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Niépi Magazine Launches In The U.S. – Teaching Us Cuisine & The Art Of Living As Only The French Can – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Peter S. Walsh, Publisher, Niépi Magazine, U.S.A.

July 21, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 7.15.43 PM “I’m a huge believer that print helps to monetize the digital audience. And as evidence of that is the fact that All Recipes was digital-only and then launched print.” Peter S. Walsh

(On whether he believes newsstands are dead or dying) “I would never use those words because I have too much respect for all of the good people who are in the newsstand industry, whether it’s retailer, distributor, national distributor, wholesaler, or publishers. We’re all aware over the last 25 years how much things have changed, in that the amount of magazines that are being distributed through the system has grown tremendously, but the amount of space for display has not. Yet, the largest and the most sophisticated and healthiest publishers like Meredith, like Condé Nast, like Hearst; they continue to launch magazines in print.” Peter S. Walsh

 Niépi – defined as a Balinese ceremony held on the night of New Year’s during which noise is made to scare away demons and our own fears. Niépi Magazine embraces that definition – only from a food state of mind.

The magazine was created and founded by Frédérique Barral and her daughter, who were both diagnosed as gluten intolerant. A native of France, Frédérique decided that she and her daughter needed to take control of the ingredients that went into their bodies, learn about them and decide what went into their foods. And it was in that mindset the idea for Niépi magazine was born and began publishing a French language version in France and Belgium in 2014.

Peter S. Walsh is a businessman who knows quite a bit about the magazine media business, from circulation to distribution to print production, Peter has done it all for many, many years. And he knew a great title when he saw it. That’s why when he was approached about publishing an English language version of the magazine, he did his research and Niépi magazine was born in the United States. It’s scheduled to debut on newsstands in early September.

I spoke with Peter recently and we talked about the magazine; about its origins; its name, and its future. Oh, and if you’re trying to tie the meaning of the name in with the food category – think about it this way: learning to live free of the demons that can affect our bodies, or in Peter’s words, “It’s teaching its readers about sustainable, organic food and showing people ways to eat so that it enhances their health and wellbeing.” And it’s extremely memorable and the tagline totally befitting: Cuisine & the Art of Living.

So, make some noise and create your own “Niépi” as you read and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter S. Walsh, Publisher, Niépi Magazine, U.S.

But first the sound-bites:

Peter Walsh Head Shot 7_17_16On why he decided to launch a print magazine in the food space in today’s digital age: I’m a huge believer that print helps to monetize the digital audience. And as evidence of that is the fact that All Recipes was digital-only and then launched print. I thought there was a really great opportunity in the marketplace for a magazine that sets out up front that it’s covering organic, natural foods, sustainably-sourced foods, etc.

On what Niépi brings to the marketplace that isn’t already there: Our editorial mission is to show people beautiful food and recipes so that they’re eating things that are healthy and natural, which increases their wellbeing and overall health. And we’re covering it from the viewpoint and through the prism of the French people, or in particular, this French editor.

On his expectations for the magazine: In terms of the newsstands, like all magazines, I want to put it where I believe the readers are. And we believe that overwhelmingly the readers are female and we believe that we’ll attract an audience that is younger than, let’s say, Bon Appétit’s audience. So, what I want to do is, and am accomplishing this now with the help of Curtis Circulation, is get into Whole Foods and Kroger and Mariano’s Fresh Market and other great markets. The first order of business is bringing it into those retailers that are really devoting space to organic produce and foods.

On whether he feels the newsstand is dead or dying: I would never use those words because I have too much respect for all of the good people who are in the newsstand industry, whether it’s retailer, distributor, national distributor, wholesaler, or publishers. We’re all aware over the last 25 years how much things have changed, in that the amount of magazines that are being distributed through the system has grown tremendously, but the amount of space for display has not. Yet, the largest and the most sophisticated and healthiest publishers like Meredith, like Condé Nast, like Hearst; they continue to launch magazines in print.

On anything else he’d like to add: I hope that I defined it correctly as sustainable, organic food and showing people ways to eat so that it enhances their health and wellbeing.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: I tell people all of the time that I am a bit of a magazine geek. And I’ve been involved with magazines since 1981 when I started with ICF, a division of the Hearst Corporation here in Chicago. Over the years I’ve worked for companies such as Hearst and ADS Publisher Services. And I am somebody who just finds magazines one of the greatest media out there. I enjoy the format.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up at his home one evening after work unexpectedly: You’d probably catch me at my desk or on my couch. I read a lot of magazines and also I wear a lot of different hats in my business. I am one of the owners of Niépi, that’s part of it. I am an owner.

On whether this is the first time he’s been a magazine owner: It is, yes. For 35 years I’ve either been a circulator or a consultant to publishers. And I continue to do that and I specialize in circulation and I also, over the last 10 years, have specialized in print production, because I currently do a lot of graphic design and printing projects. I print catalogs as well as I print magazines. So, to a small publisher I have been functioning as the circulation department and the production department.

