Archive for August, 2015

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The Dark Side Of Social Media And Why We Will Always NEED Magazines… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing.

August 11, 2015

Samir "Mr. Magazine™" Husni. Photo by Jared Senseman.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni. Photo by Jared Senseman.

Why do we still need magazines in this day of unlimited digital access? What role do they play in communicating and connecting the world despite the open portal of the Internet?

These are some of the questions that I have been contemplating recently in light of certain events that have taken place on the world’s stage, and in my personal experience, over the course of the past few months. From the transitioning of Caitlyn Jenner, to gay marriage, and last but not least to the public display on social media of the killings and beheadings of people whose only guilt is that they happen to be from a different faith or lifestyle, media coverage differs greatly. This happens when you have checks and balances to figure into the equation.

Before you say anything; yes, I know that I’m biased, but at least I base my bias on reality and things that I see. This is not a sentimental or emotional rant, but rather something that is based on facts that I can back up and actually show you, for those of you who are interested in seeing the evidence.

Having said that, let’s start with the news and how social media seems to not have a single civil responsibility to present a fair and just reporting of the stories that make our headlines today. It’s as if the world belongs to them and they can say and show whatever they want and bring their message very easily to an audience; whether it’s invited information or not. It comes to you through your email, phone and search engines that provide you with so much unwanted junk, you forget why and what you were originally seeking in the first place.

When visiting some of the social media apps that are out there, it amazed me how much people can get away with, without anybody calling them out on their lack of responsibility. Yet, I see more rather than less of the unfiltered content. Yes, we live in this globally-free world where if someone wants to display an inappropriate picture of his or herself or someone else, the option is there without any apparent reproach from the site who governs the content.

Now it’s not as though social media first introduced pornography or lewd pictures to the masses; there have been porn magazines and photos of naked individuals for generations. It’s not a new concept, by any means. But the difference is you – the buyer – the consumer, made the conscious decision to go out and buy those types of publications and the content provided in them, while ultimately the same premise as what the web sends out (most times without audience provocation), the content within these magazines was edited and curated and the photos professionally taken. Even if it was pornography – there was still a sense of responsibility with what was being published, as there is today in adult magazines.

And it wasn’t like someone didn’t know what they would be getting when they intentionally went out and purchased any given adult magazine; using the word “adult” pretty much told them all they needed to know without skimming the contents.

Today, you can go to a site simply to connect with a friend or post your own comment about something important and within a matter of seconds you’re viewing porn videos, ribald images or language that would make a sailor blush. (No offense meant to any of my sailor friends out there; but you get my point).

The magazine industry has never been as invasive or presumptuous as to pummel your senses with any type of content that you didn’t ask for. From the ISIS beheadings to a college-aged individual decapitating a hamster with his mouth, which happened here at the University of Mississippi where I teach, social media sites have bombarded us with vile and unasked for content almost incessantly. Short of deleting one’s account, there’s no way to avoid the debacle of debasement that awaits you on media that has been wrongly termed “social.”

It seems to me that there is a dark, dark side of social media that cloaks itself in the light-hearted and convenient banter that we are able to join with just the touch of our fingertips. Yet, a lot of the time, the easy accessibility and casual connections cause people to find a mirror image of that darkness within their own psyches, especially when there are no repercussions to speak of.

Furthermore, although not on the same level as the social responsibility that’s missing from social media, we also have to deal with all of the unwanted ads and popups that continuously browbeat us while we are on the web trying to read or do research or simply catch up with family and friends.

These irritating little cyber snits are there to tell us that they’re following us stealthily and uninvited as we go about our online business, in order to shove ads for things we do not want or need down our throats simply because we clicked or read something inadvertently online. It’s that intrusiveness of the advertising; that intrusiveness of the selling model in general that can be so annoying.

And I know the critics are going to say it’s like the old days with television; you don’t like what you’re watching, you can turn it off. You don’t like what you’re reading or seeing on social media, turn it off or better yet, stay off of those sites and delete those apps. Yes, you can do that, but that just allows the “anything goes” mentality to continue without any liability or obligation from the sites themselves to justify their shocking content. They’re free and clear to debase, demoralize and demean people and places all they want.

And that just ups the selling points for magazines as far as I’m concerned, especially with this global movement of positive publications that are coming into the marketplace such as “Remarkable” from the Netherlands that just arrived in the United States. It’s a magazine about people doing more remarkable things and less harmful things during their lifespan. Or magazines like “Executive Life” from Lebanon, which is more of a cause and more about the good things in life, or “The Escapist” that comes from Monocle magazine, which is devoted to enjoying life, traveling and seeing the bright side of things.

Another name for that type of curation could easily be social responsibility. When you have those editors, those people curating all that information; it makes a difference in the quality of the content. The same cannot be said for the dark portals of the Internet and the digital apps; oftentimes the word quality doesn’t even exist.

Take one social media smartphone app, for example, that allows people to read and compose content anonymously within a 5-mile-radius, in the attempt to make the connection more relevant and personal. Well, it’s a given, the things one can read on this app are definitely personal all right, but I’m not sure how relevant they are when it comes to informative content.

The dark side of social media is something we are all responsible for in one way or another, either by adding to or subtracting from the black vortex. And while I am not opposed to using online access or from enjoying the convenience and wide-opened expanse of knowledge that’s available; I do think there should be a light showing the way as we all consume what’s out there. Being socially responsible isn’t limiting our advantages at all; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Weeding out the things that are taking over the garden is the only way to keep it healthy and growing so we get the best of the crop.

That’s why we will always have magazines and why we will always have that documented, curated, edited permanent print that we will continue to proudly display on our desks, coffee tables, night stands and/or take to the beach without ever being surprised by anything less than the great content and the great experience that flows from the content.

And, that in short, my friends, is why we will always have and need magazines and other printed material today, tomorrow and forever more…

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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The Unparalleled Success Of People Magazine – Trust & Ethical Reporting – It’s Not True Until People Says It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jess Cagle, Editorial Director, People Magazine.

August 10, 2015

“Looking at the realities of the business now, I can’t imagine the print product going away in the next 10 years, because frankly too many people want it and it makes too much money. It’s such a gigantic part of our business and just based on consumer demand; I don’t think it’s going to go away.” Jess Cagle

07_27_15_NO_UPC Henry Luce may have said it best: “I suggest that what we want to do is not to leave to posterity a great institution, but to leave behind a great tradition of journalism ably practiced in our time.” A noble sentiment that can be observed when one considers that the number one moneymaking magazine today is in the Time Inc. family and definitely practices that great tradition of journalism that Luce was referring to.

People magazine reaches 75 million human beings at any given moment in time and according to its editorial director, Jess Cagle, in his editor’s letter from the August 3rd issue, they’re working hard to get it right. An example of that “getting it right” was offered up in Jess Cagle’s letter and substantiates Henry Luce’s hopes for the future of his company when it came to the ethics and morals of good journalism.

When Caitlyn Jenner was still Bruce and made the announcement that she was transitioning once and for all from male to female, People made the confirmation that it was indeed happening and then posted it on People.com. And while People certainly wasn’t the first to report on the Jenner transition, millions of users clicked on the story for one defining reason: If People said it was true, you knew it was true.

And that is the power behind the People brand: the careful, meticulous and respectful coverage of stories such as Caitlyn Jenner’s. Or the thoughtful way the magazine reported on the story of Brittany Maynard and her struggles with terminal brain cancer and the right-to-die issue.

I spoke with Jess recently and we talked about the foundation of People and the ethical treatment of both its audience and its subject matter. Jess described People’s focus as a magazine that reports on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and extraordinary people doing ordinary things. And I think he hit the nail on the head with that characterization.

People continues to maintain and gain its audience’s trust and also the trust of the people it covers by never forgetting that while they may cover Hollywood, celebrities and other “people” who entertain us and baffle us and inspire us; the powers-that-be that bring us the stories, photographs and videos are journalists first and mindblowers second. They want to wow us and cause those jaw-dropping moments, but only if they’re done with taste, truth and respectful reporting.

And the man that leads that auspicious team and oversees the equally popular Entertainment Weekly group is as passionate about journalistic ethics as he is a good story.

So, grab your favorite piece of furniture and relax for 15 minutes or so and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jess Cagle, Editorial Director, People magazine. It will definitely be worth your while.

But first, the sound-bites:


jess cagle On why People magazine is still the number one moneymaking magazine today and a highly respected source for accuracy and truth when it comes to celebrity coverage:
People magazine was launched 41 years ago covering celebrities and I think that it was the first magazine that was largely focused on celebrities that took a journalistic approach to it. In other words, it adhered to all of the ethical, journalistic rules and regulations like any good journalist would follow and applied it to celebrities. And I think that we’ve never gotten away from that and that is essentially the reason why the notion among our audience and the public in general is that it’s not true until People magazine says it. So, it starts with journalism and that’s how the magazine was founded; that was in its DNA.

On the fact that Time Inc.’s Henry Luce started the company with brands like Time, Life and Sports Illustrated, but ironically it’s the celebrity-focused People magazine that after 41 years of being published remains the number one moneymaker out of the much esteemed Time Inc. roster:
Henry Luce was very good at giving the audience what they wanted and then giving the audience more of what they wanted. And I think what we saw was that there was an appetite for celebrity coverage, and not just celebrity coverage. A lot of media outlets over the years had covered celebrities and Hollywood, but People magazine certainly brought a journalistic rigor to that coverage that was new.

On how it makes him feel when he thinks about the fact that People magazine reaches 75 million people at any given moment: If you really thought about the 75 million that we reach, it would be paralyzing because there’s no way to make them all happy all of the time. And you have many different age groups, from retirees to millennials, within your readership.

On whether he can ever imagine a day when People magazine doesn’t have a print component:
Sure, I can imagine it. Media has changed so much in the past 10 years that to say that you can’t ever imagine a certain scenario is crazy, because anything is possible. And the way people consume media now is so different than it was 10 years ago and ten years from now it’ll be so different than it is today. But looking at the realities of the business now, I can’t imagine the print product going away in the next 10 years, because frankly too many people want it and it makes too much money.

On why the People logo was recently upsized and now has the largest logo on the newsstands:
Well, because People is the Coca-Cola and the Superman of media brands. So, to make it bigger and more noticeable seemed to make sense to me. It’s so recognizable and people have such an emotional connection to that logo that I just thought let’s make it as big as we can.

On what he thinks it will take to keep media reporters from lumping People magazine into the same category as the tabloids: Well again, I’m a realist, so I realize that many of the topics we cover are going to be the same topics that the trashy tabloids are covering. I’m aware that the same top stories on People.com are sometimes going to be the same top stories on trashy websites. So, I understand why sometimes we get lumped together, but our audience knows the difference in People and the rest. They know it’s a very differentiated product and Hollywood and Washington and everywhere that we draw our subjects from; they also know that People is a differentiated product.

