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Prevention Magazine’s First Ad-Free Issue: Rodale’s Bold New Vision For A Legacy Favorite – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc.

June 10, 2016

Maria Rodale: Ten Years Of Positive Change & Reinventions.

“I’d also just like to acknowledge all of the hard work that goes into creating a really great product. I wrote a blog recently that talked a bit about our research library. And that’s not free; people want good stuff for free, but you can’t do that for very long. And if you want quality you have to support the people who are educated and experienced to bring quality and we hope and believe and have faith that people will value and trust this information to the point that they will support it and support us and support our libraries.” Maria Rodale

PV0716_COVER Recognized as the world’s leading healthy lifestyle magazine since its inception in1950, Prevention Magazine has come into its own, so to speak, after over 65 years of positive and motivational content. In a bold and organic move, Prevention has published its first ad-free issue with its July edition, which carries no advertising pages, features a daring new editorial vision, new features and formatting, and a more premium look and feel. The first issue will be available June 14 on newsstands.

Maria Rodale, CEO and chairman of Rodale Inc., has been at the helm of her grandfather’s business ship for almost a decade now. Maria is a vivacious and determined woman who is adamant about remaining true to her grandfather’s organic lifestyle. She believes strongly in the Rodale name and vision, and is truly over-the-top about this bold change for Prevention.

I spoke with Maria recently and between genuine peals of laughter, we discussed the move to an ad-free model and the opportunity to forward the conversation with Prevention’s readers this type of model may offer. Maria feels this frees the editorial content up to delve more deeply into topics of interest for the specifically 40-plus audience the magazine is targeting. She believes the move will broaden the magazine’s appeal to a more diverse audience and deliver a quality magazine that today’s health-minded consumer wants and needs and will be willing to pay for.

It was a delightful interview with a delightful lady who knows her organics and her brand. So, I hope that you enjoy this buoyant conversation as you read about a legacy title that’s giving its readers an ounce of Prevention, with a pound of cure for what ails them, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maria Rodale, CEO & Chairman, Rodale, Inc.

But first, the sound-bites:

Maria Rodale On whether Rodale is where she wants it to be or there are more changes ahead: I don’t think any of us have the luxury of being done with changes, but I will say that I’m looking forward to making a lot of positive changes.

On where the idea for a new ad-free Prevention Magazine came from: I will say that it was the family, starting with my mother, but I had thought about doing this for a long time, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. And it was really about feeling free to write all kinds of stories that maybe wouldn’t be as welcomed in a traditional magazine.

On why there wasn’t a written announcement about the new “no advertising” model on the cover of the magazine: We debated about that and we decided that a lot of people like advertising and don’t find it offensive in any way, and all of our other magazines continue to have advertising, so we thought we’d let the content speak for itself.

On whether she might be willing to try the “no-ad” model on any of Rodale’s other titles if Prevention succeeds: Each magazine is very unique and lives in a very unique ecosystem. Bicycling magazine, for example, all of the bicycling advertising is a core benefit of the magazine. Readers love it in a very different way than they love advertising in other magazines. So, each magazine has to be looked at on its own.

On how interactive the first issue of the new Prevention is and what can be done to make it even more interactive with each following issue: That’s what’s exciting about the future. We are only just beginning with this experiment. That issue was put out, literally, with just a few months’ notice and without the editor in chief in place.

On which article in the first issue captured her interest the most: I loved all of the articles, everything from the problem-solving section on acid reflux, to the sunscreen article. I thought the medical marijuana article was both interesting and funny. I love the fact that there’s more humor in the magazine.

On which article in this latest issue she thinks they would not have published if there had been advertising in the magazine: I don’t think there is any single article that we wouldn’t have published. We might not have gone as far as we did, in terms of some of our reporting. We might have highlighted things differently, but it’s really a matter of degree and also the whole experience of the magazine now, being a kind of continuous experience.

On why Prevention is now specifically focused on the 40-plus demographic: That’s subscriber data and research; it always appeals to our reader when we say 40-plus, because a person’s health issues at 40-plus are different than at 21. They have different concerns and their bodies are different.

On whether the “Queen of Organic” as Maria is fondly known is driving the magazine organic as well, by making it stand on its own feet, relying only on its audience for support: Yes, I believe in organic growth, both in the environment, but also in business. There has to be a real healthy support system for any product. And obviously, readers are the most important support system. Based on the feedback that I’ve been getting from when I have announced the move to live audiences or when I post things on Facebook or my blog, people are definitely eager and excited and willing to pay.

