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Neither Cop Nor Convict, But Rather King Of The Newsstand: Single-Copy, No Advertising, No Subscriptions, No Digital – Topix Media Lab Goes Bookazine Print In A Big Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Tony Romando, CEO and Co-Founder, Topix Media Lab.

May 27, 2015

The Mr. Magazine™ Reports from the IMAG conference.

“And these tributaries (collector’s editions) are how I think print will stay around because it’s specialized. I can go to any dot com or any digital platform and get all of my news for every facet of my life right then on the spot. But we don’t want to do that. We just want to do one very specific brand of news, for one very specific customer and that’s it.” Tony Romando

Collectability is a word that has become synonymous with print in the 21st century. It’s a fait accompli. Without that collectability factor, print today is what digital content would be tomorrow; a day late and a dollar short.

IMG_6740 Tony Romando, CEO and co-founder of Topix Media Lab, probably understands the viability of collectable print better than anyone in the industry today, because that’s the name of his game: collectability. Publishing anywhere from 90 to 110 specialized topical bookazines per year; he is a man who knows his business and knows it well. From his triumphs to his defeats; Tony remains true to the Topix mission: providing quality products for one specialized consumer at a time, with no advertising, no subscriptions and no digital.

During the IMAG Annual Conference, which took place May 18th to 20th in Boulder, Colorado; I was able to sit down with Tony and discuss where his career had been, where it was now and where he saw it heading in the future with Topix. The man is as down-to-earth and open as the conference was enlightening. From convicts and cops, which according to him was sprinkled throughout his family tree, to the recently degreed CEO of one of the most prolific bookazine publishing companies in the world today; Tony is a force to be reckoned with and a man who was a true pleasure to interview.

So, I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ reports from the IMAG conference with Tony Romando, CEO & Co-Founder of Topix Media Lab. It will inspire you to believe that with the right dream and focus, you can do whatever your heart desires by staying true to your vision.

But first, the sound-bites:

topix8 On the genesis of Topix Media Lab: The genesis started with, I was at WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) working for Vince McMahon and like any good, smart business guy, he wanted to figure out new revenue streams that basically weren’t totally wrestling-based. We had an infrastructure of publishing; we had everything already set up and it seemed to make sense that we could do publishing for other businesses. When he didn’t really love the idea of stepping that far outside of his comfort zone, it seemed like the right time and opportunity to start the company on my own. I and another guy founded the company three years ago and it started off horribly; catastrophic.

On why it started out horribly: I think the general plan was we would do generic collector’s edition magazines. My incorrect opinion was that we would have readers who really loved the subject matter, but didn’t care about the brand. Brands are not important. They care about One Direction or The Hobbitt or 50 Shades of Grey; they don’t care who is the one doing the magazine or who the authority is, they just care about the subject matter. And it turned out that was completely incorrect.

On how he turned it around and became one of the most prolific bookazine publishers out there: We’re doing, to be honest with you, two per week. Some weeks we do three; some weeks one, but I think the real turning point was realizing that we couldn’t sustain a generic magazine business.

topix 2 On what he was thinking when he decided to go single-copy sales only: No advertising; no subscriptions; no digital. It’s as though I’m trying to sell you a steam engine or a trolley car. I would say that even though it may be a slowly declining business, there will always be room for the biggest brands. There will always be Men’s Health because they’re the category leader; there will always be Scientific American, they’re the best at what they do, and the best of those magazines will always be there.

On whether he fears there may come a time when the newsstands are filled with only bookazines and a magazine only shows up every now and then: The flagship magazines don’t want to do collector’s editions, they look down on those; those are marketing tools, revenue streams, they’re not important enough. And because of that, there’s a real push/pull between the people who do the bookazines for the big companies and the people who do the flagship magazines. And because of that they’ll never have the best quality product they can put out at the same time.

On his major stumbling block: The major stumbling block was not on the publishing side, it was on the entrepreneurial side. You do six magazines a year; you can balance a checkbook easily, there are a few dollars coming in, a few dollars going out and very few people to concern you. But as you add clients and you get to a point where you’re probably doing 90 magazines or more per year; we’ll probably do between 90 and 110, you hit a point where it becomes very complex.

On his most pleasant moment: That’s a tough question. I almost want to say being my own boss, but as I said before, I have more people to answer to now than ever before. So, I think the most pleasant part of this journey is knowing that Topix Media Lab is on everyone’s radar.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up is more research and more data and I’ll stumble onto one new piece of information that basically says instead of doing a cover with six images, I should do it with three images. And that’s the best part of it. I think too many people are on autopilot when it comes to what they should do; it’s the same stuff, year in and year out. And there is so much good stuff out there that hasn’t been tried yet. So, what keeps me up is doing more research.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tony Romando, CEO, Co-Founder, Topix Media Lab.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Topix Media Lab.

IMG_6739 Tony Romando: The genesis started with, I was at WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) working for Vince McMahon and like any good, smart business guy, he wanted to figure out new revenue streams that basically weren’t totally wrestling-based. We had an infrastructure of publishing; we had everything already set up and it seemed to make sense that we could do publishing for other businesses.

There were other harebrained ideas, like doing catering; you know they feed 100 of those crazy wrestlers every week, three or four days a week, so it seemed like they could be one of the largest catering businesses in the world. He said no to the catering. He also said no to doing any publishing outside of WWE.

I wanted to do Biggest Loser magazine in 2008 and I wanted to do it as a bookazine because the Brits have been doing it for a long time and they’re the best; they’ve been doing it even longer than Time Inc.

So, when he didn’t really love the idea of stepping that far outside of his comfort zone, it seemed like the right time and opportunity to start the company on my own. I and another guy founded the company three years ago and it started off horribly; catastrophic.

Samir Husni: What happened?

Tony Romando: You know, you put a little bit of money together and you acquire a very small team, four editors, not even, two editors and one designer with one photo person; five guys in a tiny room in a cramped New York office. I’ve made a million mistakes and I’m making fewer mistakes every week that goes by, but still, huge numbers of mistakes.

I think the general plan was we would do generic collector’s edition magazines. My incorrect opinion was that we would have readers who really loved the subject matter, but didn’t care about the brand. Brands are not important. They care about One Direction or The Hobbitt or 50 Shades of Grey; they don’t care who is the one doing the magazine or who the authority is, they just care about the subject matter. And it turned out that was completely incorrect.

Every now and then we would have a successful issue with one brand that was a stand-alone generic, but for the most part they were kind of failures. All of them, except for two were failures. And I didn’t think it was possible that I sold magazines that were 4% sellers, the kind of issues that just shut companies down. On my office wall I have framed the first of four of our lowest selling covers of all time: 4%, 6%, 7%; I think one was 11%. All four of them I have in my office now as reminders of what not to do.

Samir Husni: And yet in a short span of time, you’ve become one of the most prolific publishers of bookazines. You’re putting out almost a quarterly on a weekly basis.

topix 3 Tony Romando: We’re doing, to be honest with you, two per week. Some weeks we do three; some weeks one, but I think the real turning point was realizing that we couldn’t sustain a generic magazine business. There are a lot of companies that are even getting into this space right now; I just saw four new generic bookazines on the newsstand two weeks ago on Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Jesus; people just flood the market with them.

And knowing that I had been in the generic space and that it didn’t work; I came in one day and said if I can’t land a good, proper brand to do special collector’s editions for within six months, then I’m done. And that’ll be it. It was my way of getting our team to focus on partnering with existing iconic brands. So, we were fortunate that Dave Fishman of TV Guide took a chance on us, because at that point we made a quality product, but we had no proof in the sales, because when you cut those licensing deals in the beginning, you give away a lot to try and get your footing and build a foundation.

But backing up; I think the thing about Topix that’s different from most bookazine companies is that we are strictly an analytically researched-based company. It’s all in the numbers; nothing matters on gut. I come up from the editorial side and coming from there; you know, editors think they know everything.

I think I spoke to a circulation conference 10 years ago in Atlantic City, massively hungover, standing in a room with a 1,000 people, and I think my speech to them was editorial people don’t know squat; they think they know everything and if they would follow the circulation people’s advice, the newsstand people would sell more copies.

But editorial people don’t care about copy sales really, as much as they should. So, having come up the editorial side, I realized that knowing that we are an editorial-based company and knowing that it’s all in the cover or the subject or the 100 pages that we do, it was crucial that we use analytics to base everything on.

We landed TV Guide and started doing research and I came across a mathematical equation that John Wayne was still one of the single-most popular adult celebrities. People think of him as a great American; he’s iconic; people live their lives by his code, and no one had put him on a cover; he was the only guy 20 years running to be on the Harris Poll for top actors; I think he was in the top 10 for 20 years. It was just the perfect storm.

So we did that for our first TV Guide and it sold 35 or 36%, which is a homerun these days. For us it was like the first time that we had seen any real money, real revenue; we were off and running at that point.

From there it was trying to figure out how we could leverage our one brand, TV Guide, to parlay it into more brands. I think now we’re up to 15, 16, around 17 brands.

Samir Husni: And I’m sure you’re no longer just five people in a small room?

topix 4 Tony Romando: No, now we’re 16 people in a little bit bigger room. (Laughs) Our story is a good one because everything we’ve done has been haphazard; it’s calculated, but I’m still the IT guy; I’m still the mailroom guy; I’m the CEO, but I’m also one of the edit guys. We all have 15 different jobs.

I had found an office space in midtown through my wife’s friend, who had a private equity company in this office that was owned by Blackstone and I gave them a good deal. They gave us this little remnant piece of office space and the only reason we moved out of there was because we became a fire hazard; we had ten people in a room that was unsafe and illegal.

Then we wondered if we could get cheaper space and more of it if we moved down to the Wall Street area before Condè Nast, before Time Inc.; before everyone. I had lived down in that area for 20 years; I knew that everything was cheap, and I lived very close so it was helpful.

Samir Husni: We live in a digital age; no one can argue that no matter how much we love print. What were you thinking when you decided, not that you were only going print, but you were only going single-copy sales?

topix 5 Tony Romando: (Laughs) No advertising; no subscriptions; no digital. It’s as though I’m trying to sell you a steam engine or a trolley car. I would say that even though it may be a slowly declining business, there will always be room for the biggest brands. There will always be Men’s Health because they’re the category leader; there will always be Scientific American, they’re the best at what they do, and the best of those magazines will always be there.

And because of that, there should always be collector’s editions that go along with the best. But the ones that are the second and third tier down from those best ones, if those get weeded out; we’re not selling monthly magazines, we’re selling one thing to one very specific customer. We’re not all things to all people, so if you buy GQ, you learn how to drink with style and dress with style; there’s something for every part of your life. These bookazines are only one topic, so for us it was easy to say this is where we want to be because people will always read about these iconic figures.

I think the difference really is saying that originally we targeted certain brands for the 50-plus market. They still want magazines. But people don’t want to spend $10 or $11 on a digital magazine. They just don’t. We’ve tried it, there’s just no money there. People want to collect something. So these are a poor man’s coffee table books. They stay on their coffee tables to be showcased forever. They don’t just read it and throw it away.

topix 6 And I think that’s been the real tradeoff for us because once we think of these as magazines, we’ll be dead. They have to be considered as keepsakes forever. To my point on John Wayne, we did John Wayne on TV Guide and it did so well that I went back to John Wayne’s son, Ethan Wayne, who runs John Wayne Enterprises, and said why don’t we do a stand-alone John Wayne collectable every other month. And he said let’s try it. And it was our bestseller. And we went ahead and put Elvis on Newsweek and it was also one of our bestsellers. So we went to the people who own Elvis, Authentic Brands Group, and told them the same thing, let’s do Elvis every other month.

And these tributaries are how I think print will stay around because it’s specialized. I can go to any dot com or any digital platform and get all of my news for every facet of my life right then on the spot. But we don’t want to do that. We just want to do one very specific brand of news, for one very specific customer and that’s it.

topix7 The final thing I’ll say though is our business is a lot less complicated because we don’t have advertising and we don’t have subscriptions, so there’s no subscription debt liability hanging over our heads. We don’t have a fleet of people selling ads; we have a rep firm and sometimes we sell a sponsorship for a couple of bucks. People have tried it and been semi-successful; we’ve had a little bit of success, but that’s just gravy for us. And I think because we don’t have those complications, we’re not beholden to a member.

We put out a really great product; if we don’t put out a piece of crap, people buy it. And if they buy it, the proof is in the numbers. And if it’s in the numbers and we sell those copies that means we did our job right. And so companies will now come to us and say we do bookazines and we’re breaking even; we do six of them per year and we’re selling 60,000 units and we still can’t make any money. Why is that? And my answer to them is I don’t know what you have built into your infrastructure, but I have 16 people; we create everything; we generate everything; we do everything from front to back, and we can turn a big profit on 60,000 units, so let us do it for you. And we’ll champion your brand and at the same time, we’re ambassadors of their brand and we want to make a few dollars in the process, but our goal is to make sure that their brand has the extension that we are in control of.

Samir Husni: I’m sure that you’ve noticed lately, keeping up with all of these launches and all of the different brands, it’s almost a ratio of 2 to 1, in terms of the number of bookazines arriving on the marketplace. Are you afraid that we’ll reach a situation point where the entire newsstands will become bookazines and every now and then there’s a magazine?

Tony Romando: You know I think it should keep me up at night, but it doesn’t because I didn’t invent it; I saw a good opportunity and I think I was ahead of the curve, but there were other companies in front of us. We got in the market and they all said, they’re going to take away all of our sales and we see that their sales still work and our sales work.

Just last week, as I mentioned, someone else brought their bookazines to market as well. In the entrepreneurial spirit, I want everyone to do well. But I think what it comes down to is the quality of the product and the brand of the product. And I think that I have the best brands and I believe as long as I continue to bring in really great brands, such as a Reader’s Digest or Discovery Channel, Disney; to be able to do all of the Star Wars magazines for the next couple of years is a big deal. And I think no matter who puts a generic Star Wars magazine on the newsstand at the same time, if mine is the official LucasArts collector’s edition or Disney collector’s edition, that’s what matters.

I think the tradeoff between us and other companies is we are an editorial-based company; the integrity of the product comes first. And I believe any of our partners would say that our product is superior to most because unfortunately, the bigger companies say, how can we make a few more bucks and they put a team on making special issues. The flagship magazines don’t want to do collector’s editions, they look down on those; those are marketing tools, revenue streams, they’re not important enough. And because of that, there’s a real push/pull between the people who do the bookazines for the big companies and the people who do the flagship magazines. And because of that they’ll never have the best quality product they can put out at the same time.

