Archive for June, 2014

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Ellen Levine: The Launch Queen of Successful Magazines. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Hearst Magazines’ Editorial Director

June 11, 2014

“I believe that you have to be the reader. You can’t try and force the reader to be you. So you have to give them what they want and understand it emotionally, understand the voice and the need.” Ellen Levine

HCI Being responsible for some really big magazine titles that have been around for a very long time is only one of Ellen Levine’s job duties as the first-ever Editorial Director of Hearst Magazines; she also knows what it means to develop and strengthen the flock. Dr. Oz The Good Life, Food Network Magazine, HGTV Magazine are just a few of her success stories while at Hearst.

If anyone in the magazine industry deserves the title “launch queen,” it is Ellen Levine. And not only launch queen, but successful magazines launch queen. She succeeded where others failed and she continues to do so. Levine is the no non-sense editor who puts her money where her mouth is. In fact, she is the “less-talk” and “more-do” editor. Levine’s mantra for success is becoming the reader, learning to look at each one of her titles through the eyes of her audience and connecting with each individual person in a very human, very empathetic way.

I spoke with Ms. Levine recently about her past and present accomplishments and her secrets of keeping that audience engagement.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Ellen Levine, Editorial Director, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On her recipe for audience connectivity: You need to be able to give them what they didn’t know they wanted or needed in a way that’s appealing.

On her secret for keeping her feet firmly planted on the ground: I really don’t know my secret. I like to define myself as a normal reader when I read all the magazines that we do.

On what keeps her up at night: I am usually up at three in the morning, saying, we should have fixed that headline or that cover line.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ellen Levine, Editorial Director, Hearst Magazines…

Samir Husni: You’ve launched and supervised more successful magazines than probably any female editor that I can think of; what’s your secret recipe for that editorial connectivity with an audience in these changing times? Things have changed so much and yet, from your days at Woman’s Day until the present with Dr. Oz The Good Life, you’re always able to captivate that audience out there.

Ellen Levine: That’s a good question. I believe that you have to be the reader. You can’t try and force the reader to be you. So you have to give them what they want and understand it emotionally, understand the voice and the need. In terms of that, it doesn’t mean you have to have multi-personalities, but you have to be open to what they want. You’re not a teacher, you’re not forcing things. And you need to be able to give them what they didn’t know they wanted or needed in a way that’s appealing.

Everybody wants health information, but they don’t want it the same way. Some want it in an academic voice, some want it in a kind of sillier voice and there is an intimacy that you have to feel. You can’t intellectualize it.

Samir Husni: You also keep your feet on the ground. A lot of editors who have achieved less than you have aren’t so grounded. You see their heads above the clouds; what’s your secret?

Ellen Levine: I don’t know. I’m sorry. I really don’t know my secret. I like to define myself as a normal reader when I read all the magazines that we do. Maybe I have so many different personalities that I should be hospitalized.

But in fact, I can just get into it. And we look to hire staffs that have the same wonderful journalism skills and are very embedded in that fact, but also have understanding and empathy with the reader, none of the holier-than-thou attitudes. You come to us and we will educate you. We want to speak in a different language in each magazine and of course, with somebody like Oz it’s very easy to capture what the energy should be.

On other brands where you’re trying to read the needs of the Food Network person, the best lesson that we ever learned, first of all was to hire brilliant editors like Maile Carpenter, Sara Peterson and now Jill Herzig; you have to understand from that reader exactly how to approach her.

The one other anecdote on Food Network, which is very much of an example, is that we went into focus groups, we did two prototypes and we went into those groups thinking, oh my gosh, what are we going to name this magazine? We liked Spoon, we liked Butter; you know we went through all these names and we’re putting them out there in the focus groups and one of the women said, “I don’t care what you call it, I’m calling it Food Network Magazine.” And there became the name.

Samir Husni: What keeps you up at night?

Ellen Levine: Everything, my children and my husband. But really, toward the closing of every magazine issue, I am usually up at three in the morning, saying, we should have fixed that headline or that cover line.

Samir Husni: Thank you.
© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Rights to excerpts and links to the blog are hereby permitted with proper credit. Copying the entire blog is NOT permitted and is a violation of the copyright laws.

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Eric Hoffman, EVP & COO, Hoffman Media: This Is The Secret To Our Success. The Mr. Magazine™ Minute

June 11, 2014

It was once described as the little engine that could. Hoffman Media, the Birmingham, AL based magazine media company has grown over the last 30 years to become a major player in the magazine field. Eric Hoffman, the executive vice president and COO of the company is now the chairman of the IMAG (Independent Magazine Media Group) and a member of the board of the MPA: The Association of Magazine Media.

