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The Perfect Canvas: A Gardener, A Painter, And A Magazine: The Story of Acrylic Artist Magazine.

July 8, 2015

Artistic Inspiration Along With Navigational Instruction Join Hands To Bring Yet Another Creative Masterpiece To Life – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Patty Craft, Community Leader & Content Creator/Editor, and Jamie Markle, Group Publisher, Acrylic Artist Magazine.

“I still feel like the magazines are a core part of people being in that community and we know from our own data that our magazine subscribers are the most loyal buyers when it comes to art e-commerce store. Those people are very committed to following the pursuit of their art and they look to us to provide instruction in a lot of different formats. I would say the magazines are still a core part of the communities, whether they are Watercolor Artist or Acrylic Artist or somebody who likes to draw.” Jamie Markle

“Despite the fact that some people may be saying, oh, print is dead or it’s challenged, it’s encouraging to me that as a corporation, we understand our customers’ needs, this magazine is something they want, they want a print product. Our results are double what we expected.” Patty Craft

AAsm15_500 For the artist, F+W Media have been producing quality magazines of inspiration and instruction for generations. From Watercolor Artist to Pastel Journal, the niche titles serve the specific audience they’re intended for perfectly, with a new launch joining the stable to fill a need in the acrylic market.

Acrylic Artist joins its brothers and sisters proudly and the parents that are nurturing this new baby are Patty Craft, community leader & content creator/editor, and Jamie Markle, group publisher. Patty reached out to me recently to talk about the new launch and joined by Jamie, we had a lively discussion about niche markets and the future of the targeted title. It was a past, present and future conversation about the long-lived F+W Media and its many reinventions and a glimpse into the personal hopes of both Patty and Jamie for their newborn.

So, get out your easel and brushes and sit down with the three of us for a brief moment in time and be prepared to receive creative inspiration from a painter and wordsmith who both love what they do and believe strongly in their brand. The Mr. Magazine™ interview with Patty Craft, Community Leader & Content Creator/Editor, and Jamie Markle, Group Publisher, Acrylic Artist magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

J.Markle_April_2011_073 On whether or not he (Jamie Markle) believes the future for print is more and more specialized titles: I would agree with that statement. As the world changes I think that print will continue on, but I think that we’ll see more and more niche publications like Acrylic Artist.

On the higher end cover price of Acrylic Artist magazine and what kind of message the price sends to its audience (Jamie Markle): Acrylic Artist is the only magazine of its kind, the only magazine that is for the acrylic artist and only the acrylic artist and what we’re saying is that we want to provide quality content, but in order for us to provide content in the form that they want with beautiful paper and a nice trim size, we need to charge a little bit more in order to make it work.

On his (Jamie Markle) dual duty as group publisher and vice president of fine art for F+W: I’m the vice president and group publisher for the fine art community here at F+W and we do things a little bit differently. I oversee all the editorial teams and they report directly to me as does the sales teams. I really have a 360° view of the content that we produce whether it’s content from the editorial side that we put in the magazine, but also working with the salespeople as we work with our partners.

On Editor Patty Craft’s feelings about coming back to the creative content side of F+W’s Artist’s magazine collection:
I’ve also been with the company for 15 years and in my early years I started out on Watercolor and Pastel, so many of the teammates that I have now were here then. I moved around a little bit in the business and did some different things. I was also a community leader for our garden community and horticulture magazine. But coming back as the editor to actually work with content creation has been really great. Like Jamie said; it’s the balance between the business side and the creative content side.

On what sort of experience she’s (Patty Craft) looking to engage her audience with in the execution of Acrylic Artist: That’s a great question. We put together each issue; you know it’s quarterly and when it comes out, it feels more like a catalog to me. It has a dual purpose: to inspire and to instruct. You can almost look at the issue as part art gallery and part classroom or workshop experience.


On today’s high cover price trend and whether he (Jamie Markle) sees a point where the consumer will say that’s too high a price for a magazine:
I think that bookazines have really opened the door to higher prices for SIP’s on the newsstands. So, I think that we’re able to get to that $15 range, but I believe going much higher than that, unless it’s a larger product, I think that might be a little bit challenging. But I do believe that people will pay for quality, but we’re still very cognizant to prices according to the skill level and what the production values are.

