an hour, so you’ll find me doing those things for sure.

On how she would like to be remembered: Probably service to mankind. I want to be known for service, that’s all I want to be known for. That I just wanted to serve people in the particular way that God gave me with my skillset, because there are some things that I’m not good at and most people who know me will tell you. (Laughs) Oh no, Ms. Long, she’s not good at that. (Laughs again) Or she’s successfully good at this; I am good at concepts and implementing. But it is always to be of service. So, if there’s anything I want people to remember about me or to be etched in stone or in the brains of people, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

On what keeps her up at night: There isn’t a lot that keeps me up at night, because from the moment that my feet hit the ground in the morning, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m running hard every, single day, so by the time I get to sleep, I am a sound sleeper. There’s not anything that I’m really concerned about other than just making sure that I am doing all that I can do to give the magazine the right voice and the right life that it deserves. Nothing lasts forever, there’s a time and a season for everything. I just happen to think that this is Rosa’s season. That this is the time for a magazine of this caliber and with this target and mission.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sandra Long, publisher/editor in chief, Rosa magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the launch of Rosa magazine. You’re a woman of many accomplishments and now you’re diving into the world of magazines and journalism. Tell me about Rosa.

Sandra Long: Rosa magazine is actually my second magazine, but I started it because I came out of, when I was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I came out of that political environment and I’ve always been politically active and my family has too. One of my distant cousins served in the United States Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, and my folks are from Dallas. We just believe in telling good stories, and for Rosa it’s about telling good stories of what women have done politically and how we have impacted everything from the starting of the country to our political system today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve done in our past and also what we’re doing currently as we look to run for office and impact change.

Samir Husni: Can you reconstruct that a-ha moment when you decided to call the magazine Rosa? How did the name come into being?

Sandra Long: That’s a great question. Even though we just launched this past March, I probably had the idea over two years ago and probably longer than that, but I just wasn’t in a position to understand what Rosa really was, you know you have to decide and define what is it. What kind of stories are you going to tell? So, even in my soul-searching about designing the magazine and what the format was going to be, it took a while. So, we’ve had the idea for a while.

Naming it Rosa was just in the spirit of Rosa Parks, in her image, that honesty and integrity, making a stand for something. And even though it’s not named after her directly, it is in that spirit. We wanted it to be able to tell people that Rosa Parks stood for something against all things. She made a stand. And today when we look at our political environment, it’s the things that we can do; we can make a stand. And it doesn’t have to be rowdy and unruly, but it can be where someone is just making a point.

So, I decided to name the magazine Rosa because I think it has substance, that name in and of itself, what it means has substance. I just wanted women to have a magazine that represented them, and it’s non-partisan. I wanted this to be a voice for women, for them to be able to express themselves politically and with issues that relate to that. So, that’s how I laid the foundation.

Samir Husni: In the magazine, your introduction has so many illustrations, such as the T-shirt “I am Rosa, I am Rosa.” In addition to launching the magazine, are you in the process of starting a movement, like the French with “I am Charlie?”

Sandra Long: Our intent is to be able to start a movement. We want it to be able to grow naturally and organically; we think the time politically is right now when you look around and see what’s happening. There are more women who are running for office, and so this is probably the best time to launch a magazine around women in politics. I think it can be the beginning of a movement that helps spur more women into political office, locally and nationally. But it’s something that I’m not going to push out into the world, but just let it evolve naturally. And I think it will. I think women will gravitate toward having a magazine that is politically for them.

We’ve done tests for all of these different age groups, the younger – the millennials, and I will tell you that it’s really amazing to see the reception from each one of those age groups, even the millennials. And we’re proud of that. So, to answer your question, we sure hope it starts a movement, but we’re going to just naturally let it happen.

And I think social media, as we all know, gives us that great presence. You can build a movement online, and I think we’ll do a lot of that. Now, we’ll need help to be able to do it, but we’ll definitely lay that foundation for that.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to publish a print magazine?

Sandra Long: There are two reasons. Number one, my family has been in print for almost 100 years. My great-grandfather did print and these were the old black newspapers, and my family also owns one of the oldest black newspapers in Dallas today. And so, I’ve always been partial to print. And contrary to popular belief, I do not think print is dead. I think the Internet is so large and there’s so much to search for, it’s still nice to be able to pick up a magazine and read.

And because I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.

Samir Husni: Which career was easier, being the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, being in politics, or being a journalist/publisher/editor?