On whether from this moment forward Rodale will only have positive changes: I read everything that I do as positive change. It’s not always perceived that way, but that’s not my choice or my problem. Everything we do at Rodale is now creating positive change.

On how she would briefly sum up the last ten years since she became chairman and CEO of Rodale: In one sentence I would say: radical and positive transformational change during the greatest disruption in history for our industry, and we’ve gotten through it successfully.

On anything else she’d like to add: Everyone should subscribe to the new magazine and let us know what you think. Be a part of it. And I’d also just like to acknowledge all of the hard work that goes into creating a really great product. I wrote a blog recently that talked a bit about our research library. And that’s not free; people want good stuff for free, but you can’t do that for very long.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maria Rodale, CEO & Chairman, Rodale Inc.

Samir Husni: You’re about to end your first decade as CEO and chairman of Rodale; are you finished with changes? Do you have Rodale where you want it to be now or are there still more changes ahead?

Maria Rodale: I don’t think any of us have the luxury of being done with changes, but I will say that I’m looking forward to making a lot of positive changes.

Samir Husni: Such as?

Maria Rodale: Doing new things and bringing on new people; having more fun. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Can you actually have more fun than you’re already having?

Maria Rodale: We can always have more fun than we’re already having. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). Tell me, where did the “A-ha” moment that told you there should be no ads in Prevention come from? That it was time for a new ad-free Prevention Magazine?

Prevention 1 Maria Rodale: I will say that it was the family, starting with my mother, but I had thought about doing this for a long time, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. And it was really about feeling free to write all kinds of stories that maybe wouldn’t be as welcomed in a traditional magazine. However, it wasn’t a realistic business decision at that time, but every year it had gotten closer and closer to being possible. And now it’s at the point where it was the best business decision that we could have made.

Samir Husni: Why didn’t I see a written announcement about the new “no advertising” model on the cover of the magazine?

Maria Rodale: We debated about that and we decided that a lot of people like advertising and don’t find it offensive in any way, and all of our other magazines continue to have advertising, so we thought we’d let the content speak for itself. And those who know and are looking for it will find it and those who don’t know will be surprised.

Prevention Inside Cover Samir Husni: I love the way the magazine is introduced, with the picture of the staff. I think the new introduction to Prevention captured the essence of what you’re trying to do.

Maria Rodale: Right.

Samir Husni: If this “experiment” succeeds; will that tempt you to try the model on any of your other titles, such as Bicycling?

Maria Rodale: Each magazine is very unique and lives in a very unique ecosystem. Bicycling magazine, for example, all of the bicycling advertising is a core benefit of the magazine. Readers love it in a very different way than they love advertising in other magazines. So, each magazine has to be looked at on its own. And evaluated based on its very unique business model and its very unique environment in which it lives. And that’s constantly changing, which is why we don’t have the luxury of not changing with it.

Samir Husni: With the first issue I noticed that the paper quality is better; the photography shines, and the interactivity is amazing. The idea of having a back cover that you can rip off and color, utilizing that art therapy that is invading the newsstand with all of the adult coloring books; it’s a great idea. You have a big following on Prevention.com; how can you actually make the print edition even more interactive that the attempt you’ve made in this first issue?

Maria Rodale: That’s what’s exciting about the future. We are only just beginning with this experiment. That issue was put out, literally, with just a few months’ notice and without the editor in chief in place. Barbara O’Dair has joined and is really excited about continuing the evolution and development of the magazine. And that’s what’s going to make this more fun, to try new things.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed some of the tiny things, such as the masthead where you have women-owned at the top. What’s the reasoning behind those changes?

Maria Rodale: We are an official “women-owned” business, that’s a type of certification that you get. Ironically, one of the reasons that we received that official certification was because a lot of advertisers look for that. So, it’s just the truth. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: As you flip through the pages of this first issue, what article is one that made you think, “Wow, this is where people should go first?”

Maria Rodale: Obviously, the one that I wrote. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too). We have a saying here in the South: if it’s true it isn’t bragging.

Maria Rodale: I loved all of the articles, everything from the problem-solving section on acid reflux, to the sunscreen article. I thought the medical marijuana article was both interesting and funny. I love the fact that there’s more humor in the magazine. As a reader, I found this to be the most interesting and satisfying issue of the magazine that I have ever read.

Samir Husni: How do you compare this July issue of Prevention to previous editions? Which article in this latest issue do you feel that you couldn’t have published if you would have had advertising in the magazine?

