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Magazines As Informers. The Social Role of the American Consumer Magazines. A Blast from Mr. Magazine’s™ Past: Dissertation Entries Part 8

April 17, 2015

Magazines as Informers
1983

Mr. Magazine™ in his official role as a professor and educator.

Mr. Magazine™ in his official role as a professor and educator.

In a country such as the United States, media critics claim that mass communication media should have a social responsibility toward the audience it is serving. In the case of magazines, for example, Roland Wolseley argues that they should have the obligation “to provide the people with a fair presentation of facts, with honestly held opinions, and with truthful advertising.” This obligation was obvious in the case of Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts where the court penalized the Saturday Evening Post for not taking more time in checking its story on coach Butts. The Magazine Advertising Bureau agreed that magazines have more obligations than other mass media because they “do not have the spot news function of either the newspaper or the radio. With the advent of television and its role in entertaining, magazines began to focus more on informing people about different matters that help them with their daily living. This new focus covered a broad base of information. Topics such as how to prepare food better, or to cope with rigors of living, or even how to survive a nuclear war, are but a few examples of this new focus.

The role of magazines as informers is chiefly detected through the news they print, the meanings they give to events, and the descriptions used to identify those events. Benjamin M. Compaine divided this role of magazines into two parts: passive and active. The passive information, he said, is information intended for the reader’s entertainment or for his general knowledge. On the other hand, active information is intended for specific use. Compaine gave an example of each type. Passive information might be an article on the life of Billie Jean King, while active information might be an article on how to cure tennis elbow. Compaine also noted that the special interest consumer magazines deal with active information and that general interest consumer magazines deal with passive information.

Whether active or passive, the role of magazines as informers witnessed no basic change through the years. “There are just as many people who turn to magazines primarily for information,” the study found. “People regard magazines as an excellent way of keeping abreast of trends, keeping informed about new products, and securing information about individual and special interests and activities such as hobbies, decorating, family care, and fashion.”

John Tebbel went a step further in discussing the role of the magazine as informers. He said, “Among the consumer magazines, the informational function is preeminent, no matter what audience is being reached…We live in an Age of Information, and certainly magazines are the prime carriers of it.” Magazines carry information that is far different from that found in other media. This information, especially in the newsweeklies, has helped, according to John Hohenberg, to “fill an indefensible gap in the reporting of national and international affairs by less qualified daily newspapers of the nation and the bulletin-type coverage of radio and television.” This gap would only be filled by magazines in their roles as informers by offering the readers something quite different from that of newspaper or television information.

To put it in the words of Louis M. Lyons, then curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, this information should “give the readers something to chew on, to mull over, something to stir his imagination, to reflect about, not only to broaden his awareness of current issues but to lead him to consider matters that are not now and may never be current issues, but should engage the attention of the questing mind.”

The above information was written in 1983 and is taken from a portion of my dissertation when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I obtained my doctorate in journalism. And while the majority of the material still holds true, things have changed drastically in some areas.

Magazines as Informers
2015

passive reeseactive cover

While many facets of magazine media have changed drastically over the years, this is one area that has not. In fact, I still stand behind every word that I wrote in 1983 concerning magazines as informers.

The voices remain status quo as well. In 2015, the passive information exists and so does the active. Examples today of Compaine’s observation could be: passive – Reese Witherspoon on the January 2015 cover of Glamour, offering a look inside her personal life with the statement “I don’t do regret,” and active – February’s Muscle & Fitness, which compels you to ‘Pump up Your Gains with a Proven Workout.’

Magazines inform on many levels: political, epicurean, fashion and beauty, science, celebrity, health, fitness, and the list goes on and on. The words of Louis M. Lyons have never been truer than they are today, the information one finds within the covers of a magazine should “give the readers something to chew on, to mull over, something to stir his imagination, to reflect about, not only to broaden his awareness of current issues but to lead him to consider matters that are not now and may never be current issues, but should engage the attention of the questing mind.” And without a doubt, they do.

Next week Mr. Magazine™ begins the journey of The Commercial Role of magazines then in 1983, and now in 2015.

Until next week…stay ‘informed,’ pick up a magazine.

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Travel With A Purpose: Smithsonian Embarks On New Journeys (The Magazine, That Is). The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher Steve Giannetti And Editor-in-Chief Victoria Pope

April 15, 2015

“I’m very excited about this part of our business. I was brought up in print and I do believe that it’s the role of print and how it plays in the overall world of our media. You see it as much as I do; now we’re seeing digital-only plays that want to get into the print business and so, isn’t it right that we should actually start with the median and grow it the other way? That’s where I see the future going, creating content that can be deeper and articulated in different ways in the world of publishing.” Steve Giannetti

“I believe very much in the importance of the commercial side. I don’t feel successful without being successful.” Victoria Pope

SJ If you love to travel and you love to learn about the places and destinations you’re traveling to, then Smithsonian’s new magazine, Smithsonian Journeys is for you. The magazine could easily have the tagline, “Travel with A Purpose.” Of course, the one it has bodes well for it too, “Seeing the World in a New Light.”

Steve Giannetti is the chief revenue officer and Victoria Pope is editor-in-chief and the two together have a collaborative bond that is apparent throughout the pages of the sleek magazine. The editorial is wonderful and the ads are dynamic and only add to the energy and flow of the magazine.

I spoke with Steve and Victoria recently and they praised their new baby as only parents could and should, without ignoring the inherent pitfalls of growing up that every infant has. The power and beauty of print was a driving factor behind the powers-that-be of the Smithsonian’s decision to launch a new title. And by the deep, enriched feeling you get from just flipping through the pages, I would say they made a stellar decision.

So, sit back and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve Giannetti, Publisher and Victoria Pope, Editor-in-Chief, Smithsonian Journeys.

But first, the sound-bites:

On why Smithsonian decided to launch a print magazine in a digital age: What a great opportunity to create a tangible, tactile, beautiful product that is able to take all of our travel resources and put them together in one place. (SG)

On why Paris was the city of choice for the first issue: Honestly, when I came into the job, I could do whatever I wanted, but within a very short period of time. And I wanted to pick a place that I felt I knew on the ground a bit. I knew a little bit about Arab culture there; I had read a lot about black American culture historically there, so I felt like I had a strong starting point. (VP)

On whether the history of the city or region chosen will play an integral part of every issue: That’s the idea. We’re in the midst of doing an issue now that will be on what’s called the “Inca Highway,” the countries of the Andes, so Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. Again, it’s trying to create a rounded, curated view of that region. We have a piece on what’s called “Astro Tourism” in Chile, which is to say it’s going to be a story on the southern night sky and about stargazing. (VP)

On whether anyone told Steve that Smithsonian was out of its mind for launching a print magazine today: I can tell you that exact quote was said to me several times. I was asked why we would do it and I explained to them that if you look at the magazine business today, Samir, where is it resonating the most? With high quality, beautiful, tactile publications and that this is far more than just a magazine print launch. And I also said wait until you see the issue.

On where Steve sees the future of print: There is no doubt the future of print, I think, is creating products that are more a part of a larger medium mix, it’s not just print alone. It’s now the launching point of a content platform that we’re going to be expanding, so I see this more as print’s role in the entire medium mix and I see us growing in, and I don’t want to call them niches, because that’s not the right word, but I see us growing in areas that can create content that is deeper and more easily articulated in other platforms. And I think consumers will pay for that. And if consumers pay for it, advertisers will follow.

On the major stumbling block Victoria felt they had to face while launching the magazine: Of course, you have to start small and by that I mean small budget as well. For me, it’s been quite an issue to find the kinds of contributors that I want in a foreign venue. I have to start from scratch basically when it’s a place far away. I don’t have the budget to send people from the states and I’m not even sure that’s the model that I want to follow.

On Steve’s opinion of the biggest stumbling block: The biggest stumbling block was really in convincing people that we were creating a beautiful product that no one had ever seen before, but tell them also that they were going to have trust and take that ride with us.

On whether Steve believes pricey magazines and consumer-driven revenue may be the new business model for magazines: As the chief revenue officer and I’m also in charge of consumer marketing as well, so yes, I don’t want to be reliant on just sponsors and advertisers, so the answer to that question is yes. We do feel a product has to be paid for, or at least somewhat paid for or monetized through the consumer.

On the human being Victoria feels the magazine would become if struck with a magic wand that could turn Smithsonian Journeys into a person: It’s Victoria, but it’s also the Smithsonian Journeys traveler, frankly. I spent a lot of time talking with the people on the travel side about the people they’ve met on the trips, who they are and what they are, people who are autodidacts, who are very interested in all kinds of subjects. Then I try to incorporate my personality and the things that I’m interested in and the visual sense of the art director, in with those people, so truly it’s rather a cohort of people.

On what motivates Victoria to get our bed and look forward to going to work: I really love the process of figuring out how the magazine is going to look with the art director.

On what motivates Steve to get out of bed and look forward to going to work: Having been in this business for a long time, what I really love about getting up today is that we’ve created a new product that’s amazing. I’m sitting here with the editor-in-chief, right? I believe in church and state, but what I really love is that we’ve created this arm-in-arm, not me telling Victoria how to write the edit or what to write, but us constantly talking about how we can make it better and sharing what we think about every facet of the magazine.

On what keeps Steve up at night: What keeps me up at night is very simple right now. It’s that I know we’ve created a great product, but is the consumer going to think it’s great.

On what keeps Victoria up at night: I’m kept awake by the many needs to move very quickly ahead and whether I’ll be able to make something as good as I want it to be. There really isn’t a lot of time between issues, it seems that way, and that keeps me up.

And now for the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Steve Giannetti, Publisher, and Victoria Pope, Editor-in-Chief, Smithsonian Journeys.

Samir Husni: Why did Smithsonian decide to launch a new magazine in print in today’s digital age?

Steve Giannetti Photo Steve Giannetti: There are a couple of reasons why and the first one is that travel is in the DNA of the Smithsonian brand and our travel division is called Smithsonian Journeys. Smithsonian Journeys is a place where you can book a trip to virtually any place in the world and when you go on one of our trips a Smithsonian expert is with you. This has been around for about 30 years and it’s a really robust business for us.

From a commercial standpoint, travel has been a really large part of our advertising and sponsorship and the Smithsonian consumers love to travel; we know that from our business; they have money and they have time.

We felt with all these areas coming together; what a great opportunity to create a tangible, tactile, beautiful product that is able to take all of our travel resources and put them together in one place. That was really the genesis of this idea and then we brought Victoria on, who used to work at National Geographic, and she’s just brought a whole new perspective. As we say on the cover: seeing the world in a new light is exactly what this publication is about.

Samir Husni: Victoria, that leads me to the question, why did you choose the city that never ceases to delight and fascinate Americans, Paris, for the first issue?

Victoria Pope: (Laughs) Doesn’t that say it all? Honestly, when I came into the job, I could do whatever I wanted, but within a very short period of time. And I wanted to pick a place that I felt I knew on the ground a bit. I knew a little bit about Arab culture there; I had read a lot about black American culture historically there, so I felt like I had a strong starting point. I also just wanted a place in which we could follow very vividly the template that I think is important in this kind of journalism, which is taking history and bringing it into the modern and bringing it alive. Paris is a city that does have those connections everywhere, so it was a good model location for us.

Samir Husni: Victoria, what was your position at National Geographic?

Victoria Pope Headshot Victoria Pope: I had several positions. For most of my nine years there I was deputy to the editor-in-chief, so I was number two at the magazine.

