Putting Some “Simple Grace” In Our Lives, Bauer Prepares To Launch Its Newest Magazine For 2015. The Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive Interview With Carol Brooks, Editor-in-Chief, & Ian Scott, President/Publisher.January 16, 2015
“Simple Grace, Your Daily Dose Of Hope. It’s Actually Something Different From Anything Bauer Is Doing Locally and Globally. It’s Very New In The Magazine Space.” Simple Grace Magazine’s Launch Story. A Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive.
In my office hangs a sign that reads: there’s always hope, a simple phrase that holds a wealth of meaning. And in a few short months Bauer Media Group U.S. will have their own message of hope in the form of their newest print launch: Simple Grace. A message of hope that is two-fold and backed-up completely by proven successes, both from the inimitable Bauer Publishing and the sentiment itself which is preached from every Christian pulpit in the country: there is always hope.
A monthly devotional magazine with daily inspirational Bible quotes and content that is geared toward the love, kindness and support of God; Simple Grace is the first digest-sized, devotional magazine, targeting a mass audience on the nation’s stands, of its kind in the United States.
Simple Grace will be released in mid-April and is the brainchild of Carol Brooks, editor-in-chief for the past 13 years of First for Women. I spoke with Carol recently and Ian Scott, president/publisher, Bauer Media U.S. The concept behind the magazine is a unique one, a character trait of most of Bauer’s original launches, past and present. Being first and going somewhere no one else dares to go, is something Bauer firmly believes in; that is, when they firmly believe in the product. And Simple Grace is something that is near and dear to their heart and has the company’s full support.
But Carol said they didn’t go into this category without doing their homework. Between readers’ response from First for Women and the intense research on the market and what was and was not out there; Simple Grace was born from their reader’s desire to include God more as a part of their daily lives. Audience first is not only a Mr. Magazine™ mantra, but a Bauer one as well.
I hope you enjoy this refreshingly “hopeful” interview with Carol & Ian as we talk about a magazine that is filled with a “Simple Grace.”
But first, the sound-bites:
And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Carol Brooks, Editor-in-Chief, First for Women & Simple Grace magazines and Ian Scott, President/Publisher, Bauer Media U.S.
On defining Simple Grace: The tagline we’re talking about is “Your Daily Dose of Hope.” It’s going to be a digest-sized, primarily monthly, devotional magazine.
On whether a monthly magazine that targets a daily read will have a different approach with advertisers: I think that our approach for one is that this is something that no one has done before; it’s totally new and a fresh aspect on the devotional.
On the moment of conception for the magazine: I observed something through my readership; I’ve been editor-in-chief of First for Women for 13 years and when we queried our readership we found that God is a big part of their lives and we’ve just been surprised in different ways when we’ve heard from the First for Women readers how important God is in her daily life.
On Bauer’s ability to make the never-done-before a success: How do I answer that? I think that we’re not afraid to try new things and I think we’ve shown that over the years.
On the launch plan for Simple Grace: Our goal is to get it into as many stores as possible for the long-term. On the short-term, we’re going to be heavily-targeted at Wal-Mart and we’re going to be putting out in total about 200,000 copies of the first issue.
On the major stumbling block with launching the magazine: I guess the thing that is very different about it, in terms of even how book publishing works in this country, and it’s surprising honestly, is that there aren’t a lot of people speaking cross-denominationally to the Christian groups.
On the launch date of the magazine: The first issue coming out for sale will be cover-dated May and will hit the newsstands mid-April.
On what keeps Carol up at night: Not wanting to unintentionally offend anybody or step on anyone’s toes. It’s a little bit daunting to enter an arena that is religious, because as much as you really don’t want to offend, maybe you might stumble into something.
Samir Husni: Tell me about the magazine, Simple Grace. This is something completely different from any other Bauer publication that you have in the United States.
Carol Brooks: It’s actually something different from anything globally. It’s very new in the magazine space. So, yes, it’s a definite departure.
Samir Husni: Would you briefly define Simple Grace?
Carol Brooks: The tagline we’re talking about is “Your Daily Dose of Hope.” It’s going to be a digest-sized, primarily monthly, devotional magazine. The devotional category out there is generally books, but Simple Grace will be something that you read every day for about five minutes and it’s kind of divvied into every day of the month sections. It has an inspirational reading that the reader can spend five or ten minutes with each day.
Devotionals are really big business in the book market, but haven’t really been explored, in terms of periodicals and magazines.
Samir Husni: At least, on the newsstands. I know that there are a lot of devotional publications out there that different churches give to their parishioners, but nothing as major as Bauer is doing with Simple Grace.
Carol Brooks: Right, nothing on the newsstands like it.
Ian Scott: I think that one of the great things about this is I believe this is the first time any publisher has brought a magazine of this kind to mass retail in the United States, where the reader will be out doing his/her shopping, grocery and otherwise, and there the magazine will be for them to pick up. I think most of the other titles are on a subscription model of distribution. So, this is going to be something that is obviously very new as well.
Samir Husni: Ian, Carol just mentioned that this is a magazine that people will be using or interacting with for at least five or ten minutes each day, so that there is a repeat pick-up of the magazine on a very regular basis. Will that give you a different approach with advertisers for the magazine?
Ian Scott: I think that our approach for one is that this is something that no one has done before; it’s totally new and a fresh aspect on the devotional. We’re very, very excited about the whole thing.
Another thing is that the magazine is digest-sized, so it’s all about making it easily accessible, both in where you can buy it and also easily accessible to you, the consumer, where it can be pulled out of a briefcase or a purse and can be referred to because it’s a size that can be carried around.