On whether it makes a difference that he’s an owner this time around, rather than a hired consultant: Of course it does. It makes me want to work harder and obviously over the last three or four months I’ve had to set up many, many different parts of the structure, including the postal and the fulfillment, e-commerce, the website and social media.

On what keeps him up at night: To be brutally honest, what keeps me up is will our editorial be compelling enough to attract readers and to have them return and repeat purchase, whether that’s on the newsstand or subscription, because I tell people all of the time as good a circulator as I am; I can print it and make it look beautiful, but I cannot make people buy the magazine. And that’s the Catch-22.

 

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter S. Walsh, Publisher, Niépi Magazine, U.S.

Samir Husni: How did you reach the decision to launch a print magazine, especially in the food space, in this digital age?

cover01-2Peter S. Walsh: I’m a huge believer that print helps to monetize the digital audience. And as evidence of that is the fact that All Recipes was digital-only and then launched print.

What happened in this particular case was that I am a consultant and a long-time circulator, and a gentleman who was an American, but lives in the south of France, met this couple that had started this magazine in 2014. He met them within just the last year. And when he met them he thought it was a beautiful magazine and he realized that they produced it in French, in France and Belgium, and he asked them would they be open to a co-publishing or royalty agreement where we would do it in English, and so we’re calling this the International version – English language version, of Niépi.

So, John, my financial partner, found me after poking around the newsstand business a little and realized that he needed someone to kind of steer the ship. And some people referred him to me. We sat down and talked. I was very impressed with the magazine and even though I knew the category of cuisine and food titles well, I wasn’t recently familiar with it, but I did a lot of research after John and I talked. I thought there was a really great opportunity in the marketplace for a magazine that sets out up front that it’s covering organic, natural foods, sustainably-sourced foods, etc.

And of course, we see how the supermarket industry has been doing in the last few years, where more or less the largest supermarkets have plateaued or flattened. And the ones that are growing are the ones that are devoting more space in their produce department to organic foods.

Samir Husni: What’s the expectations? Food has become the sex category of the 21st century in magazines; we have more food titles in the marketplace than ever before. You name the specialty and it’s there. What does this new magazine bring to the market that’s not already there?

Peter S. Walsh: You’re right. Years ago we had the very large food titles like Bon Appétit, Gourmet, which obviously Condé Nast folded years ago in 2009, and Food & Wine. And they’re all very large. And as you indicated, in recent years the category has fragmented into subject-specific food titles, such as gluten-free or sugar-free, etc. And I believe those are all covered in what we’re doing.

Our editorial mission is to show people beautiful food and recipes so that they’re eating things that are healthy and natural, which increases their wellbeing and overall health. And we’re covering it from the viewpoint and through the prism of the French people, or in particular, this French editor.

Samir Husni: You’ve been involved before with the magazine Naked Food and you’ve done other things in this category, so you’re no stranger to the niche. Now, if you would please put your newsstand cap on and tell me about a magazine with a French name, one that has gorgeous pictures in it; what do you think your expectations should be? Do you think that people are going to stop in their tracks and say: what’s this?

Peter S. Walsh: Actually, the name Niépi is not French. It’s French spelling because the couple that founded the magazine is from the south of France. The name Niépi is from the island of Bali and they have sort of a New Year’s celebration that goes on for about a week. And in the middle of it, they call one evening of the festivities Niépi. And what they do is people go outside and bang on pots and pans and make lots of noise and you may have heard about this in other cultures as well. The idea is that they’re casting out evil spirits and starting the New Year fresh.

It’s also a bit of an allegory of embracing our lives and casting away fear and living a little more fearlessly. And in the case of our magazine, the couple liked the theme and then they changed it to a French spelling, but the idea is that food and the way people approach it, it just so happened that this couple, Frédérique Barral and her daughter, were having some health issues, They became diagnosed as gluten intolerant, so they started the magazine talking about gluten-free, and again, it’s the two of them saying to the readership: take control of your diet. Take control of the ingredients in the food that you put into your body. So, that’s the reason behind the name.

When I was introduced to the magazine I thought: OK, it’s not an English language word. We’ll immediately need to spell that out to the reader, so if they see it on the newsstand they’ll know what it is. But with that said, I still liked the name Niépi because it’s short and cute, and because it’s memorable. People can remember it very quickly. And what we did is add the tagline right below it, which is Cuisine & the Art of Living.

In terms of the newsstands, like all magazines, I want to put it where I believe the readers are. And we believe that overwhelmingly the readers are female and we believe that we’ll attract an audience that is younger than, let’s say, Bon Appétit’s audience. So, what I want to do is, and am accomplishing this now with the help of Curtis Circulation, is get into Whole Foods and Kroger and Mariano’s Fresh Market and other great markets. The first order of business is bringing it into those retailers that are really devoting space to organic produce and foods. Of course, we’ll also be in every Barnes & Noble because we pay the promotional fee. Also, like most food titles, we’ll have a lot more subscriptions than we will have newsstand sales.

