Archive for December, 2016

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Linda Thomas Brooks: Making Magazines & Magazine Media Great Again – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The President & CEO Of The Association Of Magazine Media (MPA)…

December 21, 2016

Inside The Great Minds Of Magazine Makers…

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“I understand the phrase and the sentiment behind “print is not dead,” but what happened is every time somebody, and not only my own team, but our publishers, and I’ve tried to make them aware and we’ve provided a lot of information to them as well, because every time that somebody from the industry said, “print is not dead,” what I think it did is it reinforced the idea that the person they were talking to either did think that print was dead or maybe they should have thought that print was dead. So, all it does is take you backward and reinforces that negative stereotype that actually has no basis in reality.” Linda Thomas Brooks

“I didn’t come here because I’m anti-digital. Digital does some things really, really well. But digital media doesn’t do everything really well. And as advertisers, and again what we’ve seen in conversations last month, consumers have realized that too, and there has to be a mix. So, I’m not here because I’m anti-digital; I’m not here because I’m a Luddite. Many of our magazine brands have fantastic digital properties. But those properties, and that’s why I mentioned the research that we’re looking at right now, resonate more in the marketplace because they’re tied to a magazine brand. That brand, whatever format that it’s on, print, digital, mobile, social; whatever, that brand name is a sure cut to quality to consumers. They know that they can trust it wherever it appears. And so what I want to do is validate the business model that perpetuates those brands, because the quality in those brands is really what this whole thing is about.” Linda Thomas Brooks

mpa-logo-2016The Association of Magazine Media (MPA) has been an advocate for the magazine media industry since its inception in 1919. And for the last year, the helm of the organization has been steered by a woman who believes in media to the fullest, all media, print included. Linda Thomas Brooks has let it be known that the phrase “print is not dead” is one that, while she understands the sentiment behind the term, does not benefit magazine media in any way. By referring to that statement it communicates that at one time print was dead, and in Linda’s own words, that simply has no basis in reality.

I spoke with Linda recently, once while I was in New York City, and just the other day on the phone for this interview. It was without a doubt one of the most productive and inspiring conversations that I’ve had and left me with such an infusion of hope and enthusiasm about the industry that I love and study, I was fairly reeling with excitement. It’s no wonder that the MPA chose her as its leader; her passion for the business and for magazines is totally contagious and magnetic.

Linda has already, in less than one year, made a huge impact on magazine media by amplifying the strengths of magazines with the implementation of the “Magazine Media Tells and Sells” presentations, which has her MPA team members spending time with many member companies and ensuring that their teams are armed with powerful and compelling facts and insights, among many other facets of open communication and research.

Linda believes in promoting and supporting the value of brands and the quality and trust that consumers have for those brands, and elevating the business models that are their foundations. It’s a large responsibility, and not one that she takes lightly, but it is one she welcomes and thrives on.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who is determined to be an influential and effective voice for the magazine media industry by promoting innovation in all forms of media, but who also believes wholly that the foundation of print is a powerful one, Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO, MPA.

But first the sound-bites:

On an accomplishment she’s most proud of in her first year as president and CEO of the MPA: Well, there are two things that come to mind that are similarly related. One is that I’m really excited that we pulled together all of this information from outside leading industry research that points to the way that magazine media works for both advertisers and consumers, and having that broad and deep perspective all in one place and being able to present that both as the MPA and the industry is something that I’m really proud of. And I think it’s something that has started to make a difference for us.

On the biggest challenge that she had to face and how she overcame it: I think the most challenging thing, and this is really funny to say because you know the people involved in this business and they are not generally-speaking a shy group of people, but I think as an industry we got shy for a few years when it came to talking about the benefits of magazine media. And that was something that we had to overcome.

