Archive for October, 2013

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1152 Useful Tips To Produce, Edit, and Sell a Great Magazine: A Mr. Magazine™ Conversation With Men’s Health Publisher, Ronan Gardiner and Editor, Bill Phillips.

October 31, 2013

How About “Tons of Useful Stuff” to Empower, Motivate and Galvanize You Into A Call For Action? Men’s Health Magazine Has At Least That Many And Maybe A Few More When It Comes To Their Readers’ Health And Well-Being. Read The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher, Ronan Gardiner And Editor, Bill Phillips And Get On Your Own Yellow Brick Road To Health, Wealth And Possibly Oz Itself With Men’s Health Today!

When Publisher, Ronan Gardiner and Editor, Bill Phillips talk about Men’s Health, the excited animation comes through in their voices and you instantly realize this isn’t your father’s men’s magazine anymore. And it never will be again.

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Bill Phillips (left) and Ronan Gardiner Photo credit: JAMES SALZANO

From grooming to fashion, travel to food; the Men’s Health magazine of today is innovative, creative and motivating. It seeks to bring every known and unknown benefit that exists to each and every one of its readers. The magazine knows its audience and their “guys” know them. And they want to engage with each other on every level possible.

Men’s Health is sold in more than 50 countries around the world, including Oz – OK, that’s only a possibility. But you can bet over the rainbow somewhere, you’ll find at least one copy of Men’s Health. From the munchkins to the Wizard himself, every male loves Men’s Health and they have the ruby slippers to prove it.

So sit back and enjoy your trip through Men’s Health land and always remember the people at Men’s Health welcome you like you were at home.

And of course, there’s no place like home!

But first, the sound-bites:

On the secret of the magazine’s longevity and success: I think the secret is very simple: it’s that the magazine is, and always has been, about the reader. It reflects what the reader is thinking and is worried about and it reflects what the reader wants to learn. There’s no one on my staff or Ronan’s who hasn’t been changed by this magazine.

On keeping their balance between being a reflector and an initiator when it comes to men’s lifestyles: It’s interesting to me that we don’t really have a secret formula. We are men largely and we talk to millions of men and we know what they want because they tell us. We also live it.

On the fantastic year they’ve had in advertising: A very good year, yes. Firstly, I think advertisers recognize the societal shift toward health and wellness. I think that they’re acutely aware of the fact that there are a growing number of men, and women too, of course, who are reprioritizing, recommitting to leading and living a healthier life. I think everyone is aware of that.

On whether it matters if it’s ink on paper or pixels on a screen: We’re in a very fortunate position where we’re seeing both our print audience and digital continue to grow. We’re reaching 12.6 million guys in print every month, we’re reaching over 10 million guys online and you were very kind to recognize our page growth this year. We’re up 25 percent in paging.

On whether they can ever envision a time without print: No, I really don’t foresee that. Print will not go away forever. It’s such a tactile experience and it’s a nice sort of getaway. Digital is about getting your fix and moving on. I just think that there is going to be a large group of men and women who are always going to want that experience of paging through a magazine at their leisure.

On how the magazine is different today than it was ten years ago: It’s very different because guys have changed since that time. We’re doing more food than we’ve ever done, more grooming, style, tech, travel and more fatherhood. The content mix has certainly changed.

On the major stumbling block in the future of Men’s Health: I would hate to appear to be avoiding the question, but to be absolutely honest with you; I don’t see a stumbling block in front of us. All I see is even more opportunity. And I believe that very sincerely.

On how they are using digital to promote the print product: It’s another one of the challenges that the industry is facing. We need to be able to clearly express to our customers why the printed magazine is special and why it’s worth paying for. Why there is value there. And I don’t think as an industry we’ve done a good job of that.

On what keeps them up at night: The commitment to excellence keeps me up at night, but I have an amazing team and as long as I keep them empowered and cultivating their creativity, it’s all good.

Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 11.49.45 PMAnd now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Men’s Health Publisher, Ronan Gardiner and Editor, Bill Phillips.

Samir Husni: Three years ago, I gave Men’s Health the most notable launch of the last 25 years in America.

Bill Phillips: We remember it. We’re still celebrating.

Samir Husni: I remember the 80s and the fact that no one dared to publish a magazine for men, unless it was a sex magazine or fishing and sporting magazine, then Rodale put the first issue of Men’s Health on the marketplace in 1988 and now 25 years later, the magazine is available in 47 different languages all over the world.

What do you think is the secret of the success of Men’s Health? While so many other magazines tried imitating and have since come and gone.

Bill Phillips: I think the secret is very simple: it’s that the magazine is, and always has been, about the reader. It reflects what the reader is thinking and is worried about and it reflects what the reader wants to learn. There’s no one on my staff or Ronan’s who hasn’t been changed by this magazine.

I came here a little over ten years ago thinking it would be a stepping stone to a bigger gig. It turns out, it was a stepping stone to a better life. But as soon as you start taking the magazine to heart, learning from it and trying some of the small changes it suggests, whether it’s in your fitness routine or nutrition plan or relationship, it works and it changes your life for the better. If you can transform your body, you feel like you can do anything. And that’s what the magazine does; it empowers you to really seize control of your life.

Men have changed over the last 25 years and largely, I think the magazine has given men permission to care about today, things like fatherhood, cooking, grooming and style. Maybe it did start 25 years ago with a lot of sex and beer, but that’s just not who men are anymore. We’re in tune with all the aspects of our lives and the magazine is here to help guide them.

Samir Husni: How do you balance between being a reflector or an initiator of men’s lifestyles?

Bill Phillips: It’s interesting to me that we don’t really have a secret formula. We are men largely and we talk to millions of men and we know what they want because they tell us. We also live it. So, naturally, we’re also an expert-driven, research-based magazine. We have an editorial advisory board and not a day goes by that we’re not consulting with someone from that board. Every day we’re talking to ten to twenty different experts across all the disciplines that we cover.

So, we’re hearing what’s changing and what the research is saying. Most of it comes from internally, our staff and our guys. We know what they’re thinking because we’re living it.

Samir Husni: Do you think that you’re more of a magazine that cares about customers who count or you’re more in the business of counting customers?

Ronan Gardiner: I think Bill has made two very, very good points. Your first question was how Men’s Health not only continues to survive, but prosper, and I think Bill’s answer was spot-on.

On every single page of Men’s Health magazine there is a call to action for our readers to improve some aspect of their life, and we’re going to inform and inspire them on how to do just that. That in itself is a remarkable proposition, truly remarkable.

Bill recently spoke to my team and he stood up and talked about the circulation of Men’s Health magazine now being 1.8 million in the United States and our readership being 12.6 million and our global readership being over 30 million and then he made the point that there are about 3 billion men on the planet, so we’ve only really just started.

One of the reasons that I think our international footprint is so big is because men the world over are a lot more alike than we think they are. They want to be healthier, they want better relationships and they want to be more successful in the workplace. They want to be better fathers, husbands and boyfriends. And that doesn’t matter whether you live in Russia or China or New York City, men the world over really care about mostly the same things.

Bill Phillips: Peter Moore is the number two editor here and he just took a vacation to Nepal where he climbed to base camp on Everest. His guide told him, after spending a week with him; we need Men’s Health here because the mentality of men here is 50 years behind the mentality of men in the U.S.

You look at the developing world and there are just great opportunities for us to impact and shape the conversation in other countries too. It’s rather funny to say there are 3 billion men on the planet and we’ve only touched two percent of them. I’m totally serious. Until we’ve touched them all, we’re not done.

Samir Husni: How do you sell those men to the advertiser? Because in the midst of all this gloom and doom; you had a very good year in advertising.

Ronan Gardiner: A very good year, yes. Firstly, I think advertisers recognize the societal shift toward health and wellness. I think that they’re acutely aware of the fact that there are a growing number of men, and women too, of course, who are reprioritizing, recommitting to leading and living a healthier life. I think everyone is aware of that.

It’s a very positive movement, obviously, and it’s a conversation and a movement that advertisers want to be a part of. They want to play a role in that. They want to be seen both in encouraging that and in helping people to live a better and healthier life.

People who are committed to health tend to be better educated, tend to have better jobs and make more money and they tend to be more optimistic about their economic futures.

So for all of those reasons, advertisers want to speak to them as well. It’s largely the fact that the shift is taking place and it’s very well recognized and within the pages of Men’s Health, it’s a very positive place for advertisers to deliver their message.

