h1

James and Lisa Cohen: Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths And Passions Are. The Launch Story Of Galerie Magazine And The Role And Future Of Print & The Newsstands In A Digital Age – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The Owners Of Hudson News Distribution Company and Founders Of The New Galerie Magazine.

March 22, 2016

The cover of the first issue of Galerie magazine premiering this April.

The cover of the first issue of Galerie magazine premiering this April.

“Magazines should play the role of something that is, even though it might be readily available in alternative formats, visually stimulating, so that it is more pleasing. It has to have a particular niche, whether it’s a food magazine or an art magazine or a design magazine, and it has to talk to people in a way that you just can’t really get digitally. It has to fulfill a need. Let’s face it; the medium we’re talking about is a totally visual medium. And that’s what print does best.” James Cohen

“With magazines it’s about the experience and even the younger people want that. It’s just a different kind of experience.” Lisa Cohen

“The few publishers who have had the courage to print new magazines, and of course Hearst is the shining example, because they’ve come up with three winners in the last four or five years, that shows if you have the courage of your convictions and if you have a niche and you can find the right audience and publish something that people want to read, then there should be a future here.” (On the future of the newsstands) James Cohen

James and Lisa Cohen Photo by  Matt Albiani

James and Lisa Cohen
Photo by Matt Albiani

The passion of art and the intricacies of design come together to create a beautiful new upscale magazine called Galerie that is set to launch in April. The magazine was founded by Lisa and James Cohen, the owners of Hudson News, one of North America’s largest and oldest independent wholesalers of periodicals. The Cohens have been in the magazine industry their whole lives, and Lisa, founder and editorial director, had always wanted to publish a magazine that would make art approachable and showcase it in a lifestyle context. They are also passionate collectors, and feel with Galerie they are tapping into an audience they personally know and that has an insatiable interest for both art and design.

However, Galerie is not a typical design publication. Here the art might drive the decor as opposed to most shelter magazines where the design comes first – the philosophy is that art and design are equal. Their mission is for the magazine to become the platform for emerging and established artists and designers to showcase their work and ideas.

I spoke with James and Lisa recently and we talked about the magazine and their goals for its future. They are no strangers to magazines or the magazine business. They have been in the newsstand business for most of their lives and feel that niche print is key to today’s good health when it comes to the newsstand. Along with Editor-in-Chief, Suzy Slesin, design publishing veteran (NYT, H&G and O at Home), the Cohens hope to break new ground with a fresh approach and present information in accessible, innovative and creative ways.

Lisa Cohen The passion that Lisa Cohen feels for art, design and the magazine is fairly palpable as she talks about the strengths and uniqueness that is Galerie. And James is a staunch supporter and believes that Galerie will offer its readers a different look into the worlds of both art and design.

So, I hope that you enjoy this most “artful” conversation as Mr. Magazine™ talks with two people who have a great love and passion for art, design, newsstand and magazines, James and Lisa Cohen, Founders, Galerie Magazine.

But first, the soundbites:

On whether anyone has asked them if they’ve lost their minds because they’re starting a print magazine in this digital age (Lisa Cohen): (Laughs) No, it’s actually been just the opposite. It’s really refreshing in this industry; everyone seems to be having a great response. It shows a different niche and we feel it’s more of an enthusiast magazine and the type of publication that people will subscribe to. And it will grow into a website; we are working on that.

On whether they believe there’s still hope for the newsstands (James Cohen): As I said, print is morphing. I’m a proponent of the newsstand business and it’s changed radically, but there is still going to be a niche there and as long as people want to feel something that’s tactile; that’s graphically interesting, print is going to be around.

On the magazine being something more than ink on paper, but an actual experience for the reader (Lisa Cohen): There is such a huge interest all over the globe in the art world. And people really want to be a part of that and know more about it. As I have said before, there are magazines that are just about art; there are interior design home magazines that are just about that, and there are fashion magazines that are just about fashion and travel that covers travel, but this magazine brings it all together and shows how art influences all those different genres of design. So, I feel it’s a very full experience.