I asked Eric what is Hoffman Media secret of success? His answer in the following Mr. Magazine™ Minute.


© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
Rights to excerpts and links to the blog are hereby permitted with proper credit. Copying the entire blog is NOT permitted and is a violation of the copyright laws.

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Joe Ripp, CEO, Time Inc.: We Are Going to Invest Big in Our Future…

June 10, 2014

On the day after Time Inc. became its own publicly traded company, Joe Ripp, CEO of Time Inc., shares with Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni his views on the future of Time Inc. in this Mr. Magazine™ Minute.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
Rights to excerpts and links to the blog are hereby permitted with proper credit. Copying the entire blog is NOT permitted and is a violation of the copyright laws.

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A Self-Proclaimed User Experience Evangelist Whose Passionate Belief In The Power Of Interactive Design And Engagement Returns Him To Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joe Natoli – Creative Director, Dinosaur Magazine

June 9, 2014

“Design is a part of communication and media; it’s a part of everything. It’s all very much interconnected.” Joe Natoli

Joe-Natoli-Promo What can you say about a man who has been designing creatively and passionately for over 25 years and is still filled with the excitement of a child when he talks about his work and once again designing for print as the art director of Dinosaur Magazine? The word amazing comes to mind.

Joe Natoli is a consultant, teacher and master of design and brings more to the table of interactive connection and engagement with the audience than any designer out there. He can visualize print pages as alive with movement as pixels on a screen and the best thing about his perception? He knows how to make that mobility happen.

I spoke with Joe recently about his theories and ideals on design, working at Dinosaur and the “Imposter Syndrome,” something he is definitely not when it comes to the creativity of his designs.

dinosaur2 So grab the latest issue of Dinosaur and follow along as you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™
Interview with Joe Natoli…

But first the sound-bites…

Sound-bites:

On going up onto the mountain of design and bringing down three commandments: I believe there are three components that are incredibly important and I think one of those is you have to have a mission and a focus if you’re going to put anything out onto the marketplace, magazines especially.

On the biggest challenge he’s faced in his career and how he overcame it: I think the biggest challenge that I ever faced was self-confidence, really believing enough in my ability, in my talent, in the gifts that I’m fortunate enough to have, and to sort of go out there and just do it.

On the most pleasant surprise of his career so far: I look at this from a very human perspective. When something I do helps someone in some way, I feel very good about what I do.

On what keeps him up at night: I think honestly, I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Joe Natoli, Creative Director, Dinosaur Magazine…

Samir Husni: There are hundreds of magazines out there, thousands of apps; what would be the three most important differentiation points that would say: OK, this is what needs to be done so that this picture, this article and this design is solely for Dinosaur? I mean, is this a scenario where Joe Natoli goes up onto the mountain and comes back down with these three commandments?

Joe-Natoli-Working Joe Natoli: I think so. I believe there are three components that are incredibly important and I think one of those is you have to have a mission and a focus if you’re going to put anything out onto the marketplace, magazines especially. You have to have a mission and a focus that is not presently being served. You cannot go out there with more of the same content-wise and just package it differently.

And whatever that is, it has to strike an emotional chord. From a psychological standpoint, one of the things that I tell designers all the time and marketing people as well is that a call to action is related to money and will only work if you’re not appealing directly to the act of subscribing or the act of making money. The call to action has to be in some sense, a personal connection. And we’re wired for personal stuff first, that’s what we respond to.

So if I get the idea that you’re going to make really good use of my time; you’re going to entertain and inspire me, you got me, you have my attention. I will at least take ten seconds to check this out. That’s the first part. You have to have that and it has to be something that’s not out there currently. I am a big believer in zigging when everyone else is zagging. I think that’s the first thing.

The second thing is the visual design part. The presentation has to be way beyond adequate. There is any number of templates out there for print design; web design and visually they look nice. They’re clean, everything is aligned, and the colors are nice, it’s pleasant to look at. It has to go beyond that.

Every visual design decision that you make has to support and exclusively communicate your specific vision, your mission; the design has to come to life and push all that. So it has to be extraordinary, it can’t just be good. There’s just too much out there that you’re competing with for it not to be extraordinary. You have to find a way, which means you have to spend money, to hire, not a “good” designer but a “great” designer. That’s the second thing.

The third thing is material. It’s format, size and it’s paper. One of the other things that I see a lot of is magazines have sort of been forced to cut cost and downsize, and I understand the pressure, I really do.

