Archive for April, 2015

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New Magazines Enjoying A Strong Spring Time… Rediscovering PRINT.

April 29, 2015

Rodale's Organic Life Sub.parents latina

The beauty of Springtime, in large part, is always the fresh, new buds that Mother Nature gives birth to and then nurtures with her showers and warmer temperatures.

April saw major publishers doing the same thing with their brands, giving birth to beautiful new magazines and cosseting them with the care and concern that only a parent can.

national geo history

A total of 70 new titles hit the newsstand for April and 20 of them were with regular frequency. Out of those 20 newborns, 5 of them were delivered from large-scale publishers that show no fear in the face of cynics who still decry the value of print in today’s world. Print is on the rise; was there ever any doubt?

From National Geographic’s ‘History’ to Bauer’s powerhouse, ‘Simple Grace;’ the big houses are once again inking up their printers and truly having a good old-fashioned ‘print’ revival. Meredith launched ‘Parents Latina;’ Smithsonian has decided to take quarterly ‘Journeys’ and Rodale is educating us on the ‘Organic Life.’ What more could a magazine lover ask for? Maybe to see the beautiful covers?
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So, first here are the numbers for April 2015 launches compared to that of April 2014 as seen in chart 1 and in chart 2 below are the top categories for both years.

Chart 1
april launches

Chart 2
April categories

To see each and every launch of April and every other month please visit my Launch Monitor blog at www.launchmonitor.wordpress.com

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Magazines As Money Makers: The Commercial Role of the American Consumer Magazines. A Blast from Mr. Magazine’s™ Past: Dissertation Entries Part 9

April 29, 2015

Magazines as Money Makers
1983

magsatnewsstands “Magazines are big business,” said Howard Rusk Long of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in his introduction of James Ford’s book Magazines for Millions. No other description, no matter how many words are used, can better describe the money making role of the commercial function of the magazine. In fact, when a magazine, after a period of establishing itself, ceases making money, the graveyard is ready for it, together with the thousands that already rested there in peace.

The way magazines make money is in itself interesting because no other mass medium depends equally upon two sources at the same time to earn its income: the consumer and the advertiser. This was not the case in the early days of the magazine. Roland E. Wolseley noted that “the owners of magazines depended upon readers for nearly all their revenues. Advertising meant little.” On the other hand, with the advent of advertising in the early 1900s, a few magazines developed such power as advertising media that they were ready to give the magazine away free of charge in order to get the advertisers. Consumers became mere numbers to be sold to advertisers. Then television came. Together with the already existing radio and newspapers, it formed a new medium for advertising. The large mass circulation magazines could not compete. Losses started to accumulate, and profits started to disappear, and so did large mass circulation magazines.

The above information was written in 1983 and is taken from a portion of my dissertation when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I obtained my doctorate in journalism. And while the majority of the material still holds true, things have changed drastically in some areas.

Magazines as Money Makers
2015

webmd magazine Making money in magazine media today is a bit of a sticky wicket. While a lot of magazines are still making a lot of money; of course, the changes that have been wrought during the last 32 years since I wrote the above information have definitely affected the magazine’s ability to bring in the big bucks the way it used to.

With the advent of the internet and all of its technological minions, magazines have had to reinvent themselves through innovation and creativity simply to survive in some cases, let alone make money.

Porter cover Yet, new blood is being generated each and every month (a proven fact that can be reflected upon through Mr. Magazine’s™ monthly Launch Monitor) and the magazine’s legacy is never far from the forefront of the buying public’s mind or the publisher’s heart.

With the realization that in today’s market magazines have to maintain a collectability factor rather than a disposability trait, publishers have gone above and beyond the call by creating literally pieces of art and literary treasures with some of the new magazines hitting the newsstands today. They’re coffee table additions and heirloom items that are aimed at the need people have to keep and collect. Quite the right thing to do in today’s world of fleeting digital content that disappears as fast as it’s deposited into cyberspace.

And with the undeclared new business model of higher cover prices for magazines instead of sole revenue dependence upon advertising; publishers are ever-so-slowly shifting the revenue responsibility from the advertiser to the consumer and generating real numbers (albeit not mass numbers) through newsstand and subscription by placing true value on their product.

cnet_magazine_cover-1-514x640 Then of course, there is the controversial native advertising (I know, controversial to some, but the new norm to others) that some magazines have allowed to creep upon their content pages. As you read these ‘normal’ articles, it suddenly dawns on you (as the consumer) that what you’re consuming is not merely an article about margarine and its benefits or detriments, but an actual essay written by one company’s PR firm or staff member that in truth makes margarine for profit. Not that that particular fact is hidden among the wordage, but nevertheless, the article is presented in a way that it appears to be simple editorial.

But I am not here to judge, simply to state facts. Making money today in magazine media is no small feat. It is survival of the fittest and sometimes that means doing what one has to do to persevere.

And the fact remains that many digital entities are dipping their toes into the pool of print, seeing a lasting value that they can’t focus in on through just the web, from Airbnb and their magazine, Pineapple, to Porter, Pitchfork Review, C/Net, WebMD and Allrecipes, to name just a few.

AllRecipes-Magazine And while magazines may not be the towering moneymaking Titans that they were in the 1980s, they’re certainly as relevant and valuable to the buying 2015 public as they were thirty or forty years ago. And if we remember that fact, that ‘Audience First’ modus operandi, we’ll realize that is truly the only thing that matters throughout the whole exciting, fun, sometimes perilous journey of the magazine.

Apr15 Cover 300dpiLast but not least, I can’t conclude without a quote from Adi Ignatius, editor-in-chief of Harvard Business Review magazine, who told me in a recent interview with him, “When I’ve worked at legacy publications, we’d create this content that was basically designed to be an adjacency to advertising. Whatever, fine. Then the advertising disappears. Advertising definitely comes and goes; you have to make sure that you have a product at the end of the day that your readers actually care about, because the advertising dollar today will disappear tomorrow.”

Until next week, when Mr. Magazine™ continues the Commercial Role of the magazine with Magazines as Marketing Tools. Enjoy your week with a magazine!

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PLUS, A Magazine With A Mission: Where The Readers Are Much More Than Their Status. The Rebranding Of HIV Plus Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-In-Chief.

April 27, 2015

“Print is not dead for us; it’s thrilling. Of course, I hear it in other magazines and it scares me to death because I’m such an old print horse that I never want it to go away. And so it’s really exciting for me to be at a magazine where there’s never talk of not doing print anymore. Yes, it’s doing well.” Diane Anderson-Minshall

PLUS 2-2 Although we live in the 21st century and in an era of natural enlightenment overall; unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to the three letters HIV virus and the implications and stereotypes that may follow.

That’s why the powers-that-be at HIV Plus magazine decided that their message of care and concern for people who suffer from HIV and all chronic, medically-managed illnesses would be better served to rebrand without those three letters. Hence, Plus magazine was born with the intent of opening up a whole new conversation with people who felt uncomfortable picking up the magazine when it was known as HIV Plus.

Diane Anderson-Minshall is editor-in-chief of the magazine and is a staunch advocate for the magazine’s mission. I spoke with Diane recently and we talked about the rebranding and how the hope of reaching more people with the magazine’s message was the driving force behind the change in title and design.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-in-Chief, Plus magazine, and a woman whose passion for the HIV/AIDS community and all who endure the pain of chronic illnesses, is genuine and far-reaching.

But first the sound-bites:


Head Shot - Diane Anderson-Minshall On changing the name from HIV Plus to simply Plus:
We did have people who told us if you don’t have HIV in the title, even though we’re still a magazine for people with HIV, but if we don’t have it in the title, it looks like a health magazine about several things, including HIV. You don’t have to be HIV positive to read it.

On the new tagline; you’re more than your status:
The bottom line is we’re recognizing that our readers have HIV, which is a chronic manageable condition and it’s not a definer of their lives, so we have to recognize that they need more out of a magazine than just treatment information. They’re looking for a whole magazine for the whole totality of their lives.

On keeping the website and social media with the original name:
We didn’t rebrand the website or the social media sites and part of that is because a magazine is something that is very visible versus a website where anyone can sneak onto it; we all know that because we sneak onto certain websites all the time.

On the new celebrity-oriented covers and whether they convolute the message the magazine is trying to render:
I don’t actually. I think that our mission is the same. We started doing celebrity covers when I came onboard as editor-in-chief and part of that is because celebrity covers are aspirational. I think that we’d be foolish to not recognize that people like to see aspirational profiles of other people who are doing something related to their lives.

On whether any celebrity has ever rejected the magazine’s offer to be on its cover:
Yes, absolutely. I’m not sure I can name who those people are, but that absolutely happens all of the time. And those are oftentimes celebrities who are doing something with an AIDS charity already, but who don’t want to be associated with a magazine. Sadly, it has happened a number of times.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face:
The biggest stumbling block was getting our people who write for the magazine to recognize that our readership is a high school educated level readership, because I think people find that’s sometimes harder to write to.

