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Celebrity Page Magazine: Putting Readers On The Positive “Page” Of Their Favorite Celebrities’ Lives – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Daniel Hall, Publisher, Celebrity Page, Bella New York & Bella L.A.

September 29, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

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“We had the print background and we believed in that. Also, with everything we were reading and researching, we felt that print is strong. I know it’s taken a pretty bad beating over the past several years, but really in the past two years we’ve seen a great surge in print again. And for us we felt that it’s almost not real until it’s in print. The digital is fantastic and we certainly have full digital; we’re doing a lot with video, and I like to say that we drive it all to our digital. We have a tangible lead behind that people want and we bring it all together with events.” Daniel Hall

Two new print titles have recently hit newsstands: Celebrity Page and Bella L.A. Both are from the creative talents of husband and wife team, Daniel and Courtenay Hall. The Hall’s began their passionate magazine journey with Bella New York, a women’s luxury lifestyle publication offering an insider’s guide to one of the most affluent areas in America. Bella New York spotlights a sophisticated combination of fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrity and entertainment.

fb_img_1474642837794Bella L.A. is the latest regional title that will mirror its sister publication, only focusing on L.A. instead of the Big Apple. I spoke with Daniel Hall recently and we talked about his future vision for the Bella Media Group brand and how he and Courtenay hope to keep spinning the North American globe by having Bella’s for many, many cities. Next up: Miami.

The other new title is one that is unique in its desire to cast celebrities in a more positive light: Celebrity Page, named after the syndicated entertainment news program that airs on the cable network, REELZ. The magazine is a monthly that showcases many of the philanthropic efforts that celebrities are interested in. It also presents a more comfortable look at some of our greatest and most popular icons. It’s a breath of fresh air in the celeb world as it shies away from the behind-the-bushes-caught-you negativity many of the gossip-based titles go for. Daniel’s unique strategy for distributing the premiere issue was an exclusive deal with Barnes & Noble, which earned him first-shelf placement in the Entertainment section in all 634 stores as a joint partnership. While it was a most sweet deal, Daniel said for following issues it will not be Barnes & Noble exclusively as they plan on broadening their horizons and newsstands.

Daniel is a print lover from way back, as is his wife, Courtenay. They used their passion and their own money to start Bella New York and have watched it grow and flourish – so much so they started Bella L.A. and Celebrity Page.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very interesting discussion with a man who knows how to use hard work, passion and dedication to make his dream come true – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Hall, publisher, Celebrity Page, Bella New York and Bella L.A.

But first the sound-bites:

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On why he’s launching print magazines in this digital age: By design, when we came up with the idea for Bella, we knew that we wanted to go to national with a bunch of regionals, if you will. Bella New York was our first magazine, obviously, and it’s been just a little over five years and we’re going onto Bella L.A. and because 50 percent of the content will be of national interest and the other 50 percent of the content is going to be geared toward that region. And we chose that model because we did not want to compete against the nationals; we didn’t want to have our fashion compete against Vogue. So, we said that if we take a little bit of the nationals and put it into a regional and then let that region own it with some local content, we felt like we’d have better success, because through our research we felt niche publications were doing better.

On the idea behind Celebrity Page magazine and its connection to the television program of the same name: Basically, we’ve partnered with the people who actually have Celebrity Page TV. Of course, we’re not partners with them on the television show, just on the print and the digital. We saw an area where we wanted to position celebrities in a positive light. We wanted to show their philanthropic efforts; we didn’t want to come across as a tabloid that was hiding in the bushes and seeing who was coming out of a cellulite clinic or anything like that.

On why he decided to go through Barnes & Noble exclusively for the distribution of the premiere issue of Celebrity Page: We have a great relationship with Barnes & Noble when it comes to Bella. And our sales are fantastic with them, so I approached them and asked if they’d want to partner with us on this launch. According to what they told me, this was the first time they had entered into this type arrangement too. I was able to negotiate first-shelf placement in the Entertainment section in all 634 stores as a joint partnership. And we said that through the TV and through the magazine, we would also promote Barnes & Noble and just try to drive readers and traffic to their retail outlets to help promote the store and really, just help everyone’s cause.

On what he believes the role of print is today: We had the print background and we believed in that. Also, with everything we were reading and researching, we felt that print s strong. I know it’s taken a pretty bad beating over the past several years, but really in the past two years we’ve seen a great surge in print again. And for us we felt that it’s almost not real until it’s in print. The digital is fantastic and we certainly have full digital; we’re doing a lot with video, and I like to say that we drive it all to our digital. We have a tangible leave behind that people want and we bring it all together with events.

