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TV Guide: “Reengineered” For Today’s Television Audience And Industry– The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Paul Turcotte, President/Publisher, TV Guide.

June 16, 2016

“Absolutely. I’m one of the few people who doesn’t focus on the delivery. I think that if we’re providing a service that people need; in this particular case, I actually believe print is the most effective way to curate this information. I find that this is an example where technology takes longer than it does the printed service. It’s easy to flip open the page, do the read; this is what’s worth watching; done. I can do that before you can even open your app.” Paul Turcotte (on whether he believes there is a future for the printed magazine).

TV Guide old and new There is one thing in common between yours truly and TV Guide magazine. We were both born in 1953. TV Guide became the go-to source for anything television related, from daily programming to previews of each new season’s shows. As for me, you know the rest of the story.

On a recent trip to New York City with my students, we were privileged to visit with the folks at TV Guide in their headquarters on the14th Floor, 50 Rockefeller Place. The place was buzzing. The plans to “reengineer” the magazine were going full-fledge. Dummy designs filled the walls of the room and editors, designers and president/publisher Paul Turcotte were there. They introduced the new designs, the new sections, and all the additional content the new magazine will have. Ideas were exchanged, comments made and the necessity of a printed television guide in today’s marketplace was debated thoroughly. And it was unanimous; the need for a true “guide” was an absolute must.

Brits Tony Frost and Paul Aarons were brought in to work closely with TV Guide editor in chief Nerina Rammairone and designer Kevin Newman. The end result is now on the newsstands. So go pick up a copy of the new TV Guide and then read my review and interview with its president and publisher.

Today, in the digital world in which we live, the need for the particular type of television guide of yesterday has diminished with programming information at the touch of a finger for most of us. However, the need for a guide that actually “guides” us through the maze of infinite channels and information, be it entertainment or actual news, has never been more essential. And with the reengineering of today’s TV Guide, that’s just what we have.

Paul’s idea behind the “reengineering” of the new TV Guide seeks to sort through all of the confusion and turmoil that we have on our large-screened, digital TV devices these days. His guideline and roadmap is made to provide a guide to “What’s Worth Watching;” saving the reader’s time and curating the many programs on television is what the new TV Guide aims to do. My first reaction has been more than positive starting with the change of the iconic logo from the cornered television screen of the days long gone, to the flat edged television screen. Call it catching up with the times.

Paul Turcotte I spoke with Paul this week about the newly “reengineered” TV Guide, a word that he introduced during our conversation and that I liked immediately. My first question to him was, “Can this magazine be saved?” A line I paraphrased from the famous Ladies’ Home Journal magazine section, “Can This Marriage Be Saved.” The focal point of the redesign, according to Paul, is service, service to the industry, but more importantly service to the readers, another characteristic trait that Mr. Magazine™ likes. Providing a true television guide that leads the reader down the overcrowded programming highway and points the way to the shows actually worth watching is worth a goldmine in today’s muddled television roadmap. The profusion of information and channel-surfing that one must go through to find a program that interests them to watch is next to impossible without at least 15 minutes of their own research.

But the reengineered TV Guide does that job for you. And Paul is as excited as a new father about his baby. As well he should be. It’s a wonderful change and a positive one for the magazine’s future.

So, I hope that you enjoy this journey through the land of TV Guide – because it’s a given that you have a great team “guiding” you to what’s worth watching…The Mr. Magazine™ interview with Paul Turcotte, President and Publisher, TV Guide.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether he believes that TV Guide can be saved: Definitely. And I have a very specific reason I believe that to be true. It’s not the magazine, it’s the industry. Television, programming and content are such a hot and vibrant industry right now that the service we provide is what is still viable.

On the role he sees the “new” TV Guide playing in the market within the next year: The redesigned, or as I like to say, the reengineered magazine is now more reflective and useful, in terms of how people are consuming content today. First of all, we have more real estate committed to the service element of TV Guide, which is helping people understand what’s worth watching.