Now, we don’t own any products and we don’t want to own any products. We cut licensing deals for a few years, but we want to be able to say this is your product; we work for you.

I was an intern at Rolling Stone 20 years ago. I have more bosses today as CEO than I had 20 years ago. I answer to probably 42 people on a daily basis. And some of those people that I answer to don’t know the magazine business well and some do know it well. And I don’t know which one is worse, but there are a lot of people to answer to. I think as long as we make the quality of the product better than the next guy, we should be good.

Samir Husni: You were at Rolling Stone?

topix 1 Tony Romando: When I was in college many years ago, I went to Rolling Stone and they offered me an assistant’s job and I promised then I would go back and get my degree. So all of these years later, I did. I had four classes, which I finally just banged out over two semesters and I got my diploma in the mail two weeks ago. And to have it is really a big deal. I’m from a long line of convicts and cops. My family has worked as convicts and cops. All from Chicago and no one had ever been to college. Not one member, even in the extended families.

It’s been a good year. I just graduated and we’re in contract with Rodale to do 12 bookazines a year for them. And their bookazines are always very successful. But they can’t seem to figure out how to make any good money. Prevention is really small down here. No one even knows who Prevention is. It’s like 65,000 copies; that’s a lot of money. So, when they called me and said we can’t figure out how to make this work; I got my fork and knife out and told them I can make this work for you.

The funny thing; what we do, I think, is very simple. You analyze the space better than anyone and I spend a lot of time also analyzing the space out there.

Samir Husni: And you know it’s amazing. It started in the U.K. with the bookazines, but now it’s all over Europe and all over the world. I just gave an interview to a magazine in the Netherlands all about the bookazine trend. They wanted to know all about the bookazine phenomenon. So, I can guarantee you that your interview is going to be making the rounds.

Tony Romando: Good, because long-term plans are really short-term because two years ago I said I’m going to give it six months and if I don’t end up flying, I’m out. Then I started adding clients. And last year, around May, I said 2015 is my year. I’ve built up everything and if I can’t make it work in 2015, I’m leaving. I’m done. My wife has her own company and I’ll do something else.

And then we hit May and I knew that we really had something. Now I’m looking at it, still in short-term stages, but I’m starting to look at it more long-term; what can I do in 2016 and 2017? And one of the things that I want to do is look into the international market; what can we do in India, in Australia and in the U.K. to make them buy our magazines. International is a good step, because there’s only so much we can do here.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block that’s faced you through your journey with Topix Media Lab and how did you overcome it?

IMG_6740 Tony Romando: The major stumbling block was not on the publishing side, it was on the entrepreneurial side. You do six magazines a year; you can balance a checkbook easily, there are a few dollars coming in, a few dollars going out and very few people to concern you. But as you add clients and you get to a point where you’re probably doing 90 magazines or more per year; we’ll probably do between 90 and 110, you hit a point where it becomes very complex.

And because it becomes complex, the fear was that we would outgrow our internal mechanism, so we’ve kind of pumped the brakes. We have so many brands now, that we’ve hit a point where we want to make sure our brands get the love they need. We don’t want to be greedy. I think we’re all chasing the same brands and sometimes I beat Time Inc. to the punch and sometimes I don’t beat them. We may be on their coattails, but we’re a long distant second place or third place or whatever it is.

I think the big stumbling block is making sure the internal side of it works and that we don’t outgrow what we have the capability of doing. The Source thing really threw us for a loop because it’s kind of skewed all of our numbers for an entire year and as a small company; I think we went from $3 million in revenue to $12 million in revenue to $18 million in revenue, with a forecast of maybe $40 million in revenue this year. That’s pretty heavy growth for an industry that claims to be dying, which is pretty shocking.

But the good news, and I mean this in the most sincere way; I don’t know what I don’t know. So, I’m sure that I’m making mistakes that I don’t even know about along the way and the ignorance of it has been slightly beneficial.

For me, it’s a different kind of story. When I was 17, I joined the Navy. I left home and joined the Navy, spent five years scrubbing bird crap off a runway; the second longest; largest runway in the world is in Guam. I was there for years and I was chipping bird crap off of the runway. So, 18 hours a day, 6 days a week; I know what real hard work is.

Doing this for 18 hours a day and crunching numbers and making magazines is a cakewalk. And it’s a treat. If you get the right people to do the right thing; it’s like I used to pick all the topics; I did all the analyses, the John Wayne stuff, and then at a certain point I realized I’m not good enough at it, so I hired someone who just comes in and crunches numbers all day. I think the stumbling block was how you actually put out quality topics that will sell and hit the certain sell-through range; now, they don’t all have to be winners, but we don’t want any that are 12% either. And if they can all stay somewhere here, with a couple of spikes on this end, then we’ll make a lot of money.

So, to answer your question; one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is not realizing fast enough that I’m not great at something. And if I’m not great at this thing, then I need to hire someone who is amazing. And now that I have these people in place, it’s become a lot easier to sit back. Now I can just criticize their work all day as opposed to my own. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) And what has been the most pleasant moment throughout this journey?

Tony Romando: That’s a tough question. I almost want to say being my own boss, but as I said before, I have more people to answer to now than ever before. So, I think the most pleasant part of this journey is knowing that Topix Media Lab is on everyone’s radar. We tried to fly under the radar for three years; I was hoping to go six years without anyone noticing that we existed. Being on your radar, knowing that we come up in board meetings or meetings at big publishing companies; it’s a very flattering thing. To know that we’re in the mix with those guys is great, but it’s also daunting because that means we have the bull’s-eye on our back.

The long-term goal or the short-term goal really, is to partner with one of these bigger guys and knowing that we have the ability to bring in bigger brands than most people, whether that’s because we identify them sooner, there are a couple of really big untapped brands that people don’t even think about that I have on my list of ideas on my wall that I think would make really great bookazines.

And because we haven’t gone to those yet; we don’t want to get too big too quick. What we really want to do, what I really want to do, is partner with someone big who wants to be part of something smaller that they can share in the revenue stream of it and would help us get to certain pockets because, and you know this as well as anyone, you want to be at the main line; well, you’re at the main line, but you want to be at the checkout.

But a lot of those guys want to be at the checkout because of their advertising rate base and I don’t need that, so I want to systematically pick checkouts. If I can get 30,000 copies in Wal-Mart, instead of 10,000 copies, and sell 40%, I’m going to do a lot better.

But the downside to that is no matter how much money that you have, you can’t just drop a bag of money down and say I want in; you have to wait your turn, start at the bottom, work your way up; you’re in the bad aisle that’s never opened, then you slowly move over.

And I think a lot of these big guys have the millions of dollars invested in those pockets and because we know that you can take a magazine and go from 25% sell-through to 35 or 40% sell-through just by going to the checkout, I’m now trying to figure out how to jockey ourselves into a position where we can partner with someone we might be competing with right now and pool our resources together, because I think we can show them how to do the bookazine business for one-tenth of what they’re doing it and they can kind of carry us across the finish line to some of those checkout pockets. That would be a really great synergy and that’s where we’re headed next.

Samir Husni: And before I ask you my typical last question: who was your favorite wrestling figure, since you’re no longer with WWE? (Laughs)

Tony Romando: (Laughs too) Strangely, it would have to be Shane McMahon. Vince McMahon, who’s the CEO and Chairman of the Board, his son Shane, who I worked for, was a business guy. But he also grew up in the business.

And he used to jump off of the Jumbotron, which is this huge screen, and he would jump 50 or 60 feet onto a table with other people. I mean, he owned the company and he did not have to do that kind of stuff or put himself in harm’s way. He was amazing in the sense that he would jump from the highest point and put himself at the biggest risk. He’d put himself in the most dangerous positions.

But on Monday, when wrestling was over, on Tuesday, he was back at the office and wearing a suit, looking at the consumer product group, the China expansion. The rest of these guys were wrestling again. He was able to do both and no matter what you think about wrestling, they are a pretty amazing group of guys because you’re afraid of them because they’re massive and they’re also just a little bit crazy, but they’re really impressive athletes too.

So, with all of these guys, it’s like they’re the most amazing guys to see in person because they’re just huge. And they have great character and they’re all banged up. Whether you call it real or not, it’s scripted, but the action is really real. Everyone should go to a wrestling show.

Samir Husni: We have followed it some; in fact, I was the crazy person who took his entire family to the Valentine’s Night Massacre. (Laughs)

Tony Romando: (Laughs too) It’s really amazing, isn’t it?

Samir Husni: It really is.

Tony Romando: Yes.

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

Tony Romando: Single-copy sales would be the answer that I give you. But to be honest, what keeps me up at night is doing more research on the next big project. I don’t lose any sleep and I don’t stress over this business at all. I have a two-year-old son; my wife is pregnant with twins; I’m up all night anyway. I’m up day and night from the family side, but it’s not because I’m worried about the business.

What keeps me up is more research and more data and I’ll stumble onto one new piece of information that basically says instead of doing a cover with six images, I should do it with three images. And that’s the best part of it. I think too many people are on autopilot when it comes to what they should do; it’s the same stuff, year in and year out. And there is so much good stuff out there that hasn’t been tried yet. So, what keeps me up is doing more research. The more information I have, the less dumb I feel when things go bad. At least, I did my homework. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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On A Scale Of One-To-Ten – TEN: The Enthusiast Network Lives Up to Its Name – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Scott Dickey, CEO, TEN.

May 25, 2015

The Mr. Magazine™ Reports from the IMAG conference.

“We’re not surprised that digital brands are launching publishing products; it’s the most powerful level of engagement, whether it’s a book, newspaper, or a magazine; there is no higher level of engagement than when a consumer is reading a printed product. We’re in for the long-haul.” Scott Dickey

IMG_6733 The IMAG Annual Conference took place May 18th to 20th in Boulder, Colorado and it was without a doubt one of the most enlightening and effective conferences I’ve attended in quite a while. Be Bolder in Boulder was the theme of the conference and many of the speakers at the event were aiming their cannons toward just that for the future of their brands.

Scott Dickey of TEN: The Enthusiast Network was no exception. His presentation was an eye opener to many if not all at the conference. He joked that when he took charge of the company, one of his publishers told him that the true name of the company is PEPSI, as in the soft drink. Of course that soft drink reference reflects the many changes and ownerships that is the current TEN company’s heritage. In a few magazine years, the name evolved to TEN from Peterson, E-Map, PRIMEDIA, and Source Interlink before it went bankrupt. Scott joked and said the company now is PEPSI TEN.

I spoke with Scott after his own presentation and we talked about the last fifteen months, since his joining the team, of the content company’s rebranding and his vision for its future. Since his taking the helm, his mission has been to create and deliver content that engages with his audience: enthusiasts of everything action and outdoor oriented.

His focus is clear and his determination to return to some of the core fundamentals of the company is succinct. From Motor Trend to Surfer and a possible new print version of their highly successful “Roadkill” digital brand; Scott has set TEN on course for a very bright future indeed, both in print and in digital.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Dickey, CEO, TEN: The Enthusiast Network. It’s sure to leave you as motivated and inspired as the man himself is.

But first the sound-bites:

IMG_6736 On why TEN is one of the best-kept secrets in the industry: That’s a flattering way to put it. It’s certainly not something that we want to be a secret. I think when companies go through unfortunate transitions of ownership, leadership and financial disarray, you lose a lot of momentum and the fundamentals of operating a company and I think this company unfortunately didn’t spend a lot of time talking to the industry about who they were and what they had to offer.

On his magic touch and the formula he’s using to lead the company into the future: I think the biggest thing that I realized early on was that the company didn’t have any creditability within its own staff and that we needed to focus on the core fundamentals of internal communication, very clear lines of organization; we had to get the company back focused on the fundamentals of all this and what success looked like and what our expectations were and where we felt we could win.

On the role print plays currently in the company: Social obviously dwarfs everything and digital is just enormous for us. But in terms of the importance of our everyday roles and responsibility in the company, we’re still foundationally a publishing entity at our core, so it still represents 50% of the company’s business, less or more depending on what metric you’re looking at.

On whether he can imagine TEN without any print components: I definitely see where there are going to be pockets of opportunity where we’ll have brands that won’t have a print entity. One of our most powerful and valuable brands today is a brand called Roadkill, which I mentioned is sort of our House of Cards, our Game of Thrones in the automotive industry. If you go on YouTube and you take a Roadkill, you’ll see the power of that audience and it doesn’t live in print at all. We’re actually thinking about launching a print product this fall behind that brand because it has such a huge following and we think we can extend the power of that brand by getting into different distribution channels.

On any improvements he thinks the distribution model needs: Being owned by a distributor, they put more time and energy and value in what was being distributed at newsstand because of the cover price and the economics for somebody who may buy the magazine once a year or once a quarter. Those customers are experiencing the good stuff, the better package, the better paper quality, even better content. But the loyal subscriber was getting the crap, right, because we had driven down the subscriber economics so much that you’re actually penalizing the people who were committing to you for a year or two or three. And I think that’s a model that we have to completely unwind.

On launching digital-only entities, such as TEN’s “Roadkill” into a print format: We see opportunity there. And we’re not surprised that digital brands are launching publishing products; it’s the most powerful level of engagement, whether it’s a book, newspaper, or a magazine; there is no higher level of engagement than when a consumer is reading a printed product. We’re in for the long-haul.

source_motor_trend_february_2015_usa On the example of Recoil’s business model: High cover price, high subscription price and more reliance on circulation than advertising for revenue resources, is why TEN has shed some of its legacy titles and started new titles such as Roadkill: We had a lot of duplicative content as a company historically through a series of acquisitions and consolidations of smaller publishers along the way; Peterson, Mcmullen Argus, and when I came in we had four titles dedicated to the world of Mustangs; four Mustang magazines. And that’s just very difficult to rationalize.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face or is currently facing: You started the conversation with one of them: no one knows who the heck we are. But that’s just a case of blocking and tackling and execution and time in the marketplace, investing in the audience.

On what keeps him up at night: Right now, we’re having some pretty significant SEO (Search Engine Optimization) challenges internally with some of our automotive business. And we’re not doing as good a job on delivering against some of our digital campaigns that we’ve secured with some of our larger clients. So, we’ve got some work to do.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Scott Dickey, CEO, TEN: The Enthusiast Network.

Samir Husni: I noticed during your speech that everyone’s jaws dropped and their eyes opened when you said that TEN is the fifth largest magazine company in the United States. Why do you think that TEN is one of the best-kept secrets in the industry?

