h1

The Doctor Is In As Physicians’ Life Magazine Gets Ready To Launch – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Peter Slack, President of Slack Incorporated, Publisher of Physicians’ Life… A Launch Story

March 11, 2015

“The nature of this publication is we want physicians to spend some time away from their practice, getting away, relaxing and curling up with something. And that’s what print does.” Peter Slack

PhysiciansLifecover A lifestyle print magazine targeted for the busy, sometimes stressful world, of clinical practice; Physicians’ Life offers a respite to the maddening world of medical for those overworked men and women who choose to dedicate their lives to others. The magazine aims for a place where doctors can escape from their offices and patients for a while and enjoy getting lost in a world of travel, exercise and connection with other professionals just like themselves. And not only does it aim; it hits its mark quite well.

I have met Peter Slack, president of Slack Incorporated and publisher of Physicians’ Life, and we clicked from the first time we met. In fact, we clicked so much that he hired me to be a publishing consultant on this new magazine launch. So here you have it, truth in reporting, I am a paid consultant for Physicians’ Life but that did not stop me from having a frank conversation with Peter Slack about this new magazine venture. It is a story of a new launch and no one can explain it more than the publisher of the magazine.

I spoke with Peter recently about this brave new world called consumer magazines. Slack has been publishing B to B magazines for years, but this is their first endeavor into the world of consumerism. And while the target audience is physicians, the advertisers won’t necessarily be from the pharmaceutical and health-care worlds. Physicians’ Life will play more toward the affluence of doctor hood, with travel, fashion, auto and luxury being a prime mark for advertisers.

Peter and I talked about the risks; the rewards, and the expense of such a project as this, but he noted that a print component in the consumer world was a very natural extension of what Slack is already doing, and a superb way to grow their market.

So, sit back and relax, the doctor is in and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter Slack, President of Slack Incorporated, Publisher of Physicians’ Life…

But first the sound-bites:


Wyanoke-aOn whether he is out of his mind to launch a print magazine in this digital age:
No, I don’t think we are out of our minds. I think it’s a great idea and we’ve done our research. All along the way with our research, we were prepared to change our minds and say no. But the results kept coming back as green lights, and the red lights didn’t pop up.

On why his company is making the move to the consumer side of magazines:
The way it came about is the leadership of our company got together about two years ago and we made the statement that we’re a very healthy company; we know what we’re doing in the professional healthcare media space; what more can we do to expand our company, because if you’re not going forward, you’re going backward in the business climate today.

On what he envisions his major stumbling block to be and how he plans to overcome it:
The major stumbling block for us is that we’re privately held and we did not go and get outside financing for this publication. We’re still funding it in-house. We’re fortunate that we do have a lot saved up since we spend our money very judiciously. We’re not a public company; we’re not floating a bond and we’re not going to a VC (venture capitalist), so we have a limited budget to do this and it’s a very expensive project.

On his most pleasant moment so far:
The pilot issue came out in early January and we took copies with us to a meeting we had of ophthalmologists in Hawaii. I took several of them (ophthalmologists) aside and gave them copies of the pilot issue and to man, every single one said, “This is tremendous and much-needed. You guys are on the right track.”

On what he expects the next year to bring:
A year from now I hope to tell you that physicians are reading it and advertisers are embracing it.

On why he decided to go with a print publication for consumers:
The nature of this publication is we want physicians to spend some time away from their practice, getting away, relaxing and curling up with something. And that’s what print does.

On the doctors sharing with doctors tagline of the magazine:
Doctors are unique people, just as any professionals are, but doctors do respect each other. They’ve gone through the same schooling and we’ve learned over time that doctors enjoy hearing from other doctors.

On what keeps him up at night: There is so much opportunity right now in healthcare publishing, with the different platforms: print, online, mobile and there’s a lot of substandard information out there because it’s so easy for almost anyone to put information online. What keeps me up at night is making sure that we’re intelligently approaching that opportunity in the most aggressive way that we can and that we’re not missing the boat.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Peter Slack, President of Slack Incorporated, Publisher of Physicians’ Life…

Samir Husni: Are you out of your mind launching a print magazine in this environment that we live in; one where you hear nothing but gloom and doom?

Peter Slack: (Laughs) I knew you’d start with a good question. No, I don’t think we are out of our minds. I think it’s a great idea and we’ve done our research. All along the way with our research, we were prepared to change our minds and say no. But the results kept coming back as green lights, and the red lights didn’t pop up.

And we’re not the only people launching new publications right now. It’s seems like the time is right for this one.