On the biggest stumbling block that he had to face during the launch of any of his magazines and how he overcame it: Two things come to mind: the naysayers who kept saying print is dead and we were absolutely crazy to go into a print publication. Had we listened to any of those people we obviously wouldn’t have launched any of our magazines. So, I think overcoming all of the naysayers just as we were starting to do our preliminary research on what we should do and how we should launch. The second thing was the finances of launching. We did not go after investors. My wife and I self-funded. We like to say it was an Amex card and a dream. And literally it was. We sold the first issue on the concept; we printed a media kit and we sold the idea.

paris-coverOn where the next Bella magazine will be after New York and L.A.: As far as our business model, we plan on going to Miami next. And we’re hoping to do that in one year’s time. Miami and then next, and I’m not sure why really, but we felt we wanted to do something in either Dallas or Houston, something along those lines as a fourth market.

On the most pleasant moment he encountered during the launching of the magazines: I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in 1997 with a B.A.and I had the opportunity to go back and interview the president of the college for the magazine. And it’s those types of things that hit me sometimes and I can’t really believe they’re happening, and interviewing some of these amazing athletes and just having exposure and being able to highlight them. With Bella too, we’re fashion, beauty, wellness; we’re an overall lifestyle, those are just three of the main focuses of the magazine. And even a lot of the wellness content; when you’re highlighting these philanthropic efforts of some of these unfortunate diseases and things some children have; when we support them and we go to these fundraisers and highlight and try to help them create awareness; that is meaningful to us.

On anything else he’d like to add: I’d just like to thank our supporters and thank our team. We’re a small crew that does a lot. And really, everything that we do is to just try and put good content to each of those areas and basically don’t stop. Bella is an example of what passion and dedication can do.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: We have three small children, not so small now; they’re 12, 11 and 7. Being that we work together, we try when we come home to turn it off. And sometimes that’s difficult, because obviously, you’re always thinking of something. What needs to be done? But we really try to focus and get home and then zone in on what’s important at that point. For the most part it would be being with the children, doing something, whether it’s afterschool soccer, or just being home. It’s really family time that we focus on and we try to really pay attention to doing good quality family time and during the day good quality business.

On what keeps him up at night: I have to say that I am a good sleeper, so when it is bedtime, I can typically shut it down and go to sleep. But when I am kept up it’s just all of the activities of what we’re doing. I don’t want to ever take anything for granted. Life is short for all of us, so at night I try to really think of whether or not we accomplished what we wanted to? I think of strategic ways that we can do better to make a bigger impact on people that is going to be meaningful and to help them. We try and make the content more than just fluff. We try to make a difference with the brand when people are reading the pages of Bella and Celebrity Page.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Hall, publisher, Celebrity Page, Bella New York and Bella L.A.

bella-laSamir Husni: Why are you launching a new print magazine in this digital age? And in fact, with Bella L.A., you’re actually launching two print magazines; tell me a little about your story.

Daniel Hall: By design, when we came up with the idea for Bella, we knew that we wanted to go to national with a bunch of regionals, if you will. Bella New York was our first magazine, obviously, and it’s been just a little over five years and we’re going onto Bella L.A. and because 50 percent of the content will be of national interest and the other 50 percent of the content is going to be geared toward that region.

And we chose that model because we did not want to compete against the nationals; we didn’t want to have our fashion compete against Vogue. So, we said that if we take a little bit of the nationals and put it into a regional and then let that region own it with some local content, we felt like we’d have better success, because through our research we felt niche publications were doing better. And we’re not niche in the sense of a special interest type of publication; we’re still more general interest. We are appealing to the masses.

But we knew by focusing on each region it would allow them to own it and hopefully want to purchase it, and it has been. Thank God it has been going that way. It’s been a real grass roots effort, but it’s certainly been gaining momentum issue after issue, and we felt it was time to launch Bella L.A. now in order to keep that momentum going.

Samir Husni: In addition to Bella, you’ve just launched Celebrity Page. And you’ve launched it in a way that it’s only distributed at Barnes & Noble. Would you tell me about the genesis of the idea behind Celebrity Page, the magazine and its connectivity with the television program?

Daniel Hall: Basically, we’ve partnered with the people who actually have Celebrity Page TV. Of course, we’re not partners with them on the television show, just on the print and the digital. We saw an area where we wanted to position celebrities in a positive light. We wanted to show their philanthropic efforts; we didn’t want to come across as a tabloid that was hiding in the bushes and seeing who was coming out of a cellulite clinic or anything like that.

