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“Plugin” To The World Of Electric Cars & The Lifestyles Of Their Owners – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Dusan Lukic, Editor-in-Chief, Plugin Magazine

June 25, 2015

“We decided that we had to go with print because if you’re talking about lifestyle and life stories; if you’re talking about photography; you just have to showcase all of that in print. And there are still a lot of people who are willing to pay for that in a print format.” Dusan Lukic (on why he chose ink on paper for Plugin)

Plugin English-6 Welcome to another installment of the Mr. Magazine™ International Interviews where I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Dusan Lukic, editor-in-chief, Plugin Magazine, from his office in the beautiful city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Dusan is a veteran of magazine publishing and knows his way around the small market, having worked at Adria Media in Ljubljana from the very beginning. Publishing licensed powerhouse titles such as Elle and Cosmo, Dusan and his team are now proudly publishing their first international offering with the new Plugin Magazine. With an English version and a German and Slovenian version as well, the beautifully-done, sleek coffee table collectable is an amazing journey into the eco-friendliness of electric cars and the lifestyles of their owners. It’s certainly what you need to “Plugin” to the world of alternative automotive experiences.

I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dusan Lukic, Editor-in-Chief, Plugin Magazine, as you get a glimpse into the world of magazine publishing from the beautiful country of Slovenia.

But first, the sound-bites:


On the genesis of Plugin Magazine and why it was done in both an English version and a German version:
We came up with the idea of adding a lifestyle element to it and thought about maybe doing it for a chain of hotels, so it would have a controlled distribution. Then we decided to just go national with it and do an English version and a German version because we discussed it with the distributor and they agreed that we should do both because that would be the easiest thing to do with the first issue.

On how the lifestyle element of the magazine is presented:
We’re going to be highlighting the people who are buyers or are thinking about buying electric cars. They’re people who aren’t prepared to give up their freedom of riding around, yet they want to be more environmentally friendly, so they’re considering or have already bought an electric car. On that same note, they also do not want to give up their comfortable home, but they want it to be more eco-friendly. So basically, our target audience is people like that, which usually mean more men than women.

On why the company chose a print component when the magazine deals with the eco-friendly subject of electric cars:
We chose a paper that is quite environmentally friendly. We also have a website; of course, we really started with the website before the magazine. We also have a social media presence too, but we decided that we had to go with print because if you’re talking about lifestyle and life stories; if you’re talking about photography; you just have to showcase all of that in print.

Dusan_Lukic On whether he feels the pendulum is swinging back toward print in Europe the way it is in the United States:
Basically, there is no simple answer to your question. We know what we think; we think that in some markets, print is far from dead and in other markets we have our digital to split the difference.

On the history of Adria Media:
Adria Media is quite an old company; we started with our first magazine in 1996 and I’ve been with the company since the beginning. We started with a car magazine that no longer exists and then we started adding other magazines, either our own or through licensing. We now have 13 magazines and 10 websites, but it’s still a small company, about 120 people.

On the major stumbling block Europe and his company in particular is facing in today’s magazine media market:
In Slovenia, we’ve always been a small market, but we know how to operate in a small market. Of all the countries in this part of Europe, Slovenia was hit hardest by recession. And of course, consumer confidence sank to floor-level and one of the first things that people stopped buying was magazines.

On the hefty cover price and whether that was due to the first issue being ad-free:
It’s like this; we did the first issue without advertising and that was on purpose. What we didn’t want to do was to contact the car industry and the fashion industry without a product on the market. Now we are discussing different ad strategies since we’ve published the first issue.

On what keeps him up at night:
Currently worrying about the future and the stories that we have to do. If you’re a publisher for a small market and you go international, one of the things that you have to do is learn to think like the big international publishers do. I know what I’m doing thanks to my education, but still it’s hard. We know our market here and we know our reader, but we don’t exactly know what would be interesting to our readers outside of this country.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dusan Lukic, Editor-In-Chief, Plugin Magazine…

Samir Husni: Can you tell me a little about the genesis of Plugin Magazine? Why both an English and German version and why it’s ad-free? And also what’s the mission with this magazine? You say you want people to live smart, drive green and Plugin.