On combining People.com and Entertainment Weekly.com and whether or not the People brand is trying to be “the” entertainment news website:
The websites remain distinct; we have combined them into a network, called the People/Entertainment Weekly Network, in order to create the number one digital news, entertainment news site. And that really helps us with advertisers. If we can sell those two sites together and maximize advertising opportunities and maximize the reach of both of those brands, because they’re both enormous, that really helps us. From the consumer standpoint, they remain very, very different brands. They offer very, very different things.

On whether celebrities covet being on the cover of People or they’re scared of being featured on the cover:
If we call a celebrity and say congratulations, you’re going to be on the cover of “The World’s Most Beautiful” issue or congratulations, you’re “The Sexiest Man Alive,” or you know what, you have a new movie coming out and we’d love to do a cover story on you; they get very excited by that.

On how his role as an editorial director has changed since the days before the digital/mobile explosion: I would say the biggest challenge has been, just when we thought we had figured out how to maintain a print product and a website, suddenly everybody started moving to mobile. Now we have to really think about how our product looks on mobile and how we serve our audience on those little devices.

On the hefty subscription price People’s readers are willing to pay and what that says about the audience: I run two brands, one is Entertainment Weekly and one is People; a subscription to People is much more expensive than EW or Time or any other magazine in the world, not just Time Inc. It’s the reason that I made the logo bigger. People’s audience, which is very big, has an emotional connection to that brand that they don’t have with a lot of other brands. You don’t have that many people with as deep an emotional connection as we have with People magazine. And I don’t say that because I’m trying to sell you People; I say that because it’s just the truth. It’s why people are willing to pay that kind of money for it.

On what makes him click and tick and motivates him to get out of bed in the mornings: What do I look forward to? Honestly, what gets me out of bed is the fact that this job is not going to do itself. And also – how many people are lucky enough to have this job? It sounds a bit Pollyannaish, but I never want to stop being excited, because how many people get to choose the cover of People magazine and work on Entertainment Weekly? I grew up with both of these brands, so I personally have a deep, emotional connection to both of them.

On what keeps him up at night:
When it comes down to what keeps me up at night, I think it’d have to be; am I a good enough leader for this organization or how could I lead it better? That’s a better way to articulate it. How can I get all of these different people doing all of these different things and creating all of this content in all of its different forms to work together and create an environment where people are working at the top of their game and able to work at the top of their game? That’s the toughest part of the job.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Jess Cagle, Editorial Director, People magazine.

Samir Husni: People is the number one moneymaking magazine, from circulation and from advertising; it’s by far the most successful magazine in the world. But by the same token, you edit the magazine in a completely different way. In your roadmap editorial in the August 3rd issue, you talk about compassion for the people, respect for the audience and compassion for the people you cover. Tell me a little about how you do that; what makes you and People magazine different than anything else out there?

People 3-1 Jess Cagle: People magazine was launched 41 years ago covering celebrities and I think that it was the first magazine that was largely focused on celebrities that took a journalistic approach to it. In other words, it adhered to all of the ethical, journalistic rules and regulations like any good journalist would follow and applied it to celebrities.

And I think that we’ve never gotten away from that and that is essentially the reason why the notion among our audience and the public in general is that it’s not true until People magazine says it. So, it starts with journalism and that’s how the magazine was founded; that was in its DNA.

Over the years we have set ourselves apart from the tabloids by being fair primarily; I can tell you that not every story we do about a celebrity makes them happy. I feel quite certain that Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert would rather us not do a cover on their divorce; however, I think they also know and the audience too, that we’re going to cover it fairly. We’re not going to tell you things that aren’t true; we’re not going to take cheap shots. So, I think it’s the idea of being fair.

The other component of all this is People has unparalleled access to Hollywood. And so by adhering to journalistic rules and by being fair, they trust us. And that’s really important to us. We want to tell our readers the truth, as much truth as we know at any given time. That trust is very important. The trust of the Hollywood community is also very important to us.

Trust from our audience and trust from the people we cover are keys to our success. It’s not that we just want to do the right thing, which is great and we do, but it’s also that maintaining trust among the audience and the subjects we cover is also really good business for us as well.

Samir Husni: It’s ironic; when I was going to school in the late 70s and People was just a five-year-old magazine, one of my professors quoted someone saying that when People was first launched Henry Luce was probably turning in his grave. These are the same people who bring you TIME and Life and Sports Illustrated and now they’re doing this? But now 41 years later, People magazine probably saved Time Inc.

Jess Cagle: Yes, it is funny, but I don’t know that Henry Luce would have been turning in his grave. Henry Luce was very good at giving the audience what they wanted and then giving the audience more of what they wanted. And I think what we saw was that there was an appetite for celebrity coverage, and not just celebrity coverage. A lot of media outlets over the years had covered celebrities and Hollywood, but People magazine certainly brought a journalistic rigor to that coverage that was new.

But what People really did and its real impact on the world was that we were a news magazine that focused on the personalities behind the news. A news magazine that focused on the newsmakers; so whether we’re covering Hollywood, sports or politics; we’re showing our subjects in a way that enables the reader to have a personal connection with them.

If we do a story on a politician, we’re going to show the politician at home with the kids and we’re going to talk about their hobbies and very often you can learn a lot more about a public figure, whether they’re a sports star, politician or a Hollywood actor, by knowing some of those personal details rather than hearing them talk about policy and things like that.

Samir Husni: People has an audience of 75 million, between print and digital and social media; when you wake up in the morning and you think about the fact that you’re reaching 75 million people at any given moment, how does that make you feel?

Jess Cagle: Well, first, I think about what I’m going to have for lunch that day. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Jess Cagle: If you really thought about the 75 million that we reach, it would be paralyzing because there’s no way to make them all happy all of the time. And you have many different age groups, from retirees to millennials, within your readership.

What informs what we do are really three things. And the first thing is the founding editor of People, Dick Stolley, said that People is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and extraordinary people doing ordinary things. And that still informs all of our content.

What I’ve worked on a lot since I’ve been here is to think hard about what exactly is the job of our content and the job of our content is to entertain, inspire and empower our audience. Now, you can’t do all three of those things with every single story, but you can do at least one of those things with every story, whether it’s a Tweet or it’s a post on the site or whether it’s a cover story.

And then you think we want to cover ordinary people doing extraordinary things and extraordinary people doing ordinary things; that’s the mission, but the job is to entertain, inspire and empower. And the greatest asset, our most valuable and precious asset, is the trust that we’ve gained with our audience. And the trust that you’ve gained with your audience translates into trust from your subjects and trust from advertisers.

Samir Husni: You mentioned in your roadmap editorial all the hard work that goes into preparing the 52 issues of the print edition and the breaking news stories on People.com; can you ever imagine a day when People magazine doesn’t have a print component, when everything is digital-only and the new half-hour news program maybe becoming a 24 hour channel?

Jess Cagle: Sure, I can imagine it. Media has changed so much in the past 10 years that to say that you can’t ever imagine a certain scenario is crazy, because anything is possible. And the way people consume media now is so different than it was 10 years ago and ten years from now it’ll be so different than it is today. The site won’t look the same, our video won’t look the same and our print product won’t look the same. It’s all changing and we just have to keep our ear to the ground and evolve with it.

But looking at the realities of the business now, I can’t imagine the print product going away in the next 10 years, because frankly too many people want it and it makes too much money. It’s such a gigantic part of our business and just based on consumer demand; I don’t think it’s going to go away.

Now, I’m also a realist and I know that the digital space, that’s where we’re looking to maintain and stabilize print as much as we can. But we know that digital, particularly video, is the most exciting area of growth for us. So, we’re doing all we can to grow those parts of the business. We think a lot about that as a huge part of what we do every day.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me why you recently changed the logo of People, not really changed it, but upsized the name “People” and now it’s the biggest logo of any magazine on the newsstands?

People 4-2 Jess Cagle: Well, because People is the Coca-Cola and the Superman of media brands. So, to make it bigger and more noticeable seemed to make sense to me. It’s so recognizable and people have such an emotional connection to that logo that I just thought let’s make it as big as we can. People love it and it for some reason it makes them feel good. I think that Americans are born knowing what People magazine is.

Samir Husni: One of the biggest struggles that I’m sure you face is with media reporters. They always try to put People magazine in the same genre as celebrity magazines.

Jess Cagle: Right – as the tabloids.

Samir Husni: What can you do to show or to educate media people, more than your audience, more than the Hollywood personalities; what is needed for those media-type people to see that People magazine is not just a celebrity magazine?

Jess Cagle: Well again, I’m a realist, so I realize that many of the topics we cover are going to be the same topics that the trashy tabloids are covering. I’m aware that the same top stories on People.com are sometimes going to be the same top stories on trashy websites.

So, I understand why sometimes we get lumped together, but our audience knows the difference in People and the rest. They know it’s a very differentiated product and Hollywood and Washington and everywhere that we draw our subjects from; they also know that People is a differentiated product. The president of the United States does an interview with People magazine every year, so they understand that it’s different.

Advertisers really understand that it’s different. So, when people in the media lump us into those groups or I hear my mom’s friends lump us into those categories, I sort of get it and I tell myself that where it counts, people know that we’re differentiated.

And it doesn’t bother me if I hear someone say that People magazine is their guilty pleasure. I actually take it as a compliment because you know what; it’s light-hearted and fun. We do take on some very serious stories and that is part of the appeal, but we get people into the tent with these very great, light-hearted stories. People love us so much for that.

We were able to put Brittany Maynard on the cover and really go head-on with the right-to-die issue. And I don’t know if you remember, but Brittany Maynard was a 29-year-old woman who was terminally ill and was moving with her husband and her family to Oregon, which is a right-to-die state. We did a cover on Brittany Maynard last year when she made the decision to die; People did that as a cover. And then we did a cover on her husband after her death. And people expect those stories from People; it wasn’t a crazy thing that we did. They love us; we make them feel good and that kind of story is empowering to them. And it’s inspiring to them.

Samir Husni: Recently you combined People.com and Entertainment Weekly.com (EW.com). Is People the brand, trying to be “the” digital entertainment news website?

Jess Cagle: EW.com and People.com; it’s important to me to make sure that those two websites and those two brands in general remain very, very distinct brands. And they are. People is very personality-focused; EW is very product-focused. On People we might do a cover story on Channing Tatum and his marriage and talk about all of that; whereas at EW they would do a cover story on Magic Mike and the whole cast and talk about the production of the film and the phenomenon. So, the two will go at the same area of subjects very, very differently.