Sandra Long: (Laughs) That’s a great question. Really, it’s an easy question, because I’m going to tell you, I really think being deputy secretary was easier than being a journalist and a publisher. It’s difficult, because you have to try to understand your marketplace and who you’re writing for, you have to get the story right. We have to engage writers of all backgrounds, there is a lot to it, and that’s just the editorial side. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, you already know all of this. There are so many moving parts to it.

And even though my family has been in the business, I did not print those things, I was in and around it, but to do it yourself and to pull your own team together and to try and get the voice right is hard. The voice of Rosa magazine has to be right, and it’s really difficult. But deputy secretary is probably a close second, it was hard. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You’re trying to make Rosa apolitical in the divided sea that exists in our country. Is it possible to create something today that’s apolitical or isn’t on the right or on the left?

Sandra Long: The mission of Rosa is to definitely be non-partisan, to write about both sides of an issue and leave the readers to make their own decisions. We’re not trying to lean them either way, which honestly is the difficult part. And I’ll give you a great example. In the inauguration issue we had a story about political rhetoric and in that we just happened to use President Trump and the gentleman who started this big thing on political rhetoric, we used those two photos. And I’ll tell you, we did get some emails about using those, but had they read the story instead of just thinking that we were making a play after President Trump, they would have found that we were not. But he is a master at political language; he is a master at that and you have to give him that. So, I think it’s going to be hard, a very difficult task.

When we have our writer’s meetings, we are looking at every story, all of the language. What does this say to our readers? And are we really writing down the middle as we tell these stories of the past, present and future? It’s tremendously difficult, I have to tell you. I’m hoping that we hit the mark, but I also think the readers will keep us honest in that. Some of the women who were in office would say a certain story wasn’t non-political, that it had a slant to it, so we have to try and avoid that, it’s not what we want. We want to bring the nation of women, and male readers too, we have readers that are men; we want to bring the nation together. Or at least do our part.

Samir Husni: You’re referring to the article “Speaking in Code,” correct?

Sandra Long: Yes.

Samir Husni: It’s a great illustration, among other things, for the opening spread. So, tell me, if you and I are speaking a year from now and I ask you to tell me about Rosa, what would you hope to say?

Sandra Long: That’s a great question. I sit and think about what impact Rosa can make over the next 12 months, because we’ll be knee-deep in looking at that next presidential election; we’ll be approaching 2020. So, the impact that we want to be able to have, that I think Rosa will have, is to be able to bring women together, to say here is a magazine that has stories with women in political office, whether they’re running or whether they’re in their communities, what are they doing politically, and that they will see Rosa as a connector across the country. If we have done that and done that well, then we’ve accomplished what the mission of Rosa is meant to be.

One of my favorite stories in this issue is about a young lady named Blair, who is out of South Carolina and she’s young, but she ran for state office and she won. And so it’s important to have people look at that. Other young women who might have an interest in politics, to see that you can do it. Not everyone is going to want to run and win, but to just be in the ring is the idea. At least I threw my little Chanel hat into the ring. So, that’s what we’re hoping Rosa will accomplish. A year from now, I’m telling you if we can do that, then we will have done something that’s great.

Samir Husni: As we look ahead, as you look at Rosa and at the entire spectrum of women in power in politics, what do you feel will be the largest stumbling block you’ll have to face and how will you overcome it?

Sandra Long: Here is the largest stumbling block, because sustainability in any effort, any venture, is key. Once you feel like you’re hitting your niche, then how are you going to sustain that? For us, one of the toughest challenges is that sustainability looks like advertising, because there is only so much self-funding that I can do. And we’re going to need to get advertisers; we’re going to have to take on people who are experts in the industry to be able to help us get the right advertisers.

I think there’s a tremendous base of people who want more say, who want to be a part of Rosa magazine or are geared toward our audience. So, that’s probably my biggest challenge, if I’m being honest. I know that they will come. I did it without even thinking. Initially, it was a passion project coming out of the gate. It wasn’t where I was thinking we had to make sure we have advertisers, so I think we have to work for them now.

But here’s the thing, we have a product that they can hold in their hands and look at. It’s already on Barnes & Noble’s stands nationwide, but we’re going to need some help when it comes to finding people that believe in advertising in the magazine.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment so far?

Sandra Long: The most pleasant moment was actually getting the magazine in my hand and being able to turn that page when it came from the printer, and just to look and ask was this the intent when we put this into print? Our designer, Matt Williams, is just brilliant, and when we turned that page, I have to tell you, I felt like it was a great nod to the women of our past and to the ones that are now, I think it was a job well done. That was an exciting moment.

But for me, I don’t relish too long, I will just say okay now, what’s next? (Laughs) At least, that’s what the staff says, they’ll say let’s just enjoy for a moment. But that was probably the most enjoyable moment for me. I’m just excited for the next issue, there are so many stories to be told.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose to publish in Nashville?

