Archive for March, 2014

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Mr. Magazine™ and MagNet: What the Single Copy Magazine Industry Can and Should Learn from the Numbers. An Exclusive Analysis

March 19, 2014

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An ongoing series of interviews with MagNet’s Luke Magerko.

Luke Magerko was a consistent contributor to my blog in 2013. Luke has partnered with MagNet to provide retail analytics for the publishing industry. Today, we pick up our conversation from 2013 and, going forward, MagNet will provide a column every other week highlighting retail analytics.

Why did you partner with MagNet?
MagNet has what I consider to be the most important commodities in the publishing industry: store-level data and experts at analyzing the data.

Has MagNet found anything that will drive sales?
Yes, this week we will unveil a new analysis called Issue Category Standings or “ICS.” The ICS is designed to provide scan-based rapid analysis to help editors grasp which of the competitive titles were most successful in a given time frame.

Don’t publishers have a ranking system for their titles already?
Some publishers have a ranking system but MagNet will be using scan data to provide near real-time updates for the publishing industry. Further, the ICS will provide editors with a Seasonal Performance Index (“SPI) that publishers and editors can use to easily see which magazine performed the best irrespective of sale.

How can you judge a cover “irrespective of sale”?
I understand the theory that sales results determine success, except sales results alone are a terrible predictor. Two examples: One women’s service magazine sells fairly consistently except for the November and December (strong) issues and the January issue (very weak). Most fitness magazines perform poorly in the fall/winter and explode with the “New Year, New You” issue.
Does that mean every woman’s service magazine should have a Thanksgiving motif and every fitness magazine should only focus on “New Year, New You?” Of course not, however if a publisher and editor are only provided sales results, they will never know that one January issue outperformed every other issue in a recent year and that an October fitness issue was in fact the most successful in another year. Our objective is to provide a clean look at every issue so editors can understand their business and their competitors’ business as well.

Do you have an example?

MagNet produced a celebrity ranking for weeks 50 and 51 of 2013 to demonstrate the output (See below). MagNet included overall sell through percentages, the Performance Index (“PI) and the Seasonal PI for the editor’s review.

What is the objective of this program?

MagNet wants to begin a conversation with publishers and editors. We believe we have both the data and the expertise to help publishers and editors understand their businesses better. We do not want to tell the editors what to do but to provide tools to help them better understand and improve their businesses.

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Walk me through the report:
“Efficiency” represents sell-through efficiency and is the basis for traditional performance results. We include it as the baseline for the report. The “Perf Index” is the performance index, a formula comparing one specific issue versus a series of past issues. 1.0 is considered a success. The challenge with looking at this formula exclusively is that a strong or weak seasonal issue can throw off the results.
The Seasonal PI is a formula comparing one specific issue’s performance index versus that same issue in the past. Again, 1.0 is considered a success. Please note issue 51 of Ok! Magazine. The Performance Index of 0.75 would be considered very weak but issue 51 is traditionally weak, therefore the Seasonal PI is 0.99. This demonstrates that issue 51 is not nearly as bad as the editor might think.

But People probably sold more than all the competitors and wasn’t the winner?

Correct but that is the point. By creating the index, an editor can quickly surmise how their title performed compared to other titles without directly comparing sales. Sales, as any newsstand pro will tell you, is a function of many things: store count, checkout pockets, etc. MagNet addresses that with the seasonal performance index.

What is the schedule for rollout?
In two weeks, we will begin the ICS competition, highlighting results from different categories and having a 2014 cover awards issue at the beginning of 2015.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.
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When in Comes to Ads, Ad Agencies, and Ad Sales Today, Mad Men Don’t Exist: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Stephen Davis and James G. Elliott

March 18, 2014

Advertising Sales and Ad Agencies today are nothing like what you see on Mad Men. In an exclusive interview with Steve Davis, president, SRDS & Healthcare Research at KANTAR Media and Jim Elliott, president and founder of the James G. Elliott Co., Inc., Mr. Davis and Mr. Elliott explain to Mr. Magazine™ the reasons behind their research and the major findings of their recent study dealing with ad sales and advertising.

The study was conducted and analyzed earlier this year. The findings are based on invitations that were sent to 4000 individuals and agencies with access to one of the many SRDS databases. Participants who completed the study were given an incentive. A total of 204 individuals responded before entry was cut off. It was a five-page questionnaire done online. Both the research director of SRDS and the James G Elliott Company worked in tandem on the mechanics of this study.

Click on the video below to watch my interview with Mr. Davis and Mr. Elliott and to download the entire study from SRDS click here or click here to download the study from the James G. Elliott website.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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Reader’s Digest: A Return to Yesterday, But in a Fresh New Way…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief

March 17, 2014

“We wanted to return Reader’s Digest to what it had always been for most of its 90 year history and that is a place for reading…” Liz Vaccariello

liz Reader’s Digest, the magazine, has underwent a major revamp last January and has brought back some old favorites, while reveling in a more compelling and modern presentation for its readers. So the audience can still enjoy “coming home” to the magazine they’ve always loved, but also appreciate a fresher design and concept.

The ever smiling, laughing, energetic Liz Vaccariello is Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer of Reader’s Digest and while she loves the fact that readers have identified with the magazine for decades, to say she is excited and thrilled by the changes that have taken place at the magazine would be an understatement. Liz feels the fresh look of the magazine will attract a whole new demographic without losing the old one.

From a new logo which puts emphasis on the word “Reader’s” to putting the table of contents back on the cover; the magazine is proving that yesterday can still be enjoyed in today’s contemporary world and in the most fascinating of ways.

I visited with Ms. Vaccariello in her office in New York City and engaged with her in a conversation about Reader’s Digest, magazines in general, and the future of mass general interest magazines in this digital age.

So before you sit back and enjoy our conversation, watch her answer about the need for a mass general interest magazine today and then read the Mr. Magazine’s™ conversation with Liz Vaccariello.

And now for the sound-bites:

On her manifesto for the new Reader’s Digest: We wanted to return Reader’s Digest to what it had always been for most of its 90 year history and that is a place for reading. We wanted to say to the reader that we’re curators of interesting stories that are of lasting interest.