Also you see a lot of size changes, big magazines, oversized magazines are now getting smaller and the paper is a lot thinner. The problem with that is that you’re sacrificing the emotional components of numbers one and two that we’ve talked about. And again, the emotional component is what makes the connection with the reader. The emotional component is what makes people feel like they have a relationship with you. And the touch of that paper, the feel of it in your hand as you pick this thing up and it feels substantial, that has an impact. There’s an intangible, unconscious impact that happens because of that. Now Dinosaur is 10×14 in size. When we originally conceived this, we thought about 11×17; we wanted to go even bigger. We wanted it to be a coffee table piece and we kind of wanted to make it where people would have no choice but to pay attention to it.

But here’s the reality; paper costs money. So you hear from the printers and you say, wow, that’s a lot of money. So we had to rethink the size issue. So the way that we compensated for it, in our case, is we said we’re not sacrificing paper weight, so we moved to a different type of press and went to 10×14. It’s a compromise, but we didn’t go to 9×12 or 8½x11.

And for the first issue, we went to two colors. That saved us money, but also the real reason that we did it is at the end of the day the big deciding factor was that this was going to differentiate us because no one does this. Every other magazine is full color.

So the material form, the paper, the weight, the size, the message you use to produce it absolutely matters. People can see the difference. You can pick up two products in the store and if one feels heavier in your hand, there’s an immediate assumption that the heavier article is of higher quality. And that’s cognitive wiring, nothing more.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in your career as a designer and how did you overcome it?

Joe Natoli: Quite honestly, I think that the biggest challenge, and you may find this funny, a lot of people do after they talk to me awhile; I think the biggest challenge that I ever faced was self-confidence, really believing enough in my ability, in my talent, in the gifts that I’m fortunate enough to have, and to sort of go out there and just do it.

I don’t know if you ever completely overcome that, but what you do come to realize is that the only way to get that, and I think this holds true for my students as well, I have taught part-time for many years; the only thing that you can really do is go out there and get your nose broken. The first thing that happens when you fall hard that first time is you realize that it didn’t kill you. And then I think it also gives you a sense of what you’re made of and you start to understand just what you’re capable of. And if you keep at it what eventually happens is you start having some successes. And that hopefully gives you more confidence about what you can do and it feeds itself.

But I think it’s hard. I read something somewhere, and I don’t know if it’s just creative people or maybe smart people, but a lot of successful people in particular have something called “The Imposter Syndrome.” There’s a converse proportion where the more talented and successful and capable that you are, the more likely you are to have these moments where you say, “I’m an imposter. Everyone is going to find out that I really don’t know what I’m talking about. I really don’t know how to do any of this stuff.” It’s a weird correlation between ability and fear.

The fact is, and here’s the funny thing, you do have something that for whatever reason they’re not able to get to themselves. And that’s not a decision on anybody’s part, if you think about it it’s probably just a testament to the fact that we’re all very different. We all think about things in very different ways. And I wrestle with that a lot.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise of your career so far?

Joe Natoli: I don’t know if it’s been the most pleasant surprise, but I’ll tell you this thing that happens that makes me feel like this is absolutely what I should be doing.

When I’m in a room with people or in a room with a client’s team or with students or a one-on-one situation, coaching someone through something; when the light bulb moment happens and when everybody’s attention sort of perks up and everyone has that yes moment at the same time and they get it and when whatever it is gets implemented and the team comes back to me and says, “I cannot possibly explain to you how much this helped us.” That’s what matters to me. It may be cliché to say it, but my client’s successes are my successes. And it’s the truth.

I look at this from a very human perspective. When something I do helps someone in some way, I feel very good about what I do. It’s time well spent. It’s proof that you’re in the right place and I love that.

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

Joe Natoli: I think honestly, I’m still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up. It seems to be getting clearer in that the more consulting and speaking that I do and the teaching moments, because consulting is teaching in many ways; I think I’m figuring out that’s what makes me the happiest, but I’m interested in so many things.

Like I hadn’t done print design in probably ten years before Steven from Dinosaur called me about this. And who knew? I certainly didn’t.

So I don’t know; the problem is so many things get my attention and I’m like the proverbial dog, when they’re constantly distracted. Some part of me feels like I’m still trying to figure it out, but you have kids and you’re supporting them and trying to be there for them and you know that you can’t go diving off into every adventure you find because you have a wife and kids; a family.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Rights to excerpts and links to the blog are hereby permitted with proper credit. Copying the entire blog is NOT permitted and is a violation of the copyright laws.

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The Newsstands: America’s Canvas… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing Celebrating D-Day…

June 5, 2014

dday Americans depend on newsstands. While that might seem like a ridiculous statement considering the number of establishments that are threatening to close or already have; it’s nonetheless true. Nowhere is the social impact of magazines developed and realized more thoroughly than on the newsstands.

