Covering Every “Stitch” Of The Crafting Community And Every “Thread” Possible; Stampington & Company Isn’t Slowing Down When It Comes To Launching New Magazines In Print…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Christen Olivarez – Editor-In-Chief & Director Of Publishing – Stampington & Company…May 2, 2014
“It sounds silly that we have a magazine about aprons, but it’s still doing extremely well. And people who love aprons love aprons. That’s what we’re finding.”… Christen Olivarez.
When it comes to the art of crafting, no one does it better than Stampington & Company. Not only do they publish the largest number of crafting and arts magazines in the industry; the magazine media company recognizes the value and the target points of niche marketing as well.
With seemingly endless additions to their repertoire, Christen Olivarez, Editor-In-Chief and Director of Publishing, talks with Mr. Magazine™ about the company’s desire to fulfill every want their readers might have by offering up a multitude of variety and discernible selection when it comes to the titles available under their banner.
And in the words of the inimitable Carly Simon, “Nobody Does It Better.” From crafts to cooking to business to aprons – yes, I said aprons, Stampington & Company is proving that niche is where it’s at when it comes to launching new magazines.
So grab your favorite pastime and bring it along as you read the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christen Olivarez – because there’s a good chance she has a magazine just for you…
But first the sound-bites…
On why she believes there is still room for more crafting magazines: What we’re noticing is that the entire craft movement and even just a move back to domesticity with cooking and things like that are becoming more and more popular especially thanks to the rise of Pinterest as a website.
On whether or not she believes print is the right platform for all their new launches: Right now we’re solely focusing on the print product and any of our new publications; upon first printing is always a print magazine.
On all the specialized titles and whether they’re still reaching the same audience: I think what we’re trying to do is that we’re finding that a lot of our loyal readers and some of our new readers have so many interests that we’re trying to cater to all them.
On the major stumbling block they’ve faced: Our biggest thing is just trying to keep everything fresh so that people feel drawn to pick up the magazine when they could just as easily find something on the computer to make.
On her most pleasant surprise: That people still get so excited about our new launches.
On her favorite title out of the 32 they have: That’s just so hard. I’ve been with the company for almost seven years and I’ve been in charge for a little over three years now. I have to say right now that Willow and Sage has taken me completely by surprise, I can’t believe how much I’ve grown to love it.
On what keeps her up at night: For me, it’s all the ideas we have and how we’re going to put them into place and where we’re going to put them.
And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christen Olivarez – Editor-In-Chief and Director of Publishing – Stampington & Company…
Samir Husni: Over the last few years, you’ve been bringing a lot of new titles into the fold. So why do you think there is still room for more craft, business and cooking magazines, the style that you do, on the market? Why did you think that today was a good time to launch yet another one with Willow and Sage?
Christen Olivarez: What we’re noticing is that the entire craft movement and even just a move back to domesticity with cooking and things like that are becoming more and more popular especially thanks to the rise of Pinterest as a website. More people are getting involved in arts and crafts; it’s becoming a more mainstream type of hobby versus just a few select women doing it at home. As well as a lot of people are realizing that they can make this into that and so we’re able to launch a magazine based on having creative businesses.
So we really just watched the industry as a whole and saw what seemed to be emerging as a trend and a lot of our readers were at the forefront of setting those trends. So that’s what really determines how we’re going to launch a magazine. We don’t have big focus groups or anything like that; if we feel like something needs a magazine, then we’ll go ahead and launch it because we’re a very small company so we can turn things around really quickly.
And we’re noticing a huge rise in people making bath and body products, especially to give as gifts. So we thought sure, there’s stuff available online but let’s put it all together in a nice book and have it as a magazine twice a year so that people can learn a bunch of different things about handmade bath and body products. The market really drove the need to launch it, so how could we not do it. It’s also a dream that our publisher, Kellene Giloff, had had for a long time.
Once the market seemed right for it, we went headfirst and we’re just thrilled at how it came out.
Samir Husni: Are you still a firm believer that print is the right platform for all these publications or do you think you’ll be moving more in the direction of merging print with digital?
Christen Olivarez: Right now we’re solely focusing on the print product and any of our new publications; upon first printing is always a print magazine. Once we’ve sold out a title, because we do not do reprints of anything, we will then go ahead and issue it as a digital magazine, but no new content right now. Our model is we will not produce anything new that will be solely a digital platform.
We just think that there is still a good market for print. It may be a little bit smaller now, but the people we cater to really like the feel of a print magazine. So we’re still continuing to invest money and all of our resources with our great paper and everything like that to produce a quality magazine that customers feel like investing in, so for now digital only after we have sold issues out.
Samir Husni: Your titles are becoming more and more specialized: Digital Inspiration, Willow and Sage, Where Women Create Business, Where Women Create; are you still reaching to the same audience or are you trying to slice and dice the market?
Christen Olivarez: I think what we’re trying to do is that we’re finding that a lot of our loyal readers and some of our new readers have so many interests that we’re trying to cater to all them. There’s just so much available out there, especially in the crafts realm, people like sewing, so of course we want to have sewing magazines. People like making jewelry, so we want to have jewelry magazines for them.
So we just see a big wide world and that’s why we’re able to create these almost niche of a niche magazines for people. And they seem to really like them. It sounds silly that we have a magazine about aprons, but it’s still doing extremely well. And people who love aprons love aprons. That’s what we’re finding.
So we’re not trying to split people up, we’re just realizing that people have many interests. And so we have a jewelry artist who also wants to find out about launching her own business. Maybe she also likes sewing on the side, so we’re just trying to offer something for everyone.
