If Magazines Were a Country — Mr. Magazine™ Would Be the Ambassador. A min: media industry newsletter re-post.December 10, 2014
The following note and article were written by Steve Cohn, editor in chief of min:media industry newsletter and Angela Rogalski, a freelance journalist and former student of mine. It was first published on minonline.com on Dec. 8, 2014.
Editor’s (Steve Cohn) note. This fall, Samir Husni celebrated his 30th anniversary teaching magazine journalism at the University of Mississippi. That was the linchpin to Husni’s numerous achievements, begun with his first Guide to New Magazines in 1985 and continuing with his advising magazine entrepreneurs in Mississippi, the U.S.and around the world.
In 2009, Husni opened the Magazine Innovation Center at Ole Miss, and his ‘ACT’ (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) conferences have turned Oxford, Miss., into a global forum for an industry experiencing much change and challenge.
Angela Rogalski studied under Husni at Ole Miss and currently works for him at the Innovation Center. Here is her story of the trademarked ‘Mr. Magazine.’
Imagine a connection so strong that it’s unexplainable. There’s no tangible reason for it, other than a call from destiny, where kindred spirits meandered along their lone paths, until that point in life when they intersected.
One spirit belonged to a living, breathing human – a man.
The other to a sleek, glossy enchantress – a magazine.
Samir Husni grew up in Tripoli, Lebanon and when he was a boy, he experienced a life-altering transformation; a transfusion, if you will. It was the moment that he bought his first magazine, Superman.
“I was introduced to the Man of Steel as a young boy,” Husni said, “when I bought my first magazine. It was Superman and when I held that magazine in my hand for the first time, I felt something similar to the blood leaving my body. It was eerie and at the same time, exhilarating. From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my professional life; I wanted to be involved with magazines.”
Husni had always had an abiding affinity for the printed periodicals that could transport a young child from Tripoli to anywhere in the world that he wanted to go. Like rubbing a magic lamp; reading had always provided the small boy with a way of satisfying his wishes to be immersed in the printed world.
From reading to designing his own; the young Husni had more than a fascination with magazines; he had a deep-seated passion for them.
But it wasn’t until that fated moment when he was nine that his heart actually began to pump ink instead of blood and Mr. Magazine™ was actually born.
Today Husni and his alter ego, Mr. Magazine™ is considered the leading expert on magazines and magazine media. From Finland to South Africa, from Lebanon to the United States and every country in between, Husni travels the globe, offering advice and “just common sense” on the subject of his love and obsession: magazines and magazine media.
Husni has never seen a magazine he didn’t like, or a first issue he didn’t buy. Regardless of the language, regardless of the price; if it says, new, first, or special, that magazine has to be his.
“It’s beyond a compulsion,” he said. “It’s a need.”
In the world of publishing and magazine media, Husni is renowned for being able to pinpoint problems and then execute solutions when it comes to the industry he loves.
“When everyone was shouting ‘print is dead, print is dead,’ I was rebuking the naysayers and amplifying print, preaching its value and the stability of its foundation for the brand.”
Not being content with spreading his positivity about print and magazines to just the media industry, Husni recently celebrated his 30th anniversary and that of the magazine service journalism program he initiated at the University of Mississippi.
“With the help of a lot of people from the Meredith Corp. in 1984, we developed five courses, and we began to offer the program,” Husni said. “Students needed to know more than just your basic reporting, writing, editing and designing and that was uncommon for the 1980s. Ole Miss was the first school to include journalism and the business side of magazines in one program.”
Since then, Husni has been teaching and emblazoning his magazine precepts into young minds at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media on the campus of Ole Miss. Imparting his passion and love of journalism, and magazines in particular, to the many students that often have to waitlist his classes just to get in.
From his Mr. Magazine™ Musings to the thousands of interviews he has conducted with industry leaders and entrepreneurs across the globe of magazine media and publishing, Husni knows the topics to cover and the questions to ask when it comes to anything dealing with the world of magazines.