On her most pleasant moment at the magazine: There have been so many. But at the U.S. Conference on AIDS last year in San Diego, for example, we made a life size cover of the magazine, with just the logo and a little bit of text, and then basically people came up and posed in front of the magazine like they were the cover star of the magazine. And then they Tweeted out the photos or we did and that was a great moment.

On whether she considers herself a journalist first or an advocate for the magazine’s mission:
I consider myself a journalist first, but there’s no denying that this is advocacy journalism. There’s just no denying that in order to do this magazine, you have to consider yourself an advocacy journalist.

On anything else she’d like to add:
One thing that people do keep asking me is whether we’ve made this change because we’re losing money? And this is the very first time I can say this, because a lot of times I’ve been at publications where what I’m about to say was not the case; where we did make a change and it was because we needed to deal with dropping revenue. In this case, we’ve been doing phenomenally well and we’ve been consistently doing well over the last few years that I’ve been here.

On why she believes print is not dead:
Print is not dead for us; it’s thrilling. Of course, I hear it in other magazines and it scares me to death because I’m such an old print horse that I never want it to go away. And so it’s really exciting for me to be at a magazine where there’s never talk of not doing print anymore.

On what keeps her up at night:
In terms of publishing, just production can keep me up at night. Just knowing production is two weeks away and that I have to file 80,000 words by then. That can keep me up at night. And that’s just the very beginning of what keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor-in-Chief, Plus magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you change the name of the magazine from HIV Plus to just Plus?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: My publisher, Joe Valentino, and I had been talking for a couple of years about whether the name of the magazine was kind and modern and really reflected all that we were doing with it for readers. We started doing some informal questioning of those readers and of people who distribute the magazine; because we’re a bit like WebMD in that we reached our quarter of a million reader’s right at the point of care, for the magazine in particular, of course, the mobile app and the web as well.

We started talking about how the name was; what we were doing with it; if it was reaching readers, that kind of thing, because when we started the magazine in the late 1990s it was a very different landscape in terms of who was reading the magazine and the kind of information that we were providing.

In the last couple of years, we’ve definitely become much more service-oriented than we were before. The magazine before had been very newsy, of course in part because it was also run by that staff of The Advocate, which is an LGBT news magazine, so it had been very newsy, but maybe wasn’t as useful when it came to what readers were looking for at that point.

This sort of informal questioning and surveying people kind of coalesced at the U.S. conference on AIDS last fall, where we did informal focus groups and we talked with a lot of people who were reading the magazine and also people who provided the magazine, like social workers, clinicians and people who ran LGBT centers or health centers or AIDS service organizations.

And when we started questioning them, we found a couple of things at that point and one of them was that we had a number of people who came up to the booth, picked up the magazine and said, oh my, I love Plus magazine and I read it all the time. And that made us realize that there was a chunk of our readership that was already calling us Plus magazine, sort of like the little HIV in our masthead or our logo at that point wasn’t resonating for them that it was part of the name of the magazine the way we had designed it.

And then at the same time we spoke with a number of people who said, I have a lot of people who read your magazine when they’re at my office or at the center, or getting their monthly healthcare or shots, but they won’t take it home, in part because it’s called HIV Plus. It’s really clear that it’s a magazine only for people with HIV.

So, I asked those people by just dropping the word HIV from the title, would it allow them to take the magazine home and feel comfortable about it? And the consensus was from all these people, yes, just removing the word; those three little letters from the title kind of eliminated the stigmatizing language that led with the virus. And this helped us think, well, OK, maybe this is a time for us to rebrand ourselves as Plus and eliminate the stigmatizing language that leads with the virus and tell our readers that at this point we understand that they more than their HIV status; you’re you, plus a little something more and for a lot of our readers that can be HIV or Hepatitis C or another condition.

At the same time, the change would open the magazine up for those people who would not pick it up or take it home because of having that HIV in the title. The change would make those people feel comfortable and safe to carry the magazine on a subway or read it in their cubicle or leave it on their coffee table if their friends come over.

A part of it was we recognized that there were different types of people reading our magazine and several of those people were very happy and proud to use HIV as a way to describe themselves and those are the people that we feel we were reaching at that point, and those people aren’t often living in the areas hardest hit by the virus. And we knew that there were a lot of people living in areas where they weren’t getting the right kind of treatment or getting connected to care; they’re weren’t getting the right kind of information because they were afraid for people to recognize that they had HIV.

So, we did have people who told us if you don’t have HIV in the title, even though we’re still a magazine for people with HIV, but if we don’t have it in the title, it looks like a health magazine about several things, including HIV. You don’t have to be HIV positive to read it. That’s kind of our angle; we’re trying to work to get those people who are afraid to pick up the magazine and we’re asking those people who lead with HIV in their lives to understand that we’re not going in the closet about being a magazine for people with HIV, we’re just asking them to make some considerations for those people who are afraid to pick up the magazine. By losing those three little letters in the title, we sort of open ourselves up for those people to join the conversation and have access to the information that they desperately need and aren’t getting yet.

Samir Husni: And that led to the new tagline under the name: because you’re more than your status?

PLUS 1-1 Diane Anderson-Minshall: Yes, I mean, we’re really just sort of playing around with different things and for me; I kept thinking with Plus, we wanted to tell our readers that we get you, you’re you, plus something extra, in this case, HIV, but it could be other things too.

But the bottom line is we’re recognizing that our readers have HIV, which is a chronic manageable condition and it’s not a definer of their lives, so we have to recognize that they need more out of a magazine than just treatment information. They’re looking for a whole magazine for the whole totality of their lives.

Samir Husni: You’re website is still HIV Plusmag.com…

Diane Anderson-Minshall: It is and that’s actually going to stay that way for now. We didn’t rebrand the website or the social media sites and part of that is because a magazine is something that is very visible versus a website where anyone can sneak onto it; we all know that because we sneak onto certain websites all the time. People generally don’t see a browser history; they don’t look into what we’re searching for, so you can actually go onto HIV Plusmag.com without feeling the stigma. And I’m assuming a lot of people will still do that, so you don’t feel any stigma when you do it because no one knows what you’re doing online, versus a magazine which is very visible; it’s something that you take home or have on your coffee table or next to your bed.

It’s something very different for people when they’re carrying the magazine versus reading the website. And we recognize that sometimes those are two different audiences with two different needs. So, we went ahead and left the social media and the web and our mobile app with the brand HIV Plus for a variety of reasons, but that’s one.

And then another reason is that making a change to those things right now; we just don’t want to scare off the readers that are accessing us through those channels at this point and we don’t need to lose traffic or any of those kinds of things. And we felt like again, with the website and the social media accounts, it just wasn’t as pressing to change those because people aren’t monitoring you when you’re looking at those sites versus when you have a magazine and it’s everywhere around you. Does that make sense?

Samir Husni: Oh yes, that makes perfect sense. In fact, you give more ammunition to my fight that digital and print each has its own role in today’s world.

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Yes, absolutely.

January February 2015 - Tyson Beckford HI Samir Husni: We all know that we live in a digital age and as you mentioned, it’s much easier for somebody with HIV to sneak onto the web and look for answers or help; yet with the magazine, it’s like announcing it to the world. As you move into Plus, even into the design of the cover with its celebrity-oriented nature; do you see any conflict between the message the magazine is providing and the look of the magazine?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: I don’t actually. I think that at this point, we’re the leading provider of HIV health information through the magazine and our online portals and mobile platforms and we still have the same mission, which is bringing accurate and trustworthy information about HIV and other related mental and physical health conditions, but in a way that’s empowering and entertaining and up-to-the-minute.

And so I think that our mission is the same. We started doing celebrity covers when I came onboard as editor-in-chief and part of that is because celebrity covers are aspirational. I think that we’d be foolish to not recognize that people like to see aspirational profiles of other people who are doing something related to their lives. Everybody picks up a magazine with a celebrity on it; it’s much harder to get people to pick up a magazine without a celebrity, so there’s no reason for us not to run those as well.

What we do is interview celebrities who are either people who do have HIV or have some relationship to HIV or AIDS, maybe through a family member or they work in a social cause related to it as a charity or they’re playing a role of an HIV-positive person on television or in film. And those are some of our most popular pieces.

What I think of these celebrity pieces is a little bit like the cherry in the cough syrup, you know; we need to make this sweet for people to pick up and then they get the information they need inside. The celebrity covers bring people in.

You’re at the doctor’s office and you’re looking at the array of magazines on the table and you’re next to us and you’ve got Sofía Vergara on the cover of WebMD and we’ve got somebody to compete with that so you’ll pick us up. And then you’ll find the information that you need; the treatment and medication information, but also the fitness, mental health, nutrition, sex and dating advice and the real, but aspirational profiles of other people living healthy lives with chronic conditions.

