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Guideposts: Reinvigorating Itself Every Two Years With A New Print Magazine – This Time Around It’s A Title That Includes God’s Four-Legged Creatures Within Its Pages – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With John Temple, President & CEO, Guideposts

October 19, 2016

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“I really am. I know it goes against every publishing convention, but I just think print has a lot of viability still. My plan is for Guideposts to launch a new magazine every two years.” John Temple (on whether he is still bullish about print)

And all God’s creatures said “Amen.” That’s right; all God’s creatures. It’s about the human condition always, but in the case of the new Guideposts title that is being tested even as we write and read; it’s about how the animals of creation assist us in that condition we call being human.

Since President and CEO, John Temple, returned to the helm of Guideposts in 2013, he has launched three new print titles; three new magazines in three years. I think it’s safe to say, John doesn’t see the power of print as being any weaker than it’s ever been. In fact, in his own words, “it’s his goal to launch a new print magazine every two years.” So far, he’s exceeding his goal.

I spoke with John recently and we talked about the new magazine that is being tested. So far, the name is still up in the air, but the mission of the publication is not: to show the emotional, spiritual and healing power of animals. It’s an idea John said they’ve had for a while, considering the success of the animal-themed testimonials that Guideposts runs between its own pages.

Along with the new title, John and I discussed the positivity that Guideposts and its other titles reflect in our sometimes crazy and chaotic world. It’s certainly something that we both see as extremely needed in these highly uncertain times.

But whether you’re a positive thinker by nature, or simply a lover of uplifting and beautiful storytelling, Guideposts’ titles offer you a diversion from this world of notifications and bells and whistles that we live in today. Much like the printed product always does.

So, escape with John and me for a few moments as we enter a world of hope and positivity – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with John Temple, President and CEO, Guideposts.

But first the sound-bites:

John Temple

On the essence of the new magazine they’re testing about the healing and inspirational powers of pets: With the new magazine that we’re testing; we had the idea some time ago about doing something in the area of pets, and one of the reasons for that is we run a few first-person stories in Guideposts magazine about pets and about pets and healing. So, we thought why don’t we try to create a magazine around pets, but we didn’t exactly know what to call it. We came up with three titles. One is, Inspiring Pets; or All Creatures; and the third title is Animals and Healing. All three of them are slightly different, in terms of their emphasis, but all of them are built around pets that inspire us.

On the early reaction of the testing: There really haven’t been any surprises. It’s been very fulfilling and very enlightening in that there seems to be a very good audience for this. We started out just testing the house file and of course, we knew that would be strong. And it was. That was in June, and then in September we tested the house file plus 100,000 outside-list names. And that also was strong.

On whether these new readers are branching off of the Guideposts brand or coming to Guideposts from the new titles: I think they’re probably branching off of Guideposts. The new magazines are different and not really Guideposts, in terms of content. And actually the pet’s magazine is going to be different too. It’s going to have third person articles in it and service features, so we’re kind of branching out.

On whether he’s bullish on print, since this is the third new magazine under his tenure as president & CEO: I really am. I know it goes against every publishing convention, but I just think print has a lot of viability still. My plan is for Guideposts to launch a new magazine every two years.

animals-healingOn his most pleasant surprise during his career with Guideposts: I think the viability of our magazine business has been the most pleasant surprise. When I came back in 2013, the magazine industry was in freefall. Advertising was bad and digital was taking over, and I just thought everything was a disaster. But we stayed with it and one of my goals was to reinvigorate the magazine division. We came up with editorial ideas and a marketing strategy, which I think was unique.

On the biggest stumbling block that he’s had to overcome: I think it’s a stumbling block that a lot of publishing people have had to deal with and that’s what do we do with digital? What do we do with social media and how do digital, social media and websites fit into the whole concept that we have in the magazine and book business?

On whether his digital revenue is approaching anywhere near his print revenue: Not yet. No, it isn’t. The print revenue is still a lot more than the digital revenue. But of course, the digital revenue is growing and it’s growing quickly.

