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Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers: Treating Motherhood As A Topic Worthy Of Literature For Over 15 Years – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Marcelle Soviero, Owner & Editor-In-Chief, Brain, Child & Brain, Teen.

February 8, 2016

“Our readers still like hard copy. I think print is important for this kind of content to sort of snuggle up with, while you’re feeding your baby even, and just be able to read and be stimulated intellectually with a magazine on your lap.” Marcelle Soviero

BC SP 14 Cover Final Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers was founded in 2000 and is an award-winning literary magazine dedicated to motherhood. Unfortunately, four years ago the magazine was about to shut down its operation when an essayist and writer happened to send in a submission to the magazine. When she was told that no submissions were being accepted due to the publication’s closure, she did what she felt she had to do when she heard the news: she bought it.

That writer was Marcelle Soviero, who bought Brain, Child in 2012 and immediately launched Brain, Teen to complement a magazine that she had believed in since its inception in 2000. As a mother of five children, Marcelle had grown her children up with the magazine and had always been one of its biggest fans.

Now as the owner, and editor-in-chief, she has expanded the magazine’s social media footprint extensively and has moved the print edition of Brain, Child into the digital realms, while maintaining Brain, Teen and the brand’s annual anthology, in print.

I spoke with Marcelle recently and we talked about her passion for the brand and the decision to take Brain, Child digital-only and her hope that someday the magazine will once again be offered in print as Brain, Teen and her yearly special issues are. And we talked about the brand’s mission: to bring the voices of women of different backgrounds and circumstances together on the page, the website and in the online community. Through essays, fiction and feature stories, Marcelle chooses the best writers she can find to connect mothers with many diverse perspectives on dealing with motherhood in the 21st century.

Marcelle is a woman who believes in print and the need for it in today’s digital age, but also understands the positivity and reach that digital can bring to a brand when the two components are working together for a complementary common goal. And with a literary magazine like Brain, Child, the need for print and digital is strong.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brain, Child’s own mother of invention, Marcelle Soviero.

But first the sound-bites:

Marclle Headshot 1 On what made her buy Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers: I was a reader and a writer when my children were young. And I have five children, so I sort of grew them up with the magazine, if you will. I went to submit my writing to them one day and it said that they were ceasing publication. So, I immediately called them up and told them that I wanted to buy it and asked what the picture looked like, because I still believed in the magazine.

On whether her decision to buy was based on business or passion: It was definitely a decision of passion. And then when it became real; when I called the owners and they told me that they hadn’t even thought of selling it; I started to do the numbers and thought that it really made sense and that I could make it work because I was so passionate about it.

On whether people told her she was crazy to invest in print in a digital age: Many people said that to me in jest, but in truth as well. And it has been hard; it’s not easy to keep it up, but we’re healthy and have a good readership. I certainly brought the magazine into the digital age; we have digital products and our social media footprint has gone up to 190,000 on Facebook. When I bought it we were at 8,000, so we’ve certainly developed a wider audience using digital tools and having digital products.

On how she would describe the magazine to someone who had never seen it before: Brain, Child is the magazine for thinking mothers; it’s the largest, oldest literary magazine for mothers. And we’re distributed worldwide. And I also own and edit it.

On what she’s offering mothers that they can’t get anyplace else: We’re offering personal stories and narratives that are edited; we actually edit our pieces. These aren’t just long pieces slapped up on the Internet; we have a rigorous editing, fact-checking, proofreading system that’s expensive, but I will keep it in place because I believe in it.

On whether she changed anything about the magazine after she bought it or kept it the same: No, we did a whole redesign of the magazine after the first issue. We went in and sort of updated everything with a professional designer and we’ve had good feedback with that. In fact, what was most interesting was when I first took it over and it was announced by the previous owner that they weren’t going out of business that I was buying it instead; I received fan mail from around the world, literally, as though I were their knight in shining armor, thanking me for saving the magazine.

On launching Brain, Teen simultaneously with taking over the magazine: Yes, I bought the magazine in August, 2012 and we began planning, and I think the issue actually came out in 2013, the special Brain, Teen issue. It was my immediate plan. It was the business idea that I thought of immediately to sort of bring the business up to speed.

On how large her team is: They are all consultants to the company, freelance, and I have a managing editor. Otherwise, certainly our writers are from all around the world. We get about 1,000 to 2,000 submissions each month for the magazine, both online and digital.

On which she finds more exciting as a writer, seeing her byline in print or online: I would say initially it was print that I found more exciting, but now, as I tell my authors, because we publish a lot more online than we do in print, the readership is so much greater online. It’s not even comparable; our circulation is relatively small, and as I said, I’ve already told you the numbers on our community pages and other digital outlets. So, in terms of actually having the writing out there, it’s become much more important to have the online byline, but my passion is to have my byline in print, I’d say.

Brain Child 1-1 On why she thinks print is still important in this digital age: Our readers still like hard copy. I think print is important for this kind of content to sort of snuggle up with, while you’re feeding your baby even, and just be able to read and be stimulated intellectually with a magazine on your lap.

On any challenges she’s had to face during her four-year journey with the magazine: There have been many challenges and hurdles in just supporting a print magazine with the numbers being nearly impossible. And if we didn’t have the online component, I don’t think that I could do it. Just supporting the print and production and design process and doing it well, as I said, with the best writers; the best design team and things like that, has been a real challenge to make it work.

On whether her magazine is print + digital free and whether she feels they complement each other: No, our magazine Brain, Child is only digital, it’s only online. And our print product, the special issue for parents of teens and our annual Greatest Hits, are print. So, they’re pretty separate in terms of the content and the production process. But they do complement each other, but we never offered print + digital free. Never.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: The possibility of finding a new writer, the next best piece that I’m going to read and share with the world, with the mothers and the excitement of working with great writers. For someone who is a writer and a mother, I can’t think of anything better.

On whether she thinks Brain, Child will ever come back to print: Yes, absolutely. Some people will call me crazy for that, but we sort of had to get the revenue pieces in check. And as I said, Brain, Teen is a print product and our annual special issue is a print product, so we haven’t abandoned print.

On anything else that she’d like to add: Buying Brain, Child was the best thing that I ever did, outside of marrying my husband. (Laughs) I do want to be clear that Brain, Child is not print anymore, it’s just Brain, Teen that’s print.

On what keeps her up at night: Competition; that there’s more people publishing narrative than ever before. I think when Brain, Child started we were certainly the one and only person writing about motherhood, but now there are plenty of blogs and sites for women. I don’t feel we have the competition, but I worry about it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Marcelle Soviero, Owner, Editor-In-Chief, Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

Samir Husni: Tell me about Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; what made you buy the company?

Marcelle Soviero: I was a reader and a writer when my children were young. And I have five children, so I sort of grew them up with the magazine, if you will. I went to submit my writing to them one day, I’m an essayist and I have a few books, and it said that they were ceasing publication. So, I immediately called them up and told them that I wanted to buy it and asked what the picture looked like, because I still believed in the magazine.

I had had a career in magazine publishing and online publishing when I bought it, and I had just left a job where I was commuting to Chicago in a very high-powered corporate position, so it was like all of the stars came together and I bought the magazine within three weeks. I went down to Virginia and cut thousands of back issues and brought them up to Connecticut where I live, and I just started producing the magazine and keeping it going, so we only missed one issue when I bought it.

Samir Husni: Was it a business decision or a decision of passion that caused you to buy the magazine?

Brain Child 2-2 Marcelle Soviero: It was definitely a decision of passion. And then when it became real; when I called the owners and they told me that they hadn’t even thought of selling it; I started to do the numbers and thought that it really made sense and that I could make it work because I was so passionate about it. And the readership of the magazine was equally as passionate about it as I was, they had grown their kids up with it too, so it was a little bit of both, but definitely first passion and just a gut feeling that it was the right time to do it.

Samir Husni: And four years ago, did anyone say to you that you were crazy to invest in a print product for children; haven’t you heard that we live in a digital age?

Marcelle Soviero: Many people said that to me in jest, but in truth as well. And it has been hard; it’s not easy to keep it up, but we’re healthy and have a good readership. I certainly brought the magazine into the digital age; we have digital products and our social media footprint has gone up to 190,000 on Facebook. When I bought it we were at 8,000, so we’ve certainly developed a wider audience using digital tools and having digital products. No question about that. I sort of took advantage of that, while still producing the print magazine.

Samir Husni: If you met someone on the street and introduced yourself to them by telling them you were the owner, editor and publisher of Brain, Child magazine; the first question they might ask you is “what’s that?”

Marcelle Soviero: And my answer would be Brain, Child is the magazine for thinking mothers; it’s the largest, oldest literary magazine for mothers. And we’re distributed worldwide. And I also own and edit it.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit more about the content; what are you offering mothers today that they can’t find any other place?

Brain Child 3-3 Marcelle Soviero: We’re offering personal stories and narratives that are edited; we actually edit our pieces. These aren’t just long pieces slapped up on the Internet; we have a rigorous editing, fact-checking, proofreading system that’s expensive, but I will keep it in place because I believe in it.

So we offer personal stories and connection for women, one story at a time, for mothers in our community, to our pages and our digital products. It’s essays, fiction, poetry, debates and book reviews.

Samir Husni: Since you assumed ownership of the magazine, what has been the feedback that you’ve received? Could the legacy readership tell there was a new ownership with the magazine or have you kept the flow and pace, in terms of the content, the way it was before you bought it?

Marcelle Soviero: No, we did a whole redesign of the magazine after the first issue. We went in and sort of updated everything with a professional designer and we’ve had good feedback with that. In fact, what was most interesting was when I first took it over and it was announced by the previous owner that they weren’t going out of business that I was buying it instead; I received fan mail from around the world, literally, as though I were their knight in shining armor, thanking me for saving the magazine. There was just a ridiculous amount of passion and feedback, so that was the first step that fired my own passion to continue to do it.

I would say the connection with the readers is very good. The biggest thing we’ve done in more recent years is as I aged out of the magazine, because Brain, Child is for mothers who have children 0-12, is I introduced a special issue for parents of teens called, Brain, Teen. Basically I kept for mothers like me who grew up with it and now have teenagers; I kept the product line going so that we could really meet that need. And that has been our more successful product out of the two now in the last four years.

Samir Husni: When did you launch Brain, Teen?

Marcelle Soviero: In 2012.

Samir Husni: So at the same time that you were taking over Brain, Child?

Brain Child 4-4 Marcelle Soviero: Yes, I bought the magazine in August, 2012 and we began planning, and I think the issue actually came out in 2013, the special Brain, Teen issue. It was my immediate plan. It was the business idea that I thought of immediately to sort of bring the business up to speed.

That was a big change and the design was a big change and certainly we post edited, beautiful blog posts every day as we’ve built up this readership. Our social imprint online has become huge and I sort of tapped into that passion. As I said, we have a very large community on Facebook that’s highly engaged in terms of our numbers, compared to other sites that have a million followers and we have around 200,000. Our engagement can be as much as 100,000, which is half our audience.

Samir Husni: As I hear you talk about the magazine, I can hear the passion and fire in your voice. How do you handle everything as a mother of five kids? How big is your team; is Brain, Child Marcelle and a few others? Or do you have a large team working with you? I know you said that you have a very expensive fact-checking system in place that you don’t want to change.

Marcelle Soviero: Right. They are all consultants to the company, freelance, and I have a managing editor. Otherwise, certainly our writers are from all around the world. We get about 1,000 to 2,000 submissions each month for the magazine, both online and digital.

