Archive for December, 2015

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Mr. Magazine’s ™ Baker’s Dozen Magazine Wish List for 2016…

December 30, 2015
Live.Breathe.Magazines. No one knows me better than my family. A  painting by my daughter Laura McCrory says it all. ©2015

Live.Breathe.Magazines. No one knows me better than my family. A
painting by my daughter Laura McCrory says it all. ©2015

2016 marks the beginning of my 32 years of teaching as a professor of journalism and my 50+ years of falling in love with print in general and magazines in particular. That being said, I thought it would only be fair to start a new tradition of an annual wish list for the New Year in magazines. So, here are my wishes for 2016 in no particular order:


1. At least three of the top five magazine media companies will launch new ink on paper magazines that will create a new buzz in the magazine media field.

2. At least three new magazines launched by individual entrepreneurs will take the industry by storm simply because these folks have a strong belief in the power of print in a digital age.

3. Media reporters will stop using press releases as issued by different measuring companies and start doing some actual reporting and interviewing before reporting numbers issued via press releases.

4. The old and trusted media publications such as Ad Age, Ad Week and Folio will go back to their old formats of informing their readers with everything related to the magazine media world as they did in the 1980s and beyond. WWD, the fashion publication, is becoming the go-to publication for media scoops and media reporting. As much as I love the magazine, I hate it that a fashion publication is doing a much better job covering the media business than the media publications themselves.

5. I wish 2016 to be the year that I do not receive an offer to subscribe to a magazine for $2 or $5 regardless of the reason for that cheap subscription.

6. I also hope that no magazine is going to email me an offer asking me to shift from the print subscription to the digital one. If folks don’t know by now that print is my medium of choice, I do not know when they will know it.

7. I look for the day where my weeklies are starting to look like monthlies on a weekly basis: heavier paper, better printing and more in depth articles.

8. While book-a-zines are continuing their invasion of the newsstands, I hope that we will see a slow down in those book-a-zines because they are starting to impact the sales of regular magazines. Who can afford to pay $13 for a book-a-zine and then buy two or three other magazines?

9. I wish for a new magazine distribution system to be put into place with magazine publishers and retailers working together with national distributors and wholesalers to reinvent the whole process and not just to renovate it.

10. As an educator, I hope that journalism schools around the nation will go back to focusing on the fundamentals of journalism: reporting, writing, editing and critical thinking, instead of just teaching the toys of new media. Remember when the typewriter was new media? We did not teach students typing… they learned in some other school.

11. The NEED for Journalism (with a capital J), the credible, created and curated kind, returns to the forefront of the discussion when it comes to the future of newspapers, newsmagazines, and print in general.

12. I wish for those who pretend to know everything about the future of newspapers and magazines to take some time to keep their opinions to themselves. I need not remind them every time that there are only two people who can tell you the future: God and a Fool.

13. I wish for those people who are in the media business to recognize that there is no problem with the technologies called INK and PAPER, the problem is rather with what you’re putting on that ink on paper.

So, in short, these are my wishes for the new year. I will keep you posted as each wish comes true, so stay tuned and have a wonderful, prosperous, healthy and peaceful 2016.

All the best,
Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

P.S.: The Mr. Magazine™ Manifesto… Look for my Mr. Magazine™ Sixth Manifesto in the January 11, 2016 issue of min: media industry newsletter.

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Southern Living Magazine: Putting The “Southern” Back Into The Brand As The Magazine Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sid Evans, Editor-In-Chief & Ron King, Publisher, Southern Living

December 23, 2015

“No, I don’t see that day in my lifetime. I think that the bond that we have with our audience is really extraordinary. It’s remarkably strong. And don’t get me wrong; we have a very diverse business and we’re being very aggressive about what we’re doing in the digital space and what we’re doing in terms of video and in brand extensions and new businesses and in books. But our readers love the print magazine and we hear from them all of the time asking us to never do anything to the print magazine.” Sid Evans (on whether he can envision a day when Southern Living does not have a printed magazine)


“The excitement that comes and builds on Instagram and all of the posts that we re-Gram, the day the issue arrives; these consumers stage little photo shoots the day their magazine gets there because it is their time, when they’re online looking for recipes, that’s not me-time, that’s family-prep time. They’re working. When they sit down to go through Southern Living magazine that is time that they’ve decided to set aside for them every single month. They really lose themselves in the pages of Southern Living and I can’t think of a better time for advertisers to reach them than during their me-time.” Ron King (on the advantage of having a printed magazine in this digital age)

Picture 23 The South has always been a place steeped in good food, beautiful homes, glorious landscapes and a culture that is both magnetic and unexplainable. Much like the magazine that epitomizes “Southern Living” to the hilt.

In 2016 Southern Living celebrates its 50th anniversary of personifying its regional namesake: the South. The largest issue ever, since May 2008, will be on sale in February 2016, and both Sid Evans, editor-in-chief and Ron King, publisher, are as doubly excited as the colossal double issue will make its readers.

I spoke with Sid and Ron recently and we talked about the enormous responsibility they both have when it comes to leading the country’s largest regional magazine, and one of the largest publications period in the United States, into the future. It is a passionate duty they both welcome and look forward to with excitement and a clear vision of where their powerful brand is heading.

We spoke about the legacy of the magazine, its generational rite of passage attraction to its audience, and the powerful footprint it has in the future, both digitally and in print. It was an enlightening and illuminating conversation about a giant brand that remains intimately connected to its audience, even though its reach is all-encompassing.

So, grab a glass of sweet tea and relax for a moment in your front porch swing, wherever that might be, and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with two southern gentlemen who love their very own style of “Southern Living.”

But first, the sound-bites:


Sid Evans portrait.

Sid Evans portrait.

On whether the powers-that-be 50 years ago could have predicted the success of Southern Living magazine today (Sid Evans): I don’t think that they could have predicted how big an idea they had. I can tell you that they had a lot of confidence in what they were doing when they founded the magazine. But I don’t think that they realized the impact or the longevity or the resonance that it would have with southern consumers.

On whether the powers-that-be 50 years ago could have predicted the success of Southern Living magazine today (Ron King):
I think it was launched by some very smart people, but I think it was happy coincidence. They just did it right. Looking back, it’s very easy to understand why it’s been so successful. One of my favorite stories to tell advertisers in the market is actually why the magazine was launched. What was going on in the south 50 years ago was not good and there were a group of businessmen who got together and agreed that what was going on wasn’t good. But they knew that there were a lot of good things about the south that were not being talked about in the media then. So, they thought about how they could inform people and give them a forum to celebrate the things that were good about the south during those trying times.

On whether Sid feels a different type of editorial responsibility at Southern Living than he did at Garden & Gun or Field & Stream or any of the other magazines that he’s worked on (Sid Evans): I always like to say that this is not our magazine, this is their magazine. Southern Living was built on the backs of the readers and their recipes; their homes and their gardens. It’s really about them.

On whether Ron feels, as a publisher, Southern Living is where he wants it to be at this point in time (Ron King):
One is I’m a southern boy; I think that’s important too. I was born and raised in Arkansas. And I’m a publisher, so I’m greedy. It’s never quite enough. We just closed our February issue, which is our actual 50th anniversary issue; Sid has made it a commemorative issue. And it is the largest revenue-producing February issue in the 50-year history of Southern Living. Even in the heyday of magazines where we couldn’t take the insertion orders off of our fax machines fast enough, we have beaten that February. And if you look beyond February issues, at all issues; it’s the largest issue since May 1996.

On the thought that print is dead and advertisers are fleeing from the medium (Ron King):
Southern Living’s business is a very healthy mix of both consumer revenue and advertising revenue. A lot of brands in the industry don’t have that mix scaled quite correctly. Our consumers love our magazine and they don’t unsubscribe because it is their connection to the south. So, it is not the first thing that goes when they look at their discretionary spending. We gave very strong consumer revenue and we have one of the healthiest pink sheets in the industry.

-1 On what Sid can reveal about the upcoming 50th anniversary commemorative issue (Sid Evans):
I can’t reveal too much, but I can tell you a few things about it. First of all, it’s a double issue, so it’ll have twice as many pages as a typical issue. Secondly, it really is a celebration of the south. That’s the theme of the issue. And we wanted to recognize all of the extraordinary things that are happening in southern culture right now.

On whether Sid can envision a day when Southern Living isn’t a printed entity (Sid Evans):
No, I don’t see that day in my lifetime. I think that the bond that we have with our audience is really extraordinary. It’s remarkably strong. And don’t get me wrong; we have a very diverse business and we’re being very aggressive about what we’re doing in the digital space and what we’re doing in terms of video and in brand extensions and new businesses and in books. But our readers love the print magazine and we hear from them all of the time asking us to never do anything to the print magazine.

On the advantage to having a printed magazine in this digital age from an editorial viewpoint (Sid Evans):
I think one of the things that I love about the print magazine is just the sense of discovery. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s always a pleasant surprise. And it’s not the same thing in digital. You go onto the website and you’re looking for something; you’re usually looking for a specific thing. With the print magazine, it’s a surprise every month. And it’s a pleasant surprise.

Ron King 2[1] On the advantage to having a printed magazine in this digital age from an advertising standpoint (Ron King):
I think the engagement is what the advertisers really want. The term that I hear most used when I’m in market is the idea of “me time.” So, what we know about our consumer is that she lives a busy, busy life and she’s pulled in a million different directions. There’s a particular time that’s very important to her and it’s getting her kids on that school bus, wrapping up her errands, grabbing her Southern Living and sitting down with it, and going through it cover to cover.

On the biggest challenge that Ron has faced since he took the job as publisher (Ron King):
For me, the biggest challenge that I’ve faced since rejoining the brand a little over three years ago was turning our revenue around. We were on the exact same revenue trajectory as the other brands in the industry. But we stopped it and in fact, reversed it and that took a lot of work and was a much longer process than I thought it would be.

On the biggest challenge that Sid has faced since he took the job as editor-in-chief (Sid Evans):
I think in the same way; we had to rebuild some trust with our consumers. We had made some decisions years ago to try to make Southern Living more generic in an effort to broaden the audience. And it had the opposite effect. It was resisted by our readers who felt that we had perhaps abandoned our southern mandate for a time. And this didn’t go on for very long, but there was a period of experimentation there and it was a failed experiment. What I had to do after that was to try and put the southern back in Southern Living and to make sure that we rebuilt that trust and that bridge that we had with our consumers; that everything in this magazine is going to be southern to the core.

On future plans for Southern Living to stay relevant and current with print, digital and any other brand extensions (Sid Evans): I could say that we’ve had extraordinary success in terms of digital growth. And we have a very engaged digital audience that’s growing by leaps and bounds. We’re also rolling out a much-improved website in January in sync with our 50th anniversary. We’re going to be very focused on mobile, of course. And we’re also very focused on video. Video has been one of the most exciting new mediums that we’ve been working with. Our consumers respond to it very powerfully and I think that’s going to be a big focus for us going forward.

On future plans for Southern Living to stay relevant and current with print, digital and any other brand extensions (Ron King):
Beyond the magazine and beyond the website, you can buy more than 600 different Southern Living branded products in Dillard stores across the South. You can stay in Southern Living hotels; you can hire a Southern Living custom builder to build your Southern Living house plan and live within a Southern Living-inspired community. You can landscape Southern Living plants from the Southern Living plant collection, so we are exactly as your question stated; our consumer is everywhere, all-encompassing. And we are meeting her at as many of those points as possible.

On the new Southern Living test kitchens (Sid Evans):
We have incredible new test kitchens. It’s called the Time Inc. Food Studios and is based here in Birmingham. We have 35,000 sq. ft. of test kitchens and photo studios and a video studio. There are a dozen photo studios and 28 kitchens and a state-of-the-art video facility. Food has always been the core franchise for Southern Living. This magazine and this brand were built on the power of its recipes; the reliability of its recipes; the fact that our recipes always work every time; that you can serve them for company and you know that it’s going to work.

On what either of them would be doing if someone showed up at their house unexpectedly in the evening (Ron King):
The truth is I work all day; I go home, do a little bit of exercise and I start working again.

On what either of them would be doing if someone showed up at their house unexpectedly in the evening (Sid Evans):
I might be playing my guitar very badly. (Laughs)

On what motivates them to get out of bed in the mornings (Ron King):
We come in and we work really hard every day and we have such an amazing team and so to see this team working as hard as they do and seeing the results, because unfortunately, so many times in life we work really hard and we don’t see the results. And their passion for this brand is contagious. And that feeling that we have created the culture at Southern Living and that it is a very special culture. And I am aware that it may not always be this way in my career.

On what motivates them to get out of bed in the mornings (Sid Evans):
I’m very lucky to work with an extraordinary team and there is a great surprise in store from my team every day. There are so many ideas flowing through this place that it just makes it very exciting to walk through the door. And I still get a great charge out of seeing an amazing picture or reading a great story or even seeing a great headline. And I also get a great charge out of having a successful video that gets 20 million views.

On what keeps them up at night (Ron King):
I feel a lot of responsibility for this team and it’s a recurring thing that you’ve heard Sid and I talk about, our products and our teams are first. So, are we doing enough and working hard enough to create a brand that will keep these team members employed and engaged and happy with their work life for the next decade?

On what keeps them up at night (Sid Evans): I worry about the main things like numbers, budgets and hitting our targets in terms of traffic, but I think what really keeps me up at night is making sure that I’m keeping the consumers happy. I thrive on feedback from them. That’s my life’s blood and what keeps me going. And it’s also what keeps me awake at night; thinking about have we done the right thing; have we put together the 50th anniversary issue that they’re going to be just ecstatic about? And I think we have.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Sid Evans, Editor-In-Chief & Ron King, Publisher, Southern Living Magazine.

Samir Husni: When Southern Living began; do you think anyone could have predicted that it would become the powerful magazine that it is today; the largest regional magazine in the country and one of the largest magazines period in the United States? Do you think anybody thought that Southern Living would be around and still publishing when it began 50 years ago?

Picture 21 Sid Evans: I don’t think that they could have predicted how big an idea they had. I can tell you that they had a lot of confidence in what they were doing when they founded the magazine. But I don’t think that they realized the impact or the longevity or the resonance that it would have with southern consumers.

Ron King: I think it was launched by some very smart people, but I think it was happy coincidence. They just did it right. Looking back, it’s very easy to understand why it’s been so successful.

One of my favorite stories to tell advertisers in the market is actually why the magazine was launched. What was going on in the south 50 years ago was not good and there were a group of businessmen who got together and agreed that what was going on wasn’t good. But they knew that there were a lot of good things about the south that were not being talked about in the media then. So, they thought about how they could inform people and give them a forum to celebrate the things that were good about the south during those trying times.

And so they launched a magazine that’s all about celebration. And all of the editors since then, all the way up to Sid, focus on celebrating the south. And so we are a very positive and very specific message across five different pillars and our consumer is an exceptional consumer.

I recently gave a presentation talking about the 16 million women who read this magazine. And they don’t read this magazine just because they’re magazine readers. And they subscribe to a list of six or seven magazines and we’re one of them. They are southerners and Southern Living is their connection to this culture that’s so important to them.

So, it’s very easy to understand its success and to look back and say, well of course we’ve been around for 50 years and we have decades ahead of us, although the platforms will be changing. We have decades ahead of us staying connected to our consumers. But I don’t know if they exactly knew that when they launched it.

What they did know was that there was a change happening in the south. They were very prescient because they recognized that there was a migration happening from the rural areas into the cities. People were leaving their farms and they were moving into the cities and the suburbs. And all of those people needed guidance; they needed ideas about how to improve their homes; how to cook; how to take care of their gardens and their yards. There was a vacuum there. There was nothing for them and Southern Living stepped into that place at just the right time.

Samir Husni: Sid, as a southerner yourself; how big does the responsibility feel on your shoulders to be creating and editing a magazine that reaches 16 million women readers, as Ron said? Or does it feel the same as when you were editing Garden & Gun or Field & Stream, or any of the other magazines that you’ve worked on? Do you feel a different type of editorial responsibility at Southern Living?

Sid Evans: I always like to say that this is not our magazine, this is their magazine. Southern Living was built on the backs of the readers and their recipes; their homes and their gardens. It’s really about them. It’s always been a reflection of who they are and I feel like my job is to make sure that reflection is accurate. As long as the magazine is about them, I feel like that connection really stays strong.

Samir Husni: And Ron, with all of the changes that have taken place at Southern Living over the years; as a publisher, do you feel that the magazine is where you want it to be at this point in time?

Ron King: Two things. One is I’m a southern boy; I think that’s important too. I was born and raised in Arkansas. And I’m a publisher, so I’m greedy. It’s never quite enough, but I’m very proud of where we are as a business.

We just closed our February issue, which is our actual 50th anniversary issue; Sid has made it a commemorative issue. And it is the largest revenue-producing February issue in the 50-year history of Southern Living. Even in the heyday of magazines where we couldn’t take the insertion orders off of our fax machines fast enough, we have beaten that February. And if you look beyond February issues, at all issues; it’s the largest issue since May 1996. We are doing a really good job. It’s never quite enough for me, but we’re doing a really good job.

Samir Husni: But I thought that print is dead and advertisers are fleeing from it as fast as they can?

Ron King: Unfortunately, for some brands that is true. But in a recent meeting, we talked about that very subject and we’re very fortunate at Southern Living; Sid is a great leader on the editorial side and I’m a great leader on the publishing side and we both have amazing teams that we support. But the product and the consumer are the reasons that we’re so successful.

Southern Living’s business is a very healthy mix of both consumer revenue and advertising revenue. A lot of brands in the industry don’t have that mix scaled quite correctly. Our consumers love our magazine and they don’t unsubscribe because it is their connection to the south. So, it is not the first thing that goes when they look at their discretionary spending. We gave very strong consumer revenue and we have one of the healthiest pink sheets in the industry.