On being highly involved in print while still growing the digital: One of the advantages that I think direct mail publishers have in the digital space is that we have millions and millions of names on our files and we have a tremendous amount of data on transactions and payments and all of those kinds of things. And to marry the data on the magazine and book side with the digital data has been a wonderful thing.

On whether he’s been able to maintain Guideposts’ circulation throughout the dawn of the digital age or if had to change things up somewhat: Like many, we have reduced the rate base a bit. Not dramatically, like some, but maybe 100,000. It’s hard to maintain a circulation with a publication that’s been around as long as ours and has had such reach. It’s hard to find in this day and age new names.

On whether he thinks the fact that Donald Trump and his father were both a part of the religious movement of Norman Vincent Peale and the power of positive thinking will bring the magazines any benefit during this political season: No, I don’t think that we’re going to get any benefit at all out of any of that. It’s all wrapped up in all of the politics and the publicity and the chaos that’s really going on in this political season. I don’t look at this as a benefit.

On whether people recognize Norman Vincent Peale still as a powerful link to Guideposts: I think a lot of people do still remember Norman Vincent Peale and I think there is a connection there. Obviously, as time goes on that tie will become less and less, but I think it’s still strong.

temple-5On what his expectations are a year from now when it comes to their stable of magazines: We’re investing a lot of energy and money in growing Mornings with Jesus and in growing the pet’s magazine. I don’t have any circulation goals yet for the pet’s magazine. But we’ll have 150,000 Mornings with Jesus subscribers after two years, which is pretty dramatic. I think the pet’s magazine is going to follow those trends. In a couple of years, we’ll be up to 150,000 in circulation for that magazine as well.

On whether circulation will remain the biggest chunk of their revenue or advertising will increase: Circulation will be the biggest chunk of the revenue; that won’t change. Our advertising that we do now is not a big part of the revenue for the products. And in fact, we probably aren’t going to do a lot of advertising in the new magazines, but what we are doing is a large amount of partnerships.

On whether Mornings with Jesus is doing better than Mysterious Ways: Yes, Mornings with Jesus is doing better than Mysterious Ways. We knew, for example, when we launched Mysterious Ways that it was going to be very strong with the house file. And it is, because we have a feature in Guideposts magazine called “Mysterious Ways.” And it’s the most popular single feature in the magazine.

On anything else he’d like to add: I really believe that this is a great time for magazines and books and content. There is a tremendous amount of energy and things that we can do with ideas and with content and with mission; just all of those things. It’s hard to pick and choose where to go, because there are so many options and so many places to go.

On whether he feels there more need now than ever before for magazines like Guideposts, Mornings with Jesus and Angels on Earth: I think there is. It helps and it tells people’s stories that resonate and sometimes it puts one person’s situation before someone else’s eyes and it makes a connection between the reader and the writer of the story.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: There is certainly an iPad; I do a lot of reading on the iPad, magazines and newspapers. It’s interesting, because when I’m on the go or I’m in the office or traveling on planes, I read the newspapers on the iPad. At home on the weekends, we get the newspapers delivered and I read the print.

On whether he preaches in a church since he’s a Presbyterian minister: No, I don’t. For me, my ministry really is Guideposts and what we can do through the magazine to really help people. If we can help in the promotion of lives or in the spiritual lives of someone or the faith lives of people; that’s a pretty good ministry.

On what keeps him up at night: Making sure that we navigate the roads successfully that are ahead of us. And there are so many roads that are available. And just trying to make sure and wondering are we making the right move; are we going in the right direction? And sometimes we are and sometimes we aren’t.

temple-1And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with John Temple, President and CEO, Guideposts.

Samir Husni: This is magazine number five in your list of titles; you have Guideposts, Angels on Earth, Mysterious Ways, Mornings with Jesus, and now you’re testing this new magazine about the healing power of pets. Describe for me the essence of this new magazine.

