Archive for May, 2014

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“The Core Is Always Going To Be Magazines And Print And I Think That’s As Far As The Eye Can See,” Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

May 29, 2014

“What probably keeps me up at night is the dynamic relevance of printed magazines and what they mean to the consumer and making sure that a generation of advertising and media professionals appreciates the value of the medium.”
“I think about magazines and magazine media all the time.”
“More Print Products are coming from Hearst in the coming years.”
Michael Clinton

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 9.40.38 PMA pilot, an accomplished photographer, a philanthropist who started his own charity, Circle of Generosity, a publishing director, an author of several books, a marathon runner, a traveler to more than 120 countries, an executive, a magazine rabbi and a high priest in the eyes of those who know him and work with him… In fact, there is no shortage of adjectives to describe Michael Clinton, who is also the chairman of the MPA — The Association of Magazine Media.

He and David Carey, the president of Hearst Magazines, seem to be among the few magazine executives who are not closing any magazines, downsizing, or just reducing the weight of the paper. No, actually they’re doing just the opposite. Hearst magazines has been acquiring magazines, launching very successful print products, without forgetting digital which as of today only represents 3% of the total circulation of Hearst Magazines.

So when I had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with the multi-talented Michael Clinton, my brain was racing with a million questions I was ready to fire at Michael and my eyes were roaming his office observing the pictures on the walls and the model Air-Force One on the round table among many other memorabilia scattered around his office.

I asked Michael about his favorite picture from all the photos he has taken over the years. He was quick to point to a picture on the wall facing his desk of a plane off the coast of Namibia. The same picture is also adorning the cover of his book The Globetrotter Diaries.

I chose that spot in Mr. Clinton’s office on the 43rd floor of the Hearst Tower in NYC as the backdrop for The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Michael Clinton. I asked Michael Clinton why more publishers aren’t following in the footsteps of Hearst Magazines? Click the video below to listen to his answer:

And now for the sound-bites…

On whether he thinks about magazines when he wears his other, innumerable hats: And so I think about magazines and magazine media all the time. And actually some people around here laugh at me when I say, “I was out for a long run the other day.” And they know that that means that I concocted some idea in my head while I was running that I was about to lay on them.

On the most challenging moment in his career: For many people, a dark moment was in the depths of the recession because as businesses really cut back in their spending, and it was across all media, part of my job is to keep the troops motivated.

On what he believes the other magazine professionals are doing when it comes to why Hearst seems to be one of the few publishers promoting and launching new magazines: That’s a great question, but I don’t know. We’d love more of our peer companies to step out and put out a new magazine and a new concept. But we’re happy to continue to innovate on that front.

On whether he’s a believer in print: Big time.

On what he believes is the most problematic issue we have today in the magazine marketplace: I think that we’re in a state of confusion and disruption in the media landscape in general.

On a solution for the newsstand problems: I think to do innovative things at newsstands such as working with retailers. We’re doing some really innovative things on the shopper marketing front where we’re creating customized units that are combinations of gift-with-purchase.

On what keeps him up at night: I think that what probably keeps me up at night is the dynamic relevance of printed magazines and what they mean to the consumer and making sure that a generation of advertising and media professionals appreciates the value of the medium.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst…

Samir Husni: I’ve been doing some homework, checking around the building and talking to people; three things I learned about you, some I knew before, some I did not. One is your philanthropy, which hasn’t been covered much, but people do know about it. Two is your marathons, which you cover yourself on your tweets. And third is that you’re the rabbi to most of the magazine publishers and editors in the building, they refer to you as Rabbi Michael. So as the high priest of magazines, especially the ones that you’ve been really involved with – the three most successful launches of the last five years, from the Food Network to Dr. Oz; how do you combine those three entities and juggle between them? Is it always magazines on your mind whether you are teaching, running or giving away your money?

Michael Clinton: That’s a great, great question. I think that fortunately for me I still love the magazine industry; I’ve been in it a long time. So I’m one of the lucky people who wake up every day and am excited to go to work. And I think regardless of what industry you’re in it’s great to be able to have that sense of drive, commitment and interest in your chosen profession.

And so I think about magazines and magazine media all the time. And actually some people around here laugh at me when I say, “I was out for a long run the other day.” And they know that that means that I concocted some idea in my head while I was running that I was about to lay on them.

I often find that my down time of going and running a marathon or training in the park is actually great for clearing my head to come up with new ideas or solutions, solving problems or thinking about new ways to go at what we do.

To answer your question, a lot of what I think about with regards to magazines, a lot of it solves problems, not necessarily in the Hearst Tower, but outside doing a lot of the other things that I do.

Samir Husni: And what has been a most challenging moment in your career? Maybe a time you had to run extremely far to get it out of your system and come up with a solution.

Michael Clinton: For many people, a dark moment was in the depths of the recession because as businesses really cut back in their spending, and it was across all media, part of my job is to keep the troops motivated.

And so when you see the kind of business downturns everyone faced during the recession, especially younger professionals who never experienced a recession, for some of us we’ve been through different business cycles, but for younger people it’s harder for them to see the other side and younger publishers who were coming off of those phenomenal go-go years and 2007 being kind of the penultimate one and keeping people motivated and focused, making them try and appreciate that it wasn’t the end of the world, that business cycles happen and there would be a leveling out and a rebuild, that proved challenging.

So there were a lot of long runs during that time.

Samir Husni: With the Food Network it was smooth sailing from day one. Dr. Oz was a bit rocky in terms of staffing, correct?

Michael Clinton: Yes, we had an editor change and she left on her own to go back to California. I think the thing that was very interesting in 2008 when we decided to launch a magazine, obviously it was a very bold and daring statement, and I think what happened was we were counter-contrary to the marketplace and we went out and launched Food Network Magazine in a very strange way, talking about my earlier comment. It kind of lifted the whole organization because when you do bold things in tough times, what happens is often it not only lifts the entire organization, but when you have the success, it really shows there is clear view out there for other businesses to grow. So you’re right Food Network was an instant takeoff.

Samir Husni: And why is it that you and David Carey are among the very few who have been promoting new magazines, talking about new launches; what’s the rest of the industry doing?

Michael Clinton: That’s a great question, but I don’t know. I think that as the chairman of the MPA, we always talk with encouragement when it comes to new product launches and bringing new magazines to the marketplace, because we now have new proof points that if you put out a great product, the consumer will come and the consumer will pay. We now have three proof points on that.

We’d love more of our peer companies to step out and put out a new magazine and a new concept. But we’re happy to continue to innovate on that front. We now have the perception in the marketplace that we are the innovators in regards to new magazines in this time period. That we’re the ones that will innovate and put out new products and feel strong about new print products as well as all the other things that we’re doing digitally.

Samir Husni: You are one of very few companies that never lost its focus on print, just to swim in the digital ocean. That you actually kept both print and digital.

Michael Clinton: And don’t forget we acquired Hachette. So at the same time, aside from launching new products, we made a very big print acquisition also coming right off the heels of the recession.

Samir Husni: So are you a believer in print?

Michael Clinton: Big time. I think what we see, and once again I’ll go back to today, Dr. Oz, we have 300,000 subscriptions in hand. It has been one of the fastest ramp ups, one of the highest pay rates, where the consumer actually wrote the check; and as you know we sold out on the newsstand and went back to press.