Being that celebrities are such icons really, if you will, to some of the millennials and to older folks as well and the impact that celebrities have on people’s lives; we felt that by putting a positive spin on it and by putting something new out there, and with the TV component to back it up and the full digital, it would be something good to partner on, and be great to add to the Bella Media Group portfolio as just a positive reinforcement to these celebrities of highlighting and honoring them for what they do in that positive way.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to go through Barnes & Noble exclusively with the premiere launch of Celebrity Page?

Daniel Hall: We have a great relationship with Barnes & Noble when it comes to Bella. And our sales are fantastic with them, so I approached them and asked if they’d want to partner with us on this launch. According to what they told me, this was the first time they had entered into this type arrangement too. I was able to negotiate first-shelf placement in the Entertainment section in all 634 stores as a joint partnership. And we said that through the TV and through the magazine, we would also promote Barnes & Noble and just try to drive readers and traffic to their retail outlets to help promote the store and really, just help everyone’s cause.

We felt it was a good partnership for us. Barnes & Noble is obviously a great name, and you know better than anyone, as far as newsstands go, that they have certainly been struggling over that past few years, but our stand sales are great and we felt that if we could really promote one place and tell people: hey, go here, get it here, it would be very effective.

We are rolling out with another national distributor after this initial first issue, so it’s not going to be exclusive with Barnes & Noble anymore. We are going to increase with additional stands as well, and that will be through The Publishing Distribution. We’ve signed up with those guys as well. But for the launch we went with Barnes & Noble exclusively and it went great. We’re doing a lot of cross-promotion with them. We’re just trying to get people who shop there to purchase our magazine, obviously, but also any title.

Samir Husni: Someone might wonder what you’d been drinking to publish three print magazines in this digital age. What do you believe the role of print is today?

Daniel Hall: I come from a print background. And so does my wife. My wife Courtenay is the editor in chief of the magazine and I’m the publisher, so it’s a husband and wife combo. We met in college at our first job with an advertising agency. My wife jumped over to publishing first and I followed.

So, we had the print background and we believed in that. Also, with everything we were reading and researching, we felt that print s strong. I know it’s taken a pretty bad beating over the past several years, but really in the past two years we’ve seen a great surge in print again. And for us we felt that it’s almost not real until it’s in print. The digital is fantastic and we certainly have full digital; we’re doing a lot with video, and I like to say that we drive it all to our digital. We have a tangible leave behind that people want and we bring it all together with events.

But what we felt in print was exactly that; the tangible leave behind. The celebrities are very supportive and to give you an example, I think it was in our second issue, we highlighted a health expert. Tragically, she was on her deathbed about two months ago. Her niece called me and asked for copies of that issue of the magazine so that they could pass it around to members of the family.

And that just reconfirmed to us the specialness of print; you just can’t get that with digital. You’re not going to have somebody ask you to go get your digital archive so they can see their cover photo. So, I feel the pass-along with print is invaluable. And it’s just real. You have that print copy and these writers, celebrities and editors that we’re highlighting, they take those copies and they keep them forever. We just feel like that when it’s in print, it’s real. We knew that we couldn’t be solely in print, but we wanted to drive it all with the backbone being print. And adding the multiplatform to our brands as supporting everything, but knowing print is still the strongest; it gives the best return on investment and we felt the pass-along rate, as far as having them displayed in doctor’s offices and salons, that type of thing. And print is the most trackable. With digital it’s craziness with all of the numbers; there were a thousand clicks, but did someone walk through my door and purchase the product?

And the brands can get so crafty with print and people love it. You have that diamond ring jumping off of the glossy whit page, it’s just looks gorgeous. And we’re avid magazine readers. From the beginning we knew that we needed to do a print publication, plus the digital and with Celebrity Page, the TV components.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest stumbling block that faced you in the launch of Bella or Celebrity Page and how did you overcome it?

Daniel Hall: Two things come to mind: the naysayers who kept saying print is dead and we were absolutely crazy to go into a print publication. Had we listened to any of those people we obviously wouldn’t have launched any of our magazines. So, I think overcoming all of the naysayers just as we were starting to do our preliminary research on what we should do and how we should launch.

