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Local Pittsburgh & Local Arts Magazines: Two Regional Publications That Believe Both In The Printed Word & The Need For It Today More Than Ever – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jeff Rose, Owner/Publisher, Local Pittsburgh & Local Arts Magazines

July 19, 2016

Local Pittsburgh 1“The first reason is that I think people are on digital overload. You look at your phone and your computer all day or your tablet all day, and it’s not comforting. If you go to sit on your porch and you want to just read something; our publication is set up to be interesting, fast reads. We’re not trying to do five page essays on things, because I don’t think people’s attention spans allow for that anymore.” Jeff Rose… (On why he still sees a need for print in this digital age)

 “Millennials, the younger generation that has been overloaded from the day they were born with digital, are now discovering the pleasures of reading a book or reading a magazine. It’s almost like an escape; you don’t have to worry about your tablet and that email that’s popping up in the middle of your reading something.” Jeff Rose

Any publication that puts its readers first by putting its content first will receive a big thumbs-up from Mr. Magazine™. Content is king because your audience is your kingdom; without them there would be no need for you – or your advertisers.

jeff roseLocal Pittsburgh magazine has been devoting itself to its “kingdom” for three years now and Owner/Publisher Jeff Rose is a firm believer that his audience is and always will be first and everything else is secondary. I spoke with Jeff recently and we talked about his regional publication and his newest launch, Local Arts, which focuses on Pittsburgh’s art scene.

Jeff’s take on publishing is straight-on, no holds-barred customer and stories first. He doesn’t believe in cultivating advertising relationships based on advertorial or any other ties that bind, other than good old-fashioned, well-written content.

He is a man who calls himself a “small” businessman, but in reality his integrity and strong belief in his brand make his outlook and professionalism cast a very big shadow indeed. Plus, he is print passionate and gives some very good reasons why the world still needs to be flipping pages with their fingers, not their mouse.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very informative and straightforward interview with a man who is just as informed and candid as his opinion, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jeff Rose, Owner/Publisher, Local Pittsburgh & Local Arts Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

LocalArtsOn how he moved from direct marketing and coupon-type publications into the consumer side of publishing with Local Pittsburg and Local Arts magazines: My business partner and I felt that, in the city of Pittsburgh anyway, there wasn’t any publication that was a champion of small business and of stories that mattered. Everything that was being done in Pittsburgh was pay-to-play. There are some good publications in Pittsburgh, without a doubt, but we just felt there was a gap there.

On how he decided to fill that gap: We looked at the demographics of some of the other publications. They were either really high-end or we have a weekly city paper that’s published that’s really just more or less covering the bars and some of the weekly activities, but there was nothing on a quarterly basis that was really talking about things going on in and around the city and that was speaking to people who engage in the city.

On why he decided to launch a local arts magazine: About a year ago we brought on a full-time editor, before we were basically flying by the seat of our pants. The editor had some background with a web page that focused on the arts and so he started introducing stories on painters and on performing arts, but I noticed that he was only getting a couple of pages in the back of the book. And I noticed in other publications and in newspapers; everywhere was devoting just a little bit of space to the arts, but not a lot.

On the non-traditional sizes of both magazines: Well, because we were Local Pittsburgh and there was already a publication called Pittsburg Magazine; if I had gone traditional magazine size, I think there might have been some confusion. Then when Local Arts came along, if I had done it the same size as Local Pittsburgh, it would have been thought of as maybe just a supplement. I wanted it to be different.

On why he thinks there’s still a need for a printed publication in this digital age: The first reason is that I think people are on digital overload. You look at your phone and your computer all day or your tablet all day, and it’s not comforting. If you go to sit on your porch and you want to just read something; our publication is set up to be interesting, fast reads. We’re not trying to do five page essays on things, because I don’t think people’s attention spans allow for that anymore.

On the most pleasant moment he’s had on this journey: I don’t know if there’s been a single moment; it’s ongoing. Being a small business owner, it’s frustrating at times. I’m question myself and what I’m doing, but it’s when I walk in to talk to a client and instead of them saying that they like the ad we’re running for them, they say to me that they read a certain article and found it totally immersive and that the magazine is publishing good pieces.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face: Well, when you hear all of the time that people are putting all of their money into digital or that they don’t believe in print anymore; it’s frustrating because first off, in a lot of instances, the I-put-all-of-my-money-into-digital, especially when it comes to small business owners, really means that they don’t have a marketing budget. And that’s really what it comes down to.