Samir Husni: When I flipped through the pages of the first issue, I felt as though you were a curator of Paris. If someone is interested in Paris and its history and how it relates to Americans; you’ve done a great job with that curation. Is this what we’ll see with every issue’s topic?

Victoria Pope: That’s the idea. We’re in the midst of doing an issue now that will be on what’s called the “Inca Highway,” the countries of the Andes, so Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. Again, it’s trying to create a rounded, curated view of that region. We have a piece on what’s called “Astro Tourism” in Chile, which is to say it’s going to be a story on the southern night sky and about stargazing.

Then there will be a piece on La Paz on the ways in which superstition infuses everyday life. Charles Mann, who is the author of 1491, is going to be looking at the ecology of the region and how that ecology really gave it the possibilities of becoming a great civilization back at the time of the Incas. And several stories deal with Incan civilization.

What we do know with each issue is that we want to follow the kinds of subjects that are most important to the Smithsonian readers, meaning Smithsonian in a general sense, the Smithsonian partaker, if you will, the people who go on tours and who like the museums in the magazine. And we’re always going to try and have one science story; we’re always going to have history, whether it be deep history, like archaeology in the case of the Andean countries, or in the case of Paris, we went back to the 17th century.

So we know that these two elements will be in each issue and then also a certain amount of food history, but also some contemporary food reporting. We feel that people care about this a lot and we’re trying to do everything a little bit deeper than it is in most travel publications because I personally find that most travel magazines don’t give me enough of what I want.

I was a foreign correspondent for over 10 years and I remember that when people would visit me, tourists and friends, they really wanted to know about the places; they really wanted to know more than just what they could find out quickly in a list of places to see, such as monuments and restaurants, and that’s what we’re trying to cater to.

Samir Husni: Steve, this is a print publication in a digital age and as the chief revenue officer, you had the responsibility of trying to sell this magazine to advertisers. Did anybody tell you that you were out of your mind to bring another print publication into this digital age?

Steve Giannetti: I can tell you that exact quote was said to me several times. I was asked why we would do it and I explained to them that if you look at the magazine business today, Samir, where is it resonating the most? With high quality, beautiful, tactile publications and that this is far more than just a magazine print launch. And I also said wait until you see the issue.

The initial response was that, but after a bit it was more of, I’m really happy you’re doing this and that you’re staying committed to a platform that is very important. And as you can see, we were very successful in bringing in a quality group of advertisers to the magazine and we hope to bring in more.

Samir Husni: The whole “print is dead” marching band has dissolved and now the new group’s mantra is “print is in decline.” Where do you see the future of print?

Steve Giannetti: There is no doubt the future of print, I think, is creating products that are more a part of a larger medium mix, it’s not just print alone. It’s now the launching point of a content platform that we’re going to be expanding, so I see this more as print’s role in the entire medium mix and I see us growing in, and I don’t want to call them niches, because that’s not the right word, but I see us growing in areas that can create content that is deeper and more easily articulated in other platforms. And I think consumers will pay for that. And if consumers pay for it, advertisers will follow.

I’m very excited about this part of our business. I was brought up in print and I do believe that it’s the role of print and how it plays in the overall world of our media. You see it as much as I do; now we’re seeing digital-only plays that want to get into the print business and so, isn’t it right that we should actually start with the median and grow it the other way? That’s where I see the future going, creating content that can be deeper and articulated in different ways in the world of publishing.

Samir Husni: What was the major stumbling block that you had to face during this launch process and how did you overcome it?

Steve Giannetti: In terms of advertising or in general?

Samir Husni: In general, or in terms of what you consider the major stumbling block from the point of conception to the point of birth of Smithsonian Journeys?

Victoria Pope: Of course, you have to start small and by that I mean small budget as well. For me, it’s been quite an issue to find the kinds of contributors that I want in a foreign venue. I have to start from scratch basically when it’s a place far away. I don’t have the budget to send people from the states and I’m not even sure that’s the model that I want to follow. I felt finally, when I did get the freelancers that I wanted in Paris to contribute that I would be much happier that I had people who were based in Paris doing it than sending people that I knew from National Geographic or some other place to go over, but it’s very tricky to do that and also not have a very big budget or lead time.

Those are the typical kinds of problems of a start-up and you work on fumes a lot of the time. I’m just very pleased that the first issue has turned out well and I think the second issue will be very good too and we’ll probably be able to grow and put more resources quickly into it.

Steve Giannetti: And that’s the word: resources. The biggest stumbling block was really in convincing people that we were creating a beautiful product that no one had ever seen before, but tell them also that they were going to have trust and take that ride with us. There are going to be bumps from a budgeting standpoint, and I from the chief revenue officer’s standpoint said, we’re going to bring more advertisers into this as well. Hopefully, Samir, what we’re going to find is that it won’t be just travel advertisers, but we’ll get more advertisers that are in the travel genre.

And once we overcame that and people started seeing the magazine being created and seeing it as it grew, internally here at the Smithsonian it’s become a fulcrum of “I want to see this.” I’m in D.C. and I’m carrying a copy and keeping it close to my vest so people don’t steal it from me.

It took a while to get over that first hump, but once we got there and people saw what we were creating and the type of advertising that we were bringing in and the product itself, everybody called and said let’s do it. And you get that with a lot of start-ups.

Samir Husni: I noticed that the cover price is $13.99, for one issue, while you can get almost an entire year of Smithsonian for that price. Is this the new model? Are we going to see more consumer-driven revenue generation from print than from advertising?

Steve Giannetti: As the chief revenue officer and I’m also in charge of consumer marketing as well, so yes, I don’t want to be reliant on just sponsors and advertisers, so the answer to that question is yes. We do feel a product has to be paid for, or at least somewhat paid for or monetized through the consumer. To be successful in the future, Samir, I think any print publication has to look at that model, absolutely.

Samir Husni: The new magazine that National Geographic just launched, National Geographic History, the cover price is $9.99 and published 6 times per year, so we’re starting to see these high cover prices, which to me is sending a signal that if you really like what you see, you will pay for it.

Steve Giannetti: That’s exactly right and remember, Smithsonian Journeys is all original editorial, while some launches are able to use and take into consideration refurbished editorial. So nobody has seen this before. And we felt if we were able to create this unique editorial, it would be great. And this is unique, not only in terms of the content, but also in the view that we’re looking at traveling, and I think this is something that consumers will pay for. And the consumers will talk, so knock on wood, Samir; I’m hoping you’ll buy 200 copies. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Victoria, if I give you a magic wand and you strike Smithsonian Journeys premier issue with it and a person, a human being, appears in place of the magazine; who would it be and how will that person, male or female, engage with the audience?

SJ Victoria Pope: It’s Victoria, but it’s also the Smithsonian Journeys traveler, frankly. I spent a lot of time talking with the people on the travel side about the people they’ve met on the trips, who they are and what they are, people who are autodidacts, who are very interested in all kinds of subjects. Then I try to incorporate my personality and the things that I’m interested in and the visual sense of the art director, in with those people, so truly it’s rather a cohort of people. I try to bring all of that into this person who represents the magazine. And I think if that’s successful, then I’ve reached a large enough readership. We don’t need to be huge; we just need to be…

Steve Giannetti: …loved. (Laughs)

Victoria Pope: By a subset of people who love to travel and like knowing about places and like the idea of reading several stories about a region or a city at once. And I have to say, I think quite a few people fit that.

Steve Giannetti: If you were going to go to Paris and you read this magazine, I think you’d have a huge head start on seeing the city in a way that probably you would not have experienced in a first-time journey. And that’s what our people want. The traveler from Smithsonian; the cultural traveler wants to learn about things that are new. Not new in the fact that they’re brand-new, but they’re uncovered. They like to discover and they’re curious and that’s the type of person that we want to read this. The ability to take this content and grow it out is something that I’m excited about as well.

Samir Husni: What is the initial launch; can you share some numbers?

Steve Giannetti: We’re putting out 150,000 on the newsstand and I have some alternate distribution going into some cruise lines as well. So, it’s probably about 170,000 altogether.

Samir Husni: Will the magazine have subscriptions or be strictly on the newsstands in the beginning?

Steve Giannetti: Good question. What we did, Samir, was a pre-launch email exchange with some of our list to see if they would buy the magazine in advance. And the response has been very robust, so that’s good. And we have a card in the magazine that asks the reader if they’d like to receive it, I want to get that feedback. I would love to grow it, but right now I think you have to establish the beat ship with the fact that if it works on the newsstand, I would love to grow it, yes. But we have to wait and see what the consumer says here first, if that makes sense.

Samir Husni: Most good magazine launches considered the newsstand as their acid test; if it worked on the newsstand first, then they could go from there.

Steve Giannetti: That’s exactly right. We’re confident that this is going to work, that’s why we’ve committed to four of these.

Samir Husni: Victoria, would you think it was a horrible nightmare if Steve came to you and said let’s do this magazine monthly?

Victoria Pope: (Laughs)

Steve Giannetti: (Laughs too) Yes, the answer is yes.

Victoria Pope: Definitely. (Laughing) That would be an impossibility, but we do need to grow in a lot of ways. We need to grow both in having more editorial products, whether they are specials that come out of Journeys or other things. I have lots of ideas of things that we could produce. I want to spend my free time that I’ll someday have, building up our digital extensions, because I feel there is so much that I could do to help them. We want to make at lists of eating, for example, with the feature that we have on food and the history of food, a very regular and important feature digitally, so I’m trying to get people every week to write something on the subject of food history. We have many things to do beyond the print location.

Steve Giannetti: So, the growth process is to not necessarily increase frequency, it’s increasing the engagement with the consumer in different areas of this great content. And I think if we can do that, frequency will become part of it, but that’s really not going to be our barometer of growth. You don’t want to be just pumping out magazines that don’t have the quality that we have with the Smithsonian. Quality is something we always strive for, whether it’s the magazine or anything else we do. We always ask the question, is this going to represent the brand that we have to represent?

Samir Husni: Anything else either of you would like to add?

Victoria Pope: When you have time to settle down and read it; I’d love to have your thoughts about how we could make it better. Maybe it’s unfair to ask that of you, but I’d love to have your practiced eye to tell us what you think might be missing because it’s evolving; it’s definitely going to evolve.

Samir Husni: I’ll be more than happy to do that.

Samir Husni: Victoria, what makes you get out of bed in the mornings and motivates you to say, wow, I can’t wait to get to work?

Victoria Pope: I really love the process of figuring out how the magazine is going to look with the art director. I have, for probably the fifth time in my life in journalism, probably the perfect partner in my art director because we’re able to bounce ideas off of each other and we often agree about things and that to me, being able to create a product that’s so visual and written that is in harmony, where the visuals are exciting and help to bring people into the storytelling, is really wonderful.

Samir Husni: And Steve?

Steve Giannetti: Having been in this business for a long time, what I really love about getting up today is that we’ve created a new product that’s amazing. I’m sitting here with the editor-in-chief, right? I believe in church and state, but what I really love is that we’ve created this arm-in-arm, not me telling Victoria how to write the edit or what to write, but us constantly talking about how we can make it better and sharing what we think about every facet of the magazine. So, it has really re-jazzed me and reenergized me to say that I’m in a business that has a lot of growth areas.

We’re working together now and I really love that. Years ago, the church and state chasm was so big that it just didn’t work. But now, being able to collaborate on something new and come out with a great product, that’s really energizing, even for an old guy like me.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Steve, since you mentioned the old guy and I did not, my typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Steve Giannetti: (Laughs too) What keeps me up at night is very simple right now. It’s that I know we’ve created a great product, but is the consumer going to think it’s great.

