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SpainMedia: The Name That Personifies The Man Who Is Media In Spain – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia

January 26, 2016

“As humans, we have five senses and print touches each of those. With the iPad, the electrification touches eyes and ears, but not the nose. Smell is important, the smell of food; the smell of a woman or of a man. The hands are also important. The hands experience touch, touch of the skin; touch of many things. And paper has this quality, especially if you invest in it. Before you read any single word, you touch the paper and the impression is made immediately; either you like it or you don’t.” Andrés Rodríguez

“The magazine business will never die; it will never die because a magazine is the voice of a community. And you need that community to be so big that it gives you advertising to make the magazine. And you need to identify new communities. Magazines will never die.” Andrés Rodríguez

From Spain with love…

Andrés Rodríguez and Samir Husni at the lobby of the NH Collection, Prado Plaza, Madrid, Spain

Andrés Rodríguez and Samir Husni at the lobby of the NH Collection, Prado Plaza, Madrid, Spain


SpainMedia is a company built by a man with a vision, a vision to produce high quality magazines that touch every sense with their tactile and exquisite natures. It’s a forum for the anthem of print from a man who is a very firm believer in the medium and a major contender in the world of publishing in Spain. Andrés Rodríguez is the man who had the vision nine years ago to bring the biggest titles out there to his country. He is president and editor-in-chief of SpainMedia, which publishes Esquire, Forbes, The Robb Report, Tapas, and L’Officiel in Spain.

Andrés is a one-man machine who loves the feeling of falling asleep with a magazine in his hands. He has gone where few have dared, double- mortgaging his home twice, once to launch Esquire and the other to launch Harper’s Bazaar, which he did for five years before Hearst acquired Lagardère and wanted to bring HB in with Elle.

Andrés is every magazine maker’s dream. He was the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone in Spain when he saw the opportunity to launch Esquire and he jumped on it and now he has created a company that’s the personification of magazines in Spain. Acquiring the licenses to some of the biggest titles around, he used his passion for magazines to attain his dream and bring the beauty and the entertainment quality of magazines to his country.

I spoke with Andrés recently on my recent trip to Spain and we talked about his endeavors with SpainMedia and the success he has seen with the company and the print product. And we talked about his own first-born creation, Tapas magazine, which brings lifestyle and food together in a way that is both unique and satisfying. Andrés is optimistic about his newest baby’s future; after all, he’s known uncertainty with many of his ventures, only to taste the sweet sustenance of success in the end.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a very nice man who knows how to publish the best if the best in magazine media; Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia.

But first the sound-bites:

Esquire-5On the genesis of SpainMedia: I founded the company nine years ago. I started as a journalist 30 years ago. I am 50-years-old now and made my first salary at 19. But just nine years ago I became a publisher. I discussed the instincts I had about the business and my point of view with investors and when I talked with them about how I thought the magazine should be and the new trends that were out there and how we should proceed with the advertising; I wasn’t sure if they would agree. Sometimes investors have their own ideas about how things like this should go. So, I founded the company nine years ago with my own money. I put a lot at risk; I double-mortgaged my house with the bank. And I asked Hearst to give me the license to Esquire because I felt with an international magazine more people would trust me.

On whether anyone ever asked if he was he out of his mind to invest in print in this digital age: Everybody said that to me. Everybody said it, because the big difference is I prefer to polish and edit high quality magazines, with long stories to read, like the classic magazines from the 1960s or 1970s. I’m really not too interested in circulation. And you might ask why? It’s because I feel in the 21st century, the quality of the product is more important than its circulation. Of course, circulation is important. I prefer to print one million copies of one of my magazines, but I don’t want to print one million copies of a magazine that I know when I go to sleep is not a good magazine. I need to try and sleep well. When I push the print button on that printing machine, I try to do the best magazine that I can.

Tapas4-18 On whether Tapas (his first self-created venture) feels like his first born or all of the magazines feel like his own children: Parents say all of the kids are the same, but I know all of the fathers are lying, in my opinion. Fathers do have preferences. I needed to launch my own magazine because I know that I’m a good journalist and a good businessman because I’m making money with this. I’m one of the best at trying to interpret big titles into my country, because Esquire is one of the big titles of the world; Forbes is a big, big title and I changed things with Forbes in Spain; I know this, but I needed to change things in the opposite way, which was to create my own brand.