On cutting advertising and how long that will be sustainable: Our owners have invested huge sums in 2014 in a consumer ad campaign. Our demographic has gotten older and it’s because we’ve been marketing to the same gene pool for the last 20 years.

On connecting with a new demographic and shedding the image of “our parents” magazine and is that important for the future: I am very glad you said that. If our biggest problem in a consumer’s mind or our biggest challenge is their mother loved it; I can overcome that problem, because they associate us with their family home.

On feedback from the redesign and what the magazine has done over the last three months: This is a three inch thick binder that we went to Kinko’s and had made, double-sided, sever-point type; these are the letters that I received personally from readers, from January 1st to March 1st, so 60 days’ worth of letters, hundreds of letters; I’d say 85 to 90 percent of them simply thanking me.

On where she feels the magazine will be a year from now: Already our renewals and our insert cards are wildly over-budget and up year over year. So hopefully, next year I will have a story about huge consumer marketing success and reader growth and attention and buzz.

On what keeps her up at night: So what keeps me up at night is that I haven’t done this reader, many of whom have been with us for decades, and I value every single one of them, that I haven’t done this reader justice

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz Vaccariello, Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer of Reader’s Digest…

Samir Husni: Reader’s Digest is witnessing yet another revival. The magazine, since January, has seen an uplift in sales, circulation, design and overall looks. Some people feel there is a touch of the old with a new life, rather than a woman’s magazine. What’s your manifesto for the new Reader’s Digest?

photo-5 Liz Vaccariello: We wanted to return Reader’s Digest to what it had always been for most of its 90 year history and that is a place for reading. So everything we did from the change in the logo, where we amplified the word “Reader’s” to the streamlined design that’s much simpler and just highlights the written word, bigger iconic photography as opposed to little bits and pieces, to the table of contents on the cover; we wanted to say to the reader that we’re curators of interesting stories that are of lasting interest. And we’re going to make you laugh, we’re going to teach you something you didn’t know and we’re going to inspire you.

And the reason for it was because the whole company is about attending to the customer first. And that’s why we went with the premium advertising model. Our readers had complained that there were too many advertisements in the magazine and too many of them in the front of the book. So we now have a premium ad model where we said, OK, we’re going to put fewer ads in, but we’re going to charge more.

So everything we did was through the lens of looking at the customer, but also asking what makes us different? What makes the consumer need Reader’s Digest today? And the reasons are the same as they were in 1938 or 1948; you want something in your home that is an oasis from the snark, the pessimism, the partisanship and the celebrity cacophony that is our media landscape today with the 24 hour news channels and entertainment news. Reader’s Digest is an oasis from all that and it’s a place to quietly read and feel good.

Samir Husni: Do you think you’re putting your money where your mouth is when you say you’re cutting on advertising and how long can you sustain that?

photo Liz Vaccariello: We’ve done a number of things that have, to use your words, put our money where our mouth is. First of all, a year ago we went from 10 times a year to 12 times a year because many of our customers still didn’t understand why a magazine was showing up 10 times a year, it needed to be monthly.

That’s number one; number two is many of our readers are older and they complained about the paper. The paper had not only a glare because it was glossy, but it was also hard, it had an awkward finger-feel, it was hard for many of them to turn the pages. So we invested over a million dollars in this new paper stock.

And number three is our owners have invested huge sums in 2014 in a consumer ad campaign. Our demographic has gotten older and it’s because we’ve been marketing to the same gene pool for the last 20 years. We haven’t told the next generation of homeowners or head of households who would want a Reader’s Digest that we’re still around.

The first question that I get asked often when I tell people that I’m the editor of Reader’s Digest; the first thing that they say is “Oh, my parents got it when I was growing up. I loved that magazine. It was a part of my home growing up.” Which is lovely, but then you hear, “But I didn’t know it was still around,” because they can’t find it at retail and because we haven’t marketed it to new consumers. So that’s the third leg of this; our board is investing in a consumer marketing campaign.

Samir Husni: On the editorial and design side; what’s your secret to connecting with a new demographic? How are you going to shed this image of: that was my parents’ magazine? And is there anything wrong with being my parents’ magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: I am very glad you said that. If our biggest problem in a consumer’s mind or our biggest challenge is their mother loved it; I can overcome that problem, because they associate us with their family home.

photo-2 When I interviewed President Barack Obama in the Oval Office; the first thing he said to me was when he was growing up his grandfather used to rip out “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” rip out the jokes in Reader’s Digest and give them to the President when he was a child.

So we have this heritage of sharing among family members down through generations. I don’t care if our readers are 95, 65, 45 or 15 years old; I get letters from all of them. We’re not a demographic; we’re a psychographic. And for people who want stories that are inspiring and uplifting, a little bit of humor that’s family-friendly and service that’s surprising, that they’re not going to find anywhere else, really the best of service, delivered in a package, we find the best of the best, in an easy-to-read format and an easy-to-hold format; that’s ageless.

Samir Husni: Being the journalist who always scans the desks of people he interviews; I see a big binder here with feedback on the redesign and what you’ve done in the last three months…

Liz Vaccariello: This is a three inch thick binder that we went to Kinko’s and had made, double-sided, sever-point type; these are the letters that I received personally from readers, from January 1st to March 1st, so 60 days’ worth of letters, hundreds of letters; I’d say 85 to 90 percent of them simply thanking me. Thanking me for taking these steps, fewer ads, better paper, wider and thicker paper. And bringing back even more of their favorite columns: News from the World of Medicine, You Be the Judge, Points to Ponder; putting some of the more serious and thoughtful pieces in the front of the magazine as opposed to all the food for advertisers.

Just thanking us and saying my old Reader’s Digest is back in a fresh way. How many editors get thousands of letters? I feel so gratified and humbled, that I keep this next to me to remind myself.

Samir Husni: If I’m interviewing and asking you about the magazine, a year later; what will you tell me?

Liz Vaccariello: Hopefully, I’ll tell you that so far, knock on wood, the first three issues at newsstand are scanning an average of 30 percent higher than last year. So already we’re getting attention at the newsstand.

