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Beekman 1802 Almanac: Two Men & A Magazine – From Farm To Press. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Brent Ridge, Co-Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief.

October 9, 2015

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I also think that there is a way for print magazines to live on, they just have to adapt. We look at some great magazines like Kinfolk Magazine and Sweet Paul Magazine, even Edible Magazine to some degree; these are people who are doing great things with print, but also trying to rejigger the business model of the print magazine. And that’s really what we’re doing with the partnership with Meredith; we wanted to create this really beautiful magazine using amazing paper; a magazine that people would actually want to keep and hold onto, rather than toss it away.” Brent Ridge

1802-1 Most of the time you’ll hear the phrase “I love all magazines equally” flow from the lips of Mr. Magazine™. And that’s because it’s true. Very rarely do I differentiate between my children; I love all of them the same. Every cover, every size and every finish; just every element of ink on paper brings me joy.

However on occasion there have been times, few and far, far between, where I have been overwhelmed by the subtle beauty and the pleasing content of a magazine. So much so that I find myself reading and rereading from front cover to back many times over.

That would be the case with Beekman 1802 Almanac. It’s an original twist on a generational favorite: the Farmer’s Almanac. Modernized, but not to the point that the old-time concept is unrecognizable, the magazine is a breath of fresh air on a hot, sweltering day at the newsstands.

Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell are co-editors-in-chief of this new title. And the two young men practice what they preach when it comes to the content and concept of the magazine. They live on a rural farm that was built in 1802 by Judge William Beekman and they love the farm life and experience it daily; they raise pigs, protect their apple trees from deer and practice the art of soap making. All farm-type things they learned from their neighbors, who are people that always believe in being neighborly. It’s a throwback existence that they enjoy immensely. And it shows throughout the pages of the magazine.

Partnered with the Meredith Corporation, which has assisted them in reaching a much broader audience, the sky (or I better say, Brent and Josh) seems to be the limit for this refreshing magazine.

I spoke to one half of this farm-loving duo recently, Brent Ridge. Brent and I discussed the genesis of the magazine, whether he and Josh had been accused of being crazy for starting a print magazine in this digital age, and we even covered a stumbling block or two that they had to face when getting it off the ground. But hey, for two guys who can muck out a barn, putting together a magazine should have been a piece of cake, right?

Find out the answer to that one as you read and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brent Ridge, co-editor-in-chief, Beekman 1802 Almanac.

But first, the sound bites:

Brent Ridge, co editor-in-chief and co founder, Beekman 1802 Almanac.

Brent Ridge, co editor-in-chief and co founder, Beekman 1802 Almanac.

On the genesis of Beekman 1802 Almanac: We’re always looking at the past and trying to modernize things from the past. So, the idea of doing a modern version of an almanac was something that had always intrigued us. We also felt that just from the people who were on our blog and our social media; there was a hunger for really great content that wasn’t being met.

On whether anyone has asked them yet if they’re out of their minds for starting a print magazine, especially an almanac, in a digital age: As I said, we always try to modernize old things; we do a modern take on very traditional things. So, that was in our wheelhouse. I also think that there is a way for print magazines to live on, they just have to adapt. We look at some great magazines like Kinfolk Magazine and Sweet Paul Magazine, even Edible Magazine to some degree; these are people who are doing great things with print, but also trying to rejigger the business model of the print magazine.

On any stumbling blocks they had to face and overcome during the process of putting the magazine together:
For us the hardest part was figuring out what the architecture of the magazine was going to be. And thinking about the things that were typically in a magazine, such as the letter from the editor and what our take would be on our own letter from the editor. So, that became “Life Lessons” for us. What will be the front-of-book feature in our magazine? And so that became the “Gazette.” And so, really just figuring out what was going to be the hallmark elements of the magazine that was the labor part.

On the most pleasant moment they’ve had throughout the process of the first issue: I think the most pleasant moment was when we saw the layout of the Gazette, which is our front-of-book feature. The theme of the magazine is “cultivate a better life” and that tagline was chosen deliberately, particularly the word cultivate. So many people today talk about living your best life and going after that best life, so that word cultivate has a certain amount of grit to it and the idea that you actually have to work for something in order to get it to grow and flourish. And that’s really what we believe.