Scott Dickey: That’s a flattering way to put it. It’s certainly not something that we want to be a secret. I think when companies go through unfortunate transitions of ownership, leadership and financial disarray, you lose a lot of momentum and the fundamentals of operating a company and I think this company unfortunately didn’t spend a lot of time talking to the industry about who they were and what they had to offer. It’s understandable; I’m not being critical, but we’re in a moment in time where we’re now a new enterprise; we’ve been restructured and we have foundational strength and great assets and brands and great audiences, so we have to start the educational process all over again.

Whether we’re the fifth, sixth or seventh, it’s all debatable. But it’s a huge company with great depth and reasonable reach, but with a base of consumers that can really add a lot of value to our advertisers.

Samir Husni: What’s Scott’s magic touch? All bets were against you when you took this job. So, in the midst of this transformation, in creating this new network, this content company; first you’ve eliminated the title publisher, you have general managers now; what’s the secret or not-so-secret formula that you’re using to lead the company?

IMG_6735 Scott Dickey: Well, I’m learning too, this is a process. I think the biggest thing that I realized early on was that the company didn’t have any creditability within its own staff and that we needed to focus on the core fundamentals of internal communication, very clear lines of organization; we had to get the company back focused on the fundamentals of all this and what success looked like and what our expectations were and where we felt we could win.

And we had to eradicate stagnation and build a trust back with the staff, so that they could take risks and attempt to innovate. I think that there was so much fear in the building and so much just legacy muck that the company was in disarray, so we had to do a lot of clean-up early on and start the conversation fresh and that took some time. We’re still in the clean-up mode, 15 or 16 months later and I think we probably have another six months of that ahead of us.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I’ve noticed you’ve done; you’ve sort of flipped the formula, where print content used to be the most dominant thing, now if I recall correctly from your presentation, print is around 4%?

Scott Dickey: From an audience perspective, yes. Social obviously dwarfs everything and digital is just enormous for us. But in terms of the importance of our everyday roles and responsibility in the company, we’re still foundationally a publishing entity at our core, so it still represents 50% of the company’s business, less or more depending on what metric you’re looking at.

But our focus is to try to divert as many resources as we can toward new growth opportunities, toward new revenue models and new opportunities to stimulate growth in the organization and that’s a tricky process, but it’s one that we’re challenging ourselves to evaluate on any given moment on any given day.

Hot Rod 2015-03_000001 Samir Husni: Can you ever imagine TEN without a print component? Can you imagine those brands existing without a print entity at all?

Scott Dickey: Yes; I mean, we’re already there. We shelved 18 brands last year, shelved the print versions of them and several of those brands live on in in the digital and social worlds.

So, yes, I definitely see where there are going to be pockets of opportunity where we’ll have brands that won’t have a print entity. One of our most powerful and valuable brands today is a brand called Roadkill, which I mentioned is sort of our House of Cards, our Game of Thrones in the automotive industry. If you go on YouTube and you take a Roadkill, you’ll see the power of that audience and it doesn’t live in print at all. We’re actually thinking about launching a print product this fall behind that brand because it has such a huge following and we think we can extend the power of that brand by getting into different distribution channels.

Samir Husni: Where do you see a need for improvement in our distribution business model?

Scott Dickey: Being owned by a distributor, they put more time and energy and value in what was being distributed at newsstand because of the cover price and the economics for somebody who may buy the magazine once a year or once a quarter. Those customers are experiencing the good stuff, the better package, the better paper quality, even better content. But the loyal subscriber was getting the crap, right, because we had driven down the subscriber economics so much that you’re actually penalizing the people who were committing to you for a year or two or three. And I think that’s a model that we have to completely unwind.

Samir Husni: This industry is the only industry that I know of that rewards the marginal customer and penalizes the frequent.

Scott Dickey: And then even with the marginal customer, where we should raise price, we’ve got retailers like Wal-Mart that just won’t let you do it. And you’ve got massive amounts of distribution with one retailer and that retailer says unless you give me product improvement to justify the price increase, you can’t increase the price.

So, we’ve got some work to do. I think there are some legacy aspects to the business model that needs to be reinvented and we saw a lot of good stuff today with the presentations.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed lately, within the last few years, a lot of digital-only companies are bringing in print magazines to complement. With Roadkill, do you envision that as a regularly published magazine or a test-run in September?

surfer-april-2015 Scott Dickey: We’re starting with the mantra of being a quarterly and that we put it predominantly on newsstands to start and build a subscription business from scratch. We’ve been very successful with a few other properties: Recoil and Offgrid, in particular. They’re number one sellers on newsstands; they’re bigger than Motor Trend and have a very different economic model behind them, $8.99 cover price and $59.99 subscription for six issues.

So, we believe that if you don’t have the legacy baggage that some of the publishing brands have had to deal with, you can resurrect from scratch, a great business model that we all can kind of reflect back on from the ‘80s and ‘90s. We see opportunity there. And we’re not surprised that digital brands are launching publishing products; it’s the most powerful level of engagement, whether it’s a book, newspaper, or a magazine; there is no higher level of engagement than when a consumer is reading a printed product. We’re in for the long-haul.

Samir Husni: This year in April, almost every major media company in the United States, with the exception of maybe Time Inc., launched a new print magazine. Technically, following the Recoil model: very high cover price, very high subscription price, more dependence on circulation than advertising in terms of revenue; is this the reason you’re shedding some of the legacy titles and coming up with new titles like Roadkill?

Scott Dickey: We had a lot of duplicative content as a company historically through a series of acquisitions and consolidations of smaller publishers along the way; Peterson, Mcmullen Argus, and when I came in we had four titles dedicated to the world of Mustangs; four Mustang magazines. And that’s just very difficult to rationalize.

Our consolidation started and ended with one single premise: what is in the best interest of the consumer. We really believe that all roads start and end with that line of thinking. If you answer the question what’s in the best interest of the consumer; what is the consumer looking for, and you can solve that problem or meet that need, then it’ll work for your customers a.k.a. your advertisers, and certainly work for the company and my colleagues.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block you’ve either had to face or you’re facing now as CEO of TEN?

Scott Dickey: You started the conversation with one of them: no one knows who the heck we are. But that’s just a case of blocking and tackling and execution and time in the marketplace, investing in the audience.

We just launched a big advertising campaign on Automotive News, Adweek and Ad Age and I’m attending conferences like this to help spread the word; spread the Gospel of what we have to offer. It’s a short-term challenge, but one that I think we can overcome.

We’re still outrunning the declining economics of print, just like everybody else, and I think trying to dedicate resources to areas of growth, whether it’s digital, social, video, experiential, data, even for us broadcasting, and going over the top with our own channel this summer, just trying to build those businesses, while trying to maintain and protect the four, that’s clearly the biggest challenge.

Also, balancing the allocation of resources on both sides of that equation is challenging, but it is doable. We know that we can make it happen; we know that we can become the first publisher to cross that chasm, the first big publisher to cross that chasm, and we’re dedicated to winning that fight.

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

Scott Dickey: Right now, we’re having some pretty significant SEO (Search Engine Optimization) challenges internally with some of our automotive business. And we’re not doing as good a job on delivering against some of our digital campaigns that we’ve secured with some of our larger clients. So, we’ve got some work to do.

One of the reasons our company is a habit in the transformation of a legacy publisher to a content creation company is because our websites were so bad that our editors just skipped digital in terms of desktop website experiences and went directly to social and video. So, we’re ahead of the game on social and video, but we’re way behind on digital. And we have to do a lot of rebuilding. That’s what’s keeping me up at night right now.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Dedicated To Print – Headmaster Inspires Creativity & Conceptualism Through Its Visionary Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Matthew Lawrence & Jason Tranchida, Editors

May 23, 2015

“My background is as a writer and Jason’s is as a graphic designer. And we got to a point where we were both doing a lot of work online and we wanted to make something that we would be able to actually pick up and hand to somebody and say that this is what we’re doing.” Matthew Lawrence

“This is our creative outlet as well as a business, so it’s sort of like: this is our project and we can do whatever we want. (Laughs) I’m excited because there are so many parts of it now that have a structure; we know roughly how many pages there are going to be; we know its distribution and we’ve got the concept down, so now we can really have fun with it.” Jason Tranchida

headmaster2-2 Headmaster is a biannual magazine that is for the man-lover. It’s sophisticated, sexy and extremely thought-provoking. Artists, writers and photographers are given assignments and through their own vision are allowed to create projects that become content for the magazine. It’s an interesting concept with two very savvy and smart captains at its helm: Matthew Lawrence and Jason Tranchida.

I spoke with both gentlemen recently about the magazine’s past, present and future. It was a no holds barred conversation; from the sexual preference of the magazine’s contributors to whether it was easier or harder to produce a gay magazine today than 25 years ago. It was an enlightening discussion that was reminiscent of the magazine itself.

So, I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Matthew and Jason, two men who are definitely ‘Headmasters’ of their creative future.

But first, the sound-bites:


Headmaseter_Press_Photo On the story behind Headmaster magazine:
(Matthew Lawrence) Primarily it’s a magazine with original projects and the concept behind it is that we find artists and writers that we like and we give them assignments to do those original projects for the magazine. So, everything between the pages is made for Headmaster.

On the early days of the magazine:
(Jason Tranchida) Originally, there were four Headmasters, actually, who started it off and conceptualized it. We all came from diverse backgrounds and we were all magazine and book lovers. We really wanted to do some sort of print publication.

On why they chose a print product:
(Matthew Lawrence) My background is as a writer and Jason’s is as a graphic designer. And we got to a point where we were both doing a lot of work online and we wanted to make something that we would be able to actually pick up and hand to somebody and say that this is what we’re doing.

On a major stumbling block they had to face: (Jason Tranchida) I think the stumbling block probably, because it is a physical thing; one of the stumbling blocks was distribution. And obviously, we say that we’re a print magazine, but we couldn’t survive also without digital media, of course, in terms of communication and that type of thing.

On the most pleasant moment: (Matthew Lawrence) The most pleasant moment for me actually is when we get to meet our artists. Each issue has about nine artists and writers in it and we try to maintain that relationship with them by staying up-to-date on their careers and what they’re doing and sort of bring them back into the Headmaster family.

On the description ‘curators’ when it comes to their main role with the magazine:
(Matthew Lawrence) I think you’re right as far as thinking it’s a curatorial process, because we do have generally nine, sometimes ten, artists per issue and we try to strike a balance of photographers and writers.

On whether all the contributors of the magazine are from the LGBT community:
(Jason Tranchida) Mostly, but not all. But it’s not a prerequisite to being a contributor for Headmaster. It’s a balance.

On their main source of revenue:
(Jason Tranchida) It’s selling the magazine, a bit of advertising, and we started something recently, which goes back to what we said about maintaining a relationship with our artists; on our website we have what we call the Alumni Shoppe, and it’s all work done by our contributors that’s done outside of the magazine.

On where they see the magazine a year from now:
(Jason Tranchida) It’s the 8th issue and obviously, we’re very proud of the 7th issue, the current one, but we’re also excited about the next one too. I feel like it’s going to be something very special.

On what keeps them motivated to get out of bed each morning:
(Jason Tranchida) Coffee. (Laughs)

On anything they’d like to add:
(Matthew Lawrence) We live in Providence, Rhode Island, which is where the magazine is based. It’s an extremely creative city, but also small. Which for us is a bit of a plus and a minus, but I think that being able to live in a city where you can do things creatively, projects like Headmaster, and be able to afford the luxury of doing that, is probably what keeps me getting up in the mornings.

On what keeps them up at night:
(Matthew Lawrence) Coffee. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Matthew Lawrence and Jason Tranchida, Editors, Headmaster.

Samir Husni: Matthew, can you tell me the story behind Headmaster magazine?

Matthew Lawrence: Primarily it’s a magazine with original projects and the concept behind it is that we find artists and writers that we like and we give them assignments to do those original projects for the magazine. So, everything between the pages is made for Headmaster.

Samir Husni: Jason, I see that you’ve been there since the very beginning of the magazine, back in 2010; one of the Headmaster’s.

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs) Yes, Exactly.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jason Tranchida: Part of us did stay behind. Originally, there were four Headmasters, actually, who started it off and conceptualized it. We all came from diverse backgrounds and we were all magazine and book lovers. We really wanted to do some sort of print publication.

The backstory of how it all started is we all got together every week and had some beer and wine and enjoyed some of our favorite books and magazines and tried to come up with a concept for a magazine.

We kind of knew what we wanted; a digital arts magazine, but we got to a point where we wondered how we were going to get content for it. So, we started actually giving assignments to each other and doing some work ourselves to get things flowing. But the name hadn’t come along yet. Eventually though it all just started coming together.

I think a lot of artists really like getting assignments and most people that we’ve worked with have been really excited by the challenge and the focus of having to do a project that we conceptualize for them.

Each assignment is actually written specifically with that person in mind, so no two people get the same assignment. Different types of artists shouldn’t have the same assignments as some, so we fit the assignment to the particular artist.

That’s how it all started and then over the years it just became Matthew and I, because the other two have other obligations and realized it was a ridiculous amount of work that you have to put into a magazine like this. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) I hear the phrase ‘we live in a digital age’ from people all of the time and my typical answer is always the same: yes, I know. Why did you decide to create Headmaster in print rather than a digital entity on the many different and personal platforms out there?

Matthew Lawrence: There were a couple of different reasons. My background is as a writer and Jason’s is as a graphic designer. And we got to a point where we were both doing a lot of work online and we wanted to make something that we would be able to actually pick up and hand to somebody and say that this is what we’re doing.

At the same time, we still liked a lot of print magazines and there seemed to be a huge influx of print magazines that we liked right around the time that we started, so we were never really interested at all in having Headmaster be a digital project.

Samir Husni: When the magazine was launched in 2010 and even until today, we are seeing more and more of the upscale, expensive print magazines aimed at specific communities. Over the years what was the major stumbling block that you had to face and overcome, besides losing two of your Headmasters?

Jason Tranchida: Well, we solved some complications and then made some others. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jason Tranchida: I think the stumbling block probably, because it is a physical thing; one of the stumbling blocks was distribution. And obviously, we say that we’re a print magazine, but we couldn’t survive also without digital media, of course, in terms of communication and that type of thing.

Distribution was something that we both had to learn. Matthew had a little more experience with that because he’d once worked in a bookstore and knew the ins and outs a bit more about distribution than I did. I had designed a lot of books for clients; I never had anything to do with the distribution. So, that was a big stumbling block.