On the advertising side, Southern Living performs a function on a media plan that not a single other magazine in publishing can do. And that is filling in and bringing unduplicated eyeballs, 60 million southern consumers into a national media plan. So, very rarely do we say that Southern Living should be the only magazine on your media plan. But we do say that you do not have a truly national print media scope without Southern Living. And we have the U.S. Census data and pink sheet data to prove it.

We do something that nobody else does. Our magazine is the best it’s ever been and our consumers are very loyal and engaged consumers. And that is really our recipe for success.

Samir Husni: Sid, can you give me a preview of the 50th anniversary issue? What can you reveal about the commemorative issue?

Sid Evans: I can’t reveal too much, but I can tell you a few things about it. First of all, it’s a double issue, so it’ll have twice as many pages as a typical issue.

Secondly, it really is a celebration of the south. That’s the theme of the issue. And we wanted to recognize all of the extraordinary things that are happening in southern culture right now. The south is really going through a kind of renaissance and you see it in the emergence of southern food, in the exciting things that are happening in the cities, in the creative communities and design communities. There’s just an explosion of interest in southern culture right now. And I wanted this issue to reflect that and how exciting it is to live in the south right now.

But we also wanted to take a moment to look back at our history. You know, Southerners are obsessed with our history and our past. So, we had a lot of fun digging through the archives, pulling out some of our best recipes ever and revisiting some of our favorite places.

And we also poked a little fun at ourselves as well. We have a story called “Bless Our Hearts” where we went back and looked at some of our more embarrassing moments and some of the things that we regretted doing. And that was one of the more fun stories that we worked on in the issue.

Samir Husni: Can you envision a day when we don’t have Southern Living in print?

Sid Evans: No, I don’t see that day in my lifetime. I think that the bond that we have with our audience is really extraordinary. It’s remarkably strong. And don’t get me wrong; we have a very diverse business and we’re being very aggressive about what we’re doing in the digital space and what we’re doing in terms of video and in brand extensions and new businesses and in books. But our readers love the print magazine and we hear from them all of the time asking us to never do anything to the print magazine.

There’s a visceral connection that they have and it really crosses generations. That’s been a big secret to our success. You have people passing this magazine down from one generation to the next. You have mothers passing it down to their daughters; it’s almost a rite of passage. When you’re getting married or buying your first home; you get a subscription to Southern Living. And that’s a really profound tradition in the south and I don’t see that going away. And I don’t see any softness in their response to the print magazine.

Samir Husni: From an editorial point of view, what’s the power of print? What’s the advantage to having a printed magazine in this digital age?

Picture 20 Sid Evans: I think one of the things that I love about the print magazine is just the sense of discovery. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s always a pleasant surprise. And it’s not the same thing in digital. You go onto the website and you’re looking for something; you’re usually looking for a specific thing. With the print magazine, it’s a surprise every month. And it’s a pleasant surprise.

It’s also the mood that the reader is in when they’re looking at the print magazine. I think they’re relaxed and open to new ideas and the excitement of seeing a new recipe or a decorating idea that they had never considered.

Samir Husni: And Ron, what about from an advertising standpoint; what is the advantage in having a printed magazine?

Ron King: I think the engagement is what the advertisers really want. The term that I hear most used when I’m in market is the idea of “me time.” So, what we know about our consumer is that she lives a busy, busy life and she’s pulled in a million different directions. There’s a particular time that’s very important to her and it’s getting her kids on that school bus, wrapping up her errands, grabbing her Southern Living and sitting down with it, and going through it cover to cover.

And we hear it every single month in a variety of different ways, even on Instagram. The excitement that comes and builds on Instagram and all of the posts that we re-Gram, the day the issue arrives; these consumers stage little photo shoots the day their magazine gets there because it is their time, when they’re online looking for recipes, that’s not me-time, that’s family-prep time. They’re working. When they sit down to go through Southern Living magazine that is time that they’ve decided to set aside for them every single month. They really lose themselves in the pages of Southern Living and I can’t think of a better time for advertisers to reach them than during their me-time.

Sid Evans: I think Ron is exactly right about that. We hear that all of the time, that they look forward to having time with the print magazine by themselves, when they can really relax and enjoy it. And I think they see themselves in the magazine as well.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced since you took this job and how did you overcome it?

Ron King: For me, the biggest challenge that I’ve faced since rejoining the brand a little over three years ago was turning our revenue around. We were on the exact same revenue trajectory as the other brands in the industry. But we stopped it and in fact, reversed it and that took a lot of work and was a much longer process than I thought it would be. But Southern Living is a giant brand and to stop a downward trajectory and in fact reverse it, takes a lot of time and patience. And that has been both my biggest challenge and my biggest reward.

Samir Husni: And Sid, what has been your biggest challenge?

Picture 19 Sid Evans: I think in the same way; we had to rebuild some trust with our consumers. We had made some decisions years ago to try to make Southern Living more generic in an effort to broaden the audience. And it had the opposite effect. It was resisted by our readers who felt that we had perhaps abandoned our southern mandate for a time. And this didn’t go on for very long, but there was a period of experimentation there and it was a failed experiment.

What I had to do after that was to try and put the southern back in Southern Living and to make sure that we rebuilt that trust and that bridge that we had with our consumers; that everything in this magazine is going to be southern to the core. That’s the first mandate of any piece of content that we’re doing, it has to be southern.

It also has to do something for them. It has to provide a service to them and it has to give them an idea of something that they can work with. And the other S of the three S’s that we often talk about is that it needs to be seasonal and it needs to be relevant to the season in which they get it.

So, that has taken some time and I feel like our bond now with our readers is as strong as it has ever been. We’ve heard that loud and clear through email correspondence, through social media and it’s also been reflected in our numbers and in our success.

Samir Husni: You are a part of a big, major company, Time. Inc. in which I’ve heard from almost everybody, from the CEO down to other employees there, that this belief in print and these digital platforms that we’re creating have brought about the realization that it’s no longer either/or. So, what are the plans for Southern Living after 50 years to be a part of that dawning realization? We are in print and we are in digital, we are a brand that’s all over the place. What are the all-over-the-place plans for Southern Living besides the powerful printed magazine?

Sid Evans: I could say that we’ve had extraordinary success in terms of digital growth. And we have a very engaged digital audience that’s growing by leaps and bounds. We’re also rolling out a much-improved website in January in sync with our 50th anniversary. We’re going to be very focused on mobile, of course.

And we’re also very focused on video. Video has been one of the most exciting new mediums that we’ve been working with. Our consumers respond to it very powerfully and I think that’s going to be a big focus for us going forward.

I’ll give you an example. We have one of the most viewed, if not the most viewed, videos at Time Inc. We did a video earlier this year on Oreo Cookie Balls of all things. It’s been viewed more than 20 million times on Facebook.

So, people are watching these videos; they’re sharing them with their friends and they love where they’re coming from. And they love videos with a southern point of view. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for us in that space.

Ron King: Beyond the magazine and beyond the website, you can buy more than 600 different Southern Living branded products in Dillard stores across the South. You can stay in Southern Living hotels; you can hire a Southern Living custom builder to build your Southern Living house plan and live within a Southern Living-inspired community. You can landscape Southern Living plants from the Southern Living plant collection, so we are exactly as your question stated; our consumer is everywhere, all-encompassing. And we are meeting her at as many of those points as possible.

When she eats lunch at Ruby Tuesday restaurant, there are items on the menu that we have sent to the Southern Living test kitchens and they are Southern Living approved. We’re always looking for unique and impactful ways to reach our consumer wherever she is.

Samir Husni: You mentioned the Southern Living test kitchens; Sid, can you talk a little bit about the test kitchens and their new surroundings at the Southern Living headquarters?

Picture 18 Sid Evans: Absolutely. We have incredible new test kitchens. It’s called the Time Inc. Food Studios and is based here in Birmingham. We have 35,000 sq. ft. of test kitchens and photo studios and a video studio. There are a dozen photo studios and 28 kitchens and a state-of-the-art video facility.

Food has always been the core franchise for Southern Living. This magazine and this brand were built on the power of its recipes; the reliability of its recipes; the fact that our recipes always work every time; that you can serve them for company and you know that it’s going to work.

So, we take that very seriously and the company also believes in the power of recipes and the importance of being able to create great food content. Time Inc. made a significant investment in these kitchens and studios. And I think it’s just going to add to the power and reach of the brand.

In addition to our ability to create incredible content there, we also have a great space where we can host events and where we can do chef demonstrations and videos and engage with our consumers. The first thing that consumers want to see when they come and visit us here in Birmingham is the test kitchens. That’s where they want to go. And I think we’ve got more beautiful and exciting test kitchens for them to see now than we’ve ever had before. It’s very exciting.

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

Ron King: I’d like to make one correction, Samir. I stated two facts about our February issue earlier and one of them was incorrect, so I’d like to restate them both for the record. Our February anniversary issue for February 2016 is the largest February issue in the 50-year history of Southern Living. It is the largest issue period since May 2008, not May 1996.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening; what would I find you doing; would you be having a glass of wine and reading a magazine or reading something on your iPad, watching TV; what would you be doing?

Ron King: I’ll go first because mine is easy; I’d be working.

Samir Husni: At home?

Picture 17 Ron King: Yes, I’m not very interesting, Samir. (Laughs) The truth is I work all day; I go home, do a little bit of exercise and I start working again.

Samir Husni: And Sid, what about you?

Sid Evans: I might be playing my guitar very badly. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: What motivates either of you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Ron King: I have sort of a silly answer and a serious answer to that. One of my favorite moments of the day is, and this is a quote actually from something I read a long time ago that Robin Williams said; the moment that latte hits your chest. So when I open my eyes the first thought I have is how long until my latte? (Laughs)

But no, we come in and we work really hard every day and we have such an amazing team and so to see this team working as hard as they do and seeing the results, because unfortunately, so many times in life we work really hard and we don’t see the results. And their passion for this brand is contagious. And that feeling that we have created the culture at Southern Living and that it is a very special culture. And I am aware that it may not always be this way in my career. But at this moment I’m working with amazing people on an amazing brand and that culture is really energized. How could you not want to get up and come into work to that?

Samir Husni: And Sid?

Sid Evans: I would echo that. I’m very lucky to work with an extraordinary team and there is a great surprise in store from my team every day. There are so many ideas flowing through this place that it just makes it very exciting to walk through the door.

And I still get a great charge out of seeing an amazing picture or reading a great story or even seeing a great headline. And I also get a great charge out of having a successful video that gets 20 million views. So, those things keep me fired up and it never gets old and I hope it never does.

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

Ron King: (Laughs) Hitting my numbers. I’m grateful that for the last 14 months that has not kept me up at night. But we are a giant brand with giant responsibilities. And I feel a lot of responsibility for this team and it’s a recurring thing that you’ve heard Sid and I talk about, our products and our teams are first. So, are we doing enough and working hard enough to create a brand that will keep these team members employed and engaged and happy with their work life for the next decade?

And I would say that I spend half my time focused on the success of Southern Living today and the other half of my time focused on the success of Southern Living five years from now. And that’s a huge responsibility that neither of us takes lightly, but one that we’re both happy to take on.

Samir Husni: And Sid, what keeps you up at night?

Picture 23 Sid Evans: I worry about the main things like numbers, budgets and hitting our targets in terms of traffic, but I think what really keeps me up at night is making sure that I’m keeping the consumers happy. I thrive on feedback from them. That’s my life’s blood and what keeps me going. And it’s also what keeps me awake at night; thinking about have we done the right thing; have we put together the 50th anniversary issue that they’re going to be just ecstatic about? And I think we have.

The consumer is always first in my mind and it’s a constant effort to keep them happy. You can’t ever relax or let your guard down or get lazy, because they expect great things from you. So, I’ve lost a little sleep over that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year from Mr. Magazine™ and the staff of the Mr. Magazine™ blog. We will be back after the holidays… cheers and all the best.

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Tablet Magazine: Successfully Born Online & Now Available In Inimitable Print – Take Two “Tablets” For A More Robust Effect – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Jack Kliger, Publisher, & Alana Newhouse, Editor-In-Chief, Tablet Magazine.

December 21, 2015

“I think magazines are different; there’s a different creative concept; a different mix of text and graphics. Something that makes one plus one equal more than two and that’s something that maybe magazines can’t do as fast as electronic media can do, but there are things that magazines can do that aren’t just replicated online. And then there’s the more basic answer; you get better writing.” Jack Kliger


“I think that print has been wildly underestimated. The Internet came along and people imagined that it was a tool to be used for every single thing in their lives. But it’s not a tool for everything in their lives; it’s a tool for some very important things in our lives like news or information, information that we need for our daily lives, but I don’t necessarily know that the Internet is the right medium for deeper reads.” Alana Newhouse

TABLETcover When God gave his people the Ten Commandments they were etched onto stone tablets to read and follow, maybe it was no accident that you could conceivably consider that the original “printed” word.

And in 2009, when Tablet’s editor-in-chief, Alana Newhouse, originated the online entity that has since become a highly successful informational site, she’d had just that thought running through her mind, along with the idea that eventually she would love to expand the online experience into a more tangible and lasting conversation with its audience, and of course, follow God’s lead by doing that through a printed magazine.

Tablet Magazine was born from that idea and the passion that Alana has for its subject matter. And along with veteran media executive, Jack Kliger, who joined Alana as publisher and brought over 35 years of his own expertise to the magazine, they have set out to prove that when you really believe in the product you’re creating and the message being sent to your target audience, the printed word can be a Godsend.

I spoke with both Alana and Jack recently and we talked about what each of them hopes to accomplish with the new magazine. And about the community spirit that lives within its ink on paper pages and how they achieved that goal and many more.

It was an enlightening and inspiring conversation and one I know you will enjoy as much as Mr. Magazine™ did. And so without further hesitation, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jack Kliger, Publisher & Alana Newhouse, Editor-In-Chief, Tablet Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:


AN-credit-MichelleIshay On the idea that print suddenly seems to be the new media for everyone (Alana Newhouse):
I think that print has been wildly underestimated. The Internet came along and people imagined that it was a tool to be used for every single thing in their lives. But it’s not a tool for everything in their lives; it’s a tool for some very important things in our lives like news or information, information that we need for our daily lives, but I don’t necessarily know that the Internet is the right medium for deeper reads. The example that I’d like to give you is the invention of the phone, or a fork. The fork is a great utensil, but it’s not the only utensil that you need for everything in your life. And it’s the same thing when it comes to the Internet.

On the idea that suddenly print seems to be the new media for everyone (Jack Kliger):
Personally, I don’t think people stopped reading magazines. Maybe some people never started in this new generation; maybe some people did start, but to me printed magazines are as bad as the theatre is. I went to the theatre the other day and I said isn’t it amazing that this is a form of performance that William Shakespeare was writing for years ago, but I remember reading articles that said when movies came along and television came along, who would need theatre? I’ve gone to the theatre lately and there are things that happen there, in terms of seeing live performances, and three-dimensional experiences, that aren’t different. And I think magazines are different; there’s a different creative concept; a different mix of text and graphics.

On the Tablet reader (Alana Newhouse):
Increasingly for us, paper and the web is the way to go because for Tablet’s audience; we have a very big readership on the web and then we have a smaller audience of, I would say, hardcore Tablet readers, people who are our most engaged, most excited and most committed reader. And for them, they really want to take Tablet more fully into their lives. And the only way for them to really be able to bring Tablet completely into their lives is through print.

On the name Tablet (Alana Newhouse):
When we started we tried to think about a name for the magazine and one thing we thought about was what the very first platform was, at least in our tradition, right? The idea behind it was we wanted to imagine a new medium that could send a message that could be lasting.

On the conversational cover of the printed magazine (Alana Newhouse):
In terms of the armchair cover; the cover is a little bit of an inside joke for American Jews who were raised in the post-war years, but not only American Jews, also people who were raised around Jews; all of those people are who the magazine is for. Many of us were raised by immigrants or by children of immigrants. One of the funny phenomena of those homes was that they all had this plastic-covered furniture. And the reason why they had plastic-covered furniture was because the furniture was the only thing they had of value, or frequently one of the only things of value. And it was permanent. And they wanted to protect it, so many of us grew up in these homes with those particular chairs and couches.

On whether Alana was surprised that the name Tablet was available (Alana Newhouse):
I don’t think we were that surprised; we learned later that there are other Tablets. There are Tablet Hotels and many other things with that name. And of course, the digital device started being called tablet.

On how Jack became publisher of Tablet (Alana Newhouse): The truth is meeting Jack was our real good fortune. I’m sure there’s a biblical metaphor here of why he came onboard. (Everyone laughs). But that was a real stroke of luck for us. I had wanted to do a print magazine, but I could not figure out how to do it. And not only could I not figure out how to do it; I couldn’t find people in New York who thought I was anything other than a lunatic for wanting to do it. I couldn’t even find anyone who believed in it with me. So, Jack and I were introduced and one of the strokes of luck for me was actually having someone who was such a brilliant publisher who looked at me and never said I was crazy, first of all, and believed that there was a value proposition here.

jack kliger MPA photo On what made Jack want to be a part of Tablet Magazine (Jack Kliger): First of all, I’ve been fortunate in working with editors who are real visionaries and not functionaries. I mean, I work with functionaries too, but one of the things that obviously impressed me in the beginning with Alana is she had a really clear and strong perspective on what she wanted to create, but she also knew very well who she wanted to create it for.

On how it feels for him to create his first not-for-profit venture (Jack Kliger):
It feels great because this is one of the proudest efforts I’ve made, not only for my own personal reasons about wanting to create an informational platform that would help what I call millennial and 21st century American Jews understand their identity better, but it’s also a very talented and enthusiastic group of people led by Alana who are genuinely passionate and committed to what they’re doing.

On how Tablet, the magazine, creates the community spirit that is felt between its pages (Alana Newhouse):
The first thing that has to happen is that we have to start by mirroring the community. One of the problems with both certain Jewish organizations and also with certain magazines is that they forget the actual people they’re supposed to be speaking to. So suddenly they determine that this person is a Jew, that person is not a Jew; this person is inside the community, that person is not.