Sandra Long: Nashville, for me, is home and I know a lot of people here. And it’s a growing city. Nashville in its heyday was a publishing city and we had Printer’s Alley. We did a lot of the major magazines and we still do a lot of work on major magazines in print. I know some people might say that we need to be in New York or in Washington, but we can get there from Nashville, Tenn. I think it’s just a different mindset in Nashville. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, it’s always been my spiritual center. And so when I come to Nashville, I get clarity on what it is I feel like I’m supposed to be doing to impact the world personally.

We may open another office, and I know that we will open an office in D.C. that will be an editorial office, probably sooner rather than later, but for now the main office is in Nashville and I anticipate we’ll be here for the next year or two.

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

Sandra Long: I’m doing one of two things, I’m either on Texture looking at magazine design, because that’s one of the things that I just love and it relaxes me. I just want to look and see what other designers are doing, it keeps us creative. And I’m probably watching some girly show – Real Housewives or something, if I’m not reading. But I have to tell you, to relax sometimes I’m watching some kind of reality TV show. I’ll indulge for at least an hour, so you’ll find me doing those things for sure.

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

Sandra Long: Probably service to mankind. I want to be known for service, that’s all I want to be known for. That I just wanted to serve people in the particular way that God gave me with my skillset, because there are some things that I’m not good at and most people who know me will tell you. (Laughs) Oh no, Ms. Long, she’s not good at that. (Laughs again) Or she’s successfully good at this; I am good at concepts and implementing. But it is always to be of service. So, if there’s anything I want people to remember about me or to be etched in stone or in the brains of people, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

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

Sandra Long: There isn’t a lot that keeps me up at night, because from the moment that my feet hit the ground in the morning, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m running hard every, single day, so by the time I get to sleep, I am a sound sleeper. There’s not anything that I’m really concerned about other than just making sure that I am doing all that I can do to give the magazine the right voice and the right life that it deserves. Nothing lasts forever, there’s a time and a season for everything. I just happen to think that this is Rosa’s season. That this is the time for a magazine of this caliber and with this target and mission.

So, anything that weighs on my mind a little bit is about whether I’m doing everything that I need to do to move it along, but not where it is so forced and so pushed, but definitely where people will embrace it. And hopefully they will do that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines & Magazine Media: Credibility, Trust & The Art of Curation With An Added Bonus Of Sifting Through the Misinformation

June 26, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Magazines are art. Their content, photographs, typography, and design all combine together to make the artistry that propels them into that world of cultivated beauty. And if words power societies as we all know they do, then the act of putting letters together to form words should not be taken lightly. In fact, as I am writing this my thought processes are churning as I select each consonant and vowel to curate and create this Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

Magazines are curators. To be fair, magazine creators are the curators, just as Mr. Magazine™ is curator of this message. The curation of content is not something to take lightly. Not in this day and age of fake news and even faker websites that are out there among the masses of true – maybe true – no way could this be true information. And that’s why the weight of the world; the weight of people’s trust and confidence sits squarely on the shoulders of curation.

Curation is an art form. When a magazine’s team gets together to have a meeting-of-the-minds when it comes time for that all-important next issue, finding and organizing that quality content that is meant just for the readers of that magazine is vital.

Searching. Validating. Finding an expert. Summarizing and providing answers to “What’s In It For Me” regardless of what the curated material is that you’re trying to find, and then relating that information and storytelling to the specific audience is what sets a magazine apart from other more questionable content providers.

Courtesy of MPA: The Association of Magazine Media

For example, at the 2018 IMAG Conference that I recently attended in Boston, Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, talked about credibility by the numbers. It was a fascinating presentation. Linda spoke about one article that Parents Magazine ran about child disability that had hours upon hours of reporting and interviews with people who had expertise in the topic, from psychiatrists and psychologists to attorneys and child professionals, proving that thorough investigation and evaluation of research and experts produces verified and credible material that audiences can trust.

And magazines are about creating trust. Curation buffers that trust to the top of the food chain when it comes to the digestion of information. What we put into our minds eventually becomes our thoughts and ideas, so correct, true and worthy information is important to all of us.

And finding an expert to interview, to review, and validate the curation is essential to the credibility of what magazines and magazine media offer. The medium of print is a technology unto itself. As we scan the Internet for information and as we find that knowledge on some obscure website, are we sure that content has been curated through experts, reviews and validation? No, we cannot be sure of anything with random words and sentences that are pulled together in Cyberspace.

