Archive for May, 2015

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For City & Regional Magazines “Open Sky” Is Filled With Limitless Possibilities – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Todd Paul, President, Open Sky Media, Inc.

May 6, 2015

“Advertisers and consumers want to pick something up; they want to have this luxury experience of flipping through pages and all of those types of things, so I don’t see digital-only as being the future for how we move forward or the space as a whole moves forward, but I think there will be some subsets in there that will knock it out of the park.” Todd Paul

City and Regional magazines are niche marketing at its best, focusing in on the topical area and presenting its audiences with information they both want and need. They are the answers you receive when you Google the question: where do I find out the intricacies of a certain city or region.

Open Sky Media has five titles that are producing quality content to a decisive audience and doing it successfully. From Marin to Slice, Austin Monthly, and San Antonio Magazine to Gulfshore Living; the magazines are enjoying a robust present and have a healthy diagnosis for the future.

Todd Paul is president of Open Sky Media and reached out to me on a recent trip he made to Oxford, Miss. We met in my office at the Magazine Innovation Center, enjoyed a cup of coffee together and talked about the city and regional space and how the niche was doing as a whole, and more specifically how the five titles under his umbrella were weathering the storms of the digital age.

His answers were insightful and offered a definitive perspective from the financial aspect of his business for the city and regional category. The trajectory he presented for the future of his titles was a positive-print tomorrow, with an added dash of digital to achieve that ever-so important balance between the two.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Todd Paul, a young man who’s at the helm of some very profitable city and regional titles and knows how to keep them that way. In Mr. Magazine’s™ opinion; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But first the sound-bites:

Todd Paul1 On the status of his titles: Our titles are spread out from California to Florida, with a big focus in Texas and Oklahoma City and they’re growing pretty significantly on a revenue and profitability basis.

On whether his magazines are the exception to the rule or he’s seeing this positivity across the city/regional board:
I think on the whole that people are really seeing this work. On the whole, all of these boats are rising; the people are focusing on the core things that differentiate the city and regional magazines in their space and in their community. And the people who are focusing on that are winning; they’re growing their business and revenue and growing the quality of their products.

On what he’s doing differently today than in 2007 to produce his magazines: Over the last couple of years, we’ve definitely had to think of those as almost little sub-businesses; we’ve had to add some editorial staff and those kinds of things, so there are some functional things that we’ve done differently.

On whether he believes digital-only is the way to go for city and regional titles: On the broad scope of things, no. I don’t think that would work for the city and regional magazine space as a whole.

On why he believes the city and regional audience still wants print:
I think people view digital as utility and print as luxury. The audience and advertisers don’t seem to be moving away from that print experience.

On why he thinks investing in print in 2015 is a wise thing to do:
From a sheer economics and financial perspective, it’s a really good investment. People would be shocked at some of the profitability that we’re able to achieve in our divisions. From an investment perspective, it works from that standpoint.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face: When we entered this space, we thought that maybe part of the approach was to take the newspaper strategy of consolidating a lot of services like production, accounting and things like that and then have five or six magazines with most of their business centralized and have the editorial and sales out in the local markets. We played around with that idea because the centralization of services was one of the big things that newspapers were doing. We realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work.

On why he believes the media keeps preaching about its own demise:
I think that these businesses are very structural in nature, economically and financially-speaking, because of the nature of marketing dollars and how they survive recession. When you take this narrative of there’s this big area of media that’s struggling to get moving and make the digital transition, coupled with the giant recession that we had; it naturally takes ad dollars out of the market . It really just created an easy story to tell, but I think it glossed over the broader picture.

On what keeps him up at night:
I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m spending a lot of mental energy on how to balance this digital transition; in our space no one has figured it out yet. And how to give the consumers and the advertisers what they want and be true to our core brand and what we’ve built in all of these different divisions. I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.

Todd Paul and Samir Husni And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Todd Paul, President, Open Sky Media…

Samir Husni: Todd, welcome to Oxford.

Todd Paul: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about the status of your titles and then, in general, where do you see the city and regional magazines heading?

Todd Paul: Our titles are spread out from California to Florida, with a big focus in Texas and Oklahoma City and they’re growing pretty significantly on a revenue and profitability basis.

And one of the things that we do is we really push quality of the product first. We see the advertising base, and our respective geographies are really starting to grab onto that; and we see it in a couple of different ways. We’ve just been through a big recruiting cycle this spring, and what we noticed was our quality of recruiting candidates was so much better than we’d seen previously, because people would say, Austin Monthly, I really like what they’re doing and I want to work there. So, we’re starting to see that come back. And we’re seeing that same behavior from the advertisers too.

So, it’s really been interesting to watch some of these, I guess you’d call them archaic things today (Laughs) happen, but they’re coming back around. People are saying, wow, that’s a good product or it’s a good magazine. From a business perspective, we’re seeing that those things are really starting to pay off and work and do well. Our businesses as a whole are doing really, really well.

Austin-Monthly-1 Samir Husni: Are you the exception to the rule in the city and regional marketplace or is this something you’re seeing across the board?

Todd Paul: The city and regional space is really interesting because it’s not competitive and everybody is pretty open to talking about their businesses, so it’s one of the luxuries. When I’m talking to various other people of our size and other people in the community of the city and regional space, they’re always seeing those kinds of things happening.

A mutual friend of ours, Todd Matherne in New Orleans; he launched a business title last year that is just knocking it out of the park. Then I talked to Dan Denton in Florida and his titles are doing great.

I think on the whole that people are really seeing this work. On the whole, all of these boats are rising; the people are focusing on the core things that differentiate the city and regional magazines in their space and in their community. And the people who are focusing on that are winning; they’re growing their business and revenue and growing the quality of their products.

From the people who I’ve talked to, it seems to be making more movement in that direction.

Samir Husni: I hear people ask from time to time; who needs a city magazine nowadays; I can go to Google and get everything I want and need to know. What differentiates today’s city and regional magazines, especially yours, from how you were producing them, let’s say, back in 2007 prior to the digital age?

Todd Paul: Over the last couple of years, we’ve definitely had to think of those as almost little sub-businesses; we’ve had to add some editorial staff and those kinds of things, so there are some functional things that we’ve done differently.

And I think there’s this big rub of do you recreate the magazine on a digital platform or do you use the brand of the magazine to create a different product? We kind of go back and forth. One of the interesting things about how we run the businesses is we realize what makes these businesses successful is that they’re local. So we keep the decision-making largely in the local hands of the publisher and then I serve as consultant accountability metric to those publishers.

One of the interesting things about that is our publishers use different strategies around that vein, so we have people doing different things in that market.

From an advertising perspective, when we get people wanting to advertise with us, it’s primarily driven by print, but then they want to talk about what we have in digital; what are we doing with events; they want to have those conversations, of course, still around the print, but if you have print and don’t have digital; you’re at a disadvantage. We see it as definitely an auxiliary request and something that people are wanting, but we’re still primarily focused on print.

Samir Husni: If we reverse that formula; I’ve noticed recently that some magazines have decided to kill their print edition and go digital-only. Do you think that’s the way to go?