Already our renewals and our insert cards are wildly over-budget and up year over year. So hopefully, next year I will have a story about huge consumer marketing success and reader growth and attention and buzz.

Samir Husni: What keeps Liz up at night?

Liz Vaccariello: This may sound strange, but this is like a little miracle. Every 30 days I know the blood, sweat and tears that goes into every picture, every caption and story, the right mix of stories. And what keeps me up at night is; I’ll wake up at 4 a.m. and have doubts about a headline in an issue that’s about to go to press or the lead isn’t quite right.

So what keeps me up at night is that I haven’t done this reader, many of whom have been with us for decades, and I value every single one of them, that I haven’t done this reader justice. That I haven’t done a good enough job. That I haven’t delivered the joke that’s the funniest or that I’ve done something that could offend them.

If that’s striving for perfection, well…I’m a Type A person, but you can never make a perfect magazine; it’s why I don’t golf, you can never master golf, right? You can never master a magazine. So I live in a constant state of worry that it could be better.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2004
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Traditional American Newsstands Are Dying … So What?

March 14, 2014

husni20143 A Mr. Magazine™ Opinion

Another traditional newsstand shuts down in America. This time it’s One Stop News in Washington D.C. For 25 years it served as a haven for print editions, plopped supremely in its location just blocks from the White House.

For years now, we’ve been hearing how changing American habits, namely the encroachment of everything digital and society’s embracing of it, has slowly been choking the life out of all the traditional newsstands across the country. And maybe, to certain extents that claim holds a merit of validity.

However, it is more to the point to say that changing societal trends and factors that we hadn’t counted on years earlier play a bigger role in the traditional newsstand’s demise.

When I first came to the United States in 1978, newsstands, almost without exception, shared the retail space with tobacco shops. Whether it was in downtown Denton, TX, Columbia, MO or Memphis, TN. Those stores sold any number of tobacco products along with their print offerings. From cigars to cigarettes; tobacco and print at the newsstands went hand in hand. Most of the magazines at those traditional newsstands were sex magazines, or as they were known at that time men’s sophisticate titles.

Of course, in today’s world and with what we know about the dangers of smoking and tobacco products, most people refrain from what was freely enjoyed decades ago. And that’s a good thing.

Sex sold on the newsstands too in days gone by, and it sold a lot. Those newsstands were in fact the only place that offered, displayed and sold tens of different sex titles. In the last twenty years alone new launches for sex magazines declined from a high of 110 titles a year to a mere four titles. Quite a drop when you consider the content at most traditional newsstands across the country relied on sex and tobacco for a large part of their consistent revenue.

Small Mom & Pop newsstands have felt that decline for years and rightly so. And with non sex magazines being sold in other venues, department and grocery stores everywhere; the combination doesn’t make for much of a future for the traditional corner newsstands.

So to blame American audiences for turning to digital as the only reason newsstands are shutting down is not only a misinformed outlook; it’s also completely untrue.

The real question today is not whether digital is killing the traditional newsstands, but rather is there a need for a traditional newsstand?

With sex reigning king and queen (and free of charge) on the web and all tobacco products, with no exceptions, being a danger to your life, the real surprise is not that yet another newsstand is shutting down, but rather why are those newsstands still in business today?

The only hope in this slow demise of yet another American institution is that digital natives and immigrants alike will continue to know the true joy of standing in front of an array of printed material at supermarkets and grocery stores with that wide-eyed feeling of excited expectancy as they discover something they never knew they were looking for until then. Of course, this adventure now has to be sans-sex and sans-tobacco! Who can say that this is a bad thing? No one indeed!

The traditional newsstand is dead. Long live the new newsstand.

So stop crying, wake-up, and smell the roses. There are much better places to browse and to buy magazines at the nation’s state-wide retail stores. Go buy a magazine, relax, grab a glass of wine or iced tea and let the reading begin. Enjoy the weekend. It is much better with a magazine or two in your hands. All the best.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni, 2014
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Building a Pipeline to Literacy – One Magazine at a Time – This is the Goal of John Mennell, Founder of MagazineLiteracy.org, an Organization Dedicated to Feeding the Minds and Spirits of People with the Wonderful World of Magazines…

March 12, 2014

“The printed magazines are so important. The experience of holding a printed magazine in your hand and reading it, the experience of finding some time and reading a print magazine is so valuable.” John Mennell, MagazineLiteracy.org Founder

maglit_logo_new_300px Making a difference in people’s lives is the paramount reason John Mennell founded MagazineLiteracy.org. Years earlier, working with hunger relief, he came to the conclusion that people who had very little food probably had very little reading material as well, contributing to a cycle of illiteracy and poverty for children and adults that could keep them bound in their present situations indefinitely. With the website, which was made possible through donations, grants and financial support from people who believed in his dream, MagazineLiteracy.org has been able to put magazines into the hands, homes, and hearts of children and families who want to learn to read, all over the world.

I spoke with John about his vision and his continued dreams and goals for the future of the organization. So, sit back and be inspired by the Mr. Magazine™ interview with John Mennell, Founder of MagazineLiteracy.org., and a man who believes one person and one magazine at a time can change the world.

But first the sound-bites:

headshot On how much one man can do to save the world one magazine at a time: I’ve learned in my life that one person can make a difference. Every person can accomplish amazing things.

On whether or not it matters to the organization if the material is in print or a digital format: The printed magazines are so important. The experience of holding a printed magazine in your hand and reading it, the experience of finding some time and reading a print magazine is so valuable.

On teaming up with company campaigns, such as Whole Foods Market: We are scheduled to do that April 12th and 13th at a Whole Foods store. It will be our first drive with Whole Foods and our goal is to clear the shelves of all the magazines, to distribute them via a food pantry, mentoring programs, etc.

