Best advice for a new magazine launch: “Start a media brand,” says Jeff Wellington, publisher of ReadyMade magazine, in the “Mr. Magazine™ Interviews”June 6, 2010
“Serve your audience and stay relevant,” is the secret ingredient that Jeff Wellington, publisher of ReadyMade magazine, believes is needed to ensure a successful publishing plan for magazines today. His advice for new comers to the magazine business is to “think for an idea for a media brand” rather than one for just a magazine. He should know. After all he is the one to lead ReadyMade, “the magazine for the innovator in all of us,” into the multi-channel multi-platform that it is today. “We have always had a strong print component, a solid web and digital foundation, as well as experiential events that reflect the passion of our readers and core audiences,” he told me in a recent interview. The publisher of the magazine that tags itself “Instructions For Everyday Life,” offers his instructions for everyday magazine publishing.
Mr. Wellington shares his views on the future of magazines, the story behind the name of the magazine and the user generated content in this installment of The Mr. Magazine™ Interviews. That, and other words of wisdom from the publisher who lead the “little small engine that could” to one of Adweek’s highest awards, are in the following complete, lightly edited, interview with the publisher of ReadyMade magazine Jeff Wellington:
Samir Husni: It has been said that there are three groups of new magazines: ground breakers, copycats and cheap imitators. ReadyMade is a groundbreaker with nothing like it on the market place. How do you publish and deal with a groundbreaker with no competitors in the market place?
Jeff Wellington: Regardless of how you are perceived, you have to stay focused on two critical things: serving your audience, and staying relevant. That sounds easy, but in today’s multichannel environment, it requires having an editorial voice that can connect on many different platforms.
SH: ReadyMade was founded by two entrepreneur women in San Francisco, now it is published by a major magazine publisher, Meredith… is it the same magazine or is it a different magazine? Why?
JW: The core focus of the title and its mission as a lifestyle brand for young, creative professionals interested in home design, decorating, and personal style and that environment has not changed. However, we have been able to expand the range of topics covered because of our ability to leverage the broad editorial assets of Meredith. This evolution of the title has been very organic, and well received by our audience.
SH: The name of the magazine is not the best reflector of what the magazine is all about. What is the mission and goal of the magazine and how can you adapt to such a non-descriptive name for the magazine?
JW: We believe the name is quite apt., actually. It was named after the term artist Marcel Duchamp coined in 1915 to describe a series of sculptures that playfully rethought the relationship between people, mass-produced objects, everyday items and art. Readymade is rooted in the idea of rethinking everyday items and how they might be reused or repurposed. ReadyMade is about people who make things and the culture of making. It’s a magazine for the innovator in all of us.
SH: The new business model for magazine publishing is becoming to resemble a three legged stool: print, the web and digital. What are the plans for ReadyMade?
JW: Fortunately, ReadyMade has always viewed itself as a brand so was fairly ahead of the curve when it came to creating multi-channel elements for our readers. We have always had a strong print component, a solid web and digital foundation, as well as experiential events that reflect the passion of our readers and core audiences. In addition, we are constantly looking at new platforms such as mobile that we believe are core to the DNA of the ReadyMade audience. The truly important points to remember is, content and context, and to be consistent to your brand voice.
SH: If you were to assign a competitive set for ReadyMade, both on the reader’s side and the advertiser’s side, who will be that competitive set?
JW: As you just mentioned in question #1, ReadyMade is a ground breaking concept with a unique editorial formula – 60% of our content is user generated which allows for an open dialogue between our editors and our readers. To that, our readers are highly engaged with our brand both in print and online. Competitively for both readers and advertisers ReadyMade is a hybrid of many elements, it has the creativity of a younger Martha Stewart, the design sense of an Elle Décor or Dwell and the lifestyle sensibility of a Real Simple – all wrapped around the idea of living a responsible green lifestyle.
SH: What advice will you offer someone coming to you and saying, “Jeff, I have an idea for a new magazine…”?
JW: I would make them first think of an idea for a media brand. In today’s world it is critical to think beyond the printed page since the flow of ideas is no longer a one- way street. For example, last year Meredith launched a social media site called MixingBowl.com. Later that site became a series of special interest print media publications featuring content created by the contributors to the site. You have to think much larger than one dimension for any new media brand.
SH: How do you see the future of magazines in general and print in particular?
JW: Generally, I avoid the crystal ball business. However, magazines remain a solid and important part of consumers lives. For example, the recent MRI numbers revealed that many titles actually increased their audience numbers, and that more younger people are reading magazines than ever before. There is something uniquely special about that relationship between a magazine and how consumers experience a magazine. Obviously, new platforms will create new options to engage those audiences, but the future of print magazines will remain vital as long as we create compelling and engaging editorial that taps into the passions of our readers.
SH: Thank you.