On Patty’s most pleasant moment during her career at F+W:
The most rewarding and pleasant experience I have is when we do find an artist that we know has great art or a beautiful garden or a really great story to tell and we are then able to work with them to encapsulate their story in such a way that we can share it with thousands of other people. It’s the beauty of community; it really is what community is about.

On why Jamie thinks we surrendered the term “community” to the digital world when communities have long been a part of the magazine domain from almost the beginning: I still feel like the magazines are a core part of people being in that community and we know from our own data that our magazine subscribers are the most loyal buyers when it comes to art e-commerce store. Those people are very committed to following the pursuit of their art and they look to us to provide instruction in a lot of different formats. I would say the magazines are still a core part of the communities, whether they are Watercolor Artist or Acrylic Artist or somebody who likes to draw.

On whether Jamie can ever envision F+W as a digital-only community with no print component:
Gosh, I hope not. Our print subscribers are really loyal. I suppose that it could happen, but I don’t foresee it happening in the next five years. People still like their subscriptions to their favorite magazines and I feel like we’ve helped, along with every other print producer out there.


PattyCraft_headshot On Patty’s thoughts about how quickly people are talking about the death of the tablet and homepage, whereas it took 500 years for people to coin the phrase print is dead:
Despite the fact that some people may be saying, oh, print is dead or it’s challenged, it’s encouraging to me that as a corporation, we understand our customers’ needs, this magazine is something they want, they want a print product. Our results are double what we expected.

On what motivates Jamie to get out of bed each day and go to work: I would say getting to know the members of the community, whether it’s our contributing writers, the artists we interview, the people who write books for us or make videos for us, my staff; I see the passion that people have for the art that they make and the things that they teach and those connections and that view of what they do and how important it is to our consumers, that’s really what brings me to the office every day.

On what motivates Patty to get out of bed each day and go to work:
As I said in one of my Letters from the Editor: your wings as readers are made of paintings. When they get up in the mornings, what makes them soar is to be able to paint. My wings are made of words. And I’ve always dreamed of a career in writing. And so, it’s an opportunity for me as the editor of this magazine to be able to take these people’s stories, which are very visual, and translate them into the written word for people to read.

On anything else either would like to add (Jamie Markle):
I guess the only thing I would say is one of the other reasons that we launched Acrylic Artist is when we looked at our art business as a whole, we saw that we were serving the acrylic artist with books, video and education, but there really wasn’t a hole in the magazine area. So, it really is our hope that we can build up that community of acrylic artists with our subscription plan.

On what keeps Patty up at night:
Right now, when you are launching, even though as a company we produce a vast number of print publications, this is still a new baby. It’s in its first year of subscription service. Horticulture Magazine, for example, it’s been in print for 110 years. I know what the themes are; I know who the writers are; I know who the gardeners are; I am so immersed in the magazine. With Acrylic Artist, acrylic painting has only been around for 75 years. And I’m new to this. So, the thing that keeps me up at night is making sure that not only am I getting this fall issue that we’re going to send to the printer buttoned up tightly and in good shape, but that I have a deep enough view of 2016 and 2017 to make sure that I can keep the momentum going.

On what keeps Jamie up at night:
I think because I’m a pretty chill person and I sleep really well (Laughs), but if anything concerns me it’s that I’m in charge of making sure that we provide a lot of different types of content to a lot of different people, whether it’s our magazines or books. Not only am I responsible for my consumers, but also my staff, so I always want to make sure I’m doing my best to make sure the business is on track and the content is on track.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Patty Craft, Community Leader & Content Creator/Editor, and Jamie Markle, Group Publisher, Acrylic Artist magazine.

Acrylic artists1-1 Samir Husni: F+W Media started The Artist first. Now you have a stable of artist’s magazines, from Watercolor to Acrylic and many others. Are we seeing that the future for print is going to be more and more specialized titles?

Jamie Markle: I would agree with that statement. As the world changes I think that print will continue on, but I think that we’ll see more and more niche publications like Acrylic Artist, which is one of the reasons we decided to branch off into that specific area, because the magazines that we have like Watercolor and Pastel Journal and Drawing; they have very dedicated subscriber bases and we thought that we would be able to replicate that with the Acrylic market.