On the major obstacles facing future dreams of the organization: It’s not that there are obstacles, but there is a really important opportunity that we need to address. We want to create a global online marketplace that would essentially fill needs from literacy programs with our magazines and consumers funding those magazines for delivery for the literacy programs.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night: Honestly, I am long on community organizing experience, I am long on literacy experience, but I’m short on the magazine publishing industry.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with John Mennell, MagazineLiteracy.org Founder…

Samir Husni: How much can one man do to save the world one magazine at a time or to save the industry one magazine at a time? Tell me about that passion in you that’s pushing you to do that…

John Mennell: I’ve learned in my life that one person can make a difference. I started very young in life. I got involved with hunger relief, I was running for public office and I came upon a food pantry that had no food. I tried to figure out the quickest way to fill the shelves. I was standing in front of a super market, I was standing there all day, and I collected 2,000 pounds of food. Every person can accomplish amazing things.

When it comes to magazines, and I’ve learned over these many years, magazines are especially powerful for literacy because there are magazines for every age level, there are magazines for every reading level and there are magazines for every interest. One of the most significant contributors to literacy and poverty is the lack of reading materials in the home. And actually children in poverty have no books at home and so we have a very simple and powerful idea. That is to put a magazine in the hands of a reader, to get magazines into hands at homes so that these readers can have the same wonderful experience that we have when we get our magazines.

The program resonates so well with people because magazines resonate with people from a very early age and then into adulthood. I still can’t pass a newsstand without stopping. When a magazine comes in the mail, I have a physical reaction of joy. Part of our project is to share that experience with individuals that would love to read magazines and have that same experience but don’t necessarily have ready access for a variety of reasons.

SH: Do you think you can do that on the digital front or do you still need the physical, printed magazine?

JM: Well, the printed magazines are so important. The experience of holding a printed magazine in your hand and reading it, the experience of finding some time and reading a print magazine is so valuable.

We serve at-risk readers in homeless and domestic violence shelters, foster children. These are individuals that have left everything behind and that physical magazine in a quiet moment can comfort them in a time of crisis. We get magazines into mentoring relationships. So if you can imagine an adult mentoring a child — they don’t know each other initially, they’re trying to get to know each other — and you can insert a magazine into that relationship either around a common interest or something that creates a common bond or a common interest between them you’ve not only provided a magazine but now you’ve strengthened an opportunity and created some value for that mentoring relationship.

We get magazines to adults in job training programs; so for example, because there are magazines for every area we can create tremendous value for the job training programs. For example, programs that benefit food pantries and food banks operate programs that train homeless and unemployed people to be chefs. What we’ve been told about cooking and culinary magazines is that it helps the student to learn contemporary presentation skills and preparation skills. So it can give them a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

So it’s an example where the magazine is just creating tremendous value even outside the experience of reading. This is not an experience that you can replicate with the digital or electronic equipment or format.

SH: Recently you had your very first campaign with a food, Whole Foods. How was that?

kitchen_gallery4 JM: That’s actually planned for April 12th and 13th. That’s Earth Month. We want to ultimately engage every participant in the magazine publishing supply chain. This is the first and only global magazine industry-wide literacy project and every player has a role. And we want to find magazines at every source and plug them into our program.

Ultimately we would like to marry magazine publishing supply chain to the food banks supply chain. If you could imagine the ability to move magazines directly from where they are in publishing warehouses and directly to food bank warehouses where they can be distributed via hundreds of agencies into the hands and homes of thousands of children and families — what a powerful notion that would be.

Currently we are sending new and recycled magazines to readers via literacy programs. We get the new magazines primarily via corporate sponsorship and then purchase new magazine subscriptions.

For example, Prince Sports sent 200 tennis and Smash magazines to children in a mentoring program in Boston. Foster Printing, for three years, sent 800 magazines to children in the College Mentorship Kid’s program throughout the state of Indiana.

We collect magazines from consumers across the country. We have teams across the country that collect recycled magazines but we want to start collecting them from throughout the supply chain. Condè Nast, for example, just sent us magazines. We want to get magazines off the newsstand, that’s an enormous goal that we have. In the same way that we’ve conducted food drives, we want to conduct magazine drives straight off the newsstand as a way of engaging consumers in our program to motivate them to find the newsstand, to find the magazines that we like to share with our readers, to purchase them at the newsstand and the point of sale.

We are scheduled to do that April 12th and 13th at a Whole Foods store. It will be our first drive with Whole Foods and our goal is to clear the shelves of all the magazines, to distribute them via a food pantry, mentoring programs, etc. But we can do that in every community and at every newsstand. It’s just a matter of being able to reach out to the industry and working with them in partnership so that we can have access to those magazines and motivate consumers and engage them to purchase them so we can supply them to our program.

SH: What is the major obstacle in making this dream come true?

JM: It’s not that there are obstacles, but there is a really important opportunity that we need to address. We can only grow 100 percent of the financial support that we get from consumers and businesses and it’s spent to deliver magazines, whether they are new magazines or recycled magazines, we have the shipping/delivery of the recycled magazines. We spend zero dollars of those donations or investments on our operating expense.

So our greatest challenge right now is to build up our operations so that we can grow and reach more readers and get more magazines to more readers. In order to do that, we need to stand up stronger operations, stronger technology.

For example, we want to create a global online marketplace that would essentially fill needs from literacy programs with our magazines and consumers funding those magazines for delivery for the literacy programs.

But we cannot achieve that kind of level of technology without getting the entire industry behind the project. Austin Kiplinger at the start of our project invested funds and we need other publishers in the same way to be willing to participate in our program throughout the industry so that we can really make it an industry-wide celebration.

We just sent 2,000 magazines to the Inuit, north of the Arctic Circle, and we did this by organizing, sort of mobilizing grassroots volunteers, corporate support, publisher support, and we can replicate that same kind of activity to get magazines from anywhere to anywhere in the world. But we need to strengthen our operations in order to do that and we need to truly make this an industry-wide campaign in order to improve our operations and technology.

We just conducted a magazine drive for culinary magazines and a woman dropped off every issue of Gourmet Magazine back to 1969. We get calls from people who have precious magazine collections and they want to make those collections available to new readers.

So as an organization, that’s our objective. We know that people love magazines. We want to think of as many ways as we can to give them the opportunity to share their love for their favorite magazines with other readers, whether that means purchasing magazines for other readers or gift subscriptions that would go to a new reader or whether that means recycling their own magazines or whether that means finding a way literally to deliver every magazine that’s past its shelf life and being able to channel those invaluable publications into the literacy supply chain. That would create so much joy and economic value.