Now, most of you know that Mr. Magazine™ has and always will be a voice for print in this digital age that we live in. I don’t think that’s a beacon of surprise to anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that I am not a proponent of positivity for the power of digital information. But what I am saying with this musing is simply, there are some things that magazines do better than the Internet. And that, as always, we out here in the real world (not the virtual world) need the correct information and simple truths that proven print media has to offer.

Some of you may have heard the recent reports on the so-called “computer-generated” models that’s usage is on the rise with social media influencers, which are people who are paid to promote brands and products, and in some cases aren’t even real people. According to these media reports, with this growing online trend, some of these computer-generated influencers have more than one million followers each. The goal of these influencers is to get you to buy products or experiences, but some worry you could be misled by false images. False information from the Internet? Surely not!

Ignoring Mr. Magazine’s™ apparent sarcasm, I think it behooves us to realize that not everything we read, watch, listen to, and absorb from online sources is true and accurate, such as with “Lil Miquela,” the optical illusion model that was referred to in the media reports we were just discussing. She is an avatar designed by artists and constructed by computers. Can you imagine? She appears real and true, but in actuality is only an illusion.

Mr. Magazine’s™ email offer

And if likes and followers can’t be had by fictitious models that don’t even exist, why, you can now buy your way into online popularity. Even Mr. Magazine™ (print lover extraordinaire) receives digital offers to purchase fake and non-existent Instagram followers and Facebook likes. I recently received an email that offered me 10k Facebook likes for $70 and 10k Instagram followers for the same amount. And of course, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn were also included in my illustrious offer.

People, the lines between fiction and reality are becoming blurred. Before we know it, there will be no defining factors between truth and lies. And what are the ethical issues concerning this newfound ability to generate avatar-people? Shouldn’t we worry that deception is becoming the norm in our world?

All of this leads back to the fact that magazines produce “real human” models, “real human” information, and “real human” trust factors. The curation of honest content and factual material is a must for us in this world of fictitious people and misinformation that we live in. The art of curation has never been more important to a generation of human beings who have to sift through the mountains of media falsehoods that exist in the world today.

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands – the real newsstands!

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Mr. Magazine™: Common Sense Lessons I Have Learned For Today’s Print Media…*

June 24, 2018

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni speaking at the Magazines & Books At Retail Conference in New Jersey June 12, 2018.

With information flowing in from multiple platforms, today’s average consumer is exposed to 2,900 media messages per day, pays attention to 52, and remembers four. The average American adult’s attention span declined from 12 seconds in 2016 to eight seconds in 2017 (one second more than that of a gold fish).

Those were among the statistics cited by Samir Husni, in a presentation at the 2018 MBR Conference, to underscore the point that magazines and books are battling as never before for a share of consumers’ time and attention.

Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, started by refuting several myths about magazines, including the “print is dead” cliché.

He pointed out that he identified 131 launches of magazines with regular frequencies in 2017, and has counted 103 (plus 300 bookazines) already in 2018 — on topics spanning new twists on existing categories and whole new categories (e.g., cooking with cannabis, raising urban chickens).

“Everything has a natural lifecycle, so why shouldn’t magazines?,” he asked. “Magazines are folding, and launching, all the time,” but their overall number continues to grow.

The notion that digital will replace print has been shown to be false, he said. “It’s no longer print versus digital; it’s print plus digital. The two are equally important in an integrated, omnichannel brand. The audience determines which platform they use to consume the brand content at any given time.”

In fact, he declared, “print is the new ‘new media.’” Even digital and high-tech companies, including Airbnb, Uber, and Facebook, are launching print magazines to connect in a deeper way with their customers and prospects. Further, print is the only medium that doesn’t “spy on us, track us or invade our privacy” when we’re consuming it, Husni noted.

He also offered “common sense lessons” to keep print magazines dynamic and healthy in the years ahead, including:

*Be content curators and solution providers. Print publications’ biggest strengths include the abilities to sort through the avalanche of content for consumers, and present the research along with the answers—including insights about the next trends and developments of importance to them. All of which reinforces the trust that consumers have in established print brands.

*Continually seek and analyze reader input and data. That includes monitoring social media, as well as reader database analysis. Instead of or in addition to focus groups, make it a regular practice to take a few readers to lunch, to hear their feedback and concerns in a relaxed, informal setting.

*Be opinion leaders. Use your magazine’s authority — through both social media and interactivity with print readers — to start conversations and lead public debate. Let the audience know they’re being heard, even if you don’t agree.

*Be experience creators. Just being a “content creator” is not enough. You need to create and share experiences that drive engagement.