So I think even if it was 2008 when it was Food Network, people might say, well OK, that was then and then we did HGTV in 2011 and people might say, that was then, but it’s 2014 and it’s happening again people. I think the trick is in finding a fresh voice in a cluttered marketplace and I think those three examples really had a fresh voice in their market.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the most problematic issue we have today in the magazine marketplace?

Michael Clinton: I think that we’re in a state of confusion and disruption in the media landscape in general. And I think that if you’re a CMO today of a brand and you think about everything that is coming at you, the big headline in Adweek: is TV dead? Video is taking over. What’s happening in the digital marketplace with programmatic and view ability.

Every media platform seems to have big issues as part of the overall media ecosystem that marketers are challenged with. So the print medium has a long history of tried and true audience and audience measurement, but in a world of disruption everything is sort of up for grabs.

So I think what a lot of marketers are finding and what I’m seeing is that it’s all about the media mix and magazines play a part in that mix. That when you have the correct media mix in your media spends it can actually lift all boats.

There’s a lot of noise and disruption and I think the overall noise and disruption affects all media, not just magazines.

Samir Husni: Putting the rabbi hat on and talking to the future generations, people interested in our business, in journalism, in magazines; if you’re teaching a class, what do you tell the students?

Michael Clinton: You know I think that the good news is that magazine brands used to be just print. And if I use an analogy in the retail world, I call that our bricks & mortar business. Even though E-commerce is ubiquitous, bricks & mortar is not going to go away. It’s a different experience. So when someone is in the pages of Esquire, Oprah or Cosmo, they’re having a very unique and different experience.

It’s part of the bricks & mortar story. The beauty we’ve had and I think that what gets lost in the conversation and I talk to publishers about this all the time, is that the brand footprint now for Cosmo can live in many different places. So the core is always going to be magazines and print and I think that’s as far as the eye can see. Cosmo.com, Cosmo – social media, Cosmo events, Cosmo won-off-TV-things; we now have the ability to take our brands out to other brand and media platforms that before we didn’t really have the opportunity to do.

So I think that for young people I like to say, think about it as a horizontal experience, not just a vertical experience. Because whether you’re on the publishing side or the editorial side, and this has already happened in the news marketplace, if you speak to a young reporter now, they’re producing their story, filming their story, and posting on the dot com, doing their social media; so they’re multitasking with different content and we’re doing the same thing, so it’s a big opportunity.

I think magazine media’s core is still going to be the printed page.

Samir Husni: Do you think we can ever succeed with a digital-only magazine? Even though I don’t call anything but print a magazine…

Michael Clinton: I think you have to clarify that question; are you talking about web-based or tablet-based?

Samir Husni: Can you name a tablet-based digital magazine that’s making money?

Michael Clinton: Well, that’s a great point. I think that the opportunity is there for a magazine that is a tablet-only magazine. I think the tablet world may have to mature a bit. But in our May issues we did a test; we took 10 of our women’s magazines and we embedded a 12-page beauty supplement that ran in 800,000 copies of those paid circulation magazines. Now that’s a bit of a scale play that never really existed before. You know, could that become its own magazine, who knows.

But I think that we’re in the very early days of testing whether something could have a circulation of a half million, but only live as a tablet distributed magazine. I think we’re too early in the product life cycle of magazines on tablets, but five or ten years from now it could be possible. But I think that we have a long way to go.

As you know we only have three percent in total magazine subscriptions on the tablet to begin with, so I think you almost need to have the consumer have a deeper learned experience in how they’re getting their content.

Samir Husni: Which leads me to say you are the only company that doesn’t bundle…

Michael Clinton: We do not bundle, no.

Samir Husni: If you want Cosmo on the tablet, you pay $19.95 or $14.95 and if you want the magazine, you buy the magazine…

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 9.36.23 PM Michael Clinton: Why do we do that? We have an expression: fee not free. Let me first talk about authentication. The analogy we would make is I went to go see Godzilla on Saturday night, but when you walked out of the theater they did not hand you a free CD because you just paid for your ticket or when you buy a book, say the new Hillary Clinton book, you don’t get a free download on your tablet. If you want it then you buy it two different times.

I think what’s been great about iTunes, in particular, is if you wanted the content you paid for it, hardcover book versus download book. So we took that position very early on and as a result we have about a million, almost a million-four, paid subs that are tablet-based subs and it creates a level, from our perspective, of wantedness from the consumer and also a story we can tell the advertiser. So it’s choosing your distribution.

Samir Husni: Talking about distribution; how’s Next Issue doing?

Michael Clinton: It’s coming along. It’s a fantastic consumer proposition. In their next round, where they need to go next as they continue to build their brand is a big marketing and promotional play. At a certain point they have to get the message out to the consumer marketplace at large, because while it’s growing, they need to get that lift-off. They’re going to have to get that funding to be able to promote it in a big, big way to the consumer.

Samir Husni: What can we do about the newsstands? With closings and rumors of closings…can we have a magazine industry in this country without newsstands?

Michael Clinton: It’s 10 percent of magazine circulation, so it’s small, but it’s an important piece; forget the economics because it’s an important economic contributor. But it’s an important piece for sampling, to get that magazine in front of the consumer’s eyeballs.

So the good news is as doors shrink, borders go out of business; on the flip side there are other doors and stores that are actually growing their magazine presence such as Costco and Dollar General; points that didn’t have magazines. So the answer is yes, it’s important to have newsstand.

And also I think to do innovative things at newsstands such as working with retailers. We’re doing some really innovative things on the shopper marketing front where we’re creating customized units that are combinations of gift-with-purchase. So if you buy a skincare product and if you buy a copy of Marie Clare, Elle or Cosmo and we align ourselves with the skincare product, there can be a dollar off somewhere.

Creating these customized incentive packages at floor level, which is what happens in general with retail anyway, aside from just being in the traditional slots that magazines occupy.

I think the next generation is going to be doing more inventive marketing programs at floor level, so you’re stimulating sales as opposed to magazines just sitting there stagnant. We’re doing a lot on that front here.

Samir Husni: Do you think that will solve the mobile blinders problem?

Michael Clinton: I heard a stat the other day about how many times someone checks their mobile phone, but you have to think at a certain point it’s going to be overload. So I guess the answer is probably not, but the mobile blinders affect any impulse purchase if you think about it. Unless you’re going to just buy something specifically, you’re going to have that.

But I think about something like Hudson News at the airports; when you go into that store, you’re basically going in because you are looking at the magazines versus a check-out. The mobile blinders are a big issue for every business category.

Samir Husni: This question is for you, the photographer; what’s the best picture you’ve ever taken?

Michael Clinton: There it is, on the far left. The story behind that picture is that I’m a pilot and I was on the famous Skeleton Coast of Namibia, which is in the country just north of South Africa, on the West Coast. It is a spectacularly beautiful landscape. You’re flying along the coast and the sand dunes hit the water and this is where you find these hulls of ships in the flat sand dunes because that’s why they call it the Skeleton Coast because of all these boats.

So I was literally flying up this coast for a couple of three hours, I wasn’t the pilot the entire time, there were six of us on board, but I happened to be then, and it was very difficult to see another plane in the air throughout the whole week that we were in Namibia and all of a sudden I saw that plane coming beneath us and I asked the other pilot could you please take the controls because I was flying at the time, grabbed the camera and I yelled, “Come on, we have to keep up with him.” So we tracked him and just the image of that airplane against that backdrop with the shadow is a very romantic shot. It’s actually a shot that, when I’ve had gallery exhibits, it’s one of my most popular.