Todd Paul: On the broad scope of things, no. I don’t think that would work for the city and regional magazine space as a whole. I think there are some pockets, as we were discussing earlier; some like 7×7 Magazine and what they’re doing out there, because they’re geographically located in San Francisco, kind of the epicenter of a lot of this kind of thing; I think they’re doing some really interesting stuff and seeing a lot of success at it.

In Austin we see some of those kinds of trends too, just because of the geographical nature. Is that going to work in Naples, Florida? No, I don’t think so. At Gulfshore Life that’s never going to be the case. From a broad perspective, I don’t think that’s a strategy that we would go forward with at all.

Custom publishing and all of those inserts around magazines; people crave that stuff. And I think they still see that in the industry. Advertisers and consumers want to pick something up; they want to have this luxury experience of flipping through pages and all of those types of things, so I don’t see digital-only as being the future for how we move forward or the space as a whole moves forward, but I think there will be some subsets in there that will knock it out of the park.

So, some will spend the dollars and put the energy into creating a model that works in that type space and some people will be successful at that.

Todd Paul Samir Husni: You mentioned earlier that even though the audience expects the digital and mobile; they still want the print. Why do you think that’s the case?

Todd Paul: I think people view digital as utility and print as luxury. I don’t know if that works out perfectly on the print side of that statement, but when we look at our digital use on a monthly basis for Austin, for example, it’s super-high mobile, because you know what, people come to Austin and they get on their phone to learn about the city, where should they go eat barbecue and they click it and Austin Monthly comes up as being this brand authority in this space, which I think is really part of the core values of a city and regional magazine; we’re the authority on lifestyle, culture and the longer formed editorial voice in the community.

The consumer wants that experience; they want to know if they should go to Franklin Barbecue; they want to read about that in two seconds. The flipside of that is the people in the local community subscribe to the magazine every month or pick it up on the newsstand, they want to have a different experience; they want to sit down and read more, just consume the whole culture of that environment as opposed to being focused on just one specific thing. I think that’s how we see the audiences differently. And there is very little overlap in that in most of our markets. The audience and advertisers don’t seem to be moving away from that print experience.

Samir Husni: You seem like a person who’s putting his money where his mouth is. You’re expanding, buying and growing in your space. Put on your futuristic hat for a minute and tell me what does tomorrow hold for your titles? Are you out of your mind investing in print today, in 2015? Or do you believe it’s a wise investment?

gulfshore_life.1220 Todd Paul: From a sheer economics and financial perspective, it’s a really good investment. People would be shocked at some of the profitability that we’re able to achieve in our divisions. From an investment perspective, it works from that standpoint.

And we are growing. We have a pretty focused niche on where we’re looking to buy magazines, but I’m still trying to buy. I’m actively talking to three people right now, trying to partner with them, buy their magazines. So, we’re in that mode.

Five years from now, I believe our business will be twice the size it is now. People may think we’re crazy for investing in this space, but it has a lot of characteristics that just aren’t going away. People in the community still want to have the experience they get through a city and regional magazine.

For example, I live primarily in Evanston, Illinois and I go to the mailbox on Saturday and there’s a new Evanston magazine sitting there and it just launched. And it’s a good quality product. People are still entering the space and it has a lot of opportunity in it. Advertisers still need to reach the audience that we provide and I think the audience still demands a quality editorial product with thoughtful and well-placed advertisers. They want that experience because they want to learn about the advertising base as much as they want to learn about the content base.

One of the things the digital world has programmed and we learned this through all the studies out there that are saying, you’re automatically blocking banners and certain things on a website that one side of your brain has already learned to overlook. So, that kind of advertising to me is just throw-things-against-the-wall and hope that there’s some fraction of people who see it and want to click on it.

Our audience is really picking up the experience and is interested in what’s new in the marketplace as far as commerce as much as they are reading about whatever editorial topic is going on. So, there’s a really interesting meshing of those two worlds that happens in our type of product that consumers are interested in.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

Todd Paul: When we entered this space, we thought that maybe part of the approach was to take the newspaper strategy of consolidating a lot of services like production, accounting and things like that and then have five or six magazines with most of their business centralized and have the editorial and sales out in the local markets. We played around with that idea because the centralization of services was one of the big things that newspapers were doing.

San Antonio mag We realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work. You start to lose the product and the local feel. It was a learning curve. We thought it would work here and here, but we realized that it didn’t. It wasn’t a catastrophe, by any stretch of the imagination, it was just one of the things we tried and we stumbled a lot around it, culturally, within the business and community-wise, when it came to having those connection points.

That was one of those about-faces in the business where the strategy and the reality started to differ pretty quickly. We went down that path briefly and then we quickly about-faced the other way because if you’re an advertiser and you’re working with the ad designer in one of our businesses, you don’t want to talk to that person in Marin if you’re in Austin, Texas. You want to talk to somebody in Austin, Texas. If you say you’re local, that’s got to penetrate all the way down to all of your consumer experiences, whether that’s your advertiser, subscriber or whoever, because that’s really where the value of this niche is at this point in the game. That was one of the interesting learning curves for us.

Samir Husni: You told me how good your titles did last year and that you’re on track to do great this year; Norm Pearlstine at Time Inc. told me that all their magazines were profitable last year. Everyone that I’m interviewing is telling me how good things are going for them. Why then do the media keep preaching about our demise?

Todd Paul: I think there are certain areas of media and print products that are definitely in that vein and a lot of that led the charge through the 1990s and the early 2000s into today. Like all people, we enjoy stereotyping; creating east mental constructs in order for us to understand parts of the world and I think that’s what we do in an information-rich society. I think that people look at that experience and those areas of media and assume that it’s happening across print as a whole.

slice And then I also think that these businesses are very structural in nature, economically and financially-speaking, because of the nature of marketing dollars and how they survive recession. When you take this narrative of there’s this big area of media that’s struggling to get moving and make the digital transition, coupled with the giant recession that we had; it naturally takes ad dollars out of the market . It really just created an easy story to tell, but I think it glossed over the broader picture.

MarinAPRIL2014cover_web-4b86b70f I communicate a lot with people in my space, but I also talk to people who are doing trade publications and other types of media, and niche media and media with a very specific audience and that have a very good way of communicating with that audience, is knocking it out of the park. They’re doing what they’ve always done and they’re kind of head-down, not talking about it as much as say The New York Times is talking about it. (Laughs) When you are the platform and you talk about it, it’s a little different than all these little niche spaces that are pretty fragmented around the U.S. If they’re doing well, the cumulative voice of them doesn’t matter, so it’s a combination of those three things. There are definitely some people who are struggling in the space and some of the niches, but there are a lot of other ones that are doing really well.

Samir Husni: How many titles do you have in total?

Todd Paul: We own Marin magazine, Slice magazine, which is in Oklahoma City, Austin Monthly, San Antonio magazine and Gulfshore Life in Naples. Within those five areas there are quarterlies and annuals; we do Austin Home, Design Oklahoma, some of those are bi-annuals or quarterlies. On an annual basis, we’re producing around 120 products.