On anything either of them would like to add (Jack Kliger):
I would just like to say that the response from people that I have talked to since they started getting the magazine has been just wonderful. They just started getting the magazine in the past couple of weeks. As you know, it’s not easy to find on the newsstands. The fact of the matter is this magazine is going to be built with a core of subscribers that we think will be not only strongly committed and heavily renewing, but will also be part of a community and we think they will use Tablet as a proud bag.

On what motivates him to get out of the bed (Jack Kliger):
What gets me up in the morning is finding out how many subscriptions we’ve sold to date. (Laughs) I want to know on a daily basis. Energy comes from engagement. And there are a lot of things that can engage you.

On what keeps him up at night (Jack Kliger):
The problem is people all over the world now feel threatened because they don’t know who’s going to do what. Society has some very big challenges. We have people who want to go back to the Wild West. What keeps me up at night is what kind of world my grandchildren are going to live in.

On what keeps Alana up at night (Alana Newhouse):
I think that watching how fast the world changes and sharing that it’s incumbent upon me and my staff to try our best to cover it as smartly and as clearly and as non-hysterically as possible, but then also feeling at the end of the day that there’s more to be done. And that’s what keeps me up at night as well. And what happens next.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jack Kliger, Publisher, & Alana Newhouse, Editor-In-Chief, Tablet Magazine.

Samir Husni: The Columbia Journalism Review recently ran an article talking about print as the new media; what gives? What do you think has happened that suddenly many people are talking about print as the new media?

Jack Kliger: That’s a very good question. Alana, would you like to tackle that first?

Alana Newhouse: Sure. I think that print has been wildly underestimated. The Internet came along and people imagined that it was a tool to be used for every single thing in their lives. But it’s not a tool for everything in their lives; it’s a tool for some very important things in our lives like news or information, information that we need for our daily lives, but I don’t necessarily know that the Internet is the right medium for deeper reads.

In fact, I think the last 10 years have seen print be discarded by many people who assumed that they could get the same benefits that they always got from print, on the web. And I don’t think you can.

The example that I’d like to give you is the invention of the phone, or a fork. The fork is a great utensil, but it’s not the only utensil that you need for everything in your life. And it’s the same thing when it comes to the Internet. The Internet is a very valuable and a very important, and in some cases for many of us, one of the most important tools in our lives, but it’s not the only one.

So, I think that it’s understanding that print has always had a value that just needed to be rediscovered and I think that’s what the articles and the talk mean by that.

Jack Kliger: I would say Alana’s answer is a pretty good delineation. I would also say this, Samir; I’d rather talk about magazines as new media; it’s relatively broad and I can sit here and also talk about newspapers, but more specifically what we consider an art form called magazines. I’m one of those old horses that never thought magazines went away, they just have to morph in terms of a very differently dissected economic pie.

Personally, I don’t think people stopped reading magazines. Maybe some people never started in this new generation; maybe some people did start, but to me printed magazines are as bad as the theatre is. I went to the theatre the other day and I said isn’t it amazing that this is a form of performance that William Shakespeare was writing for years ago, but I remember reading articles that said when movies came along and television came along, who would need theatre? I’ve gone to the theatre lately and there are things that happen there, in terms of seeing live performances, and three-dimensional experiences, that aren’t different.

And I think magazines are different; there’s a different creative concept; a different mix of text and graphics. Something that makes one plus one equal more than two and that’s something that maybe magazines can’t do as fast as electronic media can do, but there are things that magazines can do that aren’t just replicated online. And then there’s the more basic answer; you get better writing. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). And I agree with you. I’m the one that trademarked the phrase if it’s not ink on paper, it’s not a magazine.

TABLETtoc Jack Kliger: Exactly. That’s a great phrase. And mind you, we’re not thinking that digital or a website is a place to jump off of. Tablet started and is still doing very well as a website, but that’s a different thing from the magazine. We just think digital and print is better than digital or print.

Alana Newhouse: I would say that I don’t necessarily disagree with you as much as I definitely believe that we are running a magazine also on the web, because my original definition of a magazine was a publication that had a perspective. And it had a particular personality. And again, I’m not talking about general interest magazines; I’m talking about magazines that offered you a way of looking at the world.

And we try to do that online and I think that we do a very good job of it. I realized that you simply cannot transmit that perspective in the same way if it’s not on paper. And I think that right now Jack is right; increasingly for us, paper and the web is the way to go because for Tablet’s audience; we have a very big readership on the web and then we have a smaller audience of, I would say, hardcore Tablet readers, people who are our most engaged, most excited and most committed reader. And for them, they really want to take Tablet more fully into their lives. And the only way for them to really be able to bring Tablet completely into their lives is through print.

Samir Husni: You mentioned on the web that the experience of tuning the world out and losing yourself between the covers of a magazine is what you pushed you to actually bring the print edition to life. So, you’re talking about the experience; we’re not just about information; we’re experience makers. And the digital experience is completely different from the print experience.

Jack Kliger: I think what you’re saying is very true. Experience maker is a very interesting phrase.

TABLETcover Samir Husni: So tell me about the name Tablet and also about the cover; you have an armchair with text all over it that goes from, God never forgets Zion to ET, phone home. As you wrote in your Letter from the Editor, there’s seems to be a mix of fun, storytelling, along with the seriousness. Tell me about the name Tablet first and then about the DNA of the brand, from the web launch in 2009 to the print component that just came out.

Alana Newhouse: When we started we tried to think about a name for the magazine and one thing we thought about was what the very first platform was, at least in our tradition, right?

Jack Kliger: (Laughs). The first Jewish platform.

Alana Newhouse: In the Jewish story the very first media were the tablets. We came out before the tablets were known as iPads. It was earlier than that. But the idea behind it was we wanted to imagine a new medium that could send a message that could be lasting. And that’s where we came up with the name.

In terms of the armchair cover; the cover is a little bit of an inside joke for American Jews who were raised in the post-war years, but not only American Jews, also people who were raised around Jews; all of those people are who the magazine is for. Many of us were raised by immigrants or by children of immigrants.

One of the funny phenomena of those homes was that they all had this plastic-covered furniture. And the reason why they had plastic-covered furniture was because the furniture was the only thing they had of value, or frequently one of the only things of value. And it was permanent. And they wanted to protect it, so many of us grew up in these homes with those particular chairs and couches.

Jack Kliger: I didn’t know until I was 18 that chairs came without plastic. (Laughs)

TABLETmanga Alana Newhouse: Exactly. What we wanted to do was take the chair that was this sort of icon of the homes that we grew up in, and of the American Jewish experience in the post-war decades, and we wanted to use it as the basis for something. But then we also wanted to show what we were putting on it was our own. And we were going to sort of graffiti it with some of the elements of the Jewish inheritance that we feel is now ours to play with and also to save and to be stewards of.

There’s scripture, religion, faith, observance, literature, music and movies; it sort of runs the gamut of what we see as the wider American Jewish inheritance. But the idea was that it was being put on top of this chair as a way of expressing that we know what we’re sitting on. And we know our history and we know the foundation that we are on top of. And we also know that it’s important for us to respect it, and for us to use it as a basis for moving into the future.

Samir Husni: Were you surprised that the name Tablet wasn’t already taken?

Alana Newhouse: I don’t think we were that surprised; we learned later that there are other Tablets. There are Tablet Hotels and many other things with that name. And of course, the digital device started being called tablet.

Jack Kliger: I am surprised that seven years ago when Alana started it, it hadn’t yet been used. Every word in the vocabulary seems to have been used as a name for a magazine at one time or another. It was a pleasant surprise.

Alana Newhouse: Our blog is called The Scroll, and that’s the one I’m really surprised about. (Laughs) Think about it, right? That’s the one that has the great double meaning for now.

Samir Husni: This is one thing that I keep telling anyone who is willing to listen; the law of rejected simplicity. When we think something is so simple that there’s no way it will work, or someone has already done it, but yet everybody who heard that I was interviewing you both; when they heard the name Tablet, they knew exactly what I was talking about.

Jack Kliger: That’s great.

Samir Husni: As you said, it was the original form of communication.

Jack Kliger: The first platform.

Samir Husni: Take me through the journey of bringing Jack in, because Alana you were there from the beginning with the website. Then Jack came onboard to be the publisher.

Alana Newhouse: The truth is meeting Jack was our real good fortune. I’m sure there’s a biblical metaphor here of why he came onboard. (Everyone laughs). But that was a real stroke of luck for us. I had wanted to do a print magazine, but I could not figure out how to do it. And not only could I not figure out how to do it; I couldn’t find people in New York who thought I was anything other than a lunatic for wanting to do it. I couldn’t even find anyone who believed in it with me.

So, Jack and I were introduced and one of the strokes of luck for me was actually having someone who was such a brilliant publisher who looked at me and never said I was crazy, first of all, and believed that there was a value proposition here. And also on top of that to come in and say I’ll help you was a dream.

Jack Kliger: That’s very nice to hear.

Samir Husni: Jack, this isn’t the first time that you’ve worked with lunatics, right? (Laughs)

Jack Kliger: (Laughs too). No, I’ve made a career of working with lunatics. (Laughs)

Alana Newhouse: Thanks so much. (Laughs too)

Jack Kliger: First of all, I’ve been fortunate in working with editors who are real visionaries and not functionaries. I mean, I work with functionaries too, but one of the things that obviously impressed me in the beginning with Alana is she had a really clear and strong perspective on what she wanted to create, but she also knew very well who she wanted to create it for. And she had a seven year record of building an audience that was definable. But what struck me was when she described the reasons for creating a print magazine; it was really about what she felt could be produced in terms of the product, which was different from what was already being produced. But also what she wanted for the reader.

What I added to the mix was most people were advising her that it could be built on both a subscription and ad-driven model and I said it was going to be a predominately consumer-driven revenue product. It was going to have to be good enough to command a reasonable price and it was going to have to be good-looking enough to be something everybody is proud of. But it’ll never be large enough or broad enough to be substantially based on advertising revenue, nor should it be. That was another part of my recommendations for how to look at it.

Samir Husni: Jack, if I’m not mistaken this is your first not-for-profit publishing venture. How does that feel?

Jack Kliger: Yes. Well, it’s the first one that’s intentionally not-for-profit. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

TABLETratner Jack Kliger: It feels great because this is one of the proudest efforts I’ve made, not only for my own personal reasons about wanting to create an informational platform that would help what I call millennial and 21st century American Jews understand their identity better, but it’s also a very talented and enthusiastic group of people led by Alana who are genuinely passionate and committed to what they’re doing.

I have to tell you; one of the things that concerns me about the established media business, in particular I see this in magazines, is that many people who are working at magazines are just trying to hold on to their jobs and benefits and make it to retirement. Many times you go into places and you talk about change and people don’t want things to change

Here, it was an adverse change; here, after we went around a couple of times of coming up with what seemed like a reasonable way to execute, it was talking to a staff that you would assume didn’t believe in print because they were all young, digital hotshot kind of people. But it really wasn’t that hard because they believed in journalism and they believed in their audience. And they do know their audience.

I have come a long way in this business and I think frankly even though it’s a not-for-profit, I believe this product will be operationally profitable and I think that’s an important thing to target for in any case. Operationally, it’s a very important thing that we get enough revenue from our consumers to pay for the high quality of the product that we’re going to put out. That’s sometimes a radical notion in American magazine publishing, but it’s a basic notion for us.

Samir Husni: Alana, keeping that notion in mind, as I was reading the magazine and flipping through the pages; I felt that sense of community. From within the pages it felt like I was getting a letter from a friend just updating me on everything, those good old days when people used to write five, six, seven or eight page letters to friends. Tell me about that tribal sense that you talk about and that community sense and how Tablet, the magazine, actually creates that community spirit?

Alana Newhouse: The first thing that has to happen is that we have to start by mirroring the community. One of the problems with both certain Jewish organizations and also with certain magazines is that they forget the actual people they’re supposed to be speaking to. So suddenly they determine that this person is a Jew, that person is not a Jew; this person is inside the community, that person is not.

One of the things that I want to do to start with is to ask who wants to be a part of this community; raise your hand. I’m not asking any questions about who you are just yet. I just want to know who wants in. And if you want in and you’ve bought a subscription because you, for whatever reason, want to be a part of an American Jewish conversation, then the first step is I need to welcome you. And I need to invite you in and ask you to have a seat. Then my real job starts.

At that point, I need to say here’s the conversation. And if you pick up on the metaphor, sort of the cocktail party from my introduction, it’s essentially that. You open your doors, you say whoever wants to come in to my party, come in. I’m going to have a great meal; I’m going to serve you something fun. We’re going to have some nice wine and then we’re going to talk. I’m going to give you great stuff to talk about. I’m going to introduce you to some really interesting people and I’m also going to challenge some things. Maybe we’ll disagree and have some fights. As long as you don’t offend someone else in a way that I find inappropriate, then you’re in. So, let’s talk.

In some sense, my job with the magazine is to show people how interesting and fascinating I find the conversation about Jewish identity, both historically and in contemporary society as well. I want them to see that they can be a part of it. Those are the two legs of my job.

Jack Kliger: One thing that is very important in my mind is that with the American Jewish community in the 21st century is that it’s not a ghetto. It’s a community. And that’s a very important thing. One of the reasons that I’m very interested in that is that my parents were in ghettos and my kid is not. The American Jewish experience in this 21st century deserves a magazine and that’s what we’ve created, a 21st century media. So, I think print is certainly a part of the 21st century media. And we’re going to prove that.

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

Jack Kliger: I would just like to say that the response from people that I have talked to since they started getting the magazine has been just wonderful. They just started getting the magazine in the past couple of weeks. As you know, it’s not easy to find on the newsstands.

Samir Husni: And thank you for saving me my $10, although, I did try to find it. I went to every Barnes & Noble. (Laughs)

Jack Kliger: Oh, I know. We’re getting more of that. Who else but a Jewish group would launch a magazine at the time that you have the newsstand distributors blowing up? The fact of the matter is this magazine is going to be built with a core of subscribers that we think will be not only strongly committed and heavily renewing, but will also be part of a community and we think they will use Tablet as a proud bag. So, we think we have achievable, reasonable goals to get to a subscription level that will make us self-sustainable. And then I think you’re going to see a great new product on the American magazine scene, which I think is pretty cool.

Samir Husni: Jack, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Jack Kliger: My dog. (Laughs)

Alana Newhouse: And I was basically going to make the same joke and say my one and a half year old. (Everyone laughs).

Jack Kliger: What gets me up in the morning is finding out how many subscriptions we’ve sold to date. (Laughs) I want to know on a daily basis. Energy comes from engagement. And there are a lot of things that can engage you.

Samir Husni: Jack, my typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Jack Kliger: (Laughs) Frankly, what keeps me up at night is not a business question; it’s trying to figure out the crazy world we live in. What’s funny about this Tablet thing is one of the things that really motivated me was a book I read a year ago that talked about the challenge for Jews is we now live in an open society. We’re members of an open society. For generations we haven’t been, we’ve lived in ghettos and we’ve been threatened. There’s a generation of people now who aren’t threatened on a daily basis, afraid they’re going to be attacked just because of who they are.

The problem is people all over the world now feel threatened because they don’t know who’s going to do what. Society has some very big challenges. We have people who want to go back to the Wild West. What keeps me up at night is what kind of world my grandchildren are going to live in.

Samir Husni: Alana, what keeps you up at night?

Alana Newhouse: Well, what gets me out of bed in the mornings besides my child is the news. The truth is that the same thing that wakes me up puts me to bed. I believe that Jews have an obligation to themselves and also to others to try their best to understand the world and to try their best to understand how to organize the world to bring more safety and more justice and more potential for as many people as possible.

I think that watching how fast the world changes and sharing that it’s incumbent upon me and my staff to try our best to cover it as smartly and as clearly and as non-hysterically as possible, but then also feeling at the end of the day that there’s more to be done. And that’s what keeps me up at night as well. And what happens next.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Adventure Journal Quarterly: A New Title Born From The Outdoor Dreams Of One Man & From The Labyrinth Of The Web…To At Last Breathe In Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steve Casimiro, Founder, Adventure Journal Quarterly

December 18, 2015

“And how not to burn out at it, if you’re small, just one or two people, how do you keep it fresh? I think that is one of the big challenges with digital media. It reminds me of going to a sushi place, where they have these little rivers and they do their California rolls and put them on floating plates and you sort of grab the little bites as they go by; to me digital media often feels like that. It’s just not sustaining from a reader’s standpoint. And that was a lot of the impetus for wanting to do print, because the relationship between the reader and the words is different. It feels like it sates you and fills you up better.” Steve Casimiro

aj1001-comp What do you do when you have 30 years of experience in outdoor magazines and you’ve been creating a successful online publication for six years, but you feel the need to allow that experience to develop in a more tactile and tangible way than the web? Why, you create a magazine of course.

In the spring of 2016, the online publication Adventure Journal will have a print component, Adventure Journal Quarterly. And in the words of founder, publisher and editor, Steve Casimiro, it’s something that was planned from the beginning, even before the first pixel was put into place. Steve added in a newsletter to his web audience that it needs no batteries and no internet connection. It won’t bug you to check your email or ask you to like it. It’s print, baby.

I spoke with Steve recently and we talked about the upcoming magazine that will bring Adventure Journal onto newsstands. Having worked extensively in print for most of his career, from Powder magazine to National Geographic Adventure, Steve knows and believes in the power and celebration of print. And with his business model of pre-selling issues until the actual magazine comes out, he can see the potential success already, having a robust subscription base almost immediately. And as an avid outdoor enthusiast himself, he’s certainly the man to bring adventure to a journal on a quarterly basis.

So, I hope you enjoy this entrepreneurial approach to magazine making from a man who has as much faith in and passion for the printed word as he does for the great outdoors he eloquently creates about. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve Casimiro, Founder, Adventure Journal Quarterly.

