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The New Barker Magazine: At Last Florida Dogs Have Their Own New Yorker – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder, Editor & Creative Director, Anna Cooke, The New Barker Magazine.

March 2, 2016

The New Barker 2-2 “I’m heartened every time we attend an event that’s a dog-related event. People of all ages come up to me and tell me that when they get their (print) copy of the magazine they read it cover to cover. I know there’s a need for digital and we’re working on improving that experience every single day. I have to go back to time, the time and effort it takes to continually evolve digitally so that we stay connected to the readers. I understand that because we’re a quarterly publication a lot of things happen between quarters and if you don’t stay in front of your audience they’re going to forget you and go somewhere else to get the information.” Anna Cooke

With every stylish cover, The New Barker proves that it’s not just another dog magazine. From founder, editor and creative director Anna Cooke’s own love for The New Yorker magazine, she pays homage to her paragon with beautiful and uncanny covers that imitate the veteran publication’s own creativity. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Anna is genuinely sincere when it comes to her love for The New Yorker and magazines in general.

In fact, her love for magazines and design is what led her down the path of creating one of her own for Florida dog-lovers. Her mission to stay true to good content and artful design has never wavered as the magazine celebrates 10 years in publishing.

I spoke with Anna recently about her love for magazines and her specific fondness for The New Yorker and we also chatted about her goals for The New Barker and the way that she and her husband have committed themselves to the mission of bringing Florida dog-lovers the best regional content that’s both compelling and entertaining. The covers of each issue bring a style and charm to the magazine that sets the tone for the entire experience very definitively. It’s a unique concept and a refreshing read, much like the lady producing the magazine, proving that entrepreneurship can certainly pay off with hard work and dedication.

The New Barker 7-7 We talked about Anna’s love for animals and the fact that she donates the artful covers to local shelters to be auctioned at their fundraisers at least twice a year. We also hit upon her desire to expand The New Barker to more states. It was a delightful and inspiring conversation that I know you’ll love reading. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Anna Cooke, Founder, Editor and Creative Director, The New Barker magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the background of The New Barker: My husband and I have an advertising and design studio and we’ve been running it around 30 years or so. About 11 years ago we had a client who had a dog boutique and we developed an ad campaign and put a media plan together for her. The client ran it for a while and then said that she couldn’t afford it. One of the things that we selected for the media plan was lifestyle magazines, they had a great reach and demographic, but they reached across the demographics. It wasn’t a magazine specifically targeted to dogs, so we were getting demographics, but not as targeted as we wanted. So, we realized that maybe there was a need for a lifestyle magazine that was much more targeted to the lifestyle of dog owners.

anna cooke On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face: With a stumbling block, I keep going back to time; the lack of enough time to get everything done that we want to get done. We don’t have a lack of content or stories. We certainly don’t have a lack in advertisers and advertising potential, we always just run out of time in producing the next issue to go after those advertisers and to go after those stories. So, it’s time management.

On the thinking behind the creative design of the magazine and its resemblance to The New Yorker with its covers: Well, I’m a fan of The New Yorker and I’m a huge fan of magazines. I love to look at the design, the page layout, and the typesetting and rich content like is in The New Yorker. You pick up a magazine like The New Yorker and you’re not going to just thumb through it; you’re going to become involved with it and spend time with it. We did trademark the name, The New Barker; we do have a national trademark and we actually paid homage to The New Yorker and we included that in the paperwork for our trademark.

On whether she ever heard from The New Yorker: No, but about seven years ago I received a phone call from a woman in New York and she wanted to purchase a subscription, but she thought that it was The New Yorker’s version of a dog magazine in New York. (Laughs) And then when I pointed out to her that it was a Florida lifestyle magazine, which is OK because our stories will resonate with everyone, but at the time I wanted her to understand that it was based in Florida, and she looked at the masthead then and realized that it wasn’t The New Yorker.

On whether she believes there’s a need for print in this digital age: Yes, I’m heartened every time we attend an event that’s a dog-related event. People of all ages come up to me and tell me that when they get their copy of the magazine they read it cover to cover. I know there’s a need for digital and we’re working on improving that experience every single day.

On whether she has any time left over for her ad agency or she’s now a full-time magazine maker: I would say that 95% of my time is devoted to the magazine and then through time management we are able to work with clients that have stayed with us over the years. I’m not actively seeking new business for the ad agency side because what’s running the business is the advertising side of the magazine. Again, it’s a balance and a desire to want to stay connected to our clients with the ad agency business.

The New Barker 6-6 On whether she works with the artists who illustrate the covers or leaves the decisions to them when it comes to style and type of dog featured: We work with the artists; in the last few issues we have donated the cover as a live auction item to animal shelters in Florida for their fundraising events. What that does is give somebody an opportunity to bid on the cover. We select the artist and what I do is provide half a dozen, five or six different artists and styles, and they pick the style, then we do a photo shoot, and then the artist, in their own particular style, will paint the portrait for the person who had the highest bid for that particular cover.

On whether she has any plans to expand the magazine nationally: I would like to expand it. We have expansion plans, but not necessarily to make it a national publication, instead, taking it into another state and doing another publication for The New Barker, for example, Pennsylvania’s top dog. That kind of thing, because I believe the success of the magazine is its regionalism.

On what differentiates the magazine from other dog-specific publications: First of all, I think the cover is very unique. It stands out from other magazines. I think the cover immediately sets the tone, in terms of the tongue-in-cheek humor. You look at that and you smile. You have to pick it up and flip through it.

On anything she’d like to add about The New Barker: I think when people put magazines out they’re so beautiful and people don’t realize the extent of the work that goes on behind the scenes. It is the most fulfilling and all-consuming work that we have ever done. We’ve been in the ad business, as I said, for 30-something years and we’re accustomed to deadlines and the gut-wrenching, from start to finish, to get it done. It’s a difficult process. It’s like a Jackson Browne song where he travels the country with his band. And his roadies put the stage together; they’re the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave. Then they have to do it all over again the next night and you just have to be constantly up and on-the-go. That’s the essence of what we do: constantly up and on-the-go.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: I have to say the dogs do. (Laughs) The needs of our dogs are a priority. They get up and they have to go out; they have to drink water; they have to eat, and then I have my coffee and it’s off to work. I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy the prospect of what the new day has to offer.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up one evening unexpectedly at her home: Cooking. It’s funny, in the throes of production, when we’re nearing the deadline and we’ve got to go to press, I suddenly find myself cooking. I’ll go to the grocery store, buy the ingredients for a recipe I haven’t tried. And it’s not something that I consciously do. I just realized when I looked back on those last couple of years that I was doing this; looking for another creative outlet that was completely different from print production.

On what keeps her up at night: The deadlines. We’ve been doing this for 10 years and I still worry about the deadlines. Are we going to make it? We’re so committed to our advertisers; you want to get the publication out there because the advertisers are counting on it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Anna Cooke, Editor and Creative Director, The New Barker.

Samir Husni: Give me some background about The New Barker. It feels and looks like The New Yorker, but it’s all about dogs.

The New Barker 5-5 Anna Cooke: Correct. (Laughs) My husband and I have an advertising and design studio and we’ve been running it around 30 years or so. About 11 years ago we had a client who had a dog boutique and we developed an ad campaign and put a media plan together for her. The client ran it for a while and then said that she couldn’t afford it. One of the things that we selected for the media plan was lifestyle magazines, they had a great reach and demographic, but they reached across the demographics. It wasn’t a magazine specifically targeted to dogs, so we were getting demographics, but not as targeted as we wanted.

So, we realized that maybe there was a need for a lifestyle magazine that was much more targeted to the lifestyle of dog owners. And we did some research; we actually did some focus groups, invited professionals in the industry; we invited consumers, potential subscribers to the magazine and all things pointed to a need for that type of magazine. We felt we would get advertising support and we would have readership, so we started developing the first issue.

I went out and sold advertising myself with just a kind of a mom-and-pop media kit and I would receive checks and I wouldn’t deposit them. I would just post them on my bulletin board next to my desk. (Laughs) I thought that if the magazine didn’t come together, I could just tear up the checks or hand them back to people. I guess to be truthful I didn’t have a strong belief in myself and in what we were doing.

Then about two weeks before going to press, my husband and partner said, “I think it’s time to deposit those checks. We have enough money to pay for the printing and the mail, with a few bucks left over.”

The first issue came out in 2006 and the response was overwhelming. My husband came into my office and said this thing is bigger than we thought it would be. Then we headed into the production of the second issue and we just haven’t had time to look back since.