SH: My last question for you; what keeps John up at night?

JM: Actually, that’s a very good question. What keeps me up at night…honestly, I am long on community organizing experience, I am long on literacy experience, but I’m short on the magazine publishing industry.

As I said, we get a tremendous amount of support from the industry, but in order for us to get the kind of traction that we need and to do the kind of business development that we need, to reach out across the industry and to truly make this an industry-wide celebration, I need to find partners, full partners, to join with us and to help us understand what are the appropriate models for engagement.

And the only way that I can get this project to the next level is to find those partners and get the support that we need. And with that, we will change the lives of millions, millions of readers and millions of new readers but millions of current readers who love their magazines and love the idea of our program and love the idea of sharing their magazines with others.

SH: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.
————————————————————————————-Picture 7 The Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning Newsletter coming soon. Check the preview issue here and subscribe to the newsletter here. It is the best of Mr. Magazine™ web and blogs every Monday Morning delivered to your inbox and it is free.

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Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning: A New Free Newsletter from Mr. Magazine™

March 10, 2014

Picture 7 Check the preview issue of Mr. Magazine™ Monday Morning newsletter by clicking here. Be sure to register to start receiving the newsletter directly to your inbox every Monday morning. You can subscribe here and check the preview issue here.

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The Return of Newsweek to Print… More Cheers for its Rebirth than Jeers of its Demise. A Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Newsweek’s Editor Jim Impoco

March 6, 2014

“I will say I expected some publicity. I didn’t expect it to be so global and so intense. I am really surprised and I think, in a funny way, it’s getting more publicity for coming back than it got for going out of print. I don’t know, I love the fact that people are talking about it — it speaks to the power of the brand.”
…Jim Impoco

newsweekcover Picture 4Picture 5I put my money where my mouth is. I believe so much in this consumer-centric business model that I went ahead and bought a subscription to the Newsweek Premier Subscription deal: all access for $149.99. The all access is the only way you can receive Newsweek by mail; otherwise you have to buy it on the newsstands (which I will also do). There is no print-only subscription. Print reigns supreme.

So why now and why the return to print? Well, to answer my questions I reached out to Jim Impoco, Newsweek’s editor in chief, who is amazed and pleasantly surprised by the amount of publicity the return of Newsweek is receiving.

Read the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jim Impoco, Editor of Newsweek, and discover why he thinks the new business model for the ink on paper magazine is certain to work.

But first the sound-bites:

jim impoco On the negativity surrounding the success of the new Newsweek: It’s funny, even Tina Brown tweeted this morning that she believed a small, targeted circulation is perfect for Newsweek. So I don’t know, the people that say it won’t work, maybe it won’t.

On whether digital entities coming to print may be the new trend: It’s definitely a trend but there are several reasons for it. Some are doing it for marketing and vanity reasons and others, like us, are doing it for commercial reasons as well as legacy reasons.

On whether or not he feels the new business model for Newsweek will work:
I think it’s going to work, I’m betting a lot on it.

On the biggest stumbling block the magazine will have to overcome:
I would say the biggest stumbling block is the lead time required for print.

On whether or not Newsweek can be the bridge that links yesterday to today:
Well, that’s not what we’re trying to do anymore. I think that the era where Newsweek is the last word on last week is over.

On his statement that Newsweek would be like a monthly on a weekly basis: That’s exactly right. It just makes perfect sense that you need that kind of sensibility.

On the publicity the return of Newsweek is getting in the media: I will say I expected some publicity. I didn’t expect it to be so global and so intense.

On what keeps him up at night: Lots of things keep me up at night, but it’s like, are you making the right news call?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jim Impoco, Editor of Newsweek.


Samir Husni: Why do you think there are a lot of negative media reports about the possible success of the new Newsweek?

Jim Impoco: I actually don’t think so. I look at Ken Doctor’s report, he is sort of like the Dr. Gloom of print, right, and he himself said there are a couple of cross currents that could make this work. It’s funny, even Tina Brown tweeted this morning that she believed a small, targeted circulation is perfect for Newsweek. So I don’t know, the people that say it won’t work, maybe it won’t.

SH: I’ve read a lot, you’ve been interviewed a lot, and we’re seeing a lot of digital entities crossing that virtual line and coming to print. Do you think this is a trend?

JI: It’s definitely a trend but there are several reasons for it. Some are doing it for marketing and vanity reasons and others, like us, are doing it for commercial reasons as well as legacy reasons. In other words, Politico doesn’t expect to make any money, I would imagine, right now from its quarterly publication. It’s hard to see what some of those entities have — you know some of their financial models are transparent and others aren’t.

SH: What’s your expectation for the new Newsweek and its new business model? When will you feel that this business plan — the $7.99 cover price and $150 subscription — is working? Do you need to hit 50,000, 100,000 or more?

JI: Actually, well under 50,000 makes us hold.

SH: Do you expect it to work?

JI: I think it’s going to work, I’m betting a lot on it. I am confident that it’s going to work.

SH: From an editorial point of view, what do you think is going to be the biggest stumbling block that you have to overcome?

JI: I would say the biggest stumbling block is the lead time required for print. You have to be able to predict what’s going to be topical four days later.

SH: Is there a way Newsweek can be the bridge that links last week to next week?

JI: Well, that’s not what we’re trying to do anymore. I think that the era where Newsweek is the last word on last week is over. We don’t even think in terms of weeks really, we’re just trying to see where we can advance the conversation, create our own weather.

SH: I’m giving a talk in Germany in two weeks for the newspaper industry about how newspapers must become weeklies on a daily basis. I’ve noticed you’ve mentioned that you’re going to be a monthly on a weekly basis…

JI: That’s exactly right. It just makes perfect sense that you need that kind of sensibility. The Week, the magazine, does a perfectly good job of giving you a concise summary of last week’s news and I think what we’re going to try to do is be a very topical monthly that comes out once a week.

SH: What keeps Jim up at night?

JI: Well, you know, when we close this issue it wasn’t entirely clear if Putin was going to send tanks in or not. Print is a tricky business. Lots of things keep me up at night, but it’s like, are you making the right news call?

SH: Were you surprised by the amount of publicity that the return of Newsweek to print is generating?

JI: I will say I expected some publicity. I didn’t expect it to be so global and so intense. I am really surprised and I think, in a funny way, it’s getting more publicity for coming back than it got for going out of print. I don’t know, I love the fact that people are talking about it — it speaks to the power of the brand.

SH: Thank you.

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A Baptism by Fire in the Print World: Book-a-Zines Discover Their Spiritual Side and Faith is Made Strong

March 6, 2014

From The Holy Land to The Bible: 50 Ways it Can Change Your Life, to Billy Graham and Faith, many publishers are devoting multitudes of book-a-zines to topics of religion and faith.

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Over the last six months alone, there have been innumerous titles exploring God and His word and the staunch servants who deliver it today.

This month, so far, four different titles have come out: Newsweek’s Jesus, I-5 Publishing’s The Life of Jesus of Nazareth, Beckett’s Where Jesus Walked and TV Guide’s Pope Francis.

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But not just spirituality is being explored in book-a-zines, there have been a broad range of topics over the last year alone: JFK, Nelson Mandela, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Civil War, John Wayne and the Obama’s are just a select handful of subjects covered within the pages of these special entities. Where all of these titles are dealing with more earthly issues, book-a-zines are now extending their reach into the divine realms as we see from the abovementioned editions.

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And with the release of the movie “Son of God,” which follows on the heels of the History Channel’s very successful Bible series and “God’s Not Dead,” which includes a special appearance by Willie and Korie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, the expectations of more of these spiritual journals are definitely on the horizon.

So are book-a-zines becoming the reflectors of society, thus usurping the role regular magazines have always held: freezing trends on and within ink on paper, rather than fleeting moments of digital time?

It should be noted, regardless of brand name, whether it’s TV Guide, Newsweek, National Geographic, Time, Life, or People, there are a handful of companies that are creating all these book-a-zines on behalf of those brands.

For example, Time Inc. is publishing on behalf of the American Bible Society and National Geographic. Topix Media Lab did two of the faith-based book-a-zines that have come out this month (TV Guide’s and Newsweek’s), I-5 Publishing did one and Beckett Media the fourth. In addition to the aforementioned, Source Interlink and Husdon News are also producing a lot of book-a-zines under countless titles and brands: the former releasing Real Food Real Kitchens last August.

So the brand appears to be happenstance; what doesn’t, is the burgeoning success of book-a-zines and their in depth information on whatever person, place, or thing that might interest an individual.

So keep the faith, as these special entities we call book-a-zines seem to be. With Jesus on the cover of several of these ink on paper editions lately; there is definitely hope for the print world and all of us!

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InStyle Stays In Touch with its Audience and Proves that Knowing Your Brand and Why It Should Exist is Not Only Important; It’s An Absolute. Mr. Magazine’s™ Interview with InStyle Editor, Ariel Foxman.

March 3, 2014

“If you don’t know why your brand needs to exist and how it exists in all those other arenas, whether it’s on social media feeds or digitally or on mobile; if you don’t know your voice and how you’re different than everybody else, you’re really screwed.” Ariel Foxman

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Fashion and style, with a sense of mystique and fantasy; InStyle Magazine remains a compelling leader in the category today. Editor, Ariel Foxman believes the brand says it all and that giving your customers what they want, when they want it and via the relevant platform secures their top spot among the elite. As a magazine connoisseur, Foxman follows his competition set closely, especially new launches.

“If it’s in print and it’s in our world, I definitely want to look at it,” Foxman said.

From experimenting with covers and colors – the daring move of using the no-no of green and making it work, to testing shiny versus matte; InStyle spins the chamber of the magazine, hoping for a bullet that hits and resonates with its audience. And proving that taking chances pays off when you know your audience and your brand intimately.

Ariel took time between his trips to Milan and Paris to talk with me about the magazine, the future, and the reasons behind InStyle’s success. What follows is a conversation between one self-proclaimed magazine junkie to another:

But first – the sound-bites.

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Ariel Foxman’s Sound-bites:

On the importance of a magazine’s point of view…

I think the inherent challenge of any editor or anybody who is creating content for an audience that’s hungry for news or hungry for service is to make sure your point of view is really differentiated.

On the fashion and style world…
Fashion and the world of style have to have an element of mystique and fantasy in it to remain compelling. In order to draw people in, the world of fashion has to be mysterious, it has to have allure, a sex appeal and it has to have an element of what’s around the corner.

On keeping tabs on the other fashion/style magazines in Instyle’s competitive set…

You know, it would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t look at everything that’s in the category at large because not only am I an editor but I’m also a magazine junkie like yourself. If something is in print and it’s in our world, then I definitely want to look at it.

On the assumption that green on a cover is a no-no on newsstands…
Magazines start to blend into each other after a while. And green really was striking because no one does green.

On the importance of a magazine brand being unique…
If you don’t know why your brand is unique in your field, what it has to say about your category and how it says it, you’re having a very hard time right now.

On native advertising being a new term for an old practice…

I’m happy that there are conversations now about native advertising and that everybody in the room and then some now has a word for this sort of thing because it’s not a new idea. Sponsored content is not a new idea, it’s a very old idea and it’s existed in every media including print.

On whether a new venture should start in print versus other platforms…

Once you know that audience exists you can answer the question then; where is that audience primarily looking for the content? If it’s digital start there, if it’s print start there.

On what keeps Ariel Foxman up at night…

What keeps me up at night? From the magazine it really has to do with our readers. I really want to make sure that our magazine stays fun and fresh.

And now Mr. Magazine’s™ lightly edited conversation with the Editor of InStyle Magazine, Ariel Foxman.

Samir Husni: This is the largest March issue of InStyle and in September you had the largest September issue — this has been going on and on. Do you think we have a problem in print, in general with ink on paper or do we have a problem in content?

Ariel Foxman: When you say that we’re experiencing our newest issues and it’s going on and on and on, I don’t see a problem with that. I think that my challenge as an editor is always to make sure that we are remaining relevant and useful and entertaining in an environment that is getting more and more fragmented and louder and louder.