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

Michael Clinton: I’m a good sleeper. I go to sleep with a clear head. No, I think that what probably keeps me up at night is the dynamic relevance of printed magazines and what they mean to the consumer and making sure that a generation of advertising and media professionals appreciates the value of the medium. And we do a lot of things to innovate to keep that message front and center, but it is a very dynamic and growing medium with new products. And from a circulation and audience standpoint, it’s been very consistent even during the recession. You’ve heard the famous line during the recession: we didn’t have a consumer problem, we had an advertising problem.

But remarkably, from circulation and an audience standpoint, it’s been a very consistent story and that sometimes gets lost in the whirlwind of the whole media ecosystem. So how do we get that embedded into the brains of younger professionals?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Believing in Print and the Cohesiveness of Their Membership, Association Media & Publishing’s New President, Erin Pressley, Talks about the Future of Associations and the Importance of Quality Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Erin Pressley…

May 28, 2014

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“We did a reader survey last year and I was convinced that digital has been around for a long time, we have mobile apps, digital editions, social media; I thought for sure more of our membership was really going to express a preference for those digital platforms as a way to get their information. And it was almost 40% of the members who said that they really just wanted print.” Erin Pressley

Membership and content are two very important facets for the new president of Association Media & Publishing, Erin Pressley. The AM&P is the premier membership organization that serves the needs of association publishers, business operation executives, communications professionals, designers, and content generators and the media they create.

And while digital is an important part of their business, Erin is extremely pleased by the love and loyalty their members have for their print products, especially since she pleaded ink on paper’s case in front of her CEO and the board of directors.

And her entreaty for print has really paid off since a large part of their membership still revel at the feel of a magazine in their hand and the investment for that tangibility is proving most successful.

So get ready to learn a lot about association media and the points that make it tick as you enjoy the Mr. magazine™ interview with Erin Pressley – President of AM&P.

But first The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with the newly installed president of the Association Media & Publishing Erin Pressley and listen to her dream and mantra for AM&P.

And now the sound-bites:

On the current status of the Association Media & Publishing: Association Media right now I think is really undergoing an evolution. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity that’s out there, but there’s also a lot of choices to be made.

On the platforms Associations prefer when it comes to their content: It depends on the association. I think some are a little more thoughtful and progressive than others. I know some have experimented by dropping print altogether. We still invest in our print and we still believe it’s a valuable member benefit.

On her most pleasant surprise when it comes to her career with the AM&P: I thought for sure more of our membership was really going to express a preference for our digital platforms as a way to get their information. And it was almost 40% of the members who said that they really just wanted print.

On her biggest stumbling block: A stumbling block? I think it’s the same with many associations; it’s resources. It’s financial resources to invest in new innovations and properties, it’s human resources to have the team to really execute on a lot of what we need to really get done.

On what keeps her up at night: I’m well aware of the resources that we have at our organization and that gap seems to be getting wider and wider. And so my struggle is to figure out how I can lessen that gap.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Erin Pressley, President of the Association Media & Publishing…

Samir Husni: You’re the new president of the AM&P and your background is in editorial. Can you briefly tell me about the current status of the Association Media?

Erin Pressley: Association Media right now I think, as I’ve heard many people speak today at the conference, is really undergoing an evolution. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity that’s out there, but there’s also a lot of choices to be made. And I think that most associations are headed in the right direction, but there are too many tools to choose from and too many paths to go down and I think what most association publishers need to do is really sit back and think more strategically, develop a content eco-system, learn who their members are and what they want, do an audit of the communication resources that they have and really be more strategic before they continue to go down the road.

I think a lot of associations are just so used to doing the work, getting the work done, pumping the work out; it’s all tactics. And I think when you have few resources, whether it’s budget or human resources, you just get in this mode of status quo and whatever is the easiest. And it’s just hard to sit back and think more strategically about what you need to do. But I think that’s the only way associations are going to stay relevant in the years ahead.

Samir Husni: Is there a divide in the associations about whether they should go print, digital or both? Or is there a united front when it comes to platforms?

Erin Pressley: It depends on the association. I think some are a little more thoughtful and progressive than others. I know some have experimented by dropping print altogether. We still invest in our print and we still believe it’s a valuable member benefit, but I had to get up in front of our board of directors and in front of my CEO and really defend that proposition.

There are so many options out there and I think the breadth of membership that we have in our association and what we call the male-stale-and-pale, the old guys who have been around a long time and who still their love print, is strong. But we want to be in business for the next hundred years, if not more. So we want to make sure we’re bringing these millennials and these other folks in.

So there is a sense that you need to be on all platforms, be everything to all people and I think again it goes back to the strategy of really thinking through what your members want and where you want to go. It might mean a lot in print and a little in digital, it might mean a little more in digital and I think it’s different for every association.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise in your experience when it comes to Association Media?

Erin Pressley: For my association we did a reader survey last year and I was convinced that digital has been around for a long time, we have mobile apps, digital editions, social media; I thought for sure more of our membership was really going to express a preference for those digital platforms as a way to get their information. And it was almost 40% of the members who said that they really just wanted print. They knew that we had digital options; they knew we communicated that way, but they really loved having the magazine in their hands.

That’s very heartening to me and I’m also talking to advertisers, it’s good information to share with them. We’ve had advertising growth over the last few years, small, but it’s growing. And we’ve actually had circulation growth with our print publication too.

So there’s a lot of organic growth and loyalty around the print publication. And it’s really easy to fall prey to the myths that are out there or colleagues who are in the publishing sphere who talk about the death of print, advertisers who say they just want digital, but to have that kind of concrete numbers showing that our members still really love print, I think was really surprising. And I was very thankful to see that too.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block and how did you overcome it?

IMG_5346 Erin Pressley: A stumbling block? I think it’s the same with many associations; it’s resources. It’s financial resources to invest in new innovations and properties, it’s human resources to have the team to really execute on a lot of what we need to really get done.

The way I’ve tried to overcome within the organization is just to really get more people to understand what we’re up against and the importance of content. And I think more and more if you can draw that content up to the strategic level: how it can help drive membership, how it can help influence events, how it can advance advocacy in legislative things that you’re doing; I think then more people in your organization see the value of that content and then they’re willing to kind of join you in the content crusade. So I’ve really tried to work on that internally.

Samir Husni: What is your Association? What is NACS?

Erin Pressley: NACS is formerly the National Association of Convenience Stores. But over the years we have developed an international presence and we’re also fuel as well, so we’re the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing and we’re also convenience stores and gas stations.

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

Erin Pressley: What keeps me up at night, again, is really resources. I know who my competitors are; I see them as these for-profit publications and websites that are out there and I know even though we’re an association publication that’s where I want to be. And that’s very far-off in the distance.

I’m also well aware of the resources that we have at our organization and that gap seems to be getting wider and wider. And so my struggle is to figure out how I can lessen that gap.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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The Problem With the Single Copy Checkouts and Four Easy Steps to Fix It: A Mr. Magazine™ MagNet Exclusive.

May 27, 2014

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The Five Percent vs. the Rest of the Magazines: The Real Numbers and The Real Problems


In life there is the one percent vs. the 99 percent, in magazines there is the five percent vs. the 95 percent.

people and us1This week, in my ongoing conversations with MagNet’s Luke Magerko our focus once again is on increasing retail sales by changing the title mix at checkout. First, we report on a topic in the news this week: the share of market of AAM-audited titles and non-AAM titles and why industry reporting of AAM-Audited titles do much more harm than good.