And while yes, for the majority of ink on paper publications the newsstands only represent 10% of their revenues, newsstands have never proven themselves to be more essential and more important than they are right now in the scheme of all print media, even in this digital age.

Why are they so important? Because of one fact that not even the most staunch digital supporter can deny: they’re in-your-face bold and they never apologize for their intrusiveness. Nor should they.

You’re at the newsstands, walking slowly and perusing some of your favorite titles. Suddenly, you see a cover that fairly leaps from its spot on the stand and almost attacks you with its social importance and vibrancy. D-Day: a 70th Anniversary issue that quickly brings the World War II battle to the forefront of your mind. Nothing can pierce that moment in time between you and that magazine cover, nothing. Not the people chattering around you in the background, nor the sounds of cars honking as they go by. It’s just you and that infinite juncture in time where your gaze and your mind connected with a magazine cover that caused a reaction no news broadcast or digital pop-up notification ever could.

It doesn’t matter if you’re in California, Mississippi or Colorado; when you walk into your local Wal-Mart or grocery store and see all the special niche publications on D-Day or whatever event or happening is important to the American Canvas when it comes to that particular time, the newsstands help you to remember that epoch without you even trying. No Google, no Yahoo Search can ever compare to the in-your-face response a magazine cover can generate without even leaving its slot on the stand.

Newsstands are also a great barometer for the demographics and psychographics of any given neighborhood or community. Nowhere else on earth can the inhabitants and their beliefs, practices and habitual ideals be more prominently displayed than in the contents of neighborhood newsstands. It’s a given that what the people of the area like and want will be on display there and the measurements of those details duly noted.

So the next time someone asks you why are newsstands still an important part of the media world; maybe you can just say that when it comes to the fabric of our American canvas, newsstands keep it stitched together with the taut strings of relevance and impact.

Long live the newsstand!

© Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Rights to excerpts and links to the blog are hereby permitted with proper credit. Copying the entire blog is NOT permitted and is a violation of the copyright laws.

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Four Evocative New Trends Happening on the Newsstand Today & A Staunch One That Never Changes… A Mr. Magazine™ Report From the Field…

June 4, 2014

As I sat musing about the magazine media industry (as I often do on a minute by minute basis), my thoughts turned to some positive trends going on in the single copy sales today in the midst of all the negative news most reporters and critics are more than anxious and happy to cover. I tend to do my research at the newsstand, something that I have done for the last 52 years of my life. So on to the field and the five amazing things that led to this Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

One by one, five different directions things seem to be moving toward (at least presently) came to mind – four of them brand-spanking new and one tried and true…no extra charge for my easy rhyme, by the way…because that would be a trend unto itself.

Years ago, most of these would be unheard of, no doubt, but it’s a given that in the marketplace and on the newsstands, in order to grab people’s attention and dollars in this digital age, creative marketing and packaging is something that has to be done. And I would definitely call these trends creative, if not downright visionary.

people1usweekly
Having said that, I begin with Trend #1, which is one for the record books, I believe: selling back issues of certain titles on the newsstands. This is a practice that began when People Magazine and US Weekly started offering specific pockets on the stands filled with back issues just in case consumers wanted to pick up an old with the new; as I said an unprecedented gambit that has proven not only daring, but profitable. Once I got over my initial knee-jerk reaction of, “What – we don’t have enough current issues to sell?” I realized that this one may be right up there with sliced bread. I like it more and more as I consider the revenue potential.

peopledigitalprint
Trend #2 – Also led by People Magazine – is the method of buying the printed product on the newsstands and receiving access to the digital components of the publication as well. While this may not sound as gutsy as #1 – it really is when you consider the potential lack of profitability of the move. Usually fee versus free is a good mantra to follow; however sometimes you have to risk the farm to gain the ranch. So I’m open to this one – if not completely convinced.

cosmowal
Trend #3 – What I like to call: The Miley Cyrus Ripple Effect…when America’s former sweetheart-turned-bad-girl put out a Tweet that read: “Let’s play a game! All my fans go and put my @Cosmopolitan in front of all the magazines at the store!!! Send me pics haha!” Needless to say, her many fans complied and stuck her Cosmo cover in front of many other magazines on newsstands across the country and the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, that little episode gave birth to the action of every Cosmopolitan Magazine at Wal-Mart being displayed with multiple facing issues or covers of the same issue. Needless to say it is making Cosmopolitan reigning supreme.

bookazine1
Trend #4 – You might remember the days when magazines at the check-outs were priced under a $1…well, my friend – those days are gone. Now we have those wonderful niche dreams called Book-a-zines featured in those spots and anywhere from $9 to $15 has become the norm for a magazine presence there. It may seem indulgently expensive, but these types of printed products do draw attention from the consumer and are proving quite effective when it comes to revenue.

checkout1
Trend #5 – And then one of our “old faithful” stratagems, enforcing the statement that some things never change – most magazines on newsstand check-out counters are still aimed at women. That will probably never change and no matter how the demography of the public changes and the shopping habits of the audience change, some stuff in life (or on the newsstands) seem never to change.