And I think another one of the unique things that we’re doing with this magazine is on the inside front cover, when you open the magazine there’s going to be a detachable bookmark. The reader can literally pull it out and use it to mark their place in the magazine, so they’ll know where they are.
A lot of these magazines that I’ve seen recently appear to be quite flimsy, but this is a magazine that’s going to be 144 pages, perfect bound and it’s going to have a glossy cover with another four pages on top of that.
Samir Husni: Carol or Ian, can you describe that moment of conception? Who brought the idea to Bauer and when did that “aha” moment occur, when everyone realized that Simple Grace was something special?
Carol Brooks: I observed something through my readership; I’ve been editor-in-chief of First for Women for 13 years and when we queried our readership we found that God is a big part of their lives and we’ve just been surprised in different ways when we’ve heard from the First for Women readers how important God is in her daily life. So, when we looked into that we found that there is currently 250 million Christians in the U.S. and out of 80% of Americans, two-thirds pray daily.
So, we’re talking about people, “OK, this is a person that we’re reaching in terms of women’s service, but she has this other dimension in her life that doesn’t really fit within the boundaries of what we talk about in First for Women, but it’s a really important dimension.”
Also, there is a book called “Jesus Calling” that has now sold 13 million units, of the original book and other pieces of its franchise, and it has been a huge publishing success. So we took a look at it and saw that this is something that works in print; it’s a hardcover book and it’s really, really well-loved. And it continues to grow. It was published in 2004 and last year it sold 700,000 units. It’s something that has staying power and it’s desirable. And when we looked at it, we saw that it was a certain kind of devotional, but it’s a book that gives you a day, but it’s not the day of your year. For example, if you read it on a holiday such as Good Friday, it doesn’t reflect that it’s Good Friday.
So we thought, wow, if we could do a magazine we could combine beautiful visuals and make each entry very specific for that exact day of the week, year, or signify a certain holiday; even things going on in the news. We could do a similar kind of devotional, but with more immediacy.
Samir Husni: You may think I’m making this up, but my daughter and her husband were with me at Books-A-Million last week and actually bought “Jesus Calling” for their daily devotions.
Carol Brooks: Really? That’s interesting.
Ian Scott: This is something that Carol and everyone on the team have been working on now for nearly two years. So, it’s been a long time and a lot of work and research has gone into it before we got to the point we’re at today, where we’re ready to go forward with the magazine. Like any business you have to make sure that you have something that is wanted by the consumers that are out there and in a format that you think they’re going to love.
Samir Husni: Since the early 80s it seems as though Bauer keeps pulling these rabbits from their magic hat and putting titles on the marketplace that are revolutionary, meaning there is nothing like them already out there. When Woman’s World magazine was introduced, there were no weekly magazines for women on the newsstands. And when First for Women was announced it was a massive launch; so what makes Bauer click and tick when it comes to all of these new magazines?
Ian Scott: How do I answer that? I think that we’re not afraid to try new things and I think we’ve shown that over the years. We’re a company of individuals that are smart, we know publishing and we’ve never been afraid of trying the new and different and going out into the market where other people are maybe afraid to go. And I believe that’s testament to our commitment to the entire magazine industry.
Carol Brooks: And I think the reason that we came up with some of these ideas is because we’re very, very trained on the consumer. We know our readers, study and listen to them. The real genesis of this happened years ago when we heard from our First for Women readers. We pay special attention to what our readers tell us that they want and we really do our homework and research these things before we go forward. But we’re very profoundly consumer-driven.
Samir Husni: Can you describe the process of launching Simple Grace and will it be nationwide on all the newsstands?
Ian Scott: Our goal is to get it into as many stores as possible for the long-term. On the short-term, we’re going to be heavily-targeted at Wal-Mart and we’re going to be putting out in total about 200,000 copies of the first issue. We’re also looking into Barnes & Noble and obviously Christian bookstores and other places we can get distribution.
Like anything, we roll it out, but we want to be in a prominent position such as checkouts; we want to be right in front of the consumer’s eye so that it does capture their attention. Obviously, for us it’s a huge investment certainly to be in those prominent spots, but to us that’s the most important way to promote these products.
Samir Husni: Carol, what do you think will be the major stumbling block you’ll face in launching this magazine and how do you plan on overcoming it?
Carol Brooks: I guess the thing that is very different about it, in terms of even how book publishing works in this country, and it’s surprising honestly, is that there aren’t a lot of people speaking cross-denominationally to the Christian groups. There is evangelical publishing, catholic publishing, but there’s not as much cross-denominational talk. We’ve done a lot of market research and we’ve done a lot of looking at how the different denominations view different kinds of content and we feel very confident that we’ve hit on an approach that is extremely appealing and non-polarizing across denominations.
And I think that’s been the biggest challenge just because there are not a lot of people doing that intentionally.
Samir Husni: And when is the launch date for Simple Grace?
Ian Scott: The first issue coming out for sale will be cover-dated May and will hit the newsstands mid-April. And it will be a monthly magazine, priced at $3.99, digest-sized, with 144 pages; plus, as I said earlier, the four page cover and perfect bound.
Samir Husni: My typical last question, Carol; what keeps you up at night?
Carol Brooks: Not wanting to unintentionally offend anybody or step on anyone’s toes. It’s a little bit daunting to enter an arena that is religious, because as much as you really don’t want to offend, maybe you might stumble into something.
I would say I’m reading a lot from the Christian space and looking at a lot online and reading the comments. I’m just trying to calibrate myself so that I don’t upset anyone or offend anyone.
Samir Husni: Thank you.