But first, the sound-bites:

casimiro portrait On why he had always intended for Adventure Journal to be in print and not just online: The idea for the magazine, Adventure Journal Quarterly, goes back a couple of decades. Like so many editors, I have a vision of what I want XYZ magazine to look like. I was the editor at Powder magazine and it was my job to bring my vision to that magazine, so terrific, I did that, and I also did it when we launched Bike magazine. My teams have always been passionate about the outdoors and adventure. And it’s something that my whole life has really revolved around since then. And my roots are in print. I started in newspapers, and I’ve been in print one way or another for about 30 years. So, it’s what I know. But the financial barriers to doing print, way back when I was originally thinking about this, were obviously too high.

On whether the future of magazine launching is being digital-only first and then discovering or coming to print later: I think the model is fantastic. This idea of building an audience and proving the concept through your lowest cost barrier; it’s just pragmatic, right? It makes sense. I was looking at print back in 2009; I’ve been looking at it all along. I had done all sorts of business plans before the Internet and during the early days, but the costs were just exorbitant. Even if you were to launch with a website and print at the same time, just trying to build your audience and sell; how were you going to do that?

On that “aha” moment that convinced him he could actually do the magazine: There wasn’t so much just a single “aha” moment because these are ideas that have been evolving for my entire career. I love being outside; I love having adventures; I love doing long, mountain bike rides and long trail runs and going Backcountry skiing; I love it for the pure physicality of it. Just the feeling that you get from these experiences, like Powder Skiing; on a deep powder day that physical sensation, there’s just nothing else like it.

On the biggest challenge or stumbling block that he’s had to face: The biggest challenge by far is getting enough appropriately well-written stories a day to get the traffic, to get the readers, to be able to get enough advertising to make a living. My guess is that most publishers are dealing with that in one form or another. All of the people that I know who are with relatively small shops like mine are struggling with it and the bigger ones are too, because how much is enough? And what’s the right amount and the right stories, especially if you have a relatively narrow focus, such as you’re just covering surfing or mountain biking?

On whether there’s a difference in seeing one’s name in print compared to seeing one’s name credited in digital: Well, anybody can post anything these days, right? What is the value of that? To see your name in a Tweet; well, everybody is a publisher now and everyone is a photographer. By virtue of that, it inevitably diminishes the value. If anybody can do it with one click; what is the value of that? In print though, magazines cost money to make; they cost a lot of money and once they’re done that’s it. It’s finite; it’s never going to be changed. So, that’s a luxury and a leery, right? But there is a specialness built into it.

On whether a high cover price and curated content only available in the printed magazine and not on its website is the only way for print magazines to survive into the future: I think it’s one way. It really depends on your scale. I think before it closed National Geographic Adventure had 675,000 in circulation. So that’s huge. If AJ Quarterly has 20 to 30,000, I think that’s very realistic, based on other similar quarterlies like Surfer’s Journal, which is now a bimonthly. I believe the publishing model for large circulation magazines is just going to be very tricky going forward. I think staying focused and well-connected to the reader and giving and asking the readers to take a stake in it; I think that’s the future of publishing.

On anything else he’d like to add: One thing that I’d like to say is what I keep trying to tell myself basically, and encouraging myself with is, one of the mistakes that I think magazines make and businesses in general is trying to be everything to everybody and chase after every possible dollar and not be willing to say, this is what we are; we’re going to be great for some people and we won’t be the thing for others, and being comfortable with that.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the mornings: Taking my daughter to school. (Laughs) But seriously, I hate to say this because it really does sound pretentious, but I feel like I have a mission with Adventure Journal. Adventure Journal though to me feels like the most important and the best thing that I’ve ever done.

On what keeps him up at night: Just that there are too many things that I need to do myself around Adventure Journal. Aside from the occasional stabs of anxiety, where I just go, oh my, what have I done? (Laughs) Generally I don’t worry about anything. I have faith. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? The way that I’ve built it, it’s not going to lose life. If I didn’t sell a single copy, I wouldn’t lose money with the first issue. I could not be successful, but I’m not going to lose my shirt with it either. And I do have faith that it’s going to be successful. Already it is, based on two weeks of pre-selling.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Steve Casimiro, Founder, Adventure Journal Quarterly.

Samir Husni: You started Adventure Journal online in 2009, but you’ve said that it was always your intention to be in print. Why?

15149_1290432424914_1353335816_30839647_5825042_n Steve Casimiro: The idea for the magazine, Adventure Journal Quarterly, goes back a couple of decades. Like so many editors, I have a vision of what I want XYZ magazine to look like. I was the editor at Powder magazine and it was my job to bring my vision to that magazine, so terrific, I did that, and I also did it when we launched Bike magazine. My teams have always been passionate about the outdoors and adventure. And it’s something that my whole life has really revolved around since then.

So, I’ve really been a multi-sport, multi-adventure oriented person and so even as I was working at Ski magazine and Bike magazine, I’ve always wanted to share what I found out there and explore what I found out there through a broader outdoor magazine. So, I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. And of course, as a typical editor, I thought I could do it better and I had a different take on it. So, the seeds have always been there.

And my roots are in print. I started in newspapers, and I’ve been in print one way or another for about 30 years. So, it’s what I know. But the financial barriers to doing print, way back when I was originally thinking about this, were obviously too high.

In 2008, the folks that I was working with at National Geographic Adventure asked me to do some blogging, and I was kind of cynical about blogging. My thoughts were, really? But I said OK and then I found out right away that I loved it. I loved the direct interaction with readers. And of course with a magazine, if you really ticked somebody off, you mostly never heard from them. I mean you might sometimes get a few letters to the editor, but before the Internet, you never really heard from anybody. So, that loop back and forth, and I sort of mocked this idea in conversations with readers, but then I realized that was really what was going on there.

But I always felt like, and this was even before the boon in social media and Smartphones; I always felt that there was something radically different about the headspace of reading on a screen. It’s just different. It’s more distracting; I think the nature of electronics on its own changes how you view the words; forget about how your body actually reads something on paper versus an electronic device. I think the fact that somehow it’s kind of alive and dynamic changes how you feel about it.

And I always felt with any story, but especially the more thoughtful pieces, the more profuse and emotional pieces, you want to strip away the distractions and be able to immerse yourself, like when you get lost in a really good book, a page-turner.

And even in 2009, I felt like that experience was better delivered and better expressed in print. And of course, as time has gone on, and we’re all carrying around phones and we’re consuming more media online, I think those words of magnitude have never been truer.

Samir Husni: One of the things that you’ve said is that you used the web; you used online to build both the readership and the advertising. Did that work as well as you expected it to? You’ve now been offering subscriptions to the print edition, Adventure Journal Quarterly, for two weeks and you’re limiting the ads to 12 pages out of 124. Is this the future trend of launching magazines, because we’ve seen others doing it; Tablet magazine came about the same way and just a lot of digital-only entities lately are either discovering print or coming to print; is this the future of magazine launching?

Steve Casimiro: I think the model is fantastic. This idea of building an audience and proving the concept through your lowest cost barrier; it’s just pragmatic, right? It makes sense. I was looking at print back in 2009; I’ve been looking at it all along. I had done all sorts of business plans before the Internet and during the early days, but the costs were just exorbitant. Even if you were to launch with a website and print at the same time, just trying to build your audience and sell; how were you going to do that?

A magazine, especially one that is about exploring a culture or a subculture, really relies on the emotional and conceptual connection with the reader. They have to get it, especially when it’s a culture made up of enthusiasts, which one of the things that’s interesting about Adventure Journal is that in the outdoor space, traditionally you had a pretty hardcore focus.

Enthusiast magazines, like the ones that I was at, Powder and Bike, were truly enthusiast. And then you had more general interest ones like National Geographic Adventure and Outside magazine. The enthusiast folks tend to have a lot of credibility with the hardest core outdoor people and the broader ones, because of the broader audience, tended not to.

And what I tried to do with Adventure Journal and why I think it’s been successful is that we’re able to cover a lot of different topics and a lot of different sports, from environmental stuff to personal experiences and endurance sports like Ultra Running.

And the audience, according to a reader’s survey, is tremendously active and they’re not just armchair adventurers; they’re people who are actually doing it. And the reason is that there’s this curiosity about the world and this open-heartedness about it to see where adventure might take you is at the heart of what Adventure Journal is all about.

So, for any kind of publication that resonates with the reader around something that’s very defiant, that’s something that’s critically important, and digital lets you test that. It lets you test it with just some elbow grease. And when you can have a website up in 10 minutes for about $8; it doesn’t really take that much to test it. In 2009 if someone had handed me one or two million dollars, or whatever it would take to start this magazine from scratch, I would have done it exactly the same way. It reduces your risk and if you do well it builds a reader loyalty and a reader comfort.

You asked me about expectations; it’s been really difficult for me to know what essentially I have with this. On the one hand, Adventure Journal has around 300,000 uniques per month and that’s a lot of people. And the social media reach is around 200,000, so for any given blast that I put out there, that’s a lot of people.

On the other hand, Adventure Journal has never really had any kind of commerce platform; we’ve sold a few prints here and there, but people aren’t used to spending money with it. People are also, despite the rise of crowdfunding, just not used to subscribing to a publication that doesn’t technically exist yet, that hasn’t been produced.

There are a lot of variables there and a lot of uncertainty. I put it out there and I thought are we going to get everybody I know and that’s it? (Laughs) But the response was actually ahead of my expectations. When it actually comes out in late March or early April, I think things should accelerate fairly dramatically, hopefully exponentially, but at this point I’m really excited. There seems to be a tremendous amount of good will in the relationships with Adventure Journal and people are eager to see something like this because the idea is different from anything that’s out there.

Samir Husni: When you came up with the idea for Adventure Journal; at that moment of conception, what was the precise “aha” moment that convinced you it could be done?

Steve Casimiro: There wasn’t so much just a single “aha” moment because these are ideas that have been evolving for my entire career. I love being outside; I love having adventures; I love doing long, mountain bike rides and long trail runs and going Backcountry skiing; I love it for the pure physicality of it. Just the feeling that you get from these experiences, like Powder Skiing; on a deep powder day that physical sensation, there’s just nothing else like it.

But what I’ve tried to do through my whole career is explore the emotional and intellectual angle of that, such as what does it feel like, not just physically, but what does it do to your spirit and your heart and your head as you go through these experiences and you have doubts and fears and you overcome them?

So, these are all of the things that I have wrestled with and shared. And my commitment to wanting to do this has really come through my work with National Geographic Adventure, which is a fantastic magazine that still lives online, but the print version was shut down in 2009. NGA was a terrific book; John Rasmus was the editor and he’s a brilliant guy and has guided a number of magazines, Outside, Men’s Journal and then launching NGA, but it was always by the numbers. And because it was a part of a big organization and was expected to produce, it needed to have a very large circulation and so it relied on traditional ideas about package stories, etc. And it did a lot of great reporting, but I’m more interested in the emotional and intellectual and what these experiences mean.

Part of my excitement about blogging in 2008 and before Adventure Journal became what it is today was having a place where I could test those ideas and see if people really wanted to read that kind of stuff. Do people really want to hear about it?

For example, I wrote this piece about cleaning out my garage. I was doing a year purge and getting rid of things that we no longer needed, stuff that we’d had when my kids were little and I wrote this piece about finding all of these things. I found things we’d bought my daughter when we used to take her surfing when she was very little, maybe three or four years old. And so what are those feelings that come out when you come across things that reflect your life and your children growing up; how do you deal with those feelings?

Most commercial outdoor magazines don’t want those kinds of stories. They’re not interested in that because they’re not easily pleated or they don’t really work as a newsstand blurb or a cover graphic.

In 2009, NGA was struggling and everything was getting bad with the economy and advertising was going away; it was a really tough time. So, you could really see the writing on the wall in 2009. I could see National Geographic pulling the plug on NGA and of course, I asked myself what was I going to do next?

At that point, I was maybe doing one post a day on Adventure Journal and I started thinking that maybe that was the next step. People seemed to like it. I didn’t know how everything was going to work, but I knew the editorial and I was getting resonance and traction from the editorial.

Samir Husni: Since you started the blog in 2009; what has been your biggest challenge or stumbling block and how have you been able to overcome it?

IMG_7976 Steve Casimiro: The biggest challenge by far is getting enough appropriately well-written stories a day to get the traffic, to get the readers, to be able to get enough advertising to make a living. My guess is that most publishers are dealing with that in one form or another. All of the people that I know who are with relatively small shops like mine are struggling with it and the bigger ones are too, because how much is enough? And what’s the right amount and the right stories, especially if you have a relatively narrow focus, such as you’re just covering surfing or mountain biking? At what point are you doing so many stories that your editorial has been sliced so thin that it doesn’t have the kind of impact it once did?

If you’re model is based on six or seven stories a day and you cover one sport; at what point do people say, you know what, that’s just not that interesting? So, I think that’s a challenge.

And also how not to burn out at it, if you’re small, just one or two people, how do you keep it fresh? I think that is one of the big challenges with digital media. It reminds me of going to a sushi place, where they have these little rivers and they do their California rolls and put them on floating plates and you sort of grab the little bites as they go by; to me digital media often feels like that. It’s just not sustaining from a reader’s standpoint.

And that was a lot of the impetus for wanting to do print, because the relationship between the reader and the words is different. It feels like it sates you and fills you up better. And what I’ve found is that the really ambitious pieces that I’ve done; the longer pieces; the deeper and more nuanced pieces, they just don’t get the number of readers that they deserve. To be blunt, they don’t pay for themselves financially.

And they also don’t pay for themselves emotionally and creatively, because the people that I’m working with, the writers and the photographers; nobody is getting rich in our world. People are doing this because they’re super passionate about it. They love it and so they’re really invested in the stories that they’re writing and the photograph projects that they’re doing. And they want people to see them and sometimes the more ambitious stuff just doesn’t work online. So, I think that’s a big challenge as well.

You know when The New York Times won the Pulitzer for “Snow Fall,” for a lot of people that was an incentive for them to do something similar, the potential seemed to be there, but when you’re a small publisher trying to do that; man…(Laughs), you’re going to lose your shirt. It just doesn’t make sense financially.

Samir Husni: You’re offering so many incentives with the first issue, including for people who subscribe now, getting their names printed in the first issue of the magazine. Does that ego trip of seeing your name in print differ from seeing your name in digital?

Steve Casimiro: For me personally? Or speaking in general?

Samir Husni: For you as a magazine editor and in general for the general public.

Steve Casimiro: Well, anybody can post anything these days, right? What is the value of that? To see your name in a Tweet; well, everybody is a publisher now and everyone is a photographer. By virtue of that, it inevitably diminishes the value. If anybody can do it with one click; what is the value of that?

In print though, magazines cost money to make; they cost a lot of money and once they’re done that’s it. It’s finite; it’s never going to be changed. So, that’s a luxury and a leery, right? But there is a specialness built into it.

You may have a 5,000-plus run or a million-plus run, but still you’re not going to make any more of those. I think that brings, by its very nature, more value to the process. Nothing is forever, but there’s permanence to that. I think it’s cool to see it. To me, when I see a story in print, whether it has my byline on it or not, I know how much effort goes into that because you get one shot to do it right. You make a mistake and get a typo in a blog post, it’s easy to change. I’m always adding to it, or changing something here and there, just whatever, it’s dynamic and you can do those sorts of things.

But with print, it’s luxurious and impressive by the fact that you have to get it right the first time. And like any publisher I’m sure of the value of the magazine that I’m making. (Laughs)

I think it’s really cool that I can devote a page to and recognize the people who are helping it get off the ground. The outdoor culture is big in some ways and small in many others, especially now through social media. It feels very connected and I have readers who have been commenting about AJ for years and people who have won things from contests keep in touch with us, people who regularly share things on social media. It’s a cliché, but it feels tribal. It feels like we’ve known each other for a long time.

And the people who are subscribing; over and over again I’m seeing names that I recognize from the comments or social media or whatever. The personal connection really warms my heart; it’s a tremendous vote of confidence. And it’s absolutely true that I could not be doing this without them, so to be able to have them in some small way be recognized; I just wish that we could do more. I would like to be able to do every subscriber, but we just don’t have the space for that.

I want to recognize these folks and I want to show my appreciation, our appreciation, for them because it really means a lot. And so far I’ve reached out to every subscriber and sent them an email personally and with a lot of these guys, we end up having conversations back and forth and it really does warm you. It’s not a financial thing; this is really about wanting to share the cool stuff that we find outdoors and exploring what it means to be that person. The page with the readers names; there’s a lot behind it actually.

Samir Husni: You promised the readers in your promotional piece that the stories in the AJQ magazine will only be available in print; they will never appear online. None of the pieces will run on the dot com site. And there won‘t be a Kindle, E-Book or digital version of any kind; it’s print, baby. (Laughs)

Steve Casimiro: (Laughs too). Yes.

Samir Husni: So you’re really committing all that great content and photography and editorial that you’re creating to the magazine. If you want it, you have to buy it on the newsstand; you have to subscribe to it; you have to spend your $15 to get it. Having said that, do you think that high quarterly cover price package or curated content that’s only going to be available in print is the only way for the future of print to survive?

Steve Casimiro: I think it’s one way. It really depends on your scale. I think before it closed National Geographic Adventure had 675,000 in circulation. So that’s huge. If AJ Quarterly has 20 to 30,000, I think that’s very realistic, based on other similar quarterlies like Surfer’s Journal, which is now a bimonthly.

I believe the publishing model for large circulation magazines is just going to be very tricky going forward. I think staying focused and well-connected to the reader and giving and asking the readers to take a stake in it; I think that’s the future of publishing.

I don’t know how familiar you are with Surfer’s Journal?

Samir Husni: I am very familiar with it.

Steve Casimiro: Oh OK, well that’s really the model. I worked with Steve from Surfer’s Journal on several publications before he left to do the Journal and I learned a lot from Steve because he and Debbie both are just so generous with sharing their experience on how things have worked and not worked. Right from the get-go Steve was saying this is reader-supported publishing. And that’s my model and the model for most of these quarterlies.

