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Chilled Magazine Is Raising Spirits With A 360° Degree Approach To Publishing – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Publisher Jeff Greif

September 24, 2014

“I’m fully behind magazines and magazines have lived through television, they have lived through radio and they’ll live through the Internet, but we have to adapt and make our magazines a little bit easier to read, such as with smaller stories.” Jeff Greif

ChilledCoverNew Celebrities, vineyards, distilleries, libations and having fun responsibly; these are the main attributes of Chilled Magazine and the many components that make up the brand. Jeff Greif, whose past experience in the magazine media industry includes working at Marie Claire, Vogue, GQ and just a host of prestigious and illustrious titles, is now the publisher of the trade magazine that proudly resembles its consumer counterpart.

I recently spoke with Jeff about Chilled and its interesting subscription model, the magazine’s 360° approach to publishing – using print, digital and events to promote and propel the brand and the unique feature of a celebrity cover each and every issue. The conversation was definitely enlightening and should “raise the spirits” of anyone who has heard gloom and doom preached just one time too many regarding the future of print and its place within today’s publishing wheel.

So sit back, grab your drink of choice and enjoy “Chilling’” with Mr. Magazine™ and Jeff Greif, Publisher, Chilled Magazine.

But first the sound-bites…
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On the magazine’s tagline “Raise Your Spirits” and the DNA of Chilled: We re-launched the magazine three years ago and we took that tagline on when we launched the magazine and it’s sort of a play on words because it’s a spirits magazine and all the other spirits magazines are very, very serious and very responsible, as they should be. But we wanted to have fun, because at the end of the day when you’re drinking spirits you’re having fun. We wanted to be responsible, but on a lighter note.

On the story behind a subscription model that delivers immediately, instead of in 4 to 6 weeks: Well we’re a small magazine, so we have great customer service on our backend.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s faced at Chilled: We’re getting a lot of great feedback with our readership and we’re on a great trajectory. So there hasn’t been a stumbling block.

On the Chilled brand having such a complete 360° publishing model: Everything that we do is 360; we have a magazine, a tablet version, a website and we do events for clients because in the spirits industry events are very important.

On the fun and lighter side of Chilled, compared to other spirits magazines: We always have the celebrities as an overarching theme and that’s what makes us different and we try to get the celebrities involved in every part of the magazine, so that’s kind of our gift wrap, if you will.

On whether the crash of 2008 changed his thinking regarding magazine publishing: No, it didn’t. I’m fully behind magazines and magazines have lived through television, they have lived radio and they’ll live through the Internet, but we have to adapt and make our magazines a little bit easier to read, such as with smaller stories.

On whether the magazine’s glass is half-full or half-empty: I think our future still remains very positive. People are still very interested in the magazine; I think we’re doing something different in the marketplace and I think that they like the way that we work.

On what keeps him up at night: Not having enough time during the day and just trying to do everything we have to do.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jeff Greif, Publisher, Chilled Magazine…

Samir Husni: In this day and age when you have a tagline that reads “Raise Your Spirits” it’s a much-needed sentiment for the entire industry. Tell me a little more about Chilled Magazine and why you want to raise spirits.

Jeff Greif: Chilled Magazine has been really great. We re-launched the magazine three years ago and we took that tagline on when we launched the magazine and it’s sort of a play on words because it’s a spirits magazine and all the other spirits magazines are very, very serious and very responsible, as they should be. But we wanted to have fun, because at the end of the day when you’re drinking spirits you’re having fun. We wanted to be responsible, but on a lighter note. That’s why we always have a celebrity on the cover and why we always do very positive editorial.

Samir Husni: One of the things that I’ve noticed is that you have almost a completely different approach when it comes to your subscription model. If I subscribe to your magazine you will send me the current issue immediately, I don’t have to wait 4 to 6 weeks. If I subscribe for two or three years, you will send me a box of Liquid Ice energy drink and four back issues immediately. Is that in response to some experience you had in the industry with someone asking why do I have to wait 4 to 6 weeks to get my magazine? What’s the story behind the subscription model?

Jeff Greif: Well we’re a small magazine, so we have great customer service on our backend. When you subscribe to Condè Nast or a big magazine, everything is going through a third party fulfillment house that’s very big and carrying a lot of big magazines; we deal with a small, independent backend, so we’re able to sort of customize everything and give really great customer service.

