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Southern California Life Magazine: Celebrating, In Ink On Paper, The Lifestyle, Culture, People, Destinations and Diversities That Characterize The Southern Region Of The Golden State – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Monique Reidy, Founder, Publisher & Editor-In-Chief, Southern California Life Magazine

February 12, 2016

“When I was working on my thesis, I did quite a few interviews with other publishers and editors to find out, basically, what drove their businesses and why they chose print as opposed to digital, and most of them said don’t do print. Print is very expensive; it’s evolving and it’ll probably phase out. I found that that is not the case because there’s a lot of novelty in digital and people like to read their e-books and things, but after a while I think people realize that they want paper in their hands; they like to be able to highlight and make notes in the margins; you can’t really do that on an e-book. I mean you can to a certain degree, but it’s not as easy to refer to your notes when you need them in an instant.” Monique Reidy

“You can lose things when you’ve stored them online. I don’t care what kind of cloud system you’re using; I’ve had instances where very important notes just evaporated. And you just can’t refer to them anymore, so paper is very important.” Monique Reidy

SCL1-44 Creating something from your heart, from the passion that overflows from deep in your soul and spills out onto the printed page that your own vision generates is something that few people realize, that culmination of their dreams. But Monique Reidy is fortunate enough to be one of those “few” people. One of those select visionaries who didn’t let human doubt and financial fear deter her from launching her own magazine, Southern California Life. And she has never been more proud or consumed in her life.

Southern California Life Magazine is more than a regional magazine, as Monique explained to me during a recent conversation I had with her about the magazine. SCL spotlights and highlights the entire southern region of the Golden state, while singling out specific entertainment and travel spots that are “must-see” attractions and activities that are “must-do” adventures. She strives to keep the content authentic and compelling and believes strongly in the principals of good journalism, while offering readers a chance to celebrate the very best of Southern California life.

It’s a beautiful magazine with an addictive personality much like its charming founder, publisher and editor-in-chief. Monique and I enjoyed an inspirational conversation that was open and totally sincere about her love of the printed word and her deep-seated passion for magazines. We also talked about those doubts and fears that she pushed away as she started down this dream woven path of creating a print magazine that some thought showed a misplaced trust in her own vision.

It was a delightful and motivational discussion that I share with you in the hope that you never abandon your dream, no matter how impossible it may seem. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, Founder, Publisher & Editor-In-Chief, Southern California Life Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

Reidy On why she decided to launch Southern California Life: I’ve been a magazine person my entire life. Academically, that was my focus. And I’ve helped people launch magazines before and helped some friends with their startups and I’ve been in publishing for about 30 years now. About three years ago I thought, I’ve helped other people do their magazines basically just because they were friends and I worked like a dog doing so, I might as well do my own. I have a master’s degree in the subject and it’s been my passion for a long time.

On whether any of her colleagues called her crazy for launching a print magazine in this digital age: Yes, that is absolutely true. In fact, when I was working on my thesis, I did quite a few interviews with other publishers and editors to find out, basically, what drove their businesses and why they chose print as opposed to digital, and most of them said don’t do print. Print is very expensive; it’s evolving and it’ll probably phase out. I found that that is not the case because there’s a lot of novelty in digital and people like to read their e-books and things, but after a while I think people realize that they want paper in their hands; they like to be able to highlight and make notes in the margins; you can’t really do that on an e-book. I mean you can to a certain degree, but it’s not as easy to refer to your notes when you need them in an instant.

On whether it’s all been smooth sailing or there have been some choppy seas since she started the magazine: Oh no, there were choppy seas, for sure. Startups are not for the faint of heart. There’s a lot of work that has to be done on the front end and if that’s not in place before you launch your first issue, you might as well forget it. We conducted focus groups to determine how people like to read magazines; what they like to read; what they don’t like to read. We put a very strong advisory board together, people who are Ph.D.’s, professors from universities, people who have marketing companies, people who will tell us the truth; we didn’t want someone to say that our magazine was so pretty. We wanted someone who would say, as was the case, I wouldn’t put a single client in your magazine until you change this or that. So, it helped us to really hone in on being an excellent product as opposed to just a pretty magazine.

On what advice she would give someone who wants to start a magazine: I would say first of all, is it a passion or is it just an idea to generate money? I know that a lot of magazines exist because their main interests are to generate advertising so they can make money, but they have absolutely no journalism experience whatsoever. And that’s reflective in the content. So, my first question to them would be: do you have a passion for magazines; are you educated in, for example, AP style, advertising and just all of the components that make a good print magazine.

SCL2-45 On the many hats she wears at the magazine: publisher, founder, editor-in-chief, and which is her favorite role: The ads are my least favorite part, which is why there is an ad team in place and an ad director. I’m not a salesperson by nature, but I love the creative aspect and that’s the nice thing about being an editor; you get to compose assignments and work with the photographer and the art director. There’s a lot of creativity there.

On anything that she’d like to add: I’ve had so much schooling on magazines and journalism; AP Style and how to write and how to compose and all of that, but no one teaches you how to launch a magazine. Well, you do, because that’s what you do. But typically that’s one area that’s weak in our academic culture and I don’t know why. I know a lot of great journalism professors who are teaching students writing styles, composition and interview styles, but I think a great education in launching a magazine, if someone actually wants to do that, would be valuable.

On if she had the chance to rewind the clock she would do anything differently: Yes, I might have gotten some investors. This whole thing is self-funded and I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful husband who has been incredibly supportive. But here’s one reason that I didn’t pursue investors, and that is the one thing that I go back and forth with, but I always come back to this. When you have investors they’re going to tell you how to run your magazine.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: Surprisingly, it’s not my work, it’s my family. I have three great daughters and a couple of incredibly wonderful grandkids. And my husband is incredibly supportive and I have great friends. You just can’t wake up in a bad mood. There is so much happening in the world that can be quite depressing and you just have to make a list of what you have to live for. I have this gratitude journal, I know it sounds dorky, but every morning I write down what I’m grateful for and every night I put down what amazing things happened that day and how could I have made that day better.

On what keeps her up at night: My work. (Laughs) My husband is a physician and he has to be at the hospital by 6:30 a.m., so he goes to bed early, but I never get to the bottom of my list. I could stay up 24/7 and still not be caught up. And again, when it’s a brand new startup you don’t have a big staff, so you wear many hats and there’s a lot that must be done. It’s a very deadline-driven business, as you know.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, Founder, Publisher & Editor-In-Chief, Southern California Life Magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to launch Southern California Life magazine and what led you to that decision?

SCL3-46 Monique Reidy: I’ve always been a paper magazine person; print magazines. Even from the time I was a young child I collected magazines, all the teenaged magazines, and as an adult I subscribed to 31 magazines up until recently and it’s just something that I’ve always had a passion for. I love magazines more so than books.

I studied communication/journalism in college, both on the undergrad and graduate programs. And even as a returning student in the master’s program, I went to the director of the program and said that I was an older student and knew exactly what I wanted to do. I asked was it possible to devise a program where I could learn more about magazines, do research in magazines and avoid some of the basic classes and fortunately Pepperdine University allowed me to create a program where I could focus on magazines specifically.

I’ve been a magazine person my entire life. Academically, that was my focus. And I’ve helped people launch magazines before and helped some friends with their startups and I’ve been in publishing for about 30 years now. About three years ago I thought, I’ve helped other people do their magazines basically just because they were friends and I worked like a dog doing so, I might as well do my own. I have a master’s degree in the subject and it’s been my passion for a long time.

So, I went ahead and launched the business. It was quite scary, but I did have some friends who were very supportive and some people that I hired who were bright and had experience in publishing and that’s key. But I tell you, if you don’t have the passion for it, you might as well forget it, because there are going to be challenges and moments of sheer terror and if you don’t have that passion that drives you forward, you’re going to give up.

Two things sort of propelled me into this business; first was my passion for Southern California and the second was my passion for magazines. And there are a ton of regionals in our area; the market is basically saturated with regional magazines. We have Malibu Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine; there’s Westlake Magazine, but there wasn’t a magazine that basically covered the entire territory of Southern California. And we felt that visitors to this area liked to visit the entire territory of Southern California, not just Malibu or Beverly Hills; not just Los Angeles, they come and they want to go to San Diego, Rodeo Drive; they like to drive up the coast, so we wanted to offer something for those people who wanted to learn more about the community and wanted to take it in as an entire region, as opposed to these segregated little areas. So, that was the thinking behind the concept.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose print? I’m sure a lot of your colleagues asked you were you out of your mind to start a print magazine in this digital age that we live in.

Monique Reidy: Yes, that is absolutely true. In fact, when I was working on my thesis, I did quite a few interviews with other publishers and editors to find out, basically, what drove their businesses and why they chose print as opposed to digital, and most of them said don’t do print. Print is very expensive; it’s evolving and it’ll probably phase out. I found that that is not the case because there’s a lot of novelty in digital and people like to read their e-books and things, but after a while I think people realize that they want paper in their hands; they like to be able to highlight and make notes in the margins; you can’t really do that on an e-book. I mean you can to a certain degree, but it’s not as easy to refer to your notes when you need them in an instant.