Samir Husni: And Victoria?

Victoria Pope: I’m kept awake by the many needs to move very quickly ahead and whether I’ll be able to make something as good as I want it to be. There really isn’t a lot of time between issues, it seems that way, and that keeps me up. I still have two assignments to make for the next issue.

Let me just say something about the collaboration with Steve. It’s been really nice. I remember the very first day we met on my fifth day on the job and I said, I think that we’re going to have to stream these quarterlies; it’s going to be better if we just, instead of covering the world every four months, we narrow it down to cities and regions. And Steve immediately picked up on that and was able to reinforce what I was thinking editorially from a business standpoint. And that meant a lot to me.

I believe very much in the importance of the commercial side. I don’t feel successful without being successful.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Rodale’s Organic Life: The Story Of A Perfect Magazine Launch from Conception to Delivery. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-in-Chief James Oseland And Publisher Ellen Carucci.

April 13, 2015

“There is something very particular about the act of physically holding a magazine in one’s hand and flipping through it slowly, then placing it aside onto your nightstand or coffee table or kitchen counter and returning to that same thing that you placed aside an hour later or even a few days later. The way that our minds and indeed our bodies interact with printed matter, it’s simply not the same.” James Oseland


“I almost think there is sort of a rebellion against people’s screens right now. I was reading books on Kindle until a couple of months ago; I’m hearing that hardcover books are having resurgence. I think people want something in their hands, they spend so many hours on their screens for work, I think they’re looking for an opportunity to disconnect and have their own personal time.” Ellen Carucci

Rodale's Organic Life Sub. J.I. Rodale founded Rodale in 1930. His granddaughter, Maria Rodale, delivered the dream that her grandfather envisioned 85 years ago. That vision is encapsulated between the covers of the premiere issue of Rodale’s Organic Life magazine. Under the watchful eye of Editor-in-chief James (Jim) Oseland and the marketing skills of publisher Ellen Caruuci, the first issue of the magazine delivers 158 hefty pages from which 54 pages are advertising pages.

From the moment of conception, to the hour of delivery, this is the story of a perfect magazine launch in 2015. I spoke with Jim and Ellen separately and I tried my best to reconstruct the organic launch story of a magazine that in fact has been 85 years in the making. The dream of J. I. Rodale has been fulfilled and as he looks down from above, you can hear him tell the team, ” a job well done.”

So, I hope you enjoy these interviews with two people who know how to live an “Organic Life” and are ready to help all of us do the same.

But first the sound-bites:

On James’ description of the moment of conception for Organic Life:
It was an exhilarating moment, the promise that the concept held just immediately got my creative juices flowing.

On Ellen’s description of the “pregnancy and delivery” for Organic Life:
I think relatively painless.

On James’ opinion of what Organic Life is all about: Organic Life is a new brand for the very many of us who are striving to live better, to consume and shop responsibly, to raise and interact with our families responsibly, and to tend to our living environment very mindfully, but do all of the above with a kind of gusto and vibrancy as well.

On whether Ellen heard the phrase you’re out of your mind to launch a print magazine in a digital age:
I didn’t hear it often. I heard it maybe once or twice and people didn’t phrase it as are you out of your mind, it was kind of like, wow, you’re brave. But my feeling is that for a magazine that has lush photography, that has a very artisanal feel to it; there will always be a market for that.

On any stumbling blocks James felt he had to face:
You know, it’s the strangest thing, Samir, there weren’t any. I mean, there were a couple of small banana peels along the way, but in my now almost four decades of making things, from being a filmmaker in my twenties, to my years of association with Saveur until now; I have never encountered a creative process so easy and so inspirational; I kid you not.

On Ellen’s opinion of the magazine’s competitive set:
That’s an interesting question and I actually just heard from an agency in Minneapolis recently where the lady said, wow, there really isn’t anything like this in the marketplace. Figuring out our competitive set is going to be a little bit tricky.

On why Ellen believes there has been this sudden reemergence of print with major publishers:
I almost think there is sort of a rebellion against people’s screens right now. I was reading books on Kindle until a couple of months ago; I’m hearing that hardcover books are having resurgence. I think people want something in their hands, they spend so many hours on their screens for work, I think they’re looking for an opportunity to disconnect and have their own personal time.

On James’ thoughts of what J.I. Rodale would think about Organic Life:
That’s a really beautiful question. We had a launch toast just yesterday here in Emmaus (Pennsylvania) for the entire Emmaus staff. Roughly, 400 people gathered together and Maria gave a really beautiful short speech at the beginning of the toast answering that exact question. I think she’s far more the appropriate person to answer that question than I would be and what she said was, she felt that what we had created had harnessed her grandfather’s and her father’s aims and ideologies, the things that thrilled them most about the possibilities of what human beings can do in a very grateful and eloquent, beautiful and true way.

On Ellen’s thoughts of what J.I. Rodale would think about Organic Life:
I think he would say that at last the rest of the world has caught up.

On what makes James click and tick:
The idea that I am the luckiest person in the world because I get to spend every day of my adult life making beautiful and smart things. I feel very privileged to be able to do that.

On what makes Ellen click and tick: I believe that I’m working for a company that is so different from any other magazine company out there because I think this company walks the walk and talks the talk and the whole mission of well-being and wellness is so core to Rodale.

On anything else Ellen would like to add:
I think the one point that I want to make is this is a magazine that’s a very inclusive brand and I don’t want people to be scared off by the fact that we have organic in the title, because we’re organic with a small “o.”

On what keeps James up at night:
I tend to be someone who is restless with my own sense of perfection and so I’m always wanting to do better and go farther and though we might have moved mountains during the course of any particular day, I have a hard time letting go at night of my mind figuring out other ways in which that mountain could have been moved, perhaps even better.

On what keeps Ellen up at night:
What keeps me up at night is there is simply not enough hours in the day for me to get to all the places where I need to get to.

James Oseland And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with James Oseland, Editor-in-chief, Organic Life & Ellen Caucci, Publisher.

Samir Husni: Jim, first, congratulations on the new magazine, Rodale’s Organic Life.

James Oseland: Thank you.

Samir Husni: You wrote in the editor’s letter of the first issue: magazines are slow foods, made to be lingered over, but the internet is also a keen resource for organic living; your Smartphone is the library of Alexandria; a symphony hall, and a weather station in your pocket; how amazing is that. Jim, how amazing is that?

James Oseland: Yes, it’s very amazing. The odds of all this constant 24-7 accessibility to information; I can be driving on a Lebanese country road and curious about an unfamiliar species of coniferous tree and get to the bottom of that species, from its name to its lifespan to its growing requirements, within minutes. It’s mind-blowing, the access to information about all aspects of life on earth that are literally at our fingertips. The only times that information isn’t accessible is when we’re out of range, but most places on planet Earth these days, at least the inhabited ones, you’re very in range.

It’s very easy to decry the internet and maybe some of the less lofty information streams available on it, from celebrity-plastic-surgeries-gone-wrong galleries to even sillier stuff, but the fact is it’s just an extraordinary tool. Internet accessibility is an extraordinary tool if one uses it mindfully and conscientiously.

That being said, there is something very particular about the act of physically holding a magazine in one’s hand and flipping through it slowly, then placing it aside onto your nightstand or coffee table or kitchen counter and returning to that same thing that you placed aside an hour later or even a few days later. The way that our minds and indeed our bodies interact with printed matter, it’s simply not the same. I’m not a scientist and I can’t precisely put my thumb on what the physiological ramifications of that action or process is, but I just know that as a human being it’s just not the same thing. I know how I read on my Smartphone or on my laptop or even on my desktop, it has nothing to do with the way that I react and interact with a print magazine.

I think the fact is, what a fantastic moment we’re living in when we’ve got on the one hand, this accessibility of infinite information and on the other hand this sacred, simple and very satisfying reality of having a print magazine. I see it as a best-of-both-worlds moment.

Samir Husni: As an editor of a brand new magazine; the first issue is out on the newsstands on April 13, can you recreate that genesis; that moment when you first sat down with the Queen of Organic, Ms. Maria Rodale, and found out Rodale was going to do this new magazine, Organic Life? Can you describe that moment of conception?

James Oseland: Sure. Maria and I are old friends going back to when I worked on Organic Style with her. We had spoken directly, and largely indirectly, about doing something else at some vague point in the future; however, what we’d spoken of didn’t take this specific form until roughly winter 2013.

And when she presented the specific construct of Organic Life, it wasn’t called that yet, it was, I can honestly say, absolutely and truly one of those rare moments that come along where it was nothing short of a lightning bolt or an epiphany; it was, “yes, I get that. I see that, so absolutely and so vividly. Why hasn’t this existed before? Let’s get on it.”

So, it was an exhilarating moment, the promise that the concept held just immediately got my creative juices flowing.

Samir Husni: For those who don’t yet have a copy of the first issue in their hands; can you briefly tell me what Organic Life is?

James Oseland: Organic Life is a new brand for the very many of us who are striving to live better, to consume and shop responsibly, to raise and interact with our families responsibly, and to tend to our living environment very mindfully, but do all of the above with a kind of gusto and vibrancy as well.

We strive to be a magazine that celebrates the idea of doing better and that empowers all of our readers, whether they are die-hard, fully immersed people in the world of organic, or those that are just discovering it for the first time. We want to welcome everybody to the table with a beautiful, immersive print magazine, which in certain respects is a kind of throwback to the glory days of the magazines of my youth. I think of Life and Look, Time and Newsweek with their comprehensiveness and their beauty; their power and ability to transport readers to someplace else, to edify and enthrall me with beauty. We’re striving to do nothing less than that and I realize that might sound like a really tall order, but to my mind we’re ready for it.

And as I was referencing a moment or two ago, it’s odd that such a title in this particular set hasn’t existed before. So, that’s largely a very, very thrilling concept that it hasn’t. It’s a kind of wonderful, glorious open-field moment for those of us who are creating it.

Samir Husni: From that moment of conception to the time of birth, were there any stumbling blocks during the pregnancy and if so, how did you overcome them?

James Oseland: You know, it’s the strangest thing, Samir, there weren’t any. I mean, there were a couple of small banana peels along the way, but in my now almost four decades of making things, from being a filmmaker in my twenties, to my years of association with Saveur until now; I have never encountered a creative process so easy and so inspirational; I kid you not. From start to finish there was this kind of subconscious knowledge inside of me and the very wonderful team that we put together, that no, we’re doing the right thing here and everything just flowed. I’ve never encountered such an easy situation putting together something, especially from scratch.

Samir Husni: Do you think the reason for that easy pregnancy was the concept of the magazine or the people you have surrounded yourself with?

James Oseland: I think both. You know, it’s just something, energetically speaking, where it all just came together. And who knows, it might have something to do with the fact that our terrific business manager, our general manager, Cindy Carter, is also a Reike practitioner. (Laughs) But I think in addition to Cindy’s absolutely proven, magnificent powers, the rest is just something so right and so accurate and so pure about this construct that it just flowed.

Not to mention the fact that there is something about the kind of purity and earnestness of Rodale itself that created this wonderful safety net as well as a source of automatic inspiration for what we’ve done. To my knowledge there is no other media company on earth that has the true physical heart and psychic soul of a 300-plus acre, experimental organic farm just a 20-minute drive from the home office. To be able to plug into all that means is almost like Rodale-the company did a significant amount of the work for us just by the very nature of the company, if that makes any sense.