Samir Husni: Do you think it makes a difference whether it’s ink on paper or pixels on a screen? Can you envision selling the same content if it was digital only or does having that printed edition add to the formula?

Ronan Gardiner: We’re in a very fortunate position where we’re seeing both our print audience and digital continue to grow. We’re reaching 12.6 million guys in print every month, we’re reaching over 10 million guys online and you were very kind to recognize our page growth this year. We’re up 25 percent in paging. We’re up by almost the same percent in digital revenue as well, so what I think we’re seeing is those guys want our content. They crave our content and want to engage with it across multiple devices.

They’ll read the magazine, use their tablet, download Men’s Health apps, go to Men’s Health.com and they’ll come out and participate in Men’s Health events. Wherever we make our content available, they’re guys who will engage with it.

Samir Husni: What is the ratio of digital subscriptions to that of the tablet?

Ronan Gardiner: Our total print subscriptions right now are about 1.3 million. And we’re selling about 115,000 digital copies.

Samir Husni: Bill, can you envision not seeing Men’s Health in print?

Bill Phillips: No, I really don’t foresee that. Print will not go away forever. It’s such a tactile experience and it’s a nice sort of getaway. Our lives are filled with clutter and there is nothing like huddling up with a magazine and paging through it. It’s just a different experience. It’s more of a sensual experience, maybe that’s not the right word to use for guys, but there is something to it.

The magazine tells a story as you page through it. It starts with quick bits and it builds into more thoughtful pieces toward the end.

Digital is about getting your fix and moving on. I just think that there is going to be a large group of men and women who are always going to want that experience of paging through a magazine at their leisure.

I had heard that the e-book concentration/penetration has reached about 30 percent and stalled and people still want their printed books. Seventy percent of the audience still wants that printed book.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with magazines. We’re still growing and our digital subscriptions are still growing and we’ve seen a lift over the summer, but they’re not growing as quickly as they were a year ago. Right now, we’re at ten percent. It’ll be interesting; maybe there is sort of a natural penetration of 15 or 20, but that’s it; that’s all we see. I guess time will tell.

Samir Husni: Magazines have only been in tablets for a little over three years, but usually people jump early. They go now.

Bill Phillips: Tablets are great too. I mean, you’re saving the paper and printing costs and renewals are very high on tablets. So, it’s a great business to be in. I almost look at, and I know Ronan does too, as a separate business. You think of print and online as two separate businesses. And the tablet edition is almost an entirely different business as well. It’s a different type of person who’s buying the tablet edition. That’s just their lifestyle.

When you look at Gen Y and Gen V, these are my kids who are glued to their iPods and iPhones already and don’t even have email addresses that they use, because they just text with their friends. It’ll be interesting to see if that generation ever has a moment where they realize the satisfaction in a printed product. I think we have a lot to learn on that front still.

Samir Husni: Yes, it’s amazing. Typing is the new talking.

Bill Phillips: Yes, definitely. But there’s a satisfaction in seeing your progress in a printed book too, I think, and if we woke up every day and went and turned on our computers and our tablets and sat and read The New York Times and then somebody said: “You know what? I could actually give this to you in a form factor where you could take it into any room you want; you could sit in the bathroom and read it, see it, feel it and smell it,” we’d think that would be an innovation. Print would be an innovation, if all we knew was digital.

I think it’s going to depend on the person. There’s going to be a large amount of people who still want the print experience.

Samir Husni: Outside the media circles in New York City; did any of your readers write and ask you about the editor change?

Bill Phillips: The only one I can remember is I received a Tweet from somebody saying, “Why don’t you want to talk? You’re not out there responding to all the stuff Dave is saying.” I responded by saying, “I’m just here to serve our readers.”

I think the best product wins always, so that’s going to be 100 percent of my focus.

Samir Husni: When you look at Men’s Health now and compare it to ten years ago, I believe you said you came to Men’s Health ten or so years ago.

Bill Phillips: Yes, in 2003.

Samir Husni: How is the magazine different today than it was in 2003?

Bill Phillips: It’s very different because guys have changed since that time. We’re doing more food than we’ve ever done, more grooming, style, tech, travel and more fatherhood. The content mix has certainly changed.

What I’ve tried to do, and I’m not saying anything negative toward Dave at all, but the magazine had started to get stuck in a bit of an editorial rut in that everybody was so busy, we were so focused on doing other businesses: building apps and doing digital and the website, that the magazine sort of became a little bit stale and wasn’t as surprising and as enterprising as it was back when I joined.

It was amazing journalism back then and it was fun and surprising and we sent writers to Darfur, Afghanistan and Iraq. And those kinds of stories we just weren’t doing anymore.

So my focus has been to get that element of empowerment. Men’s Health every month is going to empower you, surprise you and make you laugh and cry, but in the end you’re going to set it down and say, “Wow! I just learned a lot about myself. And I’m going to go live a better life tomorrow.”

Samir Husni: Ronan, from a marketing and advertising point of view, did the change in editorship cause a hiccup in the road?”

Ronan Gardiner: It really wasn’t, to tell you the truth. I worked closely with Dave and liked him personally and wish him nothing but the very best.

But we were very fortunate in that we had a pretty deep bench of very, very well-respected and smart editors in the business and had been working at Men’s Health for a long, long time. So, I think in many ways and the numbers from the issues would certainly support this; we’re stronger and more relevant, more vital and more needed for more men than we’ve ever been.

I’m just interested in the product being the best that it can possibly be and it most certainly is.

Samir Husni: What’s the major stumbling block in terms of the future of Men’s Health and how are you working to avoid it?

Ronan Gardiner: I honestly think in a lot of ways, we’re just getting started. I really do believe that. We’re 25 years in and we’re now the biggest men’s magazine brand on the planet, with forty editions in 57 countries and we’re the bestselling men’s magazine on U.S. newsstands. We have apps and tablets and events and I think there is so much more that we can do.

The beauty of health and wellness is it’s not a trend. No one is going to wake up six months from now and say, “Remember when we cared about feeling good?” That’s not going to happen. In fact, the movement is only going to continue to grow. And it needs to. Because there are a lot of people who, frankly, need to pay more attention to their health and wellbeing. And that means even more opportunity for Men’s Health to grow.

I would hate to appear to be avoiding the question, but to be absolutely honest with you; I don’t see a stumbling block in front of us. All I see is even more opportunity. And I believe that very sincerely.

Samir Husni: So Ronan, when should we expect to see a 916 page Vogue-like Men’s Health edition? Next September?

Ronan Gardiner: I can tell you one thing; we’re carrying more fashion than we’ve ever carried. We’re carrying more grooming than we’ve ever carried, more food, more financial advertising; so categories that traditionally have not looked toward magazines such as Men’s Health are really starting to wake up to the power of the brand and the power and size of the audience.

So, I don’t think we’ll be producing a tome-like September issue like Vogue does, in the immediate future, but I do think across multiple categories we can see our business continue to grow.

Bill Phillips: In terms of obstacles, I think our challenge and focus will be the Men’s Health everywhere strategy. When I ran online in 2009 up until I was promoted into this spot, Men’s Health everywhere was something we talked about a lot. Wherever our guys are out there in a digital landscape, let’s go get to them. So if they’re in the Apple store, let’s go there, if they’re in the Kindle store, let’s go there, Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest…wherever, we need to have a presence so that we’re reaching those eyeballs.

And we need to bring that same philosophy to the print product. We do know that when guys touch the magazine or open the magazine, they want it. We did a newsstand survey which was amazing. It was one issue and guys who bought it at the newsstand, so these are people who don’t get the magazine every month and 97 percent said they intended on buying it again. Ninety-seven percent. That’s amazing to me. And people who picked it up because they spotted it on the newsstand and we’re capturing 97 out of a hundred of them. And that’s impressive.

So we have to take that knowledge that we create a world-class product and when people see it, they want it and then we have to get it into more people’s hands. And that means that newsstands will always be a part of that equation, but fewer people are walking by the newsstands, we know that, so where are our guys? Well, they’re at gyms and traveling, they’re at airports and hotels, working out at the YMCA, they’re running obstacle races and those are the guys we need to put a magazine in the hands of. If we do that, then they’re going to send that subscription card in.