On why he decided to launch Tapas in Spanish and in English: It’s worldwide with a multi-circulation. I did both editions because when I thought about the magazine that would be my very first creation, I knew it would be a lifestyle and cooking title. And I looked and found some other titles that were interesting, but having both languages was more for me. Two was more. I thought two was more in line with the big mainstream magazines.

On whether he ever doubted the future of print: No. I trusted my instincts. I always follow my heart. I used to explain it like this; of course, I have my iPad and my iPhone and I’m absolutely connected to the world just like everybody else. But when I’m reading a magazine it’s usually in particular places: on a plane, on my sofa, or in my bed. And in these kinds of places I’m relaxed; with a magazine I’m relaxed. My body is in the relaxed position.

On why it took magazine media five or six years to discover the fact that print is not dead: Very simple. Audience and circulation are the two things that all of the companies are fighting for. And in my opinion, this is the second step. The first step is product. The companies need to be more invested in product than circulation because they cannot invest in circulation if they don’t have the money. But the bigger companies are more worried about audience because they identify audience as people and money. They think that if they lose one point in audience, they lose a lot.

L'Officiel 3-11 On anything else that he’d like to add: It’s not true that we live in a very mature market; and it’s also not true that nothing is possible in our market; anything is possible in our Spanish market. The audience is smarter than we are; the readers are smarter than us; they’re faster than we are and they definitely know more than us. And the clients need us, the clients, our advertisers, need good magazines. But we need to be able to explain to them how we can be useful to them, because when clients launch a new product, they hire the best people in the world to launch their product; they hire the best design teams to showcase their products, and they need good magazines to put these products inside of.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his house one evening: You would find just music playing; you would see a mountain of international magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read, including magazines that I’m really not interested in, but I check them anyway, and a glass of wine, of course. And I do cut pages out of other magazines. And you would also see pages of the latest issues of my magazines around too, printed and edited with my pen, because I correct all of the pages.

On what keeps him up at night: The budget of the magazines. I’m always thinking about how I’m going to find more money to make these magazines stronger and also to find more free time to come up with new ideas.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine interview with Andrés Rodríguez, President & Editor-In-Chief, SpainMedia.

Samir Husni: You’re a different breed publisher/editor-in-chief.

IMG_1302 Andrés Rodríguez: Yes.

Samir Husni: You started your own company; you followed both of your passions, being a journalist and being a businessman. Tell me the story of Spain Media.

Andrés Rodríguez: I founded the company nine years ago. I started as a journalist 30 years ago. I am 50-years-old now and made my first salary at 19. But just nine years ago I became a publisher. I discussed the instincts I had about the business and my point of view with investors and when I talked with them about how I thought the magazine should be and the new trends that were out there and how we should proceed with the advertising; I wasn’t sure if they would agree. Sometimes investors have their own ideas about how things like this should go.

For example, sometimes a financial person might try to reduce the quality of the paper to make a better P&L, hence a better bonus. Me, I prefer to spend more money on the quality of the paper because I’m convinced that I’ll find a new audience if my magazine has good quality.

Forbes-3 So, I founded the company nine years ago with my own money. I put a lot at risk; I double-mortgaged my house with the bank. And I asked Hearst to give me the license to Esquire because I felt with an international magazine more people would trust me. I had a few doubts about my businessman’s side; I had never founded a company before and I was afraid that I wouldn’t know where to manage the cash flow or how to talk to the banks about the magazine, or how to make the discounts for the advertisers or the annual discounts for the central media. So, I was nervous about this.

I thought that Hearst, or George Green (former Executive Vice President and Chairman of Hearst Magazines International) would say to me, no, you don’t have the assets to buy the Esquire license and you have no prior experience. But I was the editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone in Spain; I convinced Jann Wenner to give me the license for Rolling Stone for Grupo Prisa, the company that I worked for then.

But I think that this idea helped me with George because Rolling Stone was a big brand and nine years later, I talked with George Green about it and said thank you many times, but I think he gave me the magazine because he knew that he wouldn’t lose anything, because no one wanted to publish Esquire in Spain. He had already talked with all the major companies in Spain about Esquire and everyone had told him no, because they were looking at the numbers and thought that they would need to invest three or four million Euros to launch Esquire, and that’s something they don’t believe in doing. I think George said OK to me so that he could give it a try. It wasn’t Harper’s Bazaar or a big magazine where if he lost Spain it would cost him more.

