Have No Fear, the Fashion Police is Here. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Morgan Myrmo, Founder and Publisher, Fashion 5.0 MagazineApril 15, 2012
To say that the magazine publishing business model is changing will be a major understatement. Change has become the only constant in this business and every publisher is looking for a new model that will lead the way to the future. Morgan Myrmo, founder and publisher of Fashion 5.0 magazine is one of those individuals who seems to have found a business model, and so far, so good, with that business model. Mr. Myrmo launched Fashion 5.0 magazine in October 2010. A year later Tenley Molzahn (from The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad TV shows on ABC) joined the magazine as its editor in chief.
Fashion 5.0 claims to be “the first US non-paid circulation women’s interest magazine, first US regional non-paid circulation women’s interest magazine, first US regional women’s interest magazine.” Of course, we all know that claiming something is the easy part, doing what you claim is the hard part. Well, Mr. Myrmo is practicing what he is preaching and saying. He hopes that one day this “young, hungry entrepreneur,” will be able with Fashion 5. 0 magazine “to gain market share and create value.”
So, in typical Mr. Magazine™ Interviews style, I reached out to Mr. Myrmo searching for some answers about the magazine, the ink on paper vs. digital, the regional vs. national and of course, what keeps him up at night and what lessons other wanna-be publishers can learn from his business model with Fashion 5.0 magazine.
And as with all the Mr. Magazine™ Interviews, first are the sound-bites followed by the entire questions and answers.
On the magazine’s name: First you have “Five-O.” This is our official pronunciation, which like Hawaii Five-O, means police.
On the secrets of success: First, we created a solid business plan. Second, we raised capital.
On the major competitors, the big ones: Once we have a large revenue stream with free-cash flow generation we will be in a great position to knock on their doors.
On the future plans to become a national magazine: Our expansion path is to cut and paste our model throughout multiple markets. Just like a Subway sandwich chain.
On the distribution model: Picking up Fashion 5.0 is an impulse that women cannot turn down. When we put out 100 magazines at a gym, for example, they are gone in one day. It is like finding a five-dollar bill on the street for these women. It is definitely worth stopping for.
On print vs. digital: What makes print so good is that it establishes a relationship with the reader. Our readers take them home and save them.
On print vs. digital (take two): We trained our readers, through print, to how the technology worked.
On what keeps him up at night: When you are very busy, every minute counts. Learning how to become more efficient in work is a really cool experience.
On the future: The media landscape continues to evolve rapidly and as a young, hungry entrepreneur, I am focused on exploiting these paths to gain market share and create value.
Samir Husni: I understand fashion 2.0, but why from the start fashion 5.0? What is the mission, vision and goal of the magazine? Tell me the story of Fashion 5.0.
Morgan Myrmo: Fashion 5.0 was created to showcase women’s fashion, in a classy, contemporary and engaging manner that people could easily access and share. We brought together the movers and shakers in San Diego with the understanding that we are helping to evolve local fashion. By reaching women in such a dynamic fashion we serve as a bridge for advertisers that seek the female demographic.
As women often make dating decisions and spend more of their disposable income on fashion and beauty-related purchases, we felt it made sense and that San Diego county was ready to support such an effort. Not only that, where the women go, the men follow. So what nightclub or entertainment venue wouldn’t want to reach our market? It is just a matter of creating something special for our demographic and on a consistent basis.
After our launch, we were quickly approached by the brightest in the industry to join us on multiple levels. Our current partnership list ranges from Bloomingdale’s to Forever 21, as well as local boutiques, nightclubs, venues and other retailers. We have also done multiple fashion-related events at several of San Diego’s hottest clubs, including Stingaree, Ivy Rooftop at Andaz, Float at The Hard Rock San Diego and the Palomar Hotel. Our clients all look for a way to bring people in the door and with our reach and demographic, they find Fashion 5.0 to be a great fit.
Our goal is to evolve from a regional into a multiple-market regional magazine that commands a powerful brand name that advertisers can benefit from. We seek to have a national brand that large advertisers can count on to bring their presence into the aggregate national women’s market. We also aim to expand into other media channels once our print-advertising goals are met.
The meaning of 5.0 is actually two-pronged. First you have “Five-O.” This is our official pronunciation, which like Hawaii Five-O, means police. Outsiders usually say “Five-Point-O,” which sounds like the highest possible high school grade point average for a student receiving straight A’s with all advanced placement classes. In this regards we are either the fashion police, which is what we intended, or the smartest fashion kid in class, which we like too. Our website is fashionfiveo.com, pronounced the first way.
SH: You have beaten the odds so far and survived when many others have died .What is your secret of success?
MM: Our success is based on two main concepts. First, we created a solid business plan. Second, we raised capital. Our business plan stated that the best time to invest is when others were not. So when the economy was still in the doldrums following the recent economic recession, we went for it.
As you know, magazines usually do not survive their first year in business. With consistent delivery, a great product and a highly-sought demographic, we have found the recipe for success.
SH: Fashion is not an easy topic to compete with the biggies. Why this topic and how do you plan to compete against all the big fashion titles out there?
MM: In reality, the large corporations cannot compete with us. Vogue or Elle, for example, cannot launch a free magazine with the same namesake. It would only devalue their brands. With that said, what Hearst or Condé Nast can do is invest in a new brand that offers exposure that no other company offers. Once we have a large revenue stream with free-cash flow generation we will be in a great position to knock on their doors.