The websites remain distinct; we have combined them into a network, called the People/Entertainment Weekly Network, in order to create the number one digital news, entertainment news site. And that really helps us with advertisers. If we can sell those two sites together and maximize advertising opportunities and maximize the reach of both of those brands, because they’re both enormous, that really helps us. From the consumer standpoint, they remain very, very different brands. They offer very, very different things.

Samir Husni: Back to the magazine; this year we’ve had so many different stories about the power of a magazine cover. We’ve seen one magazine cover after another gain so much publicity and generate so much social media. Matt Bean, whom you know, spoke on a panel with me in Cannes last year in France and he mentioned that when he was editor of Entertainment Weekly nobody ever called him to be on the website, but everybody called wanting to be on the cover of the magazine. Do you have a similar experience? Do people covet being on the cover of People or are they scared of being featured on the cover?

Jess Cagle: (Laughs) I think it depends. If you’ve done something wrong and People calls, well… the guy that killed the lion last week would probably be scared to be on the cover of People.

If we call a celebrity and say congratulations, you’re going to be on the cover of “The World’s Most Beautiful” issue or congratulations, you’re “The Sexiest Man Alive,” or you know what, you have a new movie coming out and we’d love to do a cover story on you; they get very excited by that. With EW, the studios and the networks are very excited to get their TV shows and their films on the cover of EW.

The interesting thing is that while cover sales have certainly gone down and there’s been a lot of migration to the Internet in media consumption as we all know, to the people that we cover, the cover of People magazine and the cover of Entertainment Weekly are incredibly important and they are as important as they ever were, particularly in the case of People. You still have hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes a million people, buying the cover every week.

WMBCvr_noUPC But the reason Hollywood likes the cover of People and EW is, besides the fact that a lot of people do buy the cover; a lot of people get it in their homes. And a lot of people see that cover in the doctor’s office and everywhere else. So, the cover is important to them for exposure and affirmation, if it’s a positive cover. It’s very important real estate, in the same reason that it’s still very important real estate to me. I would say the two things that I spend the biggest chunk of my time on are the People cover, as well as ramping up video production on our websites. Those are the two most important things to me.

But the reason that I’m so focused on the cover, and I’m focused as well on the Entertainment Weekly cover, although Henry Goldblatt does a fantastic job and he’s the editor of EW, that’s your billboard every single week, that’s what people are seeing. And they’re seeing that cover and forming an opinion of the brand. The cover is very important.

Samir Husni: And you being the guardian of the brand; how did things change for you from the days before 2007 and after 2007, before the mobile/digital explosion and after it? As an editorial director now; is your job still the same?

Jess Cagle: I would say the biggest challenge has been, just when we thought we had figured out how to maintain a print product and a website, suddenly everybody started moving to mobile. Now we have to really think about how our product looks on mobile and how we serve our audience on those little devices.

More importantly, and this we haven’t quite figured out, but we will; how do you monetize the content? You know monetizing your content in a magazine is easy, you print out the magazine and people subscribe to it; people buy newsstand copies and you sell advertising.

In the digital space it’s a lot different. People are used to getting that for free. So, how do we monetize the website; how do we monetize mobile and how do we monetize video? And I would say that has been the biggest shift for me in the last couple of years is – OK, I know how to run a brand with two platforms, digital and print; the next thing is how do we translate that to mobile? And then also; how do we tell stories in video? The trick to video, where a lot of audiences are going and advertisers are going, that’s a very different skillset from doing a magazine or a website. We’re not TV producers, we write words and show pictures; that’s what we know how to do.

But it’s exciting though to first of all think about that, but we’re also onboarding the right kind of talent to create video for us. And it’s exciting to work with those kinds of people as well.

Samir Husni: The subscription to People magazine is a hefty price; it’s around $99 for the introductory subscription for a year and then another $139 to renew, while the introductory subscription for your sister publication, TIME magazine is around $20. What does that say about the audience; we’re willing to pay $100 for People, but we’re not willing to pay more than $20 for TIME. Does that say something about the audience out there?

Jess Cagle: I run two brands, one is Entertainment Weekly and one is People; a subscription to People is much more expensive than EW or TIME or any other magazine in the world, not just Time Inc. It’s the reason that I made the logo bigger. People’s audience, which is very big, has an emotional connection to that brand that they don’t have with a lot of other brands. You don’t have that many people with as deep an emotional connection as we have with People magazine. And I don’t say that because I’m trying to sell you People; I say that because it’s just the truth. It’s why people are willing to pay that kind of money for it.

They really treasure their time with People. For a lot of the audience, getting that People magazine in their mailbox signifies the end of the week. It is their break. It is their time and their escape.

I had the same connection to People when I was growing up as a little kid in Texas; it was my window to the world. I read about how these other people lived their lives and realized that anything was possible. And then there’s always some juicy crime stories and things like that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Jess Cagle: It’s interesting; you compare TIME and People as if maybe it means the world is silly and doesn’t care about important issues; I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s just a deep resonate, emotional connection to People that other media brands don’t have. That is the big strength of People, I would say. As I map out the future of People, I think about the emotional connection people have to the brand.

As I map out the future of Entertainment Weekly, I look at EW’s singular power to curate content for its audience. And its audience is smaller, but its audience is very passionate about what EW covers. And very passionate about what EW says about something. There’s a constant dialogue and debate that the EW audience has with it. And probably EW’s advantage is that it has the greatest access to Hollywood that any brand in the world has, because EW covers people’s product and if you’re an actor or a musician or a movie producer, you want to be in that brand and you want that brand on your side; you want to support that brand because it covers what’s important to you also.

I look at both brands and their different strengths, but it is interesting; I think that the price of People reflects the emotional connection that people have to it.

Samir Husni: What makes you click and tick and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings and say it’s going to be a great day?

Jess Cagle: What do I look forward to? Honestly, what gets me out of bed is the fact that this job is not going to do itself. And also – how many people are lucky enough to have this job? It sounds a bit Pollyannaish, but I never want to stop being excited, because how many people get to choose the cover of People magazine and work on Entertainment Weekly? I grew up with both of these brands, so I personally have a deep, emotional connection to both of them. And the idea that I get to work on them every day is incredible. Also, there are always new challenges and things to solve.

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

Jess Cagle: Actually, I will tell you that nothing keeps me up at night, I sleep really well. But on those nights I do have a little trouble getting to sleep; it always varies as to why. Usually the things that worry you most are how are you going to get all of these different people to work together to do all of these things? We work in an incredibly matrixed organization and how do you make sure that you’re being clear enough for everyone?

When it comes down to what keeps me up at night, I think it’d have to be; am I a good enough leader for this organization or how could I lead it better? That’s a better way to articulate it. How can I get all of these different people doing all of these different things and creating all of this content in all of its different forms to work together and create an environment where people are working at the top of their game and able to work at the top of their game? That’s the toughest part of the job.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Ebony Magazine: Keeping The Unique Black Experience Alive. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kierna Mayo, Editor-In-Chief.

August 6, 2015

“I believe that magazines will never die. I really do believe that. I think that they will transform and continue to evolve, as they have forever. I believe that black magazines will continue. I think that we will continue to have unique challenges, but also unique successes. Again, as long as the black experience remains a distinctly unique one from the “American” experience, per se, there will be a market for a particular lens. There will be a market for a particular perspective. And I think when you understand that; you understand that black magazines will always have a certain impact. And as you said, the reason there was such a reaction (to the August cover of Ebony) may very well be in part due to the fact that this statement was made on paper.” Kierna Mayo

0815_Cover.indd Founded by John H. Johnson, Ebony has been an active voice for the African-American community for 70 years. The cover has featured prominent African-American celebrities and politicians, ranging from Diana Ross to President Obama, and the magazine itself has always sought to present a positive and life-affirming view for its readers.

Never has that inspiring outlook and voice of positivity been more needed than today. Ebony has been a beacon of faith in the African-American community.

The cover of the recent issue of Ebony is one that is both powerful, and in some cases, controversial. “America Loves Black People Culture,” with the word “Culture” superimposed over the word “People.” I spoke with Ebony’s new Editor-In-Chief, Kierna Mayo, recently about the statement the cover made and also about the magazine in general. In her editor’s letter of the same issue, Kierna talks about the fact that many white people are fascinated and in love with the black way of life, its culture and uniqueness, but not necessarily black people. It’s a thought-provoking and dynamic observation. One that is both timely and provocative, considering the horrendous tragedies that have occurred recently in the United States involving black Americans.

Kierna Mayo is a woman who is very familiar with Ebony, having grown up with the magazine long before she ever started working for it. She is proud of John Johnson’s vision and determined to always “do what feels right” to her, in order to carry it on into Ebony’s future. She holds herself accountable as editor-in-chief for that responsibility and is not a woman who takes her duties lightly. Her strong and positive voice is in tune with the magazine and reflects its mission succinctly.

I hope you enjoy this extremely timely and riveting Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who believes that Ebony is one reason America still needs black magazines. The unique black experience is something that Ebony reflects naturally, always has and always will.

But first, the sound-bites:


Kierna Mayo On the reaction of readers to the powerful cover image gracing the current issue of Ebony:
The reaction has been pretty universal, I would say; particularly from black people. They feel very understood, because there are many sentiments that we share as African-Americans, some of them quite frankly are just unspoken because they’re so commonplace. And I think this might be one of them. There’s just universality in the statement in terms of the black experience. I think most people understand it to be explicitly true.

On having two different covers for the current issue, one on the inside of the magazine and that made a slightly different statement from the cover actually used: There was quite a bit of conversation about which way to go from the onset. Initially, we wanted to do an illustration for this cover, a literal illustration of a white family depicting what we meant by the appreciation of black culture but maybe not so much black people. We went around and around about it; we had lots of debates. The cover you saw on the inside was actually one of the versions. I don’t think I saw it as choosing one that was softer at the time; the language was exactly the same.

On whether she feels there’s still a need for a black magazine in today’s marketplace:
Yes, I would have to say so. To the extent that there’s always going to be something very specific and unique about the black experience in America. I think black people deserve, and quite frankly, need a place that is exclusive to them. We have this dual identity and as Americans that built this country, many Americans have a hyphen; many Americans have a dual identity, but not many other groups have literally built this country from the ground up in the way African-Americans have.

On how she foresees John Johnson’s vision, which began 70 years before, moving into the future: When I think about my role or more importantly my responsibility now as an editor as it relates to Mr. Johnson’s brave vision, I think the most important thing that I can do is remain authentic. If I can do what I believe or lead the team and lead the magazine in the direction that I truly believe is healthy, progressive and timely for black people, then I’m doing the right thing.

On the major stumbling block that she faces:
One major stumbling block, and I don’t know that it’s unique to Ebony; it’s a stumbling block that many magazines have today, and that is newsstand. Newsstand numbers dwindle across the board and folks have their fingers crossed every time they put out a book. I don’t think that we are any different. We hope that we resonate; we hope that we are worth your time and money in a world that begins with www.