On what she considers to be the top business drivers in magazine media: We have a lot of research that talks about lower funnel and sales; the sales driving ability of magazine media. That’s a business driver; moving to sales. And we have Millward Brown who looks at a lot of different lower funnel metrics, the things that are sort of immediate antecedents to sales, because Millward Brown doesn’t track sales in the same way. We have Nielsen Catalina that does track sales and has over 1,400 case studies that point to print moving packages off of the shelves. And then we have all of the sales guarantee results, where specific campaigns were measured and every, single one of them delivered positive ROI’s for the clients. Back in my days on that side of the desk, being able to tell your client or your boss that you actually sold stuff was a key business metric.

mpa-logo-2016On whether she feels her idea of the magazine media sells and tells presentations are a natural storytelling byproduct of her years involved with the industry: Yes, absolutely. It’s a little bit of both. It’s a hybrid of all of the great storytelling and information that I can pull from my members and really amazing people. When I first came onboard, I just went out and talked to all of them. How did they talk about it? What words did they use? What information did they have? So, absolutely; I begged, borrowed and stole all of their good ideas from all of our member companies.

On removing both phrases “print is not dead” and “print is dead” from her team’s vocabulary: What we wanted to do was to give our members the language to talk about what does work and what are the compelling properties of print. Luckily for us, not only did we develop some language and awareness around that, but in the last month and a half, the whole world has come to where we are. All of those messages that we were saying about quality information, professionally-edited, written and researched, produced and curated content and the value of that media ecosystem? That’s all anybody is talking about right now. So, it’s like the whole world came to where we are.

On what’s next for her and the MPA: I think part of what’s next will be based in where we’ve been and we’ve had to be very careful about how we think about that information. In my past I’ve written, I don’t know how many hundreds, probably thousands, of strategic communication plans and we’ve really been thinking about tells-and-sells and the research and all of the information that we’ve been sharing sort of as a strategic communications plan, because we’ve been doing it for a year and the danger is that we start to get tired of it, but the fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of people who are still hearing it. And sometimes, because the information is a little bit different than what they expect, they need to hear it more than once before it totally sinks in.

On if and why she thinks the magazine medium isn’t promoted as it should be: I think there are a whole bunch of different reasons; I used shy because you know the executives of all of our companies, and I don’t think they’re a group of people that are generally scared about much. (Laughs) I think in part because the value of the medium had been so long established that sometimes you forget to talk about how good you are because you assume everybody already knows it. So, I think that it was a whole mix of reasons. I’m not that worried about looking backward and asking did publisher “A” send the wrong message, or did they do something wrong? It doesn’t matter; they did what they did and we’re here now and we have to figure out how to talk about the value of it going forward.

On whether she thinks the major success of some magazine titles should be a good base for promoting future storytelling: Absolutely. The both good and bad thing for me is that there are so many stories to tell. You mentioned The Magnolia Journal and the launches that have come from Hearst and there is great news at The Economist, their subscriptions were going up sort of crazily post-election; it’s like everywhere you turn there are interesting and really good stories to tell. So, there is no shortage of ways that we see consumers reacting to what is happening in the marketplace.

On when she was offered the job at the MPA she knew immediately it was the job for her or she had to ask herself if she really wanted to do it: (Laughs) Well, it’s funny because to be honest when I first got the phone call on this job, I thought that some of our board members, who I’ve known over the years, were calling me to help make some connections or get some names, so it didn’t actually occur to me that they were calling me for this job, because I’ve never been a publisher; I’ve never run a trade association, and I had been either mostly or fully digital in my jobs for the last ten or twelve years. And so it was a lovely and very fantastic surprise, but it definitely was a surprise when I found out that they did actually want me to come and talk to them about this job.

On whether she feels that her digital background may be just what the world of print needed when it comes to leading the MPA: I didn’t come here because I’m anti-digital. Digital does some things really, really well. But digital media doesn’t do everything really well. And as advertisers, and again what we’ve seen in conversations last month, consumers have realized that too, and there has to be a mix. So, I’m not here because I’m anti-digital; I’m not here because I’m a Luddite.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: In my dream life you’d find me cooking a wonderful dinner and enjoying a glass of wine and relaxing. The reality is I have two kids at home, so usually I’m running around to their activities or helping them with just the logistics of their lives. They’re both old enough that I’m not really helping them with homework, but just logistics.

On what keeps her up at night: I found a button recently at a bookstore and it said, “Make America read again.” And everything that’s happened in the last couple of months has really made me reflect on how people get information, how people assimilate information and how they value information. And I guess what keeps me up is, wanting to make sure that people continue to value the learning, understanding and the perspectives that we can have on our place in the world by getting that kind of information.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO, MPA.