Samir Husni: Since joining the magazine, what has been the biggest stumbling block for you during the re-launch and in making sure that Chilled gets the opportunity to raise as many spirits as possible?

Jeff Greif: This is one of the most amazing magazines that I have ever worked on; it’s grown consistently every year and we’re getting a lot of great feedback with our readership and we’re on a great trajectory. So there hasn’t been a stumbling block.

I think that at some point we’ll reach that maturity level and that’s when we’ll probably see a few stumbles along the road.

Samir Husni: I receive a lot of your emails, so I see that there is even more than the magazine…

Jeff Greif: Everything that we do is 360; we have a magazine, a tablet version, a website and we do events for clients because in the spirits industry events are very important. And we also work with our advertisers to help get their messages out through editorials, product-shots and through drink recipes. So everything we do is 360 and we also have email blasts; we have 20,000 opt-in subscribers for our email blasts.

Samir Husni: Compared to all the other spirits magazines and alcohol magazines; you mentioned that you always have a celebrity on the cover and always have some positive spin and you also have fun with the magazine. Tell me more about that DNA that you adapted for Chilled.

Jeff Greif: Our magazine is divided into three parts. We always have the celebrities as an overarching theme and that’s what makes us different and we try to get the celebrities involved in every part of the magazine, so that’s kind of our gift wrap, if you will.

The meat of the magazine is new products, so we try to work with our advertisers and non-advertisers to tell our readers what is new and innovative that’s coming out.

The second part of our book is about the people that make the industry happen and I think a lot of our competitors are following on the bandwagon on this. I think there were a lot of pictures of parties from other magazines and we wanted to do something where we tell our readers what other people are doing, how they are successful in the industry, so we do stories about bartenders, brand managers, presidents; people who make the spirits industry happen.

And then the editorial well is about the spirits themselves; it’s the story behind the distilleries, a story about a particular brand, and again, it’s about celebrities. A lot of celebrities own brands; such as George Clooney owns a particular brand or Kathie Lee Gifford owns a vineyard and that’s always interesting. So that’s our “gift wrap” on top of everything else and that makes it fun.

Samir Husni: In 2008, when the economy busted and technology burst onto the scene; did that in any way change your thinking about magazine publishing?

Jeff Greif: No, it didn’t. I’m fully behind magazines and magazines have lived through television, they have lived radio and they’ll live through the Internet, but we have to adapt and make our magazines a little bit easier to read, such as with smaller stories. But I think people still want the visual product. I also think everyone needs to be a 360 company.

We’re doing an original edit for our website and we have a tablet edition, but our magazine is thriving.

Samir Husni: Is print still your major source of revenue or is it the events; what’s your balance in that area?

Jeff Greif: Print is still our number one source.

Samir Husni: For Chilled is the glass half-full or half-empty; what’s the future?

Jeff Greif: I think our future still remains very positive. People are still very interested in the magazine; I think we’re doing something different in the marketplace and I think that they like the way that we work. This year we broke a few accounts and next year they’re not going to be supporting the trade spirits market, but they still want to figure out a way to work with us because we’re adaptable. We listen to what our client’s needs are and we don’t try to sell them something; we try to help them grow their business.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little more about that adaptability and the DNA that makes you continue to tick and click with the consumer.

Jeff Greif: I think again it’s the product that we offer, it’s a great product. I came from Condè Nast and Hearst before I started with Chilled and those are consumer magazines, and I think that we made Chilled look beautiful; we have glossy pages, spreads in the front of the book, we look like a consumer magazine, so even though we’re a trade magazine, the brands love it because there is a luxury perception about it.

They also can get in the magazine, people like the brand managers and the brand presidents, so they feel good about the magazine and I think that’s why we’re doing so well.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Jeff Greif: Just that we’re very excited about the publicity that is going to surround the October issue. It will have a triple cover and this will be our first “spectacular” cover such as this and I believe it’s really going to take us to the next level.

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

Jeff Greif: (Laughs) Not having enough time during the day and just trying to do everything we have to do. We’re a small team and we wear many hats and I love what I’m doing so I’m always staying up to think of more ideas.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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