Samir Husni: The cover price is almost $15; what message are you sending to your audience, to your “cult readership” with that price?

Jamie Markle: Acrylic Artist is the only magazine of its kind, the only magazine that is for the acrylic artist and only the acrylic artist and what we’re saying is that we want to provide quality content, but in order for us to provide content in the form that they want with beautiful paper and a nice trim size, we need to charge a little bit more in order to make it work.

Samir Husni: In one of the ads I saw that you had edited the book Acrylicworks 2: Radical Breakthroughs?

Jamie Markle: Correct.

Samir Husni: So, are you on both the publishing and editorial side?

Jamie Markle: I’m the vice president and group publisher for the fine art community here at F+W and we do things a little bit differently. I oversee all the editorial teams and they report directly to me as does the sales teams.

I really have a 360° view of the content that we produce whether it’s content from the editorial side that we put in the magazine, but also working with the salespeople as we work with our partners.

Sales opportunities in the fine arts area are limited to a certain group of manufacturers and retailers, so those relationships are longstanding and very important. I’ve been with the company for 15 years and having that 360° perspective has helped me to come up with new ideas and to look for crossover opportunities between editorial and our advertisers.

Samir Husni: Patty, I saw that you came onboard with issue three and from reading your editorial, you were very excited to come back to the art community.

Acrylic Artists 2-2 Patty Craft: That’s true. Social media can be sort of a challenge at some points, but I love the opportunity it affords us to reach out to one another. I’ve also been with the company for 15 years and in my early years I started out on Watercolor and Pastel, so many of the teammates that I have now were here then. I moved around a little bit in the business and did some different things. I was also a community leader for our garden community and horticulture magazine.

But coming back as the editor to actually work with content creation has been really great. Like Jamie said; it’s the balance between the business side and the creative content side.

Samir Husni: One of my premises that I try to teach my students is that we’re no longer just content providers; if we’re just in the business of content providing, we’re dead. We are more of the experience makers. Can you explain to me that as you’re putting the magazine together, what sort of experience are you looking to engage your audience with?

Patty Craft: That’s a great question. We put together each issue; you know it’s quarterly and when it comes out, it feels more like a catalog to me. It has a dual purpose: to inspire and to instruct. You can almost look at the issue as part art gallery and part classroom or workshop experience.

We feel that people who are reading Acrylic Artist have a variety of levels of experiences of painting, but across the board, and I’m not making this up for the interview, we have gotten nothing but positive feedback from artists of all levels. They love the format; they love the glossy paper; they love that it’s 116 pages and they feel like that’s something tangible and meaty that they can go back to over and over. And they’re pleased with the variety of artists that we’re showing, so we feel like we’re doing a nice job based on our readership’s response.

Samir Husni: And did anybody get upset with you when you told them in your Letter from the Editor that you would love for them to subscribe and by doing so they could save almost 42% off the cover price? Did they feel a bit taken aback because they had just paid $15 for one issue and the company is telling them after the fact that they could save quite a bit of money by subscribing?

Patty Craft: (Laughs) I have to tell you no, I have not gotten any bad feedback from that at all.

Jamie Markle: I actually think consumers are pretty used to that now. I’ve never had anyone come to me and say anything about that on any of our magazines. I’ve had people say there’s a better offer over here on this title; why didn’t you give me that one? But there are always different offers for different magazines all the time based on who you’re selling it through.

Samir Husni: Where do you see the specialty magazines and the bookazines that are coming to the marketplace and actually flooding the newsstands going? In June alone, the average cover price for new magazines was over $10. Do you see a point where the consumer will say that’s too much money for a magazine? Or the sky is the limit?

Jamie Markle: I think that bookazines have really opened the door to higher prices for SIP’s on the newsstands. So, I think that we’re able to get to that $15 range, but I believe going much higher than that, unless it’s a larger product, I think that might be a little bit challenging.

But I do believe that people will pay for quality, but we’re still very cognizant to prices according to the skill level and what the production values are. We’ve had a couple other magazines come out this year that we’ve really fit $9.99 on, that were still just around 100 pages, but because the skill level was a little bit lower and more entry level, we thought the consumer was a little bit of a general person and not a specific artist, but someone who was a generalist and might just pick up something on drawing. We chose to get that entry level market instead. I would be cautious to go much higher than $15 or $20 at this point, but bookazines sort of open up that market.