We’ve learned a lot about that though, going to book fairs and things like that. We’ve also learned that there are plenty of people out there who want to hold the magazine in their hand.

Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment since the first issue came out?

Matthew Lawrence: The most pleasant moment for me actually is when we get to meet our artists. Each issue has about nine artists and writers in it and we try to maintain that relationship with them by staying up-to-date on their careers and what they’re doing and sort of bring them back into the Headmaster family.

Our contributors are from all over the world, so there is a large amount that we never get to meet. But we do have those great moments when we’ll go to a city and run into someone we’ve worked with. For example, we were in Miami last December and the very first person from Seattle that we ever gave an assignment to, who we’d never met, actually showed up there for an event we had. It was really nice that five years later, we finally got to meet in person someone we’ve maintained a relationship with. So, those are some of the most satisfying parts of my job.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like you and Jason are curators? That each issue is like a museum and you’re inviting people in for the tour? I noticed that each issue has a theme; Issue 7 is The Field Trip Issue.

Matthew Lawrence: We did the first three issues without a theme for each one. Issue 4 we had women contributors entirely and Issue 6, rather than give our writers written assignments, we gave them other assignment prompts; we sent somebody a score of music and we sent somebody else a bottle of Vodka. Theming the issues is sort of a way for us to keep it interesting for ourselves.

And I think you’re right as far as thinking it’s a curatorial process, because we do have generally nine, sometimes ten, artists per issue and we try to strike a balance of photographers and writers. More and more we’re working with artists who are into interdisciplinary things, where we might not even know what we’re getting.

Samir Husni: Are all the artists in the magazine that you select; are they all from the LGBT community or do have a diverse group?

Jason Tranchida: Mostly, but not all. But it’s not a prerequisite to being a contributor for Headmaster. It’s a balance. For example, in the second issue the person who did the photo shoot of the Rugby outfit was a wife with two kids. The work just had so much masculinity in it that she just sort of fit into the issue as well. Some might say all the work has to fit into the queer cannon, but that just opens up a huge debate on what is queer, which can mean a million different things, so the artists themselves don’t have to be a member of the LGBT community.

Samir Husni: In reality, the content is what makes a magazine, so as long as the artists have the same vision of what the magazine is all about; it makes no difference whether they’re gay or straight or anything else.

Headmaster1-1 Jason Tranchida: Exactly. And that’s kind of like our magazine’s tagline: the biannual art magazine for man-lovers and the man-lovers reference is just a convenient way to be specific and completely non-specific at the same time. It may seem silly, but I think it gets the point across. Who’s a man-lover? Anyone can be a man-lover. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) We’ve come a long way since Out Magazine was first published and before that it was The Advocate, but really I consider Out to be the first mainstream gay magazine that was available everywhere. Do you think it’s easier today to publish a gay/lesbian magazine than in, let’s say, 1990? Is the industry more accepting now or not? I mean, I looked to see how many ad pages you have in the magazine and I didn’t find very many. Although, we know a lot of businesses and companies that are owned by gay people are still advertising only in mainstream magazines. Do you feel there is a conflict of interest here somewhere?

Matthew Lawrence: That’s a complicated question.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Give me a simple answer.

Matthew Lawrence: (Laughs too) I think that in some ways it’s probably easier now to make a magazine like this, because I can only think of one instance where we picked up a new store and sent them however many copies they ordered and they called us immediately to return them because they weren’t OK with the content, where 20 years ago I don’t know if it would have been just one store that would have reacted that way.

As far as advertising goes, that’s something we’re always trying to figure out. We’re a pretty small publication; we only print 1,000 copies of each issue. A lot of people aren’t interested in advertising with that small of a market to begin with.

Jason Tranchida: I would say that it would be kind of hard to differentiate. I don’t feel like when we approach advertisers, for example, that it’s so much an issue of the content; we try to get the physical magazine into their hands and they realize the quality of the publication itself. I would say our problem in getting advertisers is the fact that it’s a niche market and we’re a pretty low-run, limited edition type item. After five years, it’s still a major piece that we’re trying to figure out.

Samir Husni: So, circulation and selling is your major source of revenue?

Jason Tranchida: Yes, it’s selling the magazine, a bit of advertising, and we started something recently, which goes back to what we said about maintaining a relationship with our artists; on our website we have what we call the Alumni Shoppe, and it’s all work done by our contributors that’s done outside of the magazine. So, that adds content to our website and we sell items that would speak to the Headmaster audience, whether it’s limited edition prints or T-shirts or bathing suits, which our artists have made. And that’s become another source of revenue for us. We launched that about a year ago. We were brainstorming on how we could expand the brand a little bit and increase our sources of revenue and we came up with this idea.

Samir Husni: If I’m speaking with you both a year from now, where would you like Headmaster to be at that time?

Matthew Lawrence: We’ll have our 8th issue out by then, which we’re not really talking about yet, but it’s going to be the most conceptual concept issue that we’ve done yet. That’s funny, I feel like we should have a more definitive answer. (Laughs) Some sort of big plans or something. But I don’t think we actually do. (Laughs again)

Jason Tranchida: It’s the 8th issue and obviously, we’re very proud of the 7th issue, the current one, but we’re also excited about the next one too. I feel like it’s going to be something very special.

Samir Husni: Maybe something like: only in print, a special issue where you can only read that particular issue in print. (Laughs)

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs too) Exactly. As for any long-term future plans, we might just take this to the 10th issue and then do a book-type publication, where we put the artists’ work from the last nine issues together. That’s something I’m really excited about because there are projects in Issue 1 that I want to see next to a project in Issue 6, just because I think that they speak to each other in a special way, content-wise.

And I also think that Issue 10 will be where we evaluate and see where we want to go from there. I think that we’ll always do some sort of project called Headmaster, whether it’s the magazine or that sort of launches into something else. I think that will be a good time to reflect on what we’ve done and see which direction we want to take it.

This is our creative outlet as well as a business, so it’s sort of like: this is our project and we can do whatever we want. (Laughs) I’m excited because there are so many parts of it now that have a structure; we know roughly how many pages there are going to be; we know its distribution and we’ve got the concept down, so now we can really have fun with it.

Samir Husni: I love your quote that this more of a creative outlet, and a business, but it’s a passion. That’s what I tell people about my job; it was my hobby when I was nine-years-old and reading and collecting magazines, now people pay me for it. (Laughs)

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: What motivates Matthew to get out of bed in the mornings and get excited about his day? And what motivates Jason to do the same?

Jason Tranchida: Coffee. (Laughs)

Matthew Lawrence: I also like coffee quite a bit. (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Matthew Lawrence: We live in Providence, Rhode Island, which is where the magazine is based. It’s an extremely creative city, but also small. Which for us is a bit of a plus and a minus, but I think that being able to live in a city where you can do things creatively, projects like Headmaster, and be able to afford the luxury of doing that, is probably what keeps me getting up in the mornings.

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

Matthew Lawrence: Coffee. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Also Laughs) You both are starting to sound like me. I fall asleep drinking my cup of coffee and if I don’t finish it, I wake up later and finish the rest of the cup. (Laughs)

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs too) Matthew often falls asleep with coffee next to the bed.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Be Magazine and Magazine Media Bolder… A Love Letter From The IMAG Conference. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

May 21, 2015

FullSizeRender-3 Without magazines, there is no magazine media. Without content, authentic content, there is no magazine brand. And without a brand, there is no future to the industry that we love and cherish.

That, in short, was what was enforced and repeated time and time again at one of the best magazine and magazine media conferences I have ever attended. The IMAG Annual Conference took place May 18th to 20th in Boulder, Colorado.

Be Bolder in Boulder was the theme of the conference that was organized under the watchful eye of Mary G. Berner, President and CEO of the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media, and the masterful execution of Beth Tighe, VP of Marketing and her team at the MPA. Ms. Berner and Ms. Tighe wrote in the introduction to the program booklet, “Some of the most innovative work in our industry today is coming from the group gathered here this week. We celebrate your boldness, we celebrate your innovation and we celebrate your success.”

And indeed, the speakers at IMAG, with no exceptions, a rarity in magazine and magazine conferences, all were bold, innovative and successful.

The leaders from almost every major magazine and magazine media company, sans the big four (Time Inc., Hearst, Condé Nast and Meredith) were among the speakers at the conference. While there was some debate on whether this company is number five or that company is number seven, the consensus among all speakers was that magazines, print magazines to be specific (and need not I remind you that in my book, if is it not ink on paper, it is NOT a magazine) were, are and will continue to be the core, the foundation of each and every content company that has a magazine or two (or 20) in its stable of content delivery systems.

However, speakers were quick to remind all that “Audience First” is the new mantra for the magazine and magazine media industry. Andrew Clurman, President and CEO, Active Interest Media, Inc. (AIM), reminded the audience that twenty years ago we used to launch magazines for advertisers. “We were fully obsessed with selling ad pages,” he said. “The business was small minded. All the focus of any new launch was on the advertiser,” but things have changed now and we look “audience first rather than advertising first is the new mantra.” And, companies are doing that now with less than half the staff that they used to have 20 years ago.

Michela O’Conor Abrams, President and CEO, Dwell Media, summed it well when she introduced her “3 Cs” that are magic formula that served Dwell Media very well. Ms. Abrams identified those three Cs that she likes to dwell on (pun intended) as such: Authentic Content, Engaged Community and Contextualized Commerce. Those 3 Cs: Content, Community and Commerce, are the foundation of the brand called Dwell. A foundation that has served Dwell very well indeed.

In fact, Ms. Abrams showed the audience a chart from a study that answered the question asked to design and architect professionals, “When you decide to undertake a project to renovate or improve your space, do you rely on any of the following resources for getting started with ideas, creating a plan, or selecting products?” The number one choice by far was the magazine, the ink on paper magazine. That was music to my ears and to many folks attending the conference. Without ignoring all the other types of platforms and tools to reach the audience, magazines and magazine media were right at the heart of the discussion and for all the right reasons I will add.

That power of engagement, was also echoed by Ms. Berner in her opening presentation at the conference. When it comes to engagement, “There is nothing higher than print,” she said. But Ms. Berner was also quick to remind the attendees that 2014 was a “pivotal year for our industry, marked by overall audience growth (on all platforms of magazine media as measured by the new Magazine Media 360 that the MPA introduced last year) of more than 10% in the first quarter (2015) compared to last year.”

“We are a content company,” says Scott Dickey, CEO, TEN: The Enthusiast Network. “We are no longer just a publishing company, thus we eliminated the title publisher and replaced it with general manager.” Mr. Dickey told the story of transforming an almost dead magazine company to a thriving content magazine media company in today’s marketplace.

Some myths were also demystified at the IMAG conference. “Direct mail is still one of the most productive sources to get subscribers,” said Jeff Paro, President and CEO, Outdoor Sportsman Group (OSG). Our audience still wants and reads magazines, he added. The other platforms, from video to television channels, etc. they all provide “air cover to the brand.”

The collective wisdom of all the CEOs in the audience was amazing. It was as if John Temple, President and CEO, Guideposts, was indeed able to channel the positive thinking and stories of inspirations from the pages of Guideposts, to the entire conference. His presentation, “Infusing a Media Company with a Digital Soul,” was the perfect magazine and magazine media 360 approach to focusing on the community without ignoring the ever changing marketplace. That focus on the community will result in a new magazine from Guideposts this fall called, “Mornings With Jesus.”

I guess by now, you can tell that Mr. Magazine™ fell in love with the IMAG conference head over heels, but the dear reader of this musing is approaching the end of their attention span, so I better close with what Scott Schulman, President, Rodale Inc., told the audience. “We at Rodale focus on the consumer and the consumer revenue.” Sweet, short and simple. Words of wisdom for those who are not struggling to stay alive in the magazine and magazine media world, but rather are thriving and doing very well indeed.

I hope the gentle readers and speakers of the IMAG conference will forgive me for not covering every speaker and every presentation in this short musings, otherwise you and I will be here for a long long time, and I was reminded at the conference that our average attention span now resides at 8 seconds… I know it has been more than 8 seconds since you started reading this… but when you are in love, who cares? Right?

Thank you MPA and thank you IMAG for a most pleasant experience in a very long time…

PS: Watch this space for The Mr. Magazine™ Interviews with some of the movers and shakers who attended the IMAG conference starting Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend.

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An Ounce Of ‘Prevention’ Is Worth A Pound Of Print Plus Digital To Propel It Forward Into A Healthy Future…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Lori Burgess, Publisher & Bruce Kelley, Editor-In-Chief, Prevention Magazine.

May 19, 2015

“We will not pull the plug on the print edition. It does too well with advertisers; it does too well with people who like print, and not just people of a certain age, but across a whole stretch. So, I can’t foresee it.” Bruce Kelley

“The number two media channel that the entire pharmaceutical industry spends in is print. Consumers are hungry for this information and they want to make great choices.” Lori Burgess

The 65th anniversary issue of Prevention magazine.

The 65th anniversary issue of Prevention magazine.

For 65 years and counting, Rodale’s Prevention magazine has been the leading authority on health and wellness for the nation. Started in 1950, the magazine has spanned the gamut with information on food, nutrition, workouts, beauty, and cooking. Its dedication to a heathier lifestyle and how to get you there is irrefutable.

The captains of today’s Prevention vessel, Lori Burgess, publisher and Bruce Kelley, editor-in-chief, are as enthusiastically committed to the magazine’s mission as the content on the pages themselves. It’s a perfect fit.

Recently, I was in New York with a group of my students, future industry leaders in the world of magazine media, and I had an opportunity to speak with Lori and Bruce about Prevention’s ability to revitalize and change with the seasons, much like a chameleon, without losing its original DNA, of which the magazine is known for.

Print plus digital, events, books, even a Rodale U where consumers can take E-courses on health and wellness dominated our conversation and proved that these two helmsmen weren’t afraid of innovation or the future at all.

IMG_6525 I hope you enjoy this informative conversation between Mr. Magazine™ and two people who believe in the value of their brand and how it can benefit their audience with an unbridled passion that is definitely contagious. I see clean-eating in my future. Enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lori Burgess, Publisher and Bruce Kelley, Editor-in-Chief, Prevention magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the ‘new’ Prevention and plans for its future: (Bruce Kelley) Prevention is in the perfect place at the perfect time, that’s my view of it. I came on 15 months ago and it just strikes me that with the millennials being more interested in health than any other younger generation before them, with the Gen X the same, and the Boomers entering a stage where they have to care about their health; Prevention is in this perfect place where health dominates the Zeitgeist in ways that it probably hasn’t maybe in our lifetimes.

