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Gearing Up For An Amazing ACT 7 Experience… “Magazines Matter, Print Matters”

January 19, 2017

Mr. Magazine™ says save the date: April 25-27, 2017

act7_loresAs we await spring and the month of April, we at the Magazine Innovation Center also await the exciting ACT 7 Experience, and 2017’s promises to be the most dynamic one yet. We’ve streamlined the number of speakers to enhance the actual experience in terms of the discussions that are going to take place. Our goal is to come up with solutions as the ACT Experiences are think-and-dos, not merely conferences where one comes to idly listen. ACT lives up to its acronym – Amplify – Clarify – Testify the power of print, and that’s just what we do as problems are met head-on and solutions are sought by brainstorming among some of the finest minds in publishing, printing and distribution.

Magazine and Magazine Media CEOs, Editors, Publishers, Distributors, and Marketers enjoy a cozy lunch during a break at the ACT 6 Experience. April 2016.

Magazine and Magazine Media CEOs, Editors, Publishers, Distributors, and Marketers enjoy a cozy lunch during a break at the ACT 6 Experience. April 2016.

The speakers, attendees and students alike are free to speak their minds and bounce ideas off of each other; it’s a thrilling time for everyone as boundaries are crossed when present leaders and future leaders of publishing meet at the Overby Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the campus of the University of Mississippi, where the Magazine Innovation Center resides. The Experience is divided into three main mini themes this year:

Celebration of Magazine Launches (everything you need to know to launch a magazine)

Magazine Reach and Power (the changing and evolving role of advertising and marketing in the magazine and magazine media world)

Magazine Distribution 2020 (the future of the newsstands, direct mail, subscriptions, free distribution, public placement, and every other thing that has to do with distribution)

mic_amplifyAnyone interested in learning about magazine launches should make it a point to be here. We will have panels with panelists and speakers who are going to celebrate their new magazine launches by telling us the story of the launch; the positives and the negatives and the impact of the publication. And we will also have a section for people who want to start a magazine. We will have panels on printing, production, paper; anything related to the print process. During this segment I will take the audience through a memory lane trip showing some amazing magazine launches throughout history. It will be an exhilarating

What follows are testimonials from three speakers from last year’s ACT 6 Experience:

Joe Berger of Joseph Berger Associates of Chicago, Newsstand Sales, Digital and Print Circulation had this to say about the ACT 6 Experience: During the ACT conference, we heard from several publishers who are doing well on the newsstand precisely because they are paying attention to their business. It’s my hope that the discussions that were started at this year’s ACT conference continue. The alternative is a continued drift. At a certain point, we need to stop the drift and chart a new course. That point really is now.

John Harrington partner in Harrington Associates, LLC, which published The New Single Copy and the annual Magazine Retail Sales Experience; he had this to say about ACT 6: In late April, I attended the ACT 6 Conference, sponsored by the Magazine Innovation Center at the journalism school of the University of Mississippi. Samir Husni is the director of MIC. I have attended and spoke at each of these programs and as I have stated often have found them among the most significant and valuable publishing gatherings I have ever participated in, and believe me over nearly 40 years there have been a bunch of them. The unique quality of the ACT conferences is the participation of the students, undergraduate and graduate. Samir has turned the school into a pipeline of talented people into the magazine media world.

Tony Silber, Vice President, Folio: had this to say about ACT 6: The ACT conference is a different kind of event. It’s small. Only perhaps 100-130 people attend, give or take. Since it’s held at a university, the students also attend. Sometimes Samir pairs them with industry figures, mentee to mentor. It’s way off the beaten path for the media industry. That’s part of its charm. It’s a different perspective for sometimes-jaded media people. Because of his (Samir Husni) advocacy, plus his unrelenting determination to make his case and push his cause, plus his 30-year run of cataloging all the print-magazine launches of the year—and selecting the most important 30 of them—Samir is as well-known and respected as anyone in the business. Now, for the last several years, he’s added a worthwhile media conference to his portfolio—one with a decided point of view.

Part of the ACT Experience is a trip to the  Mississippi Delta that ends with food and music at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, MS.

Part of the ACT Experience is a trip to the Mississippi Delta that ends with food and music at Ground Zero in Clarksdale, MS.

An added bonus is one evening of the Experience will be spent in the inimitable Mississippi Delta, where we will sample the rich musical and palate-pleasing heritage that is the magical Mississippi Delta. And of course, have a lot of fun in the process.

To all of my fellow magazine enthusiasts; to all the magazine makers; to all the lovers of the printed word and those passionate about this art form called magazine making; we at the Magazine Innovation Center invite you to join us April 25-27, 2017 for an “Experience” into the world of magazines and magazine making unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

So, if you suddenly feel an urge to head south – “ACT” on it!! The cost to register this year is only $395 that covers the registration to all the events of ACT 7 including the opening gala Tuesday dinner, breakfast, lunch, the trip to the Mississippi Delta and dinner on Wednesday, and breakfast and closing gala lunch on Thursday.

To register for the ACT 7 Experience click here. Note that space is limited to 100 registrants.

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ACT 7 Experience: Magazines Matter, Print Matters. Save The Dates April 25 to April 27, 2017

January 16, 2017

Save the Dates

act7_loresThe 2017 ACT (Amplify, Clarify, and Testify) Experience will take place April 25-27, 2017 at the Magazine Innovation Center, located at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the campus of the University of Mississippi. This year’s theme is Magazines Matter, Print Matters.