I remember always the advice that he gave me in one of the meetings I had with him. I said, hey George, I’ll give you issue # 0, the mockup of what my Esquire will look like. And he said to me, no, I don’t want to look at the mockup; do you have a very nice party planned for the launching? And I said, yes, absolutely George. And he asked who paid for the party? You don’t pay for the party; don’t spend a single Euro on the party. I said, OK; don’t worry about that, just have a look at my magazine. He said, no, I’m not interested in your magazine; just don’t spend money on a party. And I thought, wow, this guy isn’t very interested in journalism.

Robb Report-8 Nine years later, he’s trying to tell me your weakness is the money; try to protect the money and I trust you on the magazine side. And in just two years with Esquire we broke even and the second step we took was more on the business side because I didn’t want to put all of the expenses; all of the overhead, the rental of the office, my salary, the secretary’s salary and all the other expenses, in front of just one magazine; I thought that if I shared the overhead with more magazines I would be doing things better; like a family who has more than one child.

And I told George that I wasn’t losing money with Esquire and asked him would he please give me Bazaar, because if I could break even with a men’s magazine, it might be even easier with a women’s title because the market is bigger. And he said to me, no, it’s too soon. I don’t want to give you Bazaar, try to consolidate Esquire, because your country will be destroyed by the International Economy Crisis. And I said, but George, we are a big country and growing, in fact, we grow more than Italy. Then he said to me, be prepared; this crisis will destroy the Spanish economy. So, I didn’t do the other magazines, just Esquire.

I have my own point of view and I offer to CurtCo Media to do Robb Report and they were in love with the idea because it was their first Spanish edition worldwide. I launched the Robb Report quarterly. Year number five with Esquire, we’re making money, and the Robb Report is also making money, and George Green retired and Duncan Edwards took over. Duncan is a great guy and I asked him to give me Bazaar and he gave it to me. It was the first license that he gave in America from the International. And he said to me, all the figures; the entire International picture and all of the information that I have for your country is negative. This is a crazy idea, but I’m going to give you Bazaar.

He gave me Bazaar and I launched six years ago, and I managed the magazine for five years. In the meantime, during those five years, Forbes called me. And Forbes called me because they were looking to be in Spain. They had asked all the major companies and no one wanted to invest in Forbes, due to our country’s economy. The Forbes people asked the Hearst people who was crazy in Spain, and Hearst told them about me. (Laughs) They told Forbes that I paid royalties and I paid every year and that I do good magazines.

When Forbes first called me, I said no, because there was no money. The entire country was being careful due to the economic situation. And all of the economic magazines and newspapers were losing money. And this was in 2011. Forbes responded to me with this answer, when a country has economic problems like Spain; the people are more interested in the economy than ever. And I told them they were absolutely right. And that was a good argument. And they added that my country in the future would recover; we may not know when or how, but of course, Spain would recover. And I knew they were right.

So, I started publishing Forbes three years ago and we’re making money. In the meantime, Hearst bought Lagardère and I thought that was an incredible idea, but not for me. But one day Duncan invited me for lunch and he told me that Hearst had bought Lagardère and said that he believed Bazaar being close to Elle would make more money, because they were going to sell the advertising through the big companies with both, and I agreed he was right. He would make more money than I was making. He asked me to give back Bazaar to Hearst Spain and I quickly received the proposal to launch L’Officiel from the Jalou family. I accepted, because I had been working in the women’s market for five years and I didn’t want to lose the women’s sector. And that’s the big picture.

Samir Husni: Did anybody come to you and ask you if you were out of your mind to put all of this money into print? And not only are you publishing print magazines, but you’re using high quality paper, gorgeous design and basically just investing in print, while the entire media industry is saying the future is in digital. Did any of the advertisers or anyone come to you and ask you were you out of your mind to do this?

L'Officiel-4 Andrés Rodríguez: Everybody said that to me. Everybody said it, because the big difference is I prefer to polish and edit high quality magazines, with long stories to read, like the classic magazines from the 1960s or 1970s. I’m really not too interested in circulation. And you might ask why? It’s because I feel in the 21st century, the quality of the product is more important than its circulation. Of course, circulation is important. I prefer to print one million copies of one of my magazines, but I don’t want to print one million copies of a magazine that I know when I go to sleep is not a good magazine. I need to try and sleep well. When I push the print button on that printing machine, I try to do the best magazine that I can.

And the second thing that I try to do then is get the biggest circulation that I can, so I can offer it to the advertisers as a good platform for their products. But in my opinion, it’s not the most important thing.