Samir Husni: Have you ever been rejected by a celebrity or a celebrity’s agent who said, no, we don’t want to be on the cover?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Yes, absolutely. I’m not sure I can name who those people are, but that absolutely happens all of the time. And those are oftentimes celebrities who are doing something with an AIDS charity already, but who don’t want to be associated with a magazine. Sadly, it has happened a number of times.

And then we’ve also reached out to some celebrities we know who are HIV-positive themselves and tried to see if they were ready to have their coming-out interview and they were not. We don’t hold any ill will in those cases because we understand how difficult it is to come out about being HIV-positive, but again if you’re a celebrity with all the resources of the world at your fingertips and you’re not able to come out about being positive, imagine how difficult it is for the 18-year-old kid in the southeast who’s just found out he’s positive and has no resources.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face since becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine and how did you overcome it?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: The biggest stumbling block was getting our people who write for the magazine to recognize that our readership is a high school educated level readership, because I think people find that’s sometimes harder to write to. We’ve had to refocus the magazine a little bit and recognize that there are a couple of things happening here with this readership and one is that the readership isn’t college educated. And that changes how you’re writing things. I have a policy where I send back any story if I have to go to the writer and say, do you understand this sentence, and they say no, and I respond, then neither will our readers. I’ll send back anything where I can’t understand it and I think it’s really hard for people to like medical stuff without getting very science-oriented and boring. So, I believe we have a responsibility to our readers to make this stuff more interesting and understandable; to make it information that they’re going to want to read, rather than information that feels like it’s a package insert.

I feel like in a lot of ways one of our responsibilities is to take what pharmaceutical companies are saying about their medication for example, or about clinical trials or studies or new research and development, take that information and then translate for actual readers. And that’s a really heated task because there’s just such a big disconnect between science, academia and the way that they speak and the way an average real person does and the way that we understand things.

That’s actually been a challenge, making the magazine more service-oriented and more understandable to a group of readers who basically don’t know that kind of language and information that I think we sometimes fall back on.

We’re a niche magazine and I’ve always managed niche magazines, but I think in this case, we’re a niche magazine that’s finding out consistently that we have a wider audience than we once thought and so we’re trying to understand how to reach and speak to that audience cross range; 90% of our readers are men and among those, over half are people of color, and a larger majority are gay or bisexual, so that means we have 10% of women who are almost entirely straight, some are transgender, and of our readership, only about 88% have HIV, so I feel like we speak to the health needs of these readers more than any other magazine does. And I can say that even though we belong to the company that has the two largest gay publications on their roster; that we can speak to the health needs of gay and bisexual men in a way that other publications just can’t because we have the know-how and the experience.

But I do think we speak to both gay men and straight women and across different ethnic groupings; it’s a pretty broad range.

Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment at the magazine?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: There have been so many. I went to the ‘HIV is not a Crime,’ which is an anti-criminalization conference that was held last summer and was the very first, and is basically aimed around reforming HIV criminalization laws in the country, many of which were put together in the 1980s when AIDS was a terrifying thing and a lot of the lawmakers who originally worked on those initial laws are now arguing for those laws to be updated, reformed or ditched completely. I went to the conference, both to cover it and lend any advice and to really just support it to show that our organization supports that movement.

And I met so many people there who just treated me like a rock star, being the editor of Plus magazine, and it was amazing seeing these people who are frontline activists, working directly with politicians and people who had gone to the White House to speak to President Obama about HIV; people who are really major players in what we would call the HIV activist movement. And they were just very excited to have Plus represented there and excited to meet the people behind the magazine. I wouldn’t say it was like being One Direction or something, but it was really amazing.

Certainly, when we go to these events, it’s for us; it’s partly about a new opportunity for audience development, because that’s a part of what events are for publishers and their publications. And we love it. When we go these events we see people moving between our platforms with the brand, and once they get one platform, they explore the other and we’re a part of that when we’re doing these events.

But at the U.S. Conference on AIDS last year in San Diego, for example, we made a life size cover of the magazine, with just the logo and a little bit of text, and then basically people came up and posed in front of the magazine like they were the cover star of the magazine. And then they Tweeted out the photos or we did and that was a great moment because, again, when we’re trying so desperately to reach people who are afraid to pick up the magazine, at the same time, we have all of these other people who are so proud of the work that they’re doing or so proud of the life they’re living.

And some of them aren’t activists; they’re ordinary people living with HIV. But they were so proud to be on the cover of the magazine, to be like cover stars. Just the excitement and the energy around something like that; it wasn’t even about our social media numbers shooting up, which they did, but it was really about that wonderful feedback that people were getting what we were doing, that they like what we’re doing and that we’re giving them something that’s really adding to their lives.

Samir Husni: What do you consider yourself? I know you’re the editor-in-chief, but what do you consider yourself to be first, a journalist, an advocate, or a rock star?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: (Laughs) I consider myself a journalist first, but there’s no denying that this is advocacy journalism. There’s just no denying that in order to do this magazine, you have to consider yourself an advocacy journalist. I think those two things are first and the rock star is very, very far down on the line. I have moments of feeling like a rock star, but I know I’m not.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: I feel like we reflect the best the country has to offer in coverage of HIV and Aids and we’re trying to take a magazine that’s largely a service publication and work in hard-hitting news and health investigations and have the latest treatment information, and these interviews that are always inspirational, for our readers.

We’ve won a number of awards for our coverage of HIV and AIDS, including the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; they have an excellence in HIV/AIDS coverage award which we’ve won a few times. We’ve won some other awards as well and I was given the Western Publishing Association; the Maggie Award last year. They have an inaugural leadership award and I was given that for the work on HIV Plus mobile app. So, we get pretty good validation from other journalists in other areas media.

One thing that people do keep asking me is whether we’ve made this change because we’re losing money? And this is the very first time I can say this, because a lot of times I’ve been at publications where what I’m about to say was not the case; where we did make a change and it was because we needed to deal with dropping revenue.

In this case, we’ve been doing phenomenally well and we’ve been consistently doing well over the last few years that I’ve been here. In fact, we’ve often been the top print magazine in the company and that includes both Out and The Advocate magazines, because our ad sales are consistent and we don’t face the same economic setbacks that other advertising arenas do, like fashion or travel and advertising industries, for example. Pharmaceutical industries have specific things they need to advertise and they have requirements for that advertising, so as long as the medication market is robust, then we continue to have consistent ad sales, which is our primary driver of funds.

So, it’s important for me to make it clear that this was not a decision we made because we weren’t selling, it was quite the opposite and I’m really proud of that.

Samir Husni: So, you’re telling me that print is not dead?

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Print is not dead for us; it’s thrilling. Of course, I hear it in other magazines and it scares me to death because I’m such an old print horse that I never want it to go away. And so it’s really exciting for me to be at a magazine where there’s never talk of not doing print anymore. Yes, it’s doing well.

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

Diane Anderson-Minshall: Everything. Even though we’re doing well, we still have limited resources allocated to editorial, so we still have everyone doing the job of four different people.

In terms of publishing, just production can keep me up at night. Just knowing production is two weeks away and that I have to file 80,000 words by then. That can keep me up at night. And that’s just the very beginning of what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Harvard Business Review: A Magazine That Readers Care About. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Adi Ignatius, Editor-In-Chief.

April 24, 2015

“When I’ve worked at legacy publications, we’d create this content that was basically designed to be an adjacency to advertising. Whatever, fine. Then the advertising disappears. Advertising definitely comes and goes; you have to make sure that you have a product at the end of the day that your readers actually care about, because the advertising dollar today will disappear tomorrow.” Adi Ignatius

Apr15 Cover 300dpi Focusing on areas such as leadership, finance, marketing and the art of managing people, among many other business-related topics, Harvard Business Review (HBR) is a magazine dedicated to improving all facets of management in today’s fast-paced world.

Adi Ignatius is editor-in-chief, or as he likes to refer to himself, the balancer-in-chief of HBR. He came to the magazine in 2009 from TIME, where he was deputy managing editor, helping to oversee the week-to-week editing of the magazine and was also responsible for many of TIME’s special editions, including the Person of the Year and TIME 100 franchises.

After coming onboard at Harvard Business Review, Adi set about reinventing the academic read into more of a consumer-type magazine, one that has seen circulation growth and subscription prices increase since his joining the team.

I spoke with Adi recently and the discussion was both fun and informative. He has definite opinions on where HBR is heading and the future of magazine media in general.

So, I hope you enjoy this conversation with a man who believes in the timelessness of his brand and the collectability factor he thinks all magazines need today, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Business Review.