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

Todd Paul: These conversations are what I’m having with friends or what we’re having within our business units. Nobody has the answers, for sure, and we definitely know that we’re in a great period of change, but it’s fun conversations to be had when your businesses are growing and getting product and design awards and growing financially; when all of those things are clicking along, these are fun conversations to have, because you can put the energy in, not putting out fires, but really creating the next version of whatever it is your doing in the space.

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

Todd Paul and Samir Husni Todd Paul: I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m spending a lot of mental energy on how to balance this digital transition; in our space no one has figured it out yet. And how to give the consumers and the advertisers what they want and be true to our core brand and what we’ve built in all of these different divisions. I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.

I think that there’s a big prize for whoever figures out the right balance in that. What keeps me up at night is making sure that balance is right. You can go too far one way and not far enough another, so I’m trying to bite that off in increments. I don’t ever, in the foreseeable future, the next five years, it will never be even 50% of our business from a revenue-based perspective, but if I think about our businesses as curators of eyeballs and I want to make sure that I’m thinking about those eyeballs proportionately and getting that balance right. Getting the balance is really the core of what makes me anxious. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Martha Stewart Living At 25: Leveraging The Personality, The Magazine, And The Cross Platform Selling. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Daren Mazzucca, Publisher, Martha Stewart Living.

May 4, 2015

“I believe that tablet access for all brands has kind of flattened out a bit; if you look at two or three years ago when we all believed that tablets were going to soar and some believed they would replace print, but that hasn’t been the case. The paper format is still the primary vehicle that women want to engage with. They curl up with it, take it with them, and tablets have pretty much plateaued in the marketplace.” Daren Mazzucca

MSL cover Martha Stewart Living has always lived up to the dynamic personality of its namesake, staying true to its mission and focus: the creativity of the domestic arts. The magazine will celebrate its 25th birthday in 2016 under the masterful guidance of Meredith Corporation.

Meredith acquired the rights to Martha Stewart Living and http://www.marthastewart.com in October 2014 following a 10-year licensing agreement under which Meredith is responsible for sales and marketing, circulation, production, and other non-editorial functions of Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings magazines.

Daren Mazzucca, fresh from Better Homes and Gardens, where he also served as publisher, joined Meredith five years ago and has held senior sales leadership positions within the company. During his career, Daren has also worked at Good Housekeeping, Parade, Woman’s Day, Midwest Living and Country Living magazines.

I spoke with Daren recently and we talked about his first four weeks at the helm of Martha Stewart Living and the direction he saw the popular brand heading. If enthusiasm and excitement can catapult the compellation of properties that are held beneath the Martha Stewart umbrella successfully forward toward its 25th birthday, the brand should already be celebrating.

With collaboration and the resurrection of some favorite titles, Daren, along with the inimitable Martha Stewart and her editorial team, have some big plans for Martha Stewart Living. The future looks bright indeed for the brand and sunshades are definitely in order. Print has a definite champion in Daren Mazzucca and will surely thrive in the positivity of his attitude.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daren Mazzucca, a man who thinks the tried and true value of the printed page may not be ready for the retirement pasture just yet.

But first the sound-bites:

On his most pleasant surprise during his first four weeks at Martha Stewart Living: I would have to say one of the biggest surprises has been how well-loved this brand is in the marketplace.

On his biggest stumbling block since coming onboard and how he plans to overcome it:
Right now a stumbling block or simply a challenge is getting to meet and know all of the MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) editors and doing so as quickly as possible and understanding how we can collaborate. And at the same time make sales calls and set a strategic plan in motion; so it’s that coordination of schedules.

On where he sees the future of celebrity-titled magazines heading:
I think it’s really all about the brand, and the personality which is Martha, translates into the brand-living. She sets the tone, but clearly Eric Pike, our editor-in-chief and his creative team, really fulfill that mission. The brand is really the front door to the world of Martha Stewart Living.

daren_mazzucca On how his relationship is with the brand’s namesake, Martha Stewart: It has been spectacular at this point. We’ve probably been together about six or seven times at different social settings. And they opened up their offices and home for a nice toast-and-get-together with the senior management team here and with Meredith and her editorial visionary team. It’s been a great collaboration.

On why Meredith removed all the bells and whistles from the digital entity and made it a straight replica of the magazine: I think it makes the most sense. I believe that tablet access for all brands has kind of flattened out a bit; if you look at two or three years ago when we all believed that tablets were going to soar and some believed they would replace print, but that hasn’t been the case. The paper format is still the primary vehicle that women want to engage with. They curl up with it, take it with them, and tablets have pretty much plateaued in the marketplace.

On doing anything differently to sell digital versus selling print:
Clients really want Omni-channel, cross platform opportunities. I really believe today that we lead with both together. So, they’re absolutely critical in the fact that Martha Stewart.com is a robust site that complements Martha Stewart Living, the print product. It really just gives us tremendous opportunity to be integrated.

On whether a brand like Martha Stewart Living could exist without a print component:
I don’t think so. (Laughs) I know that I answered that pretty quickly, but I really don’t believe so because when we talk to readers and marketers who buy it, they adore the printed product.

On why he thinks some media are still reporting on their own demise:
I don’t want to speak for them, but I think the issue there that you have to look at is their context when they use the word print. They may be talking about newspapers or weekly titles; it’s really more about what’s the context there.

On why he thinks we’re not doing more to promote print in this digital age:
I believe we are. In fact, at Martha Stewart, we’re launching four special interest line extensions that are starting soon. One is coming out in July, under the Everyday Food title, so we’re resurrecting the name and launching it as a stand-alone newsstand property. We are continuing to push out print products as extensions and bring them back.

On whether leaving Better Homes and Gardens, the largest consumer magazine in the country, took a huge weight off his shoulders: Perhaps. (Laughs) It’s wonderful to be at the crown jewel of the Meredith Corporation, which is Better Homes and Gardens; it’s an amazing brand that gets invited to be a part of every dialogue and discussion. What I do enjoy with this Martha Stewart Living opportunity is the fact that we can leverage the personality as well as the cross platform selling.

On whose idea it was to marry Meredith and the Martha Stewart brand:
That’s a good question. I’m not sure exactly who started the conversation, but I think both sides saw the benefits. Steve (Lacy) has said this; it’s very difficult in today’s marketplace to be a stand-alone brand. It’s very challenging, regardless of who you are. And when you can find opportunities to create new models that benefit both partners, that’s the kind of thing we’re pursuing and other media companies are pursuing too. I believe one has to think creatively that way.

On what he hopes to accomplish in a year:
We’re looking to create content opportunities that are rooted in creative insight for the reader first and then marry them up with an advertiser’s opportunity. I truthfully hope to fully benefit by having Meredith and collaborating with corporate sales, so we can put together great partnerships and deals.

On what makes him click and tick and keeps him motivated: Well, I have a family of five children; I’m highly motivated. (Laughs) What keeps me going is keeping up with technology, but also not losing a firm focus on family and togetherness and being with clients.