Samir Husni: If the premier issue of Rodale’s Organic Life could be delivered to the founder of the company, Mr. Rodale, in his other life, what do you think his reaction would be?

James Oseland: That’s a really beautiful question. We had a launch toast just yesterday here in Emmaus (Pennsylvania) for the entire Emmaus staff. Roughly, 400 people gathered together and Maria gave a really beautiful short speech at the beginning of the toast answering that exact question. I think she’s far more the appropriate person to answer that question than I would be and what she said was, she felt that what we had created had harnessed her grandfather’s and her father’s aims and ideologies, the things that thrilled them most about the possibilities of what human beings can do in a very grateful and eloquent, beautiful and true way, and when she said that it was, for me, a very misty-eyed experience. I had not heard that specifically from her before and it was very gratifying to hear.

Samir Husni: What makes Jim tick and click every morning? What makes you get out of bed and motivates you to start your day?

James Oseland: The nice bowl of Muesli that I made the night before with all sorts of wonderful oats and wheat germ and chopped fruit. (Laughs) And the idea that I am the luckiest person in the world because I get to spend every day of my adult life making beautiful and smart things. I feel very privileged to be able to do that. There are lots of people who don’t have it so lucky and I don’t forget it for a second.

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

James Oseland: I don’t think this is a contradiction to what I just said about what jumpstarts me every morning; I think it’s part and parcel, and all a part of this kind of strange and fabulous and sometimes infuriating miracle of the creative life, but I tend to be someone who is restless with my own sense of perfection and so I’m always wanting to do better and go farther and though we might have moved mountains during the course of any particular day, I have a hard time letting go at night of my mind figuring out other ways in which that mountain could have been moved, perhaps even better. It’s a kind of restlessness, but it’s a fire inside that I’ve just learned to accept and work with, rather than be consumed by.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Ellen Carucci, Publisher, Rodale’s Organic Life magazine…

Samir Husni: As I just asked Jim, since the moment of conception to the moment of birth; how was the pregnancy?

Ellen Carucci 2013_rev Ellen Carucci: I think relatively painless.

Samir Husni: As a publisher, when you went to talk to the ad agencies and the advertisers; did you often hear the question: are you out of your mind launching a print magazine in this digital age?

Ellen Carucci: I didn’t hear it often. I heard it maybe once or twice and people didn’t phrase it as are you out of your mind, it was kind of like, wow, you’re brave. But my feeling is that for a magazine that has lush photography, that has a very artisanal feel to it; there will always be a market for that. It’s not like we’re publishing a newsweekly where the information is already days old by the time the magazine hits subscribers’ mailboxes.

So, I think this is a very, very different kind of magazine. It’s a magazine that’s very lush; it’s got great photography, great production; it’s a fascinating read; it’s a brand that you want to curl up with. And I think that there will always be a place for that kind of print, at least for the rest of my lifetime.

Samir Husni: And when you’re told that there’s nothing like it in the marketplace; what can or could you compare it to?

Ellen Carucci: That’s an interesting question and I actually just heard from an agency in Minneapolis recently where the lady said, wow, there really isn’t anything like this in the marketplace. Figuring out our competitive set is going to be a little bit tricky.

In some ways, we look at Real Simple as kind of a magazine that we admire a lot. Our prototype for people who ask what kind of metrics they should use as far as MRI, we’re actually recommending a two-thirds Better Homes and Gardens and one-third Real Simple, but I also think that Martha Stewart and Oprah have affinities for the brand.

We’ll still have gardening, but it’s become a much less important content pillar than it obviously had been when we were Organic Gardening, because fine gardening is something we could look at, but certainly not for our media competitive set. But I think part of that is going to depend on the marketplace’s response.

Samir Husni: And so far I know that it’s just a first issue; how has the marketplace’s response been to you?

Ellen Carucci: The marketplace response has been phenomenal. Don’t forget that we’ve only had the issue in our hands for the last week. We had a prototype that we had on the marketplace in early January and the reception to the prototype was fantastic, but I’m in the wonderful position of saying that the real product has blown the prototype out of the water. People absolutely love it; they think it’s gorgeous and they think it’s beyond their expectations.

There is an element, and I think this is something that Jim intended right out of the gate; there is an element of surprise, delight, whimsy and of the unexpected that really rings through on every single page.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it was easy on you; you said it was an easy pregnancy; is it because you’re part of Rodale or can anyone create a magazine similar to Organic Life and have the response you’ve had from the ad industry?

Ellen Carucci: I could have scripted your question; thank you for asking it. It’s interesting, because J.I. Rodale said in 1942, when he was launching Organic Gardening and Farming; he said one of these days the public is going to wake up and be willing to pay more for eggs, meat and vegetables according to how they are produced. The fact that our founder said that in 1942, when people thought that we were better living through chemicals that were going to solve world hunger, gives us I think the authority and the authenticity to launch this, where no one else could have the same permission to do it.

And given the sidebar that the first advertising partner I told about the re-launch was Subaru, because they’ve been a very loyal organic gardening advertiser for many years, and they were thrilled and said they thought we were moving in absolutely the right direction and that they loved what we were doing with the brand. They also said that no one would believe how many magazines come in and pitch them with: oh, we’re green too; we’ve got this great green message. One of their ad directors said that we (Rodale and Organic Gardening) were green when the rest of the world was black and white. Rodale invented the category.

So, I think that being part of Rodale does give us the permission to do this and everyone knows that our roots are deep and that we’re so authentic in what we’re doing. It’s not like we decided to do this to jump on a bandwagon, we started the trend.

Samir Husni: I asked Jim if the magazine could arrive at the heavenly gates and Mr. Rodale could get a copy, what he thought his reaction would be. He told me what Maria said at the event you had recently, celebrating the launch with the team. If you were able to take J.I. Rodale with you on your sales calls; what do you think he would say to the advertising people?

Ellen Carucci: I think he would say that at last the rest of the world has caught up.

ROLnewsstands Samir Husni: Tell me, Ellen; this is a new launch, yet I know it’s rooted in Organic Gardening. Rodale tried Organic Style and it didn’t work; now with Organic Life everyone said it was so easy. Are you telling me that there were no stumbling blocks on the road of this new launch?

Ellen Carucci: Surprisingly few. I think the one difficulty might have been that there is always going to be that handful of advertisers who say, it sounds very interesting, send us the first issue. Those people who can’t make the leap of faith or they have a policy where they don’t do launches.

But a lot of people did take the leap of faith. So, I don’t think that there were any recurrent stumbling blocks that came up that we couldn’t easily overcome.

Samir Husni: How many ad pages did you end up with for the first issue?

Ellen Carucci: There are 54 ad pages in the first issue. And what I’m very excited about is that we have every main content well-represented. We’ve got food, home, garden and well-being.

Samir Husni: What makes Ellen click and tick? What makes you get up in the morning and motivates your day, making you glad to head to work?

Ellen Carucci: I believe that I’m working for a company that is so different from any other magazine company out there because I think this company walks the walk and talks the talk and the whole mission of well-being and wellness is so core to Rodale.

I’m also an organic gardener myself and a composter. I believe in sustainability, so I’m working for a magazine that’s mission I believe in so completely and I’ve also been in this business a long time and I’ve never worked with an editor that I’ve clicked with more than Jim. I think he’s a visionary, as well as one of the nicest people that I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

I feel like this is my dream job. In all my years of publishing, to work for a magazine that’s mission is so in tune with, not only what I believe in, but also I feel is a magazine that’s so in the right place at the right time and hitting on so many key society trends that I think this is going to be a homerun. So, I am so jazzed to get to work every day. I’ve never been prouder in my career, frankly.

Samir Husni: Put your futuristic cap on for a moment, if you would; if I’m speaking with you a year from now, what would you like to tell me about Organic Life?

Ellen Carucci: That it did indeed become THE launch of 2015, as we had hoped. And that the circulation goals are exceeding our expectations. And that we have broken most of our target accounts, although there were a few tough nuts to crack, but that I think it’s an extraordinary success and will continue to be so. And I would like to say that in a year, we would have hit every one of our key metrics.

Samir Husni: What’s your circulation base now?

Ellen Carucci: It’s a 300,000 rate base. And what I’m very excited about is that Organic Gardening had fantastic content that was very hard to find on the newsstands. And you asked the question about starting a print magazine right now, but I also don’t want to leave out our beautiful website, which launched April 1. We are truly a multiplatform brand, so I don’t want to overemphasize just our print product.

In this day of newsstand consolidation, when we approached 98 different retailers and every one of them agreed to carry the magazine that told me that we’re on the right track. We’re going to be in every Whole Foods, the organic section of Wal-Mart; we’re going to be in every major grocery chain, whether it’s Kroger, Wegmans, Winn-Dixie, Safeway; we’re also in CVS and Rite Aid and in Lowe’s So, I think even our retail sales department was blown away by the positive response.

We’re going from having a newsstand draw of 15,000 copies per issue to 200,000. I believe the ability of new consumers to sample this is going to be phenomenal. We’re going to see where the circulation goes; it’s not like we have an artificial cap that we’re working toward, like we want to be at 450 by mid-2016, but we have high hopes that the circulation is going to grow.

The appeal for this magazine is going to transcend age and gender and I think it’s going to have enormous appeal to millennials, just because of the inherent value and sense of authenticity and artisanal qualities of the magazine. And the fact that it’s a fantastic and very unexpected read.

Samir Husni: It seems that suddenly, especially this month in April, this is around the fifth magazine coming to the marketplace from a major publisher. Meredith launched Parents Latina, Bauer launched Simple Grace, Smithsonian is launching Smithsonian Journeys, National Geographic launched National Geographic History and Rodale is launching Organic Life; why do you think there’s this sudden reemergence of print in this digital age?

Ellen Carucci: I almost think there is sort of a rebellion against people’s screens right now. I was reading books on Kindle until a couple of months ago; I’m hearing that hardcover books are having resurgence. I think people want something in their hands, they spend so many hours on their screens for work, I think they’re looking for an opportunity to disconnect and have their own personal time. And I think that’s part of what’s driving it.

But I have a question for you now. I know you have a copy of the magazine and I’m not sure how much of a chance you’ve had to dig into it yet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Samir Husni: I read it cover to cover, including the Almanac. I loved it. I felt so close to the earth with it and an immediate connection. It gives you this pleasant, joyful feeling, which I don’t think any other medium besides a magazine can give you, especially if it’s a magazine that relates to your everyday life: food, gardening and your general well-being. It was very pleasant and I could see the pages of Organic Style and I could think that’s what went wrong with Organic Style, it never felt really organic like Organic Life does.

Ellen Carucci: I think the element of joy, whimsy, surprise and connection to nature that you feel on almost every page is obvious. Maria’s column, which was her talking about raising children and that even though she may not have made her own baby food and used disposable diapers for the first child, she said the number one organic ingredient that you can give your children was unconditional love.

And even in Jim’s editor’s letter; I think it’s so in touch with what people need to hear right now. It may sound kind of hokey, but that old chestnut is true: your body is a temple and sometimes that means yoga, but sometimes it means chocolate cake too.

I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by the joyousness and the whimsy of this magazine. I think it’s going to be a lot more fun than people may have expected.

Samir Husni: Yes, and that was the biggest surprise that I received from reading it too, the fun part. And that’s why I asked Jim how it felt to work with the Queen of Organic, so I’ll ask you the same question; how does it feel working with Maria?

Ellen Carucci: Maria is the loveliest, most down-to-earth person in the world. I love her self-deprecating humor. She comes across so personally, especially in the column that she’s written for the first issue. She’s a force of nature and she has a big legacy on her shoulders and she wears it beautifully.