On whether she believes there’s a future for print, especially when it comes to magazines specifically for black people:
I do; I do. I believe that magazines will never die. I really do believe that. I think that they will transform and continue to evolve, as they have forever. I believe that black magazines will continue. I think that we will continue to have unique challenges, but also unique successes. Again, as long as the black experience remains a distinctly unique one from the “American” experience, per se, there will be a market for a particular lens. There will be a market for a particular perspective.

On the difference for specifically-black magazines when it comes to the targeted content they once had, compared to the broad coverage black people get today throughout all magazines:
It’s not just the change in the content for black magazines; it’s the fact that what has historically been content for black magazines is now content for so many other magazines. That’s really the game changer and what is markedly different from when I was editor-in-chief of Honey magazine. We understood black celebrities, in some sense, to be “ours,” simply because there was so much neglect when it came to the coverage of black stars. The field was wide opened and the stars were ours for the picking.

On the possibility that Jet magazine’s demise in print could have been due to black celebrities being covered by all genres’ of magazines today:
I’m not sure that I agree that a black celebrity publication couldn’t survive. I still believe that perspective is a very important thing. And the way you do things; the language you use and the images you use; it’s all a pie. There are many, many elements that go into making a pie work, rise, be delicious, or fall flat.

On what makes her tick and click and motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings:
Aside from my children; I have three sons and one daughter; a lot of my friends will remark about how my career is just aligned with my true path, because people who have known me for a very long time know that I have had a magazine obsession since my teenaged years. And I’ve always hoarded magazines and collected them.

On whether she felt any competition when First Lady Michelle Obama recently guest edited More Magazine:
No, I didn’t think that at all. Again, the First Lady is covered everywhere. And it’s just a very unique time, because the First Lady just happens to be a black person. It doesn’t shock me at all at this point, and I don’t see coverage of the First Lady or the president in any way competitive with us. It’s a matter of fact that the country would have to cover the leadership of the country. But I think Michelle Obama herself happens to be a brilliant woman, so kudos to More for scoring that one. It was great.

On anything else that she’d like to add:
Yes; you’d asked before about what some of our challenges were and I really need to say to my audience that subscriptions are critical. Supporting Ebony magazine is really an important thing. No, that information is traded online and you can see the cover; I’ve gotten tens of thousands of likes and clicks and all of that’s lovely, but if you don’t go out and support the magazine, it’ll be very hard for us to continue.

On what keeps her up at night:
Again, I think it’s similar to what wakes me up in the morning. I try to have a life that’s lived in relative balance, relative with a capital “R.” I am up at night when I’m concerned about an idea or I am concerned about a human related to an idea. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Kierna Mayo, Editor-In-Chief, Ebony magazine.

Samir Husni: What has been the reaction so far to this change from a celebrity cover to the powerful cover image used for the current issue of Ebony?

Kierna Mayo: The reaction has been pretty universal, I would say; particularly from black people. They feel very understood, because there are many sentiments that we share as African-Americans, some of them quite frankly are just unspoken because they’re so commonplace. And I think this might be one of them. There’s just universality in the statement in terms of the black experience. I think most people understand it to be explicitly true.

There was a reaction that was quite favorable because people felt heard, seen and very much like, that is so cool Ebony. People think it’s something new, but actually for us at Ebony this is something that the magazine has done over the course of 70 years. There have been several covers that have been very explicit, very direct, without relying on a celebrity in any way, and they have been statement-making as well.

ebony2-2 Samir Husni: You put another version of the cover inside the magazine alongside your letter from the editor, with a slightly different statement. What made you decide to soften the cover you used a little bit from that one?

Kierna Mayo: You saw it as softening it? I tried to capture a little bit about this in the editor’s letter. There was quite a bit of conversation about which way to go from the onset. Initially, we wanted to do an illustration for this cover, a literal illustration of a white family depicting what we meant by the appreciation of black culture but maybe not so much black people.

We went around and around about it; we had lots of debates. The cover you saw on the inside was actually one of the versions. I don’t think I saw it as choosing one that was softer at the time; the language was exactly the same. But there are different impulses that are created with a big red heart that we wanted to move away from, so six or half dozen; maybe that one would have been equally as received, maybe not. You never know when you’re creating magazines. It’s one part science and the other part gut.

Samir Husni: Is there still a need for a black magazine in today’s marketplace, today’s society; in today’s United States?

Kierna Mayo: Yes, I would have to say so. To the extent that there’s always going to be something very specific and unique about the black experience in America. I think black people deserve, and quite frankly, need a place that is exclusive to them. We have this dual identity and as Americans that built this country, many Americans have a hyphen; many Americans have a dual identity, but not many other groups have literally built this country from the ground up in the way African-Americans have.

So, our American-ness is very real, and yes; it is a shared thing, and yes; there are many other places that we indulge and grab information from in ways that other Americans do, but that said, we have such a unique history here. And our lens is something that is special. And there are many times in many spaces in our lives as black people in this country that we don’t feel safe enough or clear enough to express the world through our lens, but when there’s a conversation with black people for black people by black people, there’s a paradigm shift that most African-Americans can appreciate and I think it’s why Ebony has been around for 70 years.

Samir Husni: As you assume your new role as editor-in-chief and continue to be in charge of the digital side; how do you foresee that vision that John Johnson began 70 years ago moving into the future?

Kierna Mayo: Just a quick clarification; I don’t run digital day-to-day anymore. There is a new person on the digital side, although I do still play a digital role. But John Johnson’s vision is something that impacted me quite frankly, long before I got to Ebony magazine. Like most black people in this country, especially if you’re over a certain age, the black experience is very tied to the Ebony experience. It’s been around literally my entire life.

When I think about my role or more importantly my responsibility now as an editor as it relates to Mr. Johnson’s brave vision, I think the most important thing that I can do is remain authentic. If I can do what I believe or lead the team and lead the magazine in the direction that I truly believe is healthy, progressive and timely for black people, then I’m doing the right thing.

And that, I believe, is what the Ebony magic has always been. And there have been times when we’ve nailed it and there have been times when we’ve missed. But show me a magazine that doesn’t have that story to its history.

In terms of being a maverick and true to what black people need, when black people need it; that is what Ebony does. And I’m here for it.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the major stumbling block facing you and how are you going to overcome it?

Kierna Mayo: One major stumbling block, and I don’t know that it’s unique to Ebony; it’s a stumbling block that many magazines have today, and that is newsstand. Newsstand numbers dwindle across the board and folks have their fingers crossed every time they put out a book. I don’t think that we are any different. We hope that we resonate; we hope that we are worth your time and money in a world that begins with “www.”

But I’m very faithful that what we do is something that black people understand to be specifically for them. And I’m trying not to live by fear, but to really take a deep breath and have some faith and do what we all think collectively is the right thing to do.

Samir Husni: And do you think if you had used the current powerful cover of Ebony on the web instead of in print it would have had the same impact? Do you think that we have a future for print, specifically for black magazines?

Kierna Mayo: I do; I do. I believe that magazines will never die. I really do believe that. I think that they will transform and continue to evolve, as they have forever. I believe that black magazines will continue. I think that we will continue to have unique challenges, but also unique successes. Again, as long as the black experience remains a distinctly unique one from the “American” experience, per se, there will be a market for a particular lens. There will be a market for a particular perspective. And I think when you understand that; you understand that black magazines will always have a certain impact. And as you said, the reason there was such a reaction may very well be in part due to the fact that this statement was made on paper.

Now there are people who have seen it first online, meaning that they’ve seen the image online, but they understand that it is actually on paper.

Samir Husni: You were the founding editor of Honey magazine and now you’re the editor-in-chief of Ebony and you and I have talked about the fact that many types of magazines are featuring black people on their covers these days. How do you feel that the change in the nature of the content, since your days at Honey and up until now at Ebony, is going to impact the future of black magazines?

Kierna Mayo: It’s not just the change in the content for black magazines; it’s the fact that what has historically been content for black magazines is now content for so many other magazines. That’s really the game changer and what is markedly different from when I was editor-in-chief of Honey magazine.

We understood black celebrities, in some sense, to be “ours,” simply because there was so much neglect when it came to the coverage of black stars. The field was wide opened and the stars were ours for the picking.

Now, you fight in many respects to get black stars to even commit to black publications simply because they believe they no longer “have to.”

Samir Husni: And that may be one of the reasons for the demise of the print edition of Jet, because of the fact that it was strictly celebrity-based content.

Kierna Mayo: I’m not sure that I agree that a black celebrity publication couldn’t survive. I still believe that perspective is a very important thing. And the way you do things; the language you use and the images you use; it’s all a pie. There are many, many elements that go into making a pie work, rise, be delicious, or fall flat. I’m not sure that I believe that there’s no need for it. But yes, absolutely; there’s greater competition for the celebrities themselves and there are more people covering the same stars. It’s still a very different way that I am going to cover Tina Knowles than InStyle would, quite frankly.

Samir Husni: So, are you going to lead the fight to bring Jet back?

Kierna Mayo: (Laughs).

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Kierna Mayo: Jet mag.com is alive and well, by the way. And there’s a lot going on with the Jet brand, so it’s not as though it has died. But it has transformed. But I do understand what you’re asking with Jet “print.” Subjectively speaking, of course, there’s a yearning to hold onto things that once were. But there have been many print magazine losses, as you know, Mr. Magazine™. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Kierna Mayo: Some things are just part of a changing market. And we are an independent company and it made sense for us at a certain point to shift our focus in the way that we did; to move to digital in the way that we did and are continuing with Jet. It’s just a sign of the times. What can I say? Some people think it happened just because it was a celebrity magazine, but Jet was lifestyle for many years. For black people who read Jet, I don’t think they just saw it as celebrity; I think they saw it as news and information, perspective and weddings; it was the Internet, quite frankly, before there was one.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings and say, hey, it’s going to be a great day?

Kierna Mayo: Aside from my children; I have three sons and one daughter; a lot of my friends will remark about how my career is just aligned with my true path, because people who have known me for a very long time know that I have had a magazine obsession since my teenaged years. And I’ve always hoarded magazines and collected them. And I’ve always been able to discern where such and such magazine is in my room or wherever it might be.

To be cliché, but meaning to be, this is the air that I breathe. I’m a magazine person. So, to be invited to come back to print after many, many years in digital, is very titillating for me and it’s exciting in a pure way.

As a magazine maker I understand content. And I think that’s what gave me success on the digital side and that’s what I think will continue to give me a certain amount of success in any form of media. It really is about appreciation for the audience and understanding the medium. And magazines are truly special and I’ve spent the majority of my career crafting them in one way or another. It’s an honor. My getting up every day will never be solely about a job in terms of just a place where one goes to get a paycheck; it’s my whole life that’s in consideration when I wake up every morning and I do what feels right as long as it does feel right.