But I think my passion comes from being a writer and having intellectual stimulation in reading all of the submissions that come in. And I love the editing process, being a writer. It makes my own writing better and I realize that we’re doing something different in working with writers and improving the content to make it perfect to be seen by the public, again as opposed to just throwing stuff up online. I also believe in paying our writers. We pay our writers, not much; we’re a commercial magazine and we’re distributed widely, but we’re also a literary magazine and traditionally they’re not high-paying. And we’re not high-paying, but one of my premises, being a writer, is that I pay my writers.

Samir Husni: Let’s forget for a moment that you’re the owner of the magazine; as a writer do you feel a different reaction when you see your name in print as opposed to seeing your name online? Which excites you more and gives you that thrill of saying, look I’ve published something?

Marcelle Soviero: That’s a great question. I would say initially it was print that I found more exciting, but now, as I tell my authors, because we publish a lot more online than we do in print, the readership is so much greater online. It’s not even comparable; our circulation is relatively small, and as I said, I’ve already told you the numbers on our community pages and other digital outlets. So, in terms of actually having the writing out there, it’s become much more important to have the online byline, but my passion is to have my byline in print, I’d say.

Samir Husni: And why do you think print is still important in this digital age?

Brin Child 5-5 Marcelle Soviero: Our readers still like hard copy. I think print is important for this kind of content to sort of snuggle up with, while you’re feeding your baby even, and just be able to read and be stimulated intellectually with a magazine on your lap.

But we have a lot of digital adopters. Our print now is really the special issue for parents of teens and our annual anthology and our magazine is more digital and online now.

Samir Husni: In your four year journey with the magazine, has it always been smooth sailing, or have you had some choppy waters with major challenges along the way?

Marcelle Soviero: There have been many challenges and hurdles in just supporting a print magazine with the numbers being nearly impossible. And if we didn’t have the online component, I don’t think that I could do it. Just supporting the print and production and design process and doing it well, as I said, with the best writers; the best design team and things like that, has been a real challenge to make it work.

Samir Husni: Have you ever considered stopping the print edition and only staying online?

Marcelle Soviero: Brain, Child, actually, the original product, is online now. And our print product is Brain, Teen. And our special issues are print too.

Samir Husni: You said that without online you feel like you could not have survived, but how do you juggle between the need for print and the need for online? Do you view them as complementary to each other or as enemies? Is it print + digital for you or is it print or digital?

Marcelle Soviero: No, our magazine Brain, Child is only digital, it’s only online. And our print product, the special issue for parents of teens and our annual Greatest Hits, are print. So, they’re pretty separate in terms of the content and the production process. But they do complement each other, but we never offered print + digital free. Never. We always did print + and/or pay the same amount for digital.

Samir Husni: So you always charged for digital, there was nothing free? No welfare information society?

Marcelle Soviero: No. The issues were paid for. Obviously, our website is all free content and eventually what’s in print makes it to the website, but it’s much, much later on in the process.

Samir Husni: But the digital editions are paid for?

Marcelle Soviero: Correct.

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

Marcelle Soviero: The possibility of finding a new writer, the next best piece that I’m going to read and share with the world, with the mothers and the excitement of working with great writers. For someone who is a writer and a mother, I can’t think of anything better. So, I’m excited and I always think that I’m going to find the next best piece, the next Pushcart Press Award. And I really love working with all of our writers.

Samir Husni: Do you think Brain, Child will ever come back to print?

Marcelle Soviero: Yes, absolutely. Some people will call me crazy for that, but we sort of had to get the revenue pieces in check. And as I said, Brain, Teen is a print product and our annual special issue is a print product, so we haven’t abandoned print.

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

Marcelle Soviero: Buying Brain, Child was the best thing that I ever did, outside of marrying my husband. (Laughs) I do want to be clear that Brain, Child is not print anymore, it’s just Brain, Teen that’s print.

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

Marcelle Soviero: Competition; that there’s more people publishing narrative than ever before. I think when Brain, Child started we were certainly the one and only person writing about motherhood, but now there are plenty of blogs and sites for women. I don’t feel we have the competition, but I worry about it. I think about somebody who really would start actively treating the process of producing a magazine and an online product like we’ve done, somebody who is larger and has more resources.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Woman’s Day Magazine: A Woman’s Helpmate With Heart, Passion And Zest That Is As Relevant Today As It Was Yesteryear – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Spencer, Editor-In-Chief, Woman’s Day.

February 5, 2016

Woman's Day March “No, never. I just can’t. I think it’s important for a legacy brand like ours to continue in print. I believe our readers want it very much. What’s happening in digital and on the website is amazing and wonderful, but I think that the print edition will always be core to our brand and core to what we do.” Susan Spencer (on whether she can ever envision Woman’s Day without a print component)

“Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now if I didn’t. I believe the question has almost become moot in the last few years. Readers have shown us time and time again that print magazines are here to stay. I love print magazines and I always have; it’s how I got into the business and I can’t imagine them going away.” Susan Spencer (on whether she believes in the future of print)

As far as legacy brands go, Woman’s Day holds a spot among the women’s service magazines that have texture and substance when it comes to longevity in the industry. The magazine’s content is as relevant today as it was nearly 80 years ago (79 to be exact) and has proven that fact with its total immersion into the wants and needs of its audience and a commitment to excellence in the coverage of many topics of interest, most especially health and food.

As the magazine gears up for its 13th Annual Red Dress Awards to be held February 9 at The Allen Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York, Editor-in-Chief Susan Spencer is passionate about the brand’s diligence to continue to heighten awareness of heart disease throughout the country.

RDA_2016 Logo I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about the Red Dress Awards, their past, present and future fusion with Woman’s Day and how readers and the public in general have come to recognize the Awards’ connection with the magazine. And we talked about the magazine itself, where it’s been and where it’s going and about how Susan believes that both print and digital together will be the catalyst that propels the legacy brand forward and keep it relevant and healthy for many, many more years to come, with the foundation and cornerstone core of print still being an integral part of the readership’s involvement with the brand.

Susan is as delightful as the magazine itself and brings an aura of joy, fun and animation to the brand that’s contagious. Zest and relevant information keeps the essence of Woman’s Day always reflective and pertinent to its audience and that’s just the way Susan wants it.

So, without further ado, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Spencer, Editor-In-Chief, Woman’s Day.

But first, the sound-bites:

Susan Spencer On what Woman’s Day means to its readers today, in the 21st century: Woman’s Day today, as it has done for many years, takes the concerns, the things that are truly relevant and important to her right now and really helps her. And I see us as a real helpmate to this woman; to make that complicated, messy life a little bit easier.

On how it feels to edit a magazine that Ellen Levine once edited: It has never felt awkward; I feel like I stand on Ellen’s shoulders and some other wonderful editors before me who I think created something that American women really turn to. And I think Ellen was pivotal and critical in doing that.

On the history of the Red Dress Awards: Again, turning to past editors, my predecessor, Jane Chesnutt, 13 years ago put together a luncheon to bring together some of the players in the heart disease world. I think at that time she felt that it was a disease that wasn’t getting a lot of attention, but it’s so pervasive and so huge in the lives of our women that she felt that it needed to be brought more into the open. And again, I’m standing on her shoulders; I think what I did when I came on four years ago was that I saw that the disease was still the number one killer of women and while a lot of progress has been made, it hasn’t gone far enough. I wanted to put more resources and more thinking and more pages against this disease.

On whether the power of the brand and the ink on paper magazine made it easier for the Red Dress Awards to be recognized and connect with readers: Yes, very much so. The amount of space that we devote to this topic, again, all year-round, I think our readers now associate us with the Awards. They don’t see it as simply a marketing cause, they see it as something that we’re really deeply passionate about and I think our readership has come to recognize that.

On how as editor-in-chief she maintains balance with the many diverse topics that the magazine covers: I’m both blessed and cursed to edit a magazine that covers many, many topics. (Laughs) Health and food, by far, are our two most important topics. We do a lot of research and Hearst has been very supportive of that. I’m a real research geek and Hearst has been very supportive of me and my desire to understand our reader. So, health and food are the two biggest topics.

On if she could instantly strike the magazine with a magic wand and turn it into a person, who that person would be, herself or some composite woman: I don’t think she would be me, although I come pretty close. I’m a suburban New Jersey mom like many of my readers. (Laughs) But I think that she’s a lot of women. Again, when you have an audience this big, she can be married or not married. She can be an empty-nester or a young mom. She can have kids or not have kids. So, I think that she’s a lot of different people.

On whether the Bible verse that remains today, even after all of the changes to the magazine, is part of its DNA and will never leave: I would say that it’s definitely part of the DNA that will never leave Woman’s Day. We have it there and we have no intention of taking it away. What’s important about the magazine is that we’re not a Christian magazine; we embrace many, many different viewpoints in the magazine and always have. But the Bible verse is intrinsic to who we are and what we are.

On the biggest stumbling block that she’s had to face: For me personally, I think my biggest stumbling block happened about four years ago when I started at this magazine and my publisher at the time told me that in a week I had to make a speech in front of about 500 people. (Laughs) That was a big stumbling block for someone who had never done any public speaking.

On the most pleasant moment so far that she’s had working at Woman’s Day: There have been so many pleasant moments that I can’t even begin to list them. I think getting this job in the first place was such a wonderful experience and I’m really deeply grateful for the opportunity that David Carey gave me four years ago. There have been some moments that have been sort of mindboggling. Last year standing next to Elvis Costello on the red carpet at the Red Dress Awards; I don’t think I’ve ever put up a Facebook post that’s gotten more likes than that one did. (Laughs) It was pretty amazing.

On what has kept Woman’s Day vibrant throughout the years: I think that we work really hard to stay relevant to our readers. When I mentioned research before, that’s definitely part of what we do. Women’s service magazines can tilt into evergreen territory very quickly and I think that we really work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen with Woman’s Day. We make sure that we’re relevant to the moment; our health coverage; in telling women what to cook for dinner; just the things that we put into the magazine, we’re reflecting their lives back at them and really trying to understand where they are.

On whether she can ever envision a day when there is no print component to Woman’s Day and it’s digital only: No, never. I just can’t. I think it’s important for a legacy brand like ours to continue in print. I believe our readers want it very much.

On whether she believes in the future of print: Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now if I didn’t. I believe the question has almost become moot in the last few years. Readers have shown us time and time again that print magazines are here to stay.

On how she got into the magazine business: A long time ago I graduated from college and moved to New York City and got a job at Redbook magazine. My first job was with Hearst and I have just been passionate about magazines my whole life and was a big consumer of Seventeen and Time magazine and Cricket magazine. I was able to get started and find a job and stay in this industry for almost 28 years now.

On what motivates her to get out of bed every morning: What I love about running a magazine is when I’m sitting in a meeting with my staff and suddenly we click on an idea and then all of us are firing up on all cylinders and this idea is being batted around and we’re figuring out how we’re going to do it and how it’s going to be pertinent and relevant and those are the moments that I live for, as I’m sure most editors do.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up at her house one evening unexpectedly: As I said before, I’m a suburban New Jersey mom; I have two daughters, one of whom is at home and the other is in college. In the evenings, you might not even catch me at home. I might be driving my kid around or I do a ton of volunteering; I might be making dinner or trying to get my husband to do it. (Laughs again) Like my readers, I have a big, messy complicated life and I think if you were to come over in the evening you would catch a glimpse of that.

On anything else she’d like to add: I thank you for this opportunity. I think that Woman’s Day is a really special brand and I think that we speak to a mass market audience, but I think that we connect with her in a very special way.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Not much keeps me up at night. I’m usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day, to the point where my 12-year-old actually comes and tucks me in at night. Nothing keeps me from falling asleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Spencer, Editor-In-Chief, Woman’s Day.

Samir Husni: When you hear the words Woman’s Day, what comes to your mind? Having a magazine that has always been a status quo on the newsstand; everybody has always known it and seen it and every woman has been in touch with the magazine on a regular basis, but what does Woman’s Day mean today?