In the spring of 2017, as the earth is celebrating her rebirth; ACT 7 will be having a celebration of its own on the power of magazines and the power of print in a digital age. The Experience will be divided into three main mini themes:

· Celebration of Magazine Launches
· Magazine Reach and Power
· Magazine Distribution 2020

The first theme, Celebrating Magazine Launches, we will have panels with panelists and speakers who are going to celebrate their new magazine launches by telling us the story of the launch; the positives and the negatives and the impact of the publication. And we will also have a section for people who want to start a magazine. We will have panels on printing, production, paper; anything related to the print process. During this segment I will take the audience through a memory lane trip showing some amazing magazine launches throughout history.

The second theme of the conference is Magazine Reach and Power. This is a segment of the Experience that will focus on making money in print and what people are doing today to ensure that the revenue streams continue, whether it’s from circulation or advertising. Magazine Reach and Power is going to be a combination of the different ways and means by which people can still generate revenue from print, whether it is advertising in established magazines; advertising in new magazines, or bookazines and how those publications are making money.

The third and very important theme of the ACT 7 Experience is Imagining Magazine Distribution and the Newsstands in 2020. Magazine distribution in all categories, mail, digital and the newsstands, has been facing challenges to say the least. We will examine the old ways, the new ways, what is working and what is not. This segment will offer solutions regarding magazine distribution from every sector of the industry. We know the questions, now it is time to find the answers.

As in previous years, the ACT 7 Experience is going to be more of a think-and-do. We’re going to have a multitude of roundtables and discussions. We’re limiting the number of speakers to enhance the actual experience in terms of the discussions that are going to take place. Our goal is to come up with solutions.

We are limiting the number of attendees to 100, in addition to the speakers and the students who are going to be a part of the Experience. Each one of the speakers and sponsors will have a student who will individually shadow them during the entire conference.

As usual we will also go and enjoy a trip to the inimitable Mississippi Delta on the second night of the Experience and sample the rich musical and palate-pleasing heritage that is the magical Mississippi Delta. And of course, have a lot of fun in the process.

Stay tuned for more information… questions, feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com

In the meantime enjoy a recap of all the ACT 6 Experience presentations here.

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Think You Know Vanity Fair? Well, Think Again! The Media Kudos Celebrating A Great Weekly Vanity Fair Circa 1850.

January 13, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Brief…

Before there was a Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair magazine (in the 1920s and 1980s until present time), there was a weekly Vanity Fair magazine from the 1850s (yes, you read that right) that was published every Saturday. With issue 38, dated Saturday, September 15, 1860, Vanity Fair received rave reviews from a bevy of prestigious publications in that era of media. Check out a bit of nostalgia that Mr. Magazine™ dug out from his Classic Vault. You won’t be disappointed…
vanity-fair222vanity-fair-opinionspres224

And to make it easier on the eyes to read, here is a retyped version of the 1860 “Opinions of the Press” piece. It’s absolutely worth the read.

Vanity Fair,
The New Illustrated and Satirical Journal

Opinions of the Press

“The Punch of America.” – N.Y. Herald, Jan. 19

“If such a work can succeed, Vanity Fair will and ought to do so. It has a good corps of writers, whose contributions promise to be set on a hill and shine accordingly.” – N.Y. Tribune

Vanity Fair is the best experiment of the kind yet made in the country. The paper has already contained many things worthy of Punch in his brightest days, nor is this surprising when it is known that some of the best wits and most graceful writers in the country contribute to its pages.” – N. Y. Evening Post

“There is a good deal in a name, and this name is, to our mind, better than Punch. The illustrations in Vanity Fair have been the best ever produced in a comic paper in this country. They are beautifully drawn, carefully engraved, and not so entirely spoiled in the printing as, in many illustrated papers, woodcuts are spoiled on the press. If this paper shall continue, as it has begun, to take a high moral tone, to keep its pages scrupulously free from the too common wit whose only point is its vulgarity, to attack fearlessly and conscientiously the follies of the times, there will be a fair chance of its pushing its way to success and fame.” – The Independent (N.Y.)

“The object of Vanity Fair is a good one, and the parties engaged in it, so far as we are informed, are admirably qualified for their work.” – N.Y. Saturday Press

“This new comic paper has passed the trying ordeal of success, and is most decidedly entitled to the support of all those who love pure wit, dashed off from the pen or pencil.” – N.Y. Daily News

“There is vim in Vanity Fair. Its illustrations are equal to those which have made Punch a power in the metropolis of England, and in fun, piquancy of manner, terseness and humor it equals its great trans-Atlantic contemporary.” – N.Y. Dispatch

“Especially creditable, both in matter and appearance.” – N.Y. Sunday Times

“Its illustrations are superior to any that have heretofore appeared. The literary portion of the number is varied and entertaining.” – Boston Courier

Vanity Fair promises life and usefulness.” – N.Y. Leader

Vanity Fair bids fair to become one of the ‘peculiar institutions’ of the day.” – N.Y. Sunday Mercury

“That would certainly be a very mild criminal code which should prescribe nothing worse to take than Vanity Fair. We wouldn’t mind being shut up ourselves, for a time, in such companionship.” – National Anti-Slavery Standard

“It greatly excels any similar American publication, and is quite equal to Charivari or Punch.” – American Republic (Macon, Ga.)