*Be addictive. No one literally “needs” a magazine or newspaper to survive, but our products can be so relevant and compelling for that reads they feel like their lives would be incomplete without them. Make sure that each issue leaves them hungering for the next issue’s surprises and delights. (Teases and even “cliffhangers” can be great tactics.)

*Provoke emotions. Create content that stirs emotional reactions—whether that’s a laugh or smile, or a frown or tear.

*Continue to innovate in print. We often see new formats in print magazines — in ads, covers and elsewhere — driven by new technology and the our own imagination and creativity. We need to continue to challenge ourselves on this front.

*Don’t forget that success hinges most of all on being able to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” What’s in it for your readers, advertisers and retailers? “It’s all about service, truth, goodwill and benefits,” Husni summed up.

On June 12 I spoke at the Magazines & Books at Retail Conference in New Jersey. My presentation was titled “14 Magazine Media Myths Debunked and 10 Lessons Learned.” The summary of my presentation above was originally published by MBR Daily Publishing & Retail, written by the newsletter’s editor Karlene Lukovitz and posted on the MBR site.

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Ink Co-CEO & Founder, Simon Leslie, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We Support Print Because Print Works.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

June 21, 2018

“We support print because print works. People still love that ephemeral moment of picking up the magazine and flipping through it; that lean-back experience rather than lean-forward. Sometimes it’s nice to get off the screen and have that moment to yourself.” Simon Leslie…

Ink travel media was founded in 1994 and has six offices around the globe. They’re storytellers and sellers of advertising to some of the largest brands in the world today, such as American, Qatar, Etihad and Virgin Airlines. In addition, Ink also sells digital media space to airlines as well. But Joint CEO and Cofounder, Simon Leslie, is not a man to trifle with when it comes to print. He is a firm believer in a high quality ink on paper product and has the numbers to back it up.

As some of you know, I recently attended the IMAG Conference in Boston, hosted by MPA: The Association of Magazine Media. In this, my third and final interview installment of that wonderful experience, Simon graciously gave me some time to sit down with him and pick his brain about the cost effectiveness of print and about the success he and his company have found from not only the printed product, but also benevolence toward their employees and the human race in general. And while we all want to make a profit, including Simon, to him money is not the be all/end all of a company’s success. Not by a long shot.

As you read this interview, you will discover a man who has reached that pivotal moment in his life where success is measured by lives one has touched in a positive way, not by how many zeroes take up space in one’s bank account. And a man who has also found that people, human beings, still enjoy, want and revel in the printed product.

So, sit back and enjoy a conversation that will prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there are still nice people in the world who are definitely print proud and print prosperous – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Simon Leslie, Joint CEO & Cofounder, Ink.

But first the sound-bites:

On what’s going on with Ink today: Michael (Keating) and I started the business 24 years ago. And in 2003 we merged with two other partners and we all took very different roles. And in 2014 we took back control of the business and we’ve really focused on our people, on our process, and on the things that we’re really good at, which are creating great content and selling advertising.

On whether he considers himself an ambassador of print: Am I an ambassador? I’m pro-print; I’m happy that print is doing well, certainly for us as a business. We’re doing a lot of video and we’re producing a lot of content. And whatever format the readers want to consume it in, that’s what we’ll focus on. And today people still love magazines.

On whether Ink will ever do anything but travel media: I get asked that question a lot, you know? Why don’t you do something here or do something there. The more you focus on something, the better you become at it. It’s a process. The best in the world focus on one thing. We have done projects for some of our advertisers because they come to us and say that they love what we do and then ask can we help them? So, I wouldn’t say never, but we’re busy. And we’re seeing lots more opportunity coming from this sector. There are 350 airlines in the world, we do 27 of them. We haven’t really scratched the surface. Now, we do 27 of the best ones, but there are still plenty more to go for and there are plenty of markets that we don’t have a presence in. We are very much mining in those markets, quite aggressively.

On why Ink’s travel content isn’t repurposed for each airline or client: It’s something that we’ve looked at many times; people say why don’t they just repurpose this? But an article that we write on Paris for American is very different than an article we write on Paris for EasyJet. And the same for Etihad and Qatar, we have a different tone. What we agree with the airlines on is this is the person we are targeting, this is their client, this is the area that they want us to focus on, and that way it keeps it spoke on brand. Each airline has their own brand voice, has their own brand that they want to have. Some want to be really quirky, some want to be slick. Some want to be very adventurous, and we work at what the right tone is for each of those magazines.