Woman's Day Feb. Susan Spencer: When I think about our reader, she’s the average American woman. I think that’s the simple answer to who she is. But in reality I believe it’s a lot more complicated than that because she’s a lot more complicated and she has this wonderful, big, joyous, messy life and I think that the magazine today is reflecting that. And we’re adjusting her concerns and giving her solutions for all of the things that make her life messy, whether it’s wanting to get dinner on the table or not being sure of what clothes to buy in the store or house concerns, which are huge for our readers.

Woman’s Day today, as it has done for many years, takes the concerns, the things that are truly relevant and important to her right now and really helps her. And I see us as a real helpmate to this woman; to make that complicated, messy life a little bit easier.

Samir Husni: I asked Ellen Levine once how she felt when Woman’s Day came to Hearst; did it feel like a reunion or a homecoming? Do you ever have an awkward feeling that you’re editing a magazine that Ellen Levine once edited?

Susan Spencer: It has never felt awkward; I feel like I stand on Ellen’s shoulders and some other wonderful editors before me who I think created something that American women really turn to. And I think Ellen was pivotal and critical in doing that. So, I definitely stand on their shoulders, but I’m also moving it forward in my own way, with lots and lots of support from Ellen. I feel very grateful to work with her.

Samir Husni: I know you have a big event coming up on February 9, the Red Dress Awards. Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Red Dress Awards and why it’s such a big event for Woman’s Day?

Susan Spencer: Again, turning to past editors, my predecessor, Jane Chesnutt, 13 years ago put together a luncheon to bring together some of the players in the heart disease world. I think at that time she felt that it was a disease that wasn’t getting a lot of attention, but it’s so pervasive and so huge in the lives of our women that she felt that it needed to be brought more into the open.

And again, I’m standing on her shoulders; I think what I did when I came on four years ago was that I saw that the disease was still the number one killer of women and while a lot of progress has been made, it hasn’t gone far enough. I wanted to put more resources and more thinking and more pages against this disease.

And because it’s so widespread and because our audience is so enormous, we have 16 million women, it touches everybody. Many of the cancers absolutely touch a lot of lives, but heart disease is different; it’s really, really widespread and pervasive in both men and women.

So, I put some more pages and ink against this idea; we started a column called “Live Longer and Stronger,” which is a monthly column, so we don’t just run our heart disease coverage in February, it’s year-round.

Out of that column we grew an editorial franchise called “Live Longer and Stronger.” And basically what we do is we go out and find a group of women, four to five women, every year that are at high risk or have heart disease and we put them on a plan with our nutritionist, Joy Bauer, and help them lose weight and lower their risk factors.

This program sprang out of our desire to bring to our readers what we’re saying in the magazine and really activate it for them. We just finished up with our third group and they’re going to be onstage February 9 at the Red Dress Awards and they bring a lot of heart to the event and a real sense that the event is more than just honoring the doctors and the researchers; it’s also about the women who are being impacted by this disease every day.

Samir Husni: Do you think the power of the brand; the power of the ink on paper magazine, made it easier for the Red Dress Awards to be recognized and known, to actually connect with the audience, with those women?

Susan Spencer: Yes, very much so. The amount of space that we devote to this topic, again, all year-round, I think our readers now associate us with the Awards. They don’t see it as simply a marketing cause, they see it as something that we’re really deeply passionate about and I think our readership has come to recognize that.

And not just heart disease, I have to say. We’ve had a halo effect, where it’s impacted all of our health coverage, which has become increasingly popular in recent years with our readership.

Samir Husni: As an editor-in-chief, how do you balance the health coverage with the food coverage with the everyday life coverage and as you continue to move Woman’s Day forward, what’s the secret recipe? What are the ingredients that you put together to create this magazine called Woman’s Day?

Susan Spencer: I’m both blessed and cursed to edit a magazine that covers many, many topics. (Laughs) Health and food, by far, are our two most important topics. We do a lot of research and Hearst has been very supportive of that. I’m a real research geek and Hearst has been very supportive of me and my desire to understand our reader. So, health and food are the two biggest topics.

As I said in the beginning of our conversation, she has concerns that range from “is this the right mascara” to “what am I going to put on the table for dinner.” So, we try to address those and we have a rich balance of content. I try to put together a magazine every month with the help of an amazing team that reflects back at her with all of these things. So, it’s a little bit of a balance certainly.

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that could instantly humanize the magazine, turn it miraculously into a person, who would that person be? Would it be you or some composite woman?

Woman's Day Jan. Cover Susan Spencer: I don’t think she would be me, although I come pretty close. I’m a suburban New Jersey mom like many of my readers. (Laughs) But I think that she’s a lot of women. Again, when you have an audience this big, she can be married or not married. She can be an empty-nester or a young mom. She can have kids or not have kids. So, I think that she’s a lot of different people.

What we do when we think about her is not think about the details of her life; we think about her in terms of her values and I think that’s what pulls our readers together and that’s why they come to Woman’s Day because we do reflect her values back at her. We think about what’s really important to her. We know that her family is number one; they’re absolutely the most important thing that she values.

She’s also deeply involved with friends and her community. We’ve had a lot of success in the magazine with columns that show readers doing good deeds and helping other people. Her faith is also something that is important to some of our readers and drives them.

So, we think of her in those terms as opposed to what she is or who she is. It’s really more of the shared values that all of these women have.

Samir Husni: If you feel blessed and cursed because of the variety of the content; do you feel even more blessed and cursed for having all of these women rolled into one? (Laughs)

Susan Spencer: (Laughs too) No, I think it’s wonderful.

Samir Husni: One thing I’ve noticed over the years with Woman’s Day, with all of the changes that have taken place, that Bible verse is still there.

Susan Spencer: Yes.

Samir Husni: Is it part of the DNA that will never leave Woman’s Day?

Susan Spencer: I would say that it’s definitely part of the DNA that will never leave Woman’s Day. We have it there and we have no intention of taking it away. What’s important about the magazine is that we’re not a Christian magazine; we embrace many, many different viewpoints in the magazine and always have. But the Bible verse is intrinsic to who we are and what we are.

Samir Husni: It’s a positive lift-up verse then?

Susan Spencer: Certainly. It’s meant to put a little stamp on the table of contents and the magazine to give women a lovely moment that’s important to them.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Woman’s Day now a little over four years; as you approach your next anniversary with the magazine, what has been the most challenging stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Susan Spencer: For me personally, I think my biggest stumbling block happened about four years ago when I started at this magazine and my publisher at the time told me that in a week I had to make a speech in front of about 500 people. (Laughs) That was a big stumbling block for someone who had never done any public speaking. But with training and lots of support, I got through it.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment; if you can identify THE most pleasant moment so far in your four years?

Susan Spencer: There have been so many pleasant moments that I can’t even begin to list them. I think getting this job in the first place was such a wonderful experience and I’m really deeply grateful for the opportunity that David Carey gave me four years ago.

There have been some moments that have been sort of mindboggling. Last year standing next to Elvis Costello on the red carpet at the Red Dress Awards; I don’t think I’ve ever put up a Facebook post that’s gotten more likes than that one did. (Laughs) It was pretty amazing.

I presented an award two years ago to President Bill Clinton and last year to the head of the FDA, so we’ve really had some wonderful moments just in the context of Red Dress. And some wonderful moments just putting issues together and having stories that really resonate with our readers and with us and that makes every issue we do worth it. So, there have been a lot of wonderful moments.

Samir Husni: When I was in college in the early 80s, Woman’s Day was referred to as one of the seven sisters. Today, we’ve lost some of the seven sisters, they’ve aged and disappeared; some have renewed their energy and are still alive and kicking and doing very well. What’s the secret of Woman’s Day that has kept it vibrant over the years?

Susan Spencer: I think that we work really hard to stay relevant to our readers. When I mentioned research before, that’s definitely part of what we do. Women’s service magazines can tilt into evergreen territory very quickly and I think that we really work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen with Woman’s Day. We make sure that we’re relevant to the moment; our health coverage; in telling women what to cook for dinner; just the things that we put into the magazine, we’re reflecting their lives back at them and really trying to understand where they are.

I’d also like to say about the magazine; we’re not an aspirational magazine, we’re an inspirational magazine. We’re not showing her the life that we think she should have; we’re celebrating the life that she has right now. And I think that goes a long way toward keeping us relevant. I’d like to share a quote with you that I got from a reader; she started following me on Instagram and in the comments she thanked me for the magazine and was really excited about it and she said that it helped her to be “the woman that she really was, rather than the woman marketers said that she was.” And I really like that. It’s very nice.

Samir Husni: As you get all of the social media interaction: the Instagram comments; the likes on Facebook; can you ever envision a day when Woman’s Day has no print component and is digital only?

Susan Spencer: No, never. I just can’t. I think it’s important for a legacy brand like ours to continue in print. I believe our readers want it very much. What’s happening in digital and on the website is amazing and wonderful, but I think that the print edition will always be core to our brand and core to what we do.

Samir Husni: Do you believe in the future of print?

Susan Spencer: Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now if I didn’t. I believe the question has almost become moot in the last few years. Readers have shown us time and time again that print magazines are here to stay. I love print magazines and I always have; it’s how I got into the business and I can’t imagine them going away.

Samir Husni: How did you get into the business?

Susan Spencer: A long time ago I graduated from college and moved to New York City and got a job at Redbook magazine. My first job was with Hearst and I have just been passionate about magazines my whole life and was a big consumer of Seventeen and Time magazine and Cricket magazine. I was able to get started and find a job and stay in this industry for almost 28 years now. I feel very fortunate.

Samir Husni: After 28 years in the industry, what motivates you to get out of bed every morning and still be excited about your job?

Susan Spencer: A couple of things. First of all, I’m a natural problem solver; it’s something that I really enjoy doing and I really love a good challenge. So, that definitely gets me up in the morning, knowing that I have a pile of problems that I have to solve.

What I love about running a magazine is when I’m sitting in a meeting with my staff and suddenly we click on an idea and then all of us are firing up on all cylinders and this idea is being batted around and we’re figuring out how we’re going to do it and how it’s going to be pertinent and relevant and those are the moments that I live for, as I’m sure most editors do. And it’s being in the company of people who are just so creative and know their brand and their audience so well that you can really come up with these amazing ideas and figure out how to execute them.

Samir Husni: If I were to show up unexpectedly to your home one evening, what would I find you doing, reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching TV, or something else?

Susan Spencer: You’re always invited. (Laughs) As I said before, I’m a suburban New Jersey mom; I have two daughters, one of whom is at home and the other is in college. In the evenings, you might not even catch me at home. I might be driving my kid around or I do a ton of volunteering; I might be making dinner or trying to get my husband to do it. (Laughs again) Like my readers, I have a big, messy complicated life and I think if you were to come over in the evening you would catch a glimpse of that.

Samir Husni: How often do you cook the recipes that you feature in the magazine?

Susan Spencer: A lot, although my food director wants me to cook them more than I do. It’s more a reflection of the time I have to actually cook. It’s one of the secret benefits of being editor-in-chief of Woman’s Day; I can run up to an incredibly accomplished and experienced food director and ask what should I make for dinner? (Laughs) And she has an answer for me.

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

Susan Spencer: I thank you for this opportunity. I think that Woman’s Day is a really special brand and I think that we speak to a mass market audience, but I think that we connect with her in a very special way. I love talking about the magazine and reminding people that we have scale and we have voice and I think it’s a pretty amazing group of women that we speak to, so it’s a real privilege.

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

Susan Spencer: (Laughs) Not much keeps me up at night. I’m usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day, to the point where my 12-year-old actually comes and tucks me in at night. Nothing keeps me from falling asleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Celebrate Magazines; Celebrate New Launches: ACT 6 Experience, Segment 3.