That’s our challenge and it’s changing the way we’re marketing, now it’s more of a grass roots marketing. It used to be companies like ours could just do direct mail and sit back and watch the orders roll in, but in this world there is just too much clutter for that to work well anymore. It still works a little bit. So now the question is: what is the new way to get the magazine out there into people’s hands? That’s the challenge.

Samir Husni: How are you using digital to promote the printed magazine?

Bill Phillips: We’ve tried a number of different ways. Obviously, if you go to our website you’re going to find subscription offers and that sort of thing.

Recently, we launched something we called The Men’s Health Search Party, which is where you answer three questions correctly about the Men’s Health brand and you’re entered to win whatever prize is being offered.

One of the questions came from the current issue. But if you don’t have the current issue, you can still enter the contest, just those types of ideas that can bring about awareness of what’s in the magazine.

It’s another one of the challenges that the industry is facing. We need to be able to clearly express to our customers why the printed magazine is special and why it’s worth paying for. Why there is value there. And I don’t think as an industry we’ve done a good job of that.

We are looking at things for next year where subscribers would have special access on our website. Those are all works in progress. Our social following is exploding. We’re over 2.5 million on Twitter and Facebook.

Those are people who engage with us multiple times each day. They’re fans and they love our brand. A small percentage of them are actually subscribers. How do we get those others to realize it’s worth it to have Men’s Health coming into their mailbox every month? The survey suggests to me and others like it, we just need to get them to test it and try it.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Ronan Gardiner: That’s a great question. I sleep really well. Probably because I think I have the best publishing job in the industry, among other things. When you’ve had a year as successful as the one we’ve just had, and I by no means want to sound arrogant, on the advertising front, on the editorial and international fronts, you can’t help but be a little bit nervous about the year ahead.

But the challenge of replicating success, well, that’s a great challenge. The challenge of only getting stronger, I mean, what a fun challenge that is to have. I don’t think that there’s anything that needs fixing at Men’s Health, so as long as the challenges continue to be how do we just get even bigger and better and even more relevant, capture even more market share, break even more new advertising goals and speak to even more customers and consumers, that doesn’t really keep me up at night as it wakes me up in the morning.

Bill Phillips: What keeps me up at night goes back to what I said about the best product wins. And every month I want to be better than the month before. Every month I want that surprising read, that really enterprising and exhaustive reporting and what we call Hot Spots. And Hot Spots are just tidbits of useful information located in the front of the magazine. Hot Spots are so simple and easy to remember, but so important. Are there enough Hot Spots?

I want to see more of the words You and Your so that we’re talking directly to our readers.

Those are the kind of things that wake me up at night. We want to push the benefits to our readers, in every headline and every story.

The commitment to excellence keeps me up at night, but I have an amazing team and as long as I keep them empowered and cultivating their creativity, it’s all good.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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“The Print Magazine is Thriving and Magazine Circulation Is Very Stable,” Says Hearst’s Michael Clinton.

October 30, 2013

At Media Next with Michael Clinton and Bo SacksThe print magazine is thriving and the circulation of American magazines is very stable, Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst Magazines, told me during his appearance as a guest at the standing room only “Samir ‘Mr. Magazine™’ Husni and Bo Sacks Show” at the Folio: Media Next Conference in New York City Monday Oct. 28. His revelations and advice may surprise you as he talks about the printed word and the digital world we live in.

Mr. Clinton noted that magazines are “paid content in a world of free content,” and in the case of Hearst, “a 126-year-old entrepreneur,” everything is paid content. Whether you buy the print edition or the digital edition you have to pay a separate price for each edition.

In the midst of the question and answer session Mr. Clinton asked the audience to guess the percentage of digital subscriptions on the tablets compared to that of print: 3% was his surprising answer to an audience that was guessing 20 and 30%.

However, Mr. Clinton is quick to add that Digital is now the third channel of revenue in the magazine media business complementing advertising and circulation revenues. “If you’re in the print business today you can’t just wear a print hat,” he told the audience.

The aforementioned words of wisdom and many more you will discover in this lightly edited highlights from the conversation with Michael Clinton. I believe you’ll find it an eye-opening reading experience.

On hope in the magazine industry during a time of great transformation:

I’ll just open by saying that perhaps a provocative statement that many of you will find interesting is that the print magazine is actually thriving. And you may all say, “Huh? What do you mean by that?” And what I do is I go to the consumer because what has happened with the print magazine industry is pre-during and post the recession, what we learned is that overall circulation of magazines in this country actually remained very stable. And if you think about what a magazine costs — it’s not a lot of money — if you buy a copy of a magazine or a subscription, but if you think about what stress people went through during the recession, you don’t have to buy a magazine to live.

So some people might have thought we would see magazine circulation plummet from the consumer point, but actually it was just the opposite — it remained very consistent. I might add that it is paid content in a world of free content. We ask consumers to pay money for our content, which is a completely different model than the free web and/or other information that’s available out there.

On the percentage of total magazine subscriptions that are delivered on tablet devices in the industry:

So let me ask my favorite trivia question that I ask people when I’m sitting next to them on airplanes or in media meetings or in groups like this. And I’ll just ask you to yell out a number. What is the percentage of total magazine subscriptions that are now delivered on tablet devices in the industry? Throw out a number… The answer is three. Most people say 30. Most people think there’s been this massive transformation of magazine subscriptions onto tablets and they will say 30 or 35 percent, which is part of the urban myth of what is the reality in terms of the consumer. It is three percent.

On the struggles of moving people from the printed product to the tablet:

Some of the complications are that discovery is a real problem for consumers. It’s hard to find a magazine on a digital newsstand. You have many, many different newsstands now so you can go onto — iTunes, you can go onto Zinio, you can go onto Next Issue Media, you can go onto lots of different places. So discovery is a problem. I don’t know how many of you have tried to authenticate from a print subscription to a digital subscription, meaning if you paid for your print subscription you can get the digital copy at no cost. That’s called authentication. I’ve tried it on a couple of different magazines that I subscribe to personally. It’s very, very hard sometimes.

The downloading process, the whole technology, you finally give up and say it’s not worth it because it’s very complicated and that’s a problem we need to sort out as part of this process. We did just an interesting study with people who did not renew and by the way on the tablet subscription we have great renewals, we have great demographic profiles and we have great engagement, but we also have people who have not renewed now that we’re cycling. And when we go back and ask them why they haven’t renewed, it’s generally two things. One, they’ve gone back to print because they just prefer the print experience, or two, the technology and the clunkiness of it frustrated them in terms of getting the download into the shelf and forgetting that the new issue had come.

You know, when you get a magazine in your mailbox you’re sort of reminded that your favorite magazine is here — great. Sometimes when it’s downloading onto the shelf you forget that your new magazine has come. So that’s part of the technology as well, we like to be reminded.

On the importance of digital as a third channel:

We, as mentioned, are the leader in the number of subscriptions we have on tablet and we have a very, very aggressive plan and a big investment. That’s because we do believe in this as the third channel.

So I would argue that if you’re in the business of starting or running a magazine, the beautiful story is you now have three channels of distribution. You have the newsstand channel, you have the print subscription channel and now you have the digital subscription channel. And I always make the analogy, for those of you who know the beauty business, when Sephora was born it was a great story for the beauty manufacturers because they got a new channel of distribution aside from department stores and traditional means.

So we want to embrace this in a big way because we think it will grow. Last week at the magazine conference I think our CEO said that we have an aggressive plan up through 2017 to almost triple that number, so we’ve got a very big initiative and we think it’s a great new channel to cultivate and develop.

On insisting that consumers pay for the print AND digital versions of magazines:

I think for those of you who are thinking about this or doing this I’m just going to give you a bumper sticker line that is our mantra and that is “fee not free.” So what do I mean by that?

You know if you go to Barnes & Noble and you buy a physical book, when you leave the store do they give you a free download to download that book on your tablet? No. When you go to watch the movie Gravity, when you are walking out of the movie theatre do they give you a coupon to download the film on Netflix? No.

If you choose to watch a film on your tablet or you choose to buy a book on your tablet, regardless of if you’ve bought the physical or have the physical experience, you pay for it. So our point of view in our company is if you have a paid subscription you’re not going to get the tablet subscription for free. If you want the tablet subscription, you buy it.

Some people will have both and some people will have one versus the other but we would argue, thank you Steve Jobs, that he taught the consumer that you pay for content and so when you go on iTunes and you’re buying a song or you’re buying a book or you’re buying a movie you’re actually paying for that product on that platform.