“Pungent and humorous, and shows much ability in its editorial management.” – Louisville Journal

“The whole affair is exceedingly clever.” – Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
vanity-fair-inside223

“There is no small degree of smartness in Vanity Fair.” – Philadelphia Press

Vanity Fair is the most piquant of hebdomadals. We could wish that it might sweep out of existence every other comic periodical we have.” – Buffalo Daily Courier

“Far in advance of any similar publications which have heretofore appeared in this country.” – New Hampshire Gazette

“The original articles possess much greater merit than we usually find in journals of this class.” – Portland Transcript

“It bids fair to be very popular, and gives evidence of a high order of literary and artistic talent.” – Hunterdon (N.J.) Republican

“Though scarcely two months old, ‘It stalks the earth and awes the world around.’ Its illustrations tinge even the cheeks of Punch. Its onslaught on vice and folly makes it a terror to knaves and fools.” – Justice Whitley’s Circuit Judge

“We heartily welcome Vanity Fair to our literary repast, and shall look greedily for each weekly number.” – Architects’ and Mechanics’ Journal

“Capital and full of fun.” – Cincinnati Commercial

“Comes nearer the object than any of its predecessors.” Newark Daily Advertiser

“One of the cleverest and brightest papers of the kind. The wittiest writers and artists of New York contribute to it.” – Providence Journal

“This is the first really clever comic and satirical journal we have had in America – and really clever it is. It is both sharp and good-tempered, and not afraid to say that its soul is its own – which shows that it has a soul. Our readers will be glad to know where they can find native fun that has something better in it than mere patois.” – Atlantic Monthly

“This paper is excellent, remarkable for originality.” – N.Y. Traveller

Vanity Fair is conducted by a vivacious, witty and intelligent corps of journalists.” – Litchfield (Conn.) Enquirer

“Will wield as potent an influence as that of the London Punch.” – Boston Traveller

“Whoever finds himself laughing at the wit of Vanity Fair, and does not return a quid pro quo, is fit for ‘treasons, stratagems, and spoils.’” – N.Y. Crayon

Special Notice

And at the end of the page there was this ad, that needless to say has been running since June 30, 1850 without any updates.

The very marked and flattering success which has thus far attended the publication of Vanity Fair enables the publisher to announce that with the commencement of the Second Volume, issued this day, 30th June, New Features, both Literary and Artistic, will be introduced, which will increase the value and interest of the paper, and fully maintain the proud position unanimously accorded to it, as the leading Comic Journal of America.

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There Is Nothing New Under The “Creative Innovation” Sun…

January 11, 2017

First of a Series of Mr. Magazine™ Musings About Classic Creative Innovation…

multum-in-parvoJust when you thought the 21st century was the ultimate time for creative innovation in the world of magazines and magazine media, up rears the head of the 20th century again (and even part of the 19th) to prove you wrong. What’s the phrase adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: There’s nothing new under the sun? That would be absolutely true, especially when it comes to creative innovation in magazines. And leave it to Mr. Magazine™ to be the one to inform you of this, seeing as how recently I have been dipping deeply into my Classic Magazine Vault.

For example, when it comes to small and convenient, there was a magazine that was published in 1894 called “Multum in Parvo,” which of course in Latin means a great deal of something in a very small space. And in this case it would be a great deal of entertaining short stories in what was self-described at the time as “the smallest magazine in the world.” It was sold by subscription and single copy. And it is very, very small, (Mr. Magazine™ of course has it on hand), and for 1894, very innovative. Today, you might call it the flash drive of the 19th century. It is exquisite.

people-today220dare215bold217Then there are the men’s magazines that were a prominent and key part of the 1940s and 1950s, such as “Bold,” “People Today,” and “Dare.” These were the magazines that slid conveniently into a man’s shirt pocket for his viewing and reading pleasure when he was out and about, either at work or other activities away from his home or desk. And while by today’s standards, what with the Internet and mobile, this bit of carrying around your passion might sound tame and mediocre, for the ‘40s and ‘50s this idea was quite creative and demonstrative of the type of innovations that could come from productively inventive minds.

esquire201true198And aside from those examples of modification and mutation, there were the oversized coffee table magazines (sound familiar?) such as “Ken” from 1938 and “Flair” from 1950, and the boxed publications, such as “Esquire’s” 1959 Christmas Jubilee issue and “True The Man’s Magazine’s” 1961 Silver Anniversary issue. As Esquire began in 1933 and True The Men’s Magazine in 1937, the latter had a tendency to follow in the footsteps of its senior compatriot. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose.

leslies200newsweek202And when it came to service journalism and patriotism for our men and women of the armed forces, magazine weeklies in the 1940s such as Newsweek and TIME provided such a significant and important boost to our military personnel’s morale by providing issues with timely and interesting stories for absolutely free. And during the First World War, Leslie’s and many other titles provided a “notice to reader” stamp on their covers that allowed readers to place a one cent postal stamp onto the designated notice when they were finished reading the magazine and it would be sent to military personnel overseas for them to also enjoy. What an unbelievably innovative idea! Brilliant!

liberty204And another service feature that by today’s standards would probably seem ludicrous to most, but in fact, was quite the bomb in days gone by was the 1920s “Liberty” magazine, which offered readers exact minutes and seconds when it came to how long it took to read individual articles. Saving time didn’t just start with the digital natives, you see.