Samir Husni: It seems that what I hear from almost everyone who knows Maria or who works at Rodale, that there is this connectivity, even among the team at Organic Life. I guess all your feet are grounded in the soil and then you’re heads are above the clouds.

Ellen Carucci: There is truly a sense of shared missions here that I’ve never felt any other place that I’ve worked.

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

Ellen Carucci: I think the one point that I want to make is this is a magazine that’s a very inclusive brand and I don’t want people to be scared off by the fact that we have organic in the title, because we’re organic with a small “o.” We don’t really think of ourselves as organic; we don’t think of the USDA terminology of organic; we don’t think of growing without pesticides, if you look at the Webster’s Dictionary definition of organic; it means systems more closely aligned with nature.

So, I want people to know that no matter where they are in their journey, even if they don’t compost, even if they don’t like kale; they’re welcomed to a seat at our table. Whatever small stages; whatever life changes they’re making right now to live better, healthier lives, we embrace that and we’re happy to help people on their journey and we’re not hardcore; we’re not militant; we’re not preachy and I think that’s an important takeaway that we want people to know.

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

Ellen Carucci: What keeps me up at night is there is simply not enough hours in the day for me to get to all the places where I need to get to.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Forbes’ Chief Product Officer Lewis DVorkin To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: The Magazine Business Does Not Have An Audience Problem; The Magazine Business Has An Advertiser Problem. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

April 9, 2015

“I think that the pendulum always swings back and forth and I think the pendulum, which had swung pretty much to digital, now may swing, while not all the way back, certainly somewhat toward starting the comeback a bit, because there is a recognition that audiences do like their magazine products.” Lewis DVorkin

Lewis DVorkin at the Magazine Innovation Center, The University of Mississippi

Lewis DVorkin at the Magazine Innovation Center, The University of Mississippi

If you sell it and the public buys it; it’s a product, according to Lewis DVorkin. And it’s very hard to argue with his straightforward logic. And why would anyone want to? Lewis DVorkin is chief product officer for Forbes and believes whole-heartedly in his brand as a valuable product worth selling, and with the across-the-board success of the Forbes brand, obviously worth buying to the consumer.

Lewis is the one-and-only chief product officer in a legacy media company and knows something about platforms, strategies and the power of print integrated in a digital world. With impressive style and intuition, Forbes has done powerful things with native advertising, both within its pages and on its covers.

I spoke with Lewis recently during his visit to Meek School of Journalism and New Media where he was the opening keynote at the 2015 Ole Miss New Media Conference at the University of Mississippi. After his speech Lewis and I visited in my office at the Magazine Innovation Center and engaged in a conversation about print, digital, the small screens that we consume our information on and how they seem to be getting even smaller, and we talked about the future of devices in the world of magazines and magazine media. His answers were succinct and informative.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lewis DVorkin, Chief Product Officer, Forbes magazine; I know you’ll be very enlightened by his answers.

But first the sound-bites:


Lewis DVorkin at the Magazine Innovation Center, The University of Mississippi[/caption] On the role he believes print plays in a digital world:
Obviously, we’re big believers in print. Audiences love, and I can’t speak for newspapers, I’ve been out of that business for a while, but I can say audiences love magazines. They love the identification they have with a magazine; they love the tactile part of the magazine; they love getting it, whether they buy it or it comes to them; they love the storytelling; they love the photography, and they love what a magazine offers. The magazine business does not have an audience problem; the magazine business has an advertiser problem.

On whether he believes the industry will have to continue to depend on advertisers for survival or will it ever make money on its customers:
There is something more to it than the size of the audience, there is also what are the new kinds of products and features that you’re developing for your print product, and as you probably know, we have native advertising in Forbes magazine and we’ve done some dramatic things with second covers and placing a native ad on the cover of Forbes.

On the fact that we’ve moved from a big screen to a small screen and with the Apple Watch coming out, an even smaller screen: Devices will get smaller and smaller. It’s what I was mentioning before; so what’s the kind of content that you consume on these devices and how do we produce content for these devices? It’s difficult enough to figure it out on the Smartphone and there will be a time when we need to figure it out on these wearable devices, but I would also caution you to remember however many years the iPad has been out, maybe four or five years now, that was going to change everything and it really didn’t.

On why he refers to Forbes’ platforms as products:
People are buying it. When you buy something; you’re paying for a product. And if you’re paying to buy this collection of 200 pages or 250 pages, it is a product. If you’re going to a mobile website to look at advertising; it’s a product that houses the advertising.

On the major stumbling block he’s had to face:
Technology is hard. Technology is really hard to move fast enough for the change in consumer behavior. Consumers move faster than advertisers; they move faster in some ways than publishing technology; this is not about us; it’s about the industry and I think that we’re always finding ourselves just stumbling over the question: how do we move fast enough with the technology that we have?

On what keeps him up at night: I generally sleep really well, but I do think a lot about the notion of websites and apps, browsers and apps. It’s very difficult and since I’m a chief product officer; if we can’t make money, that’s not a good thing. And the app world is a difficult world to make money in, but more people are on their Smartphones than ever. So, how do we monetize our users on a Smartphone and when apps are not, so far in the news business, great revenue-drivers and we struggle with that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Lewis DVorkin, Chief Product Officer, Forbes magazine.

Lewis DVorkin and Samir "Mr. Magazine™" Husni at the Meek School of Journalism, Ole Miss.

Lewis DVorkin and Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni at the Meek School of Journalism, Ole Miss.

Samir Husni: You told me that anytime you hear the word start-up, it gives you a rush. Today, there are a lot of new start-ups being launched in print and also a lot of digital entities. What do you think is the role of print in today’s digital age?

Lewis DVorkin: Obviously, we’re big believers in print. Audiences love, and I can’t speak for newspapers, I’ve been out of that business for a while, but I can say audiences love magazines. They love the identification they have with a magazine; they love the tactile part of the magazine; they love getting it, whether they buy it or it comes to them; they love the storytelling; they love the photography, and they love what a magazine offers. The magazine business does not have an audience problem; the magazine business has an advertiser problem. And advertisers are now trying to move to where they believe their new audiences are, which certainly is digital.

It was interesting; Martin Sorrell recently talked about how magazines have been undervalued or not valued enough by marketers, so I think that the pendulum always swings back and forth and I think the pendulum, which had swung pretty much to digital, now may swing, while not all the way back, certainly somewhat toward starting the comeback a bit, because there is a recognition that audiences do like their magazine products.

Samir Husni: At Forbes, you’re one of the few entities in your space that digital actually brought more readerships to your print. How can you monetize that? Will there ever be way where we can start making money from our consumers, our customers, the readers; or will we have to continue to depend on advertisers for our survival?

Lewis DVorkin: You know, the number that I talk about is an MRI number and advertisers do buy on MRI numbers, so the fact that our MRI numbers have risen is a good thing and our salespeople go out and sell our magazine.

But there is something more to it than the size of the audience, there is also what are the new kinds of products and features that you’re developing for your print product, and as you probably know, we have native advertising in Forbes magazine and we’ve done some dramatic things with second covers and placing a native ad on the cover of Forbes. And those new products and features have attracted a lot of advertisers to us who are interested in being able to participate.

So, again, when I say that print has an advertising problem, we’re trying to find solutions to that. And one of the solutions is the integration, clearly labeled, of marketing content in our magazine in powerful ways. And I think that’s going to have a significant impact on the revenue of the magazine.

Samir Husni: Tomorrow, the preorders for the Apple Watch will begin; the Apple store will start selling the Apple Watch, which based on what I’ve read can actually replace the mobile phone. So, we’re moving from a big screen to a smaller screen and then to an even smaller one.

Lewis DVorkin: As I told someone, what I want is a chip in my ear and all I have to do is tweak it and I can talk, or turn it off or whatever. I mean, devices will get smaller and smaller. It’s what I was mentioning before; so what’s the kind of content that you consume on these devices and how do we produce content for these devices? It’s difficult enough to figure it out on the Smartphone and there will be a time when we need to figure it out on these wearable devices, but I would also caution you to remember however many years the iPad has been out, maybe four or five years now, that was going to change everything and it really didn’t. Smartphones were going to change things.

So, I think the recognition is that everybody (has a device); you have a six-plus; I have a five; some people have watches; some have desktops; there will be many different form factors, and I think the challenge for journalism is that each form factor will require a different kind of format of content. It’s not going to be 3,000 words on a watch, nor is it going to be on a watch what it will be on a Smartphone. That’s a big challenge and we’ll figure it out.

Samir Husni: You took the unprecedented step of getting the title of Chief Product Officer and you identify the magazine and the digital devices as products. Some people in the industry think that we are much more than products; we are the journalists and the marketers; what’s your answer to that? Why do you refer to the magazine, the app and the website as products?

Lewis DVorkin: People are buying it. When you buy something; you’re paying for a product. And if you’re paying to buy this collection of 200 pages or 250 pages, it is a product. If you’re going to a mobile website to look at advertising; it’s a product that houses the advertising. It doesn’t feel as glamourous or as professional perhaps or as romantic. I go back to the days when journalism was a public trust, but all of those things were still on the TV shows, which were products.

And I think that what we have to recognize is that these things are things that make money and are being sold and we need to treat them as something different than just stories. They need to be treated differently than that. And I think that if you pay attention to that, then you will be able to deliver the journalism in a more effective way.

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

Lewis DVorkin: Technology is hard. Technology is really hard to move fast enough for the change in consumer behavior. Consumers move faster than advertisers; they move faster in some ways than publishing technology; this is not about us; it’s about the industry and I think that we’re always finding ourselves just stumbling over the question: how do we move fast enough with the technology that we have?

And when you combine that with again, consumers are moving faster than the advertising business, and working with marketers and agencies is a little difficult stumbling block on the Smartphone device as well.

So, these are sort of industry-wide stumbling blocks; I don’t think that there is anything specific to Forbes, but they’re really hard.

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

Lewis DVorkin: I generally sleep really well, but I do think a lot about the notion of websites and apps, browsers and apps. It’s very difficult and since I’m a chief product officer; if we can’t make money, that’s not a good thing. And the app world is a difficult world to make money in, but more people are on their Smartphones than ever. So, how do we monetize our users on a Smartphone and when apps are not, so far in the news business, great revenue-drivers and we struggle with that. We have some ideas, but they’re early. Those things, if I do worry about anything, would be it. We have built a very big desktop presence, with very big revenue. How do we achieve the same on the Smartphone devices? That’s probably where I spend the majority of my time, so that’s where I have the majority of my worries. But I can really sleep OK.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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She Has The Whole “Parents” In Her Hands… Parents Latina: A New Addition To The Parents Brand. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Content Officer Dana Points.

April 9, 2015

“People think that print has gone away because they don’t understand what they’re hearing about the decline of newsstand sales. But newsstand is only a small portion of magazines and the idea that, in the case of Parents and American Baby, thousands of them a day are raising their hands and inviting print products into their home, which to me says this is still a really robust area.” Dana Points

parents latina The Parents (as in the magazine and its family of platforms) brand is a phenomenal scope of content that exceeds expectations when it comes to platform and audience. The success and popularity and trustworthiness of the brand are unquestionable and pave the way for a new baby for the ‘Parents’ to love: Parents Latina.

Dana Points is editor-in-chief and content director for the Parents group at Meredith. The passion and knowledge that she brings to the table when it comes to this niche in the publishing marketplace is unequivocal.