Samir Husni: When the First Lady edited More Magazine last month; it was the first time a sitting First Lady in the history of magazines, and among all of the first ladies, had edited a magazine; what was your feeling about that? Did you feel as though she was competing with you or did you say, wow, that’s great? Can you describe how you felt about More’s coup?

Kierna Mayo: No, I didn’t think that at all. Again, the First Lady is covered everywhere. And it’s just a very unique time, because the First Lady just happens to be a black person. It doesn’t shock me at all at this point, and I don’t see coverage of the First Lady or the president in any way competitive with us. It’s a matter of fact that the country would have to cover the readership of the country. But I think Michelle Obama herself happens to be a brilliant woman, so kudos to More for scoring that one. It was great.

And that’s not to say that we wouldn’t do something similar and haven’t done so in the past. We’ve had guest editors; we’ve experimented too. I think what’s exciting about what More Magazine did was the experimentation and that’s something that we definitely do at Ebony.

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

Kierna Mayo: Yes; you’d asked before about what some of our challenges were and I really need to say to my audience that subscriptions are critical. Supporting Ebony magazine is really an important thing. Now that information is traded online and you can see the cover there; I’ve gotten tens of thousands of likes and clicks and all of that’s lovely, but if you don’t go out and support the magazine, it’ll be very hard for us to continue.

So, that’s the message that I have to continue to speak to, because I understand the business of publishing and from that perspective, it is just critical that no one takes us for granted.

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

Kierna Mayo: Again, I think it’s similar to what wakes me up in the morning. I try to have a life that’s lived in relative balance, relative with a capital “R.” I am up at night when I’m concerned about an idea or I am concerned about a human related to an idea. (Laughs)

There are different things that can keep me up at night, but more importantly I try to sleep. (Laughs) I try to sleep. It’s going to get done, as the guys in my office say: the cake is going to get baked.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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July’s Magazine Launches Big, Very Big On Book-a-zines…

August 6, 2015

July 2015 showed strong numbers for new launches, mainly book-a-zines, with 81 titles hitting newsstands; 11 with frequency and 70 specials targeted just for our reading pleasure. Many of the new magazines are promoting the positive and trying to eliminate the negative, which in Mr. Magazine’s™ opinion, has been long overdue.

From The Netherlands’ “Remarkable” and “happinez” to First Descents’ “Out Living It,” people all over the world are putting their best foot forward and looking to the future as something bright and welcomed, rather than an unknown entity out to swallow us up in its unmitigated darkness.

Feel free to check each and every new magazine and book-a-zine arriving on the marketplace last month. Click here to see them all. And see below the latest charts comparing July 2015 to July 2014.

Chart One: Magazine Launches July 2015 vs. July 2014
July 2015 v 2014 pie graph

Chart Two: New Magazine by Category: July 2015 vs. July 2014
July 2015 v 2014 top categories bar graph

Until next month, pick up a magazine or two and enjoy.

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Celebrating Ten Years of Luxe Magazine With Style And Stately Grace – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Pamela Jaccarino, Editor-In-Chief, Luxe Magazine

August 5, 2015

“In the day and age of “print is dead” we really feel that there’s still a place for print. I work with a group of very young editors who still love print and who still value print. We still believe that if you create something that is well done and artfully put together and you produce it with good, high-quality, there is still a place for print. Print is not dead exclamation point.” Pamela Jaccarino

luxe-1 Imagine starting a luxury design magazine from scratch when you’re surrounded by some of the greats that have been around for decades. It’s a daunting task. But not so much when you have someone with a fiery passion and that will-to-succeed nature that drives them forward and propels the brand toward the future.

Luxe Interiors + Design is the name of the magazine and Pamela Jaccarino is its Editor-In-Chief. Pam has been with Luxe since the very beginning and is as passionate today as she was ten years ago when the brand was born. Celebrating 10 years of publishing, Luxe and Pam are certainly not resting on their laurels; not at all. The brand and its leader are pushing forward, with an eye on tomorrow and always looking for what could be new and improved about the already highly successful brand.

I spoke with Pam recently and it was a lively, energetic conversation, much like the woman herself. We discussed the regional start of Luxe and how doing things a bit differently from some of the other, more established brands, really paid off for the newer, lesser-known magazine. And we talked about the beauty of launching a new magazine in a very crowded field and the reasons it survived where others did not.

So, I hope you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ conversation with a woman who has tapped into her own creativity to help establish a brand of luxury design that can hold its own with the big boys. Mr. Magazine™ talks to Pamela Jaccarino, Editor-In-Chief, Luxe magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

LXCOMM2_EditorLetter_Pam-Jaccarino-by-SRevell-IMG_8318 On what Luxe is doing right when it comes to its numbers; up 25% in advertising and almost 4% in circulation: We started this magazine 10 years ago as a quarterly magazine and over those last 10 years we’ve really built the brand. Ten years ago, we were an unknown entity within the design world; since then we have grown the business by creating magazines regionally that spoke to the regional market, in terms of architecture and design. We always had this intention of growing this brand to be a national magazine brand and we’ve achieved that 10 years later.

On why Luxe is unique from the rest of the shelter market:
We are a very unique brand within the shelter market. And the reason for that is we’ve approached the design world a little bit differently. And typically with design magazines, you have national shelter magazines and you have a few regional shelter magazines. We made the decision to cover both local and national design. Our whole premise and philosophy is to really speak to the engaged design aficionado in the market where they live and we also cover what’s happening with national design trends.

On why she thinks there’s a deep interest in print, from both designers and readers, that still exists in today’s digital age: I believe that when you’re covering luxury, which is what we do; we absolutely cover luxury; you can call us elitist… (Laughs) but we’re covering luxury design; we go to a high-end leader who is engaged in luxury design. And when you’re engaged in luxury, I think that you want things that are tactile. Are people engaged in design digitally? Absolutely – 100%. But we firmly believe that when you’re putting out a luxury magazine, these designers really feel valued having their work in print. It means a lot to them.

On how the national book is different from the regional books:
That’s a great question. What is our national edition? Obviously, we have grown this brand region by region. The national edition serves any market that we don’t serve regionally. So, for example, if I’m living in the Bay area and I want to subscribe to Luxe Interiors + Design because I love the magazine and there’s not a Luxe San Francisco; what issue am I going to get? So, we created what we call the National Book. And the National Book serves any region in the country where we do not have a dedicated book.

On how her role as editor-in-chief has changed over the last 10 years:
I think an editor-in-chief has to do much more than simply work on the magazine. You do need to be consumed with the brand as a whole and in making sure that everything is holistic from A to Z, and that includes events that are done; your digital entity and all of your social media. So, I think the editor-in-chief’s role has gone from a somewhat narrower focus to having to oversee a much broader operation.

On why the magazine began in Colorado:
The company was started in South Florida, not exactly the publishing capital of the world, (Laughs) although I am a New Yorker. And we started the magazine in Colorado, because a lot of the homes that we were covering were these incredible second-homes; it’s a great second-home market.

On what motivates her to get out of bed each morning:
One thing that absolutely does it for me is the team that I get to work with each and every day. I have huge respect for the editors that work on the team. We don’t really have any divas; I’m not a diva. (Laughs)

On whether any of her paintings have been featured in the magazine:
I was an art major when I was younger and gave it up for journalism. And I’ve just started repainting again this year, really and truly because I’m completely inspired by all of these creative people that I’m surrounded by; all of the designers and architects.

On the major stumbling block that she’s had to face and how she overcame it:
We had a lot of the regional markets up and doing very well and then it was time to look at the national trends and as I said, I love to fly under the radar, but we were sort of an unknown entity. We would go into market and, for example, we launched in New York about three or four years ago, and nobody knew who we were. I think it’s very easy for an editor-in-chief to step in for a magazine that’s established and has been around for 20 or so years, but it’s very difficult to launch a magazine and have it be this successful in such a short period of time.

On anything else she’d like to add: In the day and age of “print is dead” we really feel that there’s still a place for print. I work with a group of very young editors who still love print and who still value print.

On what keeps her up at night:
You know something; nothing keeps me up at night. I sleep like a baby at night. And honestly, I have to work so hard during the daytime and be so focused, that for me, it’s like when you plug your phone in at night to recharge your battery; I go to bed and fall right asleep and it’s like I’m recharging my battery.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Pamela Jaccarino, Editor-In-Chief, Luxe magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of Luxe and while a lot of other magazines are cutting their frequency or their circulation, your magazine is up 25% in terms of advertising and up almost 4% in circulation over last year. What are you doing so right that some are doing so wrong?

Picture 11 Pamela Jaccarino: We started this magazine 10 years ago as a quarterly magazine and over those last 10 years we’ve really built the brand. Ten years ago, we were an unknown entity within the design world; since then we have grown the business by creating magazines regionally that spoke to the regional market, in terms of architecture and design. We always had this intention of growing this brand to be a national magazine brand and we’ve achieved that 10 years later.

When we approached our 10 year anniversary we still wanted to grow the business on the business side. And our reader is very engaged and quite frankly, it was sort of difficult to report on what’s happening in the world of luxury design when you’re moving quarterly. It’s much slower in terms of the pacing and how you can tell stories.

So, we wanted to service our reader and give them more. They love the magazine and have really responded to the brand. We’re a consumer magazine and we also have a tremendous amount of design trade that follows our book and we wanted to give them more Luxe to love, if you will. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Why do you think you’re bucking the trends? As I mentioned earlier, other magazines are cutting their frequency; other magazines are down in terms of advertising and circulation. Why do you think you’re different from the rest of the shelter market?

Pamela Jaccarino: Why are we different – that’s a great question. We are a very unique brand within the shelter market. And the reason for that is we’ve approached the design world a little bit differently. And typically with design magazines, you have national shelter magazines and you have a few regional shelter magazines. We made the decision to cover both local and national design. Our whole premise and philosophy is to really speak to the engaged design aficionado in the market where they live and we also cover what’s happening with national design trends.

We get very hyperlocal and what we report on; let’s say in our Miami book or in our New York or Chicago book, is pertinent to the area. The consumer wants to be inspired and they also want to know who the best designers and architects are right there in their region. It’s interesting when you look at design; there are a lot of elements that translate across the board nationally.

But when you’re designing or building a home in say, San Francisco versus one in Colorado, there are so many different elements that go into it. The topography is different, the landscape is different; what you’re doing in those homes also might be different, one might be a vacation home. So, you really want to hire someone, for the most part, who is a local architect, a local builder and a local designer.