pic199Arguing with the quality, creativity, and yes, innovation of the titles from yesteryear would be a complete waste of time. The pioneers of magazines were not only some of the most creative people who ever lived, but also visionaries in their own right. And I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most beautiful and innovative covers that I have ever seen in my many, many years of tracking and loving magazines. It’s a magazine from 1939 that was published every other Tuesday by Street & Smith. The magazine was called “PIC” and was actually three magazines in one that covered different areas of the entertainment world, Hollywood, Broadway and Sports. So, for example, one section was “Hollywood Pic;” one section was “Broadway Pic;” and one section was “Sport Pic,” just simply a well-done, original magazine that showed creativity at its best.

st-nicholas203Another lovely magazine for children that encouraged curious minds to flip through its pages and enjoy magical stories and actual illustrations that were not produced digitally was St. Nicholas magazine that was founded by Scribner’s in 1873 and ceased publication in 1940. Mr. Magazine™ has the beautiful December 1920 issue and it’s writing is superb. Over the years everyone from Louisa May Alcott to Mark Twain enjoyed being published in this amazing title. The magazine is proof positive that children do in fact love to read and always have, it’s just today they have more options than ever before, which isn’t a bad thing at all. However, it is a fact that the innovations of technology are not the entire reason children are inspired to read; it’s much more about the craft of good storytelling.

The point I’m making is that while those of us today who live and breathe as if we were the only creative, innovative, cutting-edge, and ingenious people to have ever touched ink on paper or (in our case in the 21st century), stared at pixels on a screen, are a bit narcissistic when you look back through the years that magazines have been around. Creative innovation didn’t happen simply because the world of digital came into being. Creative innovation hit the scene when the first magazine drew its infant breath. Digital may have motivated print to recheck and reinvent itself, but it never, ever coined the phrase “creative innovation.” That credit, my friends, goes to the human being…

And from almost the very beginning there have been human beings and their original ideas – that’s nothing new…

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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AARP The Magazine: Relevant, Vibrant & Still The Largest Circulation Magazine In The Country With Over 37 Million Readers – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Shelagh Daly Miller, Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media

January 9, 2017

“I believe that magazines have devalued themselves tremendously. I think that they’ve been in panic mode for years. I’m a big print person; my dad was in the magazine business; I had a sister in the magazine business and I love magazines. I still read books; I don’t have a Kindle. I love print. And I think that it’s sad that the industry has moved toward devaluing publications by offering them for $2 and $3 in some cases, I can’t believe the offers that have come my way over the last several years.” Shelagh Daly Miller

TM51617DJ_C1_MEDIA.pdfAARP The Magazine is a mass-circulated publication that makes no apologies for its print prowess and passionate nature regarding ink on paper. The magazine is the largest-circulation publication in the United States with over 37 million readers and its AARP Bulletin reigns supreme with 29.7 in readership. Combine the two together and the numbers are a staggering testament to the power of print and its relevant audience, while never ignoring the reach and information the brand’s digital extensions offer.

So why not start the new year right from the top? Shelagh Daly Miller is Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media Sales and has been with the brand for 16 years. Coming from a background rich in advertising and publishing, she is a woman very much at home in the world of magazines and magazine media.

I spoke with Shelagh right before the Christmas holidays and we talked about the world of magazines and the extremely bright path that AARP The Magazine was on and has been on for several years, as the brand has seen exponential growth under her leadership. As Shelagh stated, while AARP The Magazine is a mass-circulated magazine, it’s also a niche title that dominates relevance when it comes to its audience.

With storytelling and vibrant, buoyant features about people and things that interest its very active and affluent audience, AARP proves that the 50-plus readers should not, will not and will never be, defined by a mere number. With consumers over 50 in the prime position of not only being able to afford their lifestyles, they can actually revel in them; the magazine is geared toward a group of people who today dominate our country’s wealth, and that is a very good group to gear to. Relevant audience, relevant content; it never fails and it never will.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very inspiring and print-positive Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman and her brand that make no apologies for their faith and commitment to print, Shelagh Daly Miller, Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media.

But first the sound-bites:

shelagh-millerOn some in the industry who believe that there isn’t room for a mass-circulated magazine anymore, yet AARP publishes its magazine and tabloid at 23 million plus: I would say that while our publications are obviously mass, considering the circulation, 22.5 is the rate base for 2017 for each of the publications, but we’re really serving somewhat of a niche audience at the same time. It’s specifically 50-plus, but not only that, it’s 50-plus people who have raised their hands and said that they were going to join the organization that’s advocating for them as people over 50-years-old. So, I think that gives us a bit of a niche focus.

On why it seems the magazine industry focuses more on the audience that it doesn’t fully have (the millennials) instead of the one it does have (the baby boomers): I honestly think that part of it is the people who are working in the industry are millennials themselves. And I believe there is a bit of self-reflection going on there; that’s one part of it in my opinion. As you can probably imagine, we’re often out talking to agency folks that are, I’d say, in their late 20s or early 30s, and we’re trying to communicate to them about how valuable the 50-plus market is. In particular, we may be talking about Boomers if it’s a pharma or a packaged goods company.

On the most pleasant moment she’s experienced professionally during 2016: Actually, that moment happened very recently. The fact that Ad Age finally recognized us is super exciting. In my opinion, we’ve been doing great things for many years and have been overlooked by the trades for a long time. So, there’s a big smile on my face. There have been lots of personal Facebook posts and many professional congratulations. I think that’s probably been my sweetest moment during the past year.