On whether he’s bothered by programmatic advertising or native advertising: They’re here to stay for the moment and it doesn’t bother me. Again, it’s learning the nuances of them and how they work in a media schedule. However, I think what’s tried and true has always worked too. We need to stay focused on that as well.

On why he believes it took the magazine industry so long to realize that print and digital have to coexist:
It’s been a rapid evolution. A lot has happened in a very short amount of time. And I think both sides had to adapt to that. Within our company it’s a very good synergy between the two. There are just a lot more tools in the toolbox.

On what keeps him up at night:
(Laughs) I don’t sleep much anyway, it’s a fast-paced world. What keeps me up is moving this brand, doing an exceptional job for Meredith and for Martha and the MSLO team.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Daren Mazzucca, Publisher, Martha Stewart Living.

MSL cover2 Samir Husni: Daren, you’ve been four weeks on the job; what has been your most pleasant surprise so far?

Daren Mazzucca: I would have to say one of the biggest surprises has been how well-loved this brand is in the marketplace. I’ve been to several offices and I was at the New York Auto Show the day after I was announced and both clients and competitors were all acknowledging how much they loved the brand and that they were excited that it was part of Meredith and that I was going to be leading the charge.

I know that sounds a little self-serving, but the overall excitement in the industry for Martha and what she stands for really surprised me a bit. And I’ve been very pleased with that so far.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest stumbling block for you so far and how did you overcome it or how do you plan to overcome it?

Daren Mazzucca: Right now a stumbling block or simply a challenge is getting to meet and know all of the MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) editors and doing so as quickly as possible and understanding how we can collaborate. And at the same time make sales calls and set a strategic plan in motion; so it’s that coordination of schedules. We live in a world that’s fast-paced and everyone has a lot on their plates. The challenge has been making sure we’re all communicating as best as we possibly can.

I left a message just this morning for the CEO of MSLO, Dan Dienst, and I said that this week was a profound turning point; we’ve been having some really great engagement with Martha and her team overall and I feel like at week four, wow, we’ve made some great strides. I would say that that would be the challenges and the opportunities.

Samir Husni: Meredith now has Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray; where do you think the future of celebrity-titled magazines are heading? Do you think that it’s a trend that’s going to pick up and continue?

Daren Mazzucca: I think it’s really all about the brand, and the personality which is Martha, translates into the brand-living. She sets the tone, but clearly Eric Pike, our editor-in-chief and his creative team, really fulfill that mission. The brand is really the front door to the world of Martha Stewart Living. From her calendar that she publishes each and every month to her video plays on YouTube, as well as the buzz that she’s creating in the industry from a PR perspective in her social media settings.

It’s interesting to see. When you read about what’s happening with Dr. Oz and other personalities; at Meredith, we only put weight and stock into the brands, whether it’s Better Homes and Gardens brand, Rachael Ray brand or Martha Stewart Living.

Samir Husni: Martha is known in the industry as a hands-on magazine creator among other things. Judging from just these first four weeks that you’ve been there, can you expand on that? How is your relationship with the brand’s namesake?

Daren Mazzucca: It has been spectacular at this point. We’ve probably been together about six or seven times at different social settings. And they opened up their offices and home for a nice toast-and-get-together with the senior management team here and with Meredith and her editorial visionary team. It’s been a great collaboration.

I was recently at their Center for Living Gala which took place last week. She’s partnering with Mount Sinai, so I was able to participate in that. This week, Martha was hosting and emceeing the Matrix Awards, and she was beautiful and overwhelmingly excited to be there and looking to collaborate with us from a client’s perspective. She’s looking to help; she really has her finger on the pulse, and she’s been a great partner. She gave me a wonderful tour of her studios and test kitchens and talking to the editorial team, they tell me her input is greatly valued and she usually amplifies and makes things even better. And we’re excited about that. Does that make sense?

Samir Husni: Yes, it does. And you’re still in the honeymoon period. (Laughs)

Daren Mazzucca: (Laughs too) No doubt, but truthfully I’ve spent more time with her and her team than I’ve ever spent with someone else at any other brand during the first four weeks. We’ve been spending a lot of time together.

Next year is our 25th anniversary for the brand, the magazine, and so we’ve been brainstorming and talking about opportunities and initiatives rooted in reader benefit or user benefit and thinking about how now is the time to put those ideas in motion for greater sales success in 2016.

Samir Husni: One of the first things that Meredith did when they entered into that partnership was the announcement that they were removing all the bells and whistles from the digital edition and as of May it would be a replica of the magazine. What’s the philosophy behind that?

Daren Mazzucca: The straight-from-print edition, from a tablet perspective?

Samir Husni: Yes.

Daren Mazzucca: I think it makes the most sense. I believe that tablet access for all brands has kind of flattened out a bit; if you look at two or three years ago when we all believed that tablets were going to soar and some believed they would replace print, but that hasn’t been the case. The paper format is still the primary vehicle that women want to engage with. They curl up with it, take it with them, and tablets have pretty much plateaued in the marketplace.

Clearly, our newsletters continue to do exceptionally well; readers want to know the inside track and what’s happening with Martha and the brand, so they love our newsletters; they love search and our recipes, so it’s really aided the brand overall.

A part of the discussion around the tablet issue is also that by making this conversion, it has enabled us to go to other platforms. That actually enabled us, over the long-term, to potentially grow that reach, because before then we really weren’t able to do that. If you think about things like Next Issue media and other platforms, this gives us a greater opportunity to do that with the tablet version.

Samir Husni: According to comScore; you have almost the same monthly unique visitors as your readership, ten million readers for every issue, compared to about eight million monthly uniques; how do you think that relationship between the unique visitors and the readership is going to help you in your job as a publisher of a brand? Are you doing anything differently to sell digital versus selling print?

Daren Mazzucca: Clients really want Omni-channel, cross platform opportunities. I really believe today that we lead with both together. So, they’re absolutely critical in the fact that Martha Stewart.com is a robust site that complements Martha Stewart Living, the print product. It really just gives us tremendous opportunity to be integrated.

I’m working very closely with our corporate digital leadership here at Meredith Corporation to make sure that we leverage all of the view ability across both our web traffic as well as others, which is what marketers are looking for when it relates to scale. If they just want to tap into Martha Stewart Living we can do that, but the great benefit of being a part of the Meredith National Media Group is that we can scale things up.

Did you know that across the Meredith digital network we reach at least 70 million uniques; that’s the latest number that I’ve seen.

Samir Husni: 70 million across the entire company’s digital network?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, across the entire Meredith digital network. That’s all of our different brands and properties.

Samir Husni: As we talk today, what’s the advertising revenue in terms of percentages between digital and print, mainly for the Martha Stewart Living brand? Are you still 90% print or is that number moving a little bit?

Daren Mazzucca: I don’t have that exact number today, but again, it’s the leverage of it across the network. One of the things the digital leadership is trying to do is reach the goal of 100 million uniques.

Samir Husni: So you’ll have 100 million in readership, because don’t you reach 100 million American women?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, 100 million women, but if you’re talking about them in a digital platform only, now we’re at 70 million uniques, the goal we’re aiming for is to get to 100 million uniques.