February 4, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.00.45 PMThe ACT 6 Experince (click here to read all about segment 1) and (here to read about segment 2) will conclude with its final day on Friday April 22 with a keynote address from Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief, Reader’s Digest magazine, followed by Sherin Pierce, Publisher/VP, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE VACCARIELLO;

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE VACCARIELLO;

It’s an informative morning of creative minds that wraps up its individual addresses with James Meyers, President & CEO, iMAGINATION., Scott Coffman, SVP and GM, i-5 Distribution, and Joe Berger, Joseph Berger Associates, before we get underway with the final keynote panel of the Experience, “Celebrate Print/Celebrate New Launches” with a host of magazine founders, editors and publishers who have launched new titles into the world.

We have Ron Adams, Publisher/Founder, Via Corsa, Fermin Albert, Founder, Sabor Magazine, The Netherlands, Lauren Clark, Editor, Take Magazine, Brandie Gilliam, Founder & Creative Director, Thoughtfully Magazine, Greg James, Publisher, Marijuana Venture Magazine, Michael Kusek, Publisher, Take Magazine, Carey Ostergard, Deputy Editor, Simple Grace, Monique Reidy, Publisher & President, Southern California Life Magazine, Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia, Spain, and Ryan Waterfield, Co-founder, Big Life Magazine.

It’s a celebration of our industry’s lifeblood: new magazines, as we wrap up the 6th Annual ACT Experience.

Be sure to join us April 20-22 as we Celebrate Magazines Celebrate Print at the ACT 6 Experience!

Space is limited to 100 attendees, so register today before all seats are taken.

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Millennials, Print and Moneymaking: ACT 6 Experience Segment 2

February 3, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.00.45 PM At the end of the first segment (click here to read all about segment 1) of the ACT 6 Experience, the experience will resume after lunch with a keynote address on Millennials and Print by Professor Naomi S. Baron, author of Words on Screen followed by a panel discussion on Making Money in Print moderated by Brian F. O’Leary, Principal, Magellan Media Consulting Partners.

The agenda for Thursday afternoon’s segment of the ACT 6 Experience is as follows:

2:00 p.m. Keynote Address: Millennials and Print
Baron Naomi S. Baron, Executive Director, Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning, Professor of Linguistics (World Languages & Cultures, CAS),
American University, Washington, D.C.

3:00 p.m. Making Money in Print (A Panel Discussion)

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

Making Money in Print and the power of magazines will be moderated by Brian F. O’Leary, Principal, Magellan Media Consulting Partners, with the following panelists listed in alphabetical order: Newt Collinson, CEO, Collinson Media & Events, James Elliott, President, The James G. Elliott Co. Inc., Daniel Fuchs, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, HGTV magazine, Fred J. Parry, Publisher, Inside Columbia Magazine.

5:00 p.m. A Trip to the Mississippi Delta.

Board buses to the Mississippi Delta where we will stop at the Shack Up Inn for our traditional photo op and then to the Mississippi Blues Museum followed by dinner and blues music at Ground Zero in Clarksdale MS compliments of Scott Coopwood and Delta magazine.

9:30 p.m. Return to Oxford.

Stay tuned to find out what is going on during the ACT 6 Experience Segment 3.

To register for the ACT 6 Experience click here.

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Cover Data Analysis For Editors at the ACT 6 Experience: Celebrate Print Celebrate Magazines: April 20 to 22, 2016

February 2, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 3.00.45 PM In the spring of 2016, as the earth is celebrating her rebirth; the ACT 6 Experience will be having a celebration of its own on the power of print, with an emphasis on magazines. The Experience will be divided into three main mini themes:

· Reimagining the Newsstands
· Celebration of Magazine Launches
· Magazine Power

Cover Data Analysis For Editors – Join us for a riveting panel discussion about how print editorial staffs can learn more about consumers, their likes/dislikes, and how to attract more newsstand buyers in a competitive, distracted world. Our panel of distinguished editors from Reader’s Digest, Southern Living, First for Women, Simple Grace and Hoffman Media will discuss and dissect magazine cover lines, cover image types, positioning, and “do’s” and “don’ts” regarding covers, all using smart data modeling.

The Cover Data Analysis For Editors panel will take place on Thursday April 21 at 11:15 am and will be moderated by Joshua Gary from MagNet together with (in alphabetical order):
Brooke Bell, Director of Editorial Operations, Hoffman Media,
Sid Evans, Editor in Chief, Southern Living magazine,
Carey Ostergard, Deputy Editor, First for Women and Simple Grace,
and Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief, Reader’s Digest magazine.

The ACT 6 Experience will open by a keynote on the evening of April 20th, Sid Evans, editor-in-chief, Southern Living magazine. Sid will take the attendees on a journey of how the magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The first and a very important segment of the ACT 6 Experience is reimagining the newsstand. This segment starts on Thursday April 21 at 8:30 am. America without newsstand is inconceivable. I believe the newsstands are the best reflectors of our society. Our ears have been filled with nothing but bad news about newsstand sales over the last few years; it’s time for us to rethink the newsstand business from each and every aspect, from the role of the national distributor to the wholesaler, retailer and not forgetting of course, the publisher; the people who actually produce the magazines or bookazines for newsstands.

Gil Brechtel and Josh Gary from MagNet will be coordinating the“Reimagining the Newsstand” segment at the ACT 6 Experience.

The focus will be the newsstand business, to include its relevancy to publishers, how to stabilize it, as well as the current and perhaps future roles of each of the channel members…wholesaler, national distributor, retailer, and publisher, and how we as an industry engage the retailer to promote and increase sales. Wholesaler participants to date are David Parry, President & CEO of TNG and Shawn Everson, Chief Commercial Officer of Ingram Content Group. Rich Jacobsen, the President & CEO of Time Inc. Retail will be the national distributor participant.

To illustrate how important the newsstand channel is three CEOs of magazine media companies are also going to join this segment of the ACT 6 Experience. They are Hubert Boehle, CEO of Bauer Magazine L.P., Andy Clurman, CEO of AIM (Active Interest Media) and Eric Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman Media.

Prior to the presentations and panel discussion John Harrington will open the segment by presenting a recap of the history of the newsstand channel since its inception through its present status.

This is going to be the first think and do interactive panel that will examine the entire status of the newsstand channel and make concrete recommendations to help ease the newsstand problems that publishers, national distributors, wholesalers and retailers are facing today.

To register for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 6 Experience, click here. Space is limited. The Amplify, Clarify and Testify (ACT) Experience is not a conference, it is an experience. Register today.

Watch this space as we announce the speakers for the other two important segments of the experience: Magazine Power and Magazine Launches.

Stay tuned.

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¡Hola! and Hello Magazines: The Passion & The Legacy Continues Through The Third Generation – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Eduardo Sánchez Pérez, Editor-In-Chief, ¡Hola! and Hello Magazines

February 1, 2016

“I don’t envision a day when we will have no print editions. I don’t know if ¡Hola! will be forever, but a magazine with beautiful pictures and positive stories will always be there. You cannot give the same product in digital. With a print magazine, you can buy it, collect it, and share it with someone. And you have that ownership feeling that this magazine is yours. Also the flow of the content into the magazine is important. We always start with beautiful houses or beautiful people at home; this is a product that needs some physical connection, it’s real and tangible, so paper is the best way to present it.” Eduardo Sánchez Pérez

From Spain with love…

HOLA-2 A magazine born from a beautiful love story that’s all about family, tradition and legacy; ¡Hola! was founded in Barcelona in 1944 by Antonio Sánchez Gómez and his wife, Mercedes Junco Calderón. The two had a dream of creating a small magazine that could entertain readers and show them the beauty of life through great stories and breathtaking photographs.

As the magazine grew over the years, their son Eduardo Sánchez Junco, joined the family business, along with his wife, Mamen Pérez Villota and the values of family, respect and honor were woven deeply into the ¡Hola! brand.

Today, ¡Hola! and Hello magazines are still family owned and ran by the children of Eduardo Sánchez Junco and Mamen Pérez Villota, along with Eduardo’s 95-year-old mother, who still does layouts and works for the magazine.

Their youngest child, Eduardo Sánchez Pérez is Editor-In-Chief of ¡Hola! and Hello and oversees, along with his sisters, the “small” magazine that has grown into a readership of 20 million according to Eduardo, and is translated into 11 different languages.

Hello III-15 I spoke with Eduardo on a recent trip to Spain and we talked about the special ingredients that have made both magazines so successful. As Eduardo’s father called it: the “Espuma de la vida” or the froth of life that both ¡Hola! and Hello are committed to bringing their readers each week. We also talked about all of the expansions and growth the brand has seen over the years and its possible print birth in the United States. It was a moving and inspiring conversation with a man who appreciates the traditions of his family’s past, while keeping his eyes firmly on the future.

So, I hope you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Eduardo Sánchez Pérez, Editor-In-Chief, ¡Hola! and Hello magazines as he shows us that the family who publishes together definitely stays together through many generations.

But first the sound-bites:

EIC On the legacy of ¡Hola! and Hello: If you ask someone in Spain about ¡Hola!, people who know the business, they would say that ¡Hola! is Eduardo Sánchez Junco, my father. They would say my father. My father had three children and I am the youngest of the three. I have two sisters; Mamen is the oldest; and my other sister is called Mercedes. Although Mamen, the oldest, is the one that is more involved with me in the magazine and she’s the editor of the Mexican edition, while Mercedes is more involved in different parts of the business.

On how the company has managed to maintain its familial structure over the years and not become traded and have shares and shareholders: That’s probably because we’re a third generation and what we’ve seen over the years. My father was the only son of my grandparents. My grandfather was very much focused on journalism; he worked at a newspaper first and then he had the idea to create ¡Hola! in 1944 in Barcelona. So then my father continued the tradition in the 1980s doing all of the same things my grandfather had done and continuing the secret of this business, which is what he described as “being in the kitchen.” We have the restaurant and so we have to do the cooking, so we put together the ingredients.

On the ingredients that go into ¡Hola! to make it different from all the other celebrity magazines out there: (Laughs) It’s difficult to know exactly, but probably every cook would say a lot of love and a lot of charm. (Laughs again) It’s true that we have to do things thinking in the long-term. We never make any editorial decision based on the short-term, so it’s focusing very much on what ¡Hola! or Hello means. I sometimes feel like I’m just continuing a heritage that I received. And I will one day pass it to my children. At least, we hope someone from the family continues it. We follow what my grandfather called “Espuma de la vida” which is our brand name. We call it “Espuma de la vida,” a froth of life, but basically we do content that is normally positive, more than negative.

On the fact that his father was able to buy pictures of Lady Diana topless and then buried them in the archives so they would never be published: Yes, that was really exceptional. But my father was very exceptional. He had this intuition to move quickly when making decisions. And that’s probably one reason he was so successful. It never took him very long to make any decision about anything of great importance such as that, or any important piece of news. He always said that was an advantage, that he was the owner and the editor, which put him in another position when it came to important decisions about the company. But yes, he made the quick decision to buy and destroy the pictures. Nowadays, it would seem difficult that this could be repeated. And also Lady Diana was someone our readers loved and sometimes there is that special relationship between readers and personalities. And we consider our readers as part of our family. And of course, my family was shocked when Lady Diana died.

cover after fundraisingfamily with royal familyOn the decision to launch Hello magazine in the U.K.: My sisters were staying in London in the 80s and we went a couple of times to visit them, I think in the summertime. And my father always told me wherever I went for holiday or in the summer, I was in this business, so if there was a kiosk nearby, go and see what was out there. My father and I went to Harrod’s and there was a kiosk there and we looked for ¡Hola! and it was there buried in the same place as all of the other magazines and newspapers. Then we saw two English ladies come into Harrod’s for tea and they bought ¡Hola! magazine in Spanish, sat down in the restaurant and began chatting with the magazine in their hands, without speaking Spanish. Suddenly, my father realized that there wasn’t anything in the market with Lady Diana on the cover the way ¡Hola! had; we had her on the cover all of the time.

On the expansion of ¡Hola! or Hello almost globally: The expansion of ¡Hola! magazine probably started with ¡Hola! Spain in the 60s by going to Latin America. Well, actually, it probably started with my grandfather. Latin America has always liked ¡Hola! very much. There’s always been, and there still is, this connection between Latin America and Spain. We feel very much that we are united; we’re connected by the language and also by our way of life and we just have many things in common. ¡Hola! has always been very welcomed in all of the American countries, including the Hispanic speaking Americas.

On how he decides which country gets which magazine: ¡Hola! or Hello and how decisions such as those are made: We try to analyze a country and its market. That’s why it’s so important to have local partnerships, local people who can understand everything better. We’re publishing in 11 or 12 different languages right now. We reach more than 20 million readers. It’s quite a challenge, of course, but the principles are the same; we’re deeply respectful of the personalities and the local traditions and also the readers who are going to buy it.

On whether his grandmother, who started the magazine with her husband and who is 95 now, ever expect the magazine to be worldwide: (Laughs) No, of course not. In the beginning they had the idea to launch this small magazine. In a country like Spain in the 40s, it was after the War, their expectations were to create a small business for maybe 10 years or so. That’s why my grandfather asked my father to go to university to study something else other than journalism. Not because he didn’t love journalism, but because he thought ¡Hola! magazine would only last several years. No one ever thought it would grow as big as it is right now.

On his mother and father returning to school and his dad getting a degree in journalism after a law was passed in Spain requiring one to be an editor of a magazine: Yes, I remember when I was younger going with my mother and father to the university to see if they passed their exams. He went for four or five years to the university at the same time that he was editing the magazine. I know he enjoyed it and he liked it very much. It was probably a good thing because you always learn when you go to the university. So, that’s true. My mother and my father went.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: I feel very lucky because it’s always different every week. And it’s very exciting every week. Every week you have to find the right story for the cover and find the right people to talk with. Every week you find interesting people and their stories that you can share with your readers. And sometimes you receive a story so beautiful that the feeling is it’s the right content and it’s an exciting thing. And we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’re making a product that our readers like. There are some weeks better than others, of course, but then another week comes and it’s great. With the weekly, I have a little time to relax and make decisions with my small team, along with my main family members.

On whether he can ever envision a day when ¡Hola! and Hello are digital only: No, I don’t envision a day when we will have no print editions. I don’t know if ¡Hola! will be forever, but a magazine with beautiful pictures and positive stories will always be there. You cannot give the same product in digital. With a print magazine, you can buy it, collect it, and share it with someone. And you have that ownership feeling that this magazine is yours. Also the flow of the content into the magazine is important. We always start with beautiful houses or beautiful people at home; this is a product that needs some physical connection, it’s real and tangible, so paper is the best way to present it.

On whether the magazine is coming to the United States soon: We are starting with the website right now, hola.com-usa. We will have a team that will be working with both the website and then the magazine too. For example, on two occasions we have published a big scoop on hola.com-usa first, such as Paulina Rubio being pregnant. The scoop was to be in all of our magazines, but we decided to put it on our American website first. So the American print edition is an absolute priority.

On anything else he’d like to add: People have to feel it’s their magazine; it’s not international. It’s the magazine of their country. It doesn’t matter the ownership, because the spirit of the magazine is done for British people by British people.

On what keeps him up at night: What’s probably most difficult is, one of the brand values of ¡Hola! and Hello is when we publish a story or any piece of news, we’re very sure about the content. We’re very sure that we’re not wrong. You have to be very sure about the content. To be correct every week and not to fail in any small thing and continue to be the magazine that’s reliable and truthful; that’s probably my main worry.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Eduardo Sánchez Pérez, Editor-In-Chief, ¡Hola! and Hello.

With Eduardo Sánchez Pérez at the magazine's offices in Madrid.

With Eduardo Sánchez Pérez at the magazine’s offices in Madrid.

Samir Husni: In this world of corporate ownership it’s rare to see a grandson continuing the traditions of his grandfather and also his dad. Your grandfather started the magazine in Barcelona, moved it to Madrid, and now it’s almost worldwide. Everywhere you go there’s an ¡Hola! or Hello magazine, and it’s still in the family.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: If you ask someone in Spain about ¡Hola!, people who know the business, they would say that ¡Hola! is Eduardo Sánchez Junco, my father. They would say my father. My father had three children and I am the youngest of the three. I have two sisters; Mamen is the oldest; and my other sister is called Mercedes. Although Mamen, the oldest, is the one that is more involved with me in the magazine and she’s the editor of the Mexican edition, while Mercedes is more involved in different parts of the business.

Samir Husni: No one thinks of ¡Hola! as a family business because it’s worldwide. Everywhere you go; the Middle East, Canada, the Philippines, Thailand; just everywhere there is either an ¡Hola! or a Hello. How have you been able to maintain that family ownership and not become Wall Street traded or another company-traded with shares and shareholders?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: That’s probably because we’re a third generation and what we’ve seen over the years. My father was the only son of my grandparents. My grandfather was very much focused on journalism; he worked at a newspaper first and then he had the idea to create ¡Hola! in 1944 in Barcelona.

So then my father continued the tradition in the 1980s doing all of the same things my grandfather had done and continuing the secret of this business, which is what he described as “being in the kitchen.” We have the restaurant and so we have to do the cooking, so we put together the ingredients. And we do the meal every day. (Laughs) Well, every week in this case. And we serve it as if we were the owners of a restaurant. We feel the contact with our readers and our audience and our clients as strongly as if they were a part of our house or our family. We’ve always believed that that is the differentiation and the value of all of our business We’ve always been in control of the editorial line of the magazines and the little touch of the ¡Hola! family point of view. We always want that touch to be behind the product. And as the third generation, we are very much involved in this right now.

active at 95 I’m the editor of ¡Hola!, the magazine of Spain, and editor-in-chief of Hello magazine and trying to oversee all of the operations, my sister is co-editor of ¡Hola! and also editor in Mexico and we also have some other members of the family like my aunt; my uncle (General Manager of ¡Hola, Javier Junco Aguado) and my mother and my grandmother who is still around and a part of things. My grandmother, Mercedes Junco Calderon, is 95-years-old, but she still continues to do one magazine, this one. She is the founder and she makes the selections and deals with all of the productions of these different articles and different photo shoots. So this DNA; this business, is a big part of our family. We believe if we lose this family contact with the business, it would not be the same.

That’s one reason when we started being more international, our partners have to always think like and see that the original family owners are still involved when making decisions. So, when we go to a country, sometimes we own it; we buy the operation from the family. Sometimes we license the brand, but we always sustain control of the editorial line of the ¡Hola! family in Spain.

And we hope the spirit continues like this. And it’s not that we control every page of every magazine in the world, but we try, with everyone doing ¡Hola! magazine from every part of the world, to think what the ¡Hola! family would do in each case. And if there’s any doubt, they ask me; they ask Madrid and we share opinions about other experiences and we make sure to put the brand in the hands of some of our favorite partners in every country. Plus, the feeling that our partners have that they’re in good hands when we share this kind of market is very important to us.

Samir Husni: Let me go with you to the kitchen; what are the ingredients of that recipe that you serve every week and how is it different than all of the other celebrity magazines; all of the other weeklies that are out there? What’s your grandfather’s secret recipe that you continue using?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: (Laughs) It’s difficult to know exactly, but probably every cook would say a lot of love and a lot of charm. (Laughs again) It’s true that we have to do things thinking in the long-term. We never make any editorial decision based on the short-term, so it’s focusing very much on what ¡Hola! or Hello means.

illustradted issue I sometimes feel like I’m just continuing a heritage that I received. And I will one day pass it to my children. At least, we hope someone from the family continues it. We follow what my grandfather called “Espuma de la vida” which is our brand name. We call it “Espuma de la vida,” a froth of life, but basically we do content that is normally positive, more than negative. It’s glamorous and it’s happiness; it celebrates life. When you open the magazine, you forget about your worries and you know that you are in a comfortable environment. You’re not going to find anything inside the magazine that is going to increase your daily worries.

I would say that that’s the main part. There’s nothing in the short-term that’s worth changing the editorial line of the magazine that we’ve had for all of these years. But basically the ingredients are to get exclusive content of the personal life or the human interest of famous people. And not only celebrities, but personalities. We normally don’t call it celebrities; we prefer to say personalities or relevant people.

As another ingredient; it’s never-before-seen pictures of a certain event, or exclusive pictures of an event. So, when you have all of these things, you have our main menu. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: One of the examples I heard that reflects that menu or those ingredients was that your father was able to buy the pictures of Lady Diana topless and he buried them in the archives so that they would never be published. Do you think that you could find a publisher today or an editor today who would go to that extreme to buy a scoop and bury it, rather than publishing it? And did that happen after the launch of the magazine in the U.K.? And I’d like for you to tell me the story again of how Lady Diana was influential through her pictures of publishing the magazine in the U.K.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: Yes, that was really exceptional. But my father was very exceptional. He had this intuition to move quickly when making decisions. And that’s probably one reason he was so successful. It never took him very long to make any decision about anything of great importance such as that, or any important piece of news. He always said that was an advantage, that he was the owner and the editor, which put him in another position when it came to important decisions about the company.

I wasn’t involved really in the decision, but he always said that he had the opportunity to protect someone who was the main reason we were launching in the U.K. from bad pictures. And the main reason that we were so successful in the U.K. Lady Diana had given us hundreds of covers. And the fact that he had this opportunity was the unusual thing. Normally, these photographers prefer to do bigger business by spreading that content all over the world.

But he had the opportunity at that moment and he made the decision quickly and of course it was very personal to him. And the decision was based only on his appreciation of the image of someone who had done so much for him, without her knowing that she had done anything at all. But Hello could express its gratitude by doing this. It was preferable that those pictures were never published.

But yes, he made the quick decision to buy and destroy the pictures. Nowadays, it would seem difficult that this could be repeated. And also Lady Diana was someone our readers loved and sometimes there is that special relationship between readers and personalities. And we consider our readers as part of our family. And of course, my family was shocked when Lady Diana died.
People really get involved in this business, as you know; you’re passionate about it. And our readers feel these personalities are a part of their lives and that’s how we want to produce the product; with respect to these personalities and respect to the readers. We want to respect personalities because they deserve respect, but also because we put ourselves as readers too, as buyers even. And they deserve the respect and the attention, so we want to make every page of the magazine special. And maybe that’s one of the reasons we have these special relationships with the stories that we approach.

Samir Husni: Going back to Lady Diana; you told me the story of how the decision was made to launch the British edition of Hello. Can you recall that story?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: My sisters were staying in London in the 80s and we went a couple of times to visit them, I think in the summertime. And my father always told me wherever I went for holiday or in the summer, I was in this business, so if there was a kiosk nearby, go and see what was out there. My father and I went to Harrod’s and there was a kiosk there and we looked for ¡Hola! and it was there buried in the same place as all of the other magazines and newspapers. Then we saw two English ladies come into Harrod’s for tea and they bought ¡Hola! magazine in Spanish, sat down in the restaurant and began chatting with the magazine in their hands, without speaking Spanish.

Suddenly, my father realized that there wasn’t anything in the market with Lady Diana on the cover the way ¡Hola! had; we had her on the cover all of the time. Whenever we had a doubt about ¡Hola!’s cover, we would put Lady Diana or Caroline of Monaco on the cover. As far as what we had been told, the English press was in a big crisis in the 80s. In general, the U.K. was in an economic crisis.