Maria Rodale: I don’t think there is any single article that we wouldn’t have published. We might not have gone as far as we did, in terms of some of our reporting. We might have highlighted things differently, but it’s really a matter of degree and also the whole experience of the magazine now, being a kind of continuous experience.

The one thing I will say is that advertisers have always found the Prevention reader older than their ideal demographic. But the Prevention reader is a highly-educated, wonderful woman or man who is at an age where they’re concerned about their health. So, we can now visually celebrate that in a way that we may not have in past issues.

Samir Husni: Why specifically the focus on the 40-plus demographic? Where other “health” magazines are trying to look and feel younger; Prevention is taking the plunge and saying this is a magazine for the 40-plus age group.

Prevention Back Cover Maria Rodale: That’s subscriber data and research; it always appeals to our reader when we say 40-plus, because a person’s health issues at 40-plus are different than at 21. They have different concerns and their bodies are different. There is tons of information out there for a generic audience, but the Prevention reader is a more mature woman or man.

Samir Husni: You’re the queen of organic; are you taking Prevention organic, in terms of the business model, by making it stand on its own feet without any support other than its audience?

Maria Rodale: Yes, I believe in organic growth, both in the environment, but also in business. There has to be a real healthy support system for any product. And obviously, readers are the most important support system. Based on the feedback that I’ve been getting from when I have announced the move to live audiences or when I post things on Facebook or my blog, people are definitely eager and excited and willing to pay. I hear a lot of people saying that they’re going to subscribe for the first time because this is what they’ve been waiting for. I also have had people tell me that they stopped subscribing because they were sick of having to page through to find the stories, and now they have re-subscribed.

So, I do believe that people who are truly interested in health and a healthy, happy life will be willing to pay. It’s basically less than the price of going to a nice restaurant for dinner and it’s going to be worth it.

Samir Husni: When I received the issue I took it home with me and if you could see it now, the pages are falling apart. It’s amazing. Just the joy I felt from looking at the pages, it was wonderful.

Maria Rodale: Thank you. I think joy is a perfect word for what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to bring the joy back into writing about health. The magazine industry has had a lot of the joy sucked out of it in recent years for a lot of different reasons. Life should be joyful and Prevention can help you find that.

Samir Husni: Rodale has had its fair share of media coverage lately, whether positive or negative. Is the company finally at the stage that from this moment forward we’re only going to hear about positive changes? And have you reached the size at Rodale that you want?

Maria Rodale: I read everything that I do as positive change. It’s not always perceived that way, but that’s not my choice or my problem. Everything we do at Rodale is now creating positive change. And that photo of our staff in the introduction is literally right outside of my office door and I walk pass that table every day. I love being close to that team and seeing what’s happening. There’s a lot of joy in everything that we do. And every decision I make is about creating positive change.

Samir Husni: How would you briefly sum up the last ten years since you became chairman and CEO of Rodale?

Maria Rodale: In one sentence I would say: radical and positive transformational change during the greatest disruption in history for our industry, and we’ve gotten through it successfully. When I go home at the end of the day and I’m surrounded by my family and my organic garden and my comfortable couch, I’m just grateful for the gift that was given to our family, that we’ve inherited and that we are stewards of. I’m grateful for all of the employees and the contributors and our customers and the people who have stood by us and who believe in us. And I’m very grateful to our friends who are a part of this transformational journey.

I know that my parents and my grandparents would be happy and relieved that they didn’t have to do this. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Maria Rodale: I’m just very grateful to everyone.

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

Maria Rodale: Everyone should subscribe to the new magazine and let us know what you think. Be a part of it. And I’d also just like to acknowledge all of the hard work that goes into creating a really great product. I wrote a blog recently that talked a bit about our research library. And that’s not free; people want good stuff for free, but you can’t do that for very long. And if you want quality you have to support the people who are educated and experienced to bring quality and we hope and believe and have faith that people will value and trust this information to the point that they will support it and support us and support our libraries.

Samir Husni: That’s the beauty of print. It’s that surprise that comes when you least expect it, such as the interview you did in this first issue with Maye Musk. I didn’t know anything about her or that I would be reading an interview with her. It’s that element of surprise. Then I started flipping through the pages and found all of the great articles. That element of surprise that print brings is great. And that’s why people will pay for the magazine, the addictiveness and the trusted information.

Maria Rodale: We hope readers will subscribe and see for themselves.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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