John Temple: With the new magazine that we’re testing; we had the idea some time ago about doing something in the area of pets, and one of the reasons for that is we run a few first-person stories in Guideposts magazine about pets and about pets and healing. So, we thought why don’t we try to create a magazine around pets, but we didn’t exactly know what to call it. We came up with three titles. One is, Inspiring Pets; or All Creatures; and the third title is Animals and Healing. All three of them are slightly different, in terms of their emphasis, but all of them are built around pets that inspire us.

What we’ve done is gone back into the archives of Guideposts magazine and put together stories around these three themes. And that’s what the testing is about.

Samir Husni: What has been the early reaction of the testing? Have there been any surprises from the reaction of the audiences that have seen the magazine?

John Temple: There really haven’t been any surprises. It’s been very fulfilling and very enlightening in that there seems to be a very good audience for this. We started out just testing the house file and of course, we knew that would be strong. And it was. That was in June, and then in September we tested the house file plus 100,000 outside-list names. And that also was strong. We only have about three weeks’ worth of intake on that test, but the indications are that it’s going very well and that we have outside names that we can profitably mail.

Samir Husni: Do you think it’s the power of Guideposts and the power of the model brand that’s helping you to reach and nourish the same audience, or is it a different audience? Are you seeing people coming to Guideposts after all of these new magazines that you’ve launched, or are they branching off of Guideposts?

temple-2John Temple: I think they’re probably branching off of Guideposts. The new magazines are different and not really Guideposts, in terms of content. And actually the pet’s magazine is going to be different too. It’s going to have third person articles in it and service features, so we’re kind of branching out. Most of Guideposts magazine is first-person narratives of people telling their stories. We’re moving slightly into different directions.

Samir Husni: Are you still as bullish about print, because now under your tenure this is your third new magazine?

John Temple: I really am. I know it goes against every publishing convention, but I just think print has a lot of viability still. My plan is for Guideposts to launch a new magazine every two years.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise during your journey throughout the years with Guideposts?

John Temple: I think the viability of our magazine business has been the most pleasant surprise. When I came back in 2013, the magazine industry was in freefall. Advertising was bad and digital was taking over, and I just thought everything was a disaster. But we stayed with it and one of my goals was to reinvigorate the magazine division. We came up with editorial ideas and a marketing strategy, which I think was unique. And those two things together have given us the successes that we’ve achieved.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block or challenge that you’ve had to overcome?

John Temple: I think it’s a stumbling block that a lot of publishing people have had to deal with and that’s what do we do with digital? What do we do with social media and how do digital, social media and websites fit into the whole concept that we have in the magazine and book business? And it’s not really clear exactly how all of this is going to fit together.

It’s an evolution and it’s rapidly changing. It’s very difficult to grab onto it and to hold it and to keep it in one place, because it’s changing so quickly.

Samir Husni: Is your digital revenue approaching anywhere near your print revenue?

John Temple: Not yet. No, it isn’t. The print revenue is still a lot more than the digital revenue. But of course, the digital revenue is growing and it’s growing quickly. And that’s a nice added benefit for the revenue.

Samir Husni: In addition to the magazines, you have books and greeting cards; you’re still very involved in print as you grow the digital.

temple-4John Temple: Yes, we are. One of the advantages that I think direct mail publishers have in the digital space is that we have millions and millions of names on our files and we have a tremendous amount of data on transactions and payments and all of those kinds of things. And to marry the data on the magazine and book side with the digital data has been a wonderful thing. We’ve got a really good head start.

Samir Husni: Since the dawn of digital, say, around 2008 or 2009 when the tablet and Smartphones hit the scene; have you been able to maintain the circulation of Guideposts, or have you had to do anything differently? Have you reduced the rate base? What’s the story with the “Little Engine that Could?”

John Temple: Like many, we have reduced the rate base a bit. Not dramatically, like some, but maybe 100,000. It’s hard to maintain a circulation with a publication that’s been around as long as ours and has had such reach. It’s hard to find in this day and age new names. And with magazines like Prevention and other kinds of publications that are our size, they shrink in their circulation and it has an impact on us.