And I think that is the key difference with large-scale publishing, which is one of the reasons why they’re so vulnerable to swings in the economy and to changes in taste. And the reason is because, as you know being a magazine expert, large circulation magazines are built based on selling huge advertisements and have very high ad rates because they have large circulations. And the magazine is essentially given away and is subsidized by the advertising and you do lose money at the newsstands. And the reader gets a year’s worth of the book for $12 or $15 in a tote bag or little trinkets that come with the subscription. So they don’t have the same kind of investment.

One of the things that I’ve always tried to do, in terms of writing a story or building a magazine, is build it in a way that it is irreplaceable. What difference are you making in your reader’s life? Like if you went away, would they even notice? Or would it be like, oh well, whatever? What are you doing that your competition can’t do? I think about that all of the time. What makes Adventure Journal uniquely Adventure Journal?

And along with that comes, I was about to say responsibility on the part of the reader, but the reader has no responsibility. But of you make something that is really solving a problem for them, or filling a need in their lives, they’re going to feel that connection and be willing to pay for it.

I do want to touch on one thing which is not doing crowdfunding on this. I know a number of people do through Kickstarter. And the reason I didn’t use it is that I really believe you have to give people something that they want and are willing to pay for. And that you really shouldn’t be asking for favors, if that makes sense? Crowdfunding is sort of a favor. Crowdfunding is also so many of these amazing Kickstarter ideas that never seem to come to fruition.

I would much rather have something that I just diddled and handed to somebody, rather than ask them to support me with a donation. I even feel a bit awkward pre-selling subscriptions, but there’s just no way that this model would work if we didn’t do that. I’d rather say here’s the magazine, what do you think? I think it’s better to just do things, rather than talk about what you’re going to do.

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

Steve Casimiro: One thing that I’d like to say is what I keep trying to tell myself basically, and encouraging myself with is, one of the mistakes that I think magazines make and businesses in general is trying to be everything to everybody and chase after every possible dollar and not be willing to say, this is what we are; we’re going to be great for some people and we won’t be the thing for others, and being comfortable with that.

The decision to do print-only rests on that. It’s having the commitment to say, you know what, this is the product that we’re making and this is how it’s designed. It’s designed to be read in print; it’s designed to be consumed in a certain way. And yes, we could get more readers and put it behind a paywall, we could build more synergy, but why? This isn’t about the money, it’s about the experience. So, let’s have the faith that the experience on its own is good enough and luxurious enough and rewarding enough that people aren’t going to feel the need to do anything different like crowdfunding.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Steve Casimiro: Taking my daughter to school. (Laughs) But seriously, I hate to say this because it really does sound pretentious, but I feel like I have a mission with Adventure Journal.

I have been so incredibly blessed in my career. I discovered skiing and it changed my life and within a couple of years I was working at the best ski magazine in the world and I was editing it. And that is a gift. And I got to start a mountain biking magazine and I got to have a hand in starting a snowboarding magazine and they’re all doing really well still today.

And I got to work with National Geographic and still do some work with those guys. I’ve been working with them since 1998. For a photographer and a writer and an editor, that’s a dream. I’ve been so fortunate.

Adventure Journal though to me feels like the most important and the best thing that I’ve ever done. And even though it’s been around for seven years, I feel like it’s just about to take off and the reason is because I am very, very idealistic about the power and potential for magazines to change people’s lives. They changed my life. And to move people, whether it’s about environmental issues or learning what adventure means to their lives; just whatever it is, magazines have so much power to do that, to communicate with people.

And at the end of the day with my own magazine; I’ve worked without compromising any of my own values. If you work for other people no matter how aligned you are, ultimately you’re going to be compromising your values at some point because you have your own perspective about things. So, AJ has given me the ability to share whatever it is I think is important. And to do stories that I know are not going to get as many viewers online, but they’re important stories. And to make decisions that are not just about commercial reasons. And I think that’s rare outside of small indie publications.

What I’m trying to do with AJ is have it not be a terribly small independent publication, but still take chances like one. And see where that takes us.

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

Steve Casimiro: Just that there are too many things that I need to do myself around Adventure Journal. Aside from the occasional stabs of anxiety, where I just go, oh my, what have I done? (Laughs) Generally I don’t worry about anything. I have faith. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? The way that I’ve built it, it’s not going to lose life. If I didn’t sell a single copy, I wouldn’t lose money with the first issue. I could not be successful, but I’m not going to lose my shirt with it either. And I do have faith that it’s going to be successful. Already it is, based on two weeks of pre-selling.

The challenge is just trying to keep the direction straight. There are just so many directions you can go, right? Whether it’s a website or a magazine, you can go one way or another or both. There are so many challenges. So, how do you keep it as close as possible to that center line while still be willing to take chances? That doesn’t necessarily keep me up at night, but I think that’s something that I think a lot about, especially with this first issue. How do I balance the pieces that I find most interesting with what I think the readers are going to find interesting? And they’re not necessarily the same things because I’m kind of a nerd about stuff. I like to do really deep dives into things and I don’t mind reading a 15,000 word piece in The New Yorker. I love that. A 15,000 word piece in Adventure Journal is probably not going to work. (Laughs) You have to have a really firm hand on the tiller and not be afraid to say this is how it’s going to be.

But you also always have to be thinking about your ideal reader and what’s going to resonate with them.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Pallet Magazine: One Beer – One Story – The Global Launch Story Of A Magazine With Dual Citizenship – From Australia To The United States.

December 16, 2015

Pallet Is A New Title That Satisfies The Craft Beer Lovers “Palate” Exquisitely – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The Pallet Team…Rick Bannister & Nadia Saccardo, Founders, Pallet Magazine & Sam Calagione, Founder & President Dogfish Head Brewery & Pallet Executive Editor.

From Australia and The United States With Love and a Glass of Craft Beer…

“I am a big believer that there is this turning point now or in the very near future where people are being reminded of the luxury of reading offline. I know that myself, because when I’m online I have this low level of anxiety that comes with reading online because I feel like I can never get to the end of what’s ahead. There’s just endless information and I’m forever bookmarking things and saying I’ll come back to that later. And I do think there is this return to print and what that brings is you’ve invested some money, say $15, it’s not cheap, you’ve invested the money so you’re going to stop and make some time.” Rick Bannister

“We’re also not interested in objects that are just throwaways. We’ve spent so much time in this content and so much of ourselves; the idea of putting that in a magazine that people would toss and not keep around for a long time as something that they cherished just didn’t sit right.” Nadia Saccardo (on why they wanted the magazine’s production values of the highest quality)

“We see the website as just growing into a community for the people who believe in the magazine and in craft beer and who want to find each other. And that’s why I love the fact that the website isn’t just regurgitated content that we expect people to be holding in their hands; it’s something complementary to that content.” Sam Calagione (on the magazine’s content and the website’s content being totally different)

Pallet A new magazine for people who are “only interested in everything;” Pallet was born from the minds of Nadia Saccardo and Rick Bannister from Australia, joined by the craft beer expertise of Sam Calagione who is founder and president of Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. Coming from a background of magazines and publishing, Nadia and Rick knew a thing or two about the art of creative magazine making and joined forces with Sam to produce a title that weaves the craft beer culture into just about every topic you could possibly think of, and does it in a most upscale and visually creative way.

I spoke with Sam, Nadia and Rick recently about each one’s respective talent and ability to produce such a thoroughly enjoyable magazine as Pallet. With Nadia and Rick in Australia and Sam and myself in the States, we talked about what it took to collaborate the efforts of the indie beer lover’s magazine to be the catalyst for global knowledge and all-around fun about the world of craft beer.

When you consider the name Pallet was derived from a story that Nadia and Rick had done in a former magazine, Smith Journal, where they both worked at the time, you can see the type of creativeness and talent that the duo has. The pallet being the wooden element that changed the face of global shipping and transportation, but remains an insignificantly understated object, as inconspicuously important as a lock is to a key, yet as Nadia explained, something you wouldn’t look twice at if you walked past it. And if you couple Rick and Nadia’s magazine experience with Sam’s vision and global connections as a craft brewer, one can see why the three came together to produce this superbly understated magazine.

The four of us talked about that subtlety and the visual beauty of the magazine itself, with its high production values and brilliantly-done content. It was an entertaining and exceptionally redolent conversation, robust with humor, information and hope for the magazine’s future.

So, I hope you enjoy this launch story that showcases three very different individuals who came together, each with their own talent, to put together a remarkable magazine that shows sometimes great things begin simply – with one beer and one story; the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the Pallet team, Sam, Nadia and Rick.

But first, the sound-bites:

Rick Sharp On how three people, two from Australia and one from the Unites States got together to create Pallet Magazine (Rick Bannister): Nadia (Saccardo) and I have both been in magazines our entire careers or in media and publishing in one form or another. I personally had worked in magazines for about 12 years and then decided that I wanted to try something different, so I went traveling for 12 months, to the States actually. And that’s where a good friend of mine over there introduced me to craft beer, which I hadn’t really come across in Australia much. My friend was going to do a brewing course in Chicago and I decided to join him. However, it ended up my friend couldn’t make it, but I went. So, I took a detour from making magazines for nearly five years and worked in the craft beer industry in Australia. During that time I started thinking about the fact that there wasn’t a magazine for all of the people who really loved the craft beer culture.

(Nadia Saccardo): Rick had had these great ideas and we decided to investigate it and that turned into, after his road trip to the United States, meeting a lot of people last year in publishing and in the craft brewing industry, and that developed into talking about the potential of this magazine, and it was also when we came down to Delaware and met Sam (Calagione).

On Pallet being more of an upscale magazine and very different from the beer magazines already on the marketplace (Sam Calagione): When I saw the work that Nadia and Rick were doing at Smith Journal and with a couple of my own thoughts about if a person is going to pay premium to have this sort of affordable luxury that they’re sipping on, then it means they’re taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life and they’re obviously enjoying a peaceful, reflective moment when they’re having a beer. And to me the things that complement that thoughtful, peaceful moment of enjoying a beautifully designed beer are two-fold: an awesome album or an awesome magazine. I don’t enjoy reading Kafka or War and Peace when I’m having a beer I want something that I can consume in about the same amount of time that it takes to consume my craft beer.

NADIA_Sharp On how they came up with the name Pallet (Nadia Saccardo):
Rick and I were throwing names back and forth for a while and then we had a story that we published in Smith Journal about the wooden pallet and about how this one very ubiquitous object had transformed the whole nature of global shipping and transportation. And we loved that story because it took a simple object, something that you’d walk past every day and not look at twice, and gave it this depth and history and relevance that was so vital.

On whether anyone ever told them they’d had one craft beer too many when it came to starting a print magazine in today’s world (Rick Bannister):
It is definitely something that a lot of people ask us. And in a lot of ways, it is kind of insane to start a print magazine at this time, but also there is some element of the fact that it’s a great opportunity as well, because as you said Pallet stands out and in a time when there’s less of that stuff, I think you can look at it the other way and see the opportunity.

On how decisions are made for the magazine, such as the cover, design and content (Nadia Saccardo):
We work in a partnership across the entire thing; the design; the production; the ideas; pretty much everything. We have a designer who we work with, Marta Roca, who is brilliant and helps across, obviously, designing the layout and with creative direction, but Rick and I really read the content in partnership. Rick is incredible. Most of the ideas come from his brain and then they roll out and get stuck into the words and the structural editing of the publication.

On any plans to incorporate the magazine into the Dogfish Head brewery business (Sam Calagione):
That’s actually not far from the truth. I go to Australia in a few weeks to do some Pallet events and while the magazine launch is in the U.S., I think we all are hopeful, because the craft beer phenomenon isn’t just happening in the U.S.; adventurous, independent, small artful breweries are exploding globally, hot pockets of gold, including Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Italy and Canada. We’re hopeful that there’s a global appetite for Pallet and that sort of second phase as you alluded to for us is that while we’re down in Australia we’re doing a collaborative beer between Dogfish and Nomad Brewing in the Sydney area. And Pallet will be a sort of a business card in liquid form for the philosophy and the global stance of the magazine.

SamCalagione2 On whether Sam sees himself now as the ambassador of craft beer and Pallet Magazine as the nation that will unite that corner of the world (Sam Calagione):
I do see it like that and beer is not equal to armament; it’s fun. And the content and design and our intentions should come from a place that’s thought-provoking, but also there’s real whimsy in it; we’re beer geeks, we’re not beer snobs. We’re not trying to show our beer prowess to lord over other people.

On whether the magazine is available in Australia or just the United States for now (Nadia Saccardo):
At the moment this edition on shelves is just available in North America, but we’re looking to expand internationally fairly quickly. We’ve had a lot of demand for Pallet in Australia, but also in the U.K. and Japan.

On the production values of the magazine and how the feel of the paper is important (Rick Bannister):
I think when you’re paying premium for anything; it’s good to have perceptions of value that go beyond the normal. A change in stock is a subtle thing in a lot of ways, but if you’re a person who’s into this kind of stuff, you’ll get a little kick out of that. And it’s the same with the dust jacket on the cover; it’s a visual cue that maybe this is something more like a book, there’s an element to this that’s more than a magazine.

On the fact that the website and the print magazine will have entirely different content (Rick Bannister):
Yes, that’s right. What we’ve noticed with other magazines and their websites is that quite often the website is just reflective of the magazine. And to us, that seemed to diminish the idea that what you have in print is special.

On what motivates Sam to get out of bed in the mornings (Sam Calagione):
For me, honestly, when I travel to Australia and have to put on my customs form what I do; I’m always so proud to write that my vocation is a brewer first and a businessman second. Really, to me, the word brewer is just a more specific term for an artist and I don’t say that I’m a world-class artist; I’m just a person who loves brewing whatever my creativity brings me and I know that I’m very lucky that I can make my livelihood around my creative drive. And for me, those most creative moments come from collaborating with other creative people.

On whether Sam, as a brewer, thinks the first issue of Pallet is the perfect brew (Sam Calagione):
(Laughs) The other form of Pallet is in our mouths and we’re all individuals and we all have different palates and that’s why there’s not one beer that appeals to everyone and that’s why there won’t be just one issue of Pallet that is perfect. I love the first issue, but I can’t wait to see where our creative journey takes us with each future issue.

On what motivates Nadia to get out of bed in the mornings (Nadia Saccardo):
In creating something like Pallet, the thing that does get me out of bed in the mornings is working with the team that I get to work with and also the opportunity that the magazine provides to connect with anyone and anything that I’m interested in basically.

On whether the future of magazine making is doing so from varied parts of the world and not confined to one office (Nadia Saccardo):
Rick and I laugh about it a lot. Pallet and none of the magazines that we have created, which have been beautiful, tangible printed things, could have existed without Skype. We’re on Skype together every day and we were when we were making Smith as well. Without technology, there would be no way we could create these old-world type printed things, which is very cool.

On what motivates Rick to get out of bed in the mornings (Rick Bannister): Mostly my kids jumping on me. (Laughs) Similar stuff to what these guys have said. As well as working in magazines, I’ve also taken breaks from working in magazines, because I’ve had these crazy ideas that I wanted to do other jobs. From time to time I’d say to myself, no, I just want to do a 9-5 job, so I’d go and become a baggage handler at the airport. One of the things that I think is a reminder for me when you get to work in those type jobs is you remember to get up, and even on the worst day ever of making a magazine, it’s still a far greater day than if you’re throwing bags on a plane, I can tell you that. What’s that old cliché? The worst day fishing is better than the best day working?

On what keeps Nadia up at night (Nadia Saccardo):
The thing about making a magazine, it’s very different from reading a magazine. It’s not a glamourous profession at all. The business is all-consuming and we’re doing everything ourselves, from distribution to managing the printing to organizing sales and creating content and working on design, just everything. And running the business and making sure that we’re invoicing on time and all of that. So really, there’s a whirlpool of different things that keep me up at night. But it’s definitely worth it because so far it’s been such a cool journey.

On what keeps Rick up at night (Rick Bannister): I’m in the same boat as Nadia. It’s usually just silly things or small things like worrying about whether a photo shoot is going to come off the way you want it to or worrying about getting enough ad sales; I guess it’s just all of that normal startup business concerns, whether it’s magazines or anything else.

On what keeps Sam up at night (Sam Calagione): My reasons are a little bit different because Nadia and Rick are the ones that have to set the economic component of running Pallet and I get the pleasure of thinking about the creative and editorial content and obviously, they think a lot about that too, but that distinguishes me with the luxury of not having as much of an economic and business and operational component of running the publication. So, in the context of Pallet what keeps me up at night is an occasional idea for a new story and jotting that down or thinking about a story idea that maybe Rick or Nadia brought to me. It’s all the fun stuff that keeps me up, in terms of Pallet.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the Pallet team, Sam Calagione, Nadia Saccardo & Rick Bannister.

Samir Husni: I’m someone who’s “only interested in everything,” as your tagline states, so tell me how three people, two from Australia and one from the United States got together to create Pallet Magazine; where did the idea come from?

Pallet Rick Bannister: Nadia (Saccardo) and I have both been in magazines our entire careers or in media and publishing in one form or another. I personally had worked in magazines for about 12 years and then decided that I wanted to try something different, so I went traveling for 12 months, to the States actually. And that’s where a good friend of mine over there introduced me to craft beer, which I hadn’t really come across in Australia much. My friend was going to do a brewing course in Chicago and I decided to join him. However, it ended up my friend couldn’t make it, but I went.

So, I took a detour from making magazines for nearly five years and worked in the craft beer industry in Australia. During that time I started thinking about the fact that there wasn’t a magazine for all of the people who really loved the craft beer culture.

Well, at the end of those five years I had the opportunity to go back and work in magazines and that’s where I ended up working with Nadia. We worked together for about a year maybe and then the company that we were working for was sold.