Samir Husni: I noticed that you have a hefty cover price.

Peter S. Walsh: Yes, $9.95. And that’s quarterly.

 Samir Husni: People keep telling us that the newsstand is dead or dying; is it?

Peter S. Walsh: I would never use those words because I have too much respect for all of the good people who are in the newsstand industry, whether it’s retailer, distributor, national distributor, wholesaler, or publishers. We’re all aware over the last 25 years how much things have changed, in that the amount of magazines that are being distributed through the system has grown tremendously, but the amount of space for display has not.

Yet, the largest and the most sophisticated and healthiest publishers like Meredith, like Condé Nast, like Hearst; they continue to launch magazines in print. And what we try to do is just basically be targeted and be very vigilant about where the copies go, because I like high sell-through. I want to get a 50% sell-through and I remember years ago when 50% was a low sell-through, so that shows you my age. (Laughs)

There was also a study recently that I read, which I was very interested in, and it showed that when people have great discounts off of their newsstand price; when they sell subscriptions at discounts of 50% or 60%, or more, then that’s connected to lower sell-throughs on the newsstand. And I thought that was really insightful and intriguing.

Cover prices have obviously gone higher. We’re printing a magazine that will be on heavier paper and it’ll be thicker than most of the other magazines that are in the space. And we know that quarterly $10 is not too much. Our basic subscription is $29.95, so that’s 25% off the newsstand. And if we increase frequency, I hope we can do six issues next year in 2017, and if things are profitable and the marketplace wants more, we’ll increase it to maybe 8, 9, or 10 issues in 2018. We’ll lower the cover price a bit if we increase frequency.

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

Peter S. Walsh: I hope that I defined it correctly as sustainable, organic food and showing people ways to eat so that it enhances their health and wellbeing.

Samir Husni: And the first issue will hit newsstands when?

Peter S. Walsh: Around September 1, 2016. We’re shipping around August 15th.

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

Peter S. Walsh: I tell people all of the time that I am a bit of a magazine geek. And I’ve been involved with magazines since 1981 when I started with ICF, a division of the Hearst Corporation here in Chicago. Over the years I’ve worked for companies such as Hearst and ADS Publisher Services. And I am somebody who just finds magazines one of the greatest media out there. I enjoy the format.

When I was with Times Mirror Magazines, I was the guy who got cross-merchandising into Wal-Mart and Kmart. So, we put hunting and fishing magazines in the hunting and fishing departments, rather than the mainline and it was shortly followed by craft magazines, etc. I’m a great magazine devotee. I literally touched or worked on hundreds of magazines. I’ve been able to catch lightning in a bottle a few different times and I really like talking about magazines, whether it’s the operations or whether I’m selling advertising, which I am starting to do with this magazine.

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

Peter S. Walsh: You’d probably catch me at my desk or on my couch. I read a lot of magazines and also I wear a lot of different hats in my business. I am one of the owners of Niépi, that’s part of it. I am an owner.

Samir Husni: Is that a first for you, being an owner?

Peter S. Walsh: It is, yes. For 35 years I’ve either been a circulator or a consultant to publishers. And I continue to do that and I specialize in circulation and I also, over the last 10 years, have specialized in print production, because I currently do a lot of graphic design and printing projects. I print catalogs as well as I print magazines. So, to a small publisher I have been functioning as the circulation department and the production department.

Every facet of magazine publishing is interesting to me and I’m not an editor; I’m not trained as an editor, but I hire editors and designers. As far as the business side of publishing magazines, that’s really my passion. It really is.

Samir Husni: Does it make a difference that you’re an owner this time around, rather than a hired consultant?

Peter S. Walsh: Of course it does. It makes me want to work harder and obviously over the last three or four months I’ve had to set up many, many different parts of the structure, including the postal and the fulfillment, e-commerce, the website and social media.

Of course, being an owner and having partners; I have people to answer to and I’m giving this 110% of my time.

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

Peter S. Walsh: To be brutally honest, what keeps me up is will our editorial be compelling enough to attract readers and to have them return and repeat purchase, whether that’s on the newsstand or subscription, because I tell people all of the time as good a circulator as I am; I can print it and make it look beautiful, but I cannot make people buy the magazine. And that’s the Catch-22.

I believe that the editorial mission and the brand that comes from editorial and the design together; that is what drives a magazine. All great magazines; people can instantly tell. What is Rolling Stone about editorially? Well, we all know it’s rock and roll, but it’s also politics and it’s liberal. And that’s a voice that’s been going on since Jann Wenner was throwing the bundles off the back of his station wagon in San Francisco in 1967, same thing with Time or Playboy.

I think that if we want to be a great magazine and be around for the long term, we have to be compelling editorially and be of service to our readers. The proof is in the pudding and we’ll see when we get out there.

Samir Husni: Thank you

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