But first the sound-bites:

Adi Ignatius On the transition he had to make in 2009 when he came to HBR right after the Market crash: When I came on in 2009, Harvard Business Review hadn’t written a word about the recession and that seemed odd. I understood that the magazine always wanted to be timeless in everything it did, but it seemed that this was a different period; readers were desperate for information about the worst economic situation that we’ll all hopefully face in our lifetimes. Luckily, the people who run this place wanted somebody who had that kind of metabolism, someone who could bring a sort of timely sensibility to the timeless tradition and deal head-on with some of the topics people were worried about.

On the advice he would give media leaders about the future of print today:
I think getting past the sense of a lot of things that we thought were traditionally important like print, front pages, home pages, viewing yourself as only a destination site; I think you have to let go of these assumptions and really follow where the market is going and where readers are going. And make sure your content is unique and valuable and make sure you are maximizing every possible connection and platform that you could be on.

On some of the stumbling blocks that would prevent magazine media from implementing his common sense advice:
We all know where this plot line is heading; we all know that we are moving rapidly toward a more digital, or even fully digital, future. The problem is we’re in the present. And the present is still in some ways attaching more value to the print part of our operations than is likely to happen in the future. So, it’s very difficult to handle that transition when we’re still relying on print for the bulk of our revenue and ad revenue, in some cases. It’s very hard to forego the short-term revenue that we all depend on to make the sort of long-term future digital.

On whether he thinks publishers are placing too much dependence on social media these days:
We used to depend on LinkedIn for a huge amount of traffic, but when LinkedIn realized they weren’t simply a place for people to search for jobs, they decided to have content and stickiness, and a lot of that content was HBR. Then they sort of realized that they could be developing their own content and didn’t really need partners. So, that was a moment of panic, but I think as long as you’re creating content that’s valuable to your audience, whether it’s a big or a niche audience, you can adapt to these things.

On whether he can ever see a day when HBR will not have a print component: In theory, yes; it’s not a part of any of our plans at this point. I can imagine a reduction in print, in the number of print copies, and I would say that’s probably likely for us. And that would be driven by two main things: the decline in print advertising, which is real and profound and we see no sign of that being reversed, and more interestingly, a kind of shift in consumption habits.

On the cover price of HBR: Yes, we are higher-priced, but this magazine is for people who love ideas and you’ll find ideas in this publication that can improve your company and your career, well beyond what we’re charging. That’s essentially our value proposition.

On whether the collectability factor is important in magazine media today:
I think we’ve all realized the value of the archives. We have an archive that goes back 25-30 years and subscribers get full access to anything that we’ve published during that time. And we tested that a couple of years ago and found out that subscribers were willing to pay significantly more when they realized they had access to that archive.

On anything else he’d like to add:
That was a reinvention in 2010 and by any measurement that you could use, it worked. Our circulation has risen and is now at a record level, about 300,000. We have to do this again. We have to reinvent the business model again for all the reasons that our colleagues in the industry are doing it.

On what keeps him up at night:
Our situation is a little more complicated because we also need contributors to feel like we’re the best place for them to publish their ideas. We’re this hybrid; we’re somewhere in between a normal magazine and an academic journal. And that sometimes keeps me up at night; whether I can keep that balance intact, while still driving the business forward. That’s what I do; I’m balancer-in-chief.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Adi Ignatious, Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Business Review.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Harvard Business Review since 2009, so you had just come onboard when the Market crashed. Can you describe how the transition for you was during that precarious time?

Adi Ignatius: I interviewed for the job in 2008, so when I came on in 2009, Harvard Business Review hadn’t written a word about the recession and that seemed odd. I understood that the magazine always wanted to be timeless in everything it did, but it seemed that this was a different period; readers were desperate for information about the worst economic situation that we’ll all hopefully face in our lifetimes. And a publication like Harvard Business Review could provide insight.

Luckily, the people who run this place wanted somebody who had that kind of metabolism, someone who could bring a sort of timely sensibility to the timeless tradition and deal head-on with some of the topics people were worried about.

We took that opportunity to kind of reinvent the magazine, the website and set out a path for growth from that.

Samir Husni: If you were going to apply the same formula that you did for the Harvard Business Review on its business side to magazine media today, in 2015; what type of magazine would you create to help magazine publishers and editors adapt to all the changes that are taking place and what advice would you give those media leaders about the future of print today?

Adi Ignatius: I wouldn’t necessarily get hung up on print. I don’t think the answer for all of us is finding out a way to maximize print; some of us will be print; some of us will be digital, and then some of us will be a hybrid.

I think getting past the sense of a lot of things that we thought were traditionally important like print, front pages, home pages, viewing yourself as only a destination site; I think you have to let go of these assumptions and really follow where the market is going and where readers are going. And make sure your content is unique and valuable and make sure you are maximizing every possible connection and platform that you could be on. That’s obvious maybe, and the hard part might be actually implementing that. I guess that would be my first bit of advice.

Samir Husni: What do you think are some of the stumbling blocks that are stopping people from implementing that common sense solution?

Adi Ignatius: I guess some of them you’re probably very familiar with. We all know where this plot line is heading; we all know that we are moving rapidly toward a more digital, or even fully digital, future. The problem is we’re in the present. And the present is still in some ways attaching more value to the print part of our operations than is likely to happen in the future. So, it’s very difficult to handle that transition when we’re still relying on print for the bulk of our revenue and ad revenue, in some cases. It’s very hard to forego the short-term revenue that we all depend on to make the sort of long-term future digital. And we all think that we can manage that transition and jump from one to the other and do it at the perfect time versus our knowledge of a company like Kodak, which knew very well the digital future was coming, didn’t handle the transition well at all. And that’s what happens if you don’t.

But I think one big problem is simply the fact that print remains hugely important for most of our business models and, as I said, it’s very difficult to forego the short-term revenue.

The second thing is just the landscape is moving so quickly. If you look at social media, the Harvard Business Review is very successful in social media. We have a huge number of shares and a huge number of followers; we generate a lot of traffic through social media. What will our relationships be with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others in a few years; it’s impossible to know. Probably very different from what they are now.

There’s a fundamental uncertainty that means we’re all experimenting a lot, but it’s somewhat difficult to have as much confidence in precise, future digitally-focused plans because it’s such a moving target.

Samir Husni: Do you think we’re making the same mistake as we did when we put all of our dependence upon advertising, because now we’re trying to depend so much on social media? What if Facebook decides to listen to the rumors I’ve been hearing and becomes an enclosed website, where it won’t take you to your website?

Adi Ignatius: I think we have to be open to that possibility. I think the most important thing is not to panic. There will be surprises like that. We used to depend on LinkedIn for a huge amount of traffic, but when LinkedIn realized they weren’t simply a place for people to search for jobs, they decided to have content and stickiness, and a lot of that content was HBR (Harvard Business Review) and I think HBR was some of the best performing content on that site.

And then they sort of realized that they could be developing their own content and didn’t really need partners. So, that was a moment of panic, but I think as long as you’re creating content that’s valuable to your audience, whether it’s a big or a niche audience, you can adapt to these things. So, we don’t have the same kind of relationship with LinkedIn now, but we’re working on developing other relationships with LinkedIn. Facebook and Twitter are great referrals to our site. If they’re cut off, we’ll figure something else out. A good brand with good content just has to be nimble. And if some of these things happen, we’ll figure something else out; I really do believe that.

Samir Husni: Can you foresee a day when HBR will not be in print?

Adi Ignatius: In theory, yes; it’s not a part of any of our plans at this point. I can imagine a reduction in print, in the number of print copies, and I would say that’s probably likely for us. And that would be driven by two main things: the decline in print advertising, which is real and profound and we see no sign of that being reversed, and more interestingly, a kind of shift in consumption habits. The challenge for us is to truly make digital a long-form reading experience that is as effective as print is now. And that involves new personalization, new utility, kind of a reinvention of what a long-form article is online, which is what we’re doing.

You talked about advertising before; the trap that many legacy publications have fallen into over the years is the pursuit of advertising at the expense of the relationship with the reader and the creation of quality content.

Nowadays, native advertising is viewed as a panacea for a lot of publications and a lot of native advertising solutions are great. We at HBR haven’t plunged into that yet, but we will and that’s fine. But I worry when I see some legacy publications, when they talk about what they’re doing; all they seem to be able to discuss is native. And my only feeling on that is advertising comes and goes, that is fact.

When I’ve worked at legacy publications, we’d create this content that was basically designed to be an adjacency to advertising. Whatever, fine. Then the advertising disappears. Advertising definitely comes and goes; you have to make sure that you have a product at the end of the day that your readers actually care about, because the advertising dollar today will disappear tomorrow. And there will be a new model, fine, you just have to make sure that you’re creating content that people actually care about and that isn’t just being created or advertising dollars.

Samir Husni: Somebody recently told me that the magazine industry doesn’t have an ink on paper problem; it has an advertising problem. Do you agree?

Adi Ignatius: Meaning what, exactly?

Samir Husni: That advertising is disappearing from print.