Samir Husni: As you approach your 10th anniversary, what has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

The New Barker 4-4 Anna Cooke: With a stumbling block, I keep going back to time; the lack of enough time to get everything done that we want to get done. We don’t have a lack of content or stories. We certainly don’t have a lack in advertisers and advertising potential, we always just run out of time in producing the next issue to go after those advertisers and to go after those stories. So, it’s time management.

I’ve gotten to a point where we’re now able to, and actually this happened several years ago, we’re able to forecast stories for two, three or four issues down the road. As I said, we’ve never had a problem with content, but now it’s prioritizing them. OK, we’re working on this story; this story is immediate, we’ll put it in the upcoming issue; these stories we’ll use for the summer issue or that will be a great story for the winter issue.

Samir Husni: I have to ask this question. When I saw the magazine I had to take a double-look. Is this The New Yorker or is this The New Barker? As the creative person, what was the thinking behind creating “the art of dog” and looks like “the art of The New Yorker?”

Anna Cooke: (Laughs) Well, I’m a fan of The New Yorker and I’m a huge fan of magazines. I love to look at the design, the page layout, and the typesetting and rich content like is in The New Yorker. You pick up a magazine like The New Yorker and you’re not going to just thumb through it; you’re going to become involved with it and spend time with it.

And the idea of The New Barker, the name; it just came to me like one of those epiphanies. One evening a light bulb went off and with that came the idea that every cover would be a piece of art, an original work of art in support of local artists based on the Florida market. So, we’re supporting the art world as well as focusing on the art of dog and the stories of dogs.

We did trademark the name, The New Barker; we do have a national trademark and we actually paid homage to The New Yorker and we included that in the paperwork for our trademark.

Samir Husni: And did you ever hear from The New Yorker?

The New Barker 1-1 Anna Cooke: No, but about seven years ago I received a phone call from a woman in New York and she wanted to purchase a subscription, but she thought that it was The New Yorker’s version of a dog magazine in New York. (Laughs) And then when I pointed out to her that it was a Florida lifestyle magazine, which is OK because our stories will resonate with everyone, but at the time I wanted her to understand that it was based in Florida, and she looked at the masthead then and realized that it wasn’t The New Yorker.

I’ve had people who recognize, especially people who love The New Yorker, who recognize the humor.

Samir Husni: As you developed this magazine over the last 10 years, how do you think the marketplace has changed? You started publishing just slightly before the dawn of digital devices and Smartphones and iPads. How did the digital world impact your print magazine, and do you think you still need a print magazine to show the art of dog?

Anna Cooke: Yes, I’m heartened every time we attend an event that’s a dog-related event. People of all ages come up to me and tell me that when they get their (print) copy of the magazine they read it cover to cover. I know there’s a need for digital and we’re working on improving that experience every single day. I have to go back to time, the time and effort it takes to continually evolve digitally so that we stay connected to the readers. I understand that because we’re a quarterly publication a lot of things happen between quarters and if you don’t stay in front of your audience they’re going to forget you and go somewhere else to get the information.

When we first came up it was easier to stay connected to them. It was new, so people were looking forward to it. But 10 years later there’s so much information everywhere, all over these electronic devices; all over these applications and many of them are dog specific so people have so many more ways to stay connected. I believe in the power of print that connects passively with people, but I also understand the power of digital.

Samir Husni: I see from the magazine that you’re not only the editor, creative director and a photographer, but you also actually write quite a bit of the content. Do you have any time left to give to your other creative business, the ad agency, or are you now a full-time magazine maker?

Anna Cooke: I would say that 95% of my time is devoted to the magazine and then through time management we are able to work with clients that have stayed with us over the years. I’m not actively seeking new business for the ad agency side because what’s running the business is the advertising side of the magazine. Again, it’s a balance and a desire to want to stay connected to our clients with the ad agency business. So, we try and plan the production schedules and we treat The New Barker as a client, a client that takes up 95% of our time. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: I am fascinated with the covers, with that old stylish feel; each cover you can tear off and frame. And I noticed that all of the covers are based on real dogs; inside the magazine you put a picture of the real dog. Do you work with the artists on the ideas of what type of dog is going to be on this cover or that cover, or it is completely the artist’s own freedom and decision?