So, the market was a bit stagnant, not many new magazines were being launched. So it was another great decision of my father’s after studying the market somewhat, that even though the environment wasn’t very good to launch a magazine, he was certain that he could bring something new to the market as ¡Hola! and Hello magazine had done with our different approach to the news and beautiful pictures.

Samir Husni: And the rest of the story is history. ¡Hola! or Hello are almost everywhere.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: The expansion of ¡Hola! magazine probably started with ¡Hola! Spain in the 60s by going to Latin America. Well, actually, it probably started with my grandfather. Latin America has always liked ¡Hola! very much. There’s always been, and there still is, this connection between Latin America and Spain. We feel very much that we are united; we’re connected by the language and also by our way of life and we just have many things in common.

¡Hola! has always been very welcomed in all of the American countries, including the Hispanic speaking Americas. So, the magazine has always put a lot of attention on international stories. Spain in the 60s; we used to put a lot of American stars on the covers. For example, I remember when the three astronauts went to the moon; we covered that so ¡Hola! has always had the idea of being a very international magazine. We believe it doesn’t always matter who, but what or how.

I remember my father, who didn’t speak English, when he started Hello in the U.K. and began working with the British team and was trying to explain what Hello was all about. And it was probably one of the biggest success stories of the British press for a magazine. And it was just by sharing stories more than names. It’s the human interest stories basically and putting all of the ingredients together which has given the magazine such success.

International stories have always been a part of our magazine, so after the success of the British edition, we went to Mexico, where we’re quite successful right now. Then we started finding certain partners in other countries. And in the beginning it was more of an adventure, an unknown field.
For example, what would happen if we started a magazine in a certain county? Russia and Turkey were the first two countries where we went into a partnership with another country and the result was fantastic and we found great people who understood the essence of the brand and how to take care of it. We found out that the Hello and ¡Hola! brand was more flexible than we believed at the beginning. And now we are in 35 different countries.

Of course, you need to find the right partner and you need the right team; a team that you can explain the way you want the product to be done and they instinctively know.

Samir Husni: I’ve heard a lot of stories, such as when you launched Hello in Thailand, with the Royal Family on the cover. You had an issue with where to put the logo because you can’t put anything above the Royal Family. And I saw one of the copies in the hallway when I first came into the building and it had the logo on the bottom of the page. How sensitive do you have to be to all of the cultural issues with Hello in the Middle East or Thailand or the Philippines? And also, how do you decide which country gets Hello as the name or ¡Hola!? I noticed the Philippine edition is ¡Hola!, although it’s in English. How do you make those decisions?

Thai coverEduardo Sánchez Pérez: We try to analyze a country and its market. That’s why it’s so important to have local partnerships, local people who can understand everything better. We’re publishing in 11 or 12 different languages right now. We reach more than 20 million readers. It’s quite a challenge, of course, but the principles are the same; we’re deeply respectful of the personalities and the local traditions and also the readers who are going to buy it.

It’s true that royal families are very important to us. Royalties, in our opinion, are an asset for a country and that joins the different values and makes royal families try and be good examples for society. They are our ambassadors and are the essence of traditions of the countries they are born to and also people who are working for the benefits of the society.

And being the first family, they have to attend to guests when they come to the country, so they show others much hospitality. They’re a mixture of glamour, high society and aristocracy, which is something that people like to read about. ¡Hola! and Hello take the reader to places they don’t normally have access to. So it’s important that we show how it is to be a part of the glitz and glamour and the parties. So, the royal families are an important part of our magazine and our product.

Yet, this was something that we didn’t really know about when we started in Thailand. That was something that the local editor of the magazine was very clear about, that nothing goes above the Royal Family, such as a logo, and there was no problem then. We were honored by the princess of Thailand, who was the first cover of the magazine. It was a very important thing for us and we are very grateful to the Royal Family that they would give us this consideration.

Actually, the first cover of Hello magazine was Princess Anne; it was an exclusive interview with Princess Anne inside the royal palace.

Samir Husni: Did you ever have a discussion with your grandmother, who is 95 now; did she ever expect that this little magazine that she and her husband created would grow to such magnitude? And it’s my understanding that he was the journalist and she was the designer?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: Yes, that’s right.

Samir Husni: Did she, in her wildest dreams, ever expect ¡Hola! and Hello to be this worldwide publication?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: (Laughs) No, of course not. In the beginning they had the idea to launch this small magazine. In a country like Spain in the 40s, it was after the War, their expectations were to create a small business for maybe 10 years or so. That’s why my grandfather asked my father to go to university to study something else other than journalism. Not because he didn’t love journalism, but because he thought ¡Hola! magazine would only last several years. No one ever thought it would grow as big as it is right now.

It’s a very beautiful story. My grandmother said she became a journalist for love; she was in love with my grandfather and she wanted to spend more time with him. And he thought it was a great idea. So he left his job at the newspaper and they began to work together from their home. And that’s how it all began. They worked at a very small table in a small room. They were a couple in love and making a magazine that they believed would entertain people. The magazine was created to entertain and to take readers to places they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. And to take the best of life and put it into a magazine and into pictures.

frist pic coverAn interesting anecdote is, those first five covers of the magazine have illustrations, because at that time prestigious magazines had illustrations on the covers and not pictures. The magazine was more or less about the society of Spain, but also you’ll read about Hollywood actors and some very interesting stories. But the cover was always a glamourous illustration, done by a very well-known illustrator, and of glamourous events. The first cover is the seaside in Barcelona; another cover was about going to the theatre; another one is horseracing at a country club; and it was done weekly. We’ve always been weekly since 1944. We have always been ready for our readers every week.

So, after five covers, they had to cut to reduce costs and my grandfather was very concerned about losing the illustration, they were very expensive. He thought there was nothing else to cut, he had analyzed everything and he would have to stop doing the illustrations and put a picture on the cover instead. So he went to the cinemas, because the cinemas were the first clients of ¡Hola! and also he had a good relationship with the owners of the cinemas in Barcelona. So he went to see his friends and asked what the next film they were showing would be. And it was a Clark Gable film, so he put a picture of Clark Gable on the cover. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: And he discovered by accident, all because he wanted to reduce costs, what people really liked; to have pictures of celebrities on the covers. Why did he choose Hollywood actors; well first, because he had always wanted to include film reviews and talk about Hollywood celebrities in the magazine. But also because the only way you can have access to good quality pictures was to ask the cinemas to give you pictures they received from Hollywood. They would receive the films plus pictures to promote the film. It was an easy way to find high resolution pictures of Hollywood actors.

It’s interesting, my grandfather wrote a little bit about the story of the magazine when we published issue 2,000. And he talked about the phrase “Espuma de la vida,” which is what’s at the top of the glass of say, champagne, for example. The froth of life is at the top of the glass of champagne, which he related with happiness, with a glamorous life. He said business and economics; these things were heavy and made people think too much. That kind of heavy news goes to the bottom of the glass; what’s at the top? That’s ours; our news.

That’s why we don’t talk about politics or economics or anything like that. That’s why ¡Hola! and Hello are read by a large number of different kinds of people. And we hope that they all find something inside to help them forget about their problems and something that makes them feel better. And at the same time, they can talk and share the magazine with others and maybe find solutions to their own problems by reading how others have done it. Reading about family sagas, such as Lady Diana and now seeing Prince William; people have that feeling of involvement or of a relationship with the family.

Samir Husni: As fate would have it, your dad studied engineering and then there was a law in Spain that you have to have a degree in journalism to be an editor of a magazine. So, it’s my understanding that he went back with your mother to school to study journalism.

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: Yes, I remember when I was younger going with my mother and father to the university to see if they passed their exams. He went for four or five years to the university at the same time that he was editing the magazine. I know he enjoyed it and he liked it very much. It was probably a good thing because you always learn when you go to the university. So, that’s true. My mother and my father went. A little bit more of their love story. My young parents doing what they needed to do. And my mother saying of course she would go, she could spend more time with her husband. My mother was originally involved in the magazine, so she went because she wanted to help my father.

Samir Husni: And did they advise you and say don’t go to school for journalism, there’s no future in it; go for something else? Or did you go to school for journalism too?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: I went to the Journalism University here in Madrid. I have two degrees basically, journalism and business and administration. So, I have a little bit of both. My father always said to me he would trade his degree to speak English. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: English or another language. He spoke French, but he felt very bad that he couldn’t communicate his thoughts to the English-speaking people. Fortunately, he always had a good team of people who spoke both Spanish and English around him.

We live in the house where my grandparents lived when they left Barcelona and came to Madrid. They bought two floors of a house, the basement and the first floor where they put the office and they lived on the second floor.

Another example, my father said we were like farmers; they have a house underneath their house. (Laughs) It’s more or less the same. We live on the second floor and the cow is in the basement.
I don’t think it’s still there, but my grandfather had a small connection from the house to the office, a way to go in without going through the main entrance, because many times my grandfather and father would go to work in pajamas. (Laughs) And I remember my father would receive visitors anytime. The office was so small that he didn’t have a proper meeting room, so where I used to study and watch TV was his meeting room. So, I’d come home from school and go to watch TV and there might be someone famous standing there with him.

And that carried over to the magazine; you’re in my house, you’re part of my family. We used to say that ¡Hola! magazine should be something that you could leave on the table and not be afraid for your children to read. It’s a family magazine. You won’t find anything inside that would be bad for them, family-friendly, but very interesting.

a letter and KingAnd it’s not always positive, sometimes it’s a sad story, but what you get at the end, even if it’s sad, is a positive message. And the pictures are always beautiful. And it was a family unit, my grandparent and my parents would discuss why they did this or that in the magazine. And you learned a lot from these conversations. We’re bigger now, but we’re still in the same building and we still have lunch with my grandmother almost every day. And now we explain to her why we’ve done this or that. We all still try to share opinions. We feel more like journalists and publishers than businesspeople.

And also designers in a way; the design of ¡Hola! is another secret or another ingredient, which is big pictures and finding those big pictures from the right selection of pictures and giving them the right space and the right number of pages. We never begin a story thinking about how many pages we want to use. We just let our imagination flow. But if we have to cut, we always do more first and then cut. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Through osmosis or something, magazines are in you. You’ve seen it from your grandfather; your father; your grandmother; your mother; what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Is it tradition, because your entire family has done it all of your life or there is something that excites you every morning and causes you to look forward to going to the office?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: I feel very lucky because it’s always different every week. And it’s very exciting every week. Every week you have to find the right story for the cover and find the right people to talk with. Every week you find interesting people and their stories that you can share with your readers. And sometimes you receive a story so beautiful that the feeling is it’s the right content and it’s an exciting thing. And we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’re making a product that our readers like. There are some weeks better than others, of course, but then another week comes and it’s great. With the weekly, I have a little time to relax and make decisions with my small team, along with my main family members.

As we’re improving and increasing the size, it’s very important that we keep professionalism a top priority. To have a professional team is very important. That’s something that we’ve been building on in the last years. Knowing that our business must have an important technology element, art, and we actually have more people working on the website now than in the magazines. So, there are many changes that we know we have to face and we’ll face them in a very professional way, while trying to continue with the family ownership. And keeping the family in on the editorial line and in every piece of print that we publish; I believe that we’re building a very professional team. And internationally we are competitive.

Samir Husni: Can you ever envision a day when there is no print component to ¡Hola! or Hello?

Hello Arabia II-10Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: No, I don’t envision a day when we will have no print editions. I don’t know if ¡Hola! will be forever, but a magazine with beautiful pictures and positive stories will always be there. You cannot give the same product in digital. With a print magazine, you can buy it, collect it, and share it with someone. And you have that ownership feeling that this magazine is yours. Also the flow of the content into the magazine is important. We always start with beautiful houses or beautiful people at home; this is a product that needs some physical connection, it’s real and tangible, so paper is the best way to present it.

Of course, there are technological advances that are really interesting and can be really beautiful. We were awarded by Apple the best newsstand application. We’re doing videos and we’re also including QR codes for watching videos. There is a lot of interaction that you can have with your readers by using the telephone and the magazine at the same time.

And I’m completely sure that magazines like ¡Hola! are necessary for a society. A healthy society will always have an ¡Hola! or Hello magazine.

Samir Husni: Are you bringing the magazine to the United States soon?

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: We are starting with the website right now, hola.com-usa. We will have a team that will be working with both the website and then the magazine too. For example, on two occasions we have published a big scoop on hola.com-usa first, such as Paulina Rubio being pregnant. The scoop was to be in all of our magazines, but we decided to put it on our American website first. So the American print edition is an absolute priority. We don’t have a partner there, we’re going by ourselves. We already have some readership in the U.S. with ¡Hola! Spain in California. And at the same time we’re building a beautiful website with reliable information. Thankfully, we have learned a lot about digital from our Spanish readers and in the summertime we hope to establish the magazine. But for now we’re starting with the website.

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

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: People have to feel it’s their magazine; it’s not international. It’s the magazine of their country. It doesn’t matter the ownership, because the spirit of the magazine is done for British people by British people. It’s a British product. Everywhere we go; the product is about the people and their stories.

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

Eduardo Sánchez Pérez: What’s probably most difficult is, one of the brand values of ¡Hola! and Hello is when we publish a story or any piece of news, we’re very sure about the content. We’re very sure that we’re not wrong. You have to be very sure about the content. To be correct every week and not to fail in any small thing and continue to be the magazine that’s reliable and truthful; that’s probably my main worry.

Plus, of course, to continue to have this relationship with our readers; the relationship of community and knowledge of what they like.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

SpainMedia: The Name That Personifies The Man Who Is Media In Spain – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia

January 26, 2016

“As humans, we have five senses and print touches each of those. With the iPad, the electrification touches eyes and ears, but not the nose. Smell is important, the smell of food; the smell of a woman or of a man. The hands are also important. The hands experience touch, touch of the skin; touch of many things. And paper has this quality, especially if you invest in it. Before you read any single word, you touch the paper and the impression is made immediately; either you like it or you don’t.” Andrés Rodríguez

“The magazine business will never die; it will never die because a magazine is the voice of a community. And you need that community to be so big that it gives you advertising to make the magazine. And you need to identify new communities. Magazines will never die.” Andrés Rodríguez

From Spain with love…

Andrés Rodríguez and Samir Husni at the lobby of the NH Collection, Prado Plaza, Madrid, Spain

Andrés Rodríguez and Samir Husni at the lobby of the NH Collection, Prado Plaza, Madrid, Spain


SpainMedia is a company built by a man with a vision, a vision to produce high quality magazines that touch every sense with their tactile and exquisite natures. It’s a forum for the anthem of print from a man who is a very firm believer in the medium and a major contender in the world of publishing in Spain. Andrés Rodríguez is the man who had the vision nine years ago to bring the biggest titles out there to his country. He is president and editor-in-chief of SpainMedia, which publishes Esquire, Forbes, The Robb Report, Tapas, and L’Officiel in Spain.

Andrés is a one-man machine who loves the feeling of falling asleep with a magazine in his hands. He has gone where few have dared, double- mortgaging his home twice, once to launch Esquire and the other to launch Harper’s Bazaar, which he did for five years before Hearst acquired Lagardère and wanted to bring HB in with Elle.

Andrés is every magazine maker’s dream. He was the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone in Spain when he saw the opportunity to launch Esquire and he jumped on it and now he has created a company that’s the personification of magazines in Spain. Acquiring the licenses to some of the biggest titles around, he used his passion for magazines to attain his dream and bring the beauty and the entertainment quality of magazines to his country.

I spoke with Andrés recently on my recent trip to Spain and we talked about his endeavors with SpainMedia and the success he has seen with the company and the print product. And we talked about his own first-born creation, Tapas magazine, which brings lifestyle and food together in a way that is both unique and satisfying. Andrés is optimistic about his newest baby’s future; after all, he’s known uncertainty with many of his ventures, only to taste the sweet sustenance of success in the end.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a very nice man who knows how to publish the best if the best in magazine media; Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia.

But first the sound-bites:

Esquire-5On the genesis of SpainMedia: I founded the company nine years ago. I started as a journalist 30 years ago. I am 50-years-old now and made my first salary at 19. But just nine years ago I became a publisher. I discussed the instincts I had about the business and my point of view with investors and when I talked with them about how I thought the magazine should be and the new trends that were out there and how we should proceed with the advertising; I wasn’t sure if they would agree. Sometimes investors have their own ideas about how things like this should go. So, I founded the company nine years ago with my own money. I put a lot at risk; I double-mortgaged my house with the bank. And I asked Hearst to give me the license to Esquire because I felt with an international magazine more people would trust me.

On whether anyone ever asked if he was he out of his mind to invest in print in this digital age: Everybody said that to me. Everybody said it, because the big difference is I prefer to polish and edit high quality magazines, with long stories to read, like the classic magazines from the 1960s or 1970s. I’m really not too interested in circulation. And you might ask why? It’s because I feel in the 21st century, the quality of the product is more important than its circulation. Of course, circulation is important. I prefer to print one million copies of one of my magazines, but I don’t want to print one million copies of a magazine that I know when I go to sleep is not a good magazine. I need to try and sleep well. When I push the print button on that printing machine, I try to do the best magazine that I can.

Tapas4-18 On whether Tapas (his first self-created venture) feels like his first born or all of the magazines feel like his own children: Parents say all of the kids are the same, but I know all of the fathers are lying, in my opinion. Fathers do have preferences. I needed to launch my own magazine because I know that I’m a good journalist and a good businessman because I’m making money with this. I’m one of the best at trying to interpret big titles into my country, because Esquire is one of the big titles of the world; Forbes is a big, big title and I changed things with Forbes in Spain; I know this, but I needed to change things in the opposite way, which was to create my own brand.

On why he decided to launch Tapas in Spanish and in English: It’s worldwide with a multi-circulation. I did both editions because when I thought about the magazine that would be my very first creation, I knew it would be a lifestyle and cooking title. And I looked and found some other titles that were interesting, but having both languages was more for me. Two was more. I thought two was more in line with the big mainstream magazines.

On whether he ever doubted the future of print: No. I trusted my instincts. I always follow my heart. I used to explain it like this; of course, I have my iPad and my iPhone and I’m absolutely connected to the world just like everybody else. But when I’m reading a magazine it’s usually in particular places: on a plane, on my sofa, or in my bed. And in these kinds of places I’m relaxed; with a magazine I’m relaxed. My body is in the relaxed position.

On why it took magazine media five or six years to discover the fact that print is not dead: Very simple. Audience and circulation are the two things that all of the companies are fighting for. And in my opinion, this is the second step. The first step is product. The companies need to be more invested in product than circulation because they cannot invest in circulation if they don’t have the money. But the bigger companies are more worried about audience because they identify audience as people and money. They think that if they lose one point in audience, they lose a lot.

L'Officiel 3-11 On anything else that he’d like to add: It’s not true that we live in a very mature market; and it’s also not true that nothing is possible in our market; anything is possible in our Spanish market. The audience is smarter than we are; the readers are smarter than us; they’re faster than we are and they definitely know more than us. And the clients need us, the clients, our advertisers, need good magazines. But we need to be able to explain to them how we can be useful to them, because when clients launch a new product, they hire the best people in the world to launch their product; they hire the best design teams to showcase their products, and they need good magazines to put these products inside of.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his house one evening: You would find just music playing; you would see a mountain of international magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read, including magazines that I’m really not interested in, but I check them anyway, and a glass of wine, of course. And I do cut pages out of other magazines. And you would also see pages of the latest issues of my magazines around too, printed and edited with my pen, because I correct all of the pages.

On what keeps him up at night: The budget of the magazines. I’m always thinking about how I’m going to find more money to make these magazines stronger and also to find more free time to come up with new ideas.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia.

Samir Husni: You’re a different breed publisher/editor-in-chief.

IMG_1302 Andrés Rodríguez: Yes.

Samir Husni: You started your own company; you followed both of your passions, being a journalist and being a businessman. Tell me the story of Spain Media.

Andrés Rodríguez: I founded the company nine years ago. I started as a journalist 30 years ago. I am 50-years-old now and made my first salary at 19. But just nine years ago I became a publisher. I discussed the instincts I had about the business and my point of view with investors and when I talked with them about how I thought the magazine should be and the new trends that were out there and how we should proceed with the advertising; I wasn’t sure if they would agree. Sometimes investors have their own ideas about how things like this should go.

For example, sometimes a financial person might try to reduce the quality of the paper to make a better P&L, hence a better bonus. Me, I prefer to spend more money on the quality of the paper because I’m convinced that I’ll find a new audience if my magazine has good quality.

Forbes-3 So, I founded the company nine years ago with my own money. I put a lot at risk; I double-mortgaged my house with the bank. And I asked Hearst to give me the license to Esquire because I felt with an international magazine more people would trust me. I had a few doubts about my businessman’s side; I had never founded a company before and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know where to manage the cash flow or how to talk to the banks about the magazine, or how to make the discounts for the advertisers or the annual discounts for the central media. So, I was nervous about this.

I thought that Hearst, or George Green (former Executive Vice President and Chairman of Hearst Magazines International) would say to me, no, you don’t have the assets to buy the Esquire license and you have no prior experience. But I was the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone in Spain; I convinced Jann Wenner to give me the license for Rolling Stone for Grupo Prisa, the company that I worked for then.

But I think that this idea helped me with George because Rolling Stone was a big brand and nine years later, I talked with George Green about it and said thank you many times, but I think he gave me the magazine because he knew that he wouldn’t lose anything, because no one wanted to publish Esquire in Spain. He had already talked with all the major companies in Spain about Esquire and everyone had told him no, because they were looking at the numbers and thought that they would need to invest three or four million Euros to launch Esquire, and that’s something they don’t believe in doing. I think George said OK to me so that he could give it a try. It wasn’t Harper’s Bazaar or a big magazine where if he lost Spain it would cost him more.

I remember always the advice that he gave me in one of the meetings I had with him. I said, hey George, I’ll give you issue # 0, the mockup of what my Esquire will look like. And he said to me, no, I don’t want to look at the mockup; do you have a very nice party planned for the launching? And I said, yes, absolutely George. And he asked who paid for the party? You don’t pay for the party; don’t spend a single Euro on the party. I said, OK; don’t worry about that, just have a look at my magazine. He said, no, I’m not interested in your magazine; just don’t spend money on a party. And I thought, wow, this guy isn’t very interested in journalism.

Robb Report-8 Nine years later, he’s trying to tell me your weakness is the money; try to protect the money and I trust you on the magazine side. And in just two years with Esquire we broke even and the second step we took was more on the business side because I didn’t want to put all of the expenses; all of the overhead, the rental of the office, my salary, the secretary’s salary and all the other expenses, in front of just one magazine; I thought that if I shared the overhead with more magazines I would be doing things better; like a family who has more than one child.

And I told George that I wasn’t losing money with Esquire and asked him would he please give me Bazaar, because if I could break even with a men’s magazine, it might be even easier with a women’s title because the market is bigger. And he said to me, no, it’s too soon. I don’t want to give you Bazaar, try to consolidate Esquire, because your country will be destroyed by the International Economy Crisis. And I said, but George, we are a big country and growing, in fact, we grow more than Italy. Then he said to me, be prepared; this crisis will destroy the Spanish economy. So, I didn’t do the other magazines, just Esquire.