On whether there has been a moment in his career where he felt as though “this is it – we’ve made it”: (Laughs) That’s a great question. Sometimes I walk through the office and I look around and there are hundreds of people and they’re working and I’ll think: when will they realize that I don’t know what I’m doing? Do you think they’ll ever figure it out? (Laughs) I mean, some of them already have. But it does make me very proud. It makes me proud seeing them achieve amazing things.

In front of the Boston, MA Public Library. This is the last of three interviews I conducted in Boston while attending the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media’s IMAG 2018 conference.

On his people-oriented beliefs and thinking and where that soft spot for his fellow man comes from: You’d have to ask my mother. (Laughs) She obviously brought me up well. You know, I spent 15 years trying to make money and being very much at the cold-face. I left school very early and just wanted to be rich. That’s what I thought anyway. And then something happened in my mid-thirties where I realized…something clicked that said if I wanted to be successful, I had to make sure I worked with people and focused on them, rather than focusing on the profits. And it started to work. And the more it worked, the more I said let’s do more of it.

On whether or not it’s all been a walk in a rose garden or there were some thorns every now and then: (Laughs) There have been lots of thorns. I think you become more resilient as you learn and grow. Once upon a time when the phone rang and you saw your client’s name there, you would think, what’s happened now? But now when the phone rings I’m excited to speak to them. And I don’t have the same fear that something has gone wrong. And I think that just comes from experience and knowing that whatever happens you’re going to deal with it. There is nothing that’s going to happen that one can’t deal with.

On how many magazines he has to publish to reach that complete satisfaction level: I think if you’d said to me three years ago that we’d be where we are today, I would have laughed at you. I was really trying to keep the lights on. And I guess the answer is, I’m satisfied all of the time, but if I stop, I’m letting 300 people down, not one. My ambition, if you have people more ambitious than you, then you shouldn’t be running the business. And that’s the answer. The day that someone is more ambitious than me, and there are a few of them coming through, then it’s time for me to hand over the reins to them and let them take the ship forward.

On anything he’d like to add: I’m excited. I think the market is so ripe for good products, there isn’t a shortage of companies. Companies are starting every day, there are millions and millions of companies and millions and millions of places. What there is a shortage of is people with the ability to go hunt, to go find them.

On how he would like to be remembered: I want them to think that he definitely left me better than he found me, in whatever context, whoever I meet. I always want to give them something that they’ll think was good, and that they didn’t know. And I certainly don’t want to be the cleverest man in any room. If I’m the cleverest man in the room, then I’m in the wrong room.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: If you find me at home, you’ve done a better job than my wife has done. (Laughs) I’ll tell you the thing that’s happened this year which has been great; I swapped my wristwatch for a Fitbit band and I bought one for all of my kids and my wife. And after dinner now we all go for a walk; we walk together, because we want to get to our 10,000-12,000 steps. We’re a bit competitive and we all want to do more than each other. And I have to say, we leave the phones at home and we walk and we talk and we play football and mess around in the park. And that has been the best thing. Too many people sit on the sofa and don’t talk to each other, don’t communicate, don’t ask each other how their day has been and they’re not getting any exercise. So, to me that was a great invention.

On what keeps him up at night: Normally it’s indigestion. (Laughs) I sleep really well. I’m a really good sleeper. I used to only have five to six hours of sleep and now I try to sleep longer, but I can’t. I don’t need that many more hours of sleep. There’s a saying that goes: worry, then you die, don’t worry, then you die. Why worry? (Laughs) It’s not going to change anything.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Simon Leslie, joint CEO & cofounder, Ink.

Samir Husni: Give me an update, where are you now with Ink? Last time we spoke you still had a CEO, and now you’re the joint CEO and things have changed.

Simon Leslie: Michael (Keating) and I started the business 24 years ago. And in 2003 we merged with two other partners and we all took very different roles. And in 2014 we took back control of the business and we’ve really focused on our people, on our process, and on the things that we’re really good at, which are creating great content and selling advertising.

And over the last 12 months, we’ve gotten nine new contracts. We’ve added airlines like Qatar, Etihad, Virgin, Singapore Airlines, some of them the most coolest and prestigious airline brands in the world. And I guess people have now realized that we’re good at what we do and even the biggest and the best airlines in the world are a part of our stable.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself now as more of a print ambassador? Because you’re one of the few people in the industry who continue to promote print, who continues to say, look, we’re doing print and we’re getting more contracts in print.

Simon Leslie: Our airlines want to give their customers content to read. If they had a mechanism to deliver that content in a different format, I’m sure we would. We support print because print works. People still love that ephemeral moment of picking up the magazine and flipping through it; that lean-back experience rather than lean-forward. Sometimes it’s nice to get off the screen and have that moment to yourself.