On the curation aspect of the magazine: Yes, it’s a curated Guide and we need that. So, we are focused more on a curation; we’re using our authority and our knowledge to provide viewer’s with an answer to the question: what is the best programming available right now?

On bringing new talent onboard, such as Tony Frost and Paul Aarons from the U.K.’s OK magazine: Yes, Paul Aarons. One of the things that we wanted to do was to ensure that we achieved the best results for our readers, but also to bring in outside perspective. We brought in Tony Frost and Paul Aarons to guide (no pun intended) and help ensure that we were looking at the reengineering from all points of view.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face during the magazine’s reengineering and how he overcame it: That’s a good question. I don’t know that I would call it a stumbling block, but my focus in the reengineering of the magazine was on identifying the market needs and bringing those to the attention of the new team. Again, it was focused on recognizing the patterns and behaviors of consumers today.

Before and after On the most pleasant moment he had during the redesign: It was like any vision, as the magazine started to unfold and we started to see the redesign, we recognized that we in fact are answering a lot of the basic needs. We have run the reengineered magazine by some of the top network executives and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

On his expectations for the magazine: That’s a great question. For newsstand, I think what’s going to make me happy frankly is – we get pretty decent numbers on newsstand; we want to make sure that, and obviously I want to see our numbers jump, but it’s more important to me that we’re positioning the magazine correctly and what I want is for people to respond to the service elements of the magazine, which is more information on streaming and more information on movies.

On what motivates him to get out of bed, excited to go to work: Through my career I’ve learned what I love to do. And I love fixing; I love responding to a market. And as I mentioned at the beginning of our interview, the television industry is on fire right now. I clearly see the need for the service that we’re providing.

On whether he is a firm believer in the future of the printed magazine: Absolutely. I’m one of the few people who doesn’t focus on the delivery. I think that if we’re providing a service that people need; in this particular case, I actually believe print is the most effective way to curate this information. I find that this is an example where technology takes longer than it does the printed service. It’s easy to flip open the page, do the read; this is what’s worth watching; done. I can do that before you can even open your app.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his house one evening: You’ll likely find me at home with my son and we’ll have sports on television and the BBQ going and there are certainly magazines all around, because I am a big, big fan of, what I call, the guided tour, I think a good editor and a good magazine constantly brings you points of view that you’re familiar with, but they share new insights that you hadn’t thought of.

On anything else that he’d like to add: I think right now the biggest opportunity for us is, and maybe at the same time a challenge, because usually your challenge is your opportunity, we have a brand that is so well-recognized, but with that comes everybody’s own personal experience with the brand, so our hope is that we can take advantage of the brand awareness, but also get permission for people to look at this for the first time all over again.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) The last thing I said – how do I get the industry to deserve us more? (Laughs again) Honestly, what’s fun about this industry, especially right now, is there’s not a week, or sometimes even a day, that goes by that there’s not a new program introduced that we believe we can support and help, and so it definitely keeps my passion burning at night, which is – how can we help ABC introduce this new show; what else can we do; how else can we participate? And the industry is so vibrant that there’s a new challenge every day. And I love that.

new sections

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Paul Turcotte, President and Publisher, TV Guide.

Samir Husni: You’ve been a publisher at Men’s Health, a publisher and chief revenue officer at a daily newspaper; suffice it to say, that you have been in the media business for a long time. Do you think TV Guide be saved?

Paul Turcotte: Definitely. And I have a very specific reason I believe that to be true. It’s not the magazine, it’s the industry. Television, programming and content are such a hot and vibrant industry right now that the service we provide is what is still viable. I think that there are older titles that’s time has come and gone, but there’s never been a better time or a bigger need for guidance about what’s worth watching on television than there is right now. So, that’s why I’m encouraged.

Samir Husni: What’s the plan? As you introduce the “new” TV Guide, how do you envision the magazine and the role it will play? After 63 years, we have more television channels than ever before. I’m a firm believer that we need more guidance today because of all of those channels and the fact that we’re bombarded by information. So, tell me where do you see TV Guide fitting into that picture in the upcoming year?