Samir Husni: With this presidential election, a lot of programs that’s dealing with the history of both candidates are focusing a lot on Norman Vincent Peale and the power of positive thinking, and that’s the church that Donald Trump’s dad and Donald Trump himself attended; do you think that you’ll get any lift from all of that, since you’re getting a lot of publicity?

John Temple: No, I don’t think that we’re going to get any benefit at all out of any of that. It’s all wrapped up in all of the politics and the publicity and the chaos that’s really going on in this political season. I don’t look at this as a benefit.

Samir Husni: Do you think that Dr. Peale’s name is a powerful link to Guideposts or is he a figurehead, such as when someone mentions Henry Luce and Time magazine in the same breath?

John Temple: I think a lot of people do still remember Norman Vincent Peale and I think there is a connection there. Obviously, as time goes on that tie will become less and less, but I think it’s still strong.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this discussion a year from now, what would you hope to tell me about your stable of magazines? What are your expectations?

temple-3John Temple: We’re investing a lot of energy and money in growing Mornings with Jesus and in growing the pet’s magazine. I don’t have any circulation goals yet for the pet’s magazine. But we’ll have 150,000 Mornings with Jesus subscribers after two years, which is pretty dramatic. I think the pet’s magazine is going to follow those trends. In a couple of years, we’ll be up to 150,000 in circulation for that magazine as well.

In the meantime, we’ve already started looking at other possibilities for a magazine to launch. And I think that next year we’ll probably be testing something else.

Samir Husni: When you think about the business model that you follow, and that the majority of magazines in this country are advertising-driven, something like 80% or 90%; you were ad-free for a long period of time and then you began accepting advertising. Do you have a goal for your magazines’ ratio? Is it going to be 50/50, or circulation is still a big chunk of the revenue?

John Temple: Circulation will be the biggest chunk of the revenue; that won’t change. Our advertising that we do now is not a big part of the revenue for the products. And in fact, we probably aren’t going to do a lot of advertising in the new magazines, but what we are doing is a large amount of partnerships. We’re doing a lot of working with other companies in particular areas. They’re helping us with editorial content and they’re participating with us in the digital space and in the magazine.

Samir Husni: And Mornings with Jesus is doing much better than Mysterious Ways?

John Temple: Yes, Mornings with Jesus is doing better than Mysterious Ways. We knew, for example, when we launched Mysterious Ways that it was going to be very strong with the house file. And it is, because we have a feature in Guideposts magazine called “Mysterious Ways.” And it’s the most popular single feature in the magazine.

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

John Temple: I really believe that this is a great time for magazines and books and content. There is a tremendous amount of energy and things that we can do with ideas and with content and with mission; just all of those things. It’s hard to pick and choose where to go, because there are so many options and so many places to go. And we have to be rigorous in our priorities because we can’t take advantage of all of the opportunities we see.

Samir Husni: As we witness the decline of civility in our political culture; do you feel that there’s more need for magazines like Guideposts, Mornings with Jesus and Angels on Earth to bring back that civil aspect to the country?

John Temple: I think there is. It helps and it tells people’s stories that resonate and sometimes it puts one person’s situation before someone else’s eyes and it makes a connection between the reader and the writer of the story. And I think that’s very important and it does help.

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

John Temple: (Laughs) Well, there may be a little of the wine there. There is certainly an iPad; I do a lot of reading on the iPad, magazines and newspapers. It’s interesting, because when I’m on the go or I’m in the office or traveling on planes, I read the newspapers on the iPad. At home on the weekends, we get the newspapers delivered and I read the print.

Samir Husni: I know you’re a Presbyterian minister; do you still preach in a church?

John Temple: No, I don’t. For me, my ministry really is Guideposts and what we can do through the magazine to really help people. If we can help in the promotion of lives or in the spiritual lives of someone or the faith lives of people; that’s a pretty good ministry.

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

John Temple: Making sure that we navigate the roads successfully that are ahead of us. And there are so many roads that are available. And just trying to make sure and wondering are we making the right move; are we going in the right direction? And sometimes we are and sometimes we aren’t. It’s interesting; we don’t always go in a straight line. This is uncharted territory.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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