So Nadia and I were at loose ends and that’s when we started kicking around some ideas. I asked her about the beer mag idea and it was Nadia who really encouraged it from there and said it was worth chasing.

Nadia Saccardo: We had a bunch of ideas and all of them seem to have a craft beer thread running through them. And so we pinpointed that we’d like to do something with craft beer. My background is in publishing; I worked online in digital for a while and I’ve been in magazines at Smith Journal and Frankie Press.

Rick had had these great ideas and we decided to investigate it and that turned into, after his road trip to the United States, meeting a lot of people last year in publishing and in the craft brewing industry, and that developed into talking about the potential of this magazine, and it was also when we came down to Delaware and met Sam (Calagione).

Rick Bannister: I should backtrack a little bit because it was Nadia who had the idea of reaching out to Sam. We were kind of inspired by Lucky Peach and David Chang is, I guess you’d call him a bit of a champion of the magazine. And so Nadia had the idea of finding out whom the person was in beer that was kind of like Lucky Peach’s David Chang. And straightaway we thought of Sam and with the whole ethos of what we were trying to do, this “only interested in everything” mentality; Sam was just the obvious guy who seemed to embody that spirit and philosophy.

A true connection in craft beer land; we just cold-called him, or cold-emailed him anyway, and being the generous guy he is, he said the idea sounded interesting and he asked to talk some more about it. We ended up landing on his doorstep and having a beer and chatting about it. And here we are.

Samir Husni: Sam, whose idea was it to do the magazine very differently from the other craft and beer magazines on the marketplace? Pallet is more upscale literarily, visually, typographically, and in an all-appealing way that by far stands apart from the competition.

Sam Calagione: Thank you, Samir. In a getting to know each other phase, Nadia and Rick sent me a box with copies of Smith Journal in it. And as a global magazine expert; I’m sure you’d be as equally impressed with that as I was, both from a design standpoint and a content standpoint.

Compared to you I’m a neophyte, but I’ve been kind of obsessed with magazines from an early age, and growing up my parents subscribed to Forbes and Sports Illustrated and I had an older sister who also subscribed to Sassy Magazine, which was kind of ahead of its time in having a very irreverent and DIY voice and fairly design-forward for a mass media magazine. And then in college Art Forum and The New Yorker. So, I’ve been obsessed with magazines as an English major and a bit of a writer myself for a long time.

So, when I saw the work that Nadia and Rick were doing at Smith Journal and with a couple of my own thoughts about if a person is going to pay premium to have this sort of affordable luxury that they’re sipping on, then it means they’re taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life and they’re obviously enjoying a peaceful, reflective moment when they’re having a beer. And to me the things that complement that thoughtful, peaceful moment of enjoying a beautifully designed beer are two-fold: an awesome album or an awesome magazine. I don’t enjoy reading Kafka or War and Peace when I’m having a beer I want something that I can consume in about the same amount of time that it takes to consume my craft beer.

And with the magazines that are out there; some of them are great and some of them are just OK, but they literally have long-format stories that can be a 20 or 30 minute experience, which to me is about the right amount of time to sip on a beer and read something thought-provoking and provocative.

Samir Husni: Can all of you recall that moment of conception when all the planets aligned and the light bulb went off and everyone said let’s call it Pallet? How did the name come about?

Nadia Saccardo: Rick and I were throwing names back and forth for a while and then we had a story that we published in Smith Journal about the wooden pallet and about how this one very ubiquitous object had transformed the whole nature of global shipping and transportation. And we loved that story because it took a simple object, something that you’d walk past every day and not look at twice, and gave it this depth and history and relevance that was so vital.

So, when we were thinking about this magazine and throwing around names, I remembered that story and asked Rick what about Pallet? And the more that we thought about it, the more we thought OK, that works. It goes back to something that we love that’s very simple and that still had the connection with beer. It’s a play on words in many ways, which also worked for us too. After a time, we sort of realized that we were stuck with it.

Samir Husni: Did anyone tell you guys that you’d had one too many craft beers when you decided to launch a print magazine in a digital age?

(Everyone laughs).

Sam Calagione: I’ve been asked that, Samir, and as someone who has studied the industry for as long as you have, what are your thoughts about the long-term viability of print, and particularly magazines like Pallet, or Pitchfork Review? They’re going after a younger reader with what’s considered a format that some people would say is a format of past generations; what are your thoughts on that?

Samir Husni: If you saw my recent quotes in the Columbia Journalism Review; I resigned my position as Chairman of the Journalism Department here at the University of Mississippi in 2009 to start the Magazine Innovation Center with the tagline “Amplifying the Future of Print in a Digital Age.” And to me as long as we have human beings, we’re going to have print. We love that collectability factor, that ownership factor, that membership factor and the showmanship of it all. If I’m reading something on my iPad, no one sitting next to me on the plane will know what I’m reading. How can I show off and say, hey look, I’m reading a $14.95 Pallet Magazine, this is not a cheap, disposable item? (Laughs)

(Everyone laughs too).

Rick Bannister: That’s a good point. It is definitely something that a lot of people ask us. And in a lot of ways, it is kind of insane to start a print magazine at this time, but also there is some element of the fact that it’s a great opportunity as well, because as you said Pallet stands out and in a time when there’s less of that stuff, I think you can look at it the other way and see the opportunity.

And I am a big believer that there is this turning point now or in the very near future where people are being reminded of the luxury of reading offline. I know that myself, because when I’m online I have this low level of anxiety that comes with reading online because I feel like I can never get to the end of what’s ahead. There’s just endless information and I’m forever bookmarking things and saying I’ll come back to that later. And I do think there is this return to print and what that brings is you’ve invested some money, say $15, it’s not cheap, you’ve invested the money so you’re going to stop and make some time. So, I think all of these things coming to light; it’s good timing for it in some ways.

Samir Husni: Nadia, are you more of the editor; the designer; or the creative person? For example, who decided on the cover of the first issue to introduce Pallet to the marketplace, or even the tagline: only interested in everything? And then inside you read the editorial and it states that this is a magazine for people who like to think and drink.

Nadia Saccardo: We work in a partnership across the entire thing; the design; the production; the ideas; pretty much everything. We have a designer who we work with, Marta Roca, who is brilliant and helps across, obviously, designing the layout and with creative direction, but Rick and I really read the content in partnership. Rick is incredible. Most of the ideas come from his brain and then they roll out and get stuck into the words and the structural editing of the publication.

So, it’s really a partnership between the two of us and also Sam, in terms of the flow and the ideas of the publication and contributing his pace as well to each issue.

Samir Husni: Sam, what are your plans when it comes to taking this magazine even one step further; are we going to start seeing on the craft beer that your company produces an offer to subscribe to Pallet?

Sam Calagione: That’s actually not far from the truth. I go to Australia in a few weeks to do some Pallet events and while the magazine launch is in the U.S., I think we all are hopeful, because the craft beer phenomenon isn’t just happening in the U.S.; adventurous, independent, small artful breweries are exploding globally, hot pockets of gold, including Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Italy and Canada.

We’re hopeful that there’s a global appetite for Pallet and that sort of second phase as you alluded to for us is that while we’re down in Australia we’re doing a collaborative beer between Dogfish and Nomad Brewing in the Sydney area. And Pallet will be a sort of a business card in liquid form for the philosophy and the global stance of the magazine.

My contribution, besides creative input to the content when we have meetings before every issue to talk about that, and I’m glad to have a voice in that process, but also my contribution is a global outreach because I’ve done a Discovery channel show that aired in around 40 countries and because I’ve brewed collaborative beers with my friends in 11 different countries. And I’m lucky to have forged these global relationships with other brewers so that when Nadia and Rick suggest doing an article on beers that have been inspired by Breaking Bad, and they ask who I know in Canada, I can put out my bat signal to my friends around the globe and do that outreach for almost any creative story that we want to consider.

I have both the role of executive editor and writer, not always, but I intend to contribute short pieces, but also I have the role of that sort of global steward that keeps the magazine connected to the brewing community globally.

Samir Husni: So Sam, you see yourself now as the ambassador for craft beer, where Pallet is going to be the nation that unites all of these countries?

Sam Calagione: I do see it like that and beer is not equal to armament; it’s fun. And the content and design and our intentions should come from a place that’s thought-provoking, but also there’s real whimsy in it; we’re beer geeks, we’re not beer snobs. We’re not trying to show our beer prowess to lord over other people.

There’s going to be some content in this magazine that’s very specific to what’s exciting and creative about the world of beer and it’s not going to be influenced by the juggernauts that dominate the beer world with the advertising messages that sometimes run into editorial. This magazine is for indie beer lovers and the content isn’t always going to be about beer, but it’s content that has been curated through the lens of what beer lover’s want to read about in addition to wanting to read about beer.

Samir Husni: Are you going to launch Pallet in Australia or is it already available there? Or is it only available here in the United States for now?

Nadia Saccardo: At the moment this edition on shelves is just available in North America, but we’re looking to expand internationally fairly quickly. We’ve had a lot of demand for Pallet in Australia, but also in the U.K. and Japan.

Samir Husni: The choice for the paper reminded me somehow of Monocle; you’re using the matte paper and you’re using the glossy paper. How is the feel of the magazine important?

Rick Bannister: I think when you’re paying premium for anything; it’s good to have perceptions of value that go beyond the normal. A change in stock is a subtle thing in a lot of ways, but if you’re a person who’s into this kind of stuff, you’ll get a little kick out of that. And it’s the same with the dust jacket on the cover; it’s a visual cue that maybe this is something more like a book, there’s an element to this that’s more than a magazine.

Our printers tried to talk us out of making it such high quality many times. They told us it would be expensive and make the magazine heavy and they said that we didn’t need to have it like this. And that’s the printer. I thought that they would want us to spend more money with them.

But we wanted something that felt special to us and that’s where it all comes from really. And we hope that other people will appreciate the same thing.

Nadia Saccardo: We’re also not interested in objects that are just throwaways. We’ve spent so much time in this content and so much of ourselves; the idea of putting that in a magazine that people would toss and not keep around for a long time as something that they cherished just didn’t sit right.

Also, the waste, as you probably know, in the print and magazine industry is pretty dire and not something that we’re interested in contributing to, so if we can help by creating an object, as well as a great read, in hopes that people will hang onto it and keep it on their shelves for a long time and that’s a good thing.

Samir Husni: One thing that I keep telling anyone who is willing to listen is that we are much more than information; if ink on paper is just about content, we would have been dead a long time ago. We are about that lasting impression.

Nadia Saccardo: Yes, make it a nice thing with beautiful paper. It makes perfect sense.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add? I read somewhere that none of the magazine’s content will be available on the website, is that right?

Rick Bannister: Yes, that’s right. What we’ve noticed with other magazines and their websites is that quite often the website is just reflective of the magazine. And to us, that seemed to diminish the idea that what you have in print is special.

We also saw the web as an opportunity. Websites work in such different ways and people consume information in such different ways that we took some time to think about that and came up with the idea that our content is that be-one-is-one story and is much more visually-driven and about small bits of information, but also builds this kind of global tapestry of this culture. You can see them and the website is complementary to the mag. We didn’t want to just roll out the same stuff.

Sam Calagione: Also we see the website as just growing into a community for the people who believe in the magazine and in craft beer and who want to find each other. And that’s why I love the fact that the website isn’t just regurgitated content that we expect people to be holding in their hands; it’s something complementary to that content.

Samir Husni: Sam, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Sam Calagione: For me, honestly, when I travel to Australia and have to put on my customs form what I do; I’m always so proud to write that my vocation is a brewer first and a businessman second. Really, to me, the word brewer is just a more specific term for an artist and I don’t say that I’m a world-class artist; I’m just a person who loves brewing whatever my creativity brings me and I know that I’m very lucky that I can make my livelihood around my creative drive. And for me, those most creative moments come from collaborating with other creative people. Making that connection with people is why we’re here.

So, I see Pallet as another important layer of the awesome opportunity that I have to make my career and my vocation and my avocation, all the same thing, and to create and it be my livelihood.

Samir Husni: Do you think as a brewer, the first issue of Pallet is the perfect brew?

Sam Calagione: (Laughs) The other form of Pallet is in our mouths and we’re all individuals and we all have different palates and that’s why there’s not one beer that appeals to everyone and that’s why there won’t be just one issue of Pallet that is perfect. I love the first issue, but I can’t wait to see where our creative journey takes us with each future issue.

Samir Husni: Nadia, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Nadia Saccardo: Well, some mornings it’s coffee. (Laughs) I started out in online publishing in city guides because I loved my city and I was really curious about finding interesting spaces and then I moved into print. It’s interesting when people showcase their spaces and also create objects that communicate their stories and resonate with other people.

And now in creating something like Pallet, the thing that does get me out of bed in the mornings is working with the team that I get to work with and also the opportunity that the magazine provides to connect with anyone and anything that I’m interested in basically.

It’s just an amazing thing to be able to sit down and speak to people and find out what makes them tick and also to highlight people who have done some incredible things and maybe would never get any recognition from other media sources, but will get to extract and connect with our audience. And that gives me a natural buzz. It’s an amazing responsibility in many ways, but it’s definitely what drives me.

Samir Husni: And are you based in Sydney or Melbourne?

Nadia Saccardo: I’m in Melbourne at the moment. I’m kind of drifting between Melbourne and the States.

Samir Husni: Rick, are you also in Melbourne?

Rick Bannister: No, I’m up near a place called Byron Bay, so it’s Northern New South Wales. It’s way out in the country.

Samir Husni: Technically, the three of you are in three different corners of the world, is this the future of magazine editing? Is this the future; you know, where we don’t need to have a central office on Madison Avenue in New York City, we can create a beautiful and lovely magazine from anywhere?

Nadia Saccardo: Rick and I laugh about it a lot. Pallet and none of the magazines that we have created, which have been beautiful, tangible printed things, could have existed without Skype. We’re on Skype together every day and we were when we were making Smith as well. Without technology, there would be no way we could create these old-world type printed things, which is very cool.

Samir Husni: It’s amazing. Putting today’s technology to use to create an old technology. Rick, what motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Rick Bannister: Mostly my kids jumping on me. (Laughs) Similar stuff to what these guys have said. As well as working in magazines, I’ve also taken breaks from working in magazines, because I’ve had these crazy ideas that I wanted to do other jobs. From time to time I’d say to myself, no, I just want to do a 9-5 job, so I’d go and become a baggage handler at the airport. Or I’d go and become a laborer on a building site. And I’d always only last about 2 or 3 months.

I did this even last year when I went and worked in a food factory. One of the things that I think is a reminder for me when you get to work in those type jobs is you remember to get up, and even on the worst day ever of making a magazine, it’s still a far greater day than if you’re throwing bags on a plane, I can tell you that. What’s that old cliché? The worst day fishing is better than the best day working? It’s kind of that ethos. It’s not hard to get out of bed when all you’re going to do is talk to people you like and use your brain and be able to go and have coffee whenever you want.

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

Nadia Saccardo: Where do I start? The thing about making a magazine, it’s very different from reading a magazine. It’s not a glamourous profession at all. The business is all-consuming and we’re doing everything ourselves, from distribution to managing the printing to organizing sales and creating content and working on design, just everything. And running the business and making sure that we’re invoicing on time and all of that. So really, there’s a whirlpool of different things that keep me up at night. But it’s definitely worth it because so far it’s been such a cool journey. Also being on this side of the world, the interview times are terrible so they often keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Rick, what keeps you up at night?

Rick Bannister: I’m in the same boat as Nadia. It’s usually just silly things or small things like worrying about whether a photo shoot is going to come off the way you want it to or worrying about getting enough ad sales; I guess it’s just all of that normal startup business concerns, whether it’s magazines or anything else.

We officially started in August, so we’re just in that stage where we’re still fighting for survival. There are just a lot of things to worry about.

Samir Husni: And Sam, what about you?

Sam Calagione: My reasons are a little bit different because Nadia and Rick are the ones that have to set the economic component of running Pallet and I get the pleasure of thinking about the creative and editorial content and obviously, they think a lot about that too, but that distinguishes me with the luxury of not having as much of an economic and business and operational component of running the publication.

So, in the context of Pallet what keeps me up at night is an occasional idea for a new story and jotting that down or thinking about a story idea that maybe Rick or Nadia brought to me. It’s all the fun stuff that keeps me up, in terms of Pallet.

Then of course, the business stuff that has to do with my own brewery and the 230 co-workers that I have at Dogfish Head and that’s where I have to worry about the economic and financial operational stuff. That’s really not what keeps me up; that’s what wakes me up about halfway through the night. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you all.

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David Griffin: Visual Storytelling At Its Best From A Multi-Faceted Photographer, Editor, Creative Director, Graphic Designer & All-Around Nice Guy – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With David Griffin

December 14, 2015

“There’s an advantage with print in that it is wholly an intimate and static environment by which you can consume the content, so as your reading it’s quiet and it’s intimate. And the looking at photographs and the movement of photographs in print also has an intimacy and quietness to it. Whereas on the web, it’s unfortunate that you consume the web generally on a device that also is being used for a lot of other things like email and text messaging, phone calls and everything else that’s coming in to that device and hence that quietness I was talking about is broken. And it becomes a more disruptive environment and because of that, words and static pictures have a tendency to feel lacking, particularly when you’ve got everything else buzzing and speaking and making noise and moving all around it.” David Griffin

(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

(Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

From photography to editing and design, David Griffin is a multi-talented man, whose career wingspan reaches across many creative miles, including art director of The Hartford Courant; art director of the Sunday magazine of The Philadelphia Inquirer; design director of NG Books; and creative director of US News & World Report. He was also director of photography of National Geographic magazine, before going on to become executive editor for e-publishing at the National Geographic Society, and visuals editor of The Washington Post where he oversaw the visual journalism created by the design, photography, video, graphics and digital teams.

Today David is the principle owner of DGriffinStudio, which specializes in publication design, branding strategy, and visual media consulting. To say that he knows a thing or two about more than one facet of media publishing would be a numerical truth that no one could deny.