Samir Husni: You’re an established media company that is specialized in B to B magazines; you have a lot of specialty magazines aimed at physicians and all kinds of people in the medical and healthcare field; why are you making the move to the consumer side?

Peter Slack: That’s a great question. The way it came about is the leadership of our company got together about two years ago and we made the statement that we’re a very healthy company; we know what we’re doing in the professional healthcare media space; what more can we do to expand our company, because if you’re not going forward, you’re going backward in the business climate today.

So, I challenged our upper leadership to come back with new ideas that could either be within our current comfort zone or outside it. And the idea of a consumer magazine came back from our chief financial officer, Darrell Blood, whose fiancée is a physician, and he made a strong argument that the time was right for someone who knows physicians and knows what they’re all about, to put together a publication that would meet their needs outside of the daily practice.

And yes, this is outside of what we do, but it’s related to what we do, because what we do 24 hours per day, every day of the year, is we work with physicians. That’s what we do and what we know, and we listen to their lives, both professionally and outside of what they do in their clinical practices.

When Darrell brought up the idea and said that he’d heard about the stresses that physicians were under when he’d attended cocktail parties and dinners with his fiancée and her colleagues; well, we’d been hearing these same things at our editorial boards and dinners that we’d been going to for several years from doctors that we knew very well.

So, yes, we know our marketplace well; we know the professional healthcare publishing world well, and we’re thankful that we’ve done well and continue to do well. But we’re looking for new ways to grow our company. And this seems like a natural fit.

Samir Husni: What do you envision to be the major stumbling block through this consumer journey and what do you plan on doing to overcome it?

Peter Slack: The major stumbling block for us is that we’re privately held and we did not go and get outside financing for this publication. We’re still funding it in-house. We’re fortunate that we do have a lot saved up since we spend our money very judiciously. We’re not a public company; we’re not floating a bond and we’re not going to a VC (venture capitalist), so we have a limited budget to do this and it’s a very expensive project.

We’re fortunate also in that we have around 40 advertising sales reps that sell to the professional marketplace, to pharmaceutical and device companies, and our editors are professional editors in creating professional, peer-reviewed publications and newspapers for physicians and other healthcare practitioners. None of us on the advertising sales side or the editorial side really fully understand the consumer marketplace, or the lifestyle marketplace and so one of the best things that happened to us is we went on a search to find out who could help us and we discovered the James G. Elliott Company in New York and they’ve brought great resources, on both the research side to prove the concept, they introduced us to you, Samir, and you have helped us and consulted with us along the way in this new kind of arena, and you introduced us to Beth Weinhouse who has turned out to be a Godsend on the editorial side.

The Elliott Group are professionals and they know how to reach the luxury marketplace; the consumer marketplace; the affluent marketplace which physicians fall into. Samir, you’ve helped us with the overall consulting of magazine publishing versus professional healthcare publishing, and Beth has jumped in and given us just what we needed to develop the editorial.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment so far, since you’ve launched the pilot issue and until the launch of the first issue; what was the moment that made Peter Slack think: Wow!

Peter Slack: The pilot issue came out in early January and we took copies with us to a meeting we had of ophthalmologists in Hawaii, it’s a meeting every year of about 1,000 ophthalmologists, and we know them very well; we’ve been in ophthalmology forever, so we know many of them that attend extremely well.

So, I took several of them aside and gave them copies of the pilot issue and to man, every single one said, “This is tremendous and much-needed. You guys are on the right track.” That’s an anecdotal way of saying that our research is validated and the concept is good.

Samir Husni: Peter, if I sit down with you a year from now and ask you to reflect on the first year of Physicians’ Life; what would you tell me?

Wyanoke-a Peter Slack: I would tell you that in the past year the factors that we’ve looked at about its success was of course advertising, but before advertising, the support was editorial interest. We’re going to test the first couple of issues to see how well it’s being read. We’re going to test the audience and I hope to tell you that the audience embraces it.

And the second thing that I hope to tell you is that the advertising community has embraced it as well, because that’s essential. There have been publications in the past that have been produced by healthcare publishers that went outside of the clinical realm and provided some of this kind of information and they did well. But the advertising environment changed over that period of time and that’s why we’re going to a different segment this time which we think is going to work.

So, a year from now I hope to tell you that physicians are reading it and advertisers are embracing it.

Samir Husni: You are launching, as far as I know, the largest consumer magazine launch in 2015; you’re launching with almost 350,000 in controlled circulation, magazines mailed to the physicians, and another 150,000 copies to distribute at conventions. Technically, you may end up with half a million copies. Does that make you tremble a little or have some doubts about launching the largest new magazine launch of 2015?