On the most challenging moment of 2016: The most challenging moment of the year was a bit of a theme, which is AARP takes the brand very seriously and as a result we have a fairly stringent ad policy team. All of our advertisers have to be approved by that team and I would say that advertising rejections from our ad policy team are the biggest frustrations because we literally have people who are out there with their dollars; their wallets opened, ready to spend money and we can’t take their advertising or their money. That’s the biggest frustration.

On the trend of basically giving magazine subscriptions away for nothing: On the topic in a more global sense, at least on your question, I believe that magazines have devalued themselves tremendously. I think that they’ve been in panic mode for years. I’m a big print person; my dad was in the magazine business; I had a sister in the magazine business and I love magazines. I still read books; I don’t have a Kindle. I love print. And I think that it’s sad that the move toward devaluing publications by offering them for $2 and $3 in some cases, I can’t believe the offers that have come my way over the last several years.

On what she believes that she can do to make the magazine business model work again: That’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you that I know what I can do, and what I can do is wake up every morning with a great attitude about going out into the marketplace and representing two amazing print brands that deliver on their promises to both advertisers and readers. I don’t know that every magazine can say that they do that. I don’t know that every magazine is attracting the kind of talent that is passionate about magazines the way that I know our staff is.

BUDEC16_001A.pdfOn breaking the stereotype that AARP The Magazine is more of a membership read than a great storytelling vehicle: I think that’s more of an editorial challenge or opportunity than it is an ad sales opportunity. Of course, the better the editorial product, the easier it is for us to attract advertisers, so obviously they all work together. And our MRI numbers are a testament to the fact that our publications are vibrant and have evolved. And hopefully we’ll continue to evolve. We got a tremendous amount of MRI growth over the last few years. I’m sure you saw the latest release where our total readership is up almost one million from spring 2016. And it’s the highest readership we’ve had in the magazine’s history, so clearly the editorial is on point.

On anything else she’d like to add: I think the only thing that I’d like to add is that I’ve been in the advertising business now for 31-plus years, with a few years on the agency side, but most of my career has been on the print side. Of course, we took on digital about seven years ago, but I grew up in this business for 31 years, and I’m happy to say that I still wake up every morning with a smile on my face knowing that I’m coming to work. Not necessarily when it’s 13 degrees and I have to get in my car in the mornings. (Laughs)

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly at her home one evening: You would definitely catch me cooking; cooking is a passion. You may catch me having a glass of wine while cooking. I have long work days and I travel a lot, so when I am home, I love to cook. And oftentimes you’ll find that you’re not the only guest; my husband and I entertain quite a bit. We love having people over and I love cooking for people.

On what keeps her up at night: On a business note, I would say that what keeps me up at night is being able to keep up this momentum. We’ve had year after year after year of bucking industry trends; am I going to wake up at some point and it’s all going to come crashing down? That’s something that weighs on me, I’d say. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s something that sticks in the back of my head.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Shelagh Daly Miller, Vice President, Group Publisher, AARP Media.

Samir Husni: You hear a lot in different industry circles about the changes in magazines, and how there’s no room anymore for a mass-circulated publication, yet you publish a magazine with over 37 million readers and the Bulletin at 29.7 million readers. What gives?

octnov-2016-warren-beatty-70Shelagh Daly Miller: I would say that while our publications are obviously mass, considering the circulation, 22.5 is the rate base for 2017 for each of the publications, but we’re really serving somewhat of a niche audience at the same time. It’s specifically 50-plus, but not only that, it’s 50-plus people who have raised their hands and said that they were going to join the organization that’s advocating for them as people over 50-years-old. So, I think that gives us a bit of a niche focus.

When you look at, for example, a women’s service book that’s really trying to be everything to everyone in that women’s group, you might have an editorial piece on dealing with “terrible two’s,” and as we know the age of those publications has gone up significantly over the last 10 years, so you may also be talking to someone who is my age, 53, who’s well beyond the point where the “terrible two’s” are relevant. Therefore I think that’s a harder mass appeal to address. Whereas we’re talking to this group who are not only age-wise for the most part over 50, but again they’re sort of the cream of the crop of the 50-year-old’s. We know that they’re more educated than non-members; they’re more affluent than non-members, but most importantly, they’ve raised their hands and paid their money and have said that they want to be a part of this.

Samir Husni: You make a very good point about having a niche audience or a specialized audience, although there are plenty of them. In this country we have almost 72 million millennials and 72 million baby boomers; why do you think that the magazine industry focuses so much of its attention on the audience that it doesn’t fully have, such as the millennials, and ignores the audience that it does have?

Shelagh Daly Miller: I honestly think that part of it is the people who are working in the industry are millennials themselves. And I believe there is a bit of self-reflection going on there; that’s one part of it in my opinion. As you can probably imagine, we’re often out talking to agency folks that are, I’d say, in their late 20s or early 30s, and we’re trying to communicate to them about how valuable the 50-plus market is. In particular, we may be talking about Boomers if it’s a pharma or a packaged goods company.

And I don’t remember this myself, Samir; I don’t remember thinking 50 was old, because I’m 53 now and I’m so young, hip and cool (Laughs); it’s hard to believe that at 28, fifty years old seems so far away, but the truth is, it really does seem so far away to them. They can’t even imagine it. And they don’t necessarily think of their parents when they consider who we’re trying to reach. When we ask them how old their parents are and they might answer 55; and we ask, well, what are they doing? My parents both just retired and they took a biking trip around the world, which we can then say, this is the kind of vibrancy that we’re talking about.

So, again, I think a lot of it has to do with that it’s almost like an ethnocentric focus. You have largely brand managers and agency folks who are in their mid-twenties to late thirties, and that’s who they think about when they want to sell their brand. So, I feel that’s one of the challenges.

And then the other reason that I think the focus is younger is the fact that the target many years ago when you wanted to reach households and get consumption and volume, was moms 18 to 34 or 18 to 49 with kids. And I think that has just stuck, as opposed to moving with those 18 to 34 or 18 to 49 year olds who are now Boomers and beyond; the industry has stayed in that age group and I think it’s almost habit.

Samir Husni: As you reflect on 2016 at AARP The Magazine and the Bulletin, what has been the most pleasurable moment for you during the past year?

Shelagh Daly Miller: Actually, that moment happened very recently. The fact that Ad Age finally recognized us is super exciting. In my opinion, we’ve been doing great things for many years and have been overlooked by the trades for a long time. So, there’s a big smile on my face. There have been lots of personal Facebook posts and many professional congratulations. I think that’s probably been my sweetest moment during the past year.

Samir Husni: And what was the most challenging moment of the year?

Shelagh Daly Miller: The most challenging moment of the year was a bit of a theme, which is AARP takes the brand very seriously and as a result we have a fairly stringent ad policy team. All of our advertisers have to be approved by that team and I would say that advertising rejections from our ad policy team are the biggest frustrations because we literally have people who are out there with their dollars; their wallets opened, ready to spend money and we can’t take their advertising or their money. That’s the biggest frustration.

But on the other hand, that’s a good thing because it really does speak to the integrity of the brand and the fact that advertisers in our publication benefit from the halo effect of a brand that is so stringent. So, it’s kind of a challenge, but it’s a positive at the same time.

Samir Husni: I’ve been known to say that we don’t have a magazine problem; we have an industry problem, because we technically give our magazines away. In your case, it’s part of the membership, but in the case of the major publishers; with some you can pay $5 and get an entire year of magazines. Do you think it makes a difference if you charge me $20 or $10 per year for a membership? Will that stop me from getting the magazine and the bulletin?

Shelagh Daly Miller: If we were to increase our membership dues; I think naturally you would lose a certain number of members who just don’t want to afford an increase like that. But ultimately what you’re left with is likely the members who are most committed to AARP and all of the good work that we do.

I believe that people feel when they join AARP; one of the benefits of their membership is receiving these two publications in their homes, six times per year for the magazine and 10 times per year for the bulletin. I think that if we took that away we would have a great deal of vocal dissent from our members.

On the topic in a more global sense, at least on your question, I believe that magazines have devalued themselves tremendously. I think that they’ve been in panic mode for years. I’m a big print person; my dad was in the magazine business; I had a sister in the magazine business and I love magazines. I still read books; I don’t have a Kindle. I love print. And I think that it’s sad that the industry has moved toward devaluing publications by offering them for $2 and $3 in some cases, I can’t believe the offers that have come my way over the last several years.

In the same way, when I was a media planner at William Esty back in 1986 and magazines started to negotiate off rate card, I think it’s bad that we did that too, because a rate card means very little. And I believe that started devaluing the benefit of being an advertiser in a particular brand, and that’s sort of a B to B erosion and a B to C erosion when you chop your subscription prices. I think it’s a shame that it’s moved in that direction. I don’t know how you shift it back, but I do think that there’s a human nature aspect of, and my parents used to refer to it as something being “dear,” being expensive and important. If we could move the needle back the other way with brands like AARP that are going to stay in the print business, and make them a little bit more costly because of their value, I think that would be terrific. But it’s very hard to swing the pendulum back the other way.

Samir Husni: Recently, I did an interview with Linda Thomas Brooks from the MPA, and I told her that I was going to use a line from a button that she found in a bookstore, and incorporate it into a new mantra following along the path of our recent presidential election, “Making Magazines Great Again.”

Shelagh Daly Miller: I love that! That’s awesome.

Samir Husni: Linda doesn’t allow anyone to say either “print is dead” or “print is not dead,” she banned both statements because she believes that even if we say that print is not dead, we’re making it appear that at one time it was.

Shelagh Daly Miller: Yes, we’re acknowledging that some people think it is dead, even if we tell them it’s not.

Samir Husni: Yes, so she banned that phrase from the MPA, which as I told her, is a breath of fresh air. With everything you’re doing and everything that you see happening around the magazine industry, what can you do to, not necessarily move the needle back, but to help change our business model? From somebody who was on the ad side and who is now on the publishing side; what will it take to change things? We’ve really been our own worst enemies; we haven’t changed yet; what do you think it will take?

Shelagh Daly Miller: That’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you that I know what I can do, and what I can do is wake up every morning with a great attitude about going out into the marketplace and representing two amazing print brands that deliver on their promises to both advertisers and readers. I don’t know that every magazine can say that they do that. I don’t know that every magazine is attracting the kind of talent that is passionate about magazines the way that I know our staff is.

We may not have the 27-year-old media planner who just got into sales, because frankly, we’re not really a cool, sexy brand to those people, but if you want a great print operation to be a part of, come on over here, because we’ve got people who are passionate about print; we’ve got marketers who are passionate about print, and not to sell our digital properties short, which are also an amazing growth medium for us, but if you walk around these offices, you’ll see that most of the people here have a rich print background. And are, to this day, still excited about being out in the marketplace talking about our print properties and what we can do for their brands.