Paul Turcotte: The redesigned, or as I like to say, the reengineered magazine is now more reflective and useful, in terms of how people are consuming content today.

First of all, we have more real estate committed to the service element of TV Guide, which is helping people understand what’s worth watching. So, whether it’s a new streaming section that we have of what’s newly available or the movies available through the various over-the-top services, we’re providing guidance for what’s great to watch. There are 1,500 television shows on networks right now and there are over 400 scripted television shows; the question is which ones are worth watching and that’s what we’re doing with the new TV Guide.

more new sections We’re combining both a service element with the authority that is TV Guide to provide very useful information for people’s viewing habits. And the part that I’m encouraged by is that there are 120 million households watching television. Networks alone have over 40 million domestic subscribers, so people are investing in programming. We have the opportunity to help them enhance that.

Samir Husni: I believe that curation aspect is what’s worth watching and it definitely got my attention; finally somebody is thinking of the magazine as more of a “guided” Guide than just a yellow pages Guide.

Paul Turcotte: Yes, it’s a curated Guide and we need that. So, we are focused more on a curation; we’re using our authority and our knowledge to provide viewer’s with an answer to the question: what is the best programming available right now?

But I think you’ll also see that we’re also focusing more on service and the quality of programming than we are on the celebrity of the industry. We literally edit the magazine for people who thoroughly enjoy programming, not the celebrity of the show. We don’t talk about the gossip of who’s dating whom; it’s all about what’s the best programming out there across all platforms right now.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed that you’ve also brought some new talent onboard. In that whole process of “reengineering,” and by the way I love that word, you’ve brought Tony (Frost) and the creative director from OK from the U.K.

Paul Turcotte: Yes, Paul Aarons. One of the things that we wanted to do was to ensure that we achieved the best results for our readers, but also to bring in outside perspective. We brought in Tony Frost and Paul Aarons to guide (no pun intended) and help ensure that we were looking at the reengineering from all points of view.

And I think the result of that is very positive. Every page has been analyzed, researched and overanalyzed to make sure that we’re actually providing the direction and the service to our readers in the most utilitarian format. And also in what I think is intuitive; it’s very easy with so much content to overthink things and a lot of what we’re trying to do at the magazine is just to have it be intuitive and friendly.

Samir Husni: You’re known in the industry, and correct me if I’m mistaken, as a hands-on publisher. You’re a hands-on CRO; you see everything, every word and picture. You’re involved to that extent.

Paul Turcotte: I am, yes.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block that you’ve had to face during the reengineering of the magazine and how did you overcome it?

Paul Turcotte: That’s a good question. I don’t know that I would call it a stumbling block, but my focus in the reengineering of the magazine was on identifying the market needs and bringing those to the attention of the new team. Again, it was focused on recognizing the patterns and behaviors of consumers today.

What we did was from the marketing point of view, meaning the market industry point of view and also from our readers point of view; we wanted thorough knowledge in how they were consuming content and how they were using the magazine? And also what was frustrating people right now and how we could help with that.

I would say that my biggest role in the reengineering was properly positioning the challenge to our editorial team and to Tony and Paul so that they could come back with effective answers to the market needs. So, that’s what we did. We identified what were the industry needs and what viewers really needed right now.

new sections As an example we are introducing a new section on movies and we recognize how challenging it is to navigate through the current delivery systems to find a movie worth watching. And we spent a lot of time on what is the best way to present the information and we’re really excited about it. And it shows in the way that we’ve laid out that service to our readers.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment that you had during this reengineering?

Paul Turcotte: It was like any vision, as the magazine started to unfold and we started to see the redesign, we recognized that we in fact are answering a lot of the basic needs. We have run the reengineered magazine by some of the top network executives and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

And for me, the most rewarding part is watching the team come together and feeling really good about the work they’re doing. As a unit and an organization, we’re really excited about what we’re delivering.

Samir Husni: As the reengineered magazine hits newsstands soon, what are your expectations? What will put you over-the-top happy and think: yes, they got it?