Samir Husni: You’re nearing your first anniversary as president and CEO of the MPA (The Association of Magazine Media).

Linda Thomas Brooks: Yes, it’s coming up at the end of January.

Samir Husni: If you reflect on your first year at the MPA and select one thing that you’d like for people to know that you’ve accomplished, what would you share with them?

Linda Thomas Brooks: Can I have two?

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Yes, it’s Christmas; you can have two.

linda-thomas-brooks-960x960Linda Thomas Brooks: (Laughs too). We just started and I’m already breaking all the rules. Well, there are two things that come to mind that are similarly related. One is that I’m really excited that we pulled together all of this information from outside leading industry research that points to the way that magazine media works for both advertisers and consumers, and having that broad and deep perspective all in one place and being able to present that both as the MPA and the industry is something that I’m really proud of. And I think it’s something that has started to make a difference for us.

And the other thing that’s sort of related and that I’m proud of is all of our members who have recently been doing a very good job of working together and pulling together have been very unified in talking about this and presenting this and incorporating it into their information, so it’s not just me doing my thing, or the MPA staff out there; it’s the entire industry being unified and proud of what they stand for. And that makes me really excited.

Samir Husni: So, not wanting people to think that your first year was just simply a walk in a rose garden, what was the most challenging thing that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Linda Thomas Brooks: It was totally a walk in a rose garden for the entire year. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Linda Thomas Brooks: No, I think the most challenging thing, and this is really funny to say because you know the people involved in this business and they are not generally-speaking a shy group of people, but I think as an industry we got shy for a few years when it came to talking about the benefits of magazine media. And that was something that we had to overcome.

The other hard part, which will be a continuing effort for the coming year, is getting advertisers and agencies focused on the right metrics; focused on a measurement that really drives to sales effectiveness and driving business results for them. And that’s what all of our research points to. But you know there are a lot of different conversations happening every day in the industry about view ability and an incredibly high number of impressions and what that means, and people get derailed a little bit. Frankly, it’s been harder than I thought sometimes to get people focused on the real business drivers.

Samir Husni: In your opinion, what do you consider the top business drivers?

Linda Thomas Brooks: We have a lot of research that talks about lower funnel and sales; the sales driving ability of magazine media. That’s a business driver; moving to sales. And we have Millward Brown who looks at a lot of different lower funnel metrics, the things that are sort of immediate antecedents to sales, because Millward Brown doesn’t track sales in the same way. We have Nielsen Catalina that does track sales and has over 1,400 case studies that point to print moving packages off of the shelves. And then we have all of the sales guarantee results, where specific campaigns were measured and every, single one of them delivered positive ROI’s for the clients. Back in my days on that side of the desk, being able to tell your client or your boss that you actually sold stuff was a key business metric.

And then on top of that if you go back up the funnel, what print is also good at is essentially filling the top of the funnel; awareness and consideration. And I think what a lot of clients have seen, and that you’ve seen in these recent announcements from P&G and others, that they sort of overspecialized or over targeted and they basically focused too much on in market buyers and forgot to put anybody back in the top of the funnel. And we know from the research that print is good at both. Therefore, print can help you move your in market people to sales, but it can also establish that awareness and consideration in those upper funnel metrics, so it helps you in both the short and the long-term.

Samir Husni: I’ve talked to some people in the industry within the last year and I’ve heard a lot of compliments to you regarding the show-and-tell or the magazine media tells and sells presentation; you’ve done more than 100 of those presentations, to clients, agencies, leaders in the industry and decision-makers. Do you think this idea came to you as a natural storyteller? Magazine people are storytellers, so do you feel as though you’re taking a page from your own involvement with the magazine industry when you do those presentations?

Linda Thomas Brooks: Yes, absolutely. It’s a little bit of both. It’s a hybrid of all of the great storytelling and information that I can pull from my members and really amazing people. When I first came onboard, I just went out and talked to all of them. How did they talk about it? What words did they use? What information did they have? So, absolutely; I begged, borrowed and stole all of their good ideas from all of our member companies.

Then in addition, prior to coming to the MPA, I spent my entire life on the other side of that desk, so I knew what kind of information resonated. I knew that you needed outside voices and industry-leading research; it’s not enough for me to go to a client and say that I believe this. Or even that my members believed it. What they needed was that research credibility and those data points that they could look at and say, wow, this is real. So, it’s a combination of everything that my members offered and my own background knowing how skeptical I was when I was on the buy side, of information that came in and what information did I need to share with people.

Samir Husni: When I was visiting your office recently while I was in New York, you mentioned something that really stuck with me; you said that you don’t even allow your team to use the phrase “print is not dead,” let alone “print is dead.” You took both phrases from the vocabulary. Can you expand a bit more on that?

Linda Thomas Brooks: I understand the phrase and the sentiment behind “print is not dead,” but what happened is every time somebody, and not only my own team, but our publishers, and I’ve tried to make them aware and we’ve provided a lot of information to them as well, because every time that somebody from the industry said, “print is not dead,” what I think it did is it reinforced the idea that the person they were talking to either did think that print was dead or maybe they should have thought that print was dead. So, all it does is take you backward and reinforces that negative stereotype that actually has no basis in reality.

So, what we wanted to do was to give our members the language to talk about what does work and what are the compelling properties of print. Luckily for us, not only did we develop some language and awareness around that, but in the last month and a half, the whole world has come to where we are. All of those messages that we were saying about quality information, professionally-edited, written and researched, produced and curated content and the value of that media ecosystem? That’s all anybody is talking about right now. So, it’s like the whole world came to where we are.

Samir Husni: It’s refreshing to hear that coming from the head of the leading magazine media group in the country. Now, as you look forward, you have a good list of accomplishments that you’ve worked with your team and the membership to achieve, as you outlined very well in your letter to the members. What’s next for Linda and the MPA? What’s going to be your big headline for 2017?

Linda Thomas Brooks: I think part of what’s next will be based in where we’ve been and we’ve had to be very careful about how we think about that information. In my past I’ve written, I don’t know how many hundreds, probably thousands, of strategic communication plans and we’ve really been thinking about tells-and-sells and the research and all of the information that we’ve been sharing sort of as a strategic communications plan, because we’ve been doing it for a year and the danger is that we start to get tired of it, but the fact of the matter is, there’s a lot of people who are still hearing it. And sometimes, because the information is a little bit different than what they expect, they need to hear it more than once before it totally sinks in.

So, we’re not going to walk away from what we’ve been saying and what we’ve been talking about, I’m starting to hear it back in the marketplace, but I don’t think we’ve worn it out yet.

That being said, we will also have a lot of new information that gets added. We’re in the midst of reviewing some research that comes from comScore that talks about premium digital display and anything that our publishers are producing and selling to their premium bucket. And you’re looking at the ad effectiveness of that over everything else out there and the differential is enormous.

We’re finishing a review of that, so that information will get added. And we have some other research partners who are talking to us about some other ideas they have or information that they have, so it’ll sort of be rooted in things you’ve seen and then we will continue to evolve as we have new credible information that points to more ways that magazine media works.

Samir Husni: Part of the magazine media mix, other than focusing on the audience and the reach, is to me the livelihood of the magazines; the ever-changing nature of the actual, printed magazine and its titles. When I did the interview with the folks from Hearst, they have magazines that have been published continuously for 170 years.

Linda Thomas Brooks: I know; isn’t that incredible?

Samir Husni: So, why do you think the industry as a whole failed, and excuse me if I use the word fail, but failed in promoting this idea of not only longevity, but of the entire industry, not necessarily specific titles? I’m reading a letter from the editor of Coronet magazine from when it was relaunched in 1961, talking about the dynamics of a magazine. “It passes through many heads and hands: writers, artists, editors, engravers, printers, distributors, dealers.” And then at the end of the day when I have this magazine I can say that this is my magazine. That sense of ownership. You used the word “shy,” but was it really shyness or we were scared? Why do you think we don’t promote the medium as it deserves to be?

Linda Thomas Brooks: I think there are a whole bunch of different reasons; I used shy because you know the executives of all of our companies, and I don’t think they’re a group of people that are generally scared about much. (Laughs) I think in part because the value of the medium had been so long established that sometimes you forget to talk about how good you are because you assume everybody already knows it.

And I think they’ve all been trying to evolve and figure out what the right mix is. Nobody is just relying on their printed properties anymore; they’re trying to reflect what the consumers of their specific title wants, and what formats they are going to go to.

So, I think that it was a whole mix of reasons. I’m not that worried about looking backward and asking did publisher “A” send the wrong message, or did they do something wrong? It doesn’t matter; they did what they did and we’re here now and we have to figure out how to talk about the value of it going forward.

Samir Husni: And going forward, when you hear stories from Meredith, with The Magnolia Journal or Hearst with the Food Network magazine, and how much success those titles have garnered, and I don’t know if their own expectations were as high as the market delivered, but do you think we are going to start selling those success stories? You’re a storyteller; do you think that should be a good base for some great storytelling?

Linda Thomas Brooks: Absolutely. The both good and bad thing for me is that there are so many stories to tell. You mentioned The Magnolia Journal and the launches that have come from Hearst and there is great news at The Economist, their subscriptions were going up sort of crazily post-election; it’s like everywhere you turn there are interesting and really good stories to tell. So, there is no shortage of ways that we see consumers reacting to what is happening in the marketplace.

And that’s both good news and bad news for me because there’s all of this input and we have to figure out how to help our members get all of that out into the world.

Samir Husni: When you were first offered this job; what did you think? Was it, wow, that’s definitely the job for me, or did you ask yourself if you really wanted to do this?

Linda Thomas Brooks: (Laughs) Well, it’s funny because to be honest when I first got the phone call on this job, I thought that some of our board members, who I’ve known over the years, were calling me to help make some connections or get some names, so it didn’t actually occur to me that they were calling me for this job, because I’ve never been a publisher; I’ve never run a trade association, and I had been either mostly or fully digital in my jobs for the last ten or twelve years.

And so it was a lovely and very fantastic surprise, but it definitely was a surprise when I found out that they did actually want me to come and talk to them about this job. (Laughs again) At the same time, and I’ll give you a story, Samir, that some of my team knows, but one that I haven’t talked about very broadly. At the same time that the MPA board members were talking to me about this job, somebody else had approached me about something else that was very interesting to me. And I took some time over the holidays; it was about this same time last year, and tried to clear my head, and I was spending time with my family, and a lot of people who know me know that I’m a runner and that’s when I get a lot of my ideas. So, what I was doing sort of unfiltered was I’d go for a run and then I’d come home and I’d write down all of the ideas that I’d had while I was running. And I’d do this for both jobs that I’d been offered.

At the end of a week of holiday time and being with my parents, everybody in my family is a runner, so we usually get a lot of miles in; the number of ideas and thoughts and potential initiatives that I had on this MPA job versus the other job was, the ratio was about eight to one.

There were just so many things that excited me and so many ideas that I’d had about ways that we could bring the story of this industry to life, and I think when you were here that I mentioned I had studied journalism as an undergrad and I was a newspaper journalist very early in my career. And I had such an inherent respect for the work that all of our members represent. And at the end of that week I looked at two yellow pads of what I could do at the MPA and what I could do at the other job, and I said I have to do this. And that’s what did it. A lot of running on the trail with my parents and my family and I came out of that week saying that I’ve got to go to the MPA.

Samir Husni: The magazine industry is lucky to have somebody like you, and I’m really, I don’t want to say that I’m taken aback, but it’s so funny because after your ten years in digital; it seems that you appreciate print more than some of the people who have been in print for decades. Maybe it needed somebody with a digital background to see what print has to offer.

Lina Thomas Brooks: And I didn’t come here because I’m anti-digital. Digital does some things really, really well. But digital media doesn’t do everything really well. And as advertisers, and again what we’ve seen in conversations last month, consumers have realized that too, and there has to be a mix. So, I’m not here because I’m anti-digital; I’m not here because I’m a Luddite.