Local Pittsburgh 2 1On anything else he’s like to add: Things changed tremendously when I brought on an editor who understood that end of the business. That was kind of an A-ha moment for the company. As a magazine, you need to think of readership first.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: I’m a Netflix and Amazon Prime documentary junkie. I watch documentaries constantly. So, that’s probably what you would find me doing, because I don’t get home until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. and that’s pretty much what I do.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: The pure panic of knowing that I have to pay bills and pay people; I have to go out and finish up articles; I have deadlines coming up. So, pretty much sheer panic gets me out of bed every morning. (Laughs)

On what keeps him up at night: I always second-guess and question myself. Not so much question what we’re doing, but how we’re doing it. In other words, when we went with the smaller size for Local Arts; I loved it and it received great reviews, but I immediately questioned myself. Should I have gone with a larger size? Should I have stayed with the Local Pittsburgh size?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jeff Rose, Owner/Publisher, Local Pittsburgh & Local Arts Magazines.

Samir Husni: Tell me the history behind Local Pittsburgh and Local Arts; I know you were in the direct marketing, advertising and coupon-type publications for about 15 years, but what gave you the idea to move into the consumer side of things with Local Pittsburgh and then just this year, Local Arts magazine?

Local Pittsburgh 3Jeff Rose: My business partner and I felt that, in the city of Pittsburgh anyway, there wasn’t any publication that was a champion of small business and of stories that mattered. Everything that was being done in Pittsburgh was pay-to-play. So, all of the articles coming out, anything that was written, you could basically trace it back to an ad on the page or two that followed. And the content was really lousy and people weren’t reading, and because of that I think other publications were struggling. There are some good publications in Pittsburgh, without a doubt, but we just felt there was a gap there.

Samir Husni: And how did you decide to fill this gap?

Jeff Rose: We looked at the demographics of some of the other publications. They were either really high-end or we have a weekly city paper that’s published that’s really just more or less covering the bars and some of the weekly activities, but there was nothing on a quarterly basis that was really talking about things going on in and around the city and that was speaking to people who engage in the city; young families living in the city; singles living in the city; graduate students; people who go out and spend money in these small businesses that are engaged in local events and go to the art galleries and volunteer. And we felt that we could fill that gap and so far, so good.

Samir Husni: I know that Local Pittsburgh has been publishing for three years now and then you launched Local Arts earlier this year; why did you decide to branch specifically into the arts?

Jeff Rose: About a year ago we brought on a full-time editor, before we were basically flying by the seat of our pants. The editor had some background with a web page that focused on the arts and so he started introducing stories on painters and on performing arts, but I noticed that he was only getting a couple of pages in the back of the book. And I noticed in other publications and in newspapers; everywhere was devoting just a little bit of space to the arts, but not a lot.

In the last five to eight years in Pittsburgh, we’ve witnessed a restaurant renaissance and now we’re kind of experiencing an art renaissance going on here. A lot of local artists from Brooklyn and from other large cities are moving to Pittsburgh because it’s affordable. And the art scene here is bursting. I realized that no one was doing a publication that was focused on this.

Our publication, as opposed to being an art publication like a lot of the others are, they’re basically written for artists and written for art collectors; we write for the general population that might be interested in art and want to know more about what’s going on in the arts and aren’t trying to educate themselves. So, we take it from a different point of view than a lot of other art publications across the country and what they seem to focus on.

Samir Husni: One thing that I noticed about both magazines is that you opted for a different size, not the traditional magazine size. Local Pittsburgh has more of a horizontal flow and Local Arts is a bit larger than a square. Why is that?

Jeff Rose: Well, because we were Local Pittsburgh and there was already a publication called Pittsburg Magazine; if I had gone traditional magazine size, I think there might have been some confusion.

Also, I just felt like that if I was going to do something to make the publication stand out immediately, it had to be a change in format and a little bit non-traditional, so that’s why we went with Local Pittsburgh that way, and we’ve gotten excellent reviews on it. People really like reading a publication in that format.

Then when Local Arts came along, if I had done it the same size as Local Pittsburgh, it would have been thought of as maybe just a supplement. I wanted it to be different.

No, we are toying with the idea of going more traditional with Local Arts, just because of the fact that it’s very picture-heavy. When people read it, things need to pop off of the page. But that wouldn’t be until next year. We’re getting very good reviews on the size it is now; people like it and it’s similar to a playbill size or something that you’d pick up at theatres or galleries.

Samir Husni: I hear people ask all of the time: why would you need a print publication in this digital age, especially for a local market where everyone can Google something or go to their mobile phone and get the information? Why do you think there’s still a need for a printed publication?