Samir Husni: In one way or the other, would it be accurate to say then that the Meredith brand is in almost 1 out of every 2 households?

Daren Mazzucca: Yes, absolutely. It’s tremendous.

Samir Husni: So, how are you using that to sell more of the brand?

Daren Mazzucca: From Martha Stewart digital alone, we reach 32 million monthly uniques, so it’s nice to have that built-up traffic to be able to offer to an appliance manufacturer or to an automotive manufacturer. So, again, we’re using that scale and it’s great to have it, as opposed to having a million unique visitors. The fact that this brand has 32 million monthly digital uniques and then has scalable opportunities that Meredith can run with is phenomenal. If someone wants digital-only, we’re leading with that and then building in a print concept. And conversely, with every print proposal we’re taking out to marketers, we are weaving in a digital component as well.

Samir Husni: One of the majorly persistent questions that I hear from industry people is can a brand today, like a Martha Stewart or a Better Homes and Gardens exist without its print component?

Daren Mazzucca: I don’t think so. (Laughs) I know that I answered that pretty quickly, but I really don’t believe so because when we talk to readers and marketers who buy it, they adore the printed product. Just yesterday I was at an appliance company’s offices and when we walked in, from the receptionist to the assistants and laborers in the building, they glow; they light up when we hand the printed product to them. So, I really don’t believe so. Ask me 15 years from now, maybe that will change, but today the print is very much on the leading edge of the brand. It’s the front door, if you will.

Samir Husni: And I’ve seen that. In April we saw almost every major magazine company launch new titles. Meredith with Parents Latina, National Geographic with History, Bauer with Simple Grace; yet, why do you think that every time I pick up a newspaper, an Ad Age or an Adweek, they’re telling me that print is dead or dying or in decline?

Daren Mazzucca: I don’t want to speak for them, but I think the issue there that you have to look at is their context when they use the word print. They may be talking about newspapers or weekly titles; it’s really more about what’s the context there.

Samir Husni: Why do you think we’re not doing any more to promote the future of print in this digital age?

Daren Mazzucca: I believe we are. In fact, at Martha Stewart, we’re launching four special interest line extensions that are starting soon. One is coming out in July, under the Everyday Food title, so we’re resurrecting the name and launching it as a stand-alone newsstand property. We are continuing to push out print products as extensions and bring them back.

Advertising paging has been challenged, but the audience and demand as the 360 demographics revealed there’s still consumer demand for brands like Martha Stewart and Better Homes and Gardens in print. Marketers today have to cover off more bets than ever before and that has created an ad paging challenge, but demand has never been higher. And that’s why I also believe firmly that there’s a robust future for all of us. Consumers still want their magazines and content.

Samir Husni: You were the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, the largest paid consumer magazine in the country, and now you’re at Martha Stewart Living; am I hearing this excitement in your voice because you took that big heavy load off of your shoulders, because you went from the largest print magazine in the country to one of its younger siblings?

Daren Mazzucca: Perhaps. (Laughs) It’s wonderful to be at the crown jewel of the Meredith Corporation, which is Better Homes and Gardens; it’s an amazing brand that gets invited to be a part of every dialogue and discussion. What I do enjoy with this Martha Stewart Living opportunity is the fact that we can leverage the personality as well as the cross platform selling. And we talk about sparking creativity and working more collaboratively with our corporate counterparts. It’s just a tremendous opportunity for us at Meredith to use our talents and skills to bring this brand to new levels and new heights.

Samir Husni: Whose idea was all of this? Was it Martha Stewart who came to Meredith saying, guys, I need help, or was it Steve Lacy (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Meredith Corporation and Chief Executive Officer with media and marketing operations) going to Martha Stewart saying that Meredith could help her brand?

Daren Mazzucca: That’s a good question. I’m not sure exactly who started the conversation, but I think both sides saw the benefits. Steve has said this; it’s very difficult in today’s marketplace to be a stand-alone brand. It’s very challenging, regardless of who you are. And when you can find opportunities to create new models that benefit both partners, that’s the kind of thing we’re pursuing and other media companies are pursuing too. I believe one has to think creatively that way.

And it’s not just in the magazine world, Samir. Look at other media industries and what goes on in the digital space alone. In the pure digital space, look at the acquisitions that go on and the partnerships. Again, that’s all about leveraging the best opportunities for both sides of the partnership.

I would also say, who would have thought that we in the media industry would have created a company called Comag and partnered together, where everyone was siloed? But I really believe that if you go backward in time, there’s always been collaboration and playing to your strengths and this partnership really allows, like I said earlier, Martha Stewart and her creative talents and her team to do what they do exceptionally well and then partner with Meredith to do what we do exceptionally well: packaging, contracts, efficiencies, printing, collaboration; it’s really a perfect storm and a perfect opportunity.

Samir Husni: That throws back for an old timer like me to a time in the 1970s and the 1980s when Meredith and Reader’s Digest were partners in Select, which was like one of the national distribution companies. And also Meredith had the printing plant in Des Moines and they were printing all kinds of magazines from all different areas.

Daren Mazzucca: It’s the modern day version of working and having a collaborative and creative synergy, absolutely. And other companies are doing it too. They’re outsourcing their HR departments because they’re not good at it and they do other things.

I worked at Reader’s Digest and earlier, you said I was smiling for our brand, and that’s so true. I’ve worked at other scale titles like Parade, which was the biggest brand in the business. To be at Martha Stewart Living today really gives me tremendous enthusiasm and energy to partner with it.

Samir Husni: So, what’s the future look like? I mean, if somebody stopped you on the street and said, Daren, I hear you’re now working at Martha Stewart Living and then they run into you a year later; what do you hope to have accomplished within that year to tell them about?

Daren Mazzucca: Well next year is our 25th anniversary, so we kick off officially with the December/January issue. As I mentioned earlier, we’re looking to create content opportunities that are rooted in creative insight for the reader first and then marry them up with an advertiser’s opportunity. I truthfully hope to fully benefit by having Meredith and collaborating with corporate sales, so we can put together great partnerships and deals. I’d like to grow automotive and appliances and food and packaged goods, cosmetics and home DIY. We’re having some unbelievable dialogue with the beauty and prestige categories right now that have been in the works.

I’m really excited about this pre-selling time that we’re doing right now, so we can have 12-month benefits as we gear up for 2016.

Samir Husni: You mentioned already that you’re going to bring back four SIPs with the Everyday Food brand and Meredith has been the leader in SIPs from its existence; are we going to see more SIPs that have Martha Stewart’s name on them: Martha Stewart Decorating, Martha Stewart Cooking…

Daren Mazzucca: We’re always looking for opportunities. We’re starting with her strength though, Everyday Food; we’re doing Halloween, which Martha does exceptionally well every year and we’re also going to do organizing, which Martha does great every year as well. So, we’ll start with those and look at other opportunities from there.

Samir Husni: Will I ever see a Martha Stewart/Rachael Ray Everyday SIP together?

Daren Mazzucca: You never know.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) They both have that “Everyday” thing working for them; one is living and one is food. And you need food for the living.