MANY NEWSSTAND EXPERTS NOTE THAT AAM-AUDITED TITLES REPRESENT NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF SALE AND SHOULD BE THE FOCUS OF ANY NEWSSTAND INITIATIVE.
Those experts chose the wrong metric. MagNet agrees that nearly two-thirds of all UNIT sales are AAM-Audited titles, but this metric is meaningless. Retail outlets do not measure the publishing industry by units sold, and the wholesalers do not get paid based on units sold. The important analysis is revenue; and it looks much different than unit sales.

WHAT ARE THE ACTUAL RESULTS BETWEEN AAM-AUDITED TITLES AND NON-AAM AUDITED TITLES?
MagNet analyzed sales results from two time periods: 12 months ending March 31, 2014, and 12 months ending Mach 31, 2013. AAM titles were categorized based upon AAM 2013 second-half results.

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The weighted cover price of AAM-Audited titles is $3.97 while the weighted cover price of Non-AAM titles is $6.81. This cover price difference causes parity between the two groups of titles.

HOW ARE THE TWO GROUPS PERFORMING?
This is where the publishing industry hurts itself greatly. AAM titles perform far worse as a group than the publishing industry as a whole. MagNet compared year-over-year sales variance between AAM-Audited titles and Non-AAM titles and added a third grouping— the entire industry variance:

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This will be the headline in the New York Times, USA Today and all other major newspapers: “The magazine publishing industry yet again produced double digit declines….” The headline is true, if you only look at a small subset of titles representing barely half of all retail sales.

Reporting AAM-audited titles has been a disaster to the image of magazines at retail, and the reporting must change immediately.

BUT CHANGING A REPORT WILL NOT CHANGE THE INDUSTRY!

The report is a symptom of a greater challenge. The publishing industry has stagnated because this small cadre of titles* also owns the vast majority of checkout space and has fended off other magazine challengers for the space.

CHECKOUT IS A MERITOCRACY: THE BEST TITLES ARE AT THE CHECKOUT.

Checkout pockets are judged based upon profitability per pocket and most, if not all, checkout titles pay exorbitant pocket fees to maintain their ranking and space. There is also one other fee to consider: the “Pay-to-Stay” fee.

WHAT IS PAY TO STAY?

Pay-to-Stay is exactly what it sounds like: checkout publishers are given the first opportunity to hold on to checkout space through this fee. “Pay-to-Stay” implies the current checkout title mix is the best mix of magazines and that current titles should keep their space.

DO PUBLISHERS EVER DECLINE A PAY TO STAY?

No. Checkout publishers acquired the space because they know its value. There are few instances where a publisher declines a pay-to-stay. Taking this to its logical conclusion, current checkout titles own the space and fight to keep it while many profitable small to mid-sized publishers are relegated to the mainline section in aisle.

HOW DO MID-SIZED OR SMALLER PUBLISHERS ASCEND TO CHECKOUT?
First, we need to agree checkout space is not being maximized for sales growth and profitability. We cite two examples, one estimate and one anecdotal. MagNet estimates that certain top ten checkout weeklies sell less than one copy per pocket per issue at least 10 percent of the time and less than two copies 40 percent of the time.

THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE! THAT WOULD BE AN INCREDIBLE WASTE OF CHECKOUT SPACE!
It is happening and MagNet now provides evidence that unit sales have declined to a point where even the strongest checkout titles are changing strategy to maintain its checkout space.

people and us
People Magazine and Us Magazine have added dividers to the checkout pocket, ostensibly to sell off-sale issues. The dividers also suggest these titles know they cannot ship a full pocket of copies as their sales do not recommend it.

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SO WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN AT CHECKOUT?
Step One: Mid-sized publishers must understand their titles are worthy of checkout space. Their current sales volume from the mainline would be more than enough to usurp some existing checkout titles. Five publishers have enough product to create a multi-title checkout pocket similar to Meredith’s Special Interest Publications right now.
Step Two: Mid-sized publishers must understand the economics of checkout, and determine if they can remain profitable while increasing sales.
Step Three: Wholesalers/category managers must open the checkout acquisition process to more publishers, and reach out directly to inform them of opportunities.
Step Four: Smaller publishers must be engaged in this process as well, but that will be another article.

WHAT SHOULD SMALL/MID-SIZED PUBLISHERS FOCUS ON NOW?

I am not suggesting publishers should assume they will acquire 200,000 checkout pockets in the next twelve months. Publishers must understand where there are opportunities, however and create a strategic plan around those opportunities, budget for those opportunities and move forward.
MagNet’s proposal for checkout fosters competition, increases sales, and provides increased profit for retailers. It is a win for an industry desperately needing a win; and is an opportunity to change the story from constant sales declines to increased sales.

VERY INTERESTING, PRO-GROWTH STRATEGY, LUKE! AGAIN, IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO REACH OUT LUKE, PLEASE CONTACT HIM AT LMAGERKO@MAGNETDATA.NET OR TO REACH OUT JOSH GARY, PLEASE CONTACT JOSH AT JGARY@MAGNETDATA.NET.

I hope this week’s conversation will be a good base to start a true conversation toward a vibrant newsstands checkouts and single copy sales. Needless to see without the newsstands the magazine industry will truly be hurt.

Whether you agree with Magnet’s solution or not, now is the time to voice your opinion, please click on the comment button below and post your comments.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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An Advocate And A Voice For Veterans – The American Legion Stands Behind Their Membership. A Mr. Magazine™ Memorial Day Weekend Special Interview

May 23, 2014

The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jeff Stoffer, American Legion Media & Communication Director and Editor of American Legion Magazine.

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“As the nation’s largest veteran’s service organization, there is kind of an expectation that we would be the voice of the veteran stakeholder in VA healthcare.” Jeff Stoffer

On Memorial Day we honor our veterans who have fought in the battles our country has faced to retain the wonderful freedoms we Americans enjoy. Their needs and priorities may have changed since they donned their uniforms, as many of them have aged with the passing of time. But there is one organization that continues to fight for their ever-changing concerns and remains a loud and clear voice for each and every one of them.

From the growing concerns of VA healthcare with the controversial 40 who died in the Phoenix VA Hospital due to delays in receiving care, to using every channel available to get that message and many others out; the American Legion Magazine stands strong for veteran’s everywhere.

IMG_5349 I recently spoke with Jeff Stoffer, American Legion Media & Communication Director and Editor of American Legion Magazine, about the Phoenix controversy and the growing concerns of vets and what his organization is doing to help.

Passionate about his members, print and the many channels the American Legion uses to promote and be an advocate for veterans all over the country, Jeff has a deep and abiding affinity for the men and women who have and still are defending it.

I hope you enjoy this very moving and uplifting interview with Jeff Stoffer and to everyone out there: Happy Memorial Day!

But first for The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Jeff Stoffer and how The American Legion engages with the members it serves:

And now for the sound-bites:

On the role the American Legion organization plays in controversies like the Phoenix tragedy: We recently reorganized our whole communications program to run the gamut between digital, from social media, from Intraday, social media messaging, all the way through to print product, every piece in between and we’re all driving at the same holes.