So, there you go five trends, with five different perspectives and five different ways of trying to gain our audience’s attention and ultimately their loyalty to the printed product that we’re selling; all interesting points of entry for ink on paper when it comes to consumer’s shopping carts. Maybe, after all, the future of digital starts with PRINT.

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

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A Record-Breaking Month In New Consumer Magazine Launches: What A May and If I May… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

June 2, 2014

A Month’s Bevy Of New Launches Is Unbelievable! 96 New Titles In All & 27 Of Them Are With Regular Frequency…

From titles whose premier issue didn’t make the cut due to a non-newsstand presence to their second or third issue that did; May 2014 has proven to be a successful month for new launches. 96 new faces smiled back at me as I joyfully shopped and purchased each one…27 are with regular frequency; titles such as Anglers Journal, Bible Fun, and TVTOR show the diverse spectrum of topics that tempted magazine lovers in May…and from the 69 special issues; there was anything from Erotic Ink to book-a-zines paying tribute to the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

All-in-all, May was a spectacular month for new launches. Sit back and have a glass of lemonade as summertime approaches, and we say hello and goodbye to the month of May 2014. Something tells me we won’t be seeing the last of some of these titles from the frequency list…

not a newsstands So for the critics who continue to attack the state of new magazines and its future, all I have to say is that they will continue to talk nonsense when it comes to the health and pulse of the industry and the newbies it brings to the marketplace day in and day out. Some like to talk “non-sense,” others “some-sense,” but as for me and my blog, you are not going to see anything here but commonsense combined with actual field research and study. No pontifications from behind the desk, in the den or inside the walls of academia… (Photo Illustration: The Critics and I)

With all the problems facing the newsstands, (and I know there are a lot) single copy revenues are still far far higher than any digital revenue being generated by the so called “digital magazines.”

Enough said, relax, and take a look at all the new titles. Enjoy!

Here are the new launches with frequency:

12B-12Angler's Journal-5Angler's Journal-35Back to Absolute-16BBQ America-26Bible Fun-13BOSS-30Club Kink-28Code Breakers-27Design Anthology-17Diabetes Self-Management-19Gluten Free Baking4Home & Hill-18Jughead & Archie-25M&V-22Nautilus-32PEOPLE ESPANOL-23Prairie Style-31Red Hot Rock 2-7Red Hot Rock-6Samata-15The Bight-14The OGM-21TV Tor-8TV Tor2-9Ultratravel-10US Veteran's Magazine-20Vapor Digest-11Washington Examiner-24Willow & Sage-29

And now for the specials:

2014 World Cup-34A Taste of Summer-66Afghanistan-51Backyard Style-55Beach Body-49Beach Cottages-65Best of Flea Market-97Best Summer Knits-71Big Boy-40Black Heritage-38Build A Shed-63Climate Shift-44Collector's Edition US-75D-Day 70th Anniversary-52D-Day-60Derek Jeter-82Dragon2-86Dwell-84easy edible gardening-12Erotic Ink-96Farmer's Market Cookbook-81Freedom Summer-58French Style-64From Garden to Plate-42Gluten-Free Cookbook-88Good & fresh-100Great Garden Design-67Grilling recipes-69GRIT-94How to paint anything-77Jackie-61Jordan-70LIFE D-Day-47Living-87MAD-41Man Caves-74Modern Shooter-50National Geographic-83No Bake Recipes-73Out there style-46People Amazing Pets-80Photo Pocketing-98Pope Francis-37Puppies 101-93Quilts-99Reagan-53Recipe Box-39scientific american-59seaside style-68Simple Patterns-102Simply Sweet-89Skinny One Dish-54Slim Down Fast-62Small Yard Makeovers-95Southern casseroles-90Stay Alive-85STYLE-76Sugar Detox-56The Saturday Evening Post-91Two Saints-43USA Today-33USA TODAY2-45Vanity Fair-57Vintage Gardens-72Vogue-79Weeknight Mexican-48Women of the Bible-78World Cup 2014-92World War II-101

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

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