On the concept and what makes Galerie unique (James Cohen): What has to happen in a rapidly changing world is that magazines need to stay relevant in order to stay popular. And obviously, we’ve seen what happened with categories that either weren’t timely or weren’t relevant; the newsweeklies for instance. They were usurped, but this magazine doesn’t have an issue with a timeliness subject, but it does have a relevance to creating a demand for something.

On the low cover price of $7.95 (James Cohen): Well that was a consensus decision that we all thought was appropriate for the simple reason that to be successful on the newsstand on a very small niche level or on a mass level, what I learned 35 years ago was that price should not be an impediment to buying it. And we wanted to have, even within this niche, as wide an audience as possible, so of there was an interest and they picked up a copy, the last thing that we wanted was for the price to be an issue.

On what they thought about the finished product of the magazine (James Cohen): I saw the pages before they were bound and they looked very nice, but you know, it was nothing like when I actually saw the magazine. I was so thrilled to have the paper quality and the print quality come out the way it did, because we’re competing for people’s attention with a whole bunch of other titles sitting on a newsstand or on a rack in a book chain and the magazine really jumps out and that’s what you need.

On Lisa’s involvement with organizations and schools, such as the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and how she incorporates that passion into the magazine (Lisa Cohen): I became involved through some friends I have in the interior design world. And basically I was just born into it through putting together a big fundraiser for them in the Hamptons last summer. Before that they had asked me to come up and see the school, so I went up to visit and I was just so impressed by what this school was doing for these young, creative minds; kids that would have been otherwise on the streets and without opportunities in life and some of them maybe committing suicide and just facing total destruction. I thought by tying it into the magazine it would be an even more passionate project for me and even more gratifying.

From the pages of the magazine On how the Cohens’ wraparound staircase wound up on the cover of the first issue of the magazine (Lisa Cohen): Well, it wasn’t my idea, let’s put it that way. I didn’t want to have anything of my property in the first issue. But when Suzanne saw what I did there, it was her first introduction in learning about who I am, how I think and what I’m about. And she felt that the message was so strong about me that she felt the opposite and that it should be in the magazine’s first issue to introduce me and to show part of my world. It was just very lucky that I met Suzanne because she’s been a fantastic editor to work with.

On the major challenge they will have to face (James Cohen): Getting out the message about this and expanding its reach throughout the industry and throughout the enthusiast world and the digital world, is going to be our challenge, to expand its reach and to make it even more attractive for advertisers to keep coming in.

On the role of magazines in today’s digital age (James Cohen): They should play the role of something that is, even though it might be readily available in alternative formats, visually stimulating, so that it is more pleasing. It has to have a particular niche, whether it’s a food magazine or an art magazine or a design magazine, and it has to talk to people in a way that you just can’t really get digitally.

On people’s return to print (James Cohen): You know the most significant drop in newsstand is coming from the mass celebrity books where they have the most readily available alternatives. And as that settles in those drops will mitigate. The last four months or so of the business, sales have dropped less and we’re not sure if this the start of a trend or not, but at a certain point we feel that the migration is going to cease because everyone, and you’re not talking about the print magazine versus the digital version of it, you’re talking about competing for people’s time.

On the newsstands’ future (Janes Cohen): The future of our newsstands is as I said; at some point in the future sales will stabilize at a certain level. And I think it was a combination of a lot of things that happened, whether it was the digital influx or the recession; the consolidation of wholesalers was another factor. All of these things contributed to the drop in sales. But the few publishers who have had the courage to print new magazines, and of course Hearst is the shining example, because they’ve come up with three winners in the last four or five years, that shows if you have the courage of your convictions and if you have a niche and you can find the right audience and publish something that people want to read, then there should be a future here.