Adi Ignatius: Well, yes, that’s true. There are other models; some of the magazines that you and I love most are essentially subsidized by, I don’t know, a wealthy benefactor, maybe, something like that.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Adi Ignatius: And that’s also a good model. At HBR, just so you know; we’re not subsidized by the school, quite to the contrary. I’ve worked at Dow Jones and I’ve worked at Time Inc. And at HBR, we’re as commercially focused as any other publication that I’ve ever worked at. And we have to be successful on the bottom line and we have to be significantly profitable and the money that we make goes back to Harvard Business School to fund its case studies and research.

So, we’re very much in the real world and we’re very aware that advertising dollars have disappeared, but we’re a premium-priced subscription. Advertising is an important revenue source for us, but subscription is a more important source. What we’ve been able to accomplish in recent years is to increase circulation and increase the average price of a subscription and we want to keep doing that. So, I think there are ways if you have the right model and a target audience.

Samir Husni: With the price of the newsstand edition for just one copy, you can buy a year’s subscription to other magazines.

Adi Ignatius: Yes, that’s true. But I think if you get a subscription offer from Time magazine for $20 for a year and a half, it feels a little like the magazine is saying this publication has no value, please subscribe. And that’s not our approach. Yes, we are higher-priced, but this magazine is for people who love ideas and you’ll find ideas in this publication that can improve your company and your career, well beyond what we’re charging. That’s essentially our value proposition.

Samir Husni: One of the things that you mentioned earlier in our conversation was the need to create this timely, yet timeless, content. Do you think this is the future of print, that the printed word has to have a collectability factor and that it can’t be something described as disposable?

Adi Ignatius: I think we’ve all realized the value of the archives. We have an archive that goes back 25-30 years and subscribers get full access to anything that we’ve published during that time. And we tested that a couple of years ago and found out that subscribers were willing to pay significantly more when they realized they had access to that archive. And I think other publications are doing the same thing and unearthing archival ways that are proving valuable, informative and fun. I think in that sense, a smart curation of archives is a way to prove the timelessness of some of the ideas that we publish. And we want to do more of that.

The Harvard Business Review in the past was only about timelessness and I think the brand has proven adaptable enough that now, particularly on the web, we do things that are really timely.

Samir Husni: On a personal level with the magazine; what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Adi Ignatius: When I came in 2009, we decided that we were going to reinvent the magazine. The company had just hired a consultant who had done focus groups and research and who had talked to people and concluded that the way we used to produce our covers, I don’t know of you remember it, but HBR used to be like an academic journal or like National Geographic in the old days, where the table of contents was fully listed on the cover.

And the consultant concluded that the table of contents on the cover was as iconic for Harvard Business Review as the red border is for Time magazine. And that you mess with that at your own peril. And I wasn’t sure that I bought that. (Laughs) And I saw the focus groups and heard what they were saying, things like, yes, I’m a marketing guy and I can see the table of contents, check out if there’s anything for me and if I’d really like to read it.

But to me that meant they were looking at the table of contents and if there wasn’t anything that appealed to them, they weren’t even going to open the magazine or even tear the plastic covering off, so all that work that one does to produce a magazine, the photos, the layout, the headlines and callouts; they weren’t even going to see any of that.

And our readership was pretty much going to decide that they should just go online and research what they wanted and buy articles there and they weren’t even going to subscribe.

So, we decided to do nothing that was revolutionary, but basically remake HBR more like a magazine. Maybe it was late in the era of print magazines, but it was still very important to us to create more of a personalization. HBR articles are hard going, so we wanted to make them somewhat more accessible, in terms of the art, headlines and presentation, because that’s it, right? You want people to read the articles they didn’t think they wanted to read from the table of contents, but they’re drawn into it for some reason and realize how interesting it really is.

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

Adi Ignatius: That was a reinvention in 2010 and by any measurement that you could use, it worked. Our circulation has risen and is now at a record level, about 300,000; our newsstand sales, even in this climate, basically have risen every year from 2010 onward, we average about 40,000 on the newsstand at $17.95, so by any measure, that’ s been successful.

We have to do this again. We have to reinvent the business model again for all the reasons that our colleagues in the industry are doing it. We’re kind of in the process of a strategic rethink to redefine what it means to be a subscriber, a member who belongs to Harvard Business Review. And I believe we’ll have some pretty interesting things to talk about in a few months.

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

Adi Ignatius: (Laughs) Business thinkers often say that you need to focus on one audience primarily and that would be readers, focus on your readers and keep your eye on them. But our situation is a little more complicated because we also need contributors to feel like we’re the best place for them to publish their ideas. We’re this hybrid; we’re somewhere in between a normal magazine and an academic journal.

And maintaining that sweet spot requires us to play this game of wanting HBR to be more accessible, but it also needs to sustain its level of rigor so that we remain true to who we are, but we also remain the place for the kind of authors that we want, who come up with the great ideas and that we remain the place they want to publish them. And that sometimes keeps me up at night; whether I can keep that balance intact, while still driving the business forward. That’s what I do; I’m balancer-in-chief.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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‘Riding Out The Storm’ With Innovation, Creativity & A Firm Hope For The Future Of Regional Magazines – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Fred Parry, Publisher, Inside Columbia Magazine.

April 22, 2015

“People still want them (Magazines). If people didn’t want those magazines, basically our business model would fail. While it’s been reduced; I think there’s still a market for that. Print is still credible; people still want that tangible experience and they still want to have that quiet time with a magazine. And I also believe there are times when people want to be on a digital diet, they want to be away from all of those devices. They just want some quiet time.” Fred Parry

Cover-4ee185aaNever let it be said that Mr. Magazine™ misses an opportunity to pick the brain of a magazine publisher. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Fred Parry, publisher of Inside Columbia magazine, as he was visiting Oxford and the University of Mississippi on a private visit.

Upon receiving word that Fred was in town, I invited him to attend my early morning magazine service journalism class at Ole Miss and then afterward we went back to my office for an in depth discussion of the future of city and regional magazines and what innovations and mind sets he has put into place at Inside Columbia (Missouri). As a University of Missouri – Columbia graduate myself, my ears were attuned to the many wonderful and inspired thoughts he had on the industry, and the city and regional category in particular.

From his opinion that traditional advertising is no longer a sustainable model for magazine publishing to the fact that he believes custom content and sponsored advertising is the new path in the woods that magazine media should take; we had a lively and informative talk that raised important questions and also answered some that have been broached over the years.

I hope you enjoy this heart-to-heart with Fred Parry, Publisher, Inside Columbia magazine, as much as I did participating in it, but first the sound-bites.

Fred Parry On whether magazine publishing has recovered from the 2008 crisis: We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think we’ll ever see the revenue levels and the level of activity that we saw in 2008 before the Market crashed. I think for the first few years we all hoped things would get back to “normal” or what we were used to, but I believe we’re all slowly waking up to the fact that advertising is no longer a sustainable model for magazine publishing.

On how he sees the transition from print to digital and going from a monthly to an hourly publication: I think it’s pretty clear that people want an hourly publication. I think people want content updated as frequently as we’re willing to do it, so that’s a real transition for us and a paradigm shift certainly.

On whether he believes that people will pay for custom content or that the status quo of our Welfare Information Society will remain intact: We have done ourselves a great disservice by creating that Welfare Information Society and I think that it’s going to be almost impossible to teach people that they have to pay for content. Somebody will hopefully find a way to do it.

On whether he thinks we can sell a publishing future to consumers without a printed product: Absolutely, by selling sponsored content. I think that’s where the revenue model is.

On the fact that we live in a digital age, yet we’re continuing to produce magazines in the same way as we did in 2007: People still want them. If people didn’t want those magazines, basically our business model would fail. While it’s been reduced; I think there’s still a market for that. Print is still credible; people still want that tangible experience and they still want to have that quiet time with a magazine.

On how Inside Columbia magazine has changed over the years: One of the things that have changed for sure is that our magazines are much smaller than they were in 2008. And I think that we’re probably more in tune with our target reader and what his/her needs are.

On whether the future of city and regional magazines appears brighter now than for the rest of the industry: I think it’s brighter because we’re smarter than we were six years ago; it’s brighter because we’re much more efficient; we’re spending money much more cautiously and really, for most of us, there is a better return on our investment. We’re leaner and meaner, and I think we’re poised to sort of ride out the storm.

On the main stumbling block Inside Columbia and other city and regional magazines are facing today: It’s the traditional advertising model. Trying to go out and sell paid advertising and display advertising gets harder every single day. Six or seven years ago advertising revenue was 92% of our revenue. Today, our core magazine might be 50% of our revenue.

On what keeps him up at night: I think that it’s always a struggle to try and figure out what our advertisers are thinking. There’s always something shiny and new that comes along and steals the attention of the traditional marketers that have supported us over the years. So, I think the thing that keeps me awake is trying to figure out how to stay a step ahead; how to outsmart these “innovators” that come in with these latest and greatest ideas that nine times out of ten are not sustainable.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Fred Parry, Publisher, Inside Columbia magazine.