On whether he thinks it’s easy to cultivate and duplicate the farm life through a magazine to someone who may be confined to the city limits:
I don’t think living a better life is ever easy; I do think it’s something that you have to work towards. We’re not experts at anything. When we got the farm, we weren’t farmers; we had to learn how to do that. We had to learn how to start our business and we had to learn how to put together a magazine.

On how they go beyond just a content-provider to being an experience maker instead:
What we hope to do as future issues of the magazine come out; we’re aiming to be a quarterly, so each season we would have this almanac guide to enjoying the individual seasons, but we hope to have actual events around the country built around each season of the almanac so that people could come and experience the content and we’ll bring the content of every issue to life and we’ll do that all across the country.

On if someone only had 15 minutes to read the magazine he would suggest reading only the Gazette: Yes, if you only have 15 minutes to sit down and read it, I would start with the Gazette because you’re going to get 20 amazing things to educate yourself and learn about.

On whether the 1802 concept of the magazine will keep me in the past the entire time I spend with it:
No, definitely not. Again, we say that everything that we do is a modern take on traditional life. We think that there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the way people lived their lives in 1802, in terms of the quality of things that they produced, the level of detail on the things that they produced and the overall craftsmanship of their work.

On the working relationship between him and Josh while creating the magazine:
We are complete opposites. Anybody who has ever spent time with us will realize that. And I think that’s actually very beneficial to us, because we’re opposites and we’re also not afraid to present our viewpoint and to argue our viewpoint and I think that makes everything that we design, whether it’s one of our books or one of our products; I think it makes everything better by the fact that we have differing opinions.

On who the magazine’s audience is:
What we’ve found with our company, Beekman 1802, is that we’re really a mother/daughter brand, which I think very few brands like that exist these days, where you’re getting the moms and grandmothers to show an interest in what you’re doing. But we’re also getting that 22-year-old who’s just starting out their life out of college. And we go to do our book signings and other events; we can sometimes have three generations of people who are there to see us and get their books signed.

On what gives them the most satisfaction out of everything they do:
I think the biggest satisfaction for us comes from building community and finding likeminded people. We call everybody who comes into our realm our neighbors, whether they happen to be right down the street or halfway around the world. We call them our neighbors because we have a collective mindset.

On anything he’d like to add:
I hope that everybody enjoys the magazine as much as you did. We think that it’s different from anything else out there and we’re so lucky to have a great partner like Meredith. We just hope people find enjoyment in it.

On what motivates him to get up each morning:
I am a true Pollyanna. I get up every morning singing and I’m always in a good mood. And even if we’re not on the farm, if we’re traveling some place, I get up every morning and go outside and try to find something beautiful to reflect on.

On what keeps him up at night:
I’m a very good sleeper. Nothing keeps me up. I exhaust myself during the day so that when I hit the pillow I’m ready for sleep. So nothing keeps me up right now.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Brent Ridge, co-editor-in-chief, Beekman 1802 Almanac.

Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell Samir Husni: Congratulations for putting out such a great magazine. I loved it. I found myself looking at every page; I couldn’t put it down.

Brent Ridge: Thank you; I’m so pleased to hear you say that.

Samir Husni: Could you give me a little bit of background about the genesis of Beekman 1802 Almanac – this two men and a magazine dream? When was that conception moment when you both said, “We can do a magazine?”

Brent Ridge: We’re always looking at the past and trying to modernize things from the past. So, the idea of doing a modern version of an almanac was something that had always intrigued us. We also felt that just from the people who were on our blog and our social media; there was a hunger for really great content that wasn’t being met.

That’s really why we decided to do the magazine, because we felt that there was a desire for great content and then we just used the old Farmer’s Almanac as a jumping off point for our design and the concept.

Samir Husni: But has anyone asked either of you yet if you’re out of your minds for starting a print magazine, especially an almanac, when we’re living in a digital age?

Brent Ridge: As I said, we always try to modernize old things; we do a modern take on very traditional things. So, that was in our wheelhouse. I also think that there is a way for print magazines to live on, they just have to adapt. We look at some great magazines like Kinfolk Magazine and Sweet Paul Magazine, even Edible Magazine to some degree; these are people who are doing great things with print, but also trying to rejigger the business model of the print magazine.