Many of our magazine brands have fantastic digital properties. But those properties, and that’s why I mentioned the research that we’re looking at right now, resonate more in the marketplace because they’re tied to a magazine brand. That brand, whatever format that it’s on, print, digital, mobile, social; whatever, that brand name is a sure cut to quality to consumers. They know that they can trust it wherever it appears. And so what I want to do is validate the business model that perpetuates those brands, because the quality in those brands is really what this whole thing is about.

Samir Husni: And no one can deny that we live in a digital age.

Linda Thomas Brooks: Of course, but you know what? I’ve become an enormously popular person on planes, but other places too, because I always have magazines with me. And I look at them because I want to see what our members are doing. And if I’m on a plane, I often give them to my seatmates or the flight attendant. And to be honest, you’re not giving them a really high-ticket gift, it’s not like when I was at General Motors; I’m not giving out cars. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Linda Thomas Brooks: I’m giving somebody something that costs a few dollars, but people get so excited and they either say they’ve never seen that particular title before, or they haven’t seen it in a while, but they get really excited about the content and what’s there. I get to be Santa Claus every time I go out, which is really, really fun. And you can see how much people value that content, so hopefully I’m doing my part when it comes to reintroducing them to magazines that they haven’t seen in a while. And again, I think the world is coming to us because they’ve figured out as the media ecosystem has gotten more and more populated and fuller, people are finding out that not every voice out there is delivering quality content. If you’re looking for a credible source and you only have a short time to find that; you’re probably not going to susan.com because you don’t know if she’s reputable source or not, no matter how much you love the site. Magazines are curated content that people trust.

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

Linda Thomas Brooks: In my dream life you’d find me cooking a wonderful dinner and enjoying a glass of wine and relaxing. The reality is I have two kids at home, so usually I’m running around to their activities or helping them with just the logistics of their lives. They’re both old enough that I’m not really helping them with homework, but just logistics.

I usually do wind down in the evening with reading. That’s my time. And oftentimes my boys will be sitting on the couch with me and we all read. They usually read books, but they do like the magazines that I bring home. I read a fair number of real books every year and try to set some goals for myself, but I also love reading the magazines. It kind of depends on how much time I have. And one thing you’ll find all over my house is bookcases and baskets; we have a lot of reading material at our house.

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

Linda Thomas Brooks: I found a button recently at a bookstore and it said, “Make America read again.” And everything that’s happened in the last couple of months has really made me reflect on how people get information, how people assimilate information and how they value information.

I learned very early on from my grandfather, who was not really a man of financial means by any stretch, but he was always reading. He read books. Most of which he bought at a used bookstore in Chicago, because again, he wasn’t a man of means and books were very dear to him. And because of his own limitations and his family, he didn’t get to have the education that he wanted, but he always talked about how much he could keep learning. He could take responsibility for his own education by reading. And he shared those books with us and he shared ideas with us. And I’ll never forget he used to point to his forehead and say, “Whatever you put in here, nobody can ever take away from you.”

And I guess what keeps me up is wanting to make sure that people continue to value the learning, understanding and the perspectives that we can have on our place in the world by getting that kind of information.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Brooklyn Magazine: Born From The Womb Of Its Mother, The L Magazine, This Artistically-Focused Magazine With A Regional Title Is Much More Than A Dart On A Map As It Showcases The Creative Movement That’s Alive & Well And Living In Brooklyn – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Daniel Stedman, Co-Founder and Publisher, Brooklyn Magazine

December 20, 2016

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“In 2015 we decided that even though The L Magazine was still successful, and it was a difficult decision to make, but the decision was just really based on where we put the time and attention of the people in our office. And we thought that we should increase the circulation of Brooklyn magazine from four times a year to ten times per year, and end the print run of The L Magazine. And so we just did it. So that’s really the story of the birth of The L Magazine and the genesis of Brooklyn magazine and their eventual merger into a now 10-times-per-year, full sized, glossy Brooklyn magazine.” Daniel Stedman

Brothers Daniel and Scott Stedman are two very busy young men. As publishers of The L and Brooklyn magazines; organizers of the annual Northside Festival and Taste Talks, which showcases the culinary cutting edge food movement emerging in Brooklyn; publishers of the BAMbill in partnership with BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) which is a program guide distributed to all attendees of theater, dance and music performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and its three performing arts venues, it’s very easy to see that the Brothers’ Stedman have their fingers on the pulse of culture that is blossoming and growing in Brooklyn.