I used to say that influence is more important to me than audience, because when you have a big audience you have such a wide variety of people, so many different people. Audience is like when Hollywood launches a big blockbuster and you’re going to see it with family. And when the movie ends, nobody is 100% happy. It was good, but not everyone was happy. And I think this is how audience works.

And with influence, you try to make the magazine more influential for the target and it makes the target bigger. Tapas is a good example. It is my own first-owned title; I identified that lifestyle and food globally is a trend. I haven’t found any international lifestyle and food title; I find recipe titles, but not lifestyle and food. And I created the magazine. And now, I need to convince the advertiser, because the clients are more conservative than the readers; I need to convince the advertisers that this is a good platform to invest in, like Monocle, for example.
I am a great fan of Tyler (Tyler Brûlé – Monocle founder) and I think he has the nose to identify new trends and he convinced the clients that it was a new trend; it’s a global, international, traveler citizen.

Samir Husni: Tapas is your first venture as your own. Do you feel like Tapas is your first born and all of the others are more like adopted children? Or do you treat all of them the same now?

TapasII-14 Andrés Rodríguez: Parents say all of the kids are the same, but I know all of the fathers are lying, in my opinion. Fathers do have preferences. I needed to launch my own magazine because I know that I’m a good journalist and a good businessman because I’m making money with this. I’m one of the best at trying to interpret big titles into my country, because Esquire is one of the big titles of the world; Forbes is a big, big title and I changed things with Forbes in Spain; I know this, but I needed to change things in the opposite way, which was to create my own brand.

And this is what I’m enjoying with Tapas. And I don’t want to license Tapas because it has just begun; we’ve been publishing for nine months now. And I think we’ll be a great business. We’re already breaking even in this short time, but I’m not interested in licensing the magazine for some fee here or some fee there. I’m interested in furthering the brand.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to not only launch Tapas in Spanish, but also in an English edition? I saw it in the United States and it’s probably in the U.K. as well.

Andrés Rodríguez: Yes, it’s worldwide with a multi-circulation. I did both editions because when I thought about the magazine that would be my very first creation, I knew it would be a lifestyle and cooking title. And I looked and found some other titles that were interesting, but having both languages was more for me. Two was more. I thought two was more in line with the big mainstream magazines.

Tapas 3-17 I knew lifestyle and food was what I wanted, because chefs are the new rock and roll stars. Michelin stars are like the new Oscars. And I asked myself, what other magazine is talking about those things; none. There are magazines out there talking about a cheesecake recipe and that’s great. But with the big chefs, we don’t talk about the recipes; we talk about their tattoos or their hair. And we talk about the experience; let’s go to this country and drive to this chef’s incredible, marvelous restaurant and have an adventure.

After the idea, I knew I needed to find a word; a brand, for the magazine. I happened to be in New York working once and I was riding in a taxi and the word Tapas came to me and I thought this is an incredible brand name and it’s a Spanish word which means basically that we share the food with others, because it’s more important to talk than actually to eat the food.

So, I knew I had the word. Next, I knew we had to publish in English, because if not, if I just published in Spanish…I thought to myself, what would Tyler do with this? (Laughs) I said, OK, Spanish is great because Spanish is the second language in the world, but I also think in English, so we need English too, so that’s why it happened.

Samir Husni: Have you ever doubted yourself with any of the titles; did you ever think that maybe some people were right and print had no future? Yet, here you’re telling me that you’re making money; you’re breaking even on Tapas already; and all of the other titles are doing great. Did you ever doubt print’s future?

L'Officiel Voyage-6 Andrés Rodríguez: No. I trusted my instincts. I always follow my heart. I used to explain it like this; of course, I have my iPad and my iPhone and I’m absolutely connected to the world just like everybody else. But when I’m reading a magazine it’s usually in particular places: on a plane, on my sofa, or in my bed. And in these kinds of places I’m relaxed; with a magazine I’m relaxed. My body is in the relaxed position. When I’m connected with the iPad; I’m electrified by the constant connection with everything. And that’s great; being electrified isn’t worse than being relaxed, but it’s different. It’s like apples and oranges.