The other thing that’s interesting with us is we’re a book publisher as well, so if we’re going to put a lot of energy into something that is larger and book-sized, we’re probably more likely to put it into bookstore shelves, rather than on newsstand, that way it would have a longer life and it could live on all the outlets, like our own directed consumer stores, Amazon and any of the other bookstores, so if we were to go much higher than $15, for us that enters into a different type of product.

Samir Husni: Patty, what has been the most pleasant moment in your career working at F+W and with all of these communities?

Patty Craft: The most rewarding and pleasant experience I have is when we do find an artist that we know has great art or a beautiful garden or a really great story to tell and we are then able to work with them to encapsulate their story in such a way that we can share it with thousands of other people. It’s the beauty of community; it really is what community is about. I love the opportunity to look for these people who are doing something amazing that inspires that niche, whether it’s painting or gardening. Back when I was on Living Ready even, people who were looking at a preparedness way of life.

Being able to connect those people who are truly doing it as a way of life with people who may be aspiring to do it or are looking for a way to improve how they’re already doing it, that’s my greatest joy.

Samir Husni: And why do you think we have surrendered the term “community” to the digital world when in years past magazines were known for being communities and customers who came to our magazines were meant to be a part of that community they identified with?

Jamie Markle: It’s interesting because I think that what you said is true, a lot of communities were focused around “I am a subscriber to X Magazine” and I actually still see that’s true. We have a couple of different direct consumer websites, whether it is selling books and magazines or we have a streaming video service or online education. And when we have the chance to talk to some of those people, and sometimes it’ll be to tell us they have an issue with a product or about their membership, when I get a chance to talk to those people often I still hear, I’ve been a subscriber of The Pastel Journal for 10 years and I now have access to your streaming video site, and they tell me about how much they love the magazine and how they want to try one of our new services.

So, I still feel like the magazines are a core part of people being in that community and we know from our own data that our magazine subscribers are the most loyal buyers when it comes to art e-commerce store. Those people are very committed to following the pursuit of their art and they look to us to provide instruction in a lot of different formats. I would say the magazines are still a core part of the communities, whether they are Watercolor Artist or Acrylic Artist or somebody who likes to draw.

Samir Husni: Jamie, having said that, do you ever envision F+W as a digital-only community with no print?

Jamie Markle: Gosh, I hope not. Our print subscribers are really loyal. I suppose that it could happen, but I don’t foresee it happening in the next five years. People still like their subscriptions to their favorite magazines and I feel like we’ve helped, along with every other print producer out there. We saw some decline in the newsstand and some subscriber decline, but it’s really leveled off in the past couple of years where we’ve been seeing some nice steady numbers again. I think it’s been really good.

Samir Husni: I was at a conference in New York and people were talking about the death of the iPad and the death of the homepage, so I had to Tweet that it took us more than 500 years to talk about the death of print; now in less than seven years we’re talking about the death of the tablet and the death of the homepage.

Jamie Markle: We’ve actually seen some resurgence when it comes to people interested in print advertising again too. They used to scream: give me digital, give me digital and now we’re hearing what, can you do for print or what can we do for both.

Patty Craft: I’m pretty proud of the fact that our customers’ needs are important to us and when we look at the demographic of people who are acrylic painters who have already been consuming online video or online workshops or DVDs, that group is still attracted to a tangible print product. So, despite the fact that some people may be saying, oh, print is dead or its’s challenged, it’s encouraging to me that as a corporation, we understand our customers’ needs, this magazine is something they want, they want a print product. Our results are double what we expected.

Jamie Markle: I agree with Patty. I would add that I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of other magazine launches anytime soon, other than some SIPs. It was really an exception to take this to subscription, but I was really proud and happy that the executive management team saw the opportunity. And I do feel like it’s because there is such an opening in that marketplace that we were able to come in and sell it.

Samir Husni: What motivates either or both of you to get out of bed in the mornings and say I’m heading to F+W and it’s going to be a great day?