Recently, I spoke with co-founder and publisher of Brooklyn magazine, Daniel Stedman. Daniel and I talked about the challenges and triumphs of producing a print publication in this digital age. And while sometimes the challenges seem insurmountable, the magazine has basically thrived since its launch, and is a showcase of the rich, artistic lifestyle that encompasses all of the artisans, from writers to painters to musicians, that live in the cultural hub of Brooklyn, New York. And while the magazine is regionally directed and titled, its lifestyle touch is strong and exceptionally far-reaching to any and all that are fascinated by the Brooklyn artistic community movement.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is constantly thinking and planning the next big thing that can move his brand and his company forward, from events to new publications, Daniel Stedman, co-founder and publisher, Brooklyn magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

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On how The L Magazine became Brooklyn: We both (Daniel and his brother Scott) moved to Brooklyn and felt like there were no media in all of New York City for us and the people like us; young creatives who were living in Brooklyn. We got this idea to launch a print publication that would service the creative communities of Brooklyn and Manhattan downtown, and it was probably one of the worst times in the history of the world to launch a print publication, but it happens to be the best time in our country to capture a really nascent, creative community and to be kind of the first media outlet for what was developing as one of the new creative epicenters of the world. And in 2015 we decided that even though The L Magazine was still successful, and it was a difficult decision to make, but the decision was just really based on where we put the time and attention of the people in our office. And we thought that we should increase the circulation of Brooklyn magazine from four times a year to ten times per year, and end the print run of The L Magazine. And so we just did it. So that’s really the story of the birth of The L Magazine and the genesis of Brooklyn magazine and their eventual merger into a now 10-times-per-year, full sized, glossy Brooklyn magazine.

On whether the fact that Brooklyn is more of a lifestyle magazine than a regional was intentional: Brooklyn magazine is really a lifestyle publication for the Brooklyn enthusiast or the Brooklyn lover, or anybody nationally or worldwide who’s inspired by the creative culture that comes from Brooklyn, and also coverage of the national and global communities that also inspire Brooklyn.

On whether he enjoys the role of editor or publisher more: My brother was initially our editor and then became our publisher. And in the early years of our launch I was 100 percent focused on sales. I can say that for myself personally, my creative passion lies in creating things. I love to make things. I have a lot of ideas, mostly bad. Sometimes I joke that my job is to come up with bad ideas, and as many bad ideas that I can possible come up with, the better that I’m doing my job. And then it’s the responsibility of some of the people around me who I trust to pick the good ones out of the bad.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face and how he overcame it: Certainly, the one that I might point out would be from 2008/2009 when the financial crisis hit us really hard and we were able to create a strategic partnership with one of our biggest vendors. We had a conversation with a vendor that we relied most upon as a company and were able to say that if they helped us through that terrible period they would be able to keep us as a client for a long time, but if they couldn’t help us they would unfortunately lose our business because we may be going out of business ourselves.

On the most pleasant moment that he’s had: That’s a great question. I can say that over these 14 years all of my best friends have been people that I work alongside. And work for me has always been a pleasant place to go because of the people who are there and the culture that I think we’ve worked very hard to foster.

daniel-stedman-home-1On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: I’m starting a family, so I’m playing with my young child, and I have one on the way. Me personally; a little bit of very low-volume fingerpicking is my favorite meditation; I love playing guitar. I always hope that no one can hear it; I don’t have any aspirations to do that publicly, it’s just a hobby. I’m also a chess player; I love to play chess. I’m a bit of a stargazer too. I love to look at the sky and I love spirituality or non-spirituality of life and physics that inspires; or I’m grinding away at some personal or professional creative idea.