On customers insisting on print over digital:

I think you know I talked about what we do to the consumer, you know when we put out a new magazine as we are with Dr. Oz The Good Life, which is coming Feb. 4, we are always promoting the print magazine to our consumer base. I’ll give you one example and then I’ll switch over to the advertising side.

When we launched HGTV 18 months ago we had the most aggressive plan ever in terms of offering the consumer both the print edition or the tablet edition. So everything we did to market to the consumer was to serve up the tablet edition just to also see what kind of take rate we would get. And we generated about 750,000 print subscriptions and we generated about 70,000 digital subscriptions and I keep going back to “It’s the consumer, stupid.” The consumer will make the choice what they want.

So what we know is that in putting out new products and even in our renewals and our direct mail efforts with the print product versus digital that that still seems to be the No. 1 choice in how they want the product.

On not being able to just wear a print “hat” today:

Listen, if you’re in the print business today, and this might get into another discussion about skillsets and how do you grow a career and how do you build a career; if you’re in the print business today you can’t just wear a print hat.

You know, we call it the ecosystem of the brand, I’ll take Cosmo for example. Cosmo has 17 million readers in its print edition but when you look at all the other platforms, when you go to Cosmo.com, that’s 13 million uniques, and by the way only 10 percent of them overlap with the print subscriber. If you go to any of the social media platforms, you have Cosmo on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You have Cosmo Tablet Edition, which is the manifestation of the print edition on the tablet. They’re actually the leading women’s edition in terms of tablet edition.

You have Cosmo on Sirius radio, we have Cosmo in 63 countries, we’ll launch next fall Cosmo Live, which will be a 2-day empowerment conference for millennial women.

So we think about it in the context of the ecosystem of the brand. So how do you build the brand community? Print is at the core, but all of the other platforms, we have to be vigorously cultivating and developing because we can bring people into our brand story through other messages and other formats.

On the evolution of the required skill set for an editor:

Our editors are constantly thinking about what content do they produce for the various platforms. And it’s interesting, we just completed a major millennial study with three cohorts: 14-20, 21-30 and 30-plus. What’s interesting is the millennials.

When we were kids we watched TV, we were on the phone and doing our homework and our parents would say, “How can you concentrate when you’re doing all three?”

Today they’re doing nine things and they’re on different platforms — they’re digitally wired. But they use each platform for different things. So they use Instagram for one thing, they use Facebook for another, Twitter’s their newsfeed, Facebook is their spy, etc., etc.

So our content people will have to know how to adapt content for those platforms. You can’t just put it out because each one is emerging as a different source of information. It’s complex, we’re constantly learning, we’re constantly training and we’re constantly evolving.

On harnessing the skill sets of digital natives to help drive a magazine’s digital component:

What I would suggest that someone do is go out and hire a 21 year old or somebody just out of college who is a digital native and say to them, “Your job and your only job is to be our social media expert. I want you on our sites every single day posting content that’s relevant for our particular brand.” And let them loose.

You will find that young, digital natives are very inventive and innovative as to how they go about developing social media. So you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune with regards to some of these things. But you have to have some kind of a digital offering because it’s what the consumer wants from your brand.

On Hearst as a 126-year-old entrepreneur:

We want to know everything new that is emerging. We want to play in every space, we want to play in the print-e-commerce space, we want to play in a more robust digital space i.e. being more, but you know respect our legacy and our DNA. We want to be able to understand what Blipper is before everybody else does and be first to market with it.

We’re often times first to market and test, trying different kinds of new concepts — digital concepts in particular. Programmatic buying I mentioned.

So we sort of view ourselves as an entrepreneur so that we can stay as nimble as we can. We are fortunate that we’re a private company so we can invest some money in the new, emerging technologies and try and test different kinds of things. If you don’t there’s that great expression: “innovate or die.” If you’re not constantly thinking about this then you will miss the mark.

But that being said, you know what we continue to respect and continue to acknowledge, and I’m the guy that has to ultimately, with my publishing team, bring in the revenue, is that the revenues are still predominately print based.

So advertising and circulation combined still represent 90 percent of our revenues. And I don’t see that changing in any huge way in certainly the next few years. So look at the legacy. Constantly doing innovative things on the print side, which I can get into if you want, but then also being very, very entrepreneurial on the digital side so that we can grow and evolve that part of our business as well.

On the struggle to successfully monetize mobile advertising:

Consumers’ eyeballs are shifting and a lot of those eyeballs are obviously shifting to this device, the smartphone, as well as the tablet to an extent and will continue to grow. And the advertising dollars are not necessarily following where the eyeballs are.

Now part of that is that no one has cracked the code yet on meaningful advertising solutions, advertising units on mobile devices. The mobile device is very hard to monetize from an advertising standpoint. So someone has to crack that code and figure out what is going to be the mobile experience in terms of advertising without it being viewed as intrusive and/or an annoyance for the consumer. So that will happen over time.

On the importance of advertising in magazines:

One of the things we think about a lot in the magazine business is what is our USP. What’s our unique selling proposition to the consumer and to the advertiser?

And one of the things which is a great benefit to us, and this may not surprise you, but you know research after research after research proves this out, that in the magazine experience, the print experience, the consumer actually wants the advertising. It’s part of the experience.

I love reading Outside Magazine. Outside Magazine is one of my personal favorites and I spend as much time in the advertising because it shows me a lot of new products that are coming out in the outdoors space.

If you love fashion magazines, think about what your issue of Harper’s BAZAAR would look like in terms of the experience without any advertising. You’d probably feel half empty.

So one of the things we know is that consumers actually embrace advertising in our medium, which is really a compelling story that we can tell the marketers who are trying to get the consumers’ attention in a very fleeting, ADD world where people are constantly seeing messages fly by them every single day. They actually, when they’re on the printed product, stop and look at the ad because they want to see what the new golf product is in Golf Digest or what Prada is doing in fashion. So that’s a great story for us to tell.

On career advice for young people:

Careers are always a bit of performance, and skill, and luck and timing. It’s that elusive mix of all of those things. And I think the core of it is performance because when you do your job and you do it best and you excel, people who are in my seat notice that and have an eye on, in my case, who will be the next publisher of one of our magazines because they’ve excelled and performed in the job that they’re currently in.

And what I look for is not only just the performance but the vision. What is their vision of what their assignment is, not their own personal vision of who they are, but the vision of what kind of new innovation are they bringing to what they do and that is always a good way to propel someone to the next place.

And in addition to that you need to be ready to jump when the opportunity is there and when the opportunity arises — that’s the timing piece. I cannot underscore the importance of having a mentor. I have had two very great mentors in my career who are still my mentors and I mentor people as well. It’s important to hitch your wagon onto someone who can help develop and you can brainstorm and you can be totally open to in terms of putting it all out there.

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The Future of Print and Digital According To Bo Sacks. The Mr. Magazine™ Minute

October 28, 2013

My friend Bo Sacks, of the bosack.com fame, is the first one to tell you he is biased and opinionated. Lately he has been attending one magazine media conference after another. And, after each conference Bo is firing or, I better say, ranting and revetting relentlessly about the ills of the industry’s conferences.

I caught up with Bo in New York City on the eve of the Folio: Media Next conference and I asked him about his latest rampage regarding the American Magazine Conference and the speech by Mary Berner, the MPA president and chief executive officer. Here are his answers in this Mr. Magazine™ Minute.

So here you have it. What do you think?

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Live Happy Magazine: Happiness Finds Its Way to Print. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Editor in Chief Karol DeWulf Nickell.

October 28, 2013

Live Happy – Print Magazine, Website, Movement – Brand. Happiness Is Not Just An Old Adage Written On A Plaque In Your Mother’s Kitchen Anymore – It’s A Science Now And There Is Now A Magazine To Dispense Its Findings! Mr. Magazine’s™ Conversation With Editor-in-Chief Of Live Happy Magazine – Karol DeWulf Nickell.

reg 48 It’s a given that we want to “Live Happy.” On that, I think we can all agree. Now there’s a magazine out there that is going to help us scientifically learn how to do it and show us data that not only backs up the old adage Mom used to wish for us, but proves that the endless quest isn’t as incessant as we might believe.