His concept of visual storytelling is one that incorporates the power of the image into the actual text of the story; a marriage of sorts that produces stunning visuals that only enhance and augment the words to a brilliant consummation of the duo’s individual beauty and effect.

I spoke with David recently about his career journey (no pun intended) as he’s currently working with Smithsonian’s latest magazine, Journeys, within the framework of his own self-imposed freelance-dom where he his king of his own time and interests. His joy at being able to actually create again, rather than manage, was very evident as we talked about the many hats he’d worn and the ultimate full-circle his creative life had taken.

It was a deeply interesting and knowledgeable trek inside the mind of a creative master who knows what it takes to connect with a reader and reach human emotions on every level.

I hope you enjoy this in depth discussion on the art of visual storytelling as only a person who has lived it and created it can tell. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Griffin.

But first, the sound-bites:

David Griffin_Casual On whether he thinks we’re doing a better job today using visuals in the art of storytelling than we did 10 years ago: In general, I think there’s recognition at even the highest levels at most publications that visual storytelling is an important component of how you connect with an audience. That said, I do think that there’s something troubling underneath of it that shouldn’t be ignored, in that the profession of creating images for that kind of interaction has become exceedingly tough as budgets have been cut and the general sense that images are worth less, not worthless in their use, but that you don’t have to pay as much for images, partly because of the perceived idea that there are so many more images now available because of social media.

On whether he believes that editors and publishers today only pay lip service to the value of visuals when it comes to content: That’s hard to say, because I’d need to know the individuals who are saying it, because I think that there are some editors who do believe it and also dedicate resources to that belief. But when it comes to budgets and allocations of money to not only photographers, but also professional photo editors or quality printing, all things that are very important to the visuals; do they allocate those resources when they’re under stress? I’m not so sure that always happens.

On whether visual storytelling can be done in both digital and print platforms or is one better than the other in delivery: In terms of delivery; I don’t think there’s any difference. There’s a difference in the experience, but they both have their own attributes. I don’t particularly think one is better than the other. One of the beauties of digital of course is that it’s infinitely expandable, so you’re not restricted by the finite needs of print. But that can also lead to sloppy editing, so there’s a bit of a downside to that; you might think that you could just publish everything. There’s an advantage with print in that it is wholly an intimate and static environment by which you can consume the content, so as your reading it’s quiet and it’s intimate. And the looking at photographs and the movement of photographs in print also has an intimacy and quietness to it.

On his concept of visual storytelling and how he implements it into his work: Generally I start out by sitting down with whatever the content or the story is, which the most preferable place is at the beginning before the content or the story has actually been written. You want to sit down with someone and talk about what they’re hoping to go do because if you’re working at any publication, it’s important to first determine how important the story is to the publication because that can make a big difference.

On whether he considers himself a photographer first, a designer second and an editor third: No, I’m a designer first; it’s just that I have a very strong love of photography. I didn’t work as a professional photographer long enough; I was a newspaper photographer for the first five years of my career. So, I don’t feel like I earned those chops anymore. But my love for it is there. And because of my involvement at National Geographic, which is so heavily focused on photography; it became an area that I fell into.

On which he loves working on more, newspapers or magazines and some of the differences between the two: The difference is just pace. And I would absolutely say that I’m much more of a magazine person. I love the information of newspapers and I love the medium of it, but in terms of what I do in working with visuals and doing more long-range projects, magazines are just basically more oriented toward that.

On the information speed age we’re living in and who’s trying to catch up to whom; us or the audience: They’re different candles that you’re feeding; the day-to-day, now down to minute-by-minute of the world. And you even see newspapers which are on a 24-hr. cycle, struggling with the fact that they’ve almost lost control of the daily feed because of Twitter. When something breaks now it’s no longer about going to pick up a newspaper and see what they did with it, it’s more usual to see what happened on their phones right in their hands.

On if someone showed up at his house unexpectedly, what they would find him doing, reading a magazine, looking at his iPad or watching TV: Probably reading a magazine. I’m an avid magazine reader. I love magazines. I also read a lot online with an iPad. I definitely do that too. And I read print books and online books as well. It just depends on my mood. I don’t like to carry something with me when I’m traveling. But I consume it all.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the mornings: Whatever the projects are; I’m on. It’s terrible, but I get up sometimes as early as 3:00 a.m. I’m not a night person. So, I tend to go to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 in the evenings. And honestly I’m a horrible morning person, just ask my wife. I set my day at full-speed and then it’s just one long slide to bed. I don’t have peaks and valleys; I peak the moment I get up. I get up often eager to get started on projects, so I work for two or three hours in the mornings before my wife gets up. Then I help her get off to work and then go back to work myself.

On what keeps him up at night: Flooding details; that’s mostly it. The downside of anything is that you have many clients and they’re all not in coordination with each other and you’re never allowed to tell one that you’re working for the other. So, it’s the balancing of it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Griffin.

Samir Husni: I know your love for storytelling and using visuals within that art form; what do you think is the status today when it comes to using visuals in the art of storytelling, whether it’s in newspapers or magazines? Do you think that we’re doing a better job today than we did 10 years ago?

David Griffin: In general, I think there’s recognition at even the highest levels at most publications that visual storytelling is an important component of how you connect with an audience.

That said, I do think that there’s something troubling underneath of it that shouldn’t be ignored, in that the profession of creating images for that kind of interaction has become exceedingly tough as budgets have been cut and the general sense that images are worth less, not worthless in their use, but that you don’t have to pay as much for images, partly because of the perceived idea that there are so many more images now available because of social media. It has an unfortunate echo into the profession; basically people thinking that anybody can take any given picture. It’s like looking at a Picasso and saying, I could have done that, but you didn’t.

Since I’m involved in the photographic community and such a lover of visual storytelling, it’s been troubling and hard to watch individuals that I’ve known for years struggling, to be honest, to make a living or trying to get the resources and commitment to the time being given to people in the field. And of course what it comes down to is money, because most people are paid by day rates. So, there’s a great part to it and a bad part to it. It’s not an easy answer because of those two parts.

Samir Husni: Every editor and publisher that I speak with keeps reminding me that we live in a visual age; we live in a digital age. And they highlight the importance of digital so much, but do you think it’s just lip service?

Screen shot 2015-12-14 at 10.58.31 AM David Griffin: That’s hard to say, because I’d need to know the individuals who are saying it, because I think that there are some editors who do believe it and also dedicate resources to that belief. And I also believe that there are editors out there who say it because they know to be an editor in today’s world means that you’re not going to get up and say that you can do a publication only with words, because they know the publisher higher up would probably get rid of them.

But when it comes to budgets and allocations of money to not only photographers, but also professional photo editors or quality printing, all things that are very important to the visuals; do they allocate those resources when they’re under stress? I’m not so sure that always happens.

Most editors started as reporters and writers, so when decisions have to be made regarding budget cuts, they tend to cut the visuals first because it’s not their home. Even though they know the importance of it, they also believe, and probably partly rightly, strong reporting and strong writing is also something that has to be protected. I’m not saying that there’s any kind of conspiracy; I’m just saying that it’s human nature for people who are in charge and come from a certain background to assume the importance of their original roots over one that they have grown to learn the importance of because of changes in readers’ habits.

Samir Husni: David, I know that your background is in photography, graphic design, art directing and editing. And when you and I were in South Africa at the Media 24 Summit, your presentation was on that visual storytelling that is so important to you. Can you expand a little on what that whole concept of visual storytelling is and can it be done on both the digital platform and on ink on paper, or one is better than the other in that delivery?

David Griffin: In terms of delivery; I don’t think there’s any difference. There’s a difference in the experience, but they both have their own attributes. I don’t particularly think one is better than the other.

One of the beauties of digital of course is that it’s infinitely expandable, so you’re not restricted by the finite needs of print. But that can also lead to sloppy editing, so there’s a bit of a downside to that; you might think that you could just publish everything. Well, you could, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

There’s an advantage with print in that it is wholly an intimate and static environment by which you can consume the content, so as your reading it’s quiet and it’s intimate. And the looking at photographs and the movement of photographs in print also has an intimacy and quietness to it. Whereas on the web, it’s unfortunate that you consume the web generally on a device that also is being used for a lot of other things like email and text messaging, phone calls and everything else that’s coming in to that device and hence that quietness I was talking about is broken. And it becomes a more disruptive environment and because of that, words and static pictures have a tendency to feel lacking, particularly when you’ve got everything else buzzing and speaking and making noise and moving all around it.

I do think it takes a level of discipline by someone who is dedicated to the love of and the intimacy of reading and consuming that way to want to ignore all of the noise and still consume on a digital device. It comes down to, if you ignore the entire periphery, all the potential distractions, I don’t think that there’s a significant difference between print and digital when it comes to the actual I’m-focusing-on-this-story-right-at-this-moment-and-everything-else-is-out-of-my-periphery. It’s like the difference between trying to read a novel on a subway versus sitting in your home in a reading room. It would be a similar kind of environment. You have to willfully decide you’re going to ignore the noise to be able to consume it.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about your concept of visual storytelling and how you actually implement it into your work.

Screen shot 2015-12-14 at 10.59.51 AM David Griffin: Generally I start out by sitting down with whatever the content or the story is, which the most preferable place is at the beginning before the content or the story has actually been written. You want to sit down with someone and talk about what they’re hoping to go do because if you’re working at any publication, it’s important to first determine how important the story is to the publication because that can make a big difference. If an editor says I love this story; it’s fantastic and I want it to be the cover that tells you certain things about what you’re going to want to do.

Whereas if the editor says I kind of like this story, but I’m not so sure about it; then you’re going to scale your effort to that initial expectation. Obviously, as a journalist if you fall into a great story, even if an editor didn’t believe it was going to be a great story, you still can scale up of course, and hopefully the editor will realize it’s better than what was originally expected and they’ll flex to give it more space or more play.

So it starts with that conversation about what the expectations are for the story and then off people go into the field to produce the work. And then when you come back; in general, I’d like an environment that’s, assuming that it’s a classic writer/photographer situation, it’s sitting down with both and if the writer has created a manuscript or generally a rough draft, you want to sit down and read that and look at it. Then it’s time to start selecting the photographs, not with the idea, and this is the important part; the selection of the photographs should move with the text; they certainly should try to come to the same conclusion, Generally, a writer and a photographer in the field together are communicating, the pictures should be perceiving what the story is on similar lines.

But photographs are different in that they bring atmosphere and emotion and different elements than sometimes the words do; they can all do similar things, but they do them in different ways. And so you don’t want to just select photographs because the writer wrote about something and you feel you need to include a picture of it. I think that’s a very dangerous way to go about selecting photographs, particularly if that forces you into selecting subpar images merely to reinforce something that the writer has written about.

And vice-versa, if the photographer falls into a great situation that the writer did not get to see, it’s OK to let the photographs carry that situation and show it. That’s what good captions are for.

So, there’s a dance there that you do. I tend to like to read the manuscript, get a sense of where it’s going, and then edit the photographs based purely on the photographs and talking to the photographer about what they experienced and then when you’re sitting down with the core selection of images, then we sit there and say OK, we have certain images that marry up with the text; let’s try to make sure that we pace along with that, because a reader’s experience should be that the pacing of the images matches to some degree, but not an absolute this-picture-must-appear-on-this-page kind of thing, because I think that’s crazy. No one is perceiving things in that way. Generally folks, from my experience, want to look through the photographs first and then they go back and read the text. So, they are experienced at different times and in different ways.

Then the issue of design comes in. I’m very big on making sure that you select the images without thinking about design. One of the mistakes that I try to avoid myself is coming up with some design that I feel like I want to do for the story and then trying to find pictures that fit into that design. I look at it the other way around; I tend to try and find the images, get them in the right order, into something that makes sense, just like organizing a story, and then I step back and ask what are the common design elements with this set of photographs that will help them to show off their best?

There are some images that you choose because of the text, and maybe those are not the greatest images, but those are pictures that you look at and say I really want to be able to see this person that they talked to for 27 paragraphs, but it’s not a good picture of them. You don’t reject the picture, you just say that’s a picture that’s not going to run big, but I will try to run it if it’s important to the experience.

And you make those kinds of decisions as you go along, whereas the photographer hits some incredible situation that’s full of emotion and texture and really makes someone feel like they’re there and it also matches the text; well that becomes a big picture. It becomes something that’s a cornerstone for the coverage. So you let those two elements, the manuscript and the images almost weigh themselves out.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself a photographer first, a designer second, an editor third?

Screen shot 2015-12-14 at 11.01.18 AM David Griffin: No, I’m a designer first; it’s just that I have a very strong love of photography. I didn’t work as a professional photographer long enough; I was a newspaper photographer for the first five years of my career. So, I don’t feel like I earned those chops anymore. But my love for it is there. And because of my involvement at National Geographic, which is so heavily focused on photography; it became an area that I fell into.

I don’t consider myself a brilliant designer. I consider myself someone who understands photography and how to make those photographs stand out. My feeling is that as a designer, my best job is when you don’t notice the design. I’m always trying to think about how I can simplify whatever it is that I’m designing so that it’s not about me showing off the latest typeface that I’ve figured out or some graphic technique that I really want to impress somebody with. I worry about trying to get everything to step back so that the images step forward, because ultimately photography is the part that touches people. It’s one of the most powerful mediums for connecting to humans on that emotional, gut level. And you want to play that up as much as possible.

And talking about covers; a great line from Roger Black was, and I may not have this exactly right: 90% of making a great cover is choosing the right photograph, which I think is absolutely true. You can sit there and talk all about design and typography, logos and colors and all the cell lines that you’d want to put on there and titles and everything else, but if you have a bad photograph, you’re sunk.

For me as a designer, and this goes back to what I was talking about before, getting into the story ahead of time; I feel like where you want to put your effort is in the creation of the images that you’re going to end up working with, because if you have great material, then the job of being a designer is just that much easier. So, I guess I do that for the sake of making up for the fact that I don’t think I’m that great of a designer. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

David Griffin: I want to make sure that I have really good work, and then I can sneak by as a designer.

Samir Husni: David, you’ve worked in newspapers and at magazines. Which did you enjoy the most and was it easier to work at a newspaper or harder than working on a magazine? And what are some of the differences?

David Griffin: The difference is just pace. And I would absolutely say that I’m much more of a magazine person. I love the information of newspapers and I love the medium of it, but in terms of what I do in working with visuals and doing more long-range projects, magazines are just basically more oriented toward that.

I always did feel that at some point for newspapers to compete, they were going to have to become more like magazines and you suddenly see that happening. Design at newspapers has gotten better over the years and that’s a direct influence of more magazine type thinking. You see that in how they’re organized and in the mere fact that newspapers have started hiring creative directors and design directors over the last 20 years. And that shows that they too recognize that they’ve got to be upping their game visually.

But in terms of me personally, I like working on magazines more than anything because they don’t have to be done that same day. I’m notorious for waking up the next morning and coming up with a much better idea than the original one. (Laughs) I might favor a weekly news magazine, but unfortunately that’s a genre that has very little purpose anymore. When I worked at U.S. News that was absolutely my favorite time because it was still high-paced; it still fed off of the news, but we had two or three days to kind of change and adjust things and tweak them and give them a little more craft.

And as I’ve gotten older too, I’m much more into the craft of making different media forms. I also like digital, I find it interesting. It’s a little hard on the craft level because it’s so fluent, but I do like it for those attributes it brings to itself. Anything where I can up that game, I’m interested in. Newspapers tend to be, when you’re definitely in the middle of them; they move so quickly it’s just so hard to stop and refine things on them on a day-to-day basis; you can do it on a longer term.

When I was at a newspaper I always felt that I was behind; I was never on top of anything, whereas at a magazine I really enjoy the pace much more.

Screen shot 2015-12-14 at 11.03.32 AM Samir Husni: And you’re latest project is working with the Smithsonian Journeys Magazine. It’s a quarterly for now. And it’s a wonderful combination of photography and typography and illustrations.

David Griffin: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that good design and good photography still needs that time to process, to create, in this speed age that we live in? We’ve moved from a coal-powered train to a nuclear-powered one. Do you think the audience can catch up or are we the ones trying to keep up with the audience? Who’s moving faster, us or our audience?

David Griffin: They’re different candles that you’re feeding; the day-to-day, now down to minute-by-minute of the world. And you even see newspapers which are on a 24-hr. cycle, struggling with the fact that they’ve almost lost control of the daily feed because of Twitter. When something breaks now it’s no longer about going to pick up a newspaper and see what they did with it, it’s more usual to see what happened on their phones right in their hands.

So the images that go along with those stories are whatever happened to the catcher. That’s one of the changes of being a professional photographer because it used to be that one of the definitions of being a professional photographer was that you were there. It used to be the old adage “f/8 and be there” but the be there part is no longer an advantage because the public is there and so are all of those phones that are quite capable of taking good enough images of what that news is at that moment. So, there is that aspect of it.

But in terms of the time that can be dedicated to the creation of the images, it doesn’t matter what cycle you’re publishing on, if you learn to dedicate time you can. I worked at the Post where we sent photographers into the field for a month-long project. It would publish in one day, but the fact that it was being worked on for a month, or sometimes two or three months, the reader didn’t see that part of it and that was just a matter of scheduling and making sure that you backed up far enough. National Geographic started doing stories three or four years before they were published, but again, the public doesn’t see that, all they see is the published piece.

National Geographic was a monthly; Journeys is a quarterly; a newspaper is a daily, but the material that feeds into that publishing cycle can start at any time. So the idea that somehow because you’re a daily you have less time; I don’t know if that’s actually true in terms of bigger projects. Not day-to-day reporting of fires and accidents, things like that. That’s spot news and you chase that material, but in terms of material that is real visual storytelling, there’s no real effect by the publication cycle on how long you decide to dedicate to that. It’s really a matter of your budget and whether you have the money to support any of those kinds of projects.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your house unexpectedly and you were relaxing with a glass of wine in your hand; would I find you reading a magazine or looking at your iPad or watching TV?