On whether after 65 years, Prevention is now the perfect brand: (Lori Burgess) The really interesting factor, to answer your question, is that we did take stock and dissected this brand a few years ago to really ascertain what tomorrow’s Prevention should be. And what we learned was that we didn’t want to change the target focus; we very much wanted it to be for somebody who is really committed to their health and wellness.

On translating the common sense of Prevention into its editorial content: (Bruce Kelley) The way we’re doing it is adopting a digital-first strategy and by that I mean; how do you know somebody is obsessed or really interested in a topic these days? You put up stories on the web and you see which ones they click.

On knowing both the print and digital audience, with a digital-first strategy, and how they are alike or different: (Bruce Kelley) I believe a digital-first strategy is an audience-first strategy, because the health audience in this world today is coming to health content through digital. If you added up all the impulses that people have to search out health content; I don’t have the actual numbers, but it would be an extraordinary, exponentially larger number coming at it through digital strands.

On the numbers of the rate of duplication between the print and digital audience: (Lori Burgess) Our numbers are low too; they’re not quite that low, but they’re very low. To be straight-up with you, the median age of the print is 59. It fluctuates every month digitally, but the new numbers for April just came out and the median age for our website was 33.

On how they’ve been able to monetize their digital and get consumers to pay for web content: (Lori Burgess) Yes, we’re having great success admittedly in both print and digital. I would say to you that we did return Prevention to its roots. Our DNA has always been about breakthrough content and information.

On a major stumbling block they’ve had to face: (Bruce Kelley) I haven’t really encountered a stumbling block. I hate to sound Pollyannaish. The things that people say should be stumbling blocks; I actually think are strengths, the size, for example. Eighty percent of our readers, the people who are drawn to this, and I guess our newsstand reader is in the low 40s on average; they tell us that they love the size.

On whether they can envision a day Prevention would not have a print component: (Bruce Kelley) We will not pull the plug on the print edition. It does too well with advertisers; it does too well with people who like print, and not just people of a certain age, but across a whole stretch. So, I can’t foresee it.

On the target audience they’re going for with today’s Prevention: (Bruce Kelley) It’s not an age, that’s for sure. I think it’s a spirit and the spirit is a great curiosity about things related to what they eat and how they live. It’s ambitious women who are active. And in some ways the conversation about health has changed a lot in really interesting ways.

On why (for the most part) Prevention’s web content is free: (Lori Burgess) Well, who’s to say we will forever. The consumer has been trained to get their content for free on the web, but that’s changing. We were ambitious enough to launch Rodale U, which are basically internet courses that are paid on the web, and is a brand new feature. It’s the same way; we became one of the few magazine brands that had the courage to create an event program and a two-day summit that we charge money for. People don’t come to our events for free. They pay to come.

On whether they think the magazine media industry will ever recover from the Welfare Information Society that’s been created: (Lori Burgess) I’m going to answer this one politically correct. I truly believe that what this company is founded on is something that is far deeper, in terms of importance in people’s lives. Health and wellness is going to become increasingly important as the Baby Boomer becomes older, as an example.

On Lori’s non-politically correct answer to the same question: (Lori Burgess) I think we shouldn’t have done this, but I also think back then, and I remember it; I don’t believe anyone knew what the Internet could be. I don’t think even Steve Jobs back then completely knew what the Internet could be.

On what keeps Lori up at night: (Lori Burgess) I think that we can’t move quickly enough. We have really spread our tentacles well beyond print and digital into the doctor’s offices points of care, into events; we have a lot of big ideas. We’re partnering with some really interesting companies, so I think we just can’t move fast enough. We are nimble, but there’s so much potential for this brand.

On what keeps Bruce up at night: (Bruce Kelley) What keeps me up is thinking of ways to make Prevention customers happy, such as helping them. That probably sounds so sappy. (Laughs)

Lori Burgess head shot And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Lori Burgess, Publisher and Bruce Kelley, Editor-in-Chief, Prevention magazine…

Samir Husni: Prevention has reached the senior age of 65 years old, but now, after 65 years, it’s become younger and more vital than ever. Tell me about the new Prevention and your plans for its future.

Bruce Kelley: Prevention is in the perfect place at the perfect time, that’s my view of it. I came on 15 months ago and it just strikes me that with the millennials being more interested in health than any other younger generation before them, with the Gen X the same, and the Boomers entering a stage where they have to care about their health; Prevention is in this perfect place where health dominates the Zeitgeist in ways that it probably hasn’t maybe in our lifetimes.

Prevention is also produced through a company, Rodale, which has been a part of the health category forever. And I feel more than ever that the company is just so committed and its mission so wrapped up in helping people live a healthier lifestyle and doing it in a very fun way. Rodale is so committed to being a digital force; a force on any platform that people are using, that it was just a perfect place and time for Prevention to essentially say: we’re going to hit a new peak.

Samir Husni: Lately, for maybe the last five or six years, it would appear that Prevention has been trying to find its way. It went through different redesigns, reinventions, approaches to covers and different testing of covers. Do you think, keeping that same DNA, which started 65 years ago, that you have built the perfect Prevention now?

Lori Burgess: I echo to a degree something that Bruce said a moment ago and that is that in a way Prevention is 65 years young, because the time has now come for consumers to get much more serious about their health and wellness. There are so many different forces that are coming into play; the cost of healthcare is through the roof right now.

But the really interesting factor, to answer your question, is that we did take stock and dissected this brand a few years ago to really ascertain what tomorrow’s Prevention should be. And what we learned was that we didn’t want to change the target focus; we very much wanted it to be for somebody who is really committed to their health and wellness.

We did acknowledge that print has historically targeted and been embraced by consumers who are getting older. And we acknowledge with print that what happens to women when they get older is suddenly there’s a day, a moment in time, and it could be a condition which they have been diagnosed with or it could just be the fact that like me, suddenly they’re looking in the mirror and saying, wow, I’m getting older. Why does this hurt in the morning? Or why can’t I recover from going out and having a glass of wine as easily as I once did? So, when a woman experiences these physiological and psychological changes, she wants to get serious about it.

Now what’s different today than five or ten years ago is that the people who are coming into Prevention, and particularly in the print franchise, are Baby Boomers and we all know what they’re like. They’ve got the can-do attitude; they’ve been the people who have changed the world; they’re the people who invented the iPhone 6; all these kinds of people, who have conquered the world, and suddenly they’re waking up and saying, oh my goodness, I’m getting older. Well, I’m going to discover the fountain of youth. I’m not going to let getting older take away my possibilities or the new challenges that I want to face.

To really put closure on what you’re suggesting; we didn’t shift Prevention; we acknowledged with Prevention that we were dealing with a new group, a new mindset of consumers that were coming into our franchise and that our team needed to be a lot more exciting and relevant; a lot more cutting-edge and a lot more ahead of where everybody else was. And I think that’s what really differentiates us.

The sexy part of it is that the digital is attracting a younger audience, because guess what, our kids are living with us and they’re watching us workout like fiends and they’re watching us worry about our parents who might not be quite as healthy as we are. So, these young people are coming into the franchise saying I’m interested in getting healthier earlier, because I’m going to be even better than my parents are.

Samir Husni: You have the perfect name, an ounce of Prevention; you speak to the audience’s common sense; how can you translate that simple, yet ingrained name in the minds of anyone who thinks about health, into the editorial formula of Prevention?

Bruce Kelley Bruce Kelley: The way we’re doing it is adopting a digital-first strategy and by that I mean; how do you know somebody is obsessed or really interested in a topic these days? You put up stories on the web and you see which ones they click.

We came in, and just in the last year, started doing something that I think no other magazine is doing, where essentially all the editors are digital editors and they put up their beats; they put up great content on Prevention.com and then they watch closely what goes up on social, our social audience is just very engaged, and they watch what drives traffic. Then when we see what the hot topic is at that time and we throw more stories at that topic.

For instance, haircuts; who would have known haircuts that make you look ten years younger would be one of our hottest topics right now. That is informative to us as editors and we have a lot of good editors. They create that content and then they determine how they’re going to get that into the magazine in a way that a print reader will have that same visceral reaction to it.

So when you put the right content onsite and people click on it, the word Prevention starts to mean what that content is. It means feeling better, getting younger; one of our hottest clicks these days is ‘Eight Symptoms that Your Doctor isn’t Telling You About.’ And anybody would be interested in that; any demographic. They click; they learn great health concepts and then we can turn that into great content for the magazine.

Samir Husni: What’s the rate of duplication? I mean, if we’re talking about those two audiences, digital and the magazine, and you have this digital-first strategy instead of audience-first; how do you know that these are the same people?

Bruce Kelley: I believe a digital-first strategy is an audience-first strategy, because the health audience in this world today is coming to health content through digital. If you added up all the impulses that people have to search out health content; I don’t have the actual numbers, but it would be an extraordinary, exponentially larger number coming at it through digital strands.

Lori Burgess: And to go a step further; for us too, it’s coming through mobile, not just digital; 72% that are coming to us are mobile. Think about it; they’ve gone to the doctor; they have a thought and they want to get an instantaneous answer right then and there.

Samir Husni: I took my students to MIN Day recently and spent the whole day there and we listened to one speaker after the other, from digital agencies to you name it, talk about the death of the homepage; the death of the tablet; that everything is now mobile and that’s what drove me to write that it took us 500 years to talk about the death of print, but it only took us five years to talk about the death of the tablet and the homepage. (Laughs)

Bruce Kelley: (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: From all the studies that I’ve seen show that the rate of duplication between the digital audience and the print audience is between 6 to 10%. Do you have any numbers that are different from those?

Lori Burgess: Our numbers are low too; they’re not quite that low, but they’re very low. To be straight-up with you, the median age of the print is 59. It fluctuates every month digitally, but the new numbers for April just came out and the median age for our website was 33. A lot of that, the younger side, is due to social media, which tends to attract a younger audience, but it certainly validates that there are a lot of young consumers.

But when you look at all the data, the similarities, in terms of interests that exist between the Boomers and the Millennials; it’s just profound. They’re almost identical. It’s so cool.

The very first issue of Prevention, June 1950.

The very first issue of Prevention, June 1950.

Bruce Kelley: Imagine a strategy where every week on Prevention.com we are telling people about the magazine and a lot of them don’t even know about the magazine, but they’re interested enough that we get a lot of subscriptions through that, number one. We also have a great book business; we have Rodale U, which is our new product, and we tell them about that and they click on it if they’re interested in a digital E-course.

So, Prevention.com becomes the foundation of growth for Prevention, the brand. And the print and all these other elements become the places that we can send them and the places that they can then pick. They can actually as audiences decide which platform makes the most sense for them. Our growth on Prevention.com; we’re over 100% up year over year. In terms of social posts, we’re up over 500%. So the brand is actually blowing up online and that just has so many ways in which it can make the magazine more vibrant; it can allow us to build new products, which our audience can then choose to be a part of.

Our Transformation Challenge, which we just put up on Rodale U, in eight days, sold 10,000 copies. In 21 days a person can transform their life, lose weight, and feel great. And we had 10,000 people who paid $10 or more for a book to go along with it. And they’re on the Rodale U, literally hundreds of them, on threads talking about what they’re up to; what their diet strategies are; commenting on the course and how they’re using it, and just simply sharing.

Lori Burgess: It’s community. It’s like the biggest community out there.

Bruce Kelley: It’s community; it’s Rodale at its best, because that’s what Rodale is; it’s useful, fun ways of making your life better and healthier.

Samir Husni: So, tell me what’s your secret that you’ve been able to monetize digital in this Welfare Information Society that we created on the web? How are you getting people to pay for those things?

Lori Burgess: Yes, we’re having great success admittedly in both print and digital. I would say to you that we did return Prevention to its roots. Our DNA has always been about breakthrough content and information. We’ve led the nation’s conversation about proactive health and wellness. There are a lot of health media channels out there, from the WebMD’s to the health magazines, but no one has the same degree of unrivaled, authoritative perspective; the fact-checking that these editors go through to determine whether something is viable content and should be covered or not, is unprecedented in the industry.

We’re one of the last, I’d say, beacons of true, real journalism, so advertisers value that because, you know what, we’re not talking about try this shampoo or that shampoo. When we write about a particular story, whether it’s on the topic of mammograms or skin cancer, we have to be sure we’re getting it right because the information that we’re giving the consumer could be the difference of life and the choices that they’re making; it’s all about the sciences.

We sit in a very interesting position and as one advertiser said to me about a week ago, you really don’t have competition, because we sit in a really pretty spot.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block you’ve had to face?

Bruce Kelley: I haven’t really encountered a stumbling block. I hate to sound Pollyannaish. The things that people say should be stumbling blocks; I actually think are strengths, the size, for example. Eighty percent of our readers, the people who are drawn to this, and I guess our newsstand reader is in the low 40s on average; they tell us that they love the size. That’s what they’re attracted to. And that makes sense to me in today’s world. People are in a hurry, they want something quick; they want something mobile, like a tablet. The tablet may not be working as a magazine enterprise, but this magazine is working as one. (Laughs) People still like print. So, I get excited about the possibilities of getting the ‘next generation.’ I get excited because this is their tablet magazine.

And as Lori said, a perception that we’re not young, but the fact of the matter is if you look at the brand, if you look at how fast it’s growing; the 360 count that Mary Berner and the MPA are doing shows us up 25% year over year, which is better than any of our competitors, in terms of just impressions. Where is that coming from? It’s coming from all the mix of things that we offer.

Samir Husni: Can you ever envision Prevention without a print component? Will the Prevention brand survive if you pull the plug on the print edition?

Bruce Kelley: We will not pull the plug on the print edition. It does too well with advertisers; it does too well with people who like print, and not just people of a certain age, but across a whole stretch. So, I can’t foresee it. If things change much more drastically in the industry, then I can imagine it. This is one of the last print publications, but if it goes away, I totally see Prevention absolutely thriving, because look at it; it’s prevention and health content and people consume health content on digital and they do it in all the ways that Rodale is getting very sophisticated about doing it.

Lori Burgess: And just to echo one other thought, we charge for subscriptions now, it’s pretty bold; we charge 12 issues for $24. We’re one of the most expensive magazines in the industry. We may not be the biggest or the fanciest or the heaviest, but we have the confidence in the editorial product to command one of the highest subscription rates in the industry. And if consumers don’t want to pay for that, they can go to our website; much of our website is free and open access to them. But I also have to say we carry an abundant amount of advertising in the OTC (over the counter) and DTC (direct to consumer) categories. We’re the number one media vehicle in all of magazine media for over the counter remedies and for DTC we’re one of the biggest.