Am I an ambassador? I’m pro-print; I’m happy that print is doing well, certainly for us as a business. We’re doing a lot of video and we’re producing a lot of content. And whatever format the readers want to consume it in, that’s what we’ll focus on. And today people still love magazines.

Samir Husni: You’ve specialized your company. You’ve become “the travel media ambassador.”

Simon Leslie: We are travel media.

Samir Husni: Is that all you’re going to do or never say never?

Simon Leslie: I get asked that question a lot, you know? Why don’t you do something here or do something there. The more you focus on something, the better you become at it. It’s a process. The best in the world focus on one thing. We have done projects for some of our advertisers because they come to us and say that they love what we do and then ask can we help them? So, I wouldn’t say never, but we’re busy. And we’re seeing lots more opportunity coming from this sector. There are 350 airlines in the world, we do 27 of them. We haven’t really scratched the surface. Now, we do 27 of the best ones, but there are still plenty more to go for and there are plenty of markets that we don’t have a presence in. We are very much mining in those markets, quite aggressively.

But I also want to be seen as the place to go when you want to reach a traveler. I want people to think about us as the place to go to find that, both from a research point of view and a content point of view. And then from an advertising point of view of what travel behaviors are like; where the new hotspot is, what Chinese travelers spend their money on, where Indian travelers want to go next. There are a lot of things that we’re picking up during the process of what we do. It’s very interesting.

Samir Husni: Someone might ask why don’t you use the same content in all of these magazines, since the travelers aren’t the same. What do you do to ensure that whatever is in the Etihad magazine or whatever is in the American Way magazine is uniquely designed and created for the American flyer or the Etihad flyer, or each individual airlines’ flyer?

Simon Leslie: It’s something that we’ve looked at many times; people say why don’t they just repurpose this? But an article that we write on Paris for American is very different than an article we write on Paris for EasyJet. And the same for Etihad and Qatar, we have a different tone.

What we agree with the airlines on is this is the person we are targeting, this is their client, this is the area that they want us to focus on, and that way it keeps it spoke on brand. Each airline has their own brand voice, has their own brand that they want to have. Some want to be really quirky, some want to be slick. Some want to be very adventurous, and we work at what the right tone is for each of those magazines.

And each of them have their own dedicated team, both in advertising and editorial, so they really live and breathe the airline so they understand the customer’s behavior. They understand, do they have more short-haul travelers or more long-haul travelers; do they want gourmet; what are their passions; what are the things that really excite them? And then we can make sure the book is filled to the brim with that information.

Samir Husni: Has there been a moment in your recent career, since you started Ink, that you felt – this is it, we’ve made it?

Simon Leslie: (Laughs) That’s a great question. Sometimes I walk through the office and I look around and there are hundreds of people and they’re working and I’ll think: when will they realize that I don’t know what I’m doing? Do you think they’ll ever figure it out? (Laughs) I mean, some of them already have. But it does make me very proud. It makes me proud seeing them achieve amazing things.

One of the things that we’ve really focused on in the last three years is not just doing what we’re doing and making money, but really getting them to give back. Every year 10 people from different offices, people who have probably never met before, they cross the Sahara together. We do two marathons in two days across the Sahara to raise money for charity. Everybody is running, baking; we work with a lot of the homeless missions.

It’s interesting that there’s all this talk about driverless cars and all these amazing things that we’re going to do, but figuring out how to get rid of homeless on the streets might be more valuable. The time consumed on mobiles and social media and everything else is just such wasted time and there are so many good things that could be done that people aren’t even thinking about and I think that’s a crime.

Samir Husni: Each time I talk with you I feel that you have a soft spot about people, about the human race. Where does this come from? You’re a CEO of a major company, a multimillion dollar business, but you’re always thinking about the audience, about the people. You talk about your own people, rather than going through the P&L of your company and all of the money that you’re making. Where does this soft spot come from?

Simon Leslie: You’d have to ask my mother. (Laughs) She obviously brought me up well. You know, I spent 15 years trying to make money and being very much at the cold-face. I left school very early and just wanted to be rich. That’s what I thought anyway. And then something happened in my mid-thirties where I realized…something clicked that said if I wanted to be successful, I had to make sure I worked with people and focused on them, rather than focusing on the profits. And it started to work. And the more it worked, the more I said let’s do more of it.

And I thought about what would motivate me at different phases in my life and if it motivated me, then hopefully I could motivate others with the same stick. And I get asked quite a lot, how do you get this through the Board and how do you get approval to do this? We have sports coaches; we have sports-type holidays; we have physios; I have wellness, sleep and diet coaches; mindfulness coaches, and people are like how do you prove ROI; how do you keep spending on that? And I keep saying that the results are getting better, so we’re clearly doing the right thing.