From her experience at Better Homes and Gardens, Fresh Homes and the home and gardening group at Reader’s Digest, Karol DeWulf Nickell is now learning to “Live Happy” as Editor-in-Chief of the magazine by the same name. She talks with Mr. Magazine™ about the print magazine, website and the Live Happy Movement.

But first, the sound-bites:

Sound-bites:

Karol N Headshot-1On why Live Happy Magazine is not just a print title but a brand as well:
It’s very difficult to launch a traditional magazine with only two streams of revenue, circulation and advertising. So this magazine is not just a magazine, it is a whole brand.

On the role of the print magazine within the Live Happy brand:

The role of the magazine is obviously to be the first thing a customer sees.

On the value that Live Happy Magazine provides consumers:

So it’s the science of happiness that is new and what has not happened up to this point is there’s been no translator of that science to the general public.

On how Live Happy Magazine standing out in a crowded, mature marketplace:
If you look at our cover, you’ll see immediately that it stands out. We have snapshots of newsstands all across the country already and we are placed very well beside either lifestyle magazines, health magazines or food magazines. And we stand out.

On the versatility of Live Happy Magazine:
I think that this (concept) translates very well to digital, to web, to social media and apparel. So think it’s very translatable. I think print, in our case, is a lead vehicle, it’s going to be an essential vehicle, but it is one within a group.

On the important of science within Live Happy Magazine:

When you look at the magazine and you look at the number of science articles in the first issue, our first issue has 70 percent science and 30 percent lifestyle. We did that deliberately because we think that a lot people won’t have known about positive psychology.

On potential stumbling blocks for Live Happy Magazine:

I think Live Happy is going to have to very quickly explain itself. We are not a magazine of just feel good stories. This is real data. This is real science. We have to be able to explain it real quickly and to get our message out.

On what keeps Karol Nickell up at night:

Well, I am building a magazine at the same time I’m building a staff so I think that those two very, very essential responsibilities are keeping me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of Mr. Magazine’s™ conversation with Live Happy Editor-in-Chief, Karol DeWulf Nickell.

Samir Husni: Launching a new magazine in this “connected digital age” about happiness; the first thing that people will ask, is are you out of your mind or are you happy to do it?

Karol Nickell: It’s very difficult to launch a traditional-model magazine with only two streams of revenue: circulation and advertising. So this magazine is not just a magazine, it is a whole brand. We have a live website which is part of the launch. But we also have a happiness movement and this movement will in time also provide different customers and different avenues of revenue to be a part of the brand. That kind of multifaceted magazine base is important; the magazine driven brand today is different than the old model.

SH: What role does the printed magazine in this model play?

KN: The most important thing is that it’s a fresh face out there. So we launched this week as you now. We printed 500,000. You’ll see us all across the country. It is truly a country-wide launch.

We will be doing what you consider to be a monthly rollout again in 2014, so this is a soft launch and then we’ll have monthly circulation starting in 2014.

The role of the magazine is obviously to be the first thing a customer sees. And she and he are people who care about other people, who like to live happy. So that kind of describes a lot of us. So we think the audience is large, we think that’s it’s international, we think it’s non-generational and we think that it’s very much a positive statement in a world where some negativity can cause stress and cause life to be less than happy.

SH: With your experience at Better Homes and Gardens, Fresh Homes, the home and gardening group at Reader’s Digest and with all these magazines, there are a lot of competitive titles in the marketplace. Why do you think no one has come up with a Live Happy Magazine before with the need for happiness that we have since we live in a much more stressful world?

KN: That is the question I asked myself when I was asked to consider this role. The beautiful thing that’s happening here is, people wanting to live happy is not a new deal. Your parents wanted to live happy and they wanted you to live happy. Their parents wanted to live happy — it’s not a new deal.

However, what is new is that positive psychology has come into the idea of positive emotion, positive thinking and now that has provided us with new data and how the body, both mind and physicalness, can come together and help people understand what’s going on when you have a happy moment and what’s going on when you feel stressed.

So it’s the science of happiness that is new and what has not happened up to this point is there’s been no translator of that science to the general public. People who are in positive psychology and the other related scientists are well versed in this. It has been 20-some years since Martin Seligman sat on the stage and said, “We really need to think positively versus negatively as psychologists.”

However, that bubble is still a bubble and so now with the magazine and a brand and a consumer positioning in the marketplace, that science is being adapted and translated to the general public.

SH: So what are some the challenges that you will face so you won’t be lost in the translation of that science of happiness?

KN: I think that is a big challenge, but it’s a challenge that anyone faces when they’re out there because we’re in a very crowded, mature marketplace.

If you look at our cover, you’ll see immediately that it stands out. We have snapshots of newsstands all across the country starting with Monday already and we are placed very well beside either lifestyle magazines, health magazines or food magazines. And we stand out. Hudson, when we talked to them about this magazine, said that anything that has happy on it really sells.

So we think the consumer poll is going to be very strong, we think we’re unique within the marketplace and we think we have a really solid product and positioning.

SH: You said you wanted the print magazine to be the first thing that the customer, your audience will see. So how important is print today?

KN: I think that print will always be important. I think that in some cases some brands need print more than other brands. In our case, it is truly just a first step. I think that this translates very well to digital, to web, to social media and apparel. So I think it’s very translatable. I think print, in our case, is a lead vehicle, it’s going to be an essential vehicle, but it is one within a group.

SH: So within this entire science of happiness, what’s been the most stressful part of creating a Live Happy Magazine or has it been one happy, smiley road so far?

KN: When you look at the magazine and you look at the number of science articles in the first issue; our first issue has 70 percent science and 30 percent lifestyle. We did that deliberately because we think that a lot people won’t have known about positive psychology.

So then we have brought the story of positive psychology in the story that starts on page 50, we actually explain how these two sciences met randomly on a beach and started a conversation. I mean this is really an incredible and unlikely story.

We really wanted people to understand that this is based in science and it’s also based in years of science. It has the founders like Martin and Michael, but it also has young stars like Barbara Fredrickson and Sonia. It is not a difficult science. People are just observing what people do and they are putting it into the matrix of research and bringing back data and that data is easy enough to understand but it is not usually in the everyday conversation. We hope to put it into the conversation of every day.

I just attended a positive education summit in the UK. Positive psychology has been applied in schools, especially in the UK and Australia. Those schools have results five years in the making that show kids actually excel when character strengths and positive emotions are laced into the curriculum. So there’s really remarkable things happening and we need to know about them.

SH: How can you apply that positive psychology to the role of the editor today? In this world, and I’m sure you are familiar with all the doom and gloom articles about journalism, editors and the role of the media; did that affect your role 10 years ago when you were the editor of Better Homes and Gardens? Is it any different now being an editor of a magazine than what it used to be?

KN: As an editor of Better Homes & Gardens, I was responsible for stories that talked about happiness and talked about positive psychology, so I was very aware of it.

However, that was not the core category. This magazine being dedicated to it cover to cover is unique. That is different for me in this role. However, I truly believe and always have the idea that you have people in your life who inspire you. You have people in your life who show resilience.

The point is, these are things that we witness, we know. Now science is backing this up and showing how that actually happens and how you have a decision to make in your own life to be resilient, to be happy and to give happiness to others. There’s a story on page 66, The Good Guys Win, it’s actually based on research and basically it showed two professors at The University of Michigan and they have actual data that shows that when you have compassion and virtue at work, that business is better on the bottom line.

These are real things, it’s not just a good thing to do, but these are real positive results of people doing the right thing. That’s a great message.

SH: How does that message impact the messenger, in this case, you?

KN: This is the way I’ve approached my own life and my own business. This is the way that I also get inspired and continue to work hard in a very hard industry. So I really feel like this is integrated. I think it’s a discovery.

For example, I have a young gentleman who’s working with us. Magazines are not his world, he’s an IT guy. I was explaining to him some of the content that was going into the magazine about three or four months ago and he kind of put his hand up to his face and said, “Stop Karol, that’s enough.” And then he said, “You know Karol, I’m glad you’re telling me this but it really doesn’t matter — content just doesn’t really matter.” I said, “OK, fine.”

I came back after three weeks of being on the road. The first issue is now out. He’s read the magazine a number of times because he manages all the files. He turned to me and said, “Karol, my life has been changed by reading this magazine. I get it.” So that to me is amazing. There’s a story for how this might indeed change someone and have a positive result.

SH: What’s the major stumbling block that’s going to face Live Happy?