And that’s really what we’re doing with the partnership with Meredith; we wanted to create this really beautiful magazine using amazing paper; a magazine that people would actually want to keep and hold onto, rather than toss it away. But in order to do a magazine like that and get it out to a wide audience, we needed the partnership of someone like Meredith, who could help us out with the paper, printing and distribution, so it’s a match made in heaven with Meredith.

Samir Husni: After you and Josh (Josh Kilmer-Purcell, co-editor-in-chief) decided once-and-for-all to do the magazine, tell me about that nine month experience; was it a tough labor or was it a strictly smooth delivery? Were there any stumbling blocks that you had to face and overcome?

Brent Ridge: Obviously, we had never put together a magazine before. I had worked at Martha Stewart, so I had contributed to a magazine, but had never actually sat down and thought about the elements that needed to be in place to make a great magazine.

For us the hardest part was figuring out what the architecture of the magazine was going to be. And thinking about the things that were typically in a magazine, such as the letter from the editor and what our take would be on our own letter from the editor. So, that became “Life Lessons” for us. What will be the front-of-book feature in our magazine? And so that became the “Gazette.” And so, really just figuring out what was going to be the hallmark elements of the magazine that was the labor part. After we got the structure down, it was easy to come up with great stories and pictures and things like that because the world is full of interesting things to talk about. It was just figuring out what was going to be the format.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment for you during this process?

Brent Ridge: I want to say being finished with it. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). But you know there is a second issue coming, so you’re never really finished.

Brent Ridge: Yes, exactly. I think the most pleasant moment was when we saw the layout of the Gazette, which is our front-of-book feature. The theme of the magazine is “cultivate a better life” and that tagline was chosen deliberately, particularly the word cultivate.

So many people today talk about living your best life and going after that best life, so that word cultivate has a certain amount of grit to it and the idea that you actually have to work for something in order to get it to grow and flourish. And that’s really what we believe.

The idea of the Gazette was that in each issue we’re going to give you these 20 themes that will help you to cultivate a better life. And when we saw that feature come together as our front-of-book feature, we said, yes, this clearly states what this magazine is going to be about.

Samir Husni: Do you think it’s easy to cultivate and duplicate your lifestyle, living on a farm, to a mass audience who may fantasize about living the farm life, but are still confined to the city limits?

Brent Ridge: I don’t think living a better life is ever easy; I do think it’s something that you have to work towards. We’re not experts at anything. When we got the farm, we weren’t farmers; we had to learn how to do that. We had to learn how to start our business and we had to learn how to put together a magazine.

So, the approach that we take with both our website and certainly with our magazine is that we’re not experts and we’re not trying to tell you how to live your life, we’re learning how to live and cultivate a better life and we just want to invite other people to learn along with us.

Samir Husni: When you invite people to have that dinner experience with the “Fabulous Beekman Boys,” how do you see your magazine going beyond just a content-provider to being an experience maker instead?

Brent Ridge: I’m glad you said that because we often think of what we’re doing as an experiential thing. Whether it’s our flagship store or our mercantile and shared screens or when people come and tour the farm in Sharon Springs, New York, we’re always thinking about how people can touch it or feel it and experience it; we think that’s so critical.

And what we hope to do as future issues of the magazine come out; we’re aiming to be a quarterly, so each season we would have this almanac guide to enjoying the individual seasons, but we hope to have actual events around the country built around each season of the almanac so that people could come and experience the content and we’ll bring the content of every issue to life and we’ll do that all across the country.

Samir Husni: What are you waiting for to decide about going quarterly? What are the determinates that will tell you it’s a go?

Brent Ridge: It will really depend on how the consumer responds to the magazine. If enough people like the things that we’ve put together here and like the content and spread the word, then that’s what we’ll do. You have to supply the consumer with something that they want. We always say that you can make any number of beautiful things that no one ever sees, so you do have to keep the consumer in mind and give them what they want. Hopefully, we’ve done that and if the consumer says so, then we’ll move forward.

Samir Husni: And do you think that people can replicate or duplicate that experience from the pages of the magazine?

Brent Ridge: That’s our goal and all of the things that we’re going to be talking about are very simple and very easy for the person who is either living on a farm and doesn’t have a lot of time because they’re farming, or that person who lives in the city or the suburbs who just dreams of that life. And so they can bring a little bit of that into their own home.