The New Barker 3-3 Anna Cooke: We work with the artists; in the last few issues we have donated the cover as a live auction item to animal shelters in Florida for their fundraising events. What that does is give somebody an opportunity to bid on the cover. We select the artist and what I do is provide half a dozen, five or six different artists and styles, and they pick the style, then we do a photo shoot, and then the artist, in their own particular style, will paint the portrait for the person who had the highest bid for that particular cover.

We’re actually working on a cover right now, someone bid $12,000, and the money was donated to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

Samir Husni: So the artist will take those people’s dog and paint it for the cover?

Anna Cooke: Correct. And that happens probably once or twice a year, then the other times we’ll work with an artist and utilize something within that artist’s portfolio, something that just resonates with me personally. What I’m looking for is something that hasn’t been published. We have a treasure trove of artists’ portfolios. I get emails probably once or twice a week from Florida artists wanting to know how they can have their artwork on the cover of the magazine.

Samir Husni: Are Florida dogs so special that they deserve their own magazine or do you have plans to expand the magazine nationally?

Anna Cooke: I would like to expand it. We have expansion plans, but not necessarily to make it a national publication, instead, taking it into another state and doing another publication for The New Barker, for example, Pennsylvania’s top dog. That kind of thing, because I believe the success of the magazine is its regionalism. People enjoy flipping through it and seeing places that they have visited or are going to visit, or restaurants that they’re aware of, or their own dog in the magazine.

Samir Husni: If you were to meet someone on the street and they asked you what you did professionally and you said I’m the editor and creative director of The New Barker, how would you define the magazine to them? What differentiates it from the rest of the dog magazines, both locally and nationally?

Anna Cooke: First of all, I think the cover is very unique. It stands out from other magazines. I think the cover immediately sets the tone, in terms of the tongue-in-cheek humor. You look at that and you smile. You have to pick it up and flip through it.

In terms of the content, I feel we spend a lot of time researching the stories and developing the stories. Not as long as The New Yorker articles are, but I try, and I hope that we’re accomplishing this; to have a beginning, middle and an end to the story, where the reader is satisfied. They’ve been satiated after they’ve read the article. Our society today is such a grab-and-go; we get a news article or a piece and we read the headline and we read the subhead. We scan it for whatever reason; we don’t have time to really read it. But a magazine like The New Barker resonates to the reader to slow down and curl up with a good magazine.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else you’d like to add about The New Barker?

Anna Cooke: I think when people put magazines out they’re so beautiful and people don’t realize the extent of the work that goes on behind the scenes. It is the most fulfilling and all-consuming work that we have ever done. We’ve been in the ad business, as I said, for 30-something years and we’re accustomed to deadlines and the gut-wrenching, from start to finish, to get it done. It’s a difficult process.

It’s like a Jackson Browne song where he travels the country with his band. And his roadies put the stage together; they’re the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave. Then they have to do it all over again the next night and you just have to be constantly up and on-the-go. That’s the essence of what we do: constantly up and on-the-go. We’re a lifestyle magazine about dogs, so we have to be happy and positive to make sure that the message we’re conveying is a happy and positive one.

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

Anna Cooke: I have to say the dogs do. (Laughs) The needs of our dogs are a priority. They get up and they have to go out; they have to drink water; they have to eat, and then I have my coffee and it’s off to work. I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy the prospect of what the new day has to offer. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done the night before, in terms of OK, here’s what I’m going to do tomorrow. You get up and you get in front of the computer and you look at your calendar and everything just changes. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine, reading on your iPad, watching television, or what?

Anna Cooke: Cooking. It’s funny, in the throes of production, when we’re nearing the deadline and we’ve got to go to press, I suddenly find myself cooking. I’ll go to the grocery store, buy the ingredients for a recipe I haven’t tried. And it’s not something that I consciously do. I just realized when I looked back on those last couple of years that I was doing this; looking for another creative outlet that was completely different from print production. So, I’ll cook and serve up a nice meal for us, a glass of wine. While I’m waiting on dinner to get ready, I love the Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair and of course, The New Yorker. I have subscriptions to all of those. I love their content and the way they present it.

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

Anna Cooke: The deadlines. We’ve been doing this for 10 years and I still worry about the deadlines. Are we going to make it? We’re so committed to our advertisers; you want to get the publication out there because the advertisers are counting on it. So, that keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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