Peter Slack: It’s exciting, isn’t it? (Laughs) I think the answer to that question is that the physicians who are going to be receiving this publication; we already have a relationship with. As a company we mail or reach electronically or in some way, 450,000 physicians every month. So the list of 350,000 that we’re going to be mailing Physicians’ Life to is culled from that same list of 450,000 that receive something from us every month. So, they know us. They know who Slack is.

And there is this confidence that when it arrives in the mail to them, and I’m not saying the first issue is going to be read by every single one of them, but there is this confidence that when they ask who’s behind this publication and they see it’s us, they’re going to recognize it as something they should spend a little more time with.

And the copies that are distributed at conventions, and they’re going to be distributed from our booths, we exhibit at 70 to 80 medical conventions each year, and right on the booth it’s going to read Slack Publishing and Physicians’ Life is going to be there and they’ll make that connection as well.

So, you’re right; it’s going to be an expensive proposition; you know what it costs to print and mail 350,000 copies, plus now we have the additional 150,000; it’s an expensive proposition. But this is the risk that we have decided to take.

Samir Husni: I know people will understand the reason that you decided to go with print because you’re working with me. (Laughs)

Peter Slack: (Laughs too) I’m glad that you believe in print too.

Samir Husni: So, if you take me out of the equation; why did you decide to go with a print publication for these physicians?

Peter Slack: The nature of this publication is we want physicians to spend some time away from their practice, getting away, relaxing and curling up with something. And that’s what print does.

Right now they have a big stack of peer-reviewed publications and they read some of them and maybe they read them just when they need to or when they have the time. They go online and they search for information and Google brings it to them; they’re used to that kind of quick information; that quick hit, to go in when they need something and find it.

This is different. This is not go to Google and put in: where do I want to go on vacation, or I wonder if there are other physicians doing what I’m doing or if they enjoy wine or if they have the same challenges I do in getting a workout in. This is something they can pick up in one place and read it in their home or on the airplane, have it in their hands and flip the pages and actually get a feeling that they’ve escaped their professional world for a little while. And print does that.

We will have a website and it will operate under the same premise: this is a place that you can go and escape. And this is interesting; we’re not even going to have a search function on the website. We don’t want them to go to the website and put in search words; the front page is going to have categories that they can go to and clock on and over time, when the articles build up, there will be a reservoir of articles, but we don’t want them to go in and search and immediately go to a little nugget of information; we want them to really experience what we’ve put together to help them escape from their practice.

So, there’ll be a website and it’ll do that and it’s going to be restricted to physicians only. We plan on having a forum set up where they can share ideas with each other on the website.

But the print in this case really fits and really works because we’re going to have a front cover and a back cover and everything in between. It’s information that’s going to be developed by us and our physicians’ editors. And we think it is important for them to get in one place and actually pick it up and spend some time with it.

Samir Husni: I noticed your tagline: doctors sharing with doctors. Tell me a little about that tagline and about the importance of that personal connection with each other for the physicians, rather than just journalists sharing with doctors.

Peter Slack: Doctors are unique people, just as any professionals are, but doctors do respect each other. They’ve gone through the same schooling and we’ve learned over time that doctors enjoy hearing from other doctors. So, what we’ve done, and our research bore this out too and it was very clear, if this was written and directed by doctors to other doctors and doctors were on the editorial board and the editorship that it would make a difference. So, every article is going to have a spin on it to make it directed toward doctors and written by doctors. There might be an article there about working out, but this is going to be about how physicians have very difficult schedules, so how do you get your workout in because you’re a physician? Just those kinds of things. The general topic can generally be found anywhere across the many, many magazines on the newsstands, but these articles are going to be written in the direction of physicians only, written by our staff, which are directed by physicians.

Samir Husni: Anything else you’d like to add?

Peter Slack: Nothing, other than the fact that this is something that is really a natural extension of us. You made the great point that it’s somewhat out of our comfort zone, but it really is a natural extension. And it’s something that we’re very excited about.

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

Peter Slack: Probably two things: getting a good putting stroke going; that’s probably the number one thing. (Laughs) And number two is there is so much opportunity right now in healthcare publishing, with the different platforms: print, online, mobile and there’s a lot of substandard information out there because it’s so easy for almost anyone to put information online. There is such a great opportunity for legitimate publishers to approach the marketplace now.

So, what keeps me up at night is making sure that we’re intelligently approaching that opportunity in the most aggressive way that we can and that we’re not missing the boat, because I really think that this is a tremendous opportunity, the time right now, for legitimate publishers to put out quality information and to gain the interest of their audience.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: