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Rodale’s Organic Life: Chapter Two Unfolds As The Handbook For Happy, Healthy Living – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Melanie Hansche, Editor In Chief, Rodale’s Organic Life Magazine

July 6, 2016

COVER“I’m also pretty old school; I do love the feel of print. I love the feel of sitting down and flipping through pages. It’s a very experiential thing. I find it very relaxing. And I think what’s been interesting with what we often refer to as the digital disruption is as iPad magazines are also fabulous because they also offer a kind of interaction and interactivity that you can’t get with the printed page, but I have always returned to that more tactile, page-turning approach and I think actually the markets have gone back that way too.” (On what it is about print that ignites her creative passions) Melanie Hansche

 

“We’re seeing a lot of magazines enter the market with beautiful paper stock and beautiful photography and they’re very lush, vibrant visual experiences. Print products still represent escape for people. When their subscription arrives in the mail, the reader might flip through it very quickly, maybe starting from the back, but what’s been found is they return to it on the weekend and read it cover to cover. And I’m certainly that person too.” Melanie Hansche

 

Fifteen months ago, Rodale’s Organic Life was reborn from the legacy title Organic Gardening. The magazine has transitioned from its original how-to approach when it comes to the organics of a healthier style of life, to a more all-encompassing lifestyle title that embraces the organic way of life completely without the purist attitude that some people fear when they pick up a magazine about organic living. With the current issue Rodale’s Organic Life starts chapter two of the rebirth.

 

Organic Life’s brand new editor in chief hails from Sydney, Australia and believes strongly and passionately in the brand and agreed that the militant idea that a reader had to be 100% committed to organic living was not what the magazine was about. Melanie Hansche is vivacious and ardent when talking about her new organic baby and was adamant that the magazine was willing to meet its readers on whatever level of their own organic journey they might be on at the time when they first pick up the magazine.

 

I spoke with Melanie recently and we talked about her future plans for the magazine and her intense passion for the printed page. It was a conversation that was both delightful and informative. The dedication to print and its tactile nature that could be heard in her voice when talking about the magazine was not lost on Mr. Magazine™. It was extremely well-received.

 

So, grab a copy of Rodale’s Organic Life, kick back, relax and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who loves everything organic, especially her magazine, Melanie Hansche, Editor In Chief, Rodale’s Organic Life.

 

But first, the sound-bites:

 

Melanie Hansche_Corporate Portrait-Rodale-11-21-2014_0195-2On what her plans are for the future of the new adopted Organic Life: The new adopted child that I’ve inherited is very young; it’s 15 months old. As a very young brand, it was and still is trying to find its space. And the really exciting thing, I think, is to take on a young brand or a product and think about how you can evolve it and take it in a direction that really resonates with your audience. The team and I, we have decided to evolve the brand even further by being a lot more targeted about our audience.

 

On the new “target” audience: When the brand started it did have a legacy with Organic Gardening readers and it’s really tried to be all things to all people, which I totally understand, because on the one hand, we want to try and welcome every person into this organic lifestyle. But really I think that approach wasn’t working and it wasn’t resonating and we wanted to be a lot more positive about who we’re speaking to and particularly who are the people that are embracing this kind of lifestyle or asking questions and changing their habits.

 

On what she brings from her native Australia to Organic Life magazine: I think my Australian sensibility that I bring to the magazine is probably the magazine experience that I’ve had in Australia and the way that Australians are really not into the way they execute magazines, in terms of photography, styling and visual direction; it’s very fresh and vibrant and very modern. The food styling and photography is fantastic and so I feel like that’s a sensibility that I’ve brought with me from Australia.

 

On how she plans to use her skills as a curator to place the organic movement between the covers of a 104 page magazine: That’s a really good question. First of all we’re expanding our content areas, so when I talk about the fact that women in their 30s are making decisions about children, we’re going to include more parenting and family content. And the other two areas that we’re expanding and that we feel resonates with this audience is obviously beauty, as we’re talking to a more female audience, and then also home décor and home style and the stories behind craftspeople, artisans and makers, as I like to call them. So, we want to talk about an organic lifestyle on many different levels. And by expanding our content areas, we explore the conversation, so to speak.

 

On the most pleasant moment she has encountered in her new job since moving to America 18 months ago: When I joined Rodale, I was working on special projects in the food space because food media has been my specialty for over 10 years. And that was really exciting because I worked on a lot of different assets. I worked on a cookbook; I worked on building up our test kitchen; I worked on a digital project that was a database of recipes, and I worked on an event. So, I was able to work on many different things, but when I was asked to look after Organic Life three months ago, I realized how much I missed putting a magazine together. I’ve always worked in magazines and I love the creative process.

 

On what has been the biggest stumbling block that she’s had to face and how she overcame it: I would say the biggest stumbling block in moving here was being an unknown quantity, building relationships and trust; it’s getting buy-in from your coworkers. When I was in Sydney, it was like being a big fish in a little pond. And suddenly I arrive here in America, very innocent and wide-eyed, and I became a very little fish in a big pond and I really had to establish myself, establish my credentials all over again and have people understand what I do and what my skillset is and how I could benefit their brand and what I could bring to the table.

 

On what it is about a printed magazine that ignites her creative passions: The reason why I went into magazines in the first place as opposed to perhaps becoming a young newspaper journalist was that I always felt that magazines were more creative and certainly the writing and the imagery was, because it allowed editors and writers to explore areas in a lot more depth and in a much better visual style than say the old pyramid structure of newspaper writing did, which I found very formulaic and boring. So, I went into magazines because I found them to be much more creative and they allowed for more creative writing, and that still resonates with me today and is why I still love magazines.

 

On how it is to edit her CEO, Maria Rodale: I will say that Maria and I have a fabulous relationship built within the last 12 months because I edited her cookbook. And so we know each other very well and we also complement each other very well.

 

On anything else that she’d like to add: I’m excited about what the future holds for us, because I’ve always thought that this brand can resonate really strongly with an audience, particularly as the organic movement grows. One thing I want to say is that a lot of people are a little bit afraid that when you see a magazine called Organic Life that they have to be 100% organic. And the anecdote that I always go back to is one that a friend told me. She said that I can’t read your magazine because I drink cola. And this is exciting and is a great example because it’s how an organic lifestyle can be perceived. It can be perceived as really pure and really evangelical. So, what we’re trying to do at the magazine is say that this movement is approachable and it’s fun and vibrant; we’ll meet you at whatever stage of your journey you’re at.

 

On the tagline: a handbook for happy, healthy living: The magazine never had a tagline before and I felt very strongly that it would give this brand a more distinctive identity and a personality if we stated on the magazine just what the magazine does. It helps us lead a happier, healthier life.

 

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly at her home one evening: You would probably find me cooking actually. I’ve worked in Sydney for so long that I’m fairly food-obsessed, but the other reason you would find me cooking is that I find it relaxing. Cooking lets me switch off in the evening and I destress.

 

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: Moving to New York has given me an energy and an engagement and has inspired me in ways that I guess Sydney didn’t. It’s a city that drives you and being here really excites me. And it’s also the product. To be honest, working on something that you personally and passionately believe in; it’s very easy to get out of bed in the morning.

 

On what keeps her up at night: I have a tendency to sweat the small stuff. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could just turn my brain off, but sometimes, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing when you care too much about things, but sometimes I worry about little things that I shouldn’t.

 

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Melanie Hansche, Editor In Chief, Organic Life Magazine.

 

Samir Husni: Organic Life is a little over a year old and you’re the new editor in chief; what are your future plans to take care of this new adopted child?

 

Melanie Hansche: The new adopted child that I’ve inherited is very young; it’s 15 months old. As a very young brand, it was and still is trying to find its space. And the really exciting thing, I think, is to take on a young brand or a product and think about how you can evolve it and take it in a direction that really resonates with your audience.

 

The team and I, we have decided to evolve the brand even further by being a lot more targeted about our audience. And with our editorial content and our vision direction definitely reflects that new target audience.

 

Samir Husni: Can you explain a bit more about the new “target” audience?

 

Melanie Hansche: When the brand started it did have a legacy with Organic Gardening readers and it’s really tried to be all things to all people, which I totally understand, because on the one hand, we want to try and welcome every person into this organic lifestyle. But really I think that approach wasn’t working and it wasn’t resonating and we wanted to be a lot more positive about who we’re speaking to and particularly who are the people that are embracing this kind of lifestyle or asking questions and changing their habits.

 

And we’re really clear that that person is most likely a young woman, 30 to 40-years-old. A better choice of words is it’s a young Gen X woman, and indeed, an older millennial woman, and guys too. I really think there’s a split, perhaps 70 percent female, 30 percent male split.

 

I am that reader; I am in that age group, that late thirties woman who for the last few years started making changes in my life. And the first gateway for me was food and I changed my diet to a more organic diet.

 

And then I started thinking about the skincare that I was using and I went organic, and a year later I switched out all of my makeup to an organic brand. I think a lot of women in that age group are making those kinds of decisions. And when you’re having children is the other point, the other gateway, if you will, where women start to make different choices as it pertains to their health.

 

And I do think that younger millennial audience is far more switched on and far more engaged in the kind of clothes that they wear and who makes them and who’s producing their food and the kind of travel they do; they’re a lot more thoughtful. And this is a brand that’s definitely about being thoughtful.

 

So, when you talk about our new audience that is the audience that we’re talking about, that older millennial and younger Gen X woman and to a certain extent men a well.

 

Organic Life editor's letter Samir Husni: Do you think your being from Down Under; can it be more organic than that, bringing someone all the way from Australia to lead this magazine? What do you bring from the land Down Under to Organic Life?

 

Melanie Hansche: Interestingly, the organic movement in Australia pretty much mirrors the organic movement in America. And it’s the very same issues. People Down Under are embracing an organic lifestyle for the same reasons. But there are also the same barriers, whether that’s price or information; it’s exactly the same, but a smaller microcosm.

 

When I moved to the States I remember my first trip to Whole Foods and I was just amazed at how the trends that I had been seeing back in Australia were just blown out. In Australia, for example, people had just started drinking coconut water and there were a couple of brands on the shelf. And walking into Whole Foods I remember thinking, oh my gosh, there are 20 coconut waters on their shelves. And it was the same whether it was nut milk or flour alternatives; just the sheer amount of organic products and lines that were available.

 

I think my Australian sensibility that I bring to the magazine is probably the magazine experience that I’ve had in Australia and the way that Australians are really not into the way they execute magazines, in terms of photography, styling and visual direction; it’s very fresh and vibrant and very modern. The food styling and photography is fantastic and so I feel like that’s a sensibility that I’ve brought with me from Australia.

 

Samir Husni: I noticed in your first letter from the editor, you also showed a picture of your cottage in Australia and you also brought the family aspect of the organic lifestyle into the forefront and how you want the readers to enjoy the magazine on their own porches or wherever they want to sit down and relax with it. As a curator and someone who is seeing all kinds of organic trends taking place, how are you going to use your skills to curate that organic movement and put it between the covers of a 104 page magazine?

 

Melanie Hansche: That’s a really good question. First of all we’re expanding our content areas, so when I talk about the fact that women in their 30s are making decisions about children, we’re going to include more parenting and family content.

 

And the other two areas that we’re expanding and that we feel resonates with this audience is obviously beauty, as we’re talking to a more female audience, and then also home décor and home style and the stories behind craftspeople, artisans and makers, as I like to call them. So, we want to talk about an organic lifestyle on many different levels. And by expanding our content areas, we explore the conversation, so to speak.

 

And the other thing that we became very clear on was that as a magazine called Organic Life, we have to show some kind of leadership, or advocacy in this space and in this movement. So, from now on every issue that we do, we make sure that we have one very hard-hitting or thoughtful piece of advocacy in the organic world, whether that’s in America or abroad. And an example of that is in our first issue, the large story that we did on a very small town in the Italian Alps that is the first town in the world to ban pesticides.

 

When we talk about our content strategy it’s really about pushing these different buttons and it’s inviting people into this movement by giving them inspiration and information in areas that pertain to their everyday life: beauty, food, health, and gardening. But then also it’s really hard-hitting where it counts and gives the audience really serious journalism and some serious leadership on issues that take place.

 

Samir Husni: How long have you been in the States?

 

Melanie Hansche: I’ve been here for 18 months.

 

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment in your new job since you moved here 18 months ago?

 

Melanie Hansche: When I joined Rodale, I was working on special projects in the food space because food media has been my specialty for over 10 years. And that was really exciting because I worked on a lot of different assets. I worked on a cookbook; I worked on building up our test kitchen; I worked on a digital project that was a database of recipes, and I worked on an event. So, I was able to work on many different things, but when I was asked to look after Organic Life three months ago, I realized how much I missed putting a magazine together. I’ve always worked in magazines and I love the creative process.

 

And when I began this, it was like getting back on a bike. I was so excited and the team was so great and I loved the creativity of it that honestly, the most pleasurable moment was being asked to edit this magazine.

 

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

 

Melanie Hansche: I would say the biggest stumbling block in moving here was being an unknown quantity, building relationships and trust; it’s getting buy-in from your coworkers. When I was in Sydney, it was like being a big fish in a little pond. And suddenly I arrive here in America, very innocent and wide-eyed, and I became a very little fish in a big pond and I really had to establish myself, establish my credentials all over again and have people understand what I do and what my skillset is and how I could benefit their brand and what I could bring to the table.

 

And to be honest, that was very hard, but I also feel like it’s making me stronger and making me more persistent than I was before. (Laughs)

 

Samir Husni: I could feel the passion in your voice when you talked about putting the magazine together; you’ve worked in digital and books, what is it about a print magazine that delivers that high for you, rather than just working on digital or some other project?

 

Melanie Hansche: The reason why I went into magazines in the first place as opposed to perhaps becoming a young newspaper journalist was that I always felt that magazines were more creative and certainly the writing and the imagery was, because it allowed editors and writers to explore areas in a lot more depth and in a much better visual style than say the old pyramid structure of newspaper writing did, which I found very formulaic and boring. So, I went into magazines because I found them to be much more creative and they allowed for more creative writing, and that still resonates with me today and is why I still love magazines.