On what keeps him up at night: The state of our country has currently and truly been keeping me up at night, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in that fact. The challenges of being a small business owner and meeting payroll, and making my office a really employee-first and pleasant place to work, and probably a lot of distractions about things that I want to happen with my company that are probably a healthy mix of realistic and unrealistic plans. I want something to happen, but I don’t acknowledge or see that it’s unrealistic, or I’m kept up at night by something totally realistic that just isn’t happening for one reason or another.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Daniel Stedman, co-founder and publisher, Brooklyn magazine.

Samir Husni: You and your brother Scott began The L Magazine and then later the publication morphed into Brooklyn Magazine; tell me about this transition from one magazine into another and how the two became one.

brooklyn-3Daniel Stedman: I was making short films at the time and my brother, Scott, was a freelance writer for MIT Technology Review, and we both moved to Brooklyn at the same time. Many of the creative people of our generation were moving to New York City and I always loved this John Lennon quote, which is: “If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome.” And New York City is the “Rome” of today.

And so I think that 10 or 15 years ago, even 20 years ago, New York City was this magnet for all of these young creatives, musicians, filmmakers, poets, artists and writers. And later on, the technologists were seen as part of the creative class; developers are now part of that creative class, but New York City was what drew us in. And Brooklyn just happened to be the place where everybody could find an affordable place to live, people were moving to Greensburg, Red Hook or Carroll Gardens, so we both moved to Brooklyn at the same time.

And I think my brother had the dream of starting a magazine and I had the dream of being a filmmaker. We had both I guess you might say developed our sense of independence by doing the Study Abroad program. We had lived in Paris at the same time and he had lived in Berlin, and we found that there were these digest-sized event guides in Paris; there were Pariscope and l’Officiel des spectacles.

We both moved to Brooklyn and felt like there were no media in all of New York City for us and the people like us; young creatives who were living in Brooklyn. There was the Village Voice, which was at the time our source for leftwing news, but it was kind of unwieldy in its size, and of course the back page ads that we did early on associate with. And then there was Time Out New York, which felt like something at the time that would be on your uncle’s coffee table in the Upper East or West side, but no media whatsoever across the board was doing any regular coverage of the cultural moment happening in Brooklyn.

Scott and I got this idea for The L Magazine, which admittedly has been a difficult brand name over time; people thought it was a lesbian magazine, or people have confused it with Elle, the fashion magazine, but the significance of the name I think was always appropriate in the subway that connected Greensburg with the East Village, or you could say more broadly, one of the trains connecting Brooklyn and downtown.

So, we got this idea to launch a print publication that would service the creative communities of Brooklyn and Manhattan downtown, and it was probably one of the worst times in the history of the world to launch a print publication, but it happens to be the best time in our country to capture a really nascent, creative community and to be kind of the first media outlet for what was developing as one of the new creative epicenters of the world. The same way that Austin had its creative moment and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco had its creative moment, The L Magazine really was the first media that was capturing this creative moment of Brooklyn. But it was a terrible time to launch a print publication.

When we launched we thought that we would break even or be profitable like on local, classified advertising alone, and of course this was the year, 2003, that classified advertising potentially disappeared from print because of Craigslist and other things like it.

brooklyn-1So, we did launch the magazine, 26 times per year, with a pretty significant circulation, and year after year we hit our singles; we hit our doubles; we had our triples and our homeruns, and managed to keep our print operation going, and at the same time we started doing large scale events. We first did the outdoor movies in Williamsburg in the abandoned, graffiti-covered McCarren Park pool, which that year Rolling Stone I believe called the “coolest venue in the country.” And then we launched our Northside Festival and we eventually launched Taste Talks, our food content, and we had always struggled with the brand name of The L Magazine and the confusion of it and the web URL. The name was just always a struggle.

Our magazine was always something that when we would tell people the name, The L Magazine, and they would always react the same; they didn’t recognize the magazine. Then we’d show them a copy of it and they’d remember it and know it. It had pretty wide recognition, but it still had these significant name struggles.

So, one day we had this idea. Brooklyn was really becoming a thing and advertisers didn’t just want our downtown Manhattan circulation, they wanted our Brooklyn circulation too and people wanted Brooklyn; people liked Brooklyn and even though the artists and writers had been in Brooklyn for decades, we were starting to