Also, you can lose things when you’ve stored them online. I don’t care what kind of cloud system you’re using; I’ve had instances where very important notes just evaporated. And you just can’t refer to them anymore, so paper is very important. And even in terms of digital calendars, things drop off of the calendars on occasion. It’s not typical, but it does happen. And we’ve found that even with that, people are returning to their paper calendars and schedules and planners. All of that is what made us decide that print is probably more reliable.

SCL4-47 One of the editors that I had interviewed with Robb Report had said that he did his research when he was launching a different magazine and realized that it cost $47 million to actually launch a magazine product, which made him decide to go digital and that particular business phased out. Well, that made us think quite long and hard about our decision to launch a print product. But it wasn’t $47 million when all was said and done; we just picked a regional magazine as opposed to a national magazine. So, you basically count the cost on the frontend and do your research correctly. We had focus groups who said that they preferred paper magazines to digital magazines and print was more engaging. God help a person who goes to a hair salon and can’t find a magazine to read or someone who is waiting in a doctor’s office who can’t find a magazine.

So, I think that people love magazines and that was what made us decide to move forward with a print product as opposed to just digital. Now we have a website, but it’s entirely different content than our magazine. Nowadays you have to have a digital product because people ask: what is your website and it’s a whole do-or-die business when it comes to digital platforms. I think if you love a paper magazine and you want print, that’s what you should go for.

Samir Husni: Have you had to cross some choppy seas since you started, or has it all been smooth sailing?

Monique Reidy: Oh no, there were choppy seas, for sure. Startups are not for the faint of heart. There’s a lot of work that has to be done on the frontend and if that’s not in place before you launch your first issue, you might as well forget it. We conducted focus groups to determine how people like to read magazines; what they like to read; what they don’t like to read. We put a very strong advisory board together, people who are Ph.D.’s, professors from universities, people who have marketing companies, people who will tell us the truth; we didn’t want someone to say that our magazine was so pretty. We wanted someone who would say, as was the case, I wouldn’t put a single client in your magazine until you change this or that. So, it helped us to really hone in on being an excellent product as opposed to just a pretty magazine.

And we wanted to deliver content that was appropriate and that’s hard to do. It’s a lot of mornings where you wake up and go, oh my goodness; I’m not going to make it through this day because there’s just so much to do.

And the funding is terrifying. It is quite expensive to manage a magazine; it’s expensive to print; it’s expensive to mail; it’s expensive to market. And as a startup, you’re not going to get advertisers right away because nobody is going to sink money into a magazine they’ve never heard of. So, there is quite a bit of challenges, but if you count the costs on the frontend, you’re ready for the challenge.

Samir Husni: I am a student and I’m putting myself in your shoes when you were a student and I come to you and say: Monique, I have an idea for a magazine. What do you tell them? Run away; forget about it? What advice would you give that person?

Monique Reidy: I would say first of all, is it a passion or is it just an idea to generate money? I know that a lot of magazines exist because their main interests are to generate advertising so they can make money, but they have absolutely no journalism experience whatsoever. And that’s reflective in the content. So, my first question to them would be: do you have a passion for magazines; are you educated in, for example, AP style, advertising and just all of the components that make a good print magazine. Is this something that you’re going to be committed to, because it’s a lot of work and a lot of time and effort?

And most importantly, do your research. I would never deter someone from launching a magazine as long as they do it correctly. I think that there’s an awful lot of research that has to be done to determine what the competition is; what the climate is, just many factors. I think one of the more important things is to look at the competition. Who are you going to be racing against? And what’s going to make your product better than theirs and why would someone want to devote their time and money and services to your print magazine as opposed to someone else’s?
If you believe that your answers will rate higher on all of those questions, then I think you should definitely move forward.

One of the really significant things that happened in one of our focus groups was one woman said, you know, I’m tired of buying men’s magazines to learn what the men know. I’d like for a woman’s magazine to be able to teach me something besides getting a flat stomach and shiny hair, which if you read the cover lines on many of the women’s magazines it’s all about improving your physique and things like that. She said I want to learn how to travel smart; I want to learn to invest; do all of the things that a guy is taught in his magazine.

So, I think that maybe conducting focus groups or doing some sort of research in determining what your readership is looking for; what their needs are is very important. And where they’ll spend money to get what you’re offering.

Samir Husni: You wear many hats with the magazine. You’re the publisher, founder and editor-in-chief. Which one of those personalities do you enjoy the most? Selling the ads, writing your editorial, coming up with the ideas; what’s your favorite part?

SCL5-48 Monique Reidy: The ads are my least favorite part, which is why there is an ad team in place and an ad director. I’m not a salesperson by nature, but I love the creative aspect and that’s the nice thing about being an editor; you get to compose assignments and work with the photographer and the art director. There’s a lot of creativity there.

But magazines are a mental business and also an emotional business. There are a lot of aspects to putting together a magazine as opposed to, for example, having an accounting firm that’s entirely intellectual. I prefer the creative part, the more linear sort of work, rather than the sales and the money and all of that. That’s not my strongpoint. You hire the best people in those categories and you trust them to make that part happen for you. So, my favorite part is the editorial and the creative angles.

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

Monique Reidy: I’ve had so much schooling on magazines and journalism; AP Style and how to write and how to compose and all of that, but no one teaches you how to launch a magazine. Well, you do, because that’s what you do. But typically that’s one area that’s weak in our academic culture and I don’t know why. I know a lot of great journalism professors who are teaching students writing styles, composition and interview styles, but I think a great education in launching a magazine, if someone actually wants to do that, would be valuable. And I’m not really sure that is widely available. And perhaps that’s why so many fail, is that they don’t really do their homework on the frontend.

Samir Husni: Were you stunned and surprised when you launched Southern California Life and it did not cost you $47 million?

Monique Reidy: No, but we’re getting there. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Monique Reidy: You know I was surprised completely, because you get into a business because of the passion, but then when you make your passion a business, the business becomes the most challenging part because most creatives want to do their magazine for the love of it, and then they discover about 10 minutes into it; I’ve got the IRS thing, and don’t forget your taxes and so there’s a lot of that part, which is necessary, that you don’t really think about.

Had I considered all of the things that I think are huge challenges and obstacles, I don’t know that I would have moved forward, but I did move forward because of my love for the entire system. I love the production and I love the result. And that’s what really opened it up for me. There are quite a number of days where you just realize that there were many angles about it all that you never considered.

But again, as I said in the beginning, if you have the passion for it, that’s what propels you forward, because there are certainly an awful lot of details that might cause you to rethink it. Just being undeterred, committed and devoted, and having a team alongside that have the same vision is important.

Samir Husni: If you had the chance to rewind the clock, would you do anything differently?

Monique Reidy: Yes, I might have gotten some investors. This whole thing is self-funded and I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful husband who has been incredibly supportive.

But here’s one reason that I didn’t pursue investors, and that is the one thing that I go back and forth with, but I always come back to this. When you have investors they’re going to tell you how to run your magazine. They’re going to say, oh, you know, we’d like more stories about our friend being a finance guy or whatever topic they want. And we’ve had a very clear vision from the beginning. If you’re going to have people telling you to sway your content this way or that, you can basically veer off of your vision quickly. We’re pure journalists; we love the craft and we want to do it right.

We even struggle with native advertising and we feel like if we’re ever hiding some sort of paid editorial, it’s not right and it’s deceiving. But if we ever do such a thing, and we have found that most of our advertisers do prefer editorial, we will list it as sponsored content.

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

SCL6-50 Monique Reidy: Surprisingly, it’s not my work, it’s my family. I have three great daughters and a couple of incredibly wonderful grandkids. And my husband is incredibly supportive and I have great friends. You just can’t wake up in a bad mood. There is so much happening in the world that can be quite depressing and you just have to make a list of what you have to live for. I have this gratitude journal, I know it sounds dorky, but every morning I write down what I’m grateful for and every night I put down what amazing things happened that day and how could I have made that day better.

So, it’s a lot of self-reflection, but it’s what drives me out of bed. As I said before, there have been days where I’ve put my feet down on the floor and thought, oh my goodness, this day is going to be a challenge, but you can’t look at the negatives because those will always keep you in bed. You have to pop out of bed remembering how blessed you are.

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

Monique Reidy: My work. (Laughs) My husband is a physician and he has to be at the hospital by 6:30 a.m., so he goes to bed early, but I never get to the bottom of my list. I could stay up 24/7 and still not be caught up. And again, when it’s a brand new startup you don’t have a big staff, so you wear many hats and there’s a lot that must be done. It’s a very deadline-driven business, as you know. So, that keeps me up at night. I stay up until I feel like I can’t work any longer.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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