And that’s our point of differentiation. We believe that home is your greatest luxury and we want to inspire our readers and direct them to incredible national design resources and brands, furniture and everything to fill their home. But when it comes time to design a room or to add something on or build a home, they’re probably going to be using a local design professional. And that’s sort of our differential. In the editorial well, for example, we’re only talking about local projects; that’s what we feature. In Chicago, we’re going to be featuring the best work done by local designers, architects and builders. And that changes from region to region.

In the front of the book, of course, we’re covering everything that’s happening on the national design trends. And the biggest difference is that if you pick up Elle Décor or say, House Beautiful; they’re really focused on national design as a whole. And we take a little bit of a different philosophy. Yes, you can get your inspiration anywhere, and we certainly provide a lot of inspiration to our readers, of course, but we really want to give voice to all of the great talent out there. There are so many incredible architects and designers working in this industry who really don’t have a way to get their work published in print. And we value that, and they value that. That’s something that Luxe provides. We really dig deeply and are very entrenched in the design industry in these markets.

I have editors across the country that work with the best architectural photographers and some of the best design editors in the country. And the fact is we publish more work than any other national design magazine out there. And, as I said; we’re very entrenched in the industry that we love.

Samir Husni: Why do you think an interest in print, both from the designers and the readers, still exists in our digital age?

Picture 10 Pamela Jaccarino: I believe that when you’re covering luxury, which is what we do; we absolutely cover luxury; you can call us elitist… (Laughs) but we’re covering luxury design; we go to a high-end leader who is engaged in luxury design. And when you’re engaged in luxury, I think that you want things that are tactile. I believe firmly that when you’re engaged in things that relate to design: fabric, furniture, wallpaper and architecture; you want to touch these things; you want to sit on these things.

Are people engaged in design digitally? Absolutely – 100%. But we firmly believe that when you’re putting out a luxury magazine, these designers really feel valued having their work in print. It means a lot to them.

We spend a tremendous amount of money on production values and I think that’s also what sets us apart, by the way. We’re very fortunate to work for a private company run by Adam Sandow; he believes in investing back into his product. That’s what we’re tasked with creating. So, we spend a lot of money in hiring stylists and in architectural photographers and quite frankly my responsibility is really to the design professional who is entrusting us to tell the story about this home that they have created and that they have put a lot of love, time and energy into, when putting together their wonderful creative design team that we’re writing about. Usually it’s the architect, the interior designer and the builder.

And I really take that responsibility very seriously in terms of ensuring that the presentation of their creative work to our reader is executed at a very high level. So, we obsess over things like paper stock or the angle of a home, a landscape, and how is everything going to look in our pages. My team and I put a lot of love, time and energy into those features.

Samir Husni: How is the national edition going to be different than the regionals?

Pamela Jaccarino: That’s a great question. What is our national edition? Obviously, we have grown this brand region by region. The national edition serves any market that we don’t serve regionally. So, for example, if I’m living in the Bay area and I want to subscribe to Luxe Interiors + Design because I love the magazine and there’s not a Luxe San Francisco; what issue am I going to get? So, we created what we call the National Book. And the National Book serves any region in the country where we do not have a dedicated book.

Incidentally, we had such great demand from San Francisco for our book; they fell in love with our book that we did decide to create a Luxe San Francisco. We have an editor there that oversees making sure that we get great projects in it and superb photographs and that they’re well-written. We also have a team that works on the national trends, which is shared content that runs across the board for every book that we produce.


Samir Husni: You’ve been with Luxe since its very beginning; you’re the founding editor of the magazine. How has your job as an editor changed over the last decade? The editor before digital and now the editor after digital; how has your role changed with the innovations?

Pamela Jaccarino: I have a very deep belief in terms of the editor-in-chief’s role and obviously I have quite a large team; I have 20 people. I think an editor-in-chief has to do much more than simply work on the magazine. You do need to be consumed with the brand as a whole and in making sure that everything is holistic from A to Z, and that includes events that are done; your digital entity and all of your social media. So, I think the editor-in-chief’s role has gone from a somewhat narrower focus to having to oversee a much broader operation.

And I think that it’s great. I’m a very overly-ambitious person. I always have been. And I’m someone who is sort of humble and quiet and I like to fly under the radar. But I also like to take over the world. (Laughs)

So, in terms of me personally; we started as a very small start-up and we didn’t have a big team; I had to work on every single facet that an editor-in-chief would have to do. And as the company and the brand have grown, a lot of my job is to make sure that we have the very best team that we can. I have the most amazing creative team in the industry. We very much collaborate and my job is to inspire and motivate them and make sure that everything, from the magazine to the site to social media and everything that we do in terms of our big signature events, really speaks to what the brand is about, which is luxury, home and design.

Picture 9 We also have a responsibility to serve our very tight community of designers. And even though we’re absolutely a consumer magazine, the design community is very important to us. It’s what we’re reporting on. And that has been something that has grown every time we open into another market. It’s very important that we get to know the designers; that’s a very important part of what I do.

As editor-in-chief, I’m sort of a maestro leader; I’m ensuring that all the pages look great and that we put out a brand that people are very engaged with and that we continue to do that.

We recently did a big redesign of the magazine and I really enjoyed doing it, but it was something that took a lot of time, but it was a labor of love. Again, what was on my mind was: how is the reader going to respond to this? And then taking what we’d done over the last few years and ensuring that the quality was even greater. I think that’s what print magazines have to do these days; you have to provide a publication that people are going to want to hold onto. We’ve always taken the philosophy that the book should be evergreen.

We do report on national trends and that’s something that’s been a bit tricky as we’ve gone from being a quarterly book to a book that comes out six times per year. How do you maintain covering what’s happening in design, while also putting out a publication that people are going to want to hold onto and dog-ear the pages? I think people do still dog-ear pages.

Samir Husni: You mentioned being evergreen; why start in Colorado? If you can recall; why was Colorado chosen as the beginning point for the magazine?

Pamela Jaccarino: The company was started in South Florida, not exactly the publishing capital of the world, (Laughs) although I am a New Yorker. And we started the magazine in Colorado, because a lot of the homes that we were covering were these incredible second-homes; it’s a great second-home market.

The topography and the landscape are beautiful. It’s inspiring and honestly; when we started, we found the magic team. We found a publisher out there who really had a passion for this and that was something that really fueled us as we were a very small group working on tight deadlines, with limited resources. We needed to find what we call a “Sandow” person. There are people that have been working for the company for a very long period of time; I’m one of them, and there’s a bit of a magic formula, but you have to have someone who is really passionate about what they’re doing and is ready to work hard and really cares about the quality of what we’re doing. I look for that in everyone I hire. It’s someone who thinks about the reader and the industry that we’re serving.

So, Colorado just sort of clicked, even though I know it’s sort of an uncharacteristic place to launch a magazine. But I love the fact that we run a little bit counter to what the industry is doing. I think that’s also something that’s embedded in the culture here and it’s embedded into our amazing visionary CEO, Adam Sandow. It’s not always the best thing to be looking at what everyone else is doing. Why don’t you do things a little bit differently and maybe put a different spin on things? And that’s the way that we’ve always operated and quite frankly, I like that. I like to do things the breakthrough way, rather than following along with the trends.

Samir Husni: What makes you click and tick and motivates you to get out of bed each morning and say it’s going to be a great day?

Pamela Jaccarino: One thing that absolutely does it for me is the team that I get to work with each and every day. I have huge respect for the editors that work on the team. We don’t really have any divas; I’m not a diva. (Laughs)

That wakes me up and gets me out of bed. Plus, I love to tackle a project and I love to try and solve problems. I also absolutely love to go on photo shoots. I have an amazing job and I’m very grateful for what I get to do every day. I’m a creative person; I’m an artist; I paint and draw. I find an incredible amount of inspiration from going out to the Hamptons and scouting a beautiful house with a designer and having them tell me the story of the homeowner and why they bought this or that piece of art and how they came up with the color scheme for a certain room, and then working with our photography editor or our photography director to map out a photo shoot.

I have a job where no day is the same; it never gets boring. I’ve been with this company for 13 years and with this brand for 10 and there’s always something to solve and I always feel as though I have to keep proving myself and getting better. I’m not much of a rest-on-my-laurels type of person; I never have been and I never will be. I also never want to be. (Laughs)

I think that editors-in chiefs also need to be businesspeople; I love business. I always have loved business. There are just so many facets in what I get to do every day. There’s the creative part; the collaborative part, and there’s the business part. And I love the company that I work for. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Adam Sandow and for the leadership that he’s put together in this company. I’m happy every day that I wake up.

Exclusive to Mr. Magazine™: A painting by Pamela Jaccarino

Exclusive to Mr. Magazine™: A painting by Pamela Jaccarino

Samir Husni: Have any of your paintings been featured in the magazine?

Pamela Jaccarino: I was an art major when I was younger and gave it up for journalism. And I’ve just started repainting again this year, really and truly because I’m completely inspired by all of these creative people that I’m surrounded by; all of the designers and architects. I’ve very quiet about my painting; I do post a few things on Instagram and people have told me recently that they would like to buy some of my work, but it’s just really a hobby for me right now. I’ll never quit my day job. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you love tackling problems and trying to creatively solve them; what has been a major stumbling block in your career that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Pamela Jaccarino: I think it’s been about five years ago. It’s so funny, you lose track of time sometimes as an editor-in-chief, by the way. Your brain has to be working two months out and then you have to go in reverse. (Laughs)

But I would say probably about five years ago. We had a lot of the regional markets up and doing very well and then it was time to look at the national trends and as I said, I love to fly under the radar, but we were sort of an unknown entity. We would go into market and, for example, we launched in New York about three or four years ago, and nobody knew who we were. I think it’s very easy for an editor-in-chief to step in for a magazine that’s established and has been around for 20 or so years, but it’s very difficult to launch a magazine and have it be this successful in such a short period of time.

So, that was a big challenge and stumbling block and something that I had to overcome. I didn’t come from the design industry; I worked in the luxury goods industry. And that was tough for us as a brand and tough for me as an editor-in-chief to establish this unknown entity in New York and among many of the national brands that were already established. House Beautiful is 100-and-something-years-old; Arch Digest has been around for a long time. These other competitive-set magazines have been around for a very long time and are household names. That was something that was a big challenge for us.

Samir Husni: How were you able to overcome that challenge?

Pamela Jaccarino: I immersed myself in the industry. You have to take an interest; you really have to take an interest in what you’re reporting on. And I did. I got to know a lot of designers and they became friends and I had dinners and cocktail parties. I just got out there and asked questions and I hired smart people. We just got on with it.