Dusan Lukic: Well, you know that Slovenia is a really small country and of course in Europe, generally print media doesn’t do that well, and that fact is even more obvious here. For example, we have a much distorted advertising market; almost 80% of advertising money goes to television.

We’ve done what we can basically; we have quite a big publishing company; we do a lot of licensed titles; we do Elle, Playboy, Cosmo and others, but we started thinking there’s 2 million in the country and if we only think locally from the beginning, then we’re doomed from the beginning. So we switched and started thinking instead, what else can we do? What is out there that hasn’t been done yet?

We do a car magazine here also, so we’ve sort of found a niche with electric cars and so we started thinking about an electric cars magazine and plugging highways and things like that into it.

But then again, anyone can do a car magazine, so we needed to do something better and different. We came up with the idea of adding a lifestyle element to it and thought about maybe doing it for a chain of hotels, so it would have a controlled distribution. Then we decided to just go national with it and do an English version and a German version because we discussed it with the distributor and they agreed that we should do both because that would be the easiest thing to do with the first issue.

We also have a really good knowledge of the languages here, because Slovenia is close to Austria, so a lot of people speak German and English is a language that is spoken quite a lot here and it wasn’t hard to find people who could write in English or translate.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the concept of Plugin, because the magazine is technically divided into two sections: driving and living. How is the concept of the lifestyle element done? Is it the lifestyle of the electric car owner or driver or the car itself?

Plugin German-5 Dusan Lukic: We’re adjusting a little bit now with the magazine. All the stories that are in it about electric cars, there are two really big ones in the first issue and there is going to be more, but they’re going to be done in more of a lifestyle-type way. We’re going to be highlighting the people who are buyers or are thinking about buying electric cars.

They’re people who aren’t prepared to give up their freedom of riding around, yet they want to be more environmentally friendly, so they’re considering or have already bought an electric car. On that same note, they also do not want to give up their comfortable home, but they want it to be more eco-friendly. So basically, our target audience is people like that, which usually mean more men than women.

What we want to do is make a very interesting lifestyle magazine and also use it to showcase to those people the electric cars and the Plugin hybrid. This target generation, let’s call it 35-50 years old, affluent enough; they know how to live nicely, yet they’re very environmentally conscious and friendly. They don’t want to read a specialized car magazine; they don’t want to read a specialized architectural magazine, but they do like to read nice stories about all of the areas in Plugin.

Samir Husni: Since one of the focuses of Plugin is environmentally friendly electric cars; why did you decide to go with print when some people say print is not environmentally friendly because it involves the killing of trees?

Dusan Lukic: That’s not true, basically. We chose a paper that is quite environmentally friendly. We have a website; of course, we really started with the website before the magazine. We also have a social media presence too, but we decided that we had to go with print because if you’re talking about lifestyle and life stories; if you’re talking about photography; you just have to showcase all of that in print. And there are still a lot of people who are willing to pay for that in a print format.

Samir Husni: In the United States we’re starting to see the pendulum swinging back toward print. Five years ago everyone was talking about the fact that print was dead; now they’re talking about print’s changing nature or the decline of print. Do you see that happening now in Europe, even though you’re having trouble with advertising, newsstands and single-copy sales? Not the same print that we had before the digital age, but a different print business model that’s on the horizon?

Dusan Lukic: There’s no simple answer to that in Europe. I certainly hope that’s the case. But if you look at our biggest market for our German issue, which is Germany, you’ll find the country still has a really strong print base. If you look at their car magazines, there are about 300,000 different car magazines for a country of 80 million.

And then on the other side we have the U.K. and they don’t really sell a lot of digital issues, percentage-wise, but on the other side of the U.K., the biggest car magazines sell only 50,000, but you’ll find online subscribers at around 15 or 20,000.

Basically, there is no simple answer to your question. We know what we think; we think that in some markets, print is far from dead and in other markets we have our digital to split the difference.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about Adria Media.

Dusan Lukic: Adria Media is quite an old company; we started with our first magazine in 1996 and I’ve been with the company since the beginning. We started with a car magazine that no longer exists and then we started adding other magazines, either our own or through licensing. We now have 13 magazines and 10 websites, but it’s still a small company, about 120 people.