Paul Turcotte: That’s a great question. For newsstand, I think what’s going to make me happy frankly is – we get pretty decent numbers on newsstand; we want to make sure that, and obviously I want to see our numbers jump, but it’s more important to me that we’re positioning the magazine correctly and what I want is for people to respond to the service elements of the magazine, which is more information on streaming and more information on movies.

On our cover, we’re providing more service elements there too for our call-outs. We are telling about curation for movies, more information on streaming and also more information on what’s worth watching. So, I’m hoping that people will respond to that side of the new magazine.

Samir Husni: You’ve had a multimedia career, and not only media, but the events business too. What motivates you today to get out of bed, excited and ready to get to the office and go to work?

Paul Turcotte: Through my career I’ve learned what I love to do. And I love fixing; I love responding to a market. And as I mentioned at the beginning of our interview, the television industry is on fire right now. I clearly see the need for the service that we’re providing. I’m very aware of our history and am intrigued by the challenge of taking, what I think, is arguably the most successful magazine in the history of publishing and reinvigorating it and serving a whole new generation, but serving it the way that it needs to be served today. And I’m enjoying this work as much as I’ve enjoyed anything over the years.

Samir Husni: Do I take it then that you’re a firm believer in the future of the printed magazine?

Paul Turcotte: Absolutely. I’m one of the few people who doesn’t focus on the delivery. I think that if we’re providing a service that people need; in this particular case, I actually believe print is the most effective way to curate this information. I find that this is an example where technology takes longer than it does the printed service. It’s easy to flip open the page, do the read; this is what’s worth watching; done. I can do that before you can even open your app.

Samir Husni: (Laughs). Excellent point.

Paul Turcotte: (Laughs too).

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

Paul Turcotte: You’ll likely find me at home with my son and we’ll have sports on television and the BBQ going and there are certainly magazines all around, because I am a big, big fan of, what I call, the guided tour, I think a good editor and a good magazine constantly brings you points of view that you’re familiar with, but they share new insights that you hadn’t thought of.

So, I’m probably a classic multitasker. The game is on TV; I’ve got my magazine going and there’s a lot of activity in the home.

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

Paul Turcotte: I think right now the biggest opportunity for us is, and maybe at the same time a challenge, because usually your challenge is your opportunity, we have a brand that is so well-recognized, but with that comes everybody’s own personal experience with the brand, so our hope is that we can take advantage of the brand awareness, but also get permission for people to look at this for the first time all over again.

Samir Husni: And we’re not talking about selling eight million copies on the newsstands?

Paul Turcotte: No, we’re not. If we’re doing 100,000 copies on newsstand, that’s a good story for us.

And you asked before about my expectations; I would add that for the reader I hope to appeal to someone who watches television intentionally, not just passively. And I want the magazine to genuinely be of service to that reader. And on the business end, an old boss and now a mentor of mine, Richard Extract, once told me: an industry gets the magazine it deserves. So, my hope is that we’ve provided a magazine for the industry that it now believes supports them and they in turn jump back onboard and support us. We hope that we’re providing the magazine that the industry deserves.

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

Paul Turcotte: (Laughs) The last thing I said – how do I get the industry to deserve us more? (Laughs again) Honestly, what’s fun about this industry, especially right now, is there’s not a week, or sometimes even a day, that goes by that there’s not a new program introduced that we believe we can support and help, and so it definitely keeps my passion burning at night, which is – how can we help ABC introduce this new show; what else can we do; how else can we participate? And the industry is so vibrant that there’s a new challenge every day. And I love that.

Samir Husni: That’s the amazing thing; when we had three television channels, almost everybody knew what they wanted to watch and at what time. Now, with the numbers that you shared with me and the number of channels that we have available, we spend more time searching.

Paul Turcotte: And it’s interesting, there is a, I think Nielsen stat, that states over 50 percent of television viewers report that at least once a day they cannot find something worth watching on television. Once a day. And that’s the opportunity for TV Guide. That’s why I think the future is very bright. The need in the marketplace is there; our job is to serve that need.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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