The number two media channel that the entire pharmaceutical industry spends in is print. Consumers are hungry for this information and they want to make great choices. And I think that’s the other thing when you’re talking about what makes Prevention so great; Bruce and his team give the whole perspective, so if you and I are having skincare problems, let’s just say; you might, based on all the information these guys give, make a whole different choice than I might choose. But the point is they treat us like we’re smart and they give us the information to make the right kinds of choices. This is one of America’s great media brands.

Samir Husni: For print, you said 59 was the median age. When you’re putting together the magazine, who’s your target audience; who’s the audience that you’re going after?

Bruce Kelley: It’s not an age, that’s for sure. I think it’s a spirit and the spirit is a great curiosity about things related to what they eat and how they live. It’s ambitious women who are active. And in some ways the conversation about health has changed a lot in really interesting ways.

When I was at Health Magazine in the 1990s when it was in San Francisco and it was a very interesting, cutting-edge magazine. Then it was about the science really trying to figure out what the healthy way of life was then, questions like, how do we deal with cholesterol; is the Mediterranean Diet the right one. Does human growth hormone work? There were a lot of mysteries out there.

Now, it’s less about the mysteries, although there are still some mysteries to report on, it’s more about the fact that we know how to live healthy, but how do we inspire ourselves to actually do it? How do we overcome the reality that it does take inspiration and motivation; it does take friendships; it does take, yes, knowledge, but it also takes authenticity and realism about what it’s really like to try and eat clean, for example. You walk into Whole Foods and you’re head begins to explode because there is so much to choose from.

So, we’re there, both as the one advising you what to eat and how to live, but we’re also that spirit; we’re the ones saying just do the best you can; you’ve got the right attitude, and a lot of it is about attitude. A lot of it is about how you perceive your journey that you’re actually getting better and smarter and more excited as you go.

Turning health into this positive lifestyle attitude is a big part of what Prevention is right now. And to me it’s the most exciting part, because motivation is everything in today’s world.

Samir Husni: When you have such a treasure as Prevention and it has such a good place in the marketplace, in terms of advertising and circulation; why did you make your content on the web free?

Lori Burgess: Well, who’s to say we will forever. The consumer has been trained to get their content for free on the web, but that’s changing. We were ambitious enough to launch Rodale U, which are basically internet courses that are paid on the web, and is a brand new feature. It’s the same way; we became one of the few magazine brands that had the courage to create an event program and a two-day summit that we charge money for. People don’t come to our events for free. They pay to come.

So, I think we are working to shift our model, it’s like a vessel on the seas; we were headed to Australia and we decided to shift gears a bit and head toward Alaska and it takes some change.

Bruce Kelley: And I think Rodale has been, maybe more than any other major media company, founded on the principle that if you give customers good information and good inspiration, they’ll pay for it. Hence, Rodale has a very big book business.

And something like an article that’s in our May issue, the cover story, Lose 10 Pounds and Feel Great; it has great content. They’ve paid for the content and they open it up and it inspires them to join the 21-day Transformation.

Now, to get the most out of the Transformation, they go to Rodale U and they get a Sizzle Reel that tells them this is everything they’re going to get out of the 21 days. And it shows people who have done it. And then at the end of that it says it’s going to cost them $9.95. And we really recommend that you buy the Sugar Smart Express book to get the most out of the plan. And so you have 10,000 people who are doing that and you have almost 1,000 who have bought the book as a part of the plan.

It’s good content and it’s the future, in that if it’s really strong content and it’s really deep, people get a valuable experience out of it and they will pay for it.

Samir Husni: If that’s the case and we know that people will pay for good information and good content; why do you think that as an industry when the Internet came, we created this Welfare Information Society? We actually put people on welfare information; here are the tables filled to capacity; come and get it. You were smart enough to create Rodale U, so you shifted the attention from Prevention.com, where you can get everything for free, to Rodale U where you have to pay for it. Do you think our industry will ever recover from the big, huge mistake of giving our content away for free? Cable never did it. And that’s what I don’t understand with our industry. When HBO first started in 1977, they said if you want cable, you pay me $9.99 and we’ll split it between the deliveries. But the internet; no, we told AT&T take all the money, just wire that home and we’ll provide them with all the information for free.

Lori Burgess: I’m going to answer this one politically correct. I truly believe that what this company is founded on is something that is far deeper, in terms of importance in people’s lives. Health and wellness is going to become increasingly important as the Baby Boomer becomes older, as an example. It’s going to have huge implications on our society, on the financial side and on most situations in this country and so, I would say to you if there is ever a company that is going to figure this out by being innovative and nimble enough to try the new ways of connecting and resonating with consumers and creating enough value that consumers are willing to put some skin in the game and pay for it, it is absolutely Rodale.

Scott Schulman and Maria Rodale have really charged the entire team to think from a very innovative perspective. They don’t want us thinking about the way things were; they want us thinking about the way things should be in the future. And I think as this particular brand becomes more ingrained in people’s lives at a time when it matters the most, it gives all of us permission to try new businesses and new experiences to present to the consumer that perhaps haven’t been realized yet.

This brand has that kind of commission. Some brands don’t; this brand and certainly this company have that.

Samir Husni: And your non-politically correct answer?

Lori Burgess: I think we shouldn’t have done this, but I also think back then, and I remember it; I don’t believe anyone knew what the Internet could be. I don’t think even Steve Jobs back then completely knew what the Internet could be.

So, shame on us? But don’t you remember when everything crashed in 2001; no one knew what tomorrow was going to be.

Bruce Kelley: I came most recently from a couple of years at ESPN, where I was peripherally involved in Insider, which was their premium product. That experience really influenced what my thoughts were when I came in to the brand and had my conversation with Scott Schulman about what Prevention could be, because that’s a model, there are others, but that’s a model where there’s a magazine involved, ESPN the magazine, there’s great content behind a paywall, Insider, and people gladly pay $40 a year to get access to that. And I view sports as one of those know-it-all obsessions; well, health is one of those know-it-all obsessions as well.

It’s also a content area where people have true needs and true ambitions that do require expertise and inspiration. So, I’m still going on the theory and so is Rodale as a whole, because we see it. We were just in a big management meeting where that was the message; we have great experiences and great value. Our number one job is to have relationships with the customers so they are like onboard with us. And if it has value to the consumer, they will pay for it.

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

Lori Burgess: Two things keep me up at night. Actually, I sleep very well, so nothing keeps me up at night. (Laughs) No, seriously, I think that we can’t move quickly enough. We have really spread our tentacles well beyond print and digital into the doctor’s offices points of care, into events; we have a lot of big ideas. We’re partnering with some really interesting companies, so I think we just can’t move fast enough. We are nimble, but there’s so much potential for this brand.

And secondly I would say candidly, we are still selling media to young people. A lot of the people who buy media in the digital space and the magazine space are really young. They’re younger today than they’ve ever been. They’re responsible today for bigger budgets than ever. And their organizations are leaner as well. And they don’t have the time to get to know media and individual properties the way they once did. So, I think what keeps me up at night is how do I, as a marketer and a publisher, do an exceptional job in helping young people that really aren’t quite there yet, in terms of their health and wellness, and they’re working in organizations that have reprioritized things; how do I help them feel the passion, the love and the potential that this kind of brand can have in order to reach consumers. That keeps me up late a lot.

Bruce Kelley: What keeps me up is thinking of ways to make Prevention customers happy, such as helping them. That probably sounds so sappy. (Laughs)

(Everyone laughs)

Bruce Kelley: But it’s so true, because of what we just talked about, which is they need that value and experience that makes them say, this brand, whatever it is; whether it’s an issue of the magazine, or this series of articles online, whether it’s a course on Rodale U, or an app that we produce someday; this brand is valuable to them. That’s where the rubber meets the road. And I’ve felt it most recently when I spent time on the threads of the Transformation Challenge, where you have literally hundreds of women in the midst of trying to have 21 of the best days of their lives talking to each other. And occasionally saying I wish the course had discussed this or mostly just saying how great the course is. I’m five days into this and I feel great. I’ve cut sugar out of my life; I’m working out like I haven’t done in a long time; this is working. This is worth it.

But every once and a while you see that little lack of perfection and it makes you think, darn it; we need to be perfect in every way for that customer to feel like a ‘Rodale’ person. A Prevention person; someone you helped to transform their life. And they love you for it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Virtual Power Of Magazines and Magazine Media: A View From 30,000 Feet. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

May 18, 2015

Mr. Magazine's™ Photo by Allie Haake.

Mr. Magazine’s™ Photo by Allie Haake.

As the magazine and magazine media world navigate their way through the maze of problems and possible solutions to the print + digital dilemma that faces publishers today; I had a thought as I was jetting across the sky at 30,000 feet.

What are the similarities of snow and the clouds that cultivate them?

Yes, that was the thought that popped into my head. And I know what you’re thinking: what in the world does snow and clouds have to do with magazines and magazine media and their problems or boons today? Most of you probably believe that Mr. Magazine™ may have had one too many cocktails as he flew through the air with the greatest of ease, but the truth is that one question put quite a bit into perspective for me when it comes to the quandary of print and digital and the ultimate question of: what is the power of print in today’s digital age.

Snow and clouds both contain water and are both made of the same substance; yet the clouds can’t be held or touched, while snow is tangible and able to create a sensory experience.

Now, imagine that the clouds are digital and the snow is print…think about virtual and real. Clouds are beautiful and of course, we all love to admire them and enjoy their presence, but when they produce the snowflakes or raindrops that we can actually go outside and physically touch and appreciate; we’re captivated. There is a major difference. And we know that feeling will never fade away.

So, using the analogy of snow and clouds; I decided to dig in and find out what are others saying or not saying about the power of print, the death of print or the decline of print.

Using the recurring phrase ‘print is dead,’ as a starting point and depending on the LexisNexis research database, I found 998 articles containing the phrase ‘print is dead’ or a relevant topic toward the subject. Of those 998, forty-six articles appeared which specifically related to the validity of print as a medium. Articles came from a print or digital platform and were editorial, feature or straight news content.

These articles intrinsically focused on the notion that “print is dead.” Since the digital revolution at the turn of the 21st century, that sentiment has seemed to gain more and more tread. But there is a silver lining for print. The articles surveyed reflected an overwhelming majority in favor of the continuing prowess and validity of print moving forward.

And of the 46 articles surveyed, the phrase, “print is dead,” or along the same grounds, was mentioned 28 times. Comparatively the phrase, “print is not dead,” was mentioned five times. The data initially indicates that the analysis of this content will be skewed in favor of the negativity of print in mass media. But after researching each piece, I found, in fact, that wasn’t the case.

The irony is that out of the 46 pieces (see side bar 2 below), only three come from the digital platform. Everything else in the search was published material. So journalists are defaming and critiquing the demise of the very channel they are using. No matter what someone publishes with ink on paper, it is concrete and tangible, which means it has lasting value. It’s most unfortunate that journalists themselves are the ones sounding print’s death knell, automatically sending it to that newsstand in the sky as though it were preordained.

I interviewed Joe Ripp, CEO and chairman of Time, Inc. in the fall of 2014. In Joe’s very knowledgeable opinion, print isn’t going anywhere and certainly isn’t dying. (Also check Side Bar 1 below for some random quotes on the subject of print).

“I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.”

The stigma with the World Wide Web is that, “Everything stays on the Internet forever,” which is in fact false. Ink on paper has lasting value. Print is something that can be touched, seen, and even smelled, adding to the overall sensory experience print evokes. Digital content can be updated, deleted, or changed at a whim, thus only being a sedentary content form. But when someone shares a piece of content on the web, it does not get the full attention as that of someone imploring another to read the article in print. Lasting value means it will last.

“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,” said James Oseland, editor-in-chief, Rodale’s newest ink on paper magazine, Organic Life, in an April 2015 interview with me.

Print is the oldest form of mass media. When radio, television, and Internet all were adopted by the masses, these mediums signified the end of print. But print is still alive and kicking. As the numbers illustrate, this has been in constant debate since the digital revolution, and yet print is still viable, still vibrant. The first quarter of 2015 indicated that the print market rose three percent compared to the first quarter of 2014 (via publishersweekly.com). Print has a model that has worked for centuries, but it must continue to adapt to the technology to remain viable. It will be an uphill battle, but print is here to stay.

Snow and clouds; print and digital.

Tangible and virtual; one is, one isn’t.

It’s amazing what zooming across the sky will conjure up as one drifts off to sleep with a magazine in hand.

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ musing…
————————————————————————————
Side Bar 1: Quote and UnQuote: Random Collection of Words of Wisdom

1.Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP plc
a.Perceptions may be changing. Sorrell is the oracle of advertising, if there is one, and recently told this to The Times of London:
b.“Maybe they [newspapers & magazines] are more effective than people give them credit [for].”

2.Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-chief Marie Claire
a.“First I would say that I think the American audience, our reader, is interested in the fact that we have a global presence. I think that the Marie Claire reader does have a global view of the world. I believe that the print magazine will always be one of our core businesses and products. If you hadn’t just spent time with him, I’d try to steal this phrase, but Michael Clinton was just recently interviewed about what he calls print magazines: bricks and mortar businesses.”
b.“But our audience is also incredibly engaged on their mobile phones, on the web and on their social media voice. So, I think of print and digital working side by side, complementing each other and all of them being very valuable to our reader because she’s reading the magazine.”
c.“But it’s important that the Marie Claire voice, sensibility and point of view is communicated in the appropriate form for each media, so that when we’re speaking to you on Twitter, we’re catering our message to Twitter. When we’re speaking to you on your phone and showing you a Marie Claire story on your phone it has to be short, visual and popping up one after the other.”
d.“I believe print will always be central and a major part of the brand, but digital is becoming more and more important.”

3.Maria Rodale, Chairman & CEO of Rodale, Inc.
a.“I’m a firm believer in print; I love print and my kids love print. My eight-year-old daughter asked for magazines on her Christmas list, which I think is a good sign. But I think every media finds its place in our lives.”
b.“Magazines used to serve the role that Google does now, but it was a more passive way of helping people find things and get answers. Now magazines are more of a relaxing enjoyable, inspirational and motivational experience.”
c.“Everybody in the industry was probably surprised by how the advertising industry’s year wasn’t their best when it came to magazines. And one thing that surprised me in a good way was that digital, especially digital books and digital magazine subscriptions seemed to be finding their place. I think people were sort of returning to magazines as a print product and everything has stabilized today.”
d.“Print will always be a hugely significant revenue and contribution margin source for us, but the growth will be coming from digital, e-commerce and new products that we have not launched yet, but are in the works.”

