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Yoga Digest Magazine: A Launch Story. The Lifestyle Of Yoga Comes To Life In Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Co-Founder Cody Groth.

February 2, 2015

“Honestly, I think people are out of their minds to get out of print. I still think that the majority of people are just so engaged with something that’s in-hand and they look forward to getting something in the mail or seeing it on a newsstand; it’s just more appealing to them and to me too honestly.” Cody Groth

Yoga Digest 1-1 In June 2014, an online community of yoga enthusiasts and practitioners was born – yogadigest.com. Within that realm of digital connection a yearning for a deeper engagement with the lifestyle of yoga was communicated and in November 2014, the print version became a reality: Yoga Digest magazine.

Jenn Bodnar is a yoga teacher/trainer and Cody Groth, a former college basketball player who had his aspirations and career cut short by a back injury, co-founded the online site and the magazine. Jenn had been following the yoga lifestyle for some time, while Cody experienced the restorative power of yoga when his involvement with the practice healed his back injury completely, without surgery. Even though every doctor he saw said he would eventually need surgery to find relief from the injury.

I spoke with Cody recently about the ink on paper addition to the website and why it was necessary for the fulfillment of their mission. From the engagement factor of print to the tangible quality of the paper itself; the 26-year-old digital native confessed his obsession with print and his belief in its power to engross today, even with a myriad of digital screens at people’s disposal.

The interview was vibrant with positivity, the power of the dream, and a never-ending hope for tomorrow, all brought about by the birth of a printed magazine, proving once again that reality complements virtual quite nicely.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Cody Groth, Co-Founder, Yoga Digest magazine. I know I did.

First, the sound-bites:

On the decision to do a print magazine: We initially started as an online community just to build a foundation. Then after a couple of months and after reaching out to many contributors in the industry, we were getting feedback from people who would much rather be in print. There’s still something about being in print that’s appealing to people.

On the conception of the magazine:
It was a natural flow that stemmed from the feedback that we were getting. The online community was doing great, we were getting a lot of hits to the site, but again, we sat down and decided that if we wanted to reach the amount of people that we did; we had to be in print.

On the biggest stumbling block they had to overcome:
The biggest stumbling block for us is was our unfamiliarity with the publishing business. We had no backgrounds in the magazine industry at all.

On what the future of Yoga Digest looks like: It’s looking very promising. We’re getting a lot of interest from the financial world. So, we have a lot of connections in place.

On how they hope to compete with the more established yoga magazines for advertisements:
As for advertising, right now we’re just working with the small range of products that you see in the magazine: the yoga lifestyle products and we want to keep it that way. We don’t expect to compete with the bigger magazines when it comes to advertising.

On whether they were out of their minds to start a print magazine in a digital age:
Honestly, I think people are out of their minds to get out of print. I still think that the majority of people are just so engaged with something that’s in-hand and they look forward to getting something in the mail or seeing it on a newsstand; it’s just more appealing to them and to me too honestly.

On what they will be concentrating on over the next 12 months with the magazine:
We will be trying to increase our brand recognition over the next year to go along with our magazine. We have a lot of fun things in place to counter our brand that’s known as a magazine right now, but we hope to expand on that with different events and involvements.

On anything else he’d like to add:
The main thing that we really want to emphasize is how we separate ourselves from the bigger magazines. They have their own audience, their own niche that they appeal to, but we really are trying to appeal to the everyday person who maybe wants to start yoga but thinks they need to be able to touch their toes before they begin. That’s not the case at all.

On what keeps him up at night:
I would have to say Yoga Digest keeps me up at night because it keeps me so busy.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Cody Groth, Co-Founder, Yoga Digest…

Samir Husni: Take me through the journey of Yoga Digest. You started the website first and then you decided to do the print magazine. With the multitude of yoga magazines already out there; why did you decide to do a print magazine now? Tell me the story of Yoga Digest magazine.

cody groth Cody Groth: We initially started as an online community just to build a foundation. Then after a couple of months and after reaching out to many contributors in the industry, we were getting feedback from people who would much rather be in print. There’s still something about being in print that’s appealing to people. So, we sat down and we thought it through and in order for us to reach the amount of people that we wanted to reach for our mission, we decided to go into print as well.

From there, regarding the other magazines in the industry, we really wanted to separate ourselves by being an approachable resource, as opposed to what’s already out there, which is mainstream, Ph.D. yoga and kind of a naturalist, hippie-type yoga. We wanted to be the middleman between the everyday person and a resource that reaches all populations of yoga. Not everybody needs to wear high-end yoga gear or buy the most expensive mat in order to do yoga. Yoga is a lifestyle that contributes to overall health and wellbeing, not just an ego or materialistic-type of practice.

Samir Husni: You started on the web in June and then you launched your first print issue in November; what changed in that time frame, besides your contributors telling you that they wanted to be in print? Can you take me through the conception of the magazine through its status today?

Cody Groth: It was a natural flow that stemmed from the feedback that we were getting. The online community was doing great, we were getting a lot of hits to the site, but again, we sat down and decided that if we wanted to reach the amount of people that we did; we had to be in print.

The transition from online to print was just a steady flow. And it really did go very naturally in the direction that it did. We were accepted by the printer and the distribution company that we wanted. The other things sort of fell into place for us and are still going smoothly.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block for you during this journey and how did you overcome it?

Cody Groth: The biggest stumbling block for us is was our unfamiliarity with the publishing business. We had no backgrounds in the magazine industry at all.