The second thing was the finances of launching. We did not go after investors. My wife and I self-funded. We like to say it was an Amex card and a dream. And literally it was. We sold the first issue on the concept; we printed a media kit and we sold the idea. We were able to sell enough to print our first edition and from there it just continued to roll. We call it an “attic startup,” we launched out of an attic where we lived and it was really a grass roots effort. It was having enough confidence to overcome the naysayers and then being bold enough to sell it before printing, knowing that we had to deliver. I think having our backs against the wall like that, knowing that those challenges really pushed us and motivated us to prove that print was not dead, it’s still very much alive, and you don’t need a big VC (venture capital) company behind you. You need passion, motivation and hustle, and you really can accomplish things and make your dreams come true.

Samir Husni: I interviewed a gentleman who just started a magazine down in New Orleans recently called Art+Design, and he quoted Tennessee Williams in his letter from the publisher, saying: “The United States has three major cities, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans. And everywhere else is Cleveland.” So, where is the next Bella after New York and L.A.? Is it going to be New Orleans?

Daniel Hall: (Laughs) That’s a good point and it’s certainly a possibility. As far as our business model, we plan on going to Miami next. And we’re hoping to do that in one year’s time. Miami and then next, and I’m not sure why really, but we felt we wanted to do something in either Dallas or Houston, something along those lines as a fourth market.

Miami would be next. And that’s the beauty of it. The content when we designed Bella and we were putting the departments in place and how we would structure it, we knew that was the direction that we wanted. That with each magazine we could have different covers or we could have one cover across all titles and then still have our “Love in the City” and our “Chow Bella,” which is our food section, geared specifically toward that major market. That’s our idea. So, hopefully, God willing, Miami will be our next market.

Samir Husni: During the process of launching those magazines, what was the most pleasant moment that you encountered?

Daniel Hall: I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in 1997 with a B.A. and I had the opportunity to go back and interview the president of the college for the magazine. And it’s those types of things that hit me sometimes and I can’t really believe they’re happening, and interviewing some of these amazing athletes and just having exposure and being able to highlight them.

With Bella too, we’re fashion, beauty, wellness; we’re an overall lifestyle, those are just three of the main focuses of the magazine. And even a lot of the wellness content; when you’re highlighting these philanthropic efforts of some of these unfortunate diseases and things some children have; when we support them and we go to these fundraisers and highlight and try to help them create awareness; that is meaningful to us. And that makes it a little bit more real for me that we’re actually making a difference in some of these families’ lives by trying to help. Where some of these magazines never even think of covering a kidney disease or something else, we kind of promote that to really help create awareness and then we go and fully support the event; we back it and do fundraising and that type of thing.

I think a lot of the enjoyment comes from being involved in those types of things and being able to honor those families by just highlighting and helping to create awareness for their situations.

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

Daniel Hall: I’d just like to thank our supporters and thank our team. We’re a small crew that does a lot. And really, everything that we do is to just try and put good content to each of those areas and basically don’t stop. Bella is an example of what passion and dedication can do. It’s amazing that we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get to where we are today, and we plan on keeping going and we truly appreciate everyone involved.

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

Daniel Hall: We have three small children, not so small now; they’re 12, 11 and 7. Being that we work together, we try when we come home to turn it off. And sometimes that’s difficult, because obviously, you’re always thinking of something. What needs to be done? But we really try to focus and get home and then zone in on what’s important at that point. For the most part it would be being with the children, doing something, whether it’s afterschool soccer, or just being home. It’s really family time that we focus on and we try to really pay attention to doing good quality family time and during the day good quality business.

You can catch us doing anything from playing a board game, to sitting and watching a family movie together, and we try to do that. One night is movie night; one night is board game night; sometimes it is just everyone doing their own thing. My wife is a big TV fan, so I may just try and catch something that she has DVR’ed and we’ll watch it together. In the later part of the evening, after the kids have gone to bed, it will be back to work and trying to plan for the next day and week, and back into the thinking process.

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

Daniel Hall: That’s a good question. (Laughs) I have to say that I am a good sleeper, so when it is bedtime, I can typically shut it down and go to sleep. But when I am kept up it’s just all of the activities of what we’re doing. I don’t want to ever take anything for granted. Life is short for all of us, so at night I try to really think of whether or not we accomplished what we wanted to? I think of strategic ways that we can do better to make a bigger impact on people that is going to be meaningful and to help them. We try and make the content more than just fluff. We try to make a difference with the brand when people are reading the pages of Bella and Celebrity Page.

So, if I am kept awake, it’s from thinking about the day and of new ideas about how we can differentiate and better ourselves.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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