An Italian and Magazine Love Affair: The Story of Uomo Moderno Magazine. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder and Publisher Francesco Di MaioNovember 18, 2014
“I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item. So I feel it’s something that people needed, not digitally, but in their hands, something that they needed to hold on to, something physical and tangible.” Francesco Di Maio
In the already crowded market of men’s interest magazines; what do you do to stand out and capture your audience’s attention? Put an Italian spin on it, of course. Uomo Moderno is everything fashionable and stylish, from an Italian perspective. It’s sleek, modern and absolutely beautiful to look at.
Francesco Di Maio is the publisher of the magazine and I reached out to him recently when I selected Uomo Moderno as one of the 30 Hottest New Launches of the year. We talked about the possible insanity of what he’d done by launching another men’s interest magazine and his motivation for doing it anyway. Francesco was gracious, honest and very passionate about his subject matter and his ink on paper product. Recognizing the collectability and ownership of print, he felt putting his magazine out there on paper in all its brilliance was the right path for him. And I would definitely have to agree with him.
So sit back, maybe in some Italian leather if you have it, and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Francesco Di Maio, Publisher, Uomo Moderno…
But first the sound-bites:
On whether he was crazy to launch a men’s interest magazine in this day and age: I could be. (Laughs) People have called me crazy in the past. But, I look around me and I see people are still reading magazines and are interested in them and I think one of the most engaging things is that people are really interested in niche magazines.
On the DNA of Uomo Moderno: I was very inspired by the year 2013, which was declared by the Italian government the year of Italian culture in the United States. The magazine is what I see as a showcase of what it means to live in Italian style.
On the biggest stumbling block he’s faced: In my opinion, it’s a common stumbling block or challenge that any new magazine is going to face, trying to get partners (advertisers) onboard. But it’s happening little by little.
On his most pleasant surprise: The amount of high-profile people who are discovering the magazine and who want to be in it, both in Italy and America. I’m so excited about that.
On whether he expected to come as far as he has in such a short time since the magazine’s launch: No, not whatsoever. I never dreamed on being down the road this far in just over a year.
On why he decided on an ink on paper product: I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item.
On whether we will ever see an Italian edition: They (Italians) read the English digital version and look at the pictures, so I think one day it may very well be, especially if I see that there is a definite interest.
On what keeps him up at night: Sometimes good things, sometimes bad things. (Laughs) There are times where I’m up at night thinking about the future, the possibilities of exciting articles.
Samir Husni: First of all, congratulations on Uomo Moderno being selected as one of the hottest magazine launches of 2014.
Francesco Di Maio: Thank you very much and I am very excited about being chosen as one of your hottest new launches of the year.
Samir Husni: My first question to you is: do you think you’re out of your mind to launch a men’s fashion magazine based on the Italian lifestyle in this day and age?
Francesco Di Maio: I could be. (Laughs) People have called me crazy in the past. But if you look at the magazine market you can see several things happening.
It’s my understanding of the industry, and I’ve been in publications, not continuously, but for the most part, the last 20 years, and what I see is there have been radical, almost revolutionary changes in the way people consume information. First, with the rise of the Internet and personal websites and second, all the social media; we see that information is being consumed in different ways through postings and pictures and of course, that has upset the entire print market, not just for magazines, but for newspapers and also for books.
But at the same time, I look around me and I see people are still reading magazines and are interested in them and I think one of the most engaging things is that people are really interested in niche magazines. They’re looking to find information according to specific topics or specific categories.
So with all of this upset in the magazine market, we also see a growth of specific niche magazines and some are actually selling better now than they have in the past. I think it is probably crazy and a person would have to be a little out of their mind to launch a new magazine in this market, but at the same time I think if someone is able to create a magazine according to what people want and what they’re looking for, then possibly it’s not as crazy as it seems.
Samir Husni: Can you tell me a little about the DNA of Uomo Moderno and what you’re trying to accomplish with it?
Francesco Di Maio: I was very inspired by the year 2013, which was declared by the Italian government the year of Italian culture in the United States. And we see that within the U.S. there is a lot of interest in Italy and a lot of people don’t understand modern-day Italy. And even people who say that they are from Italian descent, second-third-or fourth generation, they claim their Italian heritage, yet they don’t really understand anything about their ancestors’ country yesterday or today. They just know that someone in their family emigrated here from Italy. But they have a great love and passion for their heritage.
These facts were part of my motivation, but also another catalyst for the magazine was that Italy has gone through a very serious economic crisis. Our country is one of the strongest countries in design, fashion and creativity, but is on the verge of collapse.
So I took all of these factors into consideration and I thought it would be great to showcase Italian fashion, style, design, décor and architecture, just everything about living in Italian style in modern-day Italy, to show the world who we are despite the economic troubles that we’re having.