David Griffin: Probably reading a magazine. I’m an avid magazine reader. I love magazines. I also read a lot online with an iPad. I definitely do that too. And I read print books and online books as well. It just depends on my mood. I don’t like to carry something with me when I’m traveling. But I consume it all.

I don’t watch much television anymore though. If I’ve had an exhausting day and I don’t want to do anything else, television has that numbing effect. I can’t say that I watch much television news; I’m mostly an NPR person and then I read a lot. I get both print newspapers, the Times and the Post every day. And I read them religiously. And even though I know that’s all available online, I do like the ritual of print. Plus I’m a crossword puzzle nut and so I’ve never found an online version of The New York Times crossword puzzle that was as satisfying as the print one. (Laughs) Even though I know I could subscribe and print it out, it’s not the same. I like newspapers in print. It’s very tactile. I’m old-school that way. But I consume across a lot of different platforms.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

David Griffin: Whatever the projects are; I’m on. It’s terrible, but I get up sometimes as early as 3:00 a.m. I’m not a night person. So, I tend to go to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 in the evenings.

And honestly I’m a horrible morning person, just ask my wife. I set my day at full-speed and then it’s just one long slide to bed. I don’t have peaks and valleys; I peak the moment I get up. I get up often eager to get started on projects, so I work for two or three hours in the mornings before my wife gets up. Then I help her get off to work and then go back to work myself.

But usually by the early afternoon I tend to slow down. It’s interesting when you’re no longer tied to the structure of an office, which I have been for my entire career. I had worked at media companies, but now I have the freedom to allow myself to fall into my own natural rhythm. Sometimes when I get up in the mornings I’m just so excited to be putting together something.

And what I really enjoy about making this change in my life is that I’m actually making things again, because really for the last 15 years I’ve been managing really large, visual teams. I would sneak InDesign in when I could, but it was always sneaking it in; it was something that I did on a weekend or when I did a book project once a year or something like that. It wasn’t a primary thing.

But now being able to create things with my own hands again is just so wonderful and plus the tools today are so fantastic. I struggled through going from analog to digital and was a big proponent of desktop publishing when it first came in; I actually helped usher it into National Geographic when they were doing things by hand paste there. And so I’ve always been an eager lover and somewhat hater of technology, because it was never as fluid as I would have liked it to be, but it’s become so much more fluid.

Plus you can learn anything online now too. Someone asked me to do a motion graphic for them, like a motion title sequence, and when you’re doing branding work you have to start determining how a logo works. And I didn’t really know how to do a motion graphic. (Laughs) But I sat down and it didn’t take me more than a day with Lynda.com to learn it. And Adobe has all of these fantastic tutorials online and I learn aftereffects; I’m not a whiz at it, but I can certainly wedge my way through something and actually do it.

And that kind of thing you used to have to farm out; there were so many other people that you had to be involved with to create a publication, but so much of that has come back full-circle to a craftsperson’s environment. It’s exciting. I’m having a great time. (Laughs)

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

David Griffin: Flooding details; that’s mostly it. The downside of anything is that you have many clients and they’re all not in coordination with each other and you’re never allowed to tell one that you’re working for the other. So, it’s the balancing of it.

I’ve been very lucky. This is my anniversary right now of my first year doing freelance. The Journeys project was certainly a Godsend to me, in terms of being a solid contractual base with them. So, it gives me something to take away the worry of finances.

And I’ve just had a nice string of wonderful different and diverse projects, from branding to several book projects that I have going. None of them are public yet because they’re still struggling to get publishers. And I’ve helped photographers put together bodies of their work in a rough form so that they can sell them to publishers. I’m also working on a couple of website designs.

It’s a whole varied range of material, which to me has been the nicest thing; it’s not just one thing. My goal is, I don’t ever want to stop doing the design, so I am definitely watching my time. It can be very dangerous because you don’t want to ever say no to anything in the freelance world, but I also don’t want to get myself overloaded to where I’m short shifting any one of my clients. I just don’t want to pass off things. At this point in my career I want to do the work myself. I’m selfish, but I’m also very picky about things. And when I give work to other people, I spend more time trying to get them to do it the way I want it done, than if I’d just done it myself.

And that does come back to the beauty of these new tools. Literally, if I have a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection, I can work from almost anywhere. And that’s also really terrific. But I try not to let too many things keep me up at night. Things are always going to get resolved. Things that used to keep me up at night were personnel issues. Now I manage three cats; that’s my staff. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Sabor Magazine: One Young Man’s Curiosity Puts A New Twist On A Food Magazine & Begins His Magazine Journey – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sabor Founder, Fermin Albert

December 11, 2015

“I think they both (print and digital) have their own advantages, but with print you feel more relaxed and I have to tell you the truth; I only read news digitally, but I really don’t have the time to read long stories onscreen. It’s nice, but I don’t have the time; it’s tiresome. But in print, I love to read the longer stories. And I think that’s the advantage of print; you just relax. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I’m more relaxed when I have a hard copy; it’s so tactile.” Fermin Albert


A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story from the Netherlands…

Sabor 1-1 (2) This is a launch story about a young man with a twinkle in his eye and a dream in his heart. It’s about one of those rogue believers who actually thinks passion for magazines and a strong work ethic can make that dream come true. It’s a story about a genuine magazine maker; one that really sums up what magazines and the art of storytelling and design are all about: the fervor of one’s dream.

Fermin Albert grew up on a small Dutch island called Curacao. He loved magazines from the time he was a very young boy (sounded very familiar to Mr. Magazine™). He tried his hand at his dream several years ago with a Dutch version of the superb magazine that he’s publishing today called Sabor. Unfortunately, several years ago didn’t seem to be the right time for him and as odd as it sounds, since Dutch is his native language, maybe not the right audience for what his dream produced.

Today, Sabor is an amazing contribution to the food category that is uniquely different from everything else, a plump, juicy, ripe tomato growing in a field of corn. Not that the corn isn’t equally as delicious as the tomato; it’s just that the tomato is such a pleasant surprise to happen upon when one is out harvesting corn.

I spoke with Fermin recently about his latest print endeavor and I must say, I haven’t laughed so much in a very long time. Fermin paralleled my own reasons for loving magazines, in so many ways. His sense of humor was contagious and his passion familiar. It was indeed a joyful conversation.

We talked about those early days, when his hope was that a magazine could flourish just on one’s tenacious belief in it alone. Then we moved into the realities of finance and distribution and all of the other stars that must be aligned in order to get one’s dream out of one’s head and onto newsstands.

So, I hope that you enjoy this most delightful interview with a young man who will definitely bring a smile to your lips, but maybe also a resurgence of a dream that you once had. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Fermin Albert, Founder, Sabor Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

Fermin Portrait_cropped On whether the Dutch edition of Sabor that he began in 2012 is still being published: No, I stopped the Dutch issue. The reason I started the Dutch issue is that I wanted to publish it just like the big houses do it. I started with 35,000 copies and the distribution was a mess. (Laughs) I discovered a lot of things along the way like you have to pay to stay in the shops. (Laughs again) And that was a big disappointment to find that out and I just couldn’t maintain the magazine, so I had to trim down and I decided to go with a digital issue just as a test to see how it would work out.

On the early reaction he’s received on the relaunch of Sabor in print:
It’s been very positive. Every reaction that I have received has been extremely positive, which is great, but I want to be challenged. Positive reactions are nice, but some days you just need some hard feedback.

On his background and how he became interested in the magazine business:
My passion for magazines started when I was really young. I remember that I had friends whose parents traveled every week to Miami and they used to bring a lot of magazines back with them: People, Vanity Fair and many others. And I really liked those magazines and I would sit and read them for hours. I grew up in a family of printers; we were in the printing business, but we weren’t doing anything with magazines or anything like that. We didn’t really have the resources to publish a magazine because I’m originally from a small island that’s part of the Dutch kingdom. Resources are limited there and the market is also very limited for publishing a nice magazine.

On the concept of the magazine:
Sabor was intended to be a service magazine, service-driven, just like your typical Bon Appetit Magazine. That was the idea when my partner asked me, why we didn’t do a magazine together, because initially I had wanted to do travel and business magazines. But my life-partner suggested we do a culinary magazine together, a service magazine. I wasn’t really interested because I’m not a foodie. And that’s why Sabor is also different, because it’s all about my own take on the food world, what I’ve seen and discovered.

On the concept of the logo – the letter “O” in the title with two bites taken out of it: The new logo is a combination of imageries that I had in mind for the cover, and doing something that I didn’t set out to do. I had been working on several logo concepts before, but they were too delicate or to serious to appeal to a younger audience. In my mind the new logo needed to be fresh. Dissatisfied with previous concepts, I decided to start playing with bolder typefaces. I found a perfect one that looked kind of doughy — and looked very inviting to take a bite into it.

On what drives him, being a creative director, a journalist, writer, or all of them: It’s a combination of all. Every story you see in the magazine, I come up with the ideas for, and then I find the writers to write those stories. And usually they’re experts in that particular field, which is something that I’m adamant about.

On what motivates him to believe that he’ll be making magazines for the rest if his life: I think it’s trying to stay informed with the right information. That’s something that I’m truly passionate about. My big dream is to diversify in the media. My dream would be to have a new site, something news-driven, with information that’s clear. I think news can be terribly biased and that’s what really drives me.

On whether print has an advantage over digital or vice versa:
I think they both have their own advantages, but with print you feel more relaxed and I have to tell you the truth; I only read news digitally, but I really don’t have the time to read long stories onscreen. It’s nice, but I don’t have the time; it’s tiresome. But in print, I love to read the longer stories.

On his life-partner’s reaction when the first issue came out:
Excited, definitely. I was disappointed. (Laughs) I was disappointed.

On why he was disappointed:
I think it was a long, upheld journey, especially when you’re independent. We were supposed to come out in the summer, but my main feature dropped out, so I had to restructure the whole magazine, from March to July. And I think in the restructuring it lost a lot of energy.

On what advice he would give a young entrepreneur about starting their own magazine:
That’s a tough one, because I’ve been discouraged a lot and I wouldn’t want to discourage them. If they have what it takes, I would say just follow the journey and do it. Just do it. And experience it for themselves and if they have the tenacity that will be good, because I didn’t have anyone to help me; I worked hard and my life-partner worked hard. But if they really want it; go for it.

On what keeps him up at night:
Everything. (Laughs) I can’t lie about that. That’s a bad habit of mine; I tend to worry a lot, even about little things. But concerning Sabor, I would say, are people loving it? With the first issue you don’t have any idea about the distribution and sales; it’s crazy how the distribution is. You have to wait months to get any idea how the magazine is doing.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Fermin Albert, Founder, Sabor Magazine.

Samir Husni: Back in 2012, you published two issues of Sabor.


Fermin Albert: Yes, I did, in Dutch.

Samir Husni: Is the Dutch edition still going?

SABOR 2 Fermin Albert: No, I stopped the Dutch issue. The reason I started the Dutch issue is that I wanted to publish it just like the big houses do it. I started with 35,000 copies and the distribution was a mess. (Laughs) I discovered a lot of things along the way like you have to pay to stay in the shops. (Laughs again) And that was a big disappointment to find that out and I just couldn’t maintain the magazine, so I had to trim down and I decided to go with a digital issue just as a test to see how it would work out. After that, I received some positive reactions and so I decided to relaunch it again as a hard copy.

Samir Husni: You’ve done a great job. The first issue is very well done. What has been the early reaction since the magazine hit the market again?

Fermin Albert: It’s been very positive. Every reaction that I have received has been extremely positive, which is great, but I want to be challenged. Positive reactions are nice, but some days you just need some hard feedback. I don’t think it’s perfect; there’s no way the first issue can be that perfect, but I haven’t gotten any harsh feedback yet.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about Fermin Albert. What got you into the magazine business?

sabor 2-2 (2) Fermin Albert: My passion for magazines started when I was really young. I remember that I had friends whose parents traveled every week to Miami and they used to bring a lot of magazines back with them: People, Vanity Fair and many others. And I really liked those magazines and I would sit and read them for hours. So, I guess that was the real beginning of my passion for magazines.

I grew up in a family of printers; we were in the printing business, but we weren’t doing anything with magazines or anything like that. We didn’t really have the resources to publish a magazine because I’m originally from a small island that’s part of the Dutch kingdom. Resources are limited there and the market is also very limited for publishing a nice magazine.

Samir Husni: What’s the name of the island that you’re from?

Fermin Albert: It’s Curacao. So, when I started studying in the Netherlands in 2000; I started researching the magazine industry and I think it was around that time that I discovered your blog as well. I’ve been following you since then.

And I tried very hard to publish a magazine, but getting the capital was hard. It’s very expensive. I couldn’t manage to find any fools to publish my endeavor. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Fermin Albert: After saving a lot, I manage to publish the first issues of Sabor. And before that I tried a lot of other publications, but they never really took off.

Samir Husni: With this hefty first issue, technically you didn’t leave anything out; if you can eat it, touch it or smell it; it’s in the magazine. Tell me about the concept of Sabor and the logo, with two bites taken out of the letter “O”.

Fermin Albert: Sabor was intended to be a service magazine, service-driven, just like your typical Bon Appetit Magazine. That was the idea when my partner asked me, why we didn’t do a magazine together, because initially I had wanted to do travel and business magazines. But my life-partner suggested we do a culinary magazine together, a service magazine. I wasn’t really interested because I’m not a foodie. And that’s why Sabor is also different, because it’s all about my own take on the food world and my curiosity, what I’ve seen and discovered.

sabor 3-4 (2) Sabor is a learning process; what I learn along the way, I publish this as well. So, the concept grew from a service-driven magazine to a more literary magazine. And the literary came about with Darra Goldstein from Gastronomica. I sent her an email asking her would she like to contribute a content-driven memoir to Sabor and the way that I explained it to her she said that she liked my idea for a journal. (Laughs) Of course, it wasn’t intended to be a journal.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). That was a polite way of telling you that she didn’t want competition.

Fermin Albert: (Continues laughing). But she did it anyway. So, I thought if people are taking me that seriously, why not go all the way with it. So, I transformed Sabor. As I said, it’s my own curiosity and I love doing it.

Samir Husni: And the concept of the logo?

Fermin Albert: The new logo is a combination of imageries that I had in mind for the cover, and doing something that I didn’t set out to do. I had been working on several logo concepts before, but they were too delicate or to serious to appeal to a younger audience. In my mind the new logo needed to be fresh. Dissatisfied with previous concepts, I decided to start playing with bolder typefaces. I found a perfect one that looked kind of doughy — and looked very inviting to take a bite into it. Combined with cover concepts that I had mocking-up, of which all had teeth and sultry lips…well, eventually everything came together, just naturally, you might say.

Samir Husni: What drives you, Fermin? Are you more of the creative art director, or are you the journalist, the writer, or is it a combination of all of the above?

Fermin Albert: It’s a combination of all. Every story you see in the magazine, I come up with the ideas for, and then I find the writers to write those stories. And usually they’re experts in that particular field, which is something that I’m adamant about. I really try to go to historians and professors, at least to the source. I wouldn’t hire a blogger to write a historical piece; instead I would go right to the source.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself now an independent publisher in the Netherlands?

Fermin Albert: (Laughs) Independent I am, yes, but I’m not established yet.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to believe that you’re going to spend your life doing this; making magazines?

Fermin Albert: I think it’s trying to stay informed with the right information. That’s something that I’m truly passionate about. My big dream is to diversify in the media. My dream would be to have a new site, something news-driven, with information that’s clear. I think news can be terribly biased and that’s what really drives me.

And with the magazine, I may drive some of my writer’s crazy, but the facts have to right. They have to be correct and that really drives me.

Samir Husni: Do you think that’s an advantage of print over digital? That in print, we can’t afford mistakes, but with digital we see a lot of mistakes?

Fermin Albert: Of course. I think they both have their own advantages, but with print you feel more relaxed and I have to tell you the truth; I only read news digitally, but I really don’t have the time to read long stories onscreen. It’s nice, but I don’t have the time; it’s tiresome. But in print, I love to read the longer stories. And I think that’s the advantage of print; you just relax. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I’m more relaxed when I have a hard copy; it’s so tactile.

Samir Husni: When the first issue of the magazine came out, what was your life-partner’s reaction?

Fermin Albert: Excited, definitely. I was disappointed. (Laughs) I was disappointed.

Samir Husni: Why?

Fermin Albert: I think it was a long, upheld journey, especially when you’re independent. We were supposed to come out in the summer, but my main feature dropped out, so I had to restructure the whole magazine, from March to July. And I think in the restructuring it lost a lot of energy. I think it’s only natural though after a long process to be tired.

Samir Husni: And what’s next?

Fermin Albert: The second issue, of course. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: When is the second issue coming out?

Fermin Albert: It’s due June 2016. It’s biannual.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give a young entrepreneur, such as yourself; if they had an idea they’re passionate about and wanted to start their own magazine? And I don’t want to guestimate your age, but you’re young.

Fermin Albert: I’m in my mid-30s.

Samir Husni: So, if someone in their 20s came to you for advice about starting their own magazine, what would you tell them?

Fermin Albert: That’s a tough one, because I’ve been discouraged a lot and I wouldn’t want to discourage them. If they have what it takes, I would say just follow the journey and do it. Just do it. And experience it for themselves and if they have the tenacity that will be good, because I didn’t have anyone to help me; I worked hard and my life-partner worked hard. But if they really want it; go for it. Some people think I’m crazy, but Sabor is my stepping-stone to hopefully bigger projects.

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

Fermin Albert: Everything. (Laughs) I can’t lie about that. That’s a bad habit of mine; I tend to worry a lot, even about little things. But concerning Sabor, I would say, are people loving it? With the first issue you don’t have any idea about the distribution and sales; it’s crazy how the distribution is. You have to wait months to get any idea how the magazine is doing. And I worry a lot about that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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