I spoke to Dana recently about the new infant over at the Parents hospital and was delighted to learn that this title was a very welcomed addition to the family. The need for a parenting magazine in English for second-generation Hispanics was the selling factor behind this new venture. The hope is to touch readers that Parents and Ser Padres might miss and give that audience a voice and an information outlet to consider.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dana Points, content director, Parents Latina, and consider yourself invited to the new baby’s first birthday.

But first, the sound-bites:

Points, Dana Headshot On why she believes publishers are rediscovering print: I don’t know if it’s that publishers are rediscovering print; I mean across the industry I think you are definitely seeing a lot of experimentation and innovation happening, looking for alternate revenue sources because of what’s going on in the larger print ad market.

On the impact print has on readers and advertisers:
We see, not only for the readers, but for the advertisers, that print advertising has a proven impact on consumer behavior and sales, so I think that’s a strong story as well.

On whether she thinks Latina-oriented magazines are a trend and every major publisher will soon be launching one:
I don’t know, because I think this is a very fast-moving market when you look at the pace of the adaptation of the consumer. It could be that for many publishers, the portion of their audience that is Hispanic, reading on their regular titles that they already produce, will grow to match the portion of Hispanics in the population. I don’t know.

On the Hispanic heritage that is thriving in the U.S.: Already 26% of children under age one are in a Hispanic household. So, my audience for American Baby, for example, which we tend to get these women often in their first pregnancy to around five months of age, that’s already a very Hispanic audience.

On the fact that Parents Latina is leading the pack in its market niche and who its real competition is:
I think people would argue to some extent that our competition is from the Hispanic mom’s phone. With the Hispanic consumer there is higher mobile use incidence in that population.

On where she believes the magazine will be a year from now:
I’d like to see our Hispanic readers grow on Parents, as it grows and as the population of moms who are Latina grows, I would like to see the numbers pick up on the main magazine, Parents, the English magazine as well.

On her directives to her editorial team:
In the United States, Mexican heritage is dominant. The directive to my small team that works here on Parents Latina is that we want to speak, in English, to the parenting passions of the new generation of Hispanic moms.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face so far:
I would say in part just the linguistics of working on a magazine that is quarterly. Right now, we’re just in kind of start-up mode from a staffing perspective, so just working out the intricacies of the production schedule, tucking it into the group here when we are already producing 12 issues of Parent, 11 issues of American Baby.

On what it feels like to be the Queen Bee of the entire parenting garden:
I don’t feel like a Queen Bee at all; I feel like there’s a lot of worker bees that are surrounding me at all times and I’m just another worker bee. But I will say it’s really fun.

On whether there will ever be a parenting magazine on teenagers from Meredith: People ask us about teenagers all the time. I think that often readers might graduate from Family Fun to Family Circle. And Family Circle has, under Linda Fears, over the last few years done a considerable amount of coverage of issues that would be of specific concern to parents of teenagers,

On what makes Dana click and tick:
First of all, I love working, and I’ve done this at other points in my career, but I love working on brands that really make a difference in people’s lives; a contact that really makes a difference.

On what keeps her up at night:
Really, not much, which is not to say that I don’t have concerns, but I’ve always been a good sleeper. I think that people are finally getting the straight story about what’s going on in print magazines, but there are still some people who don’t fully understand.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Dana Points, Editor-in-Chief and Content Director, Parents Latina…

Samir Husni: Why do you think that suddenly publishers are rediscovering print? Meredith just came out with Parents Latina; Bauer has a new title, Simple Grace; National Geographic just came out with History; Rodale is launching Organic Life…

Dana Points: Right. And then you have the examples such as the CNET magazine; all of these digital/verticals that are creating print products and obviously, I know you’ve covered the very successful Allrecipes trajectory.

I don’t know if it’s that publishers are rediscovering print; I mean across the industry I think you are definitely seeing a lot of experimentation and innovation happening, looking for alternate revenue sources because of what’s going on in the larger print ad market.

And I think, in the case of Parents Latina, we really saw a group that no one was talking to directly, which is the English-dominant, largely second-generation Hispanic mom. She is very likely, at this point, to have been born in this country and prefers to read in English versus Spanish. We have a magazine, Ser Padres, that serves our Spanish-dominant customer, and then we have Parents, which is really for anyone who wants to read in English. And we know we have a significant group of Hispanic women who are reading Parents already, but we looked at Parents Latina to sort of fill in the gap between the people who we might be missing with Parents and the people who are reading in Spanish with Ser Padres.

Samir Husni: Without new magazines we don’t have an industry. You have to keep adding new blood, while you are reinventing the established ones. And as you said, no one is talking about print being dead anymore; they’re now saying that print is in decline. I give them five more years and they’ll once again be talking about the power of print.

Dana Points: I think so too. We see, not only for the readers, but for the advertisers, that print advertising has a proven impact on consumer behavior and sales, so I think that’s a strong story as well. And I applaud all that the MPA has done to tell the whole story about magazines and audience and include digital.

Samir Husni: Do you feel there’s a trend in the wind to reach that English-speaking Hispanic market, because as you know, Cosmopolitan launched Cosmo Latina in English and now Meredith has launched Parents Latina; do you think that we’re going to see every major magazine spinning a Latina edition in English?

Dana Points: I don’t know, because I think this is a very fast-moving market when you look at the pace of the adaptation of the consumer. It could be that for many publishers, the portion of their audience that is Hispanic, reading on their regular titles that they already produce, will grow to match the portion of Hispanics in the population. I don’t know. I think in the case of parenthood, it’s a very emotional, personal experience and so we felt that there was a need, and in our research we saw a need, for a product that hit on some of the aspects of parenthood that are unique for this audience.

Samir Husni: As editor-in-chief and content director and as you consider all of the parenting magazines underneath your umbrella; you mentioned a bit about the similarities, but also that there are some unique differences when it comes to content. And according to the most recent census you researched, by 2030 one out of three children born in the U.S. will be of Hispanic heritage.

Dana Points: Yes and already 26% of children under age one are in a Hispanic household. So, my audience for American Baby, for example, which we tend to get these women often in their first pregnancy to around five months of age, that’s already a very Hispanic audience. And we’ve recognized that for really as long as I’ve worked on the brand, which is six years now. We adjusted our photography, for example, in American Baby to reflect more Latina moms on our pages. So, we’ve been incubating and following this audience for a while.

Samir Husni: As the leader of the pack, and I don’t think there is really even any competition for you in this field…

Dana Points: Not really. I think people would argue to some extent that our competition is from the Hispanic mom’s phone. With the Hispanic consumer there is higher mobile use incidence in that population.

We are platform agnostic here at Meredith; we work on everything. But I think that we have seen the fragmentation of where this woman is consuming her information and I will share with you that we have some new data coming on that probably in the next couple of weeks. We are releasing another wave of our Moms and Media survey that we’ve done now for several years and I can tell you that this mom, be she Hispanic or not, is just using so many different sources of information.

So, one of the things that I’ve been very interested in over the last few years is when you have so many different sources of information; what really grabs your attention in an immersive way; what do you focus on, and where do you place your trust?

In the Parents brand, we have this incredibly trusted, 85-plus-year history behind us and this very well-recognized brand and then we have this immersive experience of reading print. When you’re reading print, and I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but when you’re reading print, there’s nothing else that’s going across your screen. If you’re looking at print, there is nothing else popping up on the screen, although, if we could figure out how to make that happen, it might be cool.

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Dana Points: But anyway, that’s an opportunity to really get to her on a very personal topic at a time when she’s a huge sponge when it comes to information consumption and in a setting that is immersive and visually rich.

Samir Husni: If I’m talking with you a year from now and ask you about the success of Parents Latina; what do you think you’ll tell me?

Dana Points: I would like to be able to tell you that 700,000 was no problem, which I’m sure it will be; we’d like to see it potentially grow and possibly grow in frequency, but there is no plan for that right now; it’s a quarterly.

And then I’d like to also see our Hispanic readers grow on Parents, as it grows and as the population of moms who are Latina grows, I would like to see the numbers pick up on the main magazine, Parents, the English magazine as well. And then of course, build out a presence of Parents Latina on Parents.com, which is very embryonic at this stage of the game.

Samir Husni: I was flipping through the pages of the first issue of Parents Latina and for some reason it took me back in time to 1978 when I first came to the United States and when Parents magazine had its first major reinvention. The magazine just feels so close to the audience.

Dana Points: That’s good. We did a lot of digging into, not only the research that we have on the audience, but also what’s out there in the larger population. I’ll give you an example; one thing we know is that a modern, second-generation female Hispanic, of those who marry, about 40% will marry someone who is not Hispanic. So, this is an issue of blending cultures; people think, oh, here’s a magazine for this population, we’re going to have to talk about being bi-cultural or being Hispanic and “American.”

Well, in the case of this particular reader, it’s actually often tri-cultural. We have a case in the first issue that acknowledges and speaks to that. And you can see a little bit of that also in Grace Bastidas’ editor’s letter in the first issue.

Another area that is more specific to this population is, first of all, how they might handle discipline. Typically, you might have a more traditional approach to discipline, particularly in a first-generation, Spanish-dominant reader. But this is a reader who is maybe a little farther down the spectrum and maybe is wrestling with how she can reconcile the discipline that she grew up with and the discipline that her mother might favor versus what friends who are not Latina are doing.

And then you have nuances like the fact that a family member, particularly the grandmother, is more likely to be a caregiver for this reader, so it’s things like that, hopefully, that are giving you this sense of specificity when it comes to the audience.

Samir Husni: What’s your directive to your editorial team when they are actually reflecting that specificity? It’s my understanding that there several different Hispanic backgrounds, whether they’re from Mexico, Cuba or the Caribbean.

Dana Points: In the United States, Mexican heritage is dominant. The directive to my small team that works here on Parents Latina is that we want to speak, in English, to the parenting passions of the new generation of Hispanic moms, so that means culturally relevant, advice, information, just doing so much of what Parents magazine does; you know, we say: we answer your questions, address your concerns, advocate your causes and celebrate the joys of raising children. That’s the same across both brands; we just want to do it in a way that’s culturally relevant.

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

Dana Points: I would say in part just the linguistics of working on a magazine that is quarterly. Right now, we’re just in kind of start-up mode from a staffing perspective, so just working out the intricacies of the production schedule, tucking it into the group here when we are already producing 12 issues of Parent, 11 issues of American Baby; I mean really silly things like we can’t be shipping all of these products simultaneously; we have a good-sized group here working on all the magazines, but from a logistics standpoint, it’s a little bit like creating a calendar from scratch and I’ve had the managing editor of Parents, Michaela Garibaldi, working on that and she’s done a terrific job.

Samir Husni: How does it feel to be the Queen Bee in this whole parenting marketplace? You’re it, in terms of anything that comes to parenting or the brand as a whole.

Dana Points: No pressure.

Samir Husni: No pressure? (Laughs)

Dana Points: (Laughs too) I don’t feel like a Queen Bee at all; I feel like there’s a lot of worker bees that are surrounding me at all times and I’m just another worker bee. But I will say it’s really fun. I’m looking at my wall right now, looking at Family Fun and Parents, American Baby and Parents Latina, and then we also have in this portfolio Ser Padres and there are global specials and lots and lots of great stuff that’s being created and thinking about how all these things fit together is a wonderful, challenging, fun puzzle. I think that is another aspect of what’s challenging about it, not just squeezing it into the production schedule.