Daren Mazzucca: (Laughs too) Absolutely. I’m really excited. Martha and I have already discussed, as well as her team, places we’re going to go together and she’s a great partner with us. So, we’re very excited about that.

Samir Husni: Daren, what makes you click and tick and really look forward to getting up in the mornings and going to work?

Daren Mazzucca: Well, I have a family of five children; I’m highly motivated. (Laughs) What keeps me going is keeping up with technology, but also not losing a firm focus on family and togetherness and being with clients. I just love being a solution-based seller; I’ve told my father that for years, who was with Bristol-Myers Squibb his entire career, and he gave me great advice years ago. He said don’t ever go out in a car without showing something that’s unique from the magazine, so our team will be highlighting and pulling out a story or a feature, whether it’s the pork shoulder that’s coming up in our July/August issue or something else unique and different.

That’s what really keeps me going. This organization has been great, the Meredith Corporation. I’ve been blessed to be on three of the brands now, from Midwest Living to Better Homes and Gardens and now Martha Stewart. I’m really excited about what the future brings for us as an industry and as a brand.

Samir Husni: Are you bothered by programmatic advertising, native advertising; all of these new little phrases or programs that are creeping into the industry? Or do you think the more the better?

Daren Mazzucca: They’re here to stay for the moment and it doesn’t bother me. Again, it’s learning the nuances of them and how they work in a media schedule. However, I think what’s tried and true has always worked too. We need to stay focused on that as well.

I was just reading in The New York Times recently about the traditions of baking bread and how it’s come back and if you look at what’s happening in children’s home baking toys, they’re becoming more upscale. So, there are the nuances of the new, but working together with the nuances of what worked in the past.

And it’s always great content at the end of the day and that’s everything, Samir.

Samir Husni: Why do you think it took the magazine media industry five or six years to recognize what they’re recognizing now, that print isn’t going away and digital is not taking over; we have to coexist? We should stop using digital as a mistress and instead welcome her into the house as a sister or brother. Why did it take us six years?

Daren Mazzucca: It’s been a rapid evolution. A lot has happened in a very short amount of time. And I think both sides had to adapt to that. Within our company it’s a very good synergy between the two. There are just a lot more tools in the toolbox.

And there are a lot of great innovators out there; I happen to be in Chicago recently. Who would have thought to create Uber and it’s changing the way we use taxicabs. All digital platforms, from native to others are changing at light speed. Twitter and Facebook – light speed. We need to stick our toe in that market and be aware of what’s happening, but not jump into the deep end of the pool, because at the end of the day, we don’t want to jeopardize the good relationship we have with readers, which connects ultimately back to content.

I think if you look at ASME, as an industry we continue to evolve and change, so we’re moving faster now as an industry collectively, I believe.

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

Daren Mazzucca: (Laughs) I don’t sleep much anyway, it’s a fast-paced world. What keeps me up is moving this brand, doing an exceptional job for Meredith and for Martha and the MSLO team. You know, we want to be successful as a group; we want to continue to bring her brand to new marketers and come up with some solutions to grow our franchise. That and a big family keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Travel Is Hot & So Is Print – The Reinvention of Travel+Leisure – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jay Meyer, Publisher & Nathan Lump, Editor-In-Chief, Travel+Leisure Magazine

May 1, 2015

“If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.” Jay Meyer

“What we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.” Nathan Lump

TL_May_2015_COVER Travel and magazines are two luxuries that go hand-in-hand, or so the powers-that-be over at Travel+Leisure believe whole-heartedly, and I would have to agree with them. While no one necessarily needs to read a magazine or travel to Europe just to see the Eiffel Tower; more often than not, it’s called for, if for no other reason than simply to disconnect from the real world and all of its devices that seem compelled to proclaim yet another notification of information. Something else travel and magazines have in common is their ability to transport you to idyllic locations totally different from the norm, another much-deserved, take-a-breath experience in our world of fast-paced existence.

Jay Meyer is vice president and publisher of Travel+Leisure magazine and Nathan Lump is editor-in-chief. The two are the highly-proud parents of the reinvented, more immersive and transporting travel magazine. With a redesign aimed at the current ravenous appetite affluent consumers have for travel, the magazine reaches out and touches that audience with an experience that shares their own memories through the art of travel. And for some, travel is art. And the new Travel+Leisure magazine showcases that trait beautifully.

I spoke with Jay and Nathan recently about the positive changes the magazine has made and about some of the numbers that support the idea that travel is a hot commodity right now in the world of magazine media. According to Jay, T+L is enjoying its largest audience ever in print, with 6.7 MM and in digital, 3.3 MM. The magazine is twice as large as its nearest competitor and has more millionaires in its audience than any measured publication.

Also, according to Time Inc.’s 10th Annual Time Inc./YouGov Survey of Affluence and Wealth which was recently released; leisure travel is expected to grow the most among all categories studied, with an increase of 15.9% from 2014 to $115.2 billion. When asked about passions, travel was the top response (67%), followed by “spending quality time with my family” (65%).

The findings certainly bode well for the future of Travel+Leisure and the two men whose passion for travel is exceeded only by their ardor for their brand.

So, I hope you enjoy this “trek” into the minds of two avid travelers as they talk about the magazine that always goes with them on their travels – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

But first the sound-bites:


On why Jay believes travel is so hot right now on the publishing scene:
If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

On Nathan’s opinion of the lean-back experience:
I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

On whether Nathan can ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component:
Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

On Jay’s opinion of why Travel+Leisure’s audience numbers have increased within its print media, rather than its digital: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

On whether as a publisher, digital makes Jay’s life harder or easier when it comes to selling the brand to advertisers:
I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

On how Jay sees the magazine’s attempt to attract luxury advertisers, but stay grounded and keep the magazine at mass appeal at the same time:
The answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the humanization of the magazine and who would appear if Nathan struck the magazine with a magic wand:
Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels.

On why the magazine’s logo wasn’t changed during the redesign according to Nathan:
Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us.

On the biggest stumbling block Jay had to face as publisher of the magazine:
In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

On how he overcame it: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

On anything either would like to add – Jay first:
One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

On what Nathan would like to add:
The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

On Nathan’s opinion of why it took five to six years for the media industry to realize when it comes to print and digital, it’s not either/or, it’s both: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

On what keeps Jay up at night: As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

On what keeps Nathan up at night: What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jay Meyer, Publisher, and Nathan Lump, Editor-in-Chief, Travel+Leisure.

Samir Husni: First, congratulations on the magazine; I love the new design; actually, I love the whole reinvention of the magazine.

Jay Meyer: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Jay, what’s the status of the travel magazine market today? You’ve reinvented Travel+Leisure; Condè Nast Traveler is upscaling their magazine and changing the size; National Geographic Traveler has a new editor; Smithsonian came out with a new travel magazine and so did Airbnb; suddenly, it looks as though travel is hot. Why do you think this is happening now?