Jamie Markle: We can’t speak for the whole of F+W, of course, but we can speak for the fine art community. For me, I’m in a category that I love. My degree is in painting. I came into publishing a little bit after college. I’d always been involved in other ways, like the Yearbook or the newspaper, but I really didn’t leave college with a degree in journalism, I have one in painting, so for me to be able to work with art every day is just a wonderful gift.

And I would say getting to know the members of the community, whether it’s our contributing writers, the artists we interview, the people who write books for us or make videos for us, my staff; I see the passion that people have for the art that they make and the things that they teach and those connections and that view of what they do and how important it is to our consumers, that’s really what brings me to the office every day. It’s a chance to get to work with really great content creators and to serve the needs of our consumers who are so grateful and vocal about what they love and what they don’t love. It’s just very rewarding.

Samir Husni: Before Patty answers, have you Jamie ever seen any of your own paintings make it to the cover of a magazine?

Jamie Markle: (Laughs) No, I always tell people whenever they ask me that question about myself, I leave all of the decisions like that up to the editors of the magazine.

Samir Husni: What type of paintings do you do; oil or watercolor or acrylic?

Jamie Markle: I have done oil and acrylic. I haven’t done a lot of watercolor.

Samir Husni: Patty, what motivates you to go to work each day?

Patty Craft: I am very transparent. As I said in one of my Letters from the Editor: your wings as readers are made of paintings. When they get up in the mornings, what makes them soar is to be able to paint. My wings are made of words. And I’ve always dreamed of a career in writing. And so, it’s an opportunity for me as the editor of this magazine to be able to take these people’s stories, which are very visual, and translate them into the written word for people to read.

Our readers are obviously very visual, but they also love to read the stories. For me, it’s the fact that I get to come to work and I get to write about things that people are very passionate about.

And separate from that, in the horticulture community, I too am a gardener and as Jamie is a painter, I’ve been the community leader for horticulture for five or six years now. It’s the same with me for that community.

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

Jamie Markle: I guess the only thing I would say is one of the other reasons that we launched Acrylic Artist is when we looked at our art business as a whole, we saw that we were serving the acrylic artist with books, video and education, but there really wasn’t a hole in the magazine area. So, it really is our hope that we can build up that community of acrylic artists with our subscription plan.

Looking at the entire scope of what we were able to do for people in the watercolor area and the pastel area, we wanted to emulate that for the acrylic person, because what we do here at F+W is to try and provide content in the format for people when and how they want it.

Samir Husni: And I noticed also that your email address is F+W community.com.

Jamie Markle: Yes, because we really wanted to make that statement. We really are focused on the communities. Our titles change a little bit. Internally, we are called community leaders and externally we use the term publisher, because it makes more sense for people who aren’t within F+W.

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

Patty Craft: Right now, when you are launching, even though as a company we produce a vast number of print publications, this is still a new baby. It’s in its first year of subscription service. Horticulture Magazine, for example, it’s been in print for 110 years. I know what the themes are; I know who the writers are; I know who the gardeners are; I am so immersed in the magazine.

With Acrylic Artist, acrylic painting has only been around for 75 years. And I’m new to this. So, the thing that keeps me up at night is making sure that not only am I getting this fall issue that we’re going to send to the printer buttoned up tightly and in good shape, but that I have a deep enough view of 2016 and 2017 to make sure that I can keep the momentum going. Keep providing what people are accustomed to getting with this launch. Those are the things that give me a little pause once in a while.

Acrylic Artists 3-3 Jamie Markle: I think because I’m a pretty chill person and I sleep really well (Laughs), but if anything concerns me it’s that I’m in charge of making sure that we provide a lot of different types of content to a lot of different people, whether it’s our magazines or books. Not only am I responsible for my consumers, but also my staff, so I always want to make sure I’m doing my best to make sure the business is on track and the content is on track.

The great thing is that I have a super, awesome, amazing team and they really make my job easy because they know the communities and they provide that content portion without a lot of steps, so I consider myself very fortunate.

But if anything keeps me up, it’s making sure that we’re growing the overall business and the tricky part of that is that things are changing still pretty rapidly in the scope of things. And we just want to make sure that we’re covering all the bases and making sure we’re growing the print portion of the business as well as the online portion, because we feel like we need to have all of those in our wheelhouse at this point so that we can make sure that we keep up with the times.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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