And I’m a very curious person by nature; I love to tell stories; I love to hear what people are doing. And then it just became my job to interpret what people were doing and I had a great team who could also interpret it. I understood quality and I asked a lot of questions. I would show people what we were doing and I would say: please don’t tell me that you like what we’re doing; tell me what we could be doing better. Tell me how we can improve. And I think that that was something that helped me learn a lot. I never liked it when people would say: I love what you’re doing. I’d say, really? Tell me something that we could do a little differently.

It’s just little things like that you do and having a great team always helps. And I continue to do that every day, by the way. I don’t believe in any editor-in-chief thinking that things could be easy. It’s just not my philosophy. I like to think that there’s always something we can focus on and improve.

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

Pamela Jaccarino: In the day and age of “print is dead” we really feel that there’s still a place for print. I work with a group of very young editors who still love print and who still value print. We still believe that if you create something that is well done and artfully put together and you produce it with good, high-quality, there is still a place for print. Print is not dead exclamation point.

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

Pamela Jaccarino: You know something; nothing keeps me up at night. I sleep like a baby at night. And honestly, I have to work so hard during the daytime and be so focused, that for me, it’s like when you plug your phone in at night to recharge your battery; I go to bed and fall right asleep and it’s like I’m recharging my battery. I always say, this is the best part of my day; I get to recharge my battery and start fresh in the morning. I just really don’t have any trouble sleeping at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

The ‘Take’ On New England’s New Culture – Brought To You By A Magazine That Defines It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Michael Kusek, Publisher & Lauren Clark, Editor – Take Magazine. A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story.

August 3, 2015

A Mr. Magazine™ Interview.  Photo by Jared Senseman.

A Mr. Magazine™ Interview. Photo by Jared Senseman.

“The biggest challenge has been, with certain people, to counter this belief that print is on its way out, rather than saying that print is evolving. In our Kickstarter video and with people who have these mindsets, we sort of describe ourselves as being the modern magazine. And that what’s going to be interesting is not whether it’s print or digital. We have a print edition and an online edition that work together. You can get certain information from our online source that doesn’t translate into print, like video and audio, and you can get information through our print edition, such as really beautiful photography, stories that demand to be on the printed page, that doesn’t translate digitally. And that’s where this industry is going; print is not going away.” Michael Kusek

“It’s exciting to see your work in both formats, (print & digital) but in different ways. Having said that; I’m not sure how to describe to you how it’s different. I guess the web is more immediate and it generates that immediate, sort of social media response. But seeing your byline in print, on the printed page, it’s like your work is going into a permanent record. And I would think a lot of writers would say the same thing. It’s thrilling in both places for those different reasons.” Lauren Clark

take_001_cover_FINAL Bringing New England’s new culture to a passionate and diverse audience is the mission of Take magazine. From dance to art to theatre to food; Michael Kusek, publisher and Lauren Clark, editor of the magazine, due to debut its first issue in September 2015, are both very determined to make this the ink on paper place to be for people who want to be in the know about New England culture and each state’s distinctive “take” on that enlightenment.

Recently, I spoke with both Michael and Lauren about the upcoming September launch and the conception of the actual idea for Take. Michael took me on an eight year journey of how the magazine was born. From the initial thought way back when (2008) before publishing as we once knew it plummeted into the depths of despair, to a few years later when things once again began to pump up a lung and breathe again.

This is a story of passion and belief in a dream’s concept, so much so that the individual almost wills it into being. Michael is a man filled with that passion and the belief that a magazine that covers the entire New England area, not just one particular section, has a place on the marketplace reserved just for its uniqueness.

And Lauren is a woman with as much passion about the magazine as its publisher and the right person to complement the publication’s leader.

It’s a win/win situation and a total team effort, from designers to photographers, writers to salespeople. It’s a magazine conjoined with its digital counterpart, yet celebrated for its very different “take” on content that just doesn’t seem to be right for the web. It’s a great read and a visual extravaganza. And of course, there are so many twists you can create with the word “Take” that one can’t help but be fascinated by it.

So, sit down and “take” 15 minutes or so to read this new magazine’s contemporary “take” on New England culture; it’s sure to enlighten and entertain you. And “take” my word for it; you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Kusek, Publisher and Lauren Clark, Editor-In-Chief, Take magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

Michael Kusek and Lauren Clark. Photo by Dominic Perry.

Michael Kusek and Lauren Clark. Photo by Dominic Perry.

On why it took Michael eight years to actually launch Take magazine:
That’s a good question. When I started I was working at an alternative newsweekly here in western Massachusetts. I had made plans then to leave and start Take magazine, but I decided to go on a vacation first and was traveling overseas when the entire U.S. market went into the toilet. I came back and that’s when so many magazines were folding and it didn’t seem like a great time to go out and seek investors, so I put it on the backburner for a little while, until it looked like the industry was changing and getting a bit healthier.

On whether Lauren thought he was out of his mind when he asked her to be the editor of a print magazine in today’s digital world:
At first I said, wow, that’s really exciting. Yes, I’d love to be involved. And then as we started really talking about it and it became more serious, I thought to myself, is this idea crazy? (Laughs again) But the more I looked at a lot of the things that Michael just told you, and the more we talked together; he really helped to enlighten me, because like a lot of people nowadays, I do read a lot of things online. But I also still read print.

On the concept of Take and what Michael is trying to accomplish with the magazine:
Take magazine is a publication about culture-makers who live in the New England area. So, unlike your standard “arts” magazine that would just cover, say, fine art or maybe just theatre; we’re taking a really broad look at culture in the region. And that includes things like fine art and theatre, but it also includes design, food, literature and dance; just many areas of cultural interest.

On how Michael came up with the name “Take” for the magazine:
It’s simply our “take” on things. It’s our lens on the creative community here in New England.

On whether Michael’s decision to cover the entire New England area was a business or editorial one:
It was a little of both. We can really talk about how we’re tackling it from the editorial side. Having worked for a very regional, localized newspaper that covered three counties and had a small arts magazine that covered western Massachusetts; I saw the limitations in audience, in terms of the business side. But the other part of that was the last sort of all-New England-magazine to launch was in the late 80s, early 90s, at least from my research; I haven’t been able to find anything any later than that time frame and it was New England Monthly.

On the process Lauren used to put together the first issue of Take which will launch in September:
Some of the content will be updated material from the prototype, but the first issue is a much bigger one that that. The first things we do are try to get stories from a diversity of disciplines and from every state in the region. So, we want content that has geographic diversity and disciplinary diversity. We need a designer from Rhode Island; we need a writer from New Hampshire, so that’s how I’m planning every issue, sort of making this grid of how do we cover the entire region so that everybody in New England feels like this is their magazine.

On how Lauren decided what the cover of the premier issue should be:
Well, we were actually thinking about having six covers at first, to represent each state. (Laughs) But that was just a little too ambitious for the first issue. So, we decided on three different covers instead. We had some terrific feature stories that had fantastic imagery.

On the biggest stumbling block Michael faced after starting the magazine and how he overcame it:
I think one of the biggest challenges has been that people have bought into this idea that print is dead or print is on its way out. And these are things I’ve heard from potential advertisers and certainly from some potential investors. They’re skeptical about the future of print. And that has been the biggest challenge because for somebody who’s in it, you can look at all of the great independent magazines that are coming out and you can see that there are a lot of dynamic things happening from all of the legacy publishers of magazines as well, and you wonder where that mindset comes from.

On where Lauren feels more accomplished in her work, online or in print, or is it the same experience for her in either format: I think it’s the same. It’s exciting to see your work in both formats, but in different ways. Having said that; I’m not sure how to describe to you how it’s different. I guess the web is more immediate and it generates that immediate, sort of social media response. But seeing your byline in print, on the printed page, it’s like your work is going into a permanent record.

On what makes Lauren tick and click and motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings: The amount of work I need to get done. (Laughs again) The amount of tasks that I have to do and the people I need to get in touch with; articles I have to assign. That’s the nuts and bolts, but I’m attached to this project because I think Michael is the guy to do it, frankly. And I’m not the only one who thinks that either. He has a really good intellect about these sorts of things and he has a super professional and personal network and he’s very persuasive. (Laughs)

On what makes Michael click and tick and motivates him to get out of bed in the mornings:
I’m an incredibly lucky guy and I work with an amazing group of people every day. And I’m so lucky that when I was putting things together, I had this dream team in my head, and when Lauren and I met and became friends, there was that epiphany one time where I just turned to her at a party and said you have to be my editor. And I’m so happy that she agreed.

On who Michael thinks the magazine’s audience is and how he defines Take’s team when it comes to delivering the best of New England’s culture to that targeted group:
I think that’s really our audience; our audience is really a New Englander first and our audience is somebody who works in the creative economy and secondarily are people who are cultural consumers and I think that if you add those groups together, you have a sizably potential audience for this as a magazine. And who are we, the people who are going to bring it to you? I think at the core it’s really our amazing staff of people who work on Take.

On anything else Michael would like to add:
Viva print!

On anything else Lauren would like to add:
We want to get the people in New England to think of themselves as New Englanders, not just “I’m from Providence,” but “I’m from New England” and there’s a lot of great contemporary culture in the region to explore and they don’t have to take the train to New York to see great culture.

On what keeps Michael up at night:
It’s making sure that my staff is taken care of and that we have the resources to keep moving forward.

On what keeps Lauren up at night:
What keeps me up at night is the haunting feeling that I need to have more information coming out of New Hampshire. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Michael Kusek, Publisher and Lauren Clark, Editor-In-Chief, Take magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did it take you eight years to launch Take magazine?

Michael Kusek: (Laughs) That’s a good question. When I started I was working at an alternative newsweekly here in western Massachusetts. We had started a small regional magazine and I saw what we had done there and I was getting ready to end my time with them and that was at the very end of 2008.

I had made plans then to leave and start Take magazine, but I decided to go on a vacation first and was traveling overseas when the entire U.S. market went into the toilet. I came back and that’s when so many magazines were folding and it didn’t seem like a great time to go out and seek investors, so I put it on the backburner for a little while, until it looked like the industry was changing and getting a bit healthier.

In that period of time, the iPad was born. And everyone was going to buy millions of magazines on their iPad. (Laughs) And it was that mindset that got me to look at the magazine again. I had gone back into doing public relations and communications, which had been my professional background for a very long time. But I began to look at the magazine again and at a different source of revenue for it, and while that hasn’t necessarily worn itself out, it definitely got me back into the swing of trying to start Take magazine. So, this was sort of my little side project for a number of years.

At the beginning of 2014, I was sitting with a business consultant friend of mine having a beer and he asked me when on earth are you ever going to start the magazine that you’ve been talking about trying to start for a very long time, and I said to him that I would love to start it except I’m having a horrible time trying to write the business plan. So, he pulled together a group of people and helped me write the business plan over the course of last spring and summer.