That’s my own little corner of the world and I do believe that if there were more operations embracing who they are and being true to themselves, maybe that’s part of the answer, instead of trying to become something that they’re not, or instead of walking away from their original DNA and what the brand means. Make the brand relevant again to the people who are reading it; don’t try and be relevant to a group of people who aren’t. I guess that’s my thinking.

Samir Husni: I’ve been following AARP The Magazine since before it was called AARP and you have a great editorial team. The magazine today is not the same magazine that if my father had been in this country he would have read. And granted, the recognition from Ad Age is a big step forward, but how can you combat that stereotype that the magazine is just a membership read and not a great editorial storytelling package?

Shelagh Daly Miller: I think that’s more of an editorial challenge or opportunity than it is an ad sales opportunity. Of course, the better the editorial product, the easier it is for us to attract advertisers, so obviously they all work together. And our MRI numbers are a testament to the fact that our publications are vibrant and have evolved. And hopefully we’ll continue to evolve. We got a tremendous amount of MRI growth over the last few years. I’m sure you saw the latest release where our total readership is up almost one million from spring 2016. And it’s the highest readership we’ve had in the magazine’s history, so clearly the editorial is on point.

I too have been following AARP in one form or another for a long time. When I was at William Esty, I worked on Vaseline dermatology formula and we advertised in Modern Maturity, and I remember it being frustrating because AARP had lowered their age from 55 to 50, so their rate base was changing every couple of months. And I remember it being a little bit frustrating to work on that publication from a planning standpoint.

But then when I joined AARP, we still had a publication called Modern Maturity and we had just launched a separate publication called My Generation. And I think this goes back to a question that you asked before about being relevant to your audience; we wanted to have My Generation focused on the Boomers, and what we realized after a year or so was that AARP members referred to their magazine as AARP Magazine, so why were we trying to create a new brand when AARP was already such a strong brand, and that was when AARP, Modern Maturity and My Generation became one age-versioned magazine, which is what we have today; AARP The Magazine.

So again, I think that was an example of understanding your audience and not trying to be something that you’re not. And from an editorial standpoint, we started to take a very different direction back then and it’s just continued, and I would say it has become even more accelerated since Myrna (Blyth – editorial director) came onboard, and Myrna brought Bob onboard; the types of people we’re getting on the covers; the types of editorial: Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen’s new book; Helen Mirren and Sally Field, somewhat iconic, but still very relevant today, even to younger folks.

Again, I think it comes down to making sure that you’re relevant and I believe our editorial product has done a great job of evolving into a more and more relevant publication. The fact that we do, for the magazine, the age-version, is another USP that enables us to be particularly relevant within the mass number, but the niche audience.

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

Shelagh Daly Miller: I think the only thing that I’d like to add is that I’ve been in the advertising business now for 31-plus years, with a few years on the agency side, but most of my career has been on the print side. Of course, we took on digital about seven years ago, but I grew up in this business for 31 years, and I’m happy to say that I still wake up every morning with a smile on my face knowing that I’m coming to work. Not necessarily when it’s 13 degrees and I have to get in my car in the mornings. (Laughs)

But I really love what I do and I love this business. And I love the evolution that I’ve had; I’ve been at AARP for 16 years, and I never expected that. Up until that point I had the pretty typical career where every three or so years I moved from title to title, but I really found a home here for a lot of reasons. It’s an amazing brand and it’s an amazing organization that does really great things. We have really terrific high engagement media properties and we have an amazing team of people, which is definitely part of the reason we finally were recognized by Ad Age. This is my family away from home and I do wake up every morning excited to go to work. I know my own peers, my friends, are often envious of me that I still love what I do. It’s just been really fun and I hope to be doing for a while longer.

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

Shelagh Daly Miller: You would definitely catch me cooking; cooking is a passion. You may catch me having a glass of wine while cooking. I have long work days and I travel a lot, so when I am home, I love to cook. And oftentimes you’ll find that you’re not the only guest; my husband and I entertain quite a bit. We love having people over and I love cooking for people.

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

Shelagh Daly Miller: I think this will be a little bit reflective of my personality because I like to think that I’m kind of funny, but frankly, my dog hogging the bed and my husband snoring is really what keeps me up at night. I have a 67 lb. dog and he thinks that he owns the entire bed.

On a business note, I would say that what keeps me up at night is being able to keep up this momentum. We’ve had year after year after year of bucking industry trends; am I going to wake up at some point and it’s all going to come crashing down? That’s something that weighs on me, I’d say. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but it’s something that sticks in the back of my head.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Mr. Magazine™ 2017 Manifesto: Make Magazines Great Again…*

January 4, 2017

20172016 RIP. The year that fake news challenged, and in some cases, overcame real news. 2016 showed me, a professor of journalism, how biased media can be in this digital age we live in. However, as a firm believer in the necessity and importance of journalism, the type of journalism that goes beyond just providing content, but rather the kind that creates experiences with its dual audience: readers and advertisers.

Magazines, my area of study and love, are here to remind us that they and, the ones who create them, are much more than content providers; they are journalists first, marketers second and they create and curate in order to engage that dual audience. The only way to create a great magazine for the advertisers is to create a great magazine for the readers.

And that is why Mr. Magazine’s 2017 mantra is “Make Magazines Great Again.”

But how do we do that when they’re already a wonderful platform for reputable information and great entertainment? We amplify and affirm the great characteristics magazines have. Magazine makers need to toot their own horns, announce to the masses at large that magazines and their many brand extensions are here to stay.