The magazine is what I see as a showcase of what it means to live in Italian style. I called it Uomo Moderno, which in Italian means Modern Man. And it doesn’t have to be a man in the sense of a male “man,” it can be female. Although its focus is on the male man because I’m a man and I write from a male perspective. And I deal with a lot of topics that interest men. But I am bringing more and more topics that would interest females into the magazine, because in the United States much of my readership is female.
Basically, if I had to say it in a nutshell, the magazine is a showcase of living in Italian style and I try and make it a lifestyle and fashion magazine, which presents young and emerging entrepreneurs and designers of Italy to the United States. And not only entrepreneurs, but musicians, actors and people from all walks of life.
Francesco Di Maio: I think the biggest stumbling block would be what everyone would face, because when it comes down to the content or the graphic design, the layout and creativity, there is no problem. There is so much content because we’re dealing with a country that is abundant in style, fashion and creativity. When you think about the actual magazine itself; I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks is not even distribution because people want the magazine; the biggest stumbling block is getting the sponsors and advertisers onboard, because the magazine is new and of course people have to see the value of the magazine and they have to want to be in the magazine.
In my opinion, it’s a common stumbling block or challenge that any new magazine is going to face, trying to get partners onboard. But it’s happening little by little. People are seeing and loving the magazine and they’re calling to discuss it, in terms of advertising and investments. It’s a challenge that just takes time even with a quality product.
Samir Husni: And what was the most pleasant surprise?
Francesco Di Maio: The amount of high-profile people who are discovering the magazine and who want to be in it, both in Italy and America. I’m so excited about that.
We did New York Fashion Week and we had Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants walk in our fashion show. And during Philadelphia Fashion Week, we had Brandon Boykin of the Philadelphia Eagles. What happened was having them walk in the fashion show, we were on national television two times this week, first on CBS Game Changers and then on NFL Rush Zone – Nicktoons, Nickelodeon.
For me, it was just so exciting because I didn’t expect that within a year and a half of the magazine’s existence, this would happen. I got to meet these great celebrities and it was just so exciting. These are some of the joyful moments of publishing a magazine.
Samir Husni: When you launched the magazine, did you ever expect that in just over a year you would be at the point you are at now?
Francesco Di Maio: No, not whatsoever. (Laughs) I launched the magazine with the intention of being digital only and we did a few trial runs. Then when I heard the reaction of so many people in various industries tell me how beautiful the magazine was and how much they loved it and how easy it was to read and digest the information; I knew I was on to something. But I never dreamed on being down the road this far in just over a year. And I never dreamed of being on television, for sure. (Laughs) It’s just very exciting.
Samir Husni: Why, after doing the testing on digital, did you decide to go with ink on paper?
Francesco Di Maio: I went for ink on paper because I believe that my magazine is a collector’s item. I believe that the quality of the magazine, both in terms of the physical paper and print and the content, is something that people would want to save and interestingly, I have a lot of people tell me: Francesco, I keep your magazine on my piano or my coffee table and people come to my home and they really admire it.
So I feel it’s something that people needed, not digitally, but in their hands, something that they needed to hold on to, something physical and tangible. That’s what motivated me to do it in print and that has been the result so far, people have been pleased.
Samir Husni: Will we ever see an Italian edition of the magazine?
Francesco Di Maio: It’s funny you ask that because I have a very big readership in Italy on the website and Facebook and many Italians are following the magazine, but I don’t know the percentage of Italians that read English. Uomo Moderno magazine is a magazine for foreigners written in English so that they can understand about living in Italian style, but I’m noticing that a lot of Italians are reading the magazine because they don’t know about all of these emerging designers we’re writing about.
Francesco Di Maio: Yes, for the moment. (Laughs) They read the English digital version and look at the pictures, so I think one day it may very well be, especially if I see that there is a definite interest. Yes, I would love to have an Italian version. I’ve been looking into a Chinese version, because I know that in China there is an extremely high interest in Italian fashion and design. Just as I know that in the Middle East or North Africa, there are many followers who really love Italian design. But with English as kind of a global language, people are able to read it. So these are things I will need to figure out in the future.
Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Francesco Di Maio: The only thing I’d like to add is I’m really extremely excited about the people who are my partners. They’ve been a great support. Also, I’d like to say that it’s a great pleasure to be able to present and showcase Italy and all of its fashion, the good and the bad. And to be nominated as one of the 30 Hottest New Launches in the U.S. is a great honor and I did not expect it. I am so thankful to be recognized, to start out as no one and then to have the hard work noticed. It’s such an honor.
Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?
Francesco Di Maio: Sometimes good things, sometimes bad things. (Laughs) There are times where I’m up at night thinking about the future, the possibilities of exciting articles. Sometimes those things keep me up at night. Or I’ll be really excited about an edition that we’re doing.
And occasionally, I’m up at night worrying about all of the challenges that we’re facing. Those things keep me up.
Samir Husni: Thank you.