My goal is to have magazines that are distinct, in terms of brand identity and appearance. For example, in the case of Parents and Parents Latina, they feel like they’re of the same family. They don’t look the same; you wouldn’t confuse them if they were lying on the table next to each other, but they come from a similar heritage. I always think, and this is not how the reader sees the product, because we have very minimal overlap from an audience standpoint on the various titles, but when we go into a discussion with an advertising partner, I want to see, when you lay all these products on the table that my group works on, I want to see a consistency of quality, great visual design, journalistic chops, and really understanding who the consumer is and speaking to her directly.

Samir Husni: When I put all the magazines next to each other that Meredith has, and when I look at the 100-million-women database the company uses for part of the research; you seem to have all of the babies and parents covered, but there is a gap between Family Fun and Better Homes and Gardens; is there any plan to fill in that gap? To create magazines for when those babies become toddlers or teenagers?

Dana Points: People ask us about teenagers all the time. I think that often readers might graduate from Family Fun to Family Circle. And Family Circle has, under Linda Fears, over the last few years done a considerable amount of coverage of issues that would be of specific concern to parents of teenagers. I think what’s interesting about it is, and I now have a teenager, Samir, at the point that you are the parent of a teenager; on one hand you have a really acute need for help in areas like texting and driving, college admissions and academics and social stuff, but on the other hand you’re also feeling the beginnings of the distance and that’s why I feel like there might not be a product in print that totally revolves around the care and feeding of your teenager. You have kids, right?

Samir Husni: Oh yes, kids and grandkids.

Dana Points: American parents are really involved in their kids’ lives and there’s been a lot of back and forth about that statement. It’s very different from how it might have been a generation or two ago or in other cultures and so if you get really wrapped up in your kids’ lives, there’s a point where you need to make sure that there are other things on your dance card because you can’t live through your kids. So, I think that a product that has diversity, in terms of its coverage is important.

Samir Husni: What makes Dana click and tick? What makes you get out of bed in the morning and look forward to going to work?

Dana Points: First of all, I love working, and I’ve done this at other points in my career, but I love working on brands that really make a difference in people’s lives; a contact that really makes a difference. You hear that a lot and I hear it when people come to interview me; I hear it when people leave our group to go on to other jobs, that they feel like they weren’t just kind of selling space, that they really did have an opportunity to impact people’s happiness, their behavior, by virtue of the fact that they’re consuming our content.

I like the kind of do-good aspect of my job, even as I also like the business part of my job, which is all the stuff we’ve talked about already, thinking about all the brand entities and how they all fit together and how do we do what we need to do on the budgets that we have, strategizing about new projects or PR or redesigns or special sections, things like that.

And then I just love the team that I work with. We have a great group here and in Northampton at Family Fun and in our Spanish-language group as well.

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

Dana Points: Really, not much, which is not to say that I don’t have concerns, but I’ve always been a good sleeper. I think that people are finally getting the straight story about what’s going on in print magazines, but there are still some people who don’t fully understand. Occasionally, I’ll be somewhere and someone will meet me for the first time and say, how’s it going? And they sound worried and I think that there are still too many people who have the perception that print is going away, which I’m talking to some of the youngest customers out there and we are simply not seeing it. These readers do still love their print magazines.

I think what’s happened, most acutely in the last year, in terms of newsstand sales, has tarnished the idea of print a bit. People think that print has gone away because they don’t understand what they’re hearing about the decline of newsstand sales. But newsstand is only a small portion of magazines and the idea that, in the case of Parents and American Baby, thousands of them a day are raising their hands and inviting print products into their home, which to me says this is still a really robust area. That people like to have that magazine hit their mailboxes, be on their coffee tables, be beside their beds at night, etc. So, that perception that print is threatened keeps me up some at night.

And then right now we have a lot of great products and just sort of keeping all those balls in the air and working with the digital team here to make sure that you really have brand evenly across the platforms, which is not to say that we have to do the same thing across platforms because it’s different and the audience can be different. But how do we continue to use digital and social, which is so fragmented and everybody is always on to the shiny new thing; how do we continue to bring new audiences into our brand, whether that be print, digital or whatever.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Get Out Of Your Mind & Step Into The GOOD World…Re-launching A Good Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Max Schorr, Co-Founder & Will Tacy, General Manager, Good Media…

April 7, 2015

“As we designed the magazine we weren’t thinking, OK – we need to make sure that everything in this magazine is going to work in digital just as well, because that’s not what it’s meant to do. It’s meant to work beautifully as a magazine. And everything that we do on the site is meant to work beautifully in digital. We’re not trying to make sure that we can optimize every effort so that everything is working in both media. I think by doing that, you lessen the quality of both and you don’t let either media do what it can do wonderfully.” Will Tacy

Good_COVER The “Good” movement was born 10 years ago with the ambitious dream of “pushing forward an emerging community of people committed to living like they give a damn.” This statement comes from the minds of the original founders of Good: Max Schorr, Ben Goldhirsh and Casey Caplowe. In 2012, Good shifted its focus to its social network and stopped print production.

Today Good in print has been reborn from its social pixels-only, with a new format and redesign. The mission is the same, to live well and do good, but the journal-type magazine with a quarterly frequency is a brave new attempt to get back into print with the positive gusto the brand has always stood for and believed in.

I spoke with Max Schorr (one of the original co-founders of Good) and Will Tacy (former managing editor of The New York Times.com) and now general manager of Good Media, recently about the innovative design and re-launch of the magazine. It was an informative and affirming conversation about the magazine’s mission and where the two men see the brand heading in the future. Their positivity and assurance of the need for that mission was contagious and emboldened our discussion and the re-launch with the same zeal and impactful appetite.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Good Co-Founder, Max Schorr and Good Media General Manager, Will Tacy, because it’s a given you’ll find it a “good” read.

Max Schorr, (right) Co-Founder GOOD and Will Tacy, Good Media General Manager.

Max Schorr, (right) Co-Founder GOOD and Will Tacy, Good Media General Manager.

But first, the sound-bites…

On why Good magazine shifted strategies and came back to print in journal form: Good never actually moved away from print. We took some time to reimagine and redesign the magazine, but there was never a time where we decided that we weren’t going to be in print. We did want to make sure that the magazine was something we felt would really resonate with the audience.

On defining the audience as a global citizen: The one thing I would say is the nature of global citizenship hasn’t really changed from what it was in 2006. It’s still rooted in this idea of people who give a damn; people who have faith that the world can be better and are willing to invest in it and make it better.

On the major stumbling block they anticipate on facing with the re-launch: I think that we have to reintroduce ourselves to the world, but I have faith that the audience that has been there for Good all along is still there and in fact, is bigger than it’s ever been. I also have faith that there is an audience that understands what we’re trying to create: something that’s not disposable and that was very intentional on our part.

On defining the magazine’s mantra of living “the good life,” to live well and do good: We see an increasing amount of people who really feel connected across the whole world and so part of it is creatively engaging the world where you are and finding what it is that brings your purpose alive.

On how Good balances digital and print: As we designed the magazine we weren’t thinking, OK – we need to make sure that everything in this magazine is going to work in digital just as well, because that’s not what it’s meant to do. It’s meant to work beautifully as a magazine. And everything that we do on the site is meant to work beautifully in digital.

On where they see Good Media a year from now: I think that in both the digital realm and in print, you’re going to see Good as an ongoing part of a cultural conversation about what it means to live well and to do good; what our shared values are; what we need to push toward; what progress means; so, Good is going to be a reference point, a sounding board and a source of inspiration for people having that conversation, and also increasingly a source of pertinent and pressing questions.

On how Good has evolved over the last 10 years: We’ve been an independent media company for 10 years and it feels like now we’re sort of ready to go into the world. Maybe we’re graduating college and we’re now armed with a lot of knowledge and really ready to stand on our own in the world, but there are definitely challenges that are ahead and we need to now bring these things that we’ve learned into the world and really thrive and make the contribution that’s possible.

On what motivates Will Tacy and gets him excited about Good: What gets me excited, this opportunity to actually give people inspiration and energy and ideas to let them move forward to unleash their creativity and inspire them. On a personal level, I think that apathy and cynicism are the two things that are going to undermine us as a society, as a people and as sort of a global tribe.

On what motivates Max Schorr and gets him excited about Good: I think what motivates me is seeing how much work remains; we have everything from the warmest temperatures on record to wars to all sorts of hatred to a lot of inequality; so there’s so many vital issues that need attention and just being able to contribute as a part of that is a great honor.

On what Max Schorr’s role is today at Good: I’m helping across the company right now and really focusing on partnerships that can help bring our brand to life and also help other organizations embody the meaning of Good and to realize their purpose and engage people in a smart way.

On anything else they’d like to add: The heritage of Good, being the first company to curate YouTube’s home page, as one of the early players that was providing high-quality media that would also be shared, is now really hitting its stride and we’re growing digitally, while back in a strong way in print, makes for an exciting time.

On what keeps Will up at night: One thing that keeps me up at night, not really in a worried way, but in a my-brain-can’t-turn-off way, is wanting to be sure that we’re executing at the highest level every day on everything. I want us to be excellent all the time.

On what keeps Max up at night: I just want to keep strengthening this business model so that we can support all the great people out there doing this work and be able to have wonderful jobs for people who want to live well and do good and realize their potential to contribute to the world.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Max Schorr and Will Tacy, Good Media…

Good-1 Samir Husni: Congratulations on the re-launch of Good. Tell me, why did you decide to come back to print and shift from the strategy of Good – the magazine, to Good – the journal?

Max Schorr: Good never actually moved away from print. We took some time to reimagine and redesign the magazine, but there was never a time where we decided that we weren’t going to be in print. We did want to make sure that the magazine was something we felt would really resonate with the audience. So, we took our time to be sure we were exactly where we wanted to be with the magazine.

In terms of the change in format and the change in design, it was really a question of what we thought the audience was hungry for. And the recognition that the magazine that was launched 10 years ago was, in many ways, perfect for that time and moment. But today, the media landscape has changed, culture has changed, and the movement that Good launched to embrace and cover has changed. Therefore the magazine needed to change and evolve along with that.

Samir Husni: I just came back from Cape Town, South Africa where I gave a presentation on: if you are still creating a magazine in the way you did before 2007, there is something wrong with that picture.

Max Schorr: (Laughs) Exactly.

Samir Husni: Then along comes Good with a very solid example of the role of the curator versus creator and how to reach an audience. And you’re now calling that audience the global citizen; can you define that audience for me and how you’re trying to reach them through the magazine?

Will Tacy: The one thing I would say is the nature of global citizenship hasn’t really changed from what it was in 2006. It’s still rooted in this idea of people who give a damn; people who have faith that the world can be better and are willing to invest in it and make it better.

One thing I would say that has changed is that sensibility and that movement has moved from being something that would look good on the fridge of common society and common conversation, to something that’s more a part of who we all are.

One of the things that we’re seeing is that global citizenship, which really means being rooted locally, but thinking globally and being global-conscious, is becoming more and more a part of how a larger and larger section of society behaves.

Samir Husni: Will, what do you envision the major stumbling block you’ll have to face with a magazine as good as Good to be, with its very hefty cover price of $14 and its quarterly frequency?

Will Tacy: I think that we have to reintroduce ourselves to the world, but I have faith that the audience that has been there for Good all along is still there and in fact, is bigger than it’s ever been. I also have faith that there is an audience that understands what we’re trying to create: something that’s not disposable and that was very intentional on our part.