Parry and Husni Samir Husni: As the publisher of a city and regional magazine; where do you see the future of that genre’ heading? And have we recovered from the crisis of 2008? Are you still seeing black clouds or are there rays of sunshine peeping through?

Fred Parry: We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think we’ll ever see the revenue levels and the level of activity that we saw in 2008 before the Market crashed. I think for the first few years we all hoped things would get back to “normal” or what we were used to, but I believe we’re all slowly waking up to the fact that advertising is no longer a sustainable model for magazine publishing. And I think the sooner that we can break ourselves away from the addiction of advertising revenue, the sooner we’re going to make that transition into being really content companies versus magazine publishing companies.

As we look at ways to distribute the content that we produce every day, whether it’s through a daily e-newsletter or some type of Smart newspaper or Smart magazine that you described in one of your recent blogs, I really believe that is our future and as soon as we embrace that, we’ll stop wasting time and money trying to make the advertising model work.

Samir Husni: How do you view the transition from ink on paper to digital? And also going from a monthly publication or six times per year to say an hourly, if not a by the minute type publication?

Fred Parry: I think it’s pretty clear that people want an hourly publication. I think people want content updated as frequently as we’re willing to do it, so that’s a real transition for us and a paradigm shift certainly.

But I think there are still going to be people who want that tangible reading experience, whether it’s in the bathroom or on the beach, there will be a need for that magazine. It will just become a very small percentage of our annual revenue model.

And the custom content, the way that’s evolving; the lines between editorial and promotional content have become so blurred, and there doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to defend those lines any longer. People tend to find as much value in promotional content as they do in editorial content.

So, those of us over the age of 30 in the magazine publishing business are still scratching our heads. And the real innovators are the people who are figuring out that john Smith wants to read about wine, baseball and Manchester United Soccer, and until we are able to provide custom content for John Smith, we’re going to lag behind.

Samir Husni: Do you think if we’re able to do that, and I know that technology makes it easy for us to provide that custom content; do you think that people will be willing to pay money for that or do you think they’ll expect the free ride of digital to continue and the Welfare Information Society to remain status quo?

Fred Parry: We have done ourselves a great disservice by creating that Welfare Information Society and I think that it’s going to be almost impossible to teach people that they have to pay for content. Somebody will hopefully find a way to do it.

We’re spending a lot of time in the publishing business right now; I’ve been to three magazine conferences in the last month and the one common thread that is being woven through all of these conferences and what publishers are talking about today are these universal or integrated audience data bases, where every engagement a reader has with our magazines; we need to capture that engagement.

So, if John Smith is reading about wine in our magazine or online, we need to somehow note that engagement and to know that the next time we have some content about wine, we need to alert John Smith that there is an article coming out in next month’s magazine about wine and we think that he’d enjoy it. Or let readers know that we just posted this on our blog or on our website. Being able to capture intelligence about our readers’ preferences and being able to say we know that reader 6279 is interested in these 15 verticals, these 15 categories of interest.

There are a couple of companies that are helping publishers capture that information; it is high-minded; it is something that’s very difficult for those of us that grew up in the traditional world of publishing to get our heads around, but I think it’s very clear that’s our future.

Samir Husni: Do you think that we can monetize that future without the printed product?

Fred Parry: Absolutely, by selling sponsored content. I think that’s where the revenue model is. Once we have the audience established; once we have a greater degree of confidence about the significance and validity of our data bases; I think that we can go to marketers and say, look, I can put you right in front of and help you interact with this small cluster. And maybe that small cluster is just 150 readers or maybe it’s 15,000, but they are uniquely interested in what you’re selling. And I can make it very easy for you to interact with them.

Samir Husni: And what if that advertiser or marketer tells you that they have the same capability of reaching them directly, why would they need you?

Fred Parry: They can’t produce the same kind of content that we’ll produce. They won’t have the same creditability that we do as a content provider. I think that’s going to be our only unique vantage point that we have the creditability and a reputation for generating quality content that people are going to be interested in.

As long as we can preserve our brands and keep building our brands, I believe we’ll have that advantage over the marketer.

Samir Husni: I think you’ll agree with me when I say we live in a digital age. Why are we continuing to produce magazines today like we did in 2007?

Fred Parry: People still want them. If people didn’t want those magazines, basically our business model would fail. While it’s been reduced; I think there’s still a market for that. Print is still credible; people still want that tangible experience and they still want to have that quiet time with a magazine. And I also believe there are times when people want to be on a digital diet, they want to be away from all of those devices. They just want some quiet time.

Maybe I’m just fooling myself, but I’m hoping that there’s still some desire for that physical magazine.

Samir Husni: Have you changed at all? If you compare a copy of Inside Columbia from the early years to a copy from today is there a major difference? I’m one of those people who say there’s not a problem with ink on paper, the problem is with what is being put on the ink on paper. Do I still need a local guide to restaurants in town or a list of all the attorneys in town in print, or should my content change to reflect the new realities of the digital age?

Fred Parry: One of the things that have changed for sure is that our magazines are much smaller than they were in 2008. And I think that we’re probably more in tune with our target reader and what his/her needs are.

At Inside Columbia magazine we have identified a 43-year-old female, named Lisa, as our target audience. And we have painted a picture of Lisa; we have a fictitious character that’s on a poster in our office. Our editors ask what would Lisa think about this; our advertising sales reps ask don’t you want to get this message to Lisa, so that’s one thing that’s changed since 2008. We’re a lot more in tune with what our reader wants and what our reader needs. We know what Lisa’s insecurities are and we know what her frustrations are; we know what keeps Lisa awake at night. If our magazine can somehow satisfy that concern and her needs; we’re really filling a nice void.

Probably more than anything, our magazine is Lisa’s connection to her community and to the real world. Lisa is pretty inundated right now with trying to get the kids to soccer and to school and trying to maintain the house, but also finishing that degree that she’s working on and working part-time somewhere. Lisa’s plate is absolutely full, but if our magazine can serve as that connection between Lisa and the world that she wants to belong to, the world that she wants to be engaged with, that’s probably the strongest benefit that we offer.

Samir Husni: Do you think that the future of the Lisa’s of the world and of the regional and city magazines is a little brighter than the rest of the industry?

Fred Parry: I think it’s brighter because we’re smarter than we were six years ago; it’s brighter because we’re much more efficient; we’re spending money much more cautiously and really, for most of us, there is a better return on our investment. We’re leaner and meaner, and I think we’re poised to sort of ride out the storm. And as the industry evolves and continues to change and be affected by technology; I feel like we’re going to be in a much better position to either innovate or jump on board.

Samir Husni: If you had to name one stumbling block facing the future of Inside Columbia and the future of city and regional magazines, what would it be?

Fred Parry: It’s the traditional advertising model. Trying to go out and sell paid advertising and display advertising gets harder every single day. Six or seven years ago advertising revenue was 92% of our revenue. Today, our core magazine might be 50% of our revenue.

And so we’re replacing that advertising revenue with custom publishing, which has been a big growth sector for us. We’re replacing that magazine revenue with events, digital newsletters, e-blasts and different projects that really have nothing to do with the magazine, other than the fact that we’re borrowing or trading on the goodwill of our brand. And that brand opens the door for us. Inside Columbia is a very strong brand, just like 5280 is in Denver or Boston Magazine. It doesn’t really matter what we’re selling, because we have the creditability of our brand behind us and people trust our brand. I think that’s probably where we have an edge over a lot of other people who are trying to produce content.

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

Fred Parry: (Laughs) I think that it’s always a struggle to try and figure out what our advertisers are thinking. There’s always something shiny and new that comes along and steals the attention of the traditional marketers that have supported us over the years. So, I think the thing that keeps me awake is trying to figure out how to stay a step ahead; how to outsmart these “innovators” that come in with these latest and greatest ideas that nine times out of ten are not sustainable. But they come in and they temporarily steal our milk and bread and it’s a disruption, to say the least.

I think the thing that keeps me awake is figuring out how to outsmart those folks; how do I go in and make my relationship with that marketer, with the person who’s paying the bills, so strong, that they’ll stop looking at other places and be as faithful to me as I am to them.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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“My Smart Newspaper”… From Dubai With Love: Tomorrow’s Print Newspaper. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO, Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

April 21, 2015

“By creating My Smart Newspaper, with its 16 pages, the reader will be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes to get a summary of everything that’s in the market today through a small, compact newspaper, and at the same time has the feel and look that only print can deliver. You are getting all the information with no waste whatsoever. No waste in paper and no waste of the readers time… it is a win-win situation.” Faisal Salem Bin Haider

Imagine It's 2020 Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Imagine it’s 2020, that was the theme of the 10th WAN-IFRA, the international newspaper association, Middle East Conference in Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. I was a speaker at, and an attendee of, the conference. One of the presentations, My Smart Newspaper, caught my attention and made me think: why wait to 2020 when the future here in Dubai seems to have started yesterday, if not yesteryear.