On anything else they’d like to add (Lisa Cohen): I’m hoping that it will have a major digital component with e-commerce and be able to offer opportunities to emerging artists to sell their work, where they ordinarily wouldn’t have the opportunity to. And I’m very excited about that.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unannounced one evening at their home (Lisa Cohen): Definitely you would see a lot of magazines. (Laughs) In every room there are stacks. I love reading magazines. I still find it a very enjoyable experience.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unannounced one evening at their home (James Cohen): You would either find me on the phone with my business, or reading magazines, or yes, even watching The Donald. (Laughs)

On what keeps them up at night (James Cohen): We have four children, three of whom are young adults. And obviously, we think a lot about how they’re going to make their way in the world and be happy. So, those are our concerns.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with James and Lisa Cohen, Founders, Galerie Magazine.

Samir Husni: According to the prophets of doom and gloom; the newsstands are going down the drain and print is going down the drain with them. And having worked for most of your life with the newsstands since you’re in wholesaling, I’m sure you’ve heard all of this. And Lisa, I have to say that you’ve created one of the most beautiful magazines that I’ve seen in a long time, but with all of the negativity flowing from the naysayers’ mouths; has anyone asked you both yet if you’ve lost it, starting a print magazine in this digital age?

Lisa Cohen: (Laughs) No, it’s actually been just the opposite. It’s really refreshing in this industry; everyone seems to be having a great response. It shows a different niche and we feel it’s more of an enthusiast magazine and the type of publication that people will subscribe to. And it will grow into a website; we are working on that.

James Cohen: If I could take a stab at your question from the business side; it’s not that print is dying; print is changing. I think it’s radically changing and I believe the mass channels that have dominated the print category for as long as we can remember have declined the most. The niche categories, to the extent that they still represent something unique that people want, have fared better.

Even the bigger launches of the last few years, as few and far between as they have been, take Hearst’s products, for example; they’re niche products, whether it’s the Food Network or Dr. Oz The Good Life; those are specific niche categories that people like. This magazine is even more of a specialized category because Lisa is attempting to put together two related fields in a way that they’ve never been put together before in design. And as we just said, the mass design magazines are what they are; this is not one of those, this is more of the personalities behind the stories: the art directors, the artists and the designers. We’re trying to reach a very special audience. Not a huge audience, but a very special one that really loves this category and I don’t think anyone has done that before.

Samir Husni: James, as an ink on paper, wholesale distributor, do you feel that by launching this new title you’re putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, that there’s still hope for the newsstands?

James Cohen: Sure. As I said, print is morphing. I’m a proponent of the newsstand business and it’s changed radically, but there is still going to be a niche there and as long as people want to feel something that’s tactile; that’s graphically interesting, print is going to be around.

Lisa Cohen: This kind of magazine that is so visual; you really can’t capture that on a mobile device.

Samir Husni: And Lisa you mentioned in your introductory letter that you are inviting people to experience this magazine and engage in that artistic living adventure. So, you’re not just viewing it as ink on paper, but rather that you’re creating something to actually be experienced. Can you expand a little on that?

Lisa Cohen: It’s like an evolution. I think it will grow and have branches and many leaves that will come out of this. I’m seeing now that it’s just starting, a lot of different avenues are opening up; I’m doing these art and design shows where I’m bringing the experience with me.

James Cohen: The category itself is a very growing category.

Lisa Cohen: That is true. There is such a huge interest all over the globe in the art world. And people really want to be a part of that and know more about it. As I have said before, there are magazines that are just about art; there are interior design home magazines that are just about that, and there are fashion magazines that are just about fashion and travel that covers travel, but this magazine brings it all together and shows how art influences all those different genres of design. So, I feel it’s a very full experience.

And it’s also an experience in the way that we break it down and bring out the artist and the entities that work on all the different design projects. And then there’s a discussion on each of them that we write about, and that talks about them, their careers and the creative process behind each project.

So, my goal is to bring that creative process out and break it down so that people can enjoy that and be motivated from one artistic eye to another.

Samir Husni: I noticed that you’re very first adjective in describing the magazine is curated. And you distinguish it by having it in the color red on the cover. Do you feel that you’re more of a curator of art with this new magazine, Galerie, rather than a creator or an editor?