SH: So far you have been limited to a specific region of the country. Any plans to go national? When?
MM: As mentioned in our goals, our expansion path is to cut and paste our model throughout multiple markets. Just like a Subway sandwich chain. All we have to do is prove ourselves as the market leader in San Diego County and investors will follow. We aim to do this within the next six quarters.
When Fashion 5.0 is a dominant brand that commands large advertising dollars from major fashion labels and beauty brands, our value will be something considerable to a large corporation. Think about it, would you rather have your brand in women’s hands or stand alone on a bus-stop sign or billboard?
SH: Needless to say you believe in print, otherwise you would have not launched the magazine. What is the future of print in your opinion and do you think you can survive in print alone in this digital age?
MM: Print is not dead. On the contrary, it is alive and thriving. There is growth in regional titles in general, as noted during the recent recession. Think about our concept. A magazine that looks like Vogue but is free and all about your locale. Picking up Fashion 5.0 is an impulse that women cannot turn down. When we put out 100 magazines at a gym, for example, they are gone in one day. It is like finding a five-dollar bill on the street for these women. It is definitely worth stopping for.
What makes print so good is that it establishes a relationship with the reader. Our readers take them home and save them. Nearly 90% of our readers state they save the magazine after expiration, whereas other publications are tossed or recycled quickly, such as newspapers and weeklys. Also, both people and businesses want to be in print. They see the value and we connect the dots.
Moving forward, digital is important. I see digital as both a natural compliment and natural expansion path for print. Having a good website is critical for any media company, as internet usage will continue to grow as far as we can see.
Regarding new technologies, we are in a sweet spot. We are a young, nimble company that follows the leaders closely. For example, we watched large investments in iPad magazine technology fizzle. If you stop and think, this makes total sense. Why would people want to read a magazine on an iPad? Websites are clearly designed for efficient Web navigation, whereas magazines are designed for efficient print navigation. Rather than spend dollars to keep ahead of the trend, we were able to see how the larger companies did first.
When a digital investment is made that works, such as an application, large investments are made by large companies to make the technology happen. Once it is proven, costs go down and new companies are formed to supply the demand of creating that new technology platform. One great example is Groupon, which took a substantial investment to create the deal-site model. Now that other companies have blazed this path, we can outsource the purchase of complete generic models that offer entry at an incredibly attractive price-point.
Today we remain at the forefront of new magazine technologies. We were the first to implement QR Codes in print in San Diego County, where large magazines such as Rolling Stone still don’t use them. We trained our readers, through print, to how the technology worked. The response was incredible. We also taught our advertisers what they were and how to use them. As our competitors caught on, they began implementing them but with lower success rates. As they were just jumping in the water, we had already navigated the path and knew how to package them for smooth sailing.
By engaging readers with digital interactions, the bond with the reader becomes stronger. With such digitally integrated technologies, a print publisher is able to turn a thirty minute read into a three hour multi-media presentation. The marriage of digital application within print, designed to work with your cell phone or even your glasses one day, will continue to expand moving forward.
SH: What has been the biggest hurdle facing you so far?
MM: Connecting the dots is a challenge at times. It is all about sales, and many companies want to pay public relations companies for free exposure rather than pay for advertising.
The largest hurdle in the new, regional magazine business however is longevity. We created a great business that women are demanding faster than we can produce, however many advertisers wanted to see longevity of one to two years before they committed. On the other hand, some really smart advertisers realized quickly that we created a new and efficient method for reaching the female demographic. These advertisers jumped on board right away. Now that we are closing in on our second year, we are seeing a strong response from advertisers.
We have learned that decision-makers need to validate their decision to work with us. By solving that problem, we are able to attract more business. A lot of marketing decision-makers are women these days, which helps as they immediately relate to and understand our brand. They know that women will be attracted to our brand as they are attracted to it themselves, which only helps.
SH: What keeps Morgan up at night? What makes Morgan tick and click every day?
MM: I am living the American dream! I am working with incredible talent and conducting something that nobody has seen before. When I hear from a stranger that they know our brand and love our magazine, I know that our team has done well. Just knowing that our team believes in our concept and trusts me to deliver is one of the nicest compliments I could ever ask for.
I tend to sleep less than the average person due to a high workload, so in this regard work keeps me up at night. When you are very busy, every minute counts. Learning how to become more efficient in work is a really cool experience.
SH: Any additional things you would like to add about you, the magazine, the future and the marriage of ink on paper and pixels on a screen….
MM: The media landscape continues to evolve rapidly and as a young, hungry entrepreneur, I am focused on exploiting these paths to gain market share and create value.
I am always open to new partnerships as well. We have created something that works and the response has been incredible. We have interviewed Patti Stanger from The Millionaire Matchmaker (February 2012), have shot Ali Fedotowsky from The Bachelorette (December 2011) and are featuring Alexis Bellino from The Real Housewives of Orange County: Season 7 in our annual May/June Summer Guide issue. In fact, Fedotowsky was on the cover of People the same month that she was our cover girl. If these people are responding to us and happy to be part of our magazine, the value is clear. We are making progress and people are taking notice.
SH: Thank you.