It’s very hard, and I see this with advertisers as well, they see their competitors in the magazine and they’re saying, yes, but we haven’t got the money to spend. And I say, but they didn’t have the money to spend when they started, they just took a leap of faith.

I was in Melbourne once and I saw a picture, it was called “Leap of Faith.” And I bought it. I took a replica of it and every time I had somebody who said, well, I don’t know – I’d say, here’s a picture called Leap of Faith, come with us on our journey and I think you’ll be okay. And we’ve had a lot of success with it, a few failures, but a lot of success just from people taking a leap of faith, believing what we believe. And that gets you the results, the results come because of the people. We have no assets, for a business, there are very little assets. The assets are our people.

Samir Husni: Has it been a walk in a rose garden since then? Or every now and then do you catch a thorn?

Simon Leslie: (Laughs) There have been lots of thorns. I think you become more resilient as you learn and grow. Once upon a time when the phone rang and you saw your client’s name there, you would think, what’s happened now? But now when the phone rings I’m excited to speak to them. And I don’t have the same fear that something has gone wrong. And I think that just comes from experience and knowing that whatever happens you’re going to deal with it. There is nothing that’s going to happen that one can’t deal with.

Samir Husni: I know you’re satisfied with what you have, but when do you think you’ll reach that complete satisfaction level? When you publish 50 out of the 350 airline magazines? Now you’re at 27, is there a figure in your head or not?

Simon Leslie: I think if you’d said to me three years ago that we’d be where we are today, I would have laughed at you. I was really trying to keep the lights on. And I guess the answer is, I’m satisfied all of the time, but if I stop, I’m letting 300 people down, not one. My ambition, if you have people more ambitious than you, then you shouldn’t be running the business. And that’s the answer. The day that someone is more ambitious than me, and there are a few of them coming through, then it’s time for me to hand over the reins to them and let them take the ship forward.

But as it stands at this minute, I don’t feel like I’m out of second gear, I feel like a 24-year-old startup; I feel more excited than I’ve ever been. We’re having huge successes every month. We’re breaking records. I listen to everyone talking about how print is not doing well and how people are not buying print, and I just tell them it’s not true. I think the biggest problem with the industry is that the industry doesn’t believe enough in its own products. It doesn’t believe in its own story and that’s something they really have to work on.

A lot of people came up to me after my talk at IMAG and told me how much they loved it, but that what I said wouldn’t work in their organization. And I told them that the problem wasn’t their organization.

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

Simon Leslie: I’m excited. I think the market is so ripe for good products, there isn’t a shortage of companies. Companies are starting every day, there are millions and millions of companies and millions and millions of places. What there is a shortage of is people with the ability to go hunt, to go find them.

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

Simon Leslie: I want them to think that he definitely left me better than he found me, in whatever context, whoever I meet. I always want to give them something that they’ll think was good, and that they didn’t know. And I certainly don’t want to be the cleverest man in any room. If I’m the cleverest man in the room, then I’m in the wrong room.

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

Simon Leslie: If you find me at home, you’ve done a better job than my wife has done. (Laughs) I’ll tell you the thing that’s happened this year which has been great; I swapped my wristwatch for a Fitbit band and I bought one for all of my kids and my wife. And after dinner now we all go for a walk; we walk together, because we want to get to our 10,000-12,000 steps. We’re a bit competitive and we all want to do more than each other. And I have to say, we leave the phones at home and we walk and we talk and we play football and mess around in the park. And that has been the best thing. Too many people sit on the sofa and don’t talk to each other, don’t communicate, don’t ask each other how their day has been and they’re not getting any exercise. So, to me that was a great invention.

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

Simon Leslie: Normally it’s indigestion. (Laughs) I sleep really well. I’m a really good sleeper. I used to only have five to six hours of sleep and now I try to sleep longer, but I can’t. I don’t need that many more hours of sleep. There’s a saying that goes: worry, then you die, don’t worry, then you die. Why worry? (Laughs) It’s not going to change anything.

And I don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning. That’s probably one of the best things; I used to wake up and look at the phone, therefore you start your day dealing with problems way before you need to. So now, I wake up in the morning, if my wife is there I give her a kiss, and I leave the phone until I’m ready to start the day. I’ve had my juice and take my tablets and I’m prepared for whatever it is. And do you know what the funny thing is? Most of the time there’s nothing there to be prepared for, because things are running the way you want them to.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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