My Smart Newspaper is a project of Dubai Media Inc.’s Masar Printing and Publishing, an arm of the Government of Dubai under the leadership and vision of Shaikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

My curiosity got the best of me and I was fascinated by the idea of My Smart Newspaper and at the same time had tons of questions. For the first time during a media conference I was seeing and hearing someone considering the promotion of the future of print in a digital age. After all, when I started the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi in 2009, the tag line for the center was, is, and will continue to be, “Amplifying the Future of Print in A Digital Age.”

Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO, Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO, Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

So, as soon the conference was over, I reached out to Masar Printing and Publishing and requested a visit and an interview with its CEO Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO of Printing and Distribution. My main conversation with him centered on the My Smart Newspaper project, but he was also gracious enough to fill me in on the history of Masar Printing and Publishing facilities that occupy a space of 50,000 square meters (almost 540,000 square feet), equivalent to 7 soccer fields…

After the tour of Masar’s very impressive facilities, I sat down with Mr. Faisal for this Mr. Magazine™Interview that I am sure you will find as informative, captivating, and delightful as I did.

But first the sound bites:

On the concept of My Smart Newspaper: I am sure that you know why we need to go to a smart platform today. We are bombarded with news, newspapers, magazines, digital platforms, etc.; in newspapers alone, each newspaper arrives with at least 80 pages daily. Add to that mobile news arriving every second of the day. We believe that the reader will go through only 10 or 20 pages max of useful information from any newspaper they receive, with the other pages of content going to waste. The readers’ time and interests are of an essence.

On how the transformation will help My Smart Newspaper: The idea starts with building the readers’ profiles and matching that profile with the wants and desires of the readers. We found out that there are four major areas folks are interested in: front page news, columnists, certain specific information and thumbnails of different newspapers.

On the goal of My Smart Newspaper: The goal of My Smart Newspaper is to match the reader’s profile with the content of the printed newspaper. My Smart Newspaper will also have your name and picture with all the pertinent information related to the reader’s profile.

On the fact that a printer came up with this editorial-type innovation: As you know, we are not only printers, but also publishers. We started with Al-Bayan newspaper where I started in 1990 working in the pre-press department. We are so tight with our publishers and we are always coming up with ideas to improve on the quality of the printed product.

On why they invested so much time and money on new printing machines: Today we are in a much better scenario than we were before. We started investing in 2007, before the crisis of 2008; we had already placed the order for the machines. At that time, yes, it was challenging. Many people in the market liked our business model, but as you know; we are in Dubai. In Dubai, we are always thinking ahead.

On whether it takes a lot of guts to swim against the current: Actually, on this subject, digital, most of us came from the IT side into this in the 1990s, so from the beginning we would like to go digital and we learned the offset on these traditional printing machines maybe a few years back. But we always believed that digital should succeed.

On when My Smart Newspaper will become a reality instead of a dream waiting in the wings: Soon, I think. It isn’t cheap. I recently briefed a publisher about the concept and he said, wow, that’s good. Key people in the government, this is what they want; all of them. The challenge will be with the publishers. Are they willing or not to team up to provide this service?

On anything else he’d like to add: The main thing about this technology is the possibilities. This is what has driven us. To make a change you have to really think out of the box. And this is something that we’re really working on and the technology helps us and the cost is becoming more reasonable.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) I’m always thinking about our business.

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider, CEO of Printing & Distribution Sector, Dubai Media Inc.

Samir Husni: Would you please tell me about the concept of “My Smart Newspaper.”

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: I am sure that you know why we need to go to a smart platform today. We are bombarded with news, newspapers, magazines, digital platforms, etc.; In newspapers alone, each newspaper arrives with at least 80 pages daily. Add to that mobile news arriving every second of the day. We believe that the reader will go through only 10 or 20 pages max of useful information from any newspaper they receive, with the other pages of content going to waste. The readers’ time and interests are of an essence.

So, for that reason, and as you know, today we arrived to a very high-end digital printing machines with acceptable ratings and good quality. We do not believe that the newspaper will die, but we believe we have to become smarter in creating our newspapers.

The idea of My Smart Newspaper started with the simple premise: why don’t we create a paper as the reader would create the paper and not as a publisher. The days when the reader depended on the publisher to tell them what content they need to read are limited, if not gone. Today the reader has many different sources of information. Newspapers, TV’s, agencies, blogs; there are just too many to count. So we said, why don’t we curate all this information on paper, compact it, and produce a 16- page-newspaper on average in which the readers can get the daily articles and content that they prefer.

Digital printing has come of age. Today in Switzerland they’re installing a digital machine that will produce maybe 25,000 daily copies of a newspaper. They moved from web offset to digital. The trend is to move from offset to digital. Digital will make My Smart Newspaper real.

Samir Husni: Can you please explain a little bit more on how this transformation is going to help My Smart Newspaper?

The front page of the prototype issue of My Smart Newspaper.

The front page of the prototype issue of My Smart Newspaper.

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Well, as print publishers and publishers of two major dailies, we asked ourselves why can’t we be different? What and how can we offer readers more in this digital age? What’s the readers’ preference? How can we put those preferences in a platform that the readers want.

For example, if a reader just wants to read the front page of a specific newspaper, the columns from another paper and the sports section of yet another paper, our idea is learn as much as possible about that reader, create a profile about that reader and create a physically printed newspaper. I know that some are offering such services on the web and on the tablet, but here we are more focused on the look and feel of the platform, and because we know the newspaper, and we know how to built it, the final product we will be a newspaper, however it will be my individualized newspaper. That look and feel can never be created on the internet.

So the idea starts with building the readers’ profiles and matching that profile with the wants and desires of the readers. We found out that there are four major areas folks are interested in: front page news, columnists, certain specific information and thumbnails of different newspapers.

Samir Husni: What is the goal of My Smart Newspaper?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: The goal of My Smart Newspaper is to match the reader’s profile with the content of the printed newspaper. My Smart Newspaper will also have your name and picture with all the pertinent information related to the reader’s profile.

By creating My Smart Newspaper, with its 16 pages, the reader will be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes to get a summary of everything that’s in the market today through a small, compact newspaper, and at the same time has the feel and look that only print can deliver. You are getting all the information with no waste whatsoever. No waste in paper and no waste of the readers time… it is a win win situation.

Samir Husni: What’s fascinating to me is you’re a printer; how did this whole idea of My Smart Newspaper come about? Rather than coming from a publisher, it’s coming from a printer. What’s in it for you?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: As you know, we are not only printers, but also publishers. We started with Al-Bayan newspaper where I started in 1990 working in the pre-press department. We are so tight with our publishers and we are always coming up with ideas to improve on the quality of the printed product. From utilizing our printing machines to their best capacity, to ensuring that we are meeting the needs of the publishers to create a competitive product without great cost or sacrificing the quality. So in short, we work very close with the publishers almost on a daily basis.

In the office of Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider with Hala Hatem, director, sales and marketing and Samer Sabri Abdel Qader, director, pre-press & digital

In the office of Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider with Hala Hatem, director, sales and marketing and Samer Sabri Abdel Qader, director, pre-press & digital

Samir Husni: I just took a tour of the printing plant and it looks as though you’ve invested a lot, in terms of new machines. Are you out of your minds? People tell us that print is on its way out; why are you investing so much in new printing machines, both commercial and newspapers?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Today we are in a much better scenario than we were before. We started investing in 2007, before the crisis of 2008; we had already placed the order for the machines. At that time, yes, it was challenging. Many people in the market liked our business model, but as you know; we are in Dubai. In Dubai, we are always thinking ahead.

So, from the beginning when we studied the market, we built our list on the budget, which started maybe with $150 million as the initial fund to serve in the international market at that time. The international market based on a newspaper, as you know, and also in the commercial world of magazines and such. So, from that perspective we went big. Why? Let’s go one step back.

At that time, we studied the market, we found that there were maybe 500 printers in U.A.E., in small warehouses, one or two presses here and there, and they called themselves printers. So, we asked ourselves whether we should compete (Laughs) with this red ocean or should we go to the blue ocean.

From that moment on, we said that we would not go with the small machines; we’ll go with the big machines. For that reason we went with the, as you can see in the newspaper press, 16 towers at the same time. On the commercial also, we went with the big web machine, which can print and bind 48 pages in one stroke.

When we ordered these big machines, many people asked us what we were doing, but they don’t know the business. We have a faith that those big machines are good business and good for the business. From there, if we didn’t have these machines, we would not have survived during that time.