I think the inherent challenge of any editor or anybody who is creating content for an audience that’s hungry for news or hungry for service is to make sure your point of view is really differentiated so that with everything that’s being served to you whether it’s for a fee or free is very clearly differentiated and I know InStyle is enjoying the success that it’s enjoying because InStyle’s point of view is incredibly clear.

It’s equal parts inspiring and informative, so if you like style and you want that to be a part of your everyday experience, you know that InStyle, whether it’s digital or print, is going to give you that experience, where you’re taken to a fantasy place but at the same time you’re able to experience that piece of the world of style in reality.

SH: So in this world of inspiration and aspiration and mixing service and fantasy; do you think this is the secret recipe for the success of InStyle?

AF: You know I don’t think there is one secret to our success, but I think it’s a very big piece of why we resonate with millions and millions of women.

Fashion and the world of style have to have an element of mystique and fantasy in it to remain compelling. In order to draw people in, the world of fashion has to be mysterious, it has to have allure, sex appeal and it has to have an element of what’s around the corner. And that’s not true of every industry, so inherently there’s this tension in fashion and style that to draw people in and make it compelling — there’s mystery.

But along with mystery comes confusion, there comes the potential for alienation so InStyle is able to take that magnetism that is inherent in the mystique of style and turn that inside out and take you to the next level. So is it a secret ingredient? I don’t know, but it’s what we do best. We inspire you but we don’t just then drop you off a cliff.

It’s very easy to inspire people with gorgeous images — it’s very easy to show people a gorgeous dress on a beautiful woman — people have been doing that for hundreds of thousands of years. What’s not easy is to inspire somebody and then explain to them — knowing what their life is all about — that they can do something like that that makes sense for their everyday. That is what we do and I think that’s one of the secrets to our success.

SH: So, that’s one major issue that differentiates InStyle from the rest of the crowd in this category. However, in this category it looks like there are more newcomers coming. I’m sure you saw the media reports, that Porter is now a threat to Vogue, and all these media pundits are suddenly issuing their usual predictions of doom and gloom. It went against the trend that print is dead almost with no exception; yet all these magazines are growing in print and expanding their brand. What do you think about newcomers like Porter or Editorialist — are they enhancing the category, are they making your job harder or are you just going on doing your own thing with blinders on?

AF: You know, it would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t look at everything that’s in the category at large because not only am I an editor but I’m also a magazine junkie like yourself. If something is in print and in it’s in our world, then I definitely want to look at it. To say I don’t look at anything would be just an out and out lie.

So I’m looking at everything not only as an editor but also as a consumer — a consumer of style news and a consumer of style period. I think you blur the lines when you broaden the category of our set to include everything that looks like a magazine to be a magazine.

But to answer your question about blinders, InStyle is a very unique proposition and I’m very focused on making sure that InStyle remains differentiated and deliver to our readers and our users what they love about InStyle the best. Do I look at the competition? Of course. Do I try to do an InStyle version of the competition? Absolutely not. Nobody wants that, nobody needs that and quite frankly we’re in the No. 1 position so it’s my job to make sure that we only grow our market share, it’s not my job to make sure we do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

And I also think the sort of competition that a lot of the articles are about in our competition set is really media writing about the set in a way that isn’t even necessarily what’s happening. I think the set is a lot more supportive than is really even reported.

InStyle November 2013 Cover (2)unknownSH: Lately, I’ve noticed that you’ve been doing a lot of testing with the covers. I see one place where InStyle is in red, and I see once place where it’s in silver. What’s the idea? What are you trying to achieve by manipulating the colors on the cover?

AF: We’ve been doing a lot of market testing for years now. We’re celebrating our 20th anniversary and over that time, Time Inc. has afforded InStyle the opportunity to pre-test covers and that’s always happened and we’ve had a history of that which is wonderful.

It doesn’t select the cover ultimately, but it definitely helps us fine-tune cover lines and maybe one iteration of an image over another. In terms of live market testing, it’s really interesting for us to be able to test our own conventional wisdom about certain things.

For instance, when you’re talking silver over red, that is a very specific situation where we had an idea in our head that foil on a cover may or may not attract more readers to newsstands. Conventional wisdom would argue that if it’s shiny more people will notice and more people will buy it, right? But you really don’t know that until you put it out in the market with a non-shiny alternative. So that’s why you see it in some markets with shiny covers and some markets not. And you have to do it a few times before you can really say that that was statistically significant. That’s what you’re seeing.

Another interesting live market test that we just did has to do with the conventional wisdom amongst editors that green covers do not sell. Don’t put somebody in a green dress, don’t put green type on. Like people have an aversion to green on the newsstands.

Well, we shot Taylor Swift in November 2013 in this gorgeous green Burberry sweater and skirt and we shot her in a bunch of other things, the film came back, and I was like “that’s the outfit, that’s the image.” And rather than fighting it and trying to balance the green, we designed a cover, our creative director created this gorgeous very holistic green, all green cover and we thought to ourselves “Wow we’re really crazy.” Not only are we having green on the cover, we’re going full-throttle.

And we loved the cover and we all responded to it, and I said, “Look, how can so many of us be wrong? Somebody else is going to respond to this on the newsstand.” And I thought this is a great opportunity to test this conventional wisdom. Let’s put the majority on the newsstand all green and then let’s put a small sample of it out on the newsstand live market with the green outfit and do a crimson InStyle logo and the reality is the issue was up eight percent year over year and the green cover overall was up eight percent year over year.

So it performed really well, people did love green. And when you look at the green versus the crimson cover, the green outperformed the crimson. So it’s less about throwing things out there to see what will stick or uncertainty and more about using the live market to test hunches that we’ve grown accustomed to having and saying, “Why do you think that and is it even true?”

SH: It stopped me on my tracks when I saw the green cover with the green logo.

AF: Magazines start to blend into each other after a while. And green really was striking because no one does green. But when I came on board six years ago, one of the covers that I had worked on was an April issue with Renee Zellweger in a bright, bright green ball gown and I remember everyone saying we might as well not even deliver these copies to the newsstands, not because Renee Zellweger is not appealing, but because it’s this big green dress. It sold so many copies.