Somedays I want to be electrified, but somedays I need to relax and print personifies relaxing. And when you put something in print; it’s like a golden letter. And when you put the same thing on digital, it’s like nothing. I used to use this example: if your wife came to you and asked if you read something on the iPad about the neighbors talking badly about us, and then the same situation, only she asks did you read it in the newspaper; it becomes much more serious when it’s in the print platform. We don’t think about how many copies of the printed version are out there, versus maybe millions of digital readers who just saw those terrible words said about the family, but the printed edition is something that we would shop for. This is what’s marvelous about print.

The other thing is, as humans, we have five senses and print touches each of those. With the iPad, the electrification touches eyes and ears, but not the nose. Smell is important, the smell of food; the smell of a woman or of a man. The hands are also important. The hands experience touch, touch of the skin; touch of many things. And paper has this quality, especially if you invest in it. Before you read any single word, you touch the paper and the impression is made immediately; either you like it or you don’t.

But I need to convince advertisers of this fact, for me it’s obvious, and I know it’s the same for you, but when you talk to the advertisers, sometimes they follow trends rather than sensory feelings.

Samir Husni: If we are to accept the fact that people who work in magazine media are more of the smart and creative types; why did it take us five or six years to discover that print is not dead?

Andrés Rodríguez: Very simple. Audience and circulation are the two things that all of the companies are fighting for. And in my opinion, this is the second step. The first step is product. The companies need to be more invested in product than circulation because they cannot invest in circulation if they don’t have the money. But the bigger companies are more worried about audience because they identify audience as people and money. They think that if they lose one point in audience, they lose a lot.

Esquire II-16 We, all of the people who love magazines the way they were done in the 1960s or 1970s and the life of the magazines then; we realize that type of magazine either has good or bad circulation. When we put all of the covers of Esquire on the wall and look at them; there isn’t a single word spoken about the circulation. There isn’t a single word spoken about how much money one particular cover is going to make. Will it be profitable or a big disaster? Of course, I need to make money in order to continue my magazines, but the first question is product, not circulation.

During the last five years, digital has offered us more audience than we know what to do with; audience and more audience, and those audiences scrambling for more free content. If you have the brand, digital will give you the followers. But many of the followers who clamor after the digital brands aren’t interested in the magazine experience. The experience is what it’s all about with the magazine.

And newspapers have the same problem. They lose the experience when they focus on the exclusivity of the news. The exclusivity of news is not for the newspapers any longer. The newspaper cannot give us news; it must give us the experience.

Samir Husni: That’s one of the things that I tell other journalists and all my clients; the day we end up being just content providers is the day that we’re dead. We have to be experience makers.

Andrés Rodríguez: Content providers are easily available; why not, big companies have the money. They will hire 100 journalists and say give me content; I’ll put it on TV, and it could be journalists on TV, why not? But the experience is the thing.

The magazine business will never die; it will never die because a magazine is the voice of a community. And you need that community to be so big that it gives you advertising to make the magazine. And you need to identify new communities. Magazines will never die.

I think in the present and in the future, we will need to publish the best magazines that we can. I used to say that I liked to publish magazines that made people feel sad when they tossed them in the rubbish. And that’s the magazines that I want to publish, and of course, I need to make money every month too. If not, I will be out of business. (Laughs)

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

IMG_1300 Andrés Rodríguez: It’s not true that we live in a very mature market; and it’s also not true that nothing is possible in our market; anything is possible in our Spanish market. The audience is smarter than we are; the readers are smarter than us; they’re faster than we are and they definitely know more than us. And the clients need us, the clients, our advertisers, need good magazines. But we need to be able to explain to them how we can be useful to them, because when clients launch a new product, they hire the best people in the world to launch their product; they hire the best design teams to showcase their products, and they need good magazines to put these products inside of.

We don’t need to be worried about audience; we need to be worried about talent. And I’m absolutely optimistic, even though I suffer every month and every year with my budgets. I want my company to increase and grow and I am very optimistic.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your house one evening unexpectedly, what would I find you doing? Would you be reading your iPad, or reading a magazine; watching TV?

Andrés Rodríguez: You would find just music playing; you would see a mountain of international magazines sitting around that I don’t have time to read, including magazines that I’m really not interested in, but I check them anyway, and a glass of wine, of course. And I do cut pages out of other magazines. And you would also see pages of the latest issues of my magazines around too, printed and edited with my pen, because I correct all of the pages. Then with my phone I send the corrected pages to my people.

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

Andrés Rodríguez: The budget of the magazines. I’m always thinking about how I’m going to find more money to make these magazines stronger and also to find more free time to come up with new ideas.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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