We started with some really niche products. The first magazine was about Formula One, then a car magazine, one about sports climbing, and then we shifted our focus more toward the women’s side. We have three glossy weeklies; we have Elle, Cosmo; we have a magazine called Sensa, which is about inner well-being. And we’re the first magazine company here in Slovenia to really embrace digital. In 2009, we had about 16 or 18% share of our advertising revenue from digital, which was, even for European standards, quite high then.

We were the first to start doing digital versions of the magazines. But in the last few years we’ve had to really consolidate the company because our revenues went down 30% more. The advertising market shrank, the copies-sold went down and television became all-conquering.

But we’re still alive and we’re the only magazine publisher here. There is another company that went bankrupt and their titles got picked up by another publishing company, but they’re selling it again, so we are basically the only stable magazine publisher here.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the major stumbling block facing your company specifically and magazine companies in general in Europe?

Dusan Lukic: In Slovenia, we’ve always been a small market, but we know how to operate in a small market. Of all the countries in this part of Europe, Slovenia was hit hardest by recession. And of course, consumer confidence sank to floor-level and one of the first things that people stopped buying was magazines.

The other thing was this big shift of advertising money to TV. The problem is we basically have one national TV station. We have two commercial channels, but they’re owned by the same company. We also have the largest Internet portal in Slovenia and they have done deals that are still being investigated by the anti-competition authority. But basically they really lowered prices, they were almost dumping prices and then they gained 75 or 80% of the advertising market.

So there is very little left for everybody else and that includes magazines. In Europe, the normal share for television is 40%, maybe 50%, but not 70 or 80%.

The third thing is a lot people bought magazines in grocery stores before the recession. Now there are chains here that do not sell magazines at all. They have food items cheaper than some of the larger chains that do still sell magazines, so as the consumers started shopping with those for the cheaper food prices, all of the impulse buyers that used to buy magazines on the way out aren’t doing that anymore. We’ve lost a lot of business to the stores that no longer sell magazines.

So, there are three of four factors that figure into it and while each by themselves might not present a big problem; altogether they do.

Samir Husni: What’s the solution?

Dusan Lukic: We didn’t go for the big advertising because once you lower your prices you can never get them back up. We managed to get into contact with some of these retailers and put together special magazine packages for them that they could sell at the cash price. We got some sales there.

We also optimized our own internal structure to cope with the loss of revenue. And we’re trying to get some licensed titles to start publishing and do some smaller titles.

And of course the biggest thing we’ve done is Plugin and going international. International markets are big and they’re different; we have to learn a lot about them, but the opportunities are much bigger than if you just stay close and within your own country’s borders.

Samir Husni: I noticed that you not only went international, but you also went with a hefty cover price, because if there’s no advertising, the magazine needs to sell for almost 8 Euros?

Dusan Lukic: It’s like this; we did the first issue without advertising and that was on purpose. What we didn’t want to do was to contact the car industry and the fashion industry without a product on the market. Now we are discussing different ad strategies since we’ve published the first issue.

It seems to have been a good decision, because in Slovenia we’re not really used to big companies telling us about advertising. And that’s what’s happening to us now. I think it was the right decision to do the first issue ad-free and now we can go all-out.

In fact, in our first Slovenian issue, we had about 25 ad pages. And we’re thinking that the next international issues will be similar.

Samir Husni: So, you’re actually publishing three editions? German, English and Slovenian?

Dusan Lukic: Yes and I’ll say this, financially speaking, the Slovenian edition doesn’t really make much sense, but we are a Slovenian company and we are working in Slovenia and it is a topic important to the Slovenian people, so we felt we had to do it regardless of the amount of money we would make.

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

Dusan Lukic: (Laughs) Currently worrying about the future and the stories that we have to do. If you’re a publisher for a small market and you go international, one of the things that you have to do is learn to think like the big international publishers do. I know what I’m doing thanks to my education, but still it’s hard. We know our market here and we know our reader, but we don’t exactly know what would be interesting to our readers outside of this country.

And just thinking about the next story, who to get for the next interview and how to promote the magazine. Those are some of things that keep me up at night.

Plus, I like to read, so I read magazines long into the night because I don’t have time during the day. And I read about 50/50 print and digital. Some magazines have to be read in print, architecture magazines or car magazines with great photography. I still prefer to read them in print if possible. Some magazines are really good in digital, so it’s different.

Samir Husni: Thank You.

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