On whether the gamut of channels his organization uses adds to or detracts from their print product: They all drive to the print edition. The print edition brings, as a completely separate identity, in a use in these different media.

On his most pleasant surprise in his career with the American Legion: Media-wise, I would say that the most interesting phenomenon is that we started an E-newsletter with a very small Alpha population of 86,000 subscribers and now we’re at 509,000 subscribers.

On his biggest stumbling block: Certainly the issue of silos. We’re a multi-faceted, broad organization with many different divisions.

On what keeps him up at night: I think what keeps me up at night is the infinite nature of today’s media. It seems like whenever you open up a door, there is another door down the hall and another door. You never know what is going to happen next.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jim Stoffer…

Samir Husni: You are currently in the midst of one of the most newsworthy and controversial situations ever. Everyone is talking about the veterans; everyone is talking about the 40 who died. What role does The American Legion play in all of this and how do you differentiate from having a print magazine, a website, the blog; how are you integrating all of this and what is the benefit to the veterans?

IMG_5350 Jeff Stoffer: As the nation’s largest veteran’s service organization, there is kind of an expectation that we would be the voice of the veteran stakeholder in VA healthcare. In this case, this is not an issue that is new to us. We have been tracking preventable deaths at VA Medical Centers for the past couple of years because a few have popped up. We’ve been following the VA since the 1930s when the American Legion was instrumental in its formation. Now comes the time when a lot of people have a stereotype or maybe even a negative stereotype or a misunderstanding of what the American Legion is and does.

We recently reorganized our whole communications program to run the gamut between digital, from social media, from Intraday, social media messaging, all the way through to print product, every piece in between and we’re all driving at the same holes.

This reorganization did not really complete until March, 2014 and a month later we have CNN breaking the news of at least 40 preventable deaths in Phoenix. So it turned out that this would be a good opportunity for us to see how our reorganization was going to work. And it began with our social media program, tweeting about it; it was followed by our Facebook messaging where we received a great deal of market response, our audience responded to it. We got a lot of activity, we had a press release and stories started going onto our website.

So we created a branded web platform that wasn’t just “here’s the story,” but was interactive, it asked veterans to step into that site and actually type in and tell us their stories of waiting for care at VA health centers.

So at the end of the day what we ended up doing was we were already engaging the market essentially by sort of interviewing veterans across the country about their experiences with this big issue, using social media and the website so now as the story unfolds and more people learn about it and network news becomes involved, we become part of a Senate committee hearing on veteran’s affairs that is nationally televised and aired.

And now as this arc of media sort of continues to flow, we have reconfigured our editorial land so that the American Legion Magazine’s cover story in July will bring perspective, interpretation and analysis to all of these different hits.

And think about this, it’s almost like a reporting tool because we were able to get so many people to respond to it, provide us their voices. We turned our writer on to voices that came through Facebook that came through our interactive web platform, and the national media: the NBC’s, the CNN’s and the Washington Posts’ of the world were coming to us and asking what were veterans saying.

So we fulfilled our tried and true role as the voice of the stakeholder in veteran’s advocacy on this issue. And this extends beyond, quote-unquote, media channels. We had a town hall meeting in Phoenix, Arizona which was actually a physical presence by our national commander to step up, we coordinated media and veterans, and we brought 200 people into one American Legion post and 60 veterans got up and talked about the problem and it was aired on local and national television and it was aired on our website.

So it’s not about so much the channel; channels have their unique identities and they have different purposes, but it’s about the message and how we use the different channels to deliver the message efficiently. And I think we have done so in this way.

What we’re trying to do now is find a way to measure what this whole gamut of media mean to the American Legion. We’re going to talk about how frequently our brand was delivered to our audience and to external audiences. And then what is the number of that audience; we’re talking about network news and tens of millions of people; if we’re talking about Twitter, we’re talking about 250 million Twitter followers. But what is real about that and how do we measure the media impact in this era. We know the magazine has a fundamental baseline audience, we have metrics on our readership, so we can put a number on our magazine, but what we can’t put a number on is what does a Facebook “like” really mean. What does a “retweet” really mean? Are those real numbers? What does it mean when NBC Nightly News says that they might have 8 million viewers a night, or whatever it might be; I just made that number up, but ultimately that doesn’t mean they all just jumped on the bandwagon for the American Legion. Or maybe they just tuned completely out on it.

But what we want to do is develop some sort of a model that would identify what all this experience, this issue, our coverage of this issue, using all of our multiple channels did in terms of total impact and we’ll measure impact by visits to our website, by membership, acquisition via online or not and donations; we have a fundraising program in merchandising, our four big revenue streams. And so our plan is to say what our coverage of this issue means to the association or the organizations.

Samir Husni: Are all these channels that you’ve used going to help the print edition or detract from it?

imageJeff Stoffer: They all drive to the print edition. The print edition brings, as a completely separate identity, in a use in these different media. From Twitter, which is a 140 character message to a big cover story within a feature well of a magazine, to everything in between; all of these electronic media blasts are like little fireworks that shoot off and they go and filter out, landing on the ground, and then at the end of this experience somehow, some way we have to put it all into perspective and into one overarching analysis, even if it’s for posterity to say what this experience was, what it meant, what about it helps define our organization. That’s the purpose of a magazine feature in my opinion is to bring context to multiple issues perhaps.

So I think that they all have separate related interests, they all feed one into the other and they cross pollenate each other. We will have in our magazine feature a sidebar, a capsule sidebar to say, tell us about your experience waiting for your VA appointment or your VA community visit at legion.org.

And that’s not read more on legion.org; we’re saying act on legion.org and there’s a big difference. I’m with you when you say if you want to read more, go on legion.org and read more. I’m not going to go to the next movie theater to watch the rest of my movie.

But if they say I just watched a movie and now I want to go do something about it, I will go to that next building and do something about it. So it’s an idea of mobilizing our audience and activating our audience, because I think there is value when you’re a member of something. You want to feel that you’re not just a member in name only. You want to feel like you’re a part of something that’s happening and doing something and functioning to correct a problem, to be an advocate on behalf of your fellow veteran in our case.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise in your tenure with the American Legion?

Jeff Stoffer: It’s completely off base, since 2006, when I first went to Normandy, France I got to know many D-Day veterans and I wrote a magazine article about Sainte-Mère-Église , France and how that community rebuilds and reconstructs itself every first week of June, every year. And this is kind of a fun experience with media to, because I write a feature story and then a documentary filmmaker fights my story and he says, “Hey, I would like you to write a treatment for a documentary film.” So I wrote a treatment for a documentary film and a script and a screenplay and I get to meet and interview multiple World War II D-Day veterans and these were incredible people.

Then I ended up writing a book about a particular figure in Normandy that was really important. And now I take the national commander back and in two weeks I’ll be going back to Normandy with the national commander for my 8th straight year, this time for the 70th anniversary. And what makes me smile is I know that I’m going to meet some of these guys that I’ve known, even though many of them have passed since I was last there.

When I talk to these guys and I come to understand this important moment in world history, the Normandy Invasion, and to have actually helped tell their story and be a part of this developing and understanding of it brings me pleasure.