I have my own point of view and I offer to CurtCo Media to do Robb Report and they were in love with the idea because it was their first Spanish edition worldwide. I launched the Robb Report quarterly. Year number five with Esquire, we’re making money, and the Robb Report is also making money, and George Green retired and Duncan Edwards took over. Duncan is a great guy and I asked him to give me Bazaar and he gave it to me. It was the first license that he gave in America from the International. And he said to me, all the figures; the entire International picture and all of the information that I have for your country is negative. This is a crazy idea, but I’m going to give you Bazaar.

He gave me Bazaar and I launched six years ago, and I managed the magazine for five years. In the meantime, during those five years, Forbes called me. And Forbes called me because they were looking to be in Spain. They had asked all the major companies and no one wanted to invest in Forbes, due to our country’s economy. The Forbes people asked the Hearst people who was crazy in Spain, and Hearst told them about me. (Laughs) They told Forbes that I paid royalties and I paid every year and that I do good magazines.

When Forbes first called me, I said no, because there was no money. The entire country was being careful due to the economic situation. And all of the economic magazines and newspapers were losing money. And this was in 2011. Forbes responded to me with this answer, when a country has economic problems like Spain; the people are more interested in the economy than ever. And I told them they were absolutely right. And that was a good argument. And they added that my country in the future would recover; we may not know when or how, but of course, Spain would recover. And I knew they were right.

So, I started publishing Forbes three years ago and we’re making money. In the meantime, Hearst bought Lagardère and I thought that was an incredible idea, but not for me. But one day Duncan invited me for lunch and he told me that Hearst had bought Lagardère and said that he believed Bazaar being close to Elle would make more money, because they were going to sell the advertising through the big companies with both, and I agreed he was right. He would make more money than I was making. He asked me to give back Bazaar to Hearst Spain and I quickly received the proposal to launch L’Officiel from the Jalou family. I accepted, because I had been working in the women’s market for five years and I didn’t want to lose the women’s sector. And that’s the big picture.

Samir Husni: Did anybody come to you and ask you if you were out of your mind to put all of this money into print? And not only are you publishing print magazines, but you’re using high quality paper, gorgeous design and basically just investing in print, while the entire media industry is saying the future is in digital. Did any of the advertisers or anyone come to you and ask you were you out of your mind to do this?

L'Officiel-4 Andrés Rodríguez: Everybody said that to me. Everybody said it, because the big difference is I prefer to polish and edit high quality magazines, with long stories to read, like the classic magazines from the 1960s or 1970s. I’m really not too interested in circulation. And you might ask why? It’s because I feel in the 21st century, the quality of the product is more important than its circulation. Of course, circulation is important. I prefer to print one million copies of one of my magazines, but I don’t want to print one million copies of a magazine that I know when I go to sleep is not a good magazine. I need to try and sleep well. When I push the print button on that printing machine, I try to do the best magazine that I can.

And the second thing that I try to do then is get the biggest circulation that I can, so I can offer it to the advertisers as a good platform for their products. But in my opinion, it’s not the most important thing.

I used to say that influence is more important to me than audience, because when you have a big audience you have such a wide variety of people, so many different people. Audience is like when Hollywood launches a big blockbuster and you’re going to see it with family. And when the movie ends, nobody is 100% happy. It was good, but not everyone was happy. And I think this is how audience works.

And with influence, you try to make the magazine more influential for the target and it makes the target bigger. Tapas is a good example. It is my own first-owned title; I identified that lifestyle and food globally is a trend. I haven’t found any international lifestyle and food title; I find recipe titles, but not lifestyle and food. And I created the magazine. And now, I need to convince the advertiser, because the clients are more conservative than the readers; I need to convince the advertisers that this is a good platform to invest in, like Monocle, for example.
I am a great fan of Tyler (Tyler Brûlé – Monocle founder) and I think he has the nose to identify new trends and he convinced the clients that it was a new trend; it’s a global, international, traveler citizen.

Samir Husni: Tapas is your first venture as your own. Do you feel like Tapas is your first born and all of the others are more like adopted children? Or do you treat all of them the same now?

TapasII-14 Andrés Rodríguez: Parents say all of the kids are the same, but I know all of the fathers are lying, in my opinion. Fathers do have preferences. I needed to launch my own magazine because I know that I’m a good journalist and a good businessman because I’m making money with this. I’m one of the best at trying to interpret big titles into my country, because Esquire is one of the big titles of the world; Forbes is a big, big title and I changed things with Forbes in Spain; I know this, but I needed to change things in the opposite way, which was to create my own brand.

And this is what I’m enjoying with Tapas. And I don’t want to license Tapas because it has just begun; we’ve been publishing for nine months now. And I think we’ll be a great business. We’re already breaking even in this short time, but I’m not interested in licensing the magazine for some fee here or some fee there. I’m interested in furthering the brand.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to not only launch Tapas in Spanish, but also in an English edition? I saw it in the United States and it’s probably in the U.K. as well.

Andrés Rodríguez: Yes, it’s worldwide with a multi-circulation. I did both editions because when I thought about the magazine that would be my very first creation, I knew it would be a lifestyle and cooking title. And I looked and found some other titles that were interesting, but having both languages was more for me. Two was more. I thought two was more in line with the big mainstream magazines.

Tapas 3-17 I knew lifestyle and food was what I wanted, because chefs are the new rock and roll stars. Michelin stars are like the new Oscars. And I asked myself, what other magazine is talking about those things; none. There are magazines out there talking about a cheesecake recipe and that’s great. But with the big chefs, we don’t talk about the recipes; we talk about their tattoos or their hair. And we talk about the experience; let’s go to this country and drive to this chef’s incredible, marvelous restaurant and have an adventure.

After the idea, I knew I needed to find a word; a brand, for the magazine. I happened to be in New York working once and I was riding in a taxi and the word Tapas came to me and I thought this is an incredible brand name and it’s a Spanish word which means basically that we share the food with others, because it’s more important to talk than actually to eat the food.

So, I knew I had the word. Next, I knew we had to publish in English, because if not, if I just published in Spanish…I thought to myself, what would Tyler do with this? (Laughs) I said, OK, Spanish is great because Spanish is the second language in the world, but I also think in English, so we need English too, so that’s why it happened.

Samir Husni: Have you ever doubted yourself with any of the titles; did you ever think that maybe some people were right and print had no future? Yet, here you’re telling me that you’re making money; you’re breaking even on Tapas already; and all of the other titles are doing great. Did you ever doubt print’s future?

L'Officiel Voyage-6 Andrés Rodríguez: No. I trusted my instincts. I always follow my heart. I used to explain it like this; of course, I have my iPad and my iPhone and I’m absolutely connected to the world just like everybody else. But when I’m reading a magazine it’s usually in particular places: on a plane, on my sofa, or in my bed. And in these kinds of places I’m relaxed; with a magazine I’m relaxed. My body is in the relaxed position. When I’m connected with the iPad; I’m electrified by the constant connection with everything. And that’s great; being electrified isn’t worse than being relaxed, but it’s different. It’s like apples and oranges.

Somedays I want to be electrified, but somedays I need to relax and print personifies relaxing. And when you put something in print; it’s like a golden letter. And when you put the same thing on digital, it’s like nothing. I used to use this example: if your wife came to you and asked if you read something on the iPad about the neighbors talking badly about us, and then the same situation, only she asks did you read it in the newspaper; it becomes much more serious when it’s in the print platform. We don’t think about how many copies of the printed version are out there, versus maybe millions of digital readers who just saw those terrible words said about the family, but the printed edition is something that we would shop for. This is what’s marvelous about print.

The other thing is, as humans, we have five senses and print touches each of those. With the iPad, the electrification touches eyes and ears, but not the nose. Smell is important, the smell of food; the smell of a woman or of a man. The hands are also important. The hands experience touch, touch of the skin; touch of many things. And paper has this quality, especially if you invest in it. Before you read any single word, you touch the paper and the impression is made immediately; either you like it or you don’t.

But I need to convince advertisers of this fact, for me it’s obvious, and I know it’s the same for you, but when you talk to the advertisers, sometimes they follow trends rather than sensory feelings.

Samir Husni: If we are to accept the fact that people who work in magazine media are more of the smart and creative types; why did it take us five or six years to discover that print is not dead?

Andrés Rodríguez: Very simple. Audience and circulation are the two things that all of the companies are fighting for. And in my opinion, this is the second step. The first step is product. The companies need to be more invested in product than circulation because they cannot invest in circulation if they don’t have the money. But the bigger companies are more worried about audience because they identify audience as people and money. They think that if they lose one point in audience, they lose a lot.

Esquire II-16 We, all of the people who love magazines the way they were done in the 1960s or 1970s and the life of the magazines then; we realize that type of magazine either has good or bad circulation. When we put all of the covers of Esquire on the wall and look at them; there isn’t a single word spoken about the circulation. There isn’t a single word spoken about how much money one particular cover is going to make. Will it be profitable or a big disaster? Of course, I need to make money in order to continue my magazines, but the first question is product, not circulation.

During the last five years, digital has offered us more audience than we know what to do with; audience and more audience, and those audiences scrambling for more free content. If you have the brand, digital will give you the followers. But many of the followers who clamor after the digital brands aren’t interested in the magazine experience. The experience is what it’s all about with the magazine.

And newspapers have the same problem. They lose the experience when they focus on the exclusivity of the news. The exclusivity of news is not for the newspapers any longer. The newspaper cannot give us news; it must give us the experience.

Samir Husni: That’s one of the things that I tell other journalists and all my clients; the day we end up being just content providers is the day that we’re dead. We have to be experience makers.

Andrés Rodríguez: Content providers are easily available; why not, big companies have the money. They will hire 100 journalists and say give me content; I’ll put it on TV, and it could be journalists on TV, why not? But the experience is the thing.

The magazine business will never die; it will never die because a magazine is the voice of a community. And you need that community to be so big that it gives you advertising to make the magazine. And you need to identify new communities. Magazines will never die.

I think in the present and in the future, we will need to publish the best magazines that we can. I used to say that I liked to publish magazines that made people feel sad when they tossed them in the rubbish. And that’s the magazines that I want to publish, and of course, I need to make money every month too. If not, I will be out of business. (Laughs)

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

IMG_1300 Andrés Rodríguez: It’s not true that we live in a very mature market; and it’s also not true that nothing is possible in our market; anything is possible in our Spanish market. The audience is smarter than we are; the readers are smarter than us; they’re faster than we are and they definitely know more than us. And the clients need us, the clients, our advertisers, need good magazines. But we need to be able to explain to them how we can be useful to them, because when clients launch a new product, they hire the best people in the world to launch their product; they hire the best design teams to showcase their products, and they need good magazines to put these products inside of.

We don’t need to be worried about audience; we need to be worried about talent. And I’m absolutely optimistic, even though I suffer every month and every year with my budgets. I want my company to increase and grow and I am very optimistic.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your house one evening unexpectedly, what would I find you doing? Would you be reading your iPad, or reading a magazine; watching TV?

Andrés Rodríguez: You would find just music playing; you would see a mountain of international magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read, including magazines that I’m really not interested in, but I check them anyway, and a glass of wine, of course. And I do cut pages out of other magazines. And you would also see pages of the latest issues of my magazines around too, printed and edited with my pen, because I correct all of the pages. Then with my phone I send the corrected pages to my people.

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

Andrés Rodríguez: The budget of the magazines. I’m always thinking about how I’m going to find more money to make these magazines stronger and also to find more free time to come up with new ideas.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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