So if green is done great or at the right moment in time depending on what’s on the newsstands in comparison, green can do really well.

SH: It’s time for me to change my lecture on design when I tell the students never ever use green on your cover.

AF: Well, we’re the outlier.

SH: How did your job change over those six years. We’ve seen a massive change in the magazine industry, in the magazine media industry — how did the job of the editor change to become the chief content officer with everything else that surrounds that job?

AF: Things changed immensely. If you don’t know why your brand is unique in your field, what it has to say about your category and how it says it, you’re having a very hard time right now.

It was one thing to be able to put out a magazine, if you had skills just to be able to put out a print publication — which is no small task — your skills were really just about creating and picking beautiful images and flow of magazine, all still things I have to do, but if you weren’t really sure of this is what we say and how we say it and why we say it and why do we all that differently, now with the explosion of all the different platforms, if you didn’t know all those things, you don’t know why your brand needs to exist and how it exists in all those other arenas, whether it’s on social media feeds or digitally or on mobile; if you don’t know your voice and how you’re different than everybody else, you’re really screwed.

A good chunk of my job, and it wasn’t the case three or four years ago, is making sure our brand maintains those values and shows up in those places and delivers the content in that voice to the women who want that brand experience either in addition to print or outside of print. And that is the challenge. So you love what InStyle delivers, how we are delivering it to you wherever and whenever you want.
The second change is the brand is a business, it’s not a magazine. The magazine is a very big piece of our business — like 616 pages, our largest ever — but the growth is not only coming from year over year growth in print, it’s coming from additional revenue streams. Now the magazine always had extensions, we’ve always had special issues, we’ve always had foreign publications, we had TV shows, all that. But now the expectations of the editor are what else are you putting out there for a consumer?

So just last year we launched a shoe line, a collaboration with Nine West. We launched a shirt collection. This year we’re looking to grow both of those. We’re looking at a way to evolve our subscription offerings. We’re re-launching our website with a completely fresh design that will allow us to produce additional content with more native opportunities.

So it’s really about putting on that hat where you’re thinking OK, yes the business has to have multiple spokes which honestly, that should have been the job of the editor many years ago. If you weren’t planting the seeds ultimately you would have hit a wall in terms of growth. There’s only so many ads that any brand can carry without diversification. If a brand doesn’t show diversification in other places, it really doesn’t show vibrancy. Without vibrancy you’re not going to attract more ads, it’s very cyclical.

SH: You mentioned briefly native advertising. As a journalist, as a chief content officer, do you think there’s more pressure on editors now from the business side to incorporate native advertising, to do something with advertising or are you still safeguarding the print and putting native advertising on the web? What’s your philosophy?

AF: I don’t think there’s more pressure, I feel like the pressure is the same. There’s always pressure to make money, which I think is a very healthy pressure.

The delineation is very clear; who is selling and who is creating. I think that everybody including the sales team has a very strong respect for the consumer without whom there is no business. If there isn’t a consumer who respects the product and comes back repeatedly for the product you have no business, you have no client that is attracted to any product. Everybody has a very clear and articulated respect for that.

So I think we’re very, very good about that. I think any pressure you have to make money; the foundation is based on a respect for the consumer. I’m happy that there are conversations now about native advertising and that everybody in the room and then some now has a word for this sort of thing because it’s not a new idea.

Sponsored content is not a new idea, it’s a very old idea and it’s existed in every media including print. Advertorial, content solutions, every big publishing company has had a content solutions department for years, you’ve seen native advertising for decades. You ask, and I know you ask this knowing the answer, is it just digital only?

We’ve had advertorial in print for many, many, many years and I’m happy to run advertorial. Why? Because they’re well executed, they fit firmly in the book, they bring revenue, and most importantly they’re clearly marked. Promotion, sponsored advertising, whatever it is. And native advertising, digitally, will also be clearly marked. And you know what? Sometimes they have really good content. Sometimes now that they’re brought into the light, there will be an opportunity for more attention, not to the sacrifice of editorial attention, but more attention can be brought to them to up the quality of these enterprises. I think that serves the consumer and the client as well. I think talking about it only helps. And you know backroom conversations about do we think the consumer will know the difference is not helpful, the more people talking about it the better.

SH: What advice would you give someone who came to you today and said, “I have this great idea! Can I start in print or do I have to be on all the platforms from the very beginning?” I see all these digital companies are coming to print. What would you tell the person?

AF: I would never tell anyone who had a good idea that they were crazy. First I would ask them what is the reason that your voice needs to exist? If the person could clearly define what is the differentiated voice in that category then it’s not only a good idea, it’s an idea that needs to exist.

So if that idea needs to exist that means there’s a disenfranchised audience somewhere. There’s an audience that’s hungry for that voice in that category sphere. Once you know that that audience exists you can answer the question then; where is that audience primarily looking for the content?

If it’s digital start there, if it’s print start there. If they’re looking for a certain type of execution in different spheres, figure out where is going to be the easiest to launch. I think you have to decide also where the client base is. But meet your audience where he or she is going to be. It’s much easier than creating something and moving people to a place.

Find a need, create a voice, and meet them where they are. But people are launching things all the time and the only reason why they do is they see a need, a disenfranchised audience and they know a way to reach them. I’m always happily surprised when you see a digital enterprise decide you know what it would be nice to create a quarterly magazine based on the aesthetic, the voice, the audience that we’ve created primarily.

SH: Here’s the question, you are at home, sitting on your favorite chair or lounge with a glass of wine in your hand reading a magazine. Forget about InStyle; what other magazine would that be?

AF: What would that magazine be? That’s a good question. It’s either New York Magazine or Departures.

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

AF: What keeps me up at night? From the magazine it really has to do with our readers. I really want to make sure that our magazine stays fun and fresh. The biggest concern I have about the magazine is when do we retire something that I know is very popular in the magazine or online and introduce something new that I think they would really get a kick out of. That’s the type of thing I’m always kind of struggling with.

SH: Thank you.
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014.

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