Media-wise, I would say that the most interesting phenomenon is that we started an E-newsletter with a very small Alpha population of 86,000 subscribers and now we’re at 509,000 subscribers and sometimes they’ll open this up at 56%. It is an email opening audience and it’s fun because every week we have the opportunity to kind of produce a best-of what’s in our digital media and a little bit to our print. It’s a weekly promotional thrust that has been just so successful that I get excited for Thursday to come. It’s fun.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Jeff Stoffer: Certainly the issue of silos. We’re a multi-faceted, broad organization with many different divisions. We work in jobs and economics, business development for veterans. We work in healthcare and benefits; all of these different areas of Americanism, American Legion baseball is housed in the American Legion National Headquarters, we have Jr. Shooting Sports, Boy’s State, Boy’s Nation, oratorical and a big gamut of legislation.

So all of these things that were spread out across all of these multiple landscapes, we previously did not really treat in our media, or not much, it was just kind of what we did on the Hill or in the community. And the magazine was more of a general interest magazine.

So what communication that was done in support of those programs was usually done in each of those divisions. What we had to do as we got the website and we started to break down some of those silos was to try to move some of the divisions out of the kind of thinking like I’ve got be my own public relations person and my own media person when they’re really program managers or policy people, they aren’t communications people.

And through time, slowly and painfully, we have broken down the silos, integrated some divisions, gotten other divisions, other areas of the organization to work with us to best brand and deliver the American Legion’s message. So it’s been a multi-faceted breaking down and I know this is true of a lot of associations, but it’s a lot of different departments and a lot of different communications people. Now we’ve standardized our brand, made for a more coherent and cohesive message for the whole organization.

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

Jeff Stoffer: I think what keeps me up at night is the infinite nature of today’s media. It seems like whenever you open up a door, there is another door down the hall and another door. You never know what is going to happen next and you have choices and you are not confined by the amount of paper you can afford or the size of the sheet. You are only confined by the priority of the messaging. Because electronic media gives you infinite opportunities and that can be a lot; when there are no restrictions on the space that you can use.

What keeps me up at night right now is that I have many, many divisions because we have been very successful in our media program. Many interests in the organization are at the door knocking, saying hey, I need you to do this, or we need to develop this, can you help me with our social media program. You want to do it all.

Samir Husni: Thank you.
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Blow Your Mind Cosmo Covers: Standing Straight or Leaning Over?

May 23, 2014

cosmo2-2cosmo1-1 Until 2013, Cosmopolitan has been the number one selling magazine on the nation’s stands. (It was dethroned last year by Woman’s World). And as many big selling titles on the newsstands, the magazine followed a very standard format in its covers and cover lines. So it was surprising to see a major departure in its June cover in the copies sold at Wal-Mart compared to the rest of the stores where the traditional cover was the one for sale…

The cover with Ms. Teigen standing straight with a pink background (the traditional design for Cosmo) is being sold at most of the nation’s stands. The cover with her leaning over with a yellow background is the one sold at Wal-Mart.

Both issues have Chrissy Teigen adorning the cover, albeit missing some clothing items and the cover line, “When He Makes You Crazy…P. 184” together with the obligatory one page number on the cover… but the Wal-Mart cover is a real deviation from the norm for Cosmopolitan and bend-over-show-some-cleavage sexy. Is there a reason the one sold at the largest retail store in the country is more provocative? And does having a choice between two tantalizing covers even make a difference to the Cosmo reader? Will loyal Cosmo girls like the tried and true of tradition or something new and different?

Judge for yourself.
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Bryan Welch: Putting His “Magazines” Where His Mouth Is… Preaching and Teaching Audience Engagement in the Magazine Business. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

May 22, 2014

Sustainability, Audience Awareness And A Love Of Print – Three Things Ogden Publications Foster & Promote Unashamedly – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Bryan Welch – Publisher & Editorial Director, Ogden Publications

“For most of the last ten years, Mother Earth News out of all the MRI measured magazines had the best and most consistent rate of growth…” Bryan Welch

There are few left in today’s publishing industry that actually put their money where their mouth is, but Bryan Welch – Publisher & Editorial Director – Ogden Publications, is one man who does. His love for print and magazines is second only to his love for Mother Earth and sustainability. And there is a reason for that.

Bryan’s first job was herding goats, so he has a good and compassionate feel for the Earth and all its inhabitants. And the second training ground that prepared him for the job he has now was taking a shot at being a stand-up comedian. The lesson he learned from that job, adapting and refining jokes based on the instantaneous reaction from the audience, made him more aware of how important audience awareness is and how vital adapting to their changing behaviors can be for publishers and magazine media.

The printed product is also very important and significant to him and he continues to place a very high value on his ink on paper products and in the people who buy and read them lovingly and loyally. He is a man close to the earth both professionally and personally. I asked Bryan about the things that are vital to Mother Earth News (just one of many Ogden magazines) and to him, such as sustainability and engagement with his audience.

His answers will engage and surprise you as you sit back, relax and think “green” and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Bryan Welch – Publisher & Editorial Director of Mother Earth News.

But first The Mr. Magazine™ Minute with Bryan Welch on his secret of success in the magazine media world today:

And now for the sound-bites:

On whether the world is getting closer to actual sustainability or farther away: We are continuing to accelerate toward a bad outcome, unfortunately and mainly that’s driven by population and by prosperity. I’ll start by saying that I am very optimistic. I think we are going to solve our problem.

On how the focus of sustainability and service is helping his magazines: For most of the last five years it has been the MRI measured magazine most likely to be reader’s favorite; it’s often had the most time-spent-reading number, so we have both engagement and audience growth.

On whether he believes print is dead and it’s an all-digital future: Every time this question comes up I just mention that there’s this print magazine that has a 750,000 rate base and is an inch and half thick and weighs about 2lbs and it’s called Wired. And it’s about the digital media. Why is there a magazine about the digital media?

On why we should focus on the audience instead of the platform: That’s such an interesting question. I think one reason is most magazines are run by people who are not passionate about the subject matter. As a result, I think that they are psychologically reluctant, or rather, reluctant for psychological reasons, to analyze the problem in terms of engagement.

On the most pleasant surprise in his career: In my career it was the acquisition of Mother Earth News because I had a stack of Mother Earth News underneath my bed when I was nineteen years old.

On the biggest stumbling block he has had to face: On a very mundane level I’m deeply dissatisfied with how we’ve communicated the value of our audience with advertisers. I think that we’ve, by and large, failed to acquaint them with the value of engagement, we have failed to acquaint them with the value of influential audiences, of profoundly passionate people.

On what keeps him up at night: You know every day I can enumerate several dozen things that I could have done better, so if you’re asking that question in the traditional sense, as in something negative that keeps me up at night, I do count off and review the things that I didn’t do as well as I could have done.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bryan Welch – Publisher & Editorial Director – Ogden Publications

Samir Husni: My first question to you is, are we getting closer to Mother Earth News with all these new technological developments or are we going away from Mother Earth News?

Bryan Welch: We are continuing to accelerate toward a bad outcome, unfortunately and mainly that’s driven by population and by prosperity. I’ll start by saying that I am very optimistic. I think we are going to solve our problem. The question is how big of a catastrophe do we need to create before we come to grips with the essential problem.

The human population has doubled in my lifetime and that’s compounded when you have the two most populace countries in the world increasing their prosperity to an unprecedented rate. I’m very happy that the people of India and China are more prosperous than they’ve ever been, but as people become more prosperous of course, they buy more stuff, and they burn more fuel; they do everything more and all of those things compound the growing problem with the habitat.