A lot of magazines have moved into this realm of being truly disposable. And that’s not a great place to be. To be in a place where a magazine is bought by someone to take with them on a plane and then they leave it there when they get off. So, we wanted to build something that has lasting value that people would want to keep on their coffee table and come back to and continually think about over the course of weeks and months.

But I do think that we have to introduce that to a larger audience; we need to make sure that we’re creating something that is resonant and that people want to make that kind of investment in. And that’s not just in terms of the cover price, but also in the audience’s time. We are building a print product that’s asking people to spend time with it and not just to skim through and read one or two pieces and then set it aside.

Samir Husni: In one of the promotional cards inside the magazine, it reads: Good is from people to meet to ideas to ponder, each issue of our quarterly journal spans the globe, exploring what it means to live the good life today. Tell me in an elevator pitch how you define “good life today?”

Max Schorr: We see an increasing amount of people who really feel connected across the whole world and so part of it is creatively engaging the world where you are and finding what it is that brings your purpose alive; part of it is being present; part of it is doing work that you believe in and part of it is helping to make your community better, and the combination of people doing that locally everywhere, connected all around the world, is a really exciting proposition for us.

Samir Husni: Do you think that meets the definition of a good life?

Max Schorr: You remember our first issue, Samir; it was ___________ (blank) like you give a damn, and we’ve always liked definitions that are open-ended. We don’t try to prescribe to people that there’s one answer for the good life, but we think when people have their own questions come alive in a very real way and they find out how they can contribute locally in their own lives that begins to tell a really great story.

You asked about global citizenship; we actually brought back a Thomas Paine quote from the first issue; my country is the world and my religion is to do good, and that sort of speaks to this idea of a global citizen.

We intentionally used the term “the good life” because part of what we want to do is push against the assumed definition of it; that the good life is a life lived for the common good as much as it is for the personal good and that there’s not a conflict there. There’s not a conflict between doing good and living a good life, in fact, they’re connected; they’re necessary to one another. Just as we say we firmly believe that there’s not a conflict between pragmatism and optimism; the solutions are born from the combination of those two things. We’re intentionally using that term to say it’s time to think more deeply about it and redefine it for our new time.

Samir Husni: Will, you were the managing editor of The New York Times.com and now you’re the general manager for Good Media. Where do you see a balance between, what I call, the seductive, beautiful mistress called “digital” and the old man called “ink on paper?” Since you have been and still are in both worlds; how can you balance digital and print?

Will Tacy: It’s funny, because I never saw a conflict between the two. I’ve always felt that they serve very different purposes; very valuable purposes, but different. And one of the things that I think, in particular a lot of magazines have stumbled on, is trying to figure out how you do the same thing in both, rather than simply embracing the two different media for what they’re wonderful at.

And some of that means that things we used to think were really the province of print, particularly newsweeklies, don’t really work anymore. They’re more effective in digital. And print has a very different purpose. The same audience is going to be incredibly psyched and excited about what you’re producing in print and in digital. As long as you’re meeting them where they are and where they want to be in each of those two media.

For instance, as we designed the magazine we weren’t thinking, OK – we need to make sure that everything in this magazine is going to work in digital just as well, because that’s not what it’s meant to do. It’s meant to work beautifully as a magazine. And everything that we do on the site is meant to work beautifully in digital. We’re not trying to make sure that we can optimize every effort so that everything is working in both media. I think by doing that, you lessen the quality of both and you don’t let either media do what it can do wonderfully.

Samir Husni: Put your futuristic cap on for a minute and tell me where you see Good a year from now.

Will Tacy: I think that in both the digital realm and in print, you’re going to see Good as an ongoing part of a cultural conversation about what it means to live well and to do good; what our shared values are; what we need to push toward; what progress means; so, Good is going to be a reference point, a sounding board and a source of inspiration for people having that conversation, and also increasingly a source of pertinent and pressing questions. Part of what we’re going to increasingly embrace is the idea that as this movement has matured and as it has moved farther and farther into the mainstream, part of our role is to ask the movement tough questions about itself and about ourselves.

I think you’ll see a much larger digital footprint; we’ve already seen our digital audience grow at an almost exponential rate over the last several months. You’ll see Good as a source of more and more content in pure digital streams, social streams and otherwise. And you’ll see Good as a voice in the national and global issues and values conversation.

You’re not going to see us playing in the breaking news game, that’s not somewhere that I think we can add value. You’re not going to see us playing in the “Gotcha’” media game and you’re not going to see us playing in the celebrity media game, but you will absolutely see Good as a contributor to a national conversation about what we all should value and where we all should be pushing.

Samir Husni: Max, this question is for you since you were there 10 years ago when this baby was born, and in the life of a magazine 10 years is an incredible lifespan; where do you see Good now from that infant that was born with a lot of fanfare 10 years ago?

Max Schorr: That’s a great question. We’ve been an independent media company for 10 years and it feels like now we’re sort of ready to go into the world. Maybe we’re graduating college and we’re now armed with a lot of knowledge and really ready to stand on our own in the world, but there are definitely challenges that are ahead and we need to now bring these things that we’ve learned into the world and really thrive and make the contribution that’s possible. The ideals from when we started are alive and well and they’re really what bring us all together as a cohesive team. So, we’re mature, but still hopeful and vibrant.

Samir Husni: I’m talking with two out of the three parents of Good: Will and Max.

Will Tacy: I would say that Max is definitely a parent, but I’m maybe a recently-discovered uncle. (Laughs)

Max Schorr: A wonderful uncle. (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: What happened to Ben (Ben Goldhirsh – one of the original founders)?

Max Schorr: Ben is still very much in the mix. He is currently recharging his batteries in Costa Rica; he visited us a couple of weeks ago and he’s coming through again in couple of weeks. He’s been such a huge part of this entire effort; he’s just recharging now because we’ve all put in a lot of work over the last decade.

Samir Husni: My question to you Will is; what makes you click and tick? What makes you get out of bed in the mornings and say, wow, I’m going to do some good today? No pun intended.

Will Tacy: (Laughs) No, actually, that’s the perfect way of saying it. I really do believe that fundamentally media has a critical role to play in providing people ways to think about our ability to move the world forward and ideas and models to inspire us.

And I think Good has such a wonderful opportunity to be that voice, that rallying, questioning, thoughtful, challenging voice that’s so necessary to begin to connect this larger and larger tribe and to be a sort of antidote to cynicism and apathy.

And that’s what gets me excited, this opportunity to actually give people inspiration and energy and ideas to let them move forward to unleash their creativity and inspire them. On a personal level, I think that apathy and cynicism are the two things that are going to undermine us as a society, as a people and as sort of a global tribe. And the opportunity to everyday try and kick down that door is just wonderful and inspiring.

Professionally, I’ve always loved being in places where you’re inventing and you’re constantly embracing the idea that there are new things we can do in media, there are new opportunities and that the audience is brilliant, hungry and thoughtful. And our job every day is to try and meet them where they are. There are no established rules that can never change and we can always think of ways to do this job better and more thoughtfully.

And to be at Good, where that’s not just accepted, but expected, and where there’s a hunger to continuously improve and to be thoughtful and forward-thinking, is just wonderful. And that’s what excites me every day.

Samir Husni: And Max, I’ll ask you the same question that I asked Will; what makes you get out of bed in the mornings and motivates you to say it’s going to be a good day?

Max Schorr: It’s just been such a great honor to start this magazine and meet people all around our country and all around the world who are putting these ideals into action and who are making changes happen in small ways, in their own lives and in their communities.

It started as a sort of audacious dream; we said that you could live well and do good and when we took the word good and decided to call our company that, people made fun of it. They didn’t understand how pragmatism and idealism could come together, or that doing good could ever be an appealing thing, but now we really see a growing movement of these people and we see it as the predominant sensibility.

And yet, I think what motivates me is seeing how much work remains; we have everything from the warmest temperatures on record to wars to all sorts of hatred to a lot of inequality; so there’s so many vital issues that need attention and just being able to contribute as a part of that is a great honor.

Samir Husni: Max, what’s your role now; I realize you’re one of the co-founders, but besides that; what’s your role at Good?

Max Schorr: I’m helping across the company right now and really focusing on partnerships that can help bring our brand to life and also help other organizations embody the meaning of Good and to realize their purpose and engage people in a smart way. So, I’m spending a lot of time here at Good and I’ve also been invited by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society out of Harvard Law School to study the intersection of social change in new media. So, I’m a student of that and doing research and also looking at how Good can really be the leading platform in moving the world forward.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add about Good – the magazine, Good – digital, or Good – the global citizen?

Max Schorr: It’s an exciting time, Samir. Will mentioned our digital is really growing exponentially and that’s an important piece. We’ve launched this high-quality print journal for the global citizen and what’s really exciting is there’s a whole buzz in the office right now because we were at several million unique visitors in January, but then in February we were at over 4½ million as verified by Quantcast. And in March, it’s not official yet, but we’ve beat that by a wide margin and so we’re seeing that continued growth.

The heritage of Good, being the first company to curate YouTube’s home page, as one of the early players that was providing high-quality media that would also be shared, is now really hitting its stride and we’re growing digitally, while back in a strong way in print, makes for an exciting time.

Samir Husni: My typical last question and it’s for both of you; what keeps you up at night?

Will Tacy: (Laughs) There are so many things. One thing that keeps me up at night, not really in a worried way, but in a my-brain-can’t-turn-off way, is wanting to be sure that we’re executing at the highest level every day on everything. I want us to be excellent all the time. So, that is super-exciting and it’s what keeps my brain going.

There’s not a lot that keeps me up in terms of worry, concern or fear. What keeps me up is there’s so much to think about and so much to consider and so much great work to do and my brain just can’t turn it off.

Max Schorr: Similar to Will, I just want to do the best work possible, but also it’s been a volatile stretch of time for the media industry. We’ve learned a lot, but we’re still an independent media company and I think we’re still strengthening our business model and our financial position in the world. And we’re really grateful for the wonderful partners that are in this magazine like Apple, Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s.

I just want to keep strengthening this business model so that we can support all the great people out there doing this work and be able to have wonderful jobs for people who want to live well and do good and realize their potential to contribute to the world. There’s just a lot of work to do.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor: A Healthy First Quarter And Second Quarter Opens With A Bang…

April 5, 2015

The first quarter of 2015 ended with 191 titles – down 19 titles from the 210 titles appearing in the first quarter of 2014. The largest drop were the titles published with the intention to appear at least four times a year on the nation’s newsstands. The total of new magazines with frequency in 2015 was 45 titles compared to 61 titles in 2014. As for the specials and book-a-zines, the numbers almost ran neck-to-neck with 2015 producing 146 titles compared to the 148 titles from 2014. To see each and every magazine launch click here.

The first chart below illustrates the total number of the titles, average cover price, average subscription price, average number of advertising pages, and average number of pages of the new magazines.

The second chart below compares the top 10 categories of the new launches in 2015 to those in 2014.

Chart One:
launches q1

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Chart Two:
categories q 1

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And A strong start for Second Quarter:

parents latinaSGD-1505-covernational geo history

The month of April is still in its infancy, but three major new launches are already on the nation’s newsstands with a fourth one arriving soon. Meredith was the first publisher to introduce the quarterly Parents Latina, National Geographic Society followed with the bimonthly National Geographic History, and Bauer Publishing with the monthly Simple Grace. Rodale is getting ready to launch Organic Life in ten days. A strong start for quarter two of 2015 and a good sign of a healthy and hefty spring ahead… and by the way, did I fail to mention that all these new launches are magazine launches, as in ink on paper launches? I guess March showers are indeed bringing in April flowers!

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