In that period of time, I had been talking with Lauren about being my editor-in-chief when we started to get some seed money to make things happen. And then in the fall of 2014, we created our prototype and soft-launched it in January 2015.

So, to make a long story longer, there have been lots of years of research and watching the market and deciding that now was exactly the right time to start it.

Samir Husni: Lauren, when Michael approached you about becoming the editor of a print magazine, did you ask him was he out of his mind?

Lauren Clark: (Laughs) No, not at first.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Lauren Clark: At first I said, wow, that’s really exciting. Yes, I’d love to be involved. And then as we started really talking about it and it became more serious, I asked myself, is this idea crazy? (Laughs again)

But the more I looked at a lot of the things that Michael just told you, and the more we talked together; he really helped to enlighten me, because like a lot of people nowadays, I do read a lot of things online. But I also still read print. And what we’re doing with Take magazine is pretty specific for a pretty targeted audience and a specific topic, which I think lends itself pretty well to print, so I’m onboard with that.

Samir Husni: Michael, tell me the concept of Take; what are you trying to do with the magazine?

Michael Kusek: Take magazine is a publication about culture-makers who live in the New England area. So, unlike your standard “arts” magazine that would just cover, say, fine art or maybe just theatre; we’re taking a really broad look at culture in the region. And that includes things like fine art and theatre, but it also includes design, food, literature and dance; just many areas of cultural interest.

This is a region rich with people making things and there wasn’t one cohesive publication that covered this entire region. And our goal is to be that magazine that ties everything that is happening here altogether.

Samir Husni: And what is the background on the name “Take?” One of the hardest things for people who are starting a new magazine to come up with is the title. How was the name “Take” conceived?

Michael Kusek: It’s simply our “take” on things. It’s our lens on the creative community here in New England. And the other part of the reason I chose Take is as a marketer, as a person who comes out of marketing and communications, there are about a million different ways that you can use the word “take” to generate a hook and to generate interest.

Samir Husni: You mention in the intro of the prototype issue, the pilot issue from January, that it’s the entire area of New England. And while I know that regional magazines are doing much better than the general interest magazines, was that a business decision or a reflection of the editorial content and you felt that the rest of us all over the country didn’t have a need to read about the culture of New England? (Laughs)

Michael Kusek: (Laughs too) It was a little of both. We can really talk about how we’re tackling it from the editorial side. Having worked for a very regional, localized newspaper that covered three counties and had a small arts magazine that covered western Massachusetts; I saw the limitations in audience, in terms of the business side. To develop a critical mass of readership, I needed to think bigger when we were looking at the business plan.

But the other part of that was the last sort of all-New England-magazine to launch was in the late 80s, early 90s, at least from my research; I haven’t been able to find anything any later than that time frame and it was New England Monthly. New England Monthly was late 80s, early 90s and was very successful. It was kind of a Harper’s/Atlantic, but for the whole region. And that was also based here in Northampton where I am.

New England Monthly’s footprints here in western Massachusetts, even though it hasn’t been around for a long time; it’s footprints still has some influence here today, and I think that also got me to look, from a business sense, at the entire region.

Samir Husni: Are you still on target to launch the first issue in September?

Lauren Clark: Yes, our first issue is at the printer now.

Samir Husni: Lauren, tell me about the process; how did you put together that first issue? Did you sit down with your team, alone, or with Michael; what was the conception mode of the content of the first issue?

take_001_cover_FINAL2 Lauren Clark: Some of the content will be updated material from the prototype, but the first issue is a much bigger one that that. The first things we do are try to get stories from a diversity of disciplines and from every state in the region. So, we want content that has geographic diversity and disciplinary diversity. We need a designer from Rhode Island; we need a writer from New Hampshire, so that’s how I’m planning every issue, sort of making this grid of how do we cover the entire region so that everybody in New England feels like this is their magazine; so that the creative people in New England feel like we really are covering the entire region and all the cool stuff that’s going on throughout all the New England states.

So, that was the starting point. Then it was just a matter of tapping into a lot of the really talented contributors that are in this region. We have a photo editor who helps us out from the Boston area and he knows people all over the region. So, we had some great photography, fantastic writers, which a lot of them started out writing for us on the website.

And we have writers from all over the region. We have some great ones in Rhode Island, in Maine and Vermont, some people out of Boston; we’re trying to get the contributors of our content to be all over the region as well. It’s really important to us to not just be Northampton-centric or Boston-centric, but to really spread ourselves out content and contributor-wise.

Samir Husni: And how did you make the decision about what went onto the cover of the premier issue?

Lauren Clark: Well, we were actually thinking about having six covers at first, to represent each state. (Laughs) But that was just a little too ambitious for the first issue. So, we decided on three different covers instead. We had some terrific feature stories that had fantastic imagery. And we featured some original artwork from one of our feature subjects, the artist Eben Kling, who lives in Connecticut, so that’s one of our covers, original artwork by him and it’s just fantastic.

And the other two are photographs from our photo editor, Izzy Berdan. So, it’s going to be exciting when these covers come out, because people are just going to kind of randomly get whatever cover they get and they’ll be able to compare their issue with somebody who received a different cover.

Samir Husni: Michael, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face since actually starting the magazine and how did you overcome it?

Michael Kusek: I think one of the biggest challenges has been that people have bought into this idea that print is dead or print is on its way out. And these are things I’ve heard from potential advertisers and certainly from some potential investors. They’re skeptical about the future of print. And that has been the biggest challenge because for somebody who’s in it, you can look at all of the great independent magazines that are coming out and you can see that there are a lot of dynamic things happening from all of the legacy publishers of magazines as well, and you wonder where that mindset comes from.

Some of the people we connect with a lot, such as some of our younger contributors, even people on our staff here at the magazine are all very much into analog. They buy vinyl, they like photographing with film cameras, and they also buy books. And we see that.

The biggest challenge has been, with certain people, to counter this belief that print is on its way out, rather than saying that print is evolving. In our Kickstarter video and with people who have these mindsets, we sort of describe ourselves as being the modern magazine. And that what’s going to be interesting is not whether it’s print or digital. We have a print edition and an online edition that work together. You can get certain information from our online source that doesn’t translate into print, like video and audio, and you can get information through our print edition, such as really beautiful photography, stories that demand to be on the printed page, that doesn’t translate digitally. And that’s where this industry is going; print is not going away.

That’s always been the biggest challenge, particularly when it comes to us accessing resources to grow as a business.

Samir Husni: Lauren, where do you value your work more? Do you feel that you’ve accomplished more when you see your work in print or when it’s in a digital format or is it the same thing for you?

take_001_cover_FINAL3 Lauren Clark: I think it’s the same. It’s exciting to see your work in both formats, but in different ways. Having said that; I’m not sure how to describe to you how it’s different. I guess the web is more immediate and it generates that immediate, sort of social media response. But seeing your byline in print, on the printed page, it’s like your work is going into a permanent record. And I would think a lot of writers would say the same thing. It’s thrilling in both places for those different reasons.

Samir Husni: Lauren, what makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Lauren Clark: (Laughs) The amount of work I need to get done. (Laughs again) The amount of tasks that I have to do and the people I need to get in touch with; articles I have to assign. That’s the nuts and bolts, but I’m attached to this project because I think Michael is the guy to do it, frankly. And I’m not the only one who thinks that either. He has a really good intellect about these sorts of things and he has a super professional and personal network and he’s very persuasive. (Laughs)

And the rest of the people on our team feel the same way and they’re all talented in their backgrounds. And some of their backgrounds are not necessarily conventional when it comes to working on a magazine, but that kind of puts them in a better position to react and be flexible to anything that’s thrown their way in this start-up.

Samir Husni: And Michael, what makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Michael Kusek: I’m an incredibly lucky guy and I work with an amazing group of people every day. And I’m so lucky that when I was putting things together, I had this dream team in my head, and when Lauren and I met and became friends, there was that epiphany one time where I just turned to her at a party and said you have to be my editor. And I’m so happy that she agreed.

It’s the people that I work with. And it’s an incredible amount of work; it’s an always-on type of proposition; you always have to be on and working. We soft-launched in January and received 200 pitches, and 400 people went to our website within a month and said that they wanted to freelance for us.

We just sent our first press release out at the beginning of July. We really went public with this whole idea and we’ve been able to sell close to 600 subscriptions, just in terms of people coming to our website or responding to what we’ve been putting out on social media. With every event we do, people are genuinely excited and this is a project. I get very little negatives, such as this is never going to work. People are just overwhelmingly positive and what to see this happen and that gets me out of bed in the mornings. I know we’re on the right path.

Samir Husni: That’s great. One of my new books coming out in the middle of August is called “Audience First” and I’m reading your last paragraph in the prototype’s publisher’s letter and you say: I believe that there’s an audience out there for a new, well-written and beautifully designed magazine on paper about New England. I think we’re just the people to bring it to you. Tell me who is that audience and who are you?

TAKE cover-1 Michael Kusek: That audience is culturally adventurous people and that audience member is a person who is not only interested in what’s happening in their hometown here in New England, but they have a willingness to hop in their car and drive around to see who else is in the rest of the neighborhood.

I think that’s really our audience; our audience is really a New Englander first and our audience is somebody who works in the creative economy and secondarily are people who are cultural consumers and I think that if you add those groups together, you have a sizably potential audience for this as a magazine.

And who are we, the people who are going to bring it to you? I think at the core it’s really our amazing staff of people who work on Take: my editor, my photo editor and our art director and our web guy; we just have an amazing team. It’s our circulation people who are helping us out; it’s our sales folks. So far this year, we’ve probably worked with almost 50 different freelancers from all over the region and we’re finding them to be as equally committed to us and very excited about this idea of bringing a new look to New England culture. And I think that team may look small on the masthead now, but that team is actually just going to grow larger over time.

Samir Husni: Are you still planning on 10 issues per year?

Michael Kusek: Yes, we are.

Samir Husni: Any final “take” you’d like to add about anything we’ve discussed or haven’t discussed? Pun intended. (Laughs)

Michael Kusek: (Laughs too) Viva print! That’s my final thought on magazines.

Samir Husni: Indeed.

Lauren Clark: My final Take would be it’s just something about New England. As I said at the beginning of my editor’s letter, yes, New England’s new culture is a “thing.” We want to get the people in New England to think of themselves as New Englanders, not just “I’m from Providence,” but “I’m from New England” and there’s a lot of great contemporary culture in the region to explore and they don’t have to take the train to New York to see great culture.

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

Michael Kusek: (Laughs) What keeps me up at night? When I do stay up at night it’s usually because I’m exhausted. (Laughs again) No, it’s making sure that my staff is taken care of and that we have the resources to keep moving forward.

Samir Husni: And Lauren?

Lauren Clark: What keeps me up at night is the haunting feeling that I need to have more information coming out of New Hampshire. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.