He has interviewed up and coming pioneers such as Editor-in-Chief, Margarita Restrepo from Naked Food Magazine to seasoned vets like Joe Ripp of Time Inc. and David Carey of the Hearst Corp. and many, many in between. The mutual respect and admiration Husni and the commander’s-in-chief of the industry have for each other is palpable. They recognize Husni’s absolute loyalty to the industry and its print components and Husni treasures the people who take care of and put to bed his beloved magazines each day and night.
“The most important contribution that I feel I can make to the magazine media industry,” Husni said, “is to continue to amplify the power of print and to stress the importance of integration when it comes to digital. In the 21st century, there is no reason any one human being should ever have to decide whether it’s going to be “print” or “digital.” Obviously, it has to be both. And while many still tout the declination of print, many, many web entities are producing or completely going to a print format. Collectability and the forever quality of print are characteristics that make ink on paper very seductive and a heady motivation to produce a print product. It’s what the audience wants.”
One telling factor of Husni’s passion for print is the over 30,000 first editions he has in his personal collection. The only rival the magazines have for space is his equally large collection of neckties.
As an ambassador, Husni has visited many countries in the name of magazines. In 2014 alone, his journeys have taken him to South Africa, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Finland, Lebanon, Slovakia, Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, Mexico, and Russia with many more adventures to come.
As someone who has earned his envoy accreditation, leaders in the magazine media world are ready and willing to recognize his contributions.
These questions were presented to industry notables:
1. In your opinion, what impact has Samir Husni had on magazine media, in terms of his advocacy for the industry and its products?
2. If you could turn the tables and interview “Mr. Magazine™” what would be the first question you asked him?
3. Someone recently commented to Dr. Husni: if magazines were a country, you should be its ambassador, duly noted because of his extensive travel promoting and bringing awareness to every aspect of the medium. As someone else who deeply believes in and loves magazines; what trait or characteristic do you believe makes the ambassador to the country of Magazines so suited for the job?
And these were their answers:
Editor-in-Chief, Entertainment Weekly
1. I thought I was a magazine fanatic, trolling the basement in Gallagher’s for old copies of Spy and obsessing over the old Fortune magazines, the early era at Sports Illustrated, the spread of zines and the development of premium, low-run titles of late. But Samir’s the biggest fan of magazines there is–a hoarder with a mission–and in this time of turbulence and converging media worlds, having someone like him remind you of the power of print is a shot in the arm when you’re a magazine editor. He’s a consistent voice in inconsistent times.
2. If I were to ask Samir one question it’d probably be this: Choose your favorite magazine. Just one. The only title you could bring with you, or put into a spaceship to explain to beings in another galaxy why we smear ink onto pulped paper. Which one would it be, and why?
3. An ambassador’s greatest skill is diplomacy–and Samir has that in spades. He makes it a point to know everyone in the business–he’s fearless in a way–and so upbeat that it’s contagious.
President and Chief Executive Officer
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media
1. Samir is the ultimate evangelist. He is tireless in his pursuit of an accurate narrative for the industry. That commitment has impacted how the media covers us, and that impacts everything!
2. I would ask: If you were a magazine, what would the name be? And, what would some of the cover lines be.
3. Samir is endlessly passionate about – and fascinated by – the magazine media industry. But, what makes him such an extraordinary resource is that he also takes a very balanced view of the business and its challenges. There is a reason that he is considered an authority.
Editor in Chief
1. Dr. Husni is the industry’s most visible and vocal champion in support of the power of print. He has a deep understanding of what drives engagement between print magazines and their audiences, and what makes for a successful relationship with the audience. And he uses his platform to advocate for the importance of magazine media.
2. Ha! I would ask him what keeps him up at night!
3. In a word: passion. His enthusiasm and sheer devotion to magazine media is unmistakable, and he’s not afraid to share it—even when others in the industry are questioning the value of printed media. He truly believes in the power of print to not only influence others but also transform lives. His confidence in this medium has encouraged countless others in this industry to feel the same.