But everything just fell into place, from getting the right designer to set our style to getting accepted by the distributor. And we didn’t have anything to show other than a few mock-up articles and a website demographic. So, we were very surprised to be accepted by the distribution company that we did.

Samir Husni: Do you consider that the most pleasant moment in the launch of Yoga Digest?

Cody Groth: Yes, absolutely. The most difficult or something that almost stopped us was the funding. We had really hoped to raise some money to get it going, but we ended up having to self-fund it ourselves and it’s still 100% self-funded.

Samir Husni: You have two issues under your belt; what does the future look like for Yoga Digest now?

Cody Groth: It’s looking very promising. We’re getting a lot of interest from the financial world. So, we have a lot of connections in place.

Yoga Digest 2-2 Nothing is set yet, but there’s a good possibility that we’re going to be expanding our distribution to a broader audience, not just the targeted audience.

We have a lot of things in place, both with the magazine and a bunch of fun, external things that we’re getting involved with.

Samir Husni: Magazines have two major sources of revenue: circulation and advertising. With your circulation as it is now; how will you compete for advertisements with some of the more established yoga magazines out there?

Cody Groth: That’s a good question. Our current distribution is just over 10,000, that’s just in Wholesome Foods and Sprouts and what’s in the house markets and that’s with just one distribution company.

As for advertising, right now we’re just working with the small range of products that you see in the magazine: the yoga lifestyle products and we want to keep it that way. We don’t expect to compete with the bigger magazines when it comes to advertising.

Obviously, when we increase our circulation in the next couple of issues, we’ll have to hire an advertising team. But we want to make sure that our magazine is offering advertisement that is relevant to our reader. We don’t want to sell anything that isn’t relevant to our audience and our content within the magazine.

Samir Husni: Do you think that being a novice in the magazine business helped to make the transition from digital to print easier for you in an age when everyone says that print is dead or declining? Are you out of your mind to start a print magazine in today’s digital world?

Cody Groth: Honestly, I think people are out of their minds to get out of print. I still think that the majority of people are just so engaged with something that’s in-hand and they look forward to getting something in the mail or seeing it on a newsstand; it’s just more appealing to them and to me too honestly. I’d rather have something in-hand that I can take with me wherever I want to go as opposed to reading it on a screen.

Samir Husni: And if I may ask; how old are you, Cody?

Cody Groth: I’m 26.

Samir Husni: So, we can’t count you as a digital immigrant; you are a digital native.

Cody Groth: Right; I’m within the digital generation, but I’m still obsessed with print.

Samir Husni: Good to know. Tell me a little about the future of Yoga Digest; if I take a sneak peek into your business plan, what will I find you doing within the next 12 months?

Cody Groth: You’ll see a lot of brand recognition, not just in print; we’re trying to expand the Digest into festivals, retreats, and featured classes around the country, and also into the Quarterly partnership.

We will be trying to increase our brand recognition over the next year to go along with our magazine. We have a lot of fun things in place to counter our brand that’s known as a magazine right now, but we hope to expand on that with different events and involvements.

Samir Husni: Why did you opt to name the magazine Yoga Digest when you’re publishing a standard-sized magazine rather than a digest size?

Cody Groth: Yes, a lot of the digests and catalogues are smaller-sized, but we see “digest” as reading. Golf Digest also does a full-sized magazine, so that was helpful to us when we named the magazine. It let us know that we wouldn’t be completely out of the box by going with a full-sized magazine but calling it a digest.

When choosing our brand, the Digest, we were very surprised that it was available. If you look at all the major industries, any kind of niche digest is either well known within the industry that it’s in or it’s been around for 50 or 60 years.

But to have a growing industry like yoga have the brand “digest” available was very appealing to us.

Samir Husni: That was a surprise to me as well. With all the yoga magazines out there and none of them having the name Yoga Digest was amazing. But sometimes the obvious is the one thing people don’t think about.

Cody Groth: Yes, agreed.

Samir Husni: You have a partner and the two of you are publishing the magazine; did you both quit your day jobs?

Cody Groth: (Laughs) No, we do this as a…well, I was going to say hobby, but I guess it’s turning into a full-time gig. It started as a hobby; we both have a passion for yoga; we love doing and sharing it. Jenn Bodnar, my co-founder, is a yoga instructor and a yoga teacher/trainer, so she teaches people to become yoga teachers. She’s very knowledgeable in the industry and very well connected.

I’m just a product of how yoga feels. I was a college basketball player and I had a back injury that forced me to quit my college basketball career and every doctor I saw told me that I needed surgery. After doing some research myself and talking to quite a few people who had opted for yoga over surgery; I decided to start yoga. And even though it was a slow transition over the course of the last three years, yoga has completely healed my back. So, I’m very passionate about sharing that with people.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that you’d like to add?

Cody Groth: The main thing that we really want to emphasize is how we separate ourselves from the bigger magazines. They have their own audience, their own niche that they appeal to, but we really are trying to appeal to the everyday person who maybe wants to start yoga but thinks they need to be able to touch their toes before they begin. That’s not the case at all. Yoga is for everybody and everybody can do yoga.

I think it was Zig Ziglar who said: you don’t have to be great to start something; you have to start something to become great. So we’re trying to share our passion with everyone and separate ourselves into that audience.

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

Cody Groth: I do sleep very well, but I would have to say Yoga Digest keeps me up at night because it keeps me so busy.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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