Lisa Cohen: Yes, I do. That was my concept.

Samir Husni: Explain a little about that concept, if you would. The two of you literally grew up surrounded by magazines. People can come to my office and see me surrounded by magazines, but you grew your entire lives around them. Differentiate this concept for me, because a lot of people are going to look at it and say, if a major wholesaler is starting a magazine like Galerie, they must know something that we don’t. What’s that something that you know that some people on the outside does not know?

Lisa Cohen: I think it’s what Jim was talking about when he said the niche titles were doing well. They’re holding more ground. Right, Jim?

James Cohen: Yes, what has to happen in a rapidly changing world is that magazines need to stay relevant in order to stay popular. And obviously, we’ve seen what happened with categories that either weren’t timely or weren’t relevant; the newsweeklies for instance. They were usurped, but this magazine doesn’t have an issue with a timeliness subject, but it does have a relevance to creating a demand for something.

Lisa Cohen: And it’s growing art culture, really.

James Cohen: Yes, and that hasn’t been addressed. Mostly, traditional art magazines have been around a long time and they have a very staid approach to things and Galerie is going to be different.

Lisa Cohen: This is more about the experience and it’s more multifaceted.

James Cohen: And we know that the world has changed; we’re not putting a half a million copies out; it’s going to have its niche. It’s not even a mass supermarket book like most large newsstand titles are; there will be a niche. We’re going to airports; the top book chains in the country; and we’re going to the top independents that have the best demographics.

Lisa Cohen: And quite possibly the private airports.

James Cohen: Yes and we’re also obviously going to be sending copies to target our audience better, whether it’s private airports or to collectors; people in the trade. So, it will be a targeted and intelligent approach; not a crazy mass one.

Samir Husni: Jim, as a wholesaler, why this reasoning? I mean, you know more about this than probably anybody else in the industry. I expected to see a cover price of $15 or $20, so I was really stunned when I saw $7.95.

James Cohen: Right. Well that was a consensus decision that we all thought was appropriate for the simple reason that to be successful on the newsstand on a very small niche level or on a mass level, what I learned 35 years ago was that price should not be an impediment to buying it. And we wanted to have, even within this niche, as wide an audience as possible, so of there was an interest and they picked up a copy, the last thing that we wanted was for the price to be an issue. We wanted to reach out with as broad a net as we could. This magazine is not living or dying on newsstand revenues; it has its traditional base and that’s between ads, subscriptions and hopefully digital moving forward. It’ll have several different revenue sources that will make it work.

Samir Husni: Let me ask you a very biased question; when the first issue was completed and you took a look at it, what did you think? Did you look at Lisa and say, wow! Or did you ask, Lisa, what have we done? (Laughs)

James Cohen: I saw the pages before they were bound and they looked very nice, but you know, it was nothing like when I actually saw the magazine. I was so thrilled to have the paper quality and the print quality come out the way it did, because we’re competing for people’s attention with a whole bunch of other titles sitting on a newsstand or on a rack in a book chain and the magazine really jumps out and that’s what you need.

Samir Husni: And Lisa, the magazine is also a movement. You’re putting not only your passion for art into it, but also you’re helping with organizations and schools, such as your role with the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Harvey Milk School. Explain this mixed interest of yours and how you’re channeling that into the magazine.

Lisa Cohen: I became involved through some friends I have in the interior design world. And basically I was just born into it through putting together a big fundraiser for them in the Hamptons last summer. Before that they had asked me to come up and see the school, so I went up to visit and I was just so impressed by what this school was doing for these young, creative minds; kids that would have been otherwise on the streets and without opportunities in life and some of them maybe committing suicide and just facing total destruction.