Now psychologically, every day we’re a little closer to the realizations that need to be made. And that’s the most promising sign for me, is that the awareness is growing as quickly as it is. And of course, it’s a great source of satisfaction to those of us who work in the areas where we focus on sustainability; it’s gratifying to see awareness growing and the audience growing.

Samir Husni: You publish a group of magazines that are aimed at that awareness and service; how is that helping the magazines?

Bryan Welsh Bryan Welch: For most of the last ten years, Mother Earth News out of all the MRI measured magazines had the best and most consistent rate of growth over the last ten years, averaged out. For most of the last five years it has been the MRI measured magazine most likely to be reader’s favorite; it’s often had the most time-spent-reading number, so we have both engagement and audience growth.

So today, I believe we’re at a million and a half unique visitors to the website every month. The audience total for the magazine is approaching seven million. And all of these are unprecedented numbers for us. Mathematically speaking we’re having a brief significant success and I think that grows out of people’s increasing awareness.

One of the numbers that I find most promising, last year I just started asking people about their political beliefs: do you consider yourself very conservative, somewhat conservative, neutral, somewhat liberal or very liberal. The Mother Earth News reader’s index for being very liberal is about 195 and the index for being very conservative is about 185. And because so many more Americans are quote – unquote very conservative that means about 9% of our readership said they’re quote-unquote very liberal. And about 20% of our readership said they are very conservative politically.

What that looks like to me is a social overhang. It looks to me like a harbinger of a very significant change in how we behave and how we view the world if all these very conservative people are subscribing to Mother Earth News. And the mass media doesn’t recognize that any very conservative person has deep feelings about sustainability. But there you have it. They have very deep feelings about Mother Earth News and pay us money to tell them about sustainability.

Samir Husni: How is the shift taking place? Are we still talking about print is dead and the future is all digital? Where do you see yourself, your colleagues and your publishers on this issue?

Bryan Welch: Every time this question comes up I just mention that there’s this print magazine that has a 750,000 rate base and is an inch and half thick and weighs about 2lbs and it’s called Wired. And it’s about the digital media. Why is there a magazine about the digital media? Well, I can’t explain that, but as long as there is one I’m not all that concerned about the print future of Mother Earth News or Grit. You know there’s something about print.

One of my friends, a very smart person, says that the print product is an artifact. Not a historical artifact, but an artifact of your value system and you want to own a physical object because it reflects your value system. You want it in your home, on your table and within your reach. Even if you’re reading mostly on your mobile device in a completely different format, you still want the physical object and certainly we’ve not seen significant erosion of the value of our print subscriptions; we’ve not seen any erosion in the value of our print subscriptions over these last ten years and I would have expected to see it.

So I think the right posture for us is to be completely agnostic about platform and focus on engagement; to focus all of our efforts on being more meaningful to the audiences we choose to serve and deepening the relationship with those audiences and of course being there with the product in the format that they want.

But the relationship with the magazine brand and the relationship with the media brand is the fundamental unit of value in our business. And I try to get my colleagues to focus on that above and beyond all other things.

Samir Husni: It seems so just common sense for us to focus on the audience instead of the platform. Why do you think we’ve not done that and why do we avoid common sense?

Bryan Welch: That’s such an interesting question. I think one reason is most magazines are run by people who are not passionate about the subject matter. As a result, I think that they are psychologically reluctant, or rather, reluctant for psychological reasons, to analyze the problem in terms of engagement. Engagement is a complicated question and deep engagement with an audience requires deep empathy which is easier to achieve if you share their value system and their passions. But most people who wind up running magazines do not share those same passions of their audience. So I think as a result many are reluctant to analyze the problem in those terms, because that’s a more difficult way for them to solve the problem than a new consultant, a new gadget or a new platform.

Samir Husni: What’s been the most pleasant surprise for you in your career?

Bryan Welch: In my career it was the acquisition of Mother Earth News because I had a stack of Mother Earth News underneath my bed when I was nineteen years old.

And for me, I’m a business person, but I’m in the particular business that I’m in because I’m a storyteller by nature, my vocation is probably storytelling. So for me it was always important to be emotionally engaged with the subject matter and it always seemed to me, as a personal goal, that that should be paramount. And every day is very exciting.

And the acquisition of Mother Earth News for me was very lucky. It just really felt like a dream come true for me.

Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block for you that you’ve been able to overcome or not?

Bryan Welch: On a very mundane level I’m deeply dissatisfied with how we’ve communicated the value of our audience with advertisers. I think that we’ve, by and large, failed to acquaint them with the value of engagement, we have failed to acquaint them with the value of influential audiences, of profoundly passionate people. Because there are many categories of products: natural foods, energy-efficient automobiles that are points of really deep engagement with our audiences. And the advertisers in those categories have almost ignored us altogether.

And so that’s a disappointment and a stumbling block that we’ve not overcome yet and that we continue to work on.

Other than that, you know I suppose that I’m, like most entrepreneurs, optimistic by nature, so the vast majority of the obstacles that we face, I feel like we’re in the process of crawling over them, whether that’s the case or not. But I tend to feel that we are.

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

Bryan Welch: You know every day I can enumerate several dozen things that I could have done better, so if you’re asking that question in the traditional sense, as in something negative that keeps me up at night, I do count off and review the things that I didn’t do as well as I could have done. I think like a lot of people do probably.

But I’m more likely to be up at night or particularly early in the morning more often because I have something exciting that I want to do. I’ve been lucky to have had that kind of career that’s given me a lot of work that I want to get to. So it gets me up.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Gary Rubin: Trading The World Of Magazine Media In For A Sea Captain’s Hat… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

May 21, 2014

“You can talk to someone about the differences; listen to the words they use when they describe online versus magazines. They say, “My magazine” and “The website.” It’s just the words they use, “My Magazine,” because of the actual touch.” Gary Rubin

Courage. The one word that comes to mind when I think about my recent interview with Gary Rubin, Senior Vice President Publishing and E-Media, at the Society For Human Resource Management. As SHRM’s Senior Vice President of Publishing and E-Media, Gary Rubin leads the Publications and New Media division, which publishes HR Magazine, produces the editorial components of SHRMOnline (the Society’s website), is responsible for SHRM’s member facing social media initiatives such as HR Talk and SHRM Connect, directs book publishing operations, leads SHRM’s retail sales SHRM, E-Learning, video &multimedia production, SHRM’s virtual/on-demand conferences, organizational design production and business development via mergers and acquisitions, and a man who’s about to chuck it all and go sailing around the world.

But I’ve always believed that in order to succeed in the world of media, we have to be experience makers first. And I’d say that Gary is definitely about to make another new experience that may wind up bringing him back full circle someday to the media business.

After all, you can’t sail around the world and not tell someone about it and what better way than through the tangible presence of print media. But before we consider that possibility – sit back, grab your globe and give it a spin and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gary Rubin…

But first The Mr. Magazine™ Minute followed by the sound-bites and the lightly edited conversation.

The Mr. Magazine™ Minute:

The Sound-bites:

On why he’s leaving the world of business media for the sea: It’s really because life is short and greedy. I’m more interested in experiences than money.

On any similarities between sailing the world and publishing: After going through this brief recession, there’s nothing that the sea can throw at me that’s going to frighten me more.

On any lessons publishers should have learned from the recent recession: Don’t panic. The fundamentals of our business during the good times and the bad times are the same, that readers, whether they’re on the BtoB side or the consumer side, have either a need for content if it’s BtoB or a want for content if it’s consumer, and sometimes on the consumer side need and want intersect.

On any words of wisdom he might impart before he sets sail: Don’t give up. Because you look at the total patterns of our business going into the recession, BtoB suffers first, and then consumers get hit. And then coming out of the recession, consumers recover first then BtoB recovers second and this happens every single time.

On the best platform for branding: Print.

On the reasons why print is the best platform for branding: Because an advertiser has as many pages as they want to tell their story. And a print ad evokes a feeling in addition to providing information.

On the most pleasant experience he’s had throughout his career: There are so many things. It’s just such a wonderful business. It’s a people business. The business of media is so great because you work with so many super smart, interesting and dedicated people to create these products that people you don’t even know benefit from.

On the major stumbling block he’s faced: I’m not sure that I’ve overcome most of them. The business changes faster than you can learn it. And so I’ve always been slightly behind; there’s just so much more to know than you have time to learn and understand.

On the comparison of people in the media from ten years ago with today: I don’t know, things look different to me because I’m older. And I think that I’ve screwed more things up over the years that helped me learn more about people and business and myself, so things look different to me now because I’m different.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gary Rubin….

Samir Husni: You’re leaving this business behind and sailing around the world; what’s your gut feeling about doing this? Do you feel like you’ve done everything you can do with the business or you’re leaving it in a better place or a worse place? Or this is it, there’s no future, let me go sail?

gary rubin Gary Rubin: Oh no, neither of those things. It’s really because life is short and greedy. I’m more interested in experiences than money. That’s why I have been interested in publishing for all these years; it’s that you learn new things and every day you realize how little you know, plus just the process of learning new things and discovering new interests and trying to constantly chase after some things with competency.

The problem is that I love the business and I think this is the most interesting time in the business because we’re in this brilliant transition between print and digital and how the two play together and the tool kit of things that we have as publishers to create incredible content that’s visual and really takes print into places it hasn’t been before. I’m really sad that I’m going to miss out on a lot of that, but on the other hand we all have limited time on earth and there are things that I want to experience and I want to try and sail around the world and I can’t do that when I’m 70.

So, this is the time. I have enough experience as a sailor and wisdom as a person, but enough ignorance that I don’t know what I’m getting into and if I did I probably wouldn’t do it. This is the right time for me to try it and I’m afraid if I postpone it I won’t do it and I’ll always have that regret.

Samir Husni: Being in the publishing business; do you feel it prepared you for this adventure? Are there any similarities, do you think, between publishing and sailing around the world?

Gary Rubin: After going through this brief recession, there’s nothing that the sea can throw at me that’s going to frighten me more.

Samir Husni: As we’re coming out of this recession, you’ve experienced the good times and the bad times; what lessons do you think publishers should have learned from it?

Gary Rubin: Don’t panic. The fundamentals of our business during the good times and the bad times are the same, that readers, whether they’re on the BtoB side or the consumer side, have either a need for content if it’s BtoB or a want for content if it’s consumer, and sometimes on the consumer side need and want intersect.

You know, my DNA didn’t change as a reader in a recession or in a boon. The only difference was the ad revenue, the advertisers got scared, but the readership never went down depreciably, people’s interests in learning things and doing things never went down.

So, some publishers started doing stupid things, corroding the value of their brand because they were going through some negative times, instead of thinking they’d recover when the economy came back, so their competitors who had confidence in the basic value composition of their media thrived when coming out of the recession and those that panicked died.

Samir Husni: And what advice or famous last words would you impart to BtoB magazine before you set sail?

Gary Rubin: Don’t give up. Because you look at the total patterns of our business going into the recession, BtoB suffers first, and then consumers get hit. And then coming out of the recession, consumers recover first then BtoB recovers second and this happens every single time. And now we’re seeing the consumer media recovering and to me this means BtoB will recover and marketers ultimately.

The problem that BtoB is having is that marketers are shifted away from branding to regeneration, putting money into the web, LinkedIn and other places like that. And they haven’t been investing in branding. And without branding, you know you put a button, a banner or a contextual ad up, but without understanding the value of a marketer’s brand, what good is it?

And particularly at BtoB, where a number of products are poorly differentiated from one another; how do you know what product is better than another? And so the pendulum is going to switch back and there is going to be a greater emphasis on branding and I don’t think it’s that far away. And ultimately, that’s where the juice is.

Samir Husni: Which is the best platform for branding?

Gary Rubin: Print.

Samir Husni: Why is that?

Gary Rubin: Because an advertiser has as many pages as they want to tell their story. And a print ad evokes a feeling in addition to providing information. No one’s heart has ever jumped seeing a skyscraper or a banner, but you look at a gorgeous print ad of a Porsche and it makes you yearn for that car. A button or a banner helps direct you to where to buy it. And the web does a very poor job of that. And the web only delivers information that you know you don’t know. Print tells you every time you turn the page that you’re discovering something new and different, something that you didn’t know you didn’t know.

And print advertisers that create beautiful and enticing ads get the benefit of discovering that whatever happens in a person’s brain, when they’re learning through exploring, that happens in print. I’m not being negative about online at all; I love online. But print is special. And perhaps it’s because people can hold a magazine in their hands and so there’s a physical connection between a magazine and a reader.

You can talk to someone about the differences; listen to the words they use when they describe online versus magazines. They say, “My magazine” and “The website.” It’s just the words they use, “My Magazine,” because of the actual touch. People are sensual to a certain level and there’s that intimate connection with a magazine that doesn’t happen on the web.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant experience you’ve had throughout your career?

Gary Rubin: There are so many things. It’s just such a wonderful business. It’s a people business. The business of media is so great because you work with so many super smart, interesting and dedicated people to create these products that people you don’t even know benefit from. So the reach and the benefit from your activity with your team affect hundreds and thousands of people and so I’ll miss feeling like I’m doing something that matters on a bigger scale.

And I’ll miss a lot of great friends that I’ve made in the business. I mean, I’m not going to lose them, but going to conferences and just the act of doing business, there’s a connection because you’re sharing a common goal or interest.

And it’s sinking in that I’m really on the precipice of leaving the business. You just don’t appreciate it as much when you’re in it as when you’re about to leave it.

Samir Husni: And what was the major stumbling block that you faced during your career that you had to overcome?

Gary Rubin: I’m not sure that I’ve overcome most of them. The business changes faster than you can learn it. And so I’ve always been slightly behind; there’s just so much more to know than you have time to learn and understand. And now it’s harder even when you feel like you’ve got some great level of understanding and insight.

In the old days you’d just write it and you’d have the tools; you’d have the word processors, the printers and the paper and ink. And now so many of the really cool and interesting things require technology which is so much more difficult to implement.

So I think in the future we have to work this out. It’s so hard to bring ideas into action because it’s so expensive and the technology is much more difficult.

Samir Husni: Because of your role in human resources; have you noticed any change in people in the media business? If you wanted to compare people in media today to ten years ago; where do we stand?

Gary Rubin: I don’t know, things look different to me because I’m older. And I think that I’ve screwed more things up over the years that helped me learn more about people and business and myself, so things look different to me now because I’m different. But I suspect people are still the same; it’s just that I’ve grown a bit.

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

Gary Rubin: My wife. She keeps waking me up because I’m snoring.

Samir Husni: Thank you and Bon Voyage…

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