Today when we have one of our customers spending his week working on what emotions they want to do, the art work, whatever, but when he’s ready to create and print his content, he wants it to be in the market in one hour…(Laughs)

This big commercial press gives them an advantage. They can get 50,000 copies in one hour in the market. So, this machine can produce a 48 page magazine in one stroke. That is the advantage and that is the reason we decided to go big.

Today, we are celebrating the success. Everybody now knows that was the right move from the beginning.

Interviewing Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider

Interviewing Mr. Faisal Salem Bin Haider

Samir Husni: When I started the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, the tagline was “Amplifying the Future of Print in a Digital Age.” And you are a prime example of that. You are actually working on amplifying the future of print using all the digital technology and the latest in the printing technologies that are out there. Does it take a lot of guts to swim against the current?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Actually, on this subject, digital, most of us came from the IT side into this in the 1990s, so from the beginning we would like to go digital and we learned the offset on these traditional printing machines maybe a few years back. But we always believed that digital should succeed.

Since 2008 in Drupa (Drupa Print Media Fair) we were seriously working on that. From that time when the digital machines’ makers were invading Drupa, people would come to us and say that they believed we had a big setup and we would like to put our machine on your premises and share the revenues.

In that time it was good news, something given as though a gift. What’s next? If the machine is here, that’s good, but can we sell that type of printing to our clients? At that time, we were doing the visibility studies about digital and digital printing at that time, the answer was no no, we cannot, sell that type of digital printing.

We continued studying this market until we reached 2014 and then we knew it was the time. The time had come when we could successfully implement this business.

Samir Husni: When do you think we’ll see My Smart Newspaper a reality, rather than a dream waiting in the wings?

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Soon, I think. It isn’t cheap. I recently briefed a publisher about the concept and he said, wow, that’s good. Key people in the government, this is what they want; all of them. The challenge will be with the publishers. Are they willing or not to team up to provide this service?

Today, most of the online content is lifted from its original providers and it seems nobody can do anything with the digital theft. We can’t be like digital. We have to ensure we have permissions to republish the articles, columns, pictures, etc. Some people say this is a crazy idea, but we believe that sometimes out of a crazy idea, a great one is coming.

Yes, today we are telling publishers that the machine is real; we are here to help; let’s sit together and see how we can build this together.

What I think is it will be something like the Newspaper Direct; if you want to read a daily newspaper from anywhere in the world, you can read it online or you can print it. This is the same concept that I’m thinking about today. Today we can build this in Dubai. We will build the portal. In this portal, any reader can build his preference. Then we will have another printer, another hub, in any city; in all of those cities we will have it. This is what we believe; this business model will start penetrating this market. The reader will have all his preferences on his card, think of it as an airline’s frequent flyer card with all your preferences stored in it, from the type of food you like to the seat preference. So, this is his newspaper. When he’s on the plane he can get his Smart newspaper.

Samir Husni: The more I think about it; people go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, they know she’s there, but then they get surprised by all the other beautiful treasures. So, you have your preferences with the Smart Newspaper and then you surprise them with other areas that fit that same preference.

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: I’ve always thought the sky is the limit. If you are traveling to a different city, maybe something may come with some dynamic information from that city.

Samir Husni: NewspaperDirect was amazing to me. When I was speaking in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I checked into the hotel, they gave me a list of all the newspapers so I could choose which newspaper I wanted at my hotel room door in the mornings. So, I picked one from Lebanon. But you are taking this concept one step further. I love the idea of the airline frequent flyer card and all the preferences. We know you like Real Madrid and politics from this region and…

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: Yes, they will have your account on the portal. The hotel chains can use this portal, so all you’ll have to do is give them your account number, and then they will use your account to produce your newspaper. All the information is there.

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

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: The main thing about this technology is the possibilities. This is what has driven us. To make a change you have to really think out of the box. And this is something that we’re really working on and the technology helps us and the cost is becoming more reasonable.

To make the dream come true, when we went through this project, we bought an excellent machine, a very fast machine, 300 meters per minute. Then on the finishing part, we were thinking should we go cheap or average. So, there were some options on the printing side. But we went with the high-end; it’s very expensive, the only fold-up that can do inline finishing, the gluing and stitching; everything. We decided to go with the speed of the machine if we want to present this idea of commercial on the hardware side.

We asked ourselves what is the core business of our initiative; it is the portal. The portal could be smart and dynamic. And we want the person who will use the portal to be able to understand the newspaper. We want to keep the feeling of the paper; I want the reader to say this is a paper, not online. So, for that reason we worked with a specialized company out of Lebanon, Layout International, they are international and dominate a big market share with most of the content management systems for newspapers. Today all our newspapers in Dubai are using their system. We told them this is what we want; we can easily get information from online, but we want to have a full page. This is why we need to work closer with the publisher. And today they’re working with us too and we all want to make this business successful.

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

Faisal Salem Bin Haider: (Laughs) I’m always thinking about our business.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines As Informers. The Social Role of the American Consumer Magazines. A Blast from Mr. Magazine’s™ Past: Dissertation Entries Part 8

April 17, 2015

Magazines as Informers
1983

Mr. Magazine™ in his official role as a professor and educator.

Mr. Magazine™ in his official role as a professor and educator.

In a country such as the United States, media critics claim that mass communication media should have a social responsibility toward the audience it is serving. In the case of magazines, for example, Roland Wolseley argues that they should have the obligation “to provide the people with a fair presentation of facts, with honestly held opinions, and with truthful advertising.” This obligation was obvious in the case of Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts where the court penalized the Saturday Evening Post for not taking more time in checking its story on coach Butts. The Magazine Advertising Bureau agreed that magazines have more obligations than other mass media because they “do not have the spot news function of either the newspaper or the radio. With the advent of television and its role in entertaining, magazines began to focus more on informing people about different matters that help them with their daily living. This new focus covered a broad base of information. Topics such as how to prepare food better, or to cope with rigors of living, or even how to survive a nuclear war, are but a few examples of this new focus.

The role of magazines as informers is chiefly detected through the news they print, the meanings they give to events, and the descriptions used to identify those events. Benjamin M. Compaine divided this role of magazines into two parts: passive and active. The passive information, he said, is information intended for the reader’s entertainment or for his general knowledge. On the other hand, active information is intended for specific use. Compaine gave an example of each type. Passive information might be an article on the life of Billie Jean King, while active information might be an article on how to cure tennis elbow. Compaine also noted that the special interest consumer magazines deal with active information and that general interest consumer magazines deal with passive information.

Whether active or passive, the role of magazines as informers witnessed no basic change through the years. “There are just as many people who turn to magazines primarily for information,” the study found. “People regard magazines as an excellent way of keeping abreast of trends, keeping informed about new products, and securing information about individual and special interests and activities such as hobbies, decorating, family care, and fashion.”

John Tebbel went a step further in discussing the role of the magazine as informers. He said, “Among the consumer magazines, the informational function is preeminent, no matter what audience is being reached…We live in an Age of Information, and certainly magazines are the prime carriers of it.” Magazines carry information that is far different from that found in other media. This information, especially in the newsweeklies, has helped, according to John Hohenberg, to “fill an indefensible gap in the reporting of national and international affairs by less qualified daily newspapers of the nation and the bulletin-type coverage of radio and television.” This gap would only be filled by magazines in their roles as informers by offering the readers something quite different from that of newspaper or television information.

To put it in the words of Louis M. Lyons, then curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, this information should “give the readers something to chew on, to mull over, something to stir his imagination, to reflect about, not only to broaden his awareness of current issues but to lead him to consider matters that are not now and may never be current issues, but should engage the attention of the questing mind.”

The above information was written in 1983 and is taken from a portion of my dissertation when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I obtained my doctorate in journalism. And while the majority of the material still holds true, things have changed drastically in some areas.

Magazines as Informers
2015

passive reeseactive cover

While many facets of magazine media have changed drastically over the years, this is one area that has not. In fact, I still stand behind every word that I wrote in 1983 concerning magazines as informers.

The voices remain status quo as well. In 2015, the passive information exists and so does the active. Examples today of Compaine’s observation could be: passive – Reese Witherspoon on the January 2015 cover of Glamour, offering a look inside her personal life with the statement “I don’t do regret,” and active – February’s Muscle & Fitness, which compels you to ‘Pump up Your Gains with a Proven Workout.’

Magazines inform on many levels: political, epicurean, fashion and beauty, science, celebrity, health, fitness, and the list goes on and on. The words of Louis M. Lyons have never been truer than they are today, the information one finds within the covers of a magazine should “give the readers something to chew on, to mull over, something to stir his imagination, to reflect about, not only to broaden his awareness of current issues but to lead him to consider matters that are not now and may never be current issues, but should engage the attention of the questing mind.” And without a doubt, they do.

Next week Mr. Magazine™ begins the journey of The Commercial Role of magazines then in 1983, and now in 2015.

Until next week…stay ‘informed,’ pick up a magazine.

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