Style: "Rich_Color" Jay Meyer: Travel is hot. If you look at travel media; travel media has had a growth of 37% in the last three years and the research team says that because of two reasons. One: because travel is luxury, and two: because we’re all so attached to our desktops, tablets and phones; at some point in time, people actually want to put those devices away and have a lean-back experience and dream a little bit and plan a trip; do something for themselves.

We believe, and these products were built for, the reader and viewer of Travel+Leisure who wants to be inspired and we call those people: experience-collectors. They travel 23 times per year; they all have passports, and they have a really healthy income. And that 23 times per year breaks down to 13 business trips and 10 leisure.

Samir Husni: Nathan, you wrote in your letter from the editor that reading a magazine is a luxury. Can you expand on that a little bit more and on what Jay just said, in terms of the lean-back experience?

Nathan Lump: Sure. I think for me, it’s really true in the sense that when you think about it, we have so much information at our fingertips; no one necessarily needs to read a magazine in order to learn things, so those that do are obviously making a very conscious choice that they want to give a certain amount of their leisure time to that experience.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what behaviors look like across the platforms. One of the things, and it sounds very intuitive and I think it’s important to keep it in mind, because we live in a digital age, if I’m looking for information about something in particular, I’m going to engage in digital behaviors around finding that information. If I’m a traveler and I’ve decided to go to Spain; I’m not sitting around waiting for my Travel+Leisure to come and hoping there’s going to be an article about Spain in it for me. I’m going to go online and find out more information about the place that I’m going to go to.

From the magazine reading experience, I think what that means is we have this audience whether they purchased the magazine on the newsstand or they’re a subscriber, they’re interested in travel; they’ve decided to give us some of their leisure time, and they’re basically coming to us in an open mindset. They’re saying, I am open to the idea of discovering new places, new experiences and new things, so they’re issuing an invitation to us to get them excited.

For me, editorially, the bar that we set for ourselves, particularly in print, is to try and create an experience that is immersive and rich enough that we are, in fact, actually getting people excited about things that they didn’t know they should get excited about. And that’s a lot of what I mean when I talk about the luxury of magazine reading.

I would also add, just building on what Jay has said too about the travel category in general, and you probably know some of this, so forgive me if I’m telling you something that you already know; travel is over a $7 trillion industry globally. One in every 11 jobs is generated by the travel industry, so this is a huge category. It’s bigger than a lot of other categories or industries that we think about when we think about media and verticals.

When you look at spending; over the years travel has become much more essential to people. Twenty years ago when you used to ask people if times got tough, what would you cut out of your lives in terms of spending, travel would be right up there at the top. This has actually changed in the years since and it’s become much more of a thing that people say they wouldn’t cut out. They’ll say they won’t buy that new sofa, but they’re still going to take that trip. And that’s been a really important shift.

Recently, Time Inc. released the results of an annual survey that we do, a survey of affluence and wealth, and among the findings, one that I found compelling was of all the discretionary spending categories that these folks said they were going to spend money on this coming year; their desire for travel was the second biggest category in that survey for spending after automobiles. So, it’s obviously a real priority for people, which I think contributes to the durability of the category.

Samir Husni: As an editor-in-chief, Nathan, can you ever imagine Travel+Leisure not having a print component after what you told me about the strength and power of print?

Nathan Lump Headshot 4.15 Nathan Lump: Sure. We’ve seen the growth in digital and all of us can imagine that world. I don’t think that world is upon us yet. Our readership in print is actually larger than it’s ever been in its history.

Jay Meyer: Yes, it’s at 6.7 million.

Nathan Lump: I would say that for the moment we see print still as a healthy piece. Obviously, digital is a really important growth opportunity, but we still see that there is a desire for this kind of luxurious, more lean-back experience, at least, in our category.

Samir Husni: Jay, it has been your print audience that has almost doubled in number, rather than your digital audience. Yet, when I look at statistics and numbers from other magazines and hear about their 3 million in print circulation and their 25 million in digital audience, why do you think Travel+Leisure’s audience is still attached to the print media?

Jay Meyer: I think there are a lot of reasons, but the simplest is that we needed to re-platform, which is now done. And in the past we have been producing about 10 pieces of content per week, and Nathan and his team are moving into a place where they’re going to produce 20 pieces of content per day, high velocity publishing, and we expect those numbers to increase exponentially.

Now, having said that, I think the key was to re-platform and redesign, so that we were able to move this forward.

Samir Husni: Did digital make your life easier or harder, Jay, in terms of selling the brand Travel+Leisure? Is digital making your job as a publisher harder or can you just walk into any ad agency and not hear the word crazy when talking about the reinvention of a print magazine in this digital age?

Jay Meyer: I think digital absolutely makes our lives easier. Nathan was talking about consumer behaviors earlier; if you actually think about the process and mindset of looking at travel as being inspired and then planning and considering and then buying and sharing; we need to be on all of those channels; we’re not there yet, but obviously, digital is a huge part of that process.

Nathan Lump: I would add that what we’re seeing, and Jay correct me if I’m wrong, what we’re seeing from the business community is that obviously, from a brand awareness and storytelling perspective, print is still a really important tool for us and that’s also partially because we’re living in the luxury space. And luxury advertisers have really seen that print still works for them from that perspective.

And then digital gives us an additional tool in our toolkit to do that, but also to help those partners who are interested in really driving bookings or consideration via their own website. It satisfies those kinds of needs, so in fact, I think it gives us, from a strategic perspective; it gives us more to sell as opposed to selling against. It allows us, depending on what the partner is looking for, to provide them with the product that makes sense for them, or in many cases, both products because many of our advertisers advertise across platforms with us.

Jay Meyer: And that’s really the point. I think what we’re seeing and what we’ve seen in the last couple of years is that most core partners of Travel+Leisure are using both. They’re not choosing one over the other; they’re actually using both for different reasons.

Samir Husni: Jay, as I look at the May issue and the variety of ads; we go from Cartier to GEICO; can you briefly tell me how you’re trying to capture that luxury market and at the same time stay grounded and be as mass as the magazine can be since you are the largest travel magazine?

Jay Meyer: That’s a good question and a tough question. And the answer is if you look at syndicated research, to your point, we have a really great audience and marketers see that audience as exactly what I said previously, in terms of, they have a healthy income, they take action, they travel, and outside of Travel+Leisure, if you look at it from the advertiser’s brand perspective, these are people that they want as customers.

On the luxury side, if you break down the 6.7 million, we actually have 1.1 million who are millionaires. So, there is a super healthy top end of that audience and certainly the luxury marketers understand that and want to reach those people.

Samir Husni: Nathan, let me shift gears a little bit and talk about the content. If you could humanize the magazine, strike it with a magic wand and have a person appear; would I see Nathan materialize, and if so, what type of conversation would he and I have about Travel+Leisure?

Nathan Lump: That’s a good question and I may end up answering it in a slightly roundabout way. Everything that we’ve done with the changes to the brand really begins with who we see this reader as, and fundamentally for me, it is that person who Jay mentioned earlier who takes 23 trips per year. So, when you think about that person, that person has been a lot of places, done a lot of things; they’ve crossed a lot of things off of their bucket list and they are fundamentally worldly people. They bring a sophisticated and cosmopolitan point of view to their lives and to their travels. So, from my perspective what that means is, editorially, we need to be where they are. We need to be as sophisticated as they are or more so, because they’re looking at us to surprise them and to give them novelty.