 

I’m also pretty old school; I do love the feel of print. I love the feel of sitting down and flipping through pages. It’s a very experiential thing. I find it very relaxing. And I think what’s been interesting with what we often refer to as the digital disruption is as iPad magazines are also fabulous because they also offer a kind of interaction and interactivity that you can’t get with the printed page, but I have always returned to that more tactile, page-turning approach and I think actually the markets have gone back that way too.

 

We’re seeing a lot of magazines enter the market with beautiful paper stock and beautiful photography and they’re very lush, vibrant visual experiences. Print products still represent escape for people. When their subscription arrives in the mail, the reader might flip through it very quickly, maybe starting from the back, but what’s been found is they return to it on the weekend and read it cover to cover. And I’m certainly that person too.

 

Magazines to me, the way the type and the photography stick to each other and can work together; the way the illustration or the way hand-drawn fonts work together, I just love the creativity of that, and how we can speak to an audience with the simplicity of the printed page.

 

Samir Husni: You’re one of the few editors that I know of in the States that their CEO writes a column for the magazine or a story or article. How difficult is it for you as an editor to edit Maria Rodale?

 

Melanie Hansche: I will say that Maria and I have a fabulous relationship built within the last 12 months because I edited her cookbook. And so we know each other very well and we also complement each other very well. One of the reasons that she brought me onboard in the first place was because she knew the brand that I had come from in Australia and she loved it a lot. There is a lot of great respect and humor between the two of us; so in fact, it’s fairly easy to have an open editor/writer relationship with each other and we often brief her on the theme or topic of that issue. Generally, we let her have free reign over what she writes about and then workshop her columns a little bit, but I have to say given the history and the nature of our relationship, it’s actually not as tricky as you might think. (Laughs)

 

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Maria is a rare entity in this business, where you have the CEO actually writing.

 

Melanie Hansche: Exactly. And to some extent, this magazine is also her baby. It was birthed as Organic Style over 10 years ago and now it’s been rebirthed as Organic Life and she really believes in this product and she believes in how much this can resonate with an audience. And she is very passionate about it and I’m actually very lucky that our CEO is as engaged with the product as I am. So, it’s a really good thing.

 

organic spread 2 Samir Husni: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

 

Melanie Hansche: I’m excited about what the future holds for us, because I’ve always thought that this brand can resonate really strongly with an audience, particularly as the organic movement grows.

 

One thing I want to say is that a lot of people are a little bit afraid that when you see a magazine called Organic Life that they have to be 100% organic. And the anecdote that I always go back to is one that a friend told me. She said that I can’t read your magazine because I drink cola. And this is exciting and is a great example because it’s how an organic lifestyle can be perceived. It can be perceived as really pure and really evangelical.

 

So, what we’re trying to do at the magazine is say that this movement is approachable and it’s fun and vibrant; we’ll meet you at whatever stage of your journey you’re at. And we’re not here to scold you for what you are or are not doing. This organic life is a journey and it means different things to different people.

 

So, I would love an audience to give this magazine a chance and realize that it’s actually really fun and it’s really vibrant and engaging. And it’s not judgmental. Living an organic life is about intentions; it’s not about some tricky label definition or certification. I want this to be a very encouraging and joyful magazine. And also for it to be really practical too, so I want people to understand that our mission isn’t a completely pure and militant one; it’s much more welcoming and inquisitive than that.

 

Samir Husni: Is that the reason for the tagline: a handbook for happy, healthy living?

 

Melanie Hansche: Correct, correct. The magazine never had a tagline before and I felt very strongly that it would give this brand a more distinctive identity and a personality if we stated on the magazine just what the magazine does. It helps us lead a happier, healthier life. And that’s why we included a tagline for this issue.

 

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

 

Melanie Hansche: You would probably find me cooking actually. I’ve worked in Sydney for so long that I’m fairly food-obsessed, but the other reason you would find me cooking is that I find it relaxing. Cooking lets me switch off in the evening and I destress. After a long day, there is something about chopping, stirring, creating dishes that I really like. So, I would probably invite you to sit down and share a plate of food and a glass of wine with me.

 

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

 

Melanie Hansche: Moving to New York has given me an energy and an engagement and has inspired me in ways that I guess Sydney didn’t. It’s a city that drives you and being here really excites me. And it’s also the product. To be honest, working on something that you personally and passionately believe in; it’s very easy to get out of bed in the morning.

 

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

 

Melanie Hansche: I have a tendency to sweat the small stuff. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could just turn my brain off, but sometimes, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing when you care too much about things, but sometimes I worry about little things that I shouldn’t. And those are the things that keep me up at night. Sometimes I just need my husband to bring me back down to earth, when he asks me what I’m worrying about. And when I tell him, it’s generally something that happened at work that day that I probably don’t need to think about anymore. But that’s what keeps me up at night, the small stuff.

 

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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