Samir Husni: What has been the major stumbling block that you’ve faced in the process of launching all these magazines?
Christen Olivarez: I think there’s so much available online. So we’re trying our hardest, especially with craft blogs and Pinterest, there’s just so much on the web and so we’re always trying to find things that are not available there so that people feel compelled to pick up the magazine and they’re not just getting something that they’ve already seen on the Internet.
Our biggest thing is just trying to keep everything fresh so that people feel drawn to pick up the magazine when they could just as easily find something on the computer to make. That’s our greatest struggle.
Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant surprise?
Christen Olivarez: That people still get so excited about our new launches. We actually have another one coming out in August that we’re working on and people are still so excited to see what we’re going to do next. And we’ve been around for 20 years and of course readers move on but we still have the same base of readers and they’re still picking everything up and that’s great to see that we’ve built such a loyal base that they can’t wait to see what specialty pub we’ll make the next time. Just to see what tiny little area of crafting that we’ll decide to explore.
Samir Husni: You mentioned that the market may have shrunk a little bit for print, but as a publishing director; do you still think this is a good business and will it continue to be a good business?
Christen Olivarez: I think so as long as people follow smart business models. I think when people try to undersell their magazines and sell them at such a low rate of subscription that’s really hard. And I think that we’re really smart in the way that we handle our business model in that we still keep the high cover price that’s going to keep us in business. If we offered a two-year subscription for $2 we would have been out of business a long time ago.
Staying true to the product is important. We’ve seen some other magazines, not our own, over the years that the quality of the material they use just keeps getting lesser and lesser and it becomes thinner and thinner. And we haven’t changed paper, we’re still buying the same paper and we’re still keeping our page counts higher than ever. So you really just have to stay true to your product.
Also not having to have these huge print counts and just trying to stay small helps us, we’re not trying to be the next huge magazine, we’re just trying to develop a good product that people want.
Samir Husni: You have 32 titles now. If someone asked you which one is your favorite baby, what do you say?
Christen Olivarez: That’s just so hard. I’ve been with the company for almost seven years and I’ve been in charge for a little over three years now. I have to say right now that Willow and Sage has taken me completely by surprise, I can’t believe how much I’ve grown to love it. I think it’s because we got involved with creating a lot of the content ourselves because people weren’t sure of what we wanted when we were seeking submissions from people.
And I feel like when you launch a new magazine it’s so important to set the right tone for the first issue so people will know what to expect and if they want to take part in it and they know what you’re looking for. And we worked so hard on Willow and Sage and I was just so surprised at how much I fell in love with the content and just coming up with the product and the design. It’s really taken over for me.
And then our next launch is actually called Bella Grace and it’s our first time going into the women’s interest section. And it’s not a craft magazine this time. And this is another one that has taken me completely by surprise because I am a crafter at heart and I usually like the craft-related magazines. But these two new launches have completely taken over for me because it’s new and it’s a challenge.
Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about Bella Grace?
Christen Olivarez: It will launch in August. And it will be in the women’s interest section, which is completely new for us and a little scary, but it’s coming together really beautifully.
Samir Husni: And what about Digital Inspiration, which you launched last month?
Christen Olivarez: Digital Inspiration was fun for us because it was our first Bookazine. We launched it in a larger format with a bigger dimension and what we did was we published so much incredible digital artwork in our other magazine, Somerset Digital Studio, we thought we’d go through and pick our favorite pieces and our best of and go ahead and put it together in a newly designed magazine and hopefully entice people who maybe haven’t seen Somerset Digital Studio to pick up Digital Inspiration and see the artwork coming from that magazine and maybe they’ll pick up the other one as well, because they are in two different areas of the newsstands. Somerset Digital Studio often winds up in the crafting section and our hope was that Digital Inspiration would be in the graphic design section to hopefully entice readers to pick up both titles.
So that one was really fun just learning the new format of working with the larger dimensions. We had to work with a different printing press this time and the different dimensions were challenging and fun and it’s been really well received, which is great.
Samir Husni: So, if someone comes to you today and says, you’re an expert, you’ve been doing this for years and you’ve established a print-driven customer-based business model, high cover price and subscription; I have an idea for a magazine. What advice do you have for them?
Christen Olivarez: I would first make sure that they have a really concrete idea of what they want. We’ve had people come to us before who’ve said I have an idea for a magazine and it’s “this.” And I’ll ask, what visuals will you have to go with it and what kind of contributors? And a lot of times people won’t fully think it out. So there are great ideas, but you have to see how logical they are and make sure there will be a market for it as well.
So I would just say to plan everything. There are a lot of people putting great magazines together, but it’s a lot more work than people realize. They have to make sure they have a great marketing plan too; how are they going to get it to people? It’s not always as easy as it seems. And it might seem easy because there are so many digital magazines out there too.
I would just say you really have to think it through. Will you have advertising, what kind of contributors will you have? You just have to consider every facet of it.
Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?
Christen Olivarez: For me, it’s all the ideas we have and how we’re going to put them into place and where we’re going to put them. We just have so many ideas and the office is full of people just going back and forth saying, what if we tried this in this magazine or why don’t we try doing this.
I stay up because I get excited and think how in the world are we ever going to do all the things we want to, especially working in a small company. We sometimes have our hands tied with how much we can do with the staff that we have.
And that’s what keeps me up at night…the excitement and how to carry out all our ideas.
Samir Husni: Thank you.