We’re really trying to push the boundaries in terms of what we give them, making sure that we are not only super current and in the know, but that we’re also really insightful. These folks are also, I think, really engaged with the world and understand what’s going on around them, they comprehend that travel is a tool for understanding the world.

You’re going to see in upcoming issues, such as in our June edition, our cover story is about Cuba; we have another big story in that issue looking at New Orleans 10 years after Katrina. These are two of the big stories of our time and we’re looking at them particularly through the lens of travel because we know that our audience use travel as a means of understanding. It’s pleasurable, of course; we want to capture the pleasure and the joy and fun of travel, but we also understand that we need to engage with some of the big issues, so, you can tell me if I’m answering your question, but I’m trying to conjure that reader.

And if we’re personifying ourselves; I want to be them. I want the product to feel, in that way, very intelligent and sophisticated, very worldly and with a very strong global perspective; that we’re paying attention to the entire world, we’re engaged with that; we’re as interested in what’s happening on the other side of the planet as we are with what’s in our backyard.

Samir Husni: So, when the June issue arrives at my home and I peer through the peephole in my door; do I see Nathan standing there?

Nathan Lump: Well, sure; I am definitely this person myself, I would say. I’m a serious traveler and have been my whole life. I probably travel a bit more than 23 times per year; that may or may not be recommended. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Nathan Lump: But I love it. For me, travel is the great passion in my life; it is the thing that has changed me. It’s opened my eyes to so many things. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and I’ve had this travel bug ever since I was a child. Who knows why – I do try to bring to the product my own passion for this subject.

In the very first issue that I touched, which was the December issue of last year, and was largely completed when I arrived, but I did make a couple of small changes to it; we changed the cover, but I also wrote my first editor’s note for Travel+Leisure. And one of the things that I said in there was that I believe the fundamental hallmark of a traveler is curiosity. A true traveler is genuinely curious. And they don’t lose that. The more that they see and travel; the more curious they become. And that is absolutely true of myself in my own life and I definitely bring that to the page.

So, yes, I hope that the magazine is a reflection of me in that way.

Samir Husni: You’re also sounding like a journalist because I tell my students that a true journalist is a curious journalist. I tell them they don’t need a degree in journalism; they need a degree in curiosity.

Nathan Lump: I completely agree with that and that’s the thing about our subject matter. A lot of people say that this is fluffy stuff, but I really charge my team with bringing a journalist’s point of view to the work that we do. And that doesn’t mean that it’s all serious, a lot of travel is about joy, and the traveler’s experience is having fun, but I think there is a lot about learning and exploring and seeing the world and that is journalism.

Samir Husni: So, my next curious question is why did you leave the design of the logo the same? You changed everything except the nameplate.

Nathan Lump: That’s true. Partially, because I think that the brand is in such a healthy place and it has such great awareness and recognition. I felt why tinker with something that is working for us. Sometimes an editor will come in and feel that they have to change absolutely everything, including that, but because our brand has such great awareness and such great affection from our readers, I didn’t want to confuse them in that way. I just thought it was better to keep that piece stable.

Samir Husni: Jay, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face with Travel+Leisure and how did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: In terms of Nathan’s arrival and from that point to where we are now, I think the biggest challenge has been time.

Samir Husni: As in the company, the magazine, or real time? (Laughs)

Jay Meyer: No, real time. In terms of setting the course of what we wanted to do with the product and who we were talking to and actually making that happen in a very short amount of time, which was certainly tough on both sides of the house.

Samir Husni: How did you overcome it?

Jay Meyer: Honestly? Relentless hard work and a ton of travel. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jay Meyer: I think Nathan and I would have the same answer, which is just relentless determination to make sure it happened.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Jay Meyer: One thing that I would add is that we kind of summed up that the travel space is doing quite well and Nathan talked about the travel industry as a whole, the GDP and the number of jobs; I would just say that I want to applaud Time Inc. for giving us the resources to make this happen in print and digital, which as you know, doesn’t always happen together.

Travel as a category is not a core category for Time Inc. and not one that they have played in before Travel+Leisure arrived here. So, we applaud them for seeing the opportunity and giving us the resources to make it happen.

Nathan Lump: The one thing that I would add, Samir, is that we focused quite a bit on the print magazine, but I think the other thing that is really important here too is the digital piece because obviously we see tremendous opportunity for us to grow and also to evolve our business, particularly leveraging our digital platforms.

As Jay said, and as you know, we re-launched the print magazine and the website at the same time, and like Jay said that almost never happens. I can’t think of the last time someone did it. And we did it because I was really committed and the company was committed and supportive of the idea to reimagine the platforms holistically, understanding the ways in which they’re related to each other and the existing dialogue they have with each other and they allow us to do slightly different things to serve our audience.

From my perspective, what we’re going to be doing digitally; you’re going to see a lot more from us and the dispersion of the website is really just the beginning. There is a lot more to come in terms of features and functionality, but also in terms of how we use that to engage and serve the audience.

So, the digital piece of it is, I think; we don’t really look at it as a threat; we look at it as an opportunity. I’ve actually been more focused on digital, although I have a long background in print, I’ve been more focused on digital in recent years. And that’s also a little bit unusual for a magazine brand editor. The last five or six years, I’ve been almost exclusively focused on digital products, and so I really see the ways in which we can leverage that.

Samir Husni: Nathan or Jay, why do you think it took us almost five or six years to except the fact that it’s not either/or, it’s both?

Nathan Lump: I think for a lot of people there was just some basic fear and lack of understanding of how people were really using the product.

I also think too that some categories have been more challenged by digital than we have in the travel verticals; for instance, news media have had a harder time adjusting to the balance between print and digital. And those are obviously some of the biggest and best-known brands out there. So, I think that’s also driven the narrative a little bit. Publicly, because the news organizations have such large audiences, such a big pulpit, they’ve also been the ones that have in some ways seen digital be more of a challenge to print than we have in the travel verticals.

Samir Husni: My typical last question, and I’ll start with Jay; what keeps you up at night?

Jay Meyer: I’m not a strong sleeper, so a lot of things keep me up at night. (Laughs) I would say, and I won’t speak for Nathan, but I’m ambitious and curious. As we move forward, it’s an interesting time in the media world; it’s all about ideas. So, ideas keep me up at night, my own and others.

Samir Husni: And Nathan?

Nathan Lump: You kind of stole it from me, Jay. (Laughs) What does keep me up at night is the fact that I have so many things that I want to do, that we want to do, and there is always that thinking like, oh no, are we going to be able to do it all and do it all as quickly as I would like. Like Jay said, the world is evolving so quickly and so is the industry, that there’s always that concern if you’re moving along with it quickly enough. I think that’s why we’ve been so aggressive in the last six or seven months and why we’re going to keep that pace up. That is really the biggest thing, honestly, for me.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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