President, Marketing, Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines
1. By his dedication to the magazine industry, Dr. Husni has kept the medium top of mind in marketing, media, associations and other influential circles.
2. How did you develop such a passion for the magazine medium?
3. Loving all people (magazines) equally, acknowledging the successes of the big players, but also celebrating the success of entrepreneurs. Passionate citizens will always follow a leader who is passionate about their world. “The country of magazines” will also welcome Dr. Husni as their Ambassador.
Editor-in-Chief, Media Industry Newsletter
1. The impact that Samir has on the magazine industry is immeasurable. I recall when he published his first Guide to New Magazines in 1986. He was considered a gadfly back then, but his expertise quickly became highly regarded by magazine watchers. Further, Samir quickly spread the magazine “gospel” around the world. No one can match his impact on the business in Finland and elsewhere. Finally, Samir has given added respect to Ole Miss, which had long been considered an academic backwater since the violence that accompanied James Meredith integrating the university in 1962. He gets some of the credit for bringing one of the three 2008 presidential debates to the school. And look at how many people attend his ACT conferences.
2. I would ask Samir that what in Lebanon induced him to do what he does. I presume that he grew up speaking Arabic, so reading an American magazine as child had to be difficult.
3. Samir leaving the Ole Miss campus many times to write, lecture and teach the magazine business makes him special. My only objection is his trademarked Mr. Magazine. That is too “vanity” for me, but it has worked to make Samir a “brand.” He is a great “ambassador.”
Executive Director, PBAA – PERIODICAL & BOOK ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
1. I’ve known Samir for approximately 25 years, and throughout all that time his absolute dedication to and passion for the unique products that are printed magazines is unwavering; his advocacy message is portable to and translatable into every language and society on earth.
2. One thing I’ve always wanted to ask him is to actually do a brief business/editorial plan for a magazine that he believes would be a success in today’s market. He’s had such fabulous exposure to so many of the greatest entrepreneurs, editors and researchers, so there must be a lot of “yet unborn” magazines that he’s thought about.
3. Samir is a “citizen of the world”- no one presumes that his message is grounded in one country, culture, or language, or even economic or political system. His ability to find common ground with publishers everywhere is a tremendous asset, while at the same time empowering publishers to still find their own solutions and successes.
VP, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer – Food Network Magazine, Hearst Magazines
1. He is a fair third party source who speaks the truth and is not swayed by any group.
2. How do I create a brand and become Ms. Magazine when he passes the baton.
3. His genuine passion for magazines which is clear when you see his office and the thousands of copies of every magazine piled throughout.
With many of magazine media’s leaders depending on and looking to Mr. Magazine™/The Ambassador’s opinions and projections about the future of print and its place in the industry, the only entity that hasn’t presented a point of view is the “Magazine” itself. And of course, if that were possible there is no doubt the passion and love Husni has for ink on paper in its purest form (the magazine) would reciprocate the emotions.
So for the sake of unexplored possibilities and an idea that manifested itself from the depths of the unexplainable; here are “Magazine’s” answers to the questions presented to industry leaders:
Editor-in-Chief of Magazine Media
1. His impact on my existence has been phenomenal. Mr. Magazine™/The Ambassador is my biggest advocate and sometimes my only friend. When the world was ready to bury me in a shallow grave, he was my life support and refused to let them pull the plug. He is my human counterpart.
2. He always asks publishers and editors if they could strike their magazine with a magic wand and a human being could appear in place of the magazine, who would it be? So, I would ask Mr. Magazine™/The Ambassador how it feels to strike ANY magazine and see himself emerge?
3. The characteristic that makes him most suited for the job as my ambassador is tenacity. We ink-blooded organisms are a stubborn lot. And we will not be denied. So he travels the globe evangelizing the world on the value, collectivity and power of print!
The consensus is unanimous: Mr. Magazine™ is definitely the ambassador to the country of Magazines…
Thank you all. I am truly humbled and blessed to be doing what I do. Thank you for your support and keep those magazines and magazine media coming.