Jeff Rose: The first reason is that I think people are on digital overload. You look at your phone and your computer all day or your tablet all day, and it’s not comforting. If you go to sit on your porch and you want to just read something; our publication is set up to be interesting, fast reads. We’re not trying to do five page essays on things, because I don’t think people’s attention spans allow for that anymore.

We want something that can be read in comfort; you have an extra 15 or 20 minutes at a coffee shop or a couple of minutes before a business meeting; you’re at a restaurant eating by yourself. In the past, people went to read newspapers and it was to gain information and to find out the news that was going on in the world. Today, I think people pick up publications as a way to relax and escape from what’s in front of them all of the time. And I think that’s why it’s been successful

Millennials, the younger generation that has been overloaded from the day they were born with digital, are now discovering the pleasures of reading a book or reading a magazine. It’s almost like an escape; you don’t have to worry about your tablet and that email that’s popping up in the middle of your reading something. I see people reading on their phones and suddenly a call comes in. Reading print is that alone time, away from all of that.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment for you since you began this journey?

Jeff Rose: I don’t know if there’s been a single moment; it’s ongoing. Being a small business owner, it’s frustrating at times. I’m question myself and what I’m doing, but it’s when I walk in to talk to a client and instead of them saying that they like the ad we’re running for them, they say to me that they read a certain article and found it totally immersive and that the magazine is publishing good pieces.

We publish pieces that no one else publishes, because to me content is first and everything else follows. The rest of Pittsburgh seems to always tie their content in with the advertising. And I look for stories that you can’t sell ads about, because they’re not profitable stories, but they’re good stories, so you sell the readership. And when you sell the readership, then the advertising gets seen. Then there’s real time spent looking at something and readership means that ads are getting seen and people are talking about them and our advertisers win.

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

Local Pittsburgh 4Jeff Rose: Well, when you hear all of the time that people are putting all of their money into digital or that they don’t believe in print anymore; it’s frustrating because first off, in a lot of instances, the I-put-all-of-my-money-into-digital, especially when it comes to small business owners, really means that they don’t have a marketing budget. And that’s really what it comes down to.

It’s frustrating. I’ve been in with clients when they tell me that they don’t believe in print or they’re not putting in a print marketing budget because they don’t think it works much, and I look on their desks and it’s full of magazines and newspapers. So, I know that they’re reading print, but I think that they’re scared because all they’re being told is you have to spend money on Facebook and Twitter and it’s become beaten into their heads.

But I do see it starting to turn around again and it’s doing so a lot with small businesses. They’re engaging back with print, I believe, more than the larger companies, and that’s because it’s harder to turn a big ship than a smaller one.

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

Jeff Rose: Things changed tremendously when I brought on an editor who understood that end of the business. That was kind of an A-ha moment for the company. As a magazine, you need to think of readership first.

It’s easy to sell your soul; it’s easy to have a big company come to you and ask you if they promise to spend $20,000 in advertising with your publication, will you write four articles that they want, or when you do write an article on healthcare, I need you to not say anything bad about what we’re doing here in Pittsburgh.

It’s hard to turn away that money, but ultimately, over a period of time it gets recognized by everyone else. I have people who notice that we don’t sell our soul. And if you have good readership, it might be a slower course to success, but it will be a stronger course. It’s one that doesn’t have weak legs beneath it. You’re not one client away from going out of business, which a lot of times these companies do if they tie themselves in with big partners.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after your workday is done, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine, or reading your iPad; watching television, or something different?

Jeff Rose: I’m a Netflix and Amazon Prime documentary junkie. I watch documentaries constantly. So, that’s probably what you would find me doing, because I don’t get home until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. and that’s pretty much what I do.

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

Jeff Rose: The pure panic of knowing that I have to pay bills and pay people; I have to go out and finish up articles; I have deadlines coming up. So, pretty much sheer panic gets me out of bed every morning. (Laughs)

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

Jeff Rose: I always second-guess and question myself. Not so much question what we’re doing, but how we’re doing it. In other words, when we went with the smaller size for Local Arts; I loved it and it received great reviews, but I immediately questioned myself. Should I have gone with a larger size? Should I have stayed with the Local Pittsburgh size?

I always tell people that I’m the guy that buys a black car with a red interior, but stays up three nights wondering if I should have bought a red car with a black interior. It’s not so much second-guessing myself as it is just asking myself questions and rethinking.

We do a lot of research within our advertisers, within the people we write stories on. We’ve gone to a lot of different art people in the city who are respected and we’ve asked them what they thought about the size of Local Arts and it’s about 50/50. Some say yes, but eventually it might be nice to go to a full size and some say no, it sets yourself apart and people like the size. So, I think that’s the biggest thing, me just questioning things.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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