KN: I think Live Happy is going to have to very quickly explain itself. We are not a magazine of just feel good stories. This is real data. This is real science. We have to be able to explain it very quickly and to get our message out.

SH: My last question to you… What keeps Karol up at night now?

KN: Well, I am building a magazine at the same time I’m building a staff so I think that those two very, very essential responsibilities are keeping me up at night, but I also know that everybody that we’ve had on this team are wonderful and dedicated and I feel very confident that after the first issue is out, the second one is going to be even better.

SH: Any last words of wisdom you want to share with the world out there about happiness or about Live Happy?

KN: I think the important thing is please take a look and please go to the website and please join the movement. The movement is really essential to the fact that happiness starts with you. This magazine is not about stars and experts; it’s about the individuals and that I think is the best message. Happiness starts with you.

SH: Thank you.

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There is Nothing Lean about the Food Network Magazine Sans Its Team. Mr. Magazine’s™ Delectable Conversation with Vicki Wellington, Publisher, Food Network Magazine.

October 22, 2013

Vicki Wellington 2 Before there was Dr. Oz, The Good Life and HGTV magazine, there was the Food Network Magazine… It is not the first magazine born from the womb of a television network, but it is the first such successful magazine, if not THE most successful magazine launch in the last five years. Born in the midst of one of the worst economic times; the magazine has increased its rate base 11 times so far and is not showing any signs of a slowdown.

The woman behind the magazine is Vicki Wellington, vice president, publisher and chief revenue officer of the Food Network Magazine. Ms. Wellington was my guest at the CPR for Magazine Media held in New York City last month.

Who says you can’t publish a successful print magazine in this digital age? Certainly not Mr. Magazine™ and even more certainly not Vicki Wellington!

And for your savory enjoyment, here are the sound bites and highlights from her conversation with me and the audience at the CPR for Magazine Media conference in New York City on Sept. 25:

On why print is still relevant today:
How many times have you heard that traditional media is dead? Television, magazines, radio, you name it. They are still here and they are relevant to consumers. It’s that content that keeps each media platform relevant and for those of us in magazines, our challenge moving forward is looking for and finding the big ideas, the new and exciting ideas that consumers are looking for.

FNM Nov '13 cover There’s never ever a bad idea to launch a good idea. In the last decade, we’ve seen the successful launches of magazines that stimulated old categories and created new ones. Oprah, Lucky — in its heyday was a big new idea — Real Simple, HGTV, which launched only a year ago; they’re following in our footsteps. They’re doing very well and they’re making money and Food Network of course.

Then there are the recently announced Dr. Oz magazine (Dr. Oz The Good Life magazine), which will have a different name but a similar kind of format. It’s really all about hitting the sweet spot of a consumer’s imagination.

Food Network Magazine is an example of how a great idea can and will succeed if the content is right regardless of television, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Vine. Real magazines and I mean the print versions, not the digital, will be launched well into the future and it can make money, which I know is very important.

On the power of the Food Network stars:

We had just witnessed the collapse of major financial institutions. The economy was in a tailspin. Social media was all the rage. The perfect storm? Not exactly. It was more like the stars were aligned. And by stars, I mean of course, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentiis — the Food Network stars.

Considering the power of the Food Network brand, along with the loyalty of their viewers and the growing pop of celebrity chefs we knew we were onto something. But when we attended the Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival in early 2009, that’s when it really hit me. Everybody was getting fired from their jobs, the banks were going bankrupt, and I go to South Beach and literally thousands of people are paying hundreds of dollars to get into these events. And I worked at Rolling Stone years ago, so I knew what it was like to see fans with the Mick Jaggers of the world, but this was crazy.

People were just dying to get close to the Guys. They were dying to get close to Alton — just to get an autograph, to get a picture. What was different is people feel like they know them. They’ve been in their kitchen. They know what they’re like. And you know what, they do. And you think of like a Brad Pitt or a Jennifer Aniston and you don’t really know what they’re like really. You know them as their characters in movies. But these people, you do know. I mean, Guy, I can tell you some funny stories about him. He’s really like that. And that’s nice and that’s comfortable and happy for people.

On Food Network as a pop culture obsession and food becoming part of pop culture:
Food Network had become a pop culture obsession and pop culture had become all about food. And celebrity chefs had really branched out, bringing attention to food in new places. And so really Food Network elevated food to a pop culture sensation.

I always say food is the new black. So what’s always surprising to me is that no matter who you are, if you’re old or young or if you don’t even cook, they all love this brand and they love this magazine.

On the beginnings of Food Network Magazine:

Our editors had a funny challenge — how do you translate this brand and make it all work? And the funny thing is, and I won’t get into it, our editor had created a magazine and he went to focus groups and they ripped it apart. It wasn’t even named Food Network Magazine. It was named Spoon brought to you by Food Network. So women in the group said we’re going to call it Food Network Magazine, so why don’t you call it that? And we were like that’s a good idea. They said they wanted cooking for weekdays, cooking for weeknights. It was all different, different cuisines, different personalities.

On early worries about whether or not Food Network Magazine would succeed:

The first thing was, of course, the cover. We talked about that. You know, no one knew what that was going to sell. In fact, food magazines do not sell well on newsstands.

And we put this out and again the banks had closed, everyone was a nervous wreck and I thought, am I crazy to have taken this job? And the people at Food Network said, we know this audience, trust me they’re going to buy this magazine. And they did.

And once we did that, once we saw those numbers we knew we had a compelling proposition for consumers. And that was the point. This wasn’t created for an advertising base, it was created because there were consumers who wanted it. And that’s why we’re making money.

On the importance of making the food look aesthetically pleasing in the magazine:
How did we stand out? First thing is, to make the food look real and tasty. It sounds crazy but a lot of food magazines don’t use real food and you can tell and you see this.

And the other challenge was, and I hear this a lot, is that a lot of advertisers change the way that they even shoot food. Look how beautiful it can look. I mean it’s beautifully photographed and beautifully designed. It’s a very clean, simple background. I think we made a lot of people change the way they do things. So that is just a feel for that. We do top-50 booklets. Again, beautiful, real food and it’s fun.

On the success of Food Network Magazine:
We had the highest direct mail response to an issue in all of our company’s history. 10,000 subscriptions sold in 6 hours. That is unbelievable. And we’ve sold about 1500 subscription orders a day on Foodnetwork.com.

Now those numbers have changed of course because we’ve been around 5 years. But they’re still very strong. Right now our magazine is the 2nd largest monthly on newsstands. Think how large that is. Cosmo is the largest, which our company owns and then you’ve got Food Network Magazine. We are No.1 on newsstands within the Epicureans set selling more than all the other food magazines combined.

We had 11 rate base increases since launch and we’re going up again as you can see in 2014 and I’m sure we will in 2015. And I will say right now you can see we are at 1.55 million, we will deliver 1.8 million in our November/December issue. So it’s big.

On Food Network Magazine’s diversity when it comes to advertising:

We’ve got a very large breadth of advertising. We have lots of categories. 54 percent of our business is from non-food advertisers. And again, we basically just play off the consumers and how obsessed they are and of course the power of the brand overall and the entertainment place.

On the magazine’s digital replica and differences in audience between print and digital:
Digital, I’m sure you’ve probably talked about while you’ve been in here. We do have a digital replica; it’s the exact same thing as the magazine, and we are right now the third largest selling digital magazine and soon really to be second largest.

And you can see those numbers are big, we’re on a number of platforms, and you know it’s a different experience. And from what I understand from the data, it’s a different reader, so we’re not losing readers, we’re gaining other readers, and they’re enjoying it in a different way, which is nice.

On the pricing of the digital version of Food Network Magazine:

Same rate. You pay for everything. Nothing’s free … And the way David Carey (president Hearst Magazines) describes it is if you go to a movie and you like the movie and you want to have the DVD, you don’t get that free, you have to pay for that. It’s the same amount.

On a case study of an integrated marketing campaign that Food Network did with Lexus:

I won’t talk but a minute about this, but just one quick case study. Lexus, obviously everybody’s familiar with — it’s a fairly upscale automotive vehicle. They were one of the sponsors of Robert Irvine and Restaurant Impossible: Holiday Impossible.

And so what we did is we basically all-integrated. There was a whole in-book piece, we actually ran 16 pages, so a number of very creative units. They were roll units, they were shutter units — just ways to sort of be impactful in the magazine and of course on air there were a number of vignettes and Lexus was the car he drove and online they did a number of pre-roll and post-rolls and a lot of interviews with their culinary talent but everything pushed back.

So every medium basically played off their best attributes, which is the point. And what I will show you just quickly, and I won’t read it, believe me, but we did follow-up research — did it work or did it not?

And what I will show you, down at the bottom is the sum of the parts is really greater than the whole. And we just met with the Lexus client in fact this week at our favorite restaurant and we are doing something with them moving forward. So I think that is a big piece of our success.

On the magazine’s readership:

Well, we’re quite a bit younger than anybody else. We’re like 40. And typically, in this category, people are a bit older. I will be honest — we’re a very big mass brand. So our household income is not as high as some of them, but we’re not as old as them so that makes it lower. I will say we’ve got different pieces so if you look at our digital version, that’s a bit younger. If you look at our database, which we keep in-house and that’s subscribers that are a bit younger. The age is young and that’s nice.

On the magazine’s male readership:

We have a lot of male readers. What our editor would say is that she edits not for male or female. She’s got sort of a neutral kind of position.

That being said, we’ve got 3 million male readers. That’s more than Esquire and that’s more than The Wall Street Journal. So it’s impressive.

We also produced this year sort of a men’s only editorial section. It wasn’t to say that the whole magazine would be read by men, but it was a little more focused.

What I find is that younger men love cooking and we noticed this. Younger men love to cook and a lot of times they’re the ones who are cooking and now a lot of grocery stores are set up by men. And I can tell you that men don’t always buy magazines so it’s a nice position to have.

On Food Network Magazine’s “hidden demographics:”
We have a lot of hidden treats. We do a whole “cooking with your kids” so that’s really focused on mothers and fathers — how to cook with your kids and get them involved in the kitchen and that’s kind of a whole different demographic.

We’ve got a travel edition that we do. And that is again traveling, you’re thinking about where you want to eat, so again it’s the beauty of this large sort of mass brand that we can easily cut and deliver in all these ways.

More on the magazine’s diversity of advertisers:

With our business plan I always saw this as a diverse opportunity. My first schedule that I broke was Clinique, which if you know Clinique, it’s a mass prestige beauty advertiser. And it came into issue. Now why did they? Because they got it. They saw the power of what this magazine could bring. Another thing; they are still not on air or online. But they loved the translation of this magazine. So, interestingly that was our first.

And again if you look, we’ve got Lexus, we’ve got Mercedes, and we have a lot of food too. But again, I feel like this is how everyone lives now. You shouldn’t be so compartmental in your thinking because that’s not how life is. And when you look at the consumer and you look at the obsession, to me it’s about whether this consumer is going in and buying Clinique or buying a Mercedes or a Lexus or whatever. And the answer is yes and that’s why they should be here.

On Food Network Magazine’s lean team:

I will also say that we’re a very lean team. From the beginning we were structured very differently than traditional magazines. We do not have a lot of people. And at first, I came from Condé Nast, I thought, “Oh my God, how are we going to do this?” And here’s the thing — We do it and it’s remarkable to me. If you hire the right people and you’re just smart about who does what and who you hire, it’s done and we don’t miss much.

On advice for those looking to start a magazine:

I’m a magazine believer. I have everything digital, but I love touching and feeling a magazine. I think you have to launch it for a real reason. With the research that we did, we knew that they wanted it and we knew that they would pay for it.

I think you just have to do your research and your homework and know that you’re bringing something that’s a different point and something that doesn’t exist and I know that’s hard. I think that’s the reason for the success.

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Print is “Still Vital and Exciting — More Exciting Than Ever. But …” Newell Turner, Editorial Director of the Design Group, Hearst Magazines. The Mr. Magazine™ Minute

October 21, 2013

“Don’t you miss the old days,” someone asked Newell Turner, editorial director of the Hearst Design Group (House Beautiful, Elle Décor and Veranda). His answer, “Absolutely NOT.” Find out why and how does Mr. Turner view the role of a magazine editor in this digital age in this segment of the Mr. Magazine™ Minute.

And now for the lightly edited transcript of the video interview:

Samir Husni: How has the role of a magazine editor changed in this digital age if any?

Newell Turner: I don’t think the role of the editor has changed at all frankly. I think what it’s done is it’s caused us to stop and think about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And if you’re a good editor, as good editors have always been, you’re thinking forward and you’re taking advantage of those things that you have and exploring where everything’s going. I think that it really hasn’t changed at all. I think it’s just made editors really kind of step back up to the plate so to speak and reengaged us with what we do.

SH: What advice would you give to an incoming magazine editor or somebody who is hopeful that one day they will become a magazine editor?

NT: I think coming into this business now you have to really embrace everything and I can’t imagine being an editor any other way than embracing what’s in front of me. I think it’s more exciting now than ever. I started in this business 30 years ago, and there are still people that I know from that time, and when I run into them they will often say, “Don’t you miss the old days?” And I say, “Absolutely not.” We had no tools to do anything except print and paper and not to diminish that because I think that’s still vital and exciting — more exciting than ever — but now we have all of these tools to talk and communicate with and I wouldn’t want to go backwards — I couldn’t imagine going backwards.

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“The Print Magazine Is The Mechanism By Which We Can Bring Back The Brand.” Beth Brenner, Domino Magazine’s Chief Revenue Officer, Talks With Mr. Magazine™ About The Rebirth Of Domino…

October 18, 2013

Beth Brenner loved Domino before it folded in 2009 and she loves the new and improved, higher-priced model of today’s brand even better. You ask me how I know that? I know that from the tone of her voice when she mentions the word Domino, and from her trip to Oxford, Mississippi, when Domino was launched in 2009 and the way she preached the “Domino Gospel” to my magazine students at the University of Mississippi. Believing in print, the power of curation the category offers, and the magazine audience, are a big part of Brenner’s faith in the platform. She is a woman who puts her money where her mouth is.

It did not take her long to make the decision to leave her position as publisher of Meredith’s Traditional Home and go back to the job that she was “forced” to leave when Condé Nast folded Domino. Somehow it seems that Ms. Brenner and Domino are destined to be together.

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The Domino Five team: (left to right) Michelle Adams, EIC, Aaron Wallace, Co-founder & CTO of Domino Media Group, Beth Brenner, Chief Revenue Officer, Andy Appelbaum, Co-Founder of Domino Media Group, and Cliff Sirlin, Co-Founder of Domino Media Group.

So sit back and relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Beth Brenner, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer of Domino Magazine.

But first the Sound-bites.

On the outpouring of love Domino received after it folded:
There was such an outpouring after we folded … The letters started pouring in. I mean, I frankly don’t think they knew what they had before it closed and really came to realize how many scores of fans we had.

On the need for a print magazine:
The reason for a print magazine is because I firmly believe, as do my new bosses, the founders of this new company, that the print magazine is the mechanism by which we can bring back the brand.

On the reason behind the high cover price:
So the reason for the high cover price, and I love talking about this cover price, is because in all of my years in the business people have said to us, “What’s wrong with you people? Why are you only charging a $1 an issue for a subscription and only $3.50 on the newsstands? Don’t you think people will pay for this?” Agency people say this to us all the time. It just devalues your brand when you sell it for so little and I couldn’t agree more.

On the value that Domino provides:
I recently renovated part of my house and we wanted to look at bathrooms and I went on to House.com and I researched modern bathrooms and I had to look through 6,000 images. People want curation and they want things to be edited for them. There’s too much out there and that’s what magazines do. That’s what magazine editors do.

On Domino’s unique revenue model:
You know every print publishing model is about 80 percent based on advertising. And in this case it’s commerce that’s really engine driving the business model, with advertising as a really important component, but not the driver.

On what keeps Beth Brenner up at night:
Everything keeps me up at night because I’m basically a one-woman show right now.

On the feeling of bringing Domino back:
You know, it does kind of feel like Domino 101 in that this is just a great group of sort of hungry, excited people who love this brand. And we’ve come together to bring it back and that feels really good.