4.Susan Glasser, Editor Politico
a.“For too long people greeted the rise of the Internet and digital technology in a very zero sum way. The rise of the Internet meant the decline of print. And clearly we have seen the decline of print, but I think Politico is a good example of how we all need to be thinking in a much more – not platform agnostic way, but multiplatform way and reaching audiences in a variety of different ways.”
b.“You know, you may serve audiences with multiple different kinds of approaches that work for them at different points in their day. They read and encounter The New York Times on their mobile phone and it’s different than the paper they consume in print in the morning over their coffee and it’s different than how they read it at work. And I think that’s a great thing.”
c.“I’m so thrilled about the magazine platform that we’ve built on the website. I think it’s beautiful; I think it’s a showcase for big impactful content and big stunning visuals and we’re really trying to signify to readers in every way possible that this is a different environment; this is a new kind of Politico for you to experience. In addition to – you came for all this great news and up-to-the-minute information and agenda-setting beat coverage of Congress, the White House or healthcare, but here is a space where there’s going to be a terrific cover story every day and three or four interesting things to go around it and I think that’s a cool model.”

5.Chris Kaskie, President Pitchfork, The Pitchfork Review
a.“Well, the idea of ownership has obviously changed and I think the processes haven’t changed as much as the definition. Just like Pitchfork is a magazine and has been. If you read it on the internet, you’ll never be able to own it beyond your computer or your phone.”
b.“At the same time, we were working very hard to create and redefine what it means to be a magazine in a digital publication on the web. And as we continued to do that it was always taking cues from the history of print and being inspired by it. But recognizing that there’s disposableness just like there is with magazines, or newspapers; you get your monthly copy of a magazine and it’s just a normal, glossy thing and you read it and you toss it. It’s not something that you feel like you want to keep.”
c.“We stepped back and we said: we really don’t want to do a magazine, per se. It’s more like a hybrid between a journal and a book and a bit of a magazine, but something that’s worthy of collecting and putting on your bookshelf for a long time and referring to over the years and complementing what we’re doing everyday online and how fast we’re working.”
d.“There’s something romantic about, not print per se, but the idea of having something that is tangible and that you can celebrate and enjoy. The festival is a good example too. You can’t take the festival home with you, but having that experience is something hard to replicate.”

6.Kai Barch, Founder & Editor Offscreen
a.“There were a number of reasons (he chose print) and one of the first was really quite selfish. I was doing web designs for clients and I got really tired of producing something that didn’t last very long; whenever you create a website or some other digital design, it lives as long as the next release cycle or the next version number.”
b.“And so print was becoming almost like this island where I could go and relax and discover the actual process of reading again. It was really nice and calming. And that was the other reason; I just wanted to create something that people would not find distracting and that they wouldn’t feel pressured to read on the go.”
c.“And then, of course, it’s hard to charge money for digital content, where you can put it in a magazine and provide a nice product experience; you make it something people want to keep, a collectable item, it’s then easier to charge people for it.”

7.Francesco Di Maio, Founder & Publisher Uomo Moderno
a.“I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item. So I feel it’s something that people needed, not digitally, but in their hands, something that they needed to hold on to, something physical and tangible.”
b.“But at the same time, I look around me and I see people are still reading magazines and are interested in them and I think one of the most engaging things is that people are really interested in niche magazines. They’re looking to find information according to specific topics or specific categories.”

8.Danny Seo, Naturally
a.“Well, you would think being an environmentalist, doing a digital magazine would be something that I’d be interested in because there’s no trees involved, no waste; it’s as eco-friendly as possible. But when you think about digital magazines, the reality is anybody can do a digital magazine.”
b.“But the reality is, to actually create a beautiful, curated, well-edited printed magazine; it’s not an easy process. And when we really looked at the space and thought about who our reader and customer was and what she’s really interested in right then, which is having some me-time, we felt the reader was looking for a publication where she could actually turn off her phone or the TV and have an appointed reading time with a tangible product that she can hold in her hands and go through page by page.”

9.Joe Ripp, CEO & Chairman of Time, Inc.
a.“I’ve been very clear; I think print is around for the next 25 years. Print will be around for a long time. It’s in a slow decline. There’s always going to be room for someone to sit down with a magazine on a cozy afternoon and read a great magazine. That is always going to go on.”
b.“I come at it with a fundamental belief that there is real value in brands. Brands have always driven consumer interest, consumer affection; consumer purchasing power is created with brands, because brands convey to us a sense of trust, a sense of quality in what they are.”
c.“The reality is that the Internet fundamentally changed the way we all consume content and get information. It may fundamentally change the way democracy works in the future, who knows? None of us know if the Internet is a good thing.”
d.“What we’re trying to do is utilize the devices, utilize the way people want to consume our content and reach them and it’s one of the reasons we have a big video initiative going one. We’re producing thousands and thousands of videos now in this organization and that’s going to go up even more dramatically next year because video is an important component of the way we tell stories and people want to consume video. They want to see it on their phones and sit at the airport and watch them.”

10.Bruce Sherbow, Senior VP of Penny Publications
a.“I don’t think digital will be the demise of print at all, in fact, I don’t know why we keep talking about the death of print because I don’t think it’s happening.”
b.“So I don’t think that digital publishing is in fact going to take away or be the demise of all print, but I’m also not blind, because I know certainly there are advantages to some degree of interactivity, we talked about that a little bit. If you’re online reading a fashion magazine you can click a link and go see a video of someone wearing the fashion or something like that. But there are also some interesting things happening in print, which are more interactive, but we’re not a magazine that engages in a lot of the new technology with advertising, so I can’t comment fully on that, but there is some happening. But I don’t think digital will be the demise of print at all, in fact, I don’t know why we keep talking about the death of print because I don’t think it’s happening.”

11.Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief Product Officer, Forbes
a.“[..]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.”
b.“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?”

12.Ellen Caruuci, Publisher Rodale’s Organic Life
a.“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.”

13.James Oseland, Editor-in-chief, Rodale’s Organic Life
a.“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.”

14.Bob Sauerberg, Condé Nast President
a.“This industry has brands like no other, it has assets like no other, it has editors and consumer marketers like no other. And we’ve all accumulated incredible digital assets that I think will really help us grow. We’ve got to work together to ‘product-ize’ those things, to get to retailers and really move the needle.”

15.Steve Lacy, Chairman & CEO Meredith Corp.
a.“Our greatest corporate lesson in the last year has been to figure out how to connect those dots and help our advertisers sell product to her when she’s right there in the supermarket. Everything that we’re seeing indicates that Gen Y is very engaged in these brands on every platform, from mobile to print.”

————————————————————————————–

Side Bar 2: What Others Wrote About Print


The 46 articles in question originated from various regions and countries: USA, UK, India, Australia, etc: Here is the listing of the articles and its source:
1.“Print Shows Resilience” by John Obrecht in BtoB (May 13, 2013)
2.“The Dead Tree Manifesto” by Alistair Fairweather in Mail & Guardian (June 23, 2010)
3.“Review: Et cetera: Steven Poole’s non-fiction choice: Print Is Dead: Long Live the Digital Book, by Jeff Gomez” by Steven Poole in The Guardian (November 17, 2007)
4.“Johnston Press chief fails to spell out wonders of an online future” by Roy Greenslade in Guardian.com (November 17, 2011)
5.“Print media is just changing, not dying” by Gary Sawyer in The Pantagraph (December 22, 2013)
6.“Print is dead… or is it?” by Ryan Chatelain in amNewYork (June 24, 2009)
7.‘Newspapers must change to compete with new media’ by Hani Hazaimeh in Jordan Times (April 13, 2010)
8.“Media boss rejects ‘print is dead’ claims” in The Star (May 27, 2014)
9.“Tomes in tombs or paper’s evolution?; TURNING PAGES” by Jane Sullivan in The Age (July 30, 2011)
10.NATION DIGEST in St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 26, 2012)
11.“Is print media dead or just slowly killing itself?” in The Pioneer (August 20, 2014)
12.“APN chief sure ‘print not dead’” by Darren Davidson in The Australian (July 29, 2013)
13.“CULTURE; off the shelf” by Lorien Kaye in The Age (September 19, 2009)
14.“They tell me print is dead – but…” by Roy Greenslade in Guardian.com (March 30, 2012)
15.“Libraries embrace changing demands” by Victoria Ford in Cambridge Times (February 20, 2013)
16.“Society: Print is not dead! Read all about it!” by Alex Spence in The Australian Magazine (May 17, 2014)
17.“Dead keen about digital” by Sarah Walters in Manchester Evening News (January 20, 2012)
18.“Viable print needs to be sold harder: Steedman” by Will Mumford in The NPA Bulletin (May 14, 2014)
19.“OUR POLITICIANS ARE MISSING THE STORY ON NEWSPAPERS” by Michael Gawenda in The Australian (June 22, 2012)
20.“For younger readers, e-books slow to take hold; Parents insist children better with print, even as they buy digital” by Matt Richtel and Julie Bosman in The International Herald Tribune (November 22, 2011)
21.“Do ‘Newsweek’ and ‘Time’ have a future?; Newsmagazines need excellence to make page-turning return” by Rem Rider in USA Today (March 11, 2014)
22.“Opinion: We’re not dead yet” by Paul Choiniere in The Day (October 3, 2010)
23.“Newsweek is dead. Long live Newsweek?” by Tom McCarthy in Guardian.com (August 5, 2013)
24.“Print is not dead: just feast on these banquets of paper” by John Lethlean in Weekend Australian (September 22, 2012)
25.“Books in print, still alive and selling” by Angela Hill in Contra Costa Times (October 9, 2014)
26.“Masters of our own destruction” by Tanya Pampalone in Mail & Guardian (February 19, 2010)
27.“Charging for content way of the future, says expat” in The National Business Review (April 1, 2010)
28.“Pizarro: New magazine celebrates San Jose culture” by Sal Pizarro in San Jose Mercury News (February 19, 2012)
29.“For journalistic greatness, the old model seems all but dead; Common Sense” by James B. Stewart in The International Herald Tribune (August 10, 2013)
30.“Group Says Newspapers Aren’t Dead, They’re Alluring” by Tanzina Vega in The New York Times (October 24, 2011)
31.“Hello! Aims to prove print’s still in fashion” by Gideon Spanier in The Evening Standard (September 10, 2014)
32.“There’s life yet in the old newspaper dogs” by Darren Davidson in Weekend Australian (August 10, 2013)
33.“The rise of the g whizzes” by Tara Brabazon in The Times Higher Education Supplement (January 10, 2008)
34.“Reading, writing and revolution” by Ian Bell in The Scotsman (July 19, 1996)
35.“30-SECOND SPOT / DISPATCHES FROM THE WORLD OF MEDIA AND ADVERTISING” by Nick Bilton in The Globe and Mail (October 2, 2009)
36.“Long live newspapers” by Neil Godbout in Prince George Citizen (April 16, 2012)
37.“A writer out of print is a dead writer” by Adil Jussawalla in Indian Express (June 2, 2014)
38.“Pixel or print, it’s about content; In the Blogs: Bits” by Nick Bilton in The International Herald Tribune (March 9, 2010)
39.“Journalism is the mirror of society – Yam Times 14th Anniversary” in Siasat Daily (August 5, 2012)
40.“Is technology erasing the printed word? Writers fear the ‘ebook’ is killing off newspapers and magazines. They may just – finally – be right, says Jimmy Lee Shreeve” in Cape Argus (October 27, 2007)
41.“The idea of the book” by Nishant Shah in Indian Express (April 8, 2012)
42.“Printed papers ‘will be dead in 5-10 years’” by Nic Christensen in The Australian (November 7, 2011)
43.“Newspapers must change or die” by Wang Wubin in China Daily European Edition (January 14, 2014)
44.“News chairman says media must adapt to changing world” by Richard Gluyas in The Australian (August 8, 2007)
45.“Are newspapers dead? Read between the lines; Value of spinoffs differs between investors, journalists” by Michael Wolff USA Today (August 11, 2014)
46.“So Much for Rumors of Print’s Demise” by Stuart Elliot in The New York Times (June 22, 2006)

————————————————————————————-
Nathan Weber, my graduate teaching assistant researched the data base and assembled the list of articles above.

h1

MagFinder: The Grinder And Tinder App For Single Copy Magazine Lovers – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joshua Gary, Senior Vice President, MagNet. A Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive.

May 15, 2015

“We wanted to make it easy for publishers to communicate to their customers where their magazines were available for purchase; not only via a traditional website, but also making it available via mobile, so that when people are actually in the store, they can get information about what’s available to help facilitate that spur-of-the-moment decision. We want to take off the “mobile blinders”, and put a “mobile spotlight” on our brands..” Joshua Gary

Joshua Gary Photo What if you could browse your favorite retailer’s inventory from the comfort of your own home? Or you’re doing your grocery shopping and you decide that you’d like to see the latest issue of your favorite magazine, but you still have food items to buy; what if you could pull up the store’s availability of magazines right there in front of the macaroni and cheese?

With MagNet’s new app – MagFinder – you can do any of those things, and many more. Joshua Gary is Senior Vice President at MagNet, the company that’s using innovation to raise the customer shopping experience to a whole new level.

I spoke with Joshua recently and received a sneak peek of the MagFinder experience. He allowed me a preview of what this app (which doesn’t need downloading, by the way) can do and discussed the many, many benefits it offers to the entire food chain of the magazine media business, with the consumer being the ultimate winner overall.

In this Mr. Magazine™ exclusive, Joshua made me privy to a demonstration of this creative and extremely cutting edge technology and allowed me the honor of being the first to interview him about it. His baby will be publicly christened at the 2015 IMAG Conference in Boulder, Colorado on May 18. And to say he’s a proud parent would be an understatement.

So, I hope you enjoy the interesting and exciting information he shared with me, as you read the Mr. Magazine™ exclusive interview with Joshua Gary, Senior Vice President at MagNet.

But first the sound-bites:

Screen shot 2015-05-15 at 9.23.15 PM On what MagFinder is all about: Here’s the problem. There’s only been incomplete or outdated information available to publishers and therefore only incomplete information that publishers can make available to their consumers.