In short, we need to make magazines great again in the minds of our audiences first and then advertisers and retailers will follow suit. The Mr. Magazine™ 2017 Manifesto is my honest look at what magazine makers and those in and around the industry can do to achieve that edict.

Samir "Mr. Magazine™" Husni, Ph.D., Photo by Austin Dean.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., Photo by Austin Dean.

So, join me if you will, celebrating this year’s Mr. Magazine Manifesto:

Make magazines great again: Magazines are much more than content. Magazines are created and curated journalism. They are integrated and collaborative experiences among editor, publisher, advertiser, printer, distributor and reader. To make magazines great again, make the magazine experience great again.

Digital is NOT heaven for print: A magazine that says it is folding its print edition and moving to pure digital is no longer a magazine and chances are it will not only be gone from sight but also from mind. If a magazine can’t survive in print, none of its magazine media will survive. It’s easier to let the magazine go rest in peace than placing it on digital-life support.

Value your magazine: Guess what, if you do not value (and truly show that value) your magazine on your own, do not expect others, including media pundits, to do that for you. They thrive on bad news, you don’t.

Invest in print, in paper and above all in distribution: As you know, in my book, if it is not ink on paper, it is not a magazine. However, today’s magazines must look and feel like collectible items. When pulp magazines reigned, there was no competition. Now, there is no room for cheap paper in today’s marketplace. Print is permanent. But, without a good solid distribution system, magazines will not make it into the hands of readers. Let us in 2017 make retail great again.

Magazines have a life cycle: Like any other created entity, there is a time to be born and a time to die. Smart publishers know when to launch them and they know when to fold them. The cycle of life changes with different titles that come and go, but the magazine as an industry goes on.

No apologies needed: Stop the unnecessary apologies for working in print in a digital age. Ink is a technology and paper is a technology. In fact, ink on paper is a technology everyone continues to imitate, while they produce entities that look and feel like ink on paper. Why invent something that’s already been serving the industry for hundreds of years? Acknowledge that we live in a digital age, but be proud of what print, and only print, can offer.

Challenge the myths: There’s almost the same number of Millennials as there are Baby Boomers in the U.S. (approx. 72 million). Why can’t you treat both the way my 9-year-old grandson Mr. Magazine Jr. suggested when asked which he preferred, his ink on paper book that he was reading or his iPad that he was playing his football game on? “Why do I have to choose?” he asked.

Preach your story: There is a saying in my home state of Mississippi, “If it’s true, it ain’t bragging.” Raise your voice and preach your success story. Every year I name and honor the 30 hottest magazine launches. The industry must do the same. Celebrating the industry’s newborns is as much fun as celebrating the anniversaries of lives well lived.

And last but not least, don’t ignore the bad news… but also don’t let the bad news consume you. For every death announcement there is at least four birth notices. Since I started tracking magazines some 39 years ago, there are at least four times more titles in the marketplace than there was in 1978. So, pick up a magazine, any magazine, and let’s make America read again.

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screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-1-55-07-pm* The Mr. Magazine Manifesto has appeared first in minonline: media industry newsletter as it has been the tradition since I started writing the Mr. Magazine™ annual manifestos in 2009.

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Mr. Magazine™ Counts At Least 845 New Titles Appearing In 2016, With 222 Magazines Published With Regular Frequency

January 3, 2017

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2016 continued the healthy growth of new magazines reaching the marketplace, both in frequency titles and specials, annuals and bookazines. The year ended strong, with at least 845 new titles, which is 31 titles more than 2015.

The total number of new magazines with regular frequency was 222, a decrease of 14 titles, compared to 2015. What follows is a month by month preliminary numbers of new magazine launches in 2016 compared to 2015.

January 2016:
Frequency – 21
Specials – 56
Total – 77

January 2015:
Frequency – 14
Specials – 43
Total – 57

February 2016:
Frequency – 12
Specials – 57
Total – 69

February 2015:
Frequency – 16
Specials – 49
Total – 65

March 2016:
Frequency – 7
Specials – 46
Total – 53

March 2015:
Frequency – 15
Specials – 54
Total – 69

April 2016:
Frequency – 21
Specials – 50
Total – 71

April 2015:
Frequency – 20
Specials – 50
Total – 70

May 2016:
Frequency – 25
Specials – 43
Total – 68

May 2015:
Frequency – 28
Specials – 53
Total – 81

June 2016:
Frequency – 13
Specials – 45
Total – 58

June 2015:
Frequency – 25
Specials – 45
Total – 70

July 2016:
Frequency – 10
Specials – 50
Total – 60

July 2015:
Frequency – 11
Specials – 70
Total – 81

August 2016:
Frequency – 19
Specials – 47
Total – 66

August 2015:
Frequency – 20
Specials – 39
Total – 59

September 2016:
Frequency – 13
Specials – 46
Total – 59

September 2015:
Frequency – 11
Specials – 42
Total – 53

October 2016:
Frequency – 32
Specials – 91
Total – 123

October 2015:
Frequency – 21
Specials – 41
Total – 62

November 2016:
Frequency – 26
Specials – 49
Total – 75

November 2015:
Frequency – 23
Specials – 56
Total – 79

December 2016:
Frequency – 23
Specials – 43
Total – 66

December 2015:
Frequency – 32
Specials – 36
Total – 68

2016 Totals:
Frequency: 222
Specials: 623

2016 Total: 845

2015 Totals:
Frequency: 236
Specials: 578

2015 Total: 814

To see the images of each new magazine cover, visit the Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor.

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