On the importance of the Domino voice:
Because we want content to lead, it has to be believable, it has to be in our voice, it has to be beautiful and I think there’s a confidence factor that comes with loving a brand so we want people to love it because Domino curated it.

iPadMagsAnd now, in typical Mr. Magazine™ Interview style, for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Beth Brenner of Domino…

Samir Husni: Back when Domino folded and when the economy crashed and digital came on the scene it was like a double whammy. The economy crashed, digital burst and a lot of people in our industry did not know if it was the economy that was hurting the magazines or if it was digital that was hurting the magazines. If you could go back and relive those days, after four or five years later; what was the main reason you think Condé Nast folded Domino?

Beth Brenner: 2009 was a year of tough decisions for a lot of companies. What I came to understand is that the newspaper business was in far worse shape than the magazine business. That precipitated a number of tough decisions in the magazine division. We were one, House & Garden was certainly one, right before us, Condé Nast Portfolio was another three months after us.

Condé Nast funded magazines like no one else and they gave us a seven-year profit strategy. They gave us a lot of time and a lot of rope and a lot of money to get a brand out of the starting gate and we were only in year three. We were way ahead of our plan but there was a huge investment still to come on Domino on Portfolio. So they had to make some tough decisions that year.

So it’s hard to say if it was digital or was it the economy. It was definitely the economy. So with magazines in general I do think digital definitely impacted us and it has even more severely since that time, than at that time.

SH: We were lost. We could not determine if it was the economy or if it was the digital and now we’re finding out that maybe it was both. Maybe it was the economy and digital. But then they decided to bring back the magazine and bring back the smart publisher behind the magazine.

BB: There was such an outpouring after we folded. Penelope did the piece in The New York Times like eulogizing the magazine. The letters started pouring in. I mean, I frankly don’t think they knew what they had before it closed and really came to realize how many scores of fans we had. I will tell you when I was at Traditional Home not a day went by when I didn’t hear about Domino.

SH: With all the digital talk and all the e-commerce; why did you feel there’s a need for a print magazine now and why the high cover price?

BB: The reason for a print magazine is because I firmly believe, as do my new bosses, the founders of this new company, that the print magazine is the mechanism by which we can bring back the brand. I mean it’s what people loved.

We’ve been live for a week now and 80 percent of the sales on the website are for the print magazine. Interesting, right? We’re only selling at newsstands and on the website and people are coming to us in droves and I don’t know if they’re too lazy to go outside and look on the newsstand, I mean thank you for buying it in Baltimore, or it’s just easy and they’re on the site anyway and they want to see it.

So the reason for the high cover price, and I love talking about this cover price, is because in all of my years in the business people have said to us, “What’s wrong with you people? Why are you only charging a $1 an issue for a subscription and only $3.50 on the newsstands? Don’t you think people will pay for this?” Agency people say this to us all the time. It just devalues your brand when you sell it for so little and I couldn’t agree more.

But when Condé Nast brought Domino back two years ago effectively as an SIP, they put re-purposed content out on the newsstand — it was $11.99 — and they were selling 80,000 copies. It was such a great wanted-ness story so why change the model? They have now proven that if people want it they will pay for it.

SH: It’s something that I’ve been preaching all along. Let’s look for the customers that count rather than counting customers.

BB: Exactly. I love that. And you know the president of a furniture company literally emailed me last week and he said, “I’m at LaGuardia and I just watched somebody buy Domino and when she went up to pay for it the newsstand owner said to her, you know that this is $12 and she said yeah, but I’ve been waiting for this for so long.” And he recounted the conversation to me and it had nothing to do with price.

SH: We saw what happened to Gourmet and they said OK we’re going to be on the web and then they killed the web and they killed the app. Do you think a print magazine today can survive on the web and digital alone without the print component? Or do you think that that’s the reason that you brought back the print edition because it’s the only mechanism? If you were born in print you have to stay in print?

BB: I think it depends on what the brand is. I think that Domino is a unique brand in that it can live equally as well on both. I don’t know that everything can or should, but you know what, I’m getting old and I love reading paper. And I love cozying up with it. I do think it’s unique to this category. I think when you’re home it’s a process and you start it, and you need ideas and inspiration, you tear things out and you look for months and months, if not years before you can make a decision or define your own style.

And I think that the print component of that is huge. It’s part of the research process. If you want to find nice rooms on the web you can do it but… I recently renovated part of my house and we wanted to look at bathrooms and I went on to House.com and I researched modern bathrooms and I had to look through 6,000 images. People want curation and they want things to be edited for them. There’s too much out there and that’s what magazines do. That’s what magazine editors do.

SH: How do you as a magazine publisher and as the chief revenue officer convince — or is there a need to convince — the media buyers and the young folks in the agencies that print is still a valid medium? I mean we all know it. We see the revenues and we see where the revenues are coming from. But there’s this myth…

BB: I don’t think that there’s much convincing that needs to happen in the shopping arena, because people are very much fans of print. In that category I think when you get into the sort of non-endemics like why wouldn’t I want automotive advertising or credit card advertising and all of that? Those people are harder to convince, but the reason I came back to Domino is because we’re not just a print magazine and my bag of tricks are much broader now.

It’s really nice to walk into an agency and say we’re print but we’re also creating native advertising campaigns on our website and if your product is appropriate we can also sell your product on our site. But it’s print, it’s digital and it’s e-commerce. And that’s a pretty powerful package for some people.

SH: So are you selling different audiences or do you have one audience in mind that you’re selling them the Domino brand rather than the Domino print, the Domino e-commerce or the Domino website?

BB: I think that would be really interesting to see if the audience makeup has changed. In Domino’s first iteration our media age was 37 and our median income was bout $103,000. It was largely urban. I think that will change because we’re giving access to people everywhere with the website.

I envision that the reader will be the same and it’s kind of the next generation of design lovers. It was true then and it’s true now. Nothing really came in to take our place or fill that gap with the possible exception of HGTV. I don’t know where their demographics are actually netting out but it does feel younger. There’s really nothing in that space.

SH: Why do you think nobody came to fill that void and that space? Were people afraid that if Condé Nast can’t do it, then who can?

BB: I don’t think there were a whole lot of home design titles that launched in the last five years. So it wasn’t that no one came to fill the space. This sector was very slow to come back from the recession. And it wasn’t until 2012 that we really had a banner year. I think it was more of a function of why go into this sector now with a print magazine or only a print magazine? I feel like our new team is giving Domino what it should have always had. We brought you right to that point of inspiration, but yet we couldn’t sell you what you saw. And now we’ve closed that loop.

The model is completely flipped on its head, which kind of goes back to your other question. You know every print publishing model is about 80 percent based on advertising. And in this case it’s commerce that’s really engine driving the business model, with advertising as a really important component, but not the driver.

SH: With your knowledge in the field and observing everybody else, is there anyone doing something similar or a better job of what you’re doing in this industry?

BB: Nobody in this sector is doing e-commerce with the exception of, if you broaden the field, I would say Better Homes & Gardens — they just launched a store on their website. But nobody in the sort of upscale shelter side is also selling product. So, I’d say no.

SH: The typical question I ask everybody I interview is what keeps Beth up at night now?

BB: Everything keeps me up at night because I’m basically a one-woman show right now. All of the advertising is falling on me. We’re a start up. Conde Nast is an investor in this business but it’s a wholly-owned separate business.

And there are very few people doing a lot of jobs. And it’s super fun but everything keeps me up at night. So right now the March issue is keeping me up at night but so is the highpoint schedule for next week. It’s a little bit of everything.

SH: So how does it feel… Is this your first entrepreneurship, publishing part of a business? Is this the first time you’re not working for a big company?

BB: Yes, it is. You know, it does kind of feel like Domino 101 in that this is just a great group of sort of hungry, excited people who love this brand. And we’ve come together to bring it back and that feels really good.

And even though we were inside a big company the first time, I think we felt like we were a start-up. It was a smaller team than I had ever had at another title. We were all in it together. It was just sort of a great spirit. So it’s, I guess, my third launch because I launched M Magazine back in the 80s and I have to say the Domino launch really whetted my appetite to do it again so I feel like I have that feeling again.

SH: So my final question to you… If we are talking about Domino three years from now, what will you be telling me?

BB: Oh God, I can’t put a number on this. Everybody’s sitting around going, “Do you know how big this could be?” So what am I telling you? I think there may be a bit more publishing frequency than we’re planning for 2014. We’re planning four issues. If there’s a demand then we may go to six.

And I think right now we have a website with about 40,000 products. I’m thinking we could have half a million products if not more and a really dynamic e-commerce business which is driving the ship for the entire company.

SH: Thank you.

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