On how MagFinder can help a customer find that elusive new title: Now all you have to do is come into our site, type in your title and it’ll tell you where to find that magazine. Using the example title, Simple Grace; I give the app my location, based on the IP address of my computer. It also works on your phone using GPS. So, when it says nearest location within 3.3 miles that’s based on where I’m located at that point. I can click on Simple Grace and it will bring up a listing of where it’s available to buy now, based on the information we’ve received as recently as yesterday.

On the comparison of a Match Finder, Grindr or Tinder to the MagFinder app: (Laughs) It’s meant to inspire and encourage in store purchases and it’s meant to encourage people to see what’s available to them and then to go find that magazine.

On whether he thinks publishers will be jumping on the bandwagon once the app goes public: I believe that once they hear about this vision, I think they will jump in with both feet. Right now, we’ve been spending a lot of time building out the app and we’re coming to a point where we have to make sure it’s accessible to consumers. It hasn’t been released publicly yet.

On any disadvantages he can see with the app: I think this is going to create another level of competition among publishers who want to try to bring people to their own content. When there are five, six or seven gun magazines out there and many of them may look similar, I can see a publisher being concerned that the consumer might choose a competitive product over their own. And then the best content ends up winning. So, for some publishers this app may not work to their advantage.

On any future profile-driven features of the MagFinder app: Let me tell you about our first foray into individual profiles. Once logged in, I flag favorites for a title or category. With those favorites we can customize content delivery to you.

On the fact that the app doesn’t have to be downloaded: Here’s the best part about it; you don’t have to download anything. It is a completely web-based app. I have my link to MagFinder on my phone and when I click on it, it opens up a web browser and it acts, feels and plays like a natively-installed app, but you don’t have to download anything. And we did that on purpose for a couple of reasons.

On what is in it for MagNet: We’re building solutions that ultimately assist in driving consumers to buy magazines, because that will support the entire supply chain. So, this is really right up our alley.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ exclusive interview with Joshua Gary, Senior Vice President, MagNet.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me exactly what MagFinder is all about?

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.07.23 AM Joshua Gary: Here’s the problem. There hasn’t been until today an up-to-date, complete portal by which to communicate available magazines to consumers. There’s only been incomplete, or outdated information available to publishers and therefore only incomplete information that publishers can make available to their consumers.

Every publisher has, whether it’s Architectural Digest, Out Magazine or anything else, customer service agents that take inquiries from customers; every one of them receives phone calls and emails from their customers asking where to find magazines at retail. And their customer service will generally ask someone from consumer marketing and consumer marketing either has an outdated list of stores or has nothing at all to offer. Ultimately, they have to go back to the customer with an answer that’s either incomplete, inaccurate or doesn’t really serve their purposes.

The only place where all of the title allocation information comes together is here at MagNet.

We wanted to make it easy for publishers to communicate to their customers where their magazines were available for purchase; not only via a traditional website, but also making it available via mobile, so that when people are actually in the store, they can get information about what’s available to help facilitate that spur-of-the-moment decision. We want to take off the “mobile blinders”, and put a “mobile spotlight”on our brands. In the five or ten seconds we have to help a customer figure out what they might like while standing in line, we try to fill that gap by giving the customer information about what’s available based on our data base because it’s the only complete set of information available to the industry.

We are filling this with all of the allocation information for every magazine that we collect in the United States and Canada for every store we collect as well as showing the covers that we’re scanning on about 4,000 different magazines so that they can see what they’re looking for.

Samir Husni: And just to illustrate your point; when I published my interview with Carol Brooks from Simple Grace Magazine, I was bombarded by emails and by comments on my blog where the interview was published; where can I find the magazine? I can’t find it anywhere. And Carol had to go to my blog to answer the comments from readers on where they could find the magazine. So this is a perfect example; a new title comes to the marketplace, but no one can find it.

Joshua Gary: Exactly. And now all you have to do is come into our site, type in your title and it’ll tell you where to find that magazine. Using the example title, Simple Grace; I give the app my location, based on the IP address of my computer. It also works on your phone using GPS. So, when it says nearest location within 3.3 miles that’s based on where I’m located at that point. I can click on Simple Grace and it will bring up a listing of where it’s available to buy now, based on the information we’ve received as recently as yesterday.

Samir Husni: You’re telling me that you’re creating a Match Finder or Grindr or Tinder for magazines? (Laughs)

Joshua Gary: (Laughs too) It’s meant to inspire and encourage in store purchases and it’s meant to encourage people to see what’s available to them and then to go find that magazine. We have title descriptions, which by the way, we procure and save ourselves. We have an employee at our home office who goes to all of the publishers’ titles websites and looks for mission statements about the magazine and enters that information into the app, so that consumers have an idea of what it is they might be getting.

When you see the cover, it’ll bring up the price; the number of locations within a certain radius of where you’re located; the closest store; a way to filter by distance; the store names and addresses, as well as directions to that store. If I want to go the Wal-Mart, I can see the little dot on my map, the little blue dot is where I’m located at that moment, then you can see the location of that Wal-Mart and if you click on the directions button, it will bring up directions to that store.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.17.47 AM Samir Husni: This is such an amazing vehicle, especially with mobile technology and the penetration of mobile and Smartphones; why do you think publishers and magazine media companies aren’t jumping in and helping you, instead of you doing this all on your own? There are certainly a lot of benefits for them in this technology.

Joshua Gary: Yes, there are a lot of benefits for them. I believe that once they hear about this vision, I think they will jump in with both feet. Right now, we’ve been spending a lot of time building out the app and we’re coming to a point where we have to make sure it’s accessible to consumers. It hasn’t been released publicly yet.

Obviously, you have access to the behind-the-scenes prerelease version, but it’s not out there publicly. I do firmly believe that when we do release this publicly to the publishing community, we’re going to get tremendous support. The part that we need to encourage is the sharing aspect, because we still have to rely on the publishing community to support and share our vision. Every person that I’ve demoed this to has wholeheartedly embraced the idea. We haven’t had one publisher who has said to us that this doesn’t serve a purpose or isn’t valuable.

We’ve asked every publisher that we’ve shown it to up until now, which has been about a dozen publishers, major publishers and small guys included; we asked them if they would put a link to MagFinder on their website so that their customers would always know and the answer was an emphatic yes.

Samir Husni: When do you think you’ll be ready to release this?

Joshua Gary: The first release is scheduled for the IMAG Conference in Boulder on May 18.

Samir Husni: So I’ll be seeing you there then.

Joshua Gary: Great.

Samir Husni: Do you see any disadvantage with this? Can you think of a reason someone would argue against MagFinder or see anything negative about this app?

Joshua Gary: Yes. I think this is going to create another level of competition among publishers who want to try to bring people to their own content. When there are five, six or seven gun magazines out there and many of them may look similar, I can see a publisher being concerned that the consumer might choose a competitive product over their own. And then the best content ends up winning. So, for some publishers this app may not work to their advantage.

Samir Husni: That’s always been the pipedream for wholesalers, and I remember the days when Anderson News was in the business of wholesale; wholesalers always wanted to create those categories and tiers within the categories and they wanted to make sure that the top titles; 1, 2, or 3, were the ones that received all the attention. Are we creating something similar to that or is it going to be completely up to the customer to decide?

Joshua Gary: It completely levels the playing field; there’s no preference toward any publisher or another; there’s no preference toward any region and there’s no preference toward any retailer.

Samir Husni: Can you see the day where the customer will come to MagFinder and say here’s my profile; I’m interested in cat magazines or gun magazines, etc.?

Joshua Gary: Yes. And let me tell you about our first foray into individual profiles. On one page of the app, what you’ll see at the very top is a login button. Once logged in, I flag favorites for a title or category. With those favorites we can customize content delivery to you. So yes, you can actually go into MagFinder and find a magazine you like, say Animal Tales, and you’ll see a favorite button and when I hit that button, a green bar appears and that magazine is added to favorites.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.13.01 AM And what we’re doing with that information is using it to customize content delivery to you. And it will be based on your preferences, either by an editorial category or by a specific magazine. Not only for whatever might be interesting for you to read in a newsletter, but also to let you know when there’s a new issue of your favorite magazine available on the newsstand. So, the next time that Animal Tales comes out on sale, MagNet will either send you an email, letting you know the new issue of the magazine is available so you can go purchase it, or you can choose on the app itself to have MagNet send you an SMS text message to let you know.

Samir Husni: Technically, after downloading MagFinder and allowing notifications, if the customer has chosen their favorite magazines, let’s say Cosmopolitan or First For Women, the app will have the capability of notifying the customer by either email or text that the new issue of their favorite magazine is out?

Joshua Gary: That’s exactly right. We’re going to make sure that we limit the number of text messages that a customer can receive because we don’t want people to be overloaded or to turn them off because they’re constantly being notified. As we sit here today, the limitation will be one a week, no more.

Samir Husni: So, Joshua, the next question has to be; what took you so long? (Laughs)

Joshua Gary; (Laughs too) So many things to take on at the same time; too many fires to put out. (Laughs again) No, this has been a project that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was just a matter of getting the time and the focus associated with making it happen.

Another thing is we didn’t always have a large enough data base of covers. We wanted MagFinder to be very visual, opposed to just reading text; we wanted the customer to be able to see the covers of the magazines, which are scanned at a very high resolution and make sure that they’re ultra-crisp. We have about 4,000 magazines now that we’re scanning per month. We feel like it’s a large enough number of magazines where we can make the app much more visual. We encourage any publisher who doesn’t see their magazine cover to contact us so we can get it added.

Another point is that technology has progressed to the point that we can Tweet, Share and Favorite. We can also make it available on mobile just as easily as on the web with speed as a consideration. There are so many pieces of data that we’re serving up; we wanted to have an app that was fast on the phone. MagFinder Mobile is just as responsive as it is on the desktop. We wanted that to be the case and I think that the technology has now allowed us to do that.

Samir Husni: I’ve been doing this for over 30 years here at the university and to me, this is the first time that I’ve seen or heard an innovative way to help the newsstands or single copy. All I’ve heard, since I began concentrating on newsstand, is all the problems, but nobody ever offers any solutions. My expectations are that this is going to be something very big and very helpful, because you’re saving the consumer’s time, while still allowing them to shop covers and see issues of the magazines without leaving their home.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.14.47 AM Joshua Gary: Exactly. And we see it taking a variety of different angles from here and I’ll give you one example. Off of the home page, one of the things that you’ll notice is that there’s a little bar at the bottom that reads ‘most popular magazine.’ That’s based on our point of sale data, so I can see helping customers find their magazines based on popularity; based on what’s been purchased more often in a store, in a region, in a category or in a state, or even among their friends or social sphere.

I can see the categorization and popularity expanding and becoming much more profile-driven. If you like Cosmo, for example, you might want to check out Glamour. Why would you want Glamour, because your friends are buying Glamour, a new issue just came on sale; any number of reasons.

Samir Husni: It’s just amazing. The only thing even close to this is in Finland, the wholesalers track the sales and every six months the magazines that get the checkouts or the front displays are the ones that sold the highest numbers in the previous six months. It’s not a matter of ‘you pay me and you get the checkout position,’ it’s ‘how many copies have you sold’. And this app is going to show me, for example, that People magazine and National Enquirer have been the most popular magazines, not because they have the best cover or they’re well-liked, but because of the number of copies sold.

Joshua Gary: That’s right. Look under the National Enquirer or Us Weekly; it’s not even Cosmopolitan; in our example here, it’s Fine Homebuilding. It’s telling you what is selling well.

Samir Husni: I am truly fascinated. I can’t wait to download the app and I know I can’t do it now because it’s not out yet. (Laughs)

Joshua Gary: There’s another interesting thing that I’ll tell you. We’re not just necessarily helping them find a magazine, but we also want consumers to be able to browse the inventory in a store at any given time. And there are a couple of different ways to get to that inventory within MagFinder.

You can also click on the Browse button at the top of the app by store. And then you can actually search a particular store.

Samir Husni: Do you know how much time that will save me if I can find all of my first issues through this app? (Laughs)

Joshua Gary: We’ll have to create a special version just for you, Samir. (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: Right. (Laughs again)

Joshua Gary: Don’t forget about Twitter. You can use MagFinder to tell your friends that you’ve purchased a certain magazine; we have a hashtag; there’s a sharing on Facebook element; you can login via Facebook or Twitter. We truly believe the social tie-ins will be an integral part of the success of this app.

Samir Husni: For the first time in this digital age, how can I be the first one to download this app on my Smartphone?

Joshua Gary: Here’s the best part about it; you don’t have to download anything. It is a completely web-based app. I have my link to MagFinder on my phone and when I click on it, it opens up a web browser and it acts, feels and plays like a natively-installed app, but you don’t have to download anything. And we did that on purpose for a couple of reasons.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.23.41 AM The first reason was that we wanted to make sure that we had greater accessibility with the least amount of intrusion for publishers and customers. We didn’t want a customer to feel like they had to download something to be able to use it. We wanted to create all the functionality we needed without the customer having to download anything. It still uses your GPS; it still gives you all the recommendations; it’s still just as fast.

This is great because you don’t have to worry about the different iPhones or Samsungs on the market and the cross-compatibility challenges that software services providers regularly face. MagFinder is what’s called a “responsive, HTML5 based application” which means it’s much more compatible across devices and browsers, even on mobile.

As we get into some of the more advanced functionality capabilities that exist within your phone, I expect that we’ll revisit having a natively-installed application, maybe for the purposes of taking pictures or videos. something like that. But as of right now that wasn’t required.

Samir Husni: What is in it for you?

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.20.00 AM Joshua Gary: If you think about our position in the business; it is partly to try and support and strengthen an efficient, optimized supply chain, and to facilitate the flow of information amongst the various entities associated with the newsstand. From our perspective, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good if we build solutions that only benefit one rung within the supply chain at the others’ expense.

MagFinder will help everyone in the supply chain, because if we’re finding magazines with greater ease, we’re generating interest, not only in the magazine itself, but in the brand’s content in a way right now that publishers can’t easily do. The people that end up benefiting most are customers; however who benefits when the customer benefits? The retailer, the wholesaler, and the publisher benefit as well. If we can help facilitate that success, it’s right where MagNet wants to be

Samir Husni: As I told you earlier, this is one of the first really innovative ways that I’ve seen to reach the magazine customer in their home and on their phone. I’ve heard a lot of questions asked about how to get the mobile blinders to help the industry. And I think with this, we’re telling our customers to keep their blinders on and we’ll help them find their way.

Joshua Gary: We’ll help them figure it out; exactly.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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