Samir Husni: If I told you that I only had 15 minutes to spend with your magazine, would you tell me; Samir, read nothing but the Gazette?

Brent Ridge: Yes, if you only have 15 minutes to sit down and read it, I would start with the Gazette because you’re going to get 20 amazing things to educate yourself and learn about.

Samir Husni: I see that we’re in 1802 from the title of the magazine, what will bring me back to the present as I’m reading? Will I need a goat or a donkey or something to kick me back into 2015 from the pages of 1802?

Brent Ridge: (Laughs) No, definitely not. Again, we say that everything that we do is a modern take on traditional life. We think that there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the way people lived their lives in 1802, in terms of the quality of things that they produced, the level of detail on the things that they produced and the overall craftsmanship of their work.

So, we do think there are a lot of lessons that have been forgotten about when it comes to life in that timeframe, but we also try to put everything in the context of our modern world. For instance, one of the features in every issue is going to be the InstaStory, I don’t know if you noticed the story about the ice harvest, so in every issue of the Almanac there’s going to be an InstaStory taken from Instagram. It’s a story that’s told through our Instagram feed or one of our reader’s Instagram feeds. So, it’s the whole story told in pictures, because that’s so much how the modern consumer looks at life, with their Instagram feed. And we know that’s how people are living their lives, but how does that apply to what we’re trying to say in the Almanac? So, it really is about trying to blend the two worlds.

Samir Husni: Speaking of blending; can you talk a little bit about the working relationship between you and Josh when it comes to creating the magazine?

Brent Ridge: We are complete opposites. Anybody who has ever spent time with us will realize that. And I think that’s actually very beneficial to us, because we’re opposites and we’re also not afraid to present our viewpoint and to argue our viewpoint and I think that makes everything that we design, whether it’s one of our books or one of our products; I think it makes everything better by the fact that we have differing opinions. And sometimes if you can argue your point well enough, it doesn’t change the other person’s mind completely, but it moves the needle a little bit to a place where you may not have landed before and sometimes that’s more interesting.

We’ve been together now for 15 years; we understand how to communicate with one another and I think that’s critical.

Samir Husni: Who’s your audience? Whom do you want to see reading Beekman 1802 Almanac?

Brent Ridge: What we’ve found with our company, Beekman 1802, is that we’re really a mother/daughter brand, which I think very few brands like that exist these days, where you’re getting the moms and grandmothers to show an interest in what you’re doing. But we’re also getting that 22-year-old who’s just starting out their life out of college. And we go to do our book signings and other events; we can sometimes have three generations of people who are there to see us and get their books signed.

They’re all compelled by the story and they’re all really interested in cultivating a better life, they really are. We really don’t try and segment and say this is the audience we’re going after; we just want to provide great content that everybody can learn from.

Samir Husni: From everything you’re doing, the magazine, the blog and the products; what brings you the most joy at the end of the day when you sit down with that glass of wine or warm milk? What gives you that feeling of intense satisfaction?

Brent Ridge: I think the biggest satisfaction for us comes from building community and finding likeminded people. We call everybody who comes into our realm our neighbors, whether they happen to be right down the street or halfway around the world. We call them our neighbors because we have a collective mindset.

So, I think that building that community and finding likeminded people; that’s what we love to do and when you look at our Facebook page and all the people who have bought the magazine in any given week, they’re excited by it. And that’s what we’re honored by; that someone has chosen to bring a little bit of what we’ve done or our lives into their homes and share it with us and that’s an incredible honor. And I don’t think there’s anything better than that.

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

Brent Ridge: I hope that everybody enjoys the magazine as much as you did. We think that it’s different from anything else out there and we’re so lucky to have a great partner like Meredith. We just hope people find enjoyment in it.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get up each morning?

Brent Ridge: I am a true Pollyanna. I get up every morning singing and I’m always in a good mood. And even if we’re not on the farm, if we’re traveling some place, I get up every morning and go outside and try to find something beautiful to reflect on. And that’s why almost every morning there’s some photo on our Instagram feed or on our Facebook page of something beautiful, because I think it’s so important to start your day off with a beautiful thought. And that’s what gets me started every morning.

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

Brent Ridge: I’m a very good sleeper. Nothing keeps me up. I exhaust myself during the day so that when I hit the pillow I’m ready for sleep. So nothing keeps me up right now.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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