So, by doing for these kids; you have no idea, you create a life. And these are very sensitive, wonderful and creative minds and it’s a big part of the art world. And I feel that one leads to the other and protecting and giving these young people a chance is our future creative talent for tomorrow. And our world is a better place for it. It goes along with all of my basic instincts. And I thought by tying it into the magazine it would be an even more passionate project for me and even more gratifying. To be able to do something great and interesting for the readers and also to give back to the school and see that prosper.

James Cohen: And it was a great affiliation for all involved.

Lisa Cohen: It’s a great affiliation with the wonderful people who are involved in the organization. I have to say that I’m the first straight mother of four to become involved, or so they tell me. (Laughs) But I couldn’t be more passionate about helping these kids. In April, we’re doing an art house in conjunction with the launch of the magazine and we have five artists with installations in each room. And I designed two of their decorative arts around each artist.

One of the rooms we gave to the Harvey Milk High School and the kids all did what home means to them and how they relate to that. And if you walk in that room and you see these kids and their creativity, you’re just amazed at the power and energy of their work. And the wonderful feeling you get from knowing that in some small way, you’re giving back to them.

Samir Husni: Talking about art and creativity, I read in Suzanne Slesin’s letter, who you’ve tapped for editor in chief of the magazine, that she had the same feeling when she entered your home and saw the wraparound staircase that ended up on the cover of the magazine. So, tell me about the idea of the wraparound and how the art of your staircase ended up on the cover of the magazine?

Lisa Cohen: Well, it wasn’t my idea, let’s put it that way. I didn’t want to have anything of my property in the first issue. But when Suzanne saw what I did there, it was her first introduction in learning about who I am, how I think and what I’m about. And she felt that the message was so strong about me that she felt the opposite and that it should be in the magazine’s first issue to introduce me and to show part of my world.

It was just very lucky that I met Suzanne because she’s been a fantastic editor to work with. We think very much alike and I’m very happy that she, with so many years of experience in this industry, 17 years at The New York Times and all of the other magazines that she worked for, that she took me on. It was a great honor to me. It’s been a wonderful association. It’s like we’re both doing what we love. It’s a real lovefest.

Samir Husni: What has been your major stumbling block since you started this venture? Usually when people launch a new magazine or come and talk to me about launching one, they have two problems: advertising and circulation. In your case the circulation problem is solved, nobody has to go and beg the wholesaler to distribute the magazine; it’s a done deal. Right?

The mission statement.

The mission statement.

James Cohen: Right. And the advertising is coming along very well. And we are expecting after this first issue, which has already been very well received by all the current and potential advertisers, to ramp that up over the next couple of issues this year. Getting out the message about this and expanding its reach throughout the industry and throughout the enthusiast world and the digital world, is going to be our challenge, to expand its reach and to make it even more attractive for advertisers to keep coming in.

Samir Husni: From a distributor’s point of view, what do you think the role of magazines is in today’s digital age? What role should they play?

James Cohen: They should play the role of something that is, even though it might be readily available in alternative formats, visually stimulating, so that it is more pleasing. It has to have a particular niche, whether it’s a food magazine or an art magazine or a design magazine, and it has to talk to people in a way that you just can’t really get digitally. It has to fulfill a need.

Lisa Cohen: And also working from print and just starting to work on digital, print is such a great springboard because usually now most projects don’t have a print component like we do. For the people who are working on it, they feel it’s a great springboard.

James Cohen: And we have the luxury of being able to use the print issue as a rollout piece, not the digital, and establish ourselves through it, because let’s face it, the medium we’re talking about is a totally visual medium. And that’s what print does best.

Samir Husni: What are your future plans? I know you’re publishing three times this year and then moving to four times and using print as your core product.

Lisa Cohen: Maybe we’re just traditional and old-fashioned, but using print seems like the right decision.

Samir Husni: The Columbia Journalism Review published an article last December that said “print is the new “new” media.”

Lisa Cohen: (Laughs) Right, exactly. You’re starting to hear that people are saying that magazines maybe became diluted waiting to see what was going to happen with television now. Every form of media has been challenged over the years. But it seems like even books are coming back stronger; at least, that’s what I’ve heard from major publishers.

James Cohen: Yes, and you know the most significant drop in newsstand is coming from the mass celebrity books where they have the most readily available alternatives. And as that settles in those drops will mitigate.

The last four months or so of the business, sales have dropped less and we’re not sure if this the start of a trend or not, but at a certain point we feel that the migration is going to cease because everyone, and you’re not talking about the print magazine versus the digital version of it, you’re talking about competing for people’s time. And at some point in the future, it’s going to get fully integrated and things will stabilize, it’s just a question of when.

Lisa Cohen: Yes, I agree. And when you think about what’s happening with television, people are just watching it when they want to watch it. It’s all changing, everything is changing.

Samir Husni: Jim, talking about change, in your opinion; what’s the future of our newsstands?

James Cohen: The future of our newsstands is as I said; at some point in the future sales will stabilize at a certain level. And I think it was a combination of a lot of things that happened, whether it was the digital influx or the recession; the consolidation of wholesalers was another factor. All of these things contributed to the drop in sales.

But the few publishers who have had the courage to print new magazines, and of course Hearst is the shining example, because they’ve come up with three winners in the last four or five years, that shows if you have the courage of your convictions and if you have a niche and you can find the right audience and publish something that people want to read, then there should be a future here.

Let’s face it, the mass books of half a century ago, the Saturday Evening Post, LIFE; they all kind of gave way in a certain manner to television. And the same thing has happened with the newsweeklies and the celebrity weeklies with digital. So, they’ll find their niche, it won’t be what it used to be, but as long as publishers can put products together that people want to read, it’ll be around. And you just can’t understate that; you just have to be a little more clever and creative these days. And I think that there’s always going to be a market for it. Ten years from now it may look entirely different, but it will always be here and hopefully stabilize over the next few years.

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

Lisa Cohen: I’m hoping that it will have a major digital component with e-commerce and be able to offer opportunities to emerging artists to sell their work, where they ordinarily wouldn’t have the opportunity to. And I’m very excited about that.

Samir Husni: So, you’re really on a mission? I can hear it in the tone of your voice; you’re a woman on a mission.

James Cohen: This is Lisa’s labor of love. She is very passionate about both art and design; she is an incredibly creative person, as you can see from her work. And this is the manifestation of it and it’s great.

Lisa Cohen: After bringing up a big family, this is everything I ever wanted and it’s all coming together and it’s like a dream for me. And I think when you do something that you love, it usually shows and the product will be successful.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unannounced at your home one evening, what would I find you both doing? Reading a magazine, a book, watching television, or something else?

Lisa Cohen: Definitely you would see a lot of magazines. (Laughs) In every room there are stacks. I love reading magazines. I still find it a very enjoyable experience.

James Cohen: I even read weeklies.

Lisa Cohen: And most of my friends say I’m your best customer; so they’re all still enjoying it too. It’s not the end of magazines; it will always have its niche. With magazines it’s about the experience and even the younger people want that. It’s just a different kind of experience.

James Cohen: You would either find me on the phone with my business, or reading magazines, or yes, even watching The Donald. (Laughs)

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

James Cohen: In a good way or a bad way? (Laughs) We’ve been very fortunate, so a lot of things that most people worry about, we’re lucky enough to not have to. We worry about our children and what kind of future they’re going to have. And what kind of world they’re going to be in.

Lisa Cohen: It’s our family. I think that’s what occupies most of our worries.

James Cohen: We have four children, three of whom are young adults. And obviously, we think a lot about how they’re going to make their way in the world and be happy. So, those are our concerns.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. […] research for the magazine media and publishing industry.” Some of his recent posts include an interview with the owners of Hudson News Distribution Company on the future of print journalism, and an interview with the Editorial Content Director of Texture, an app that promises to change […]


  2. Hi Mr. Magazine! We featured your blog and posts like this one in our list of best media blogs of 2016. Check it out here: https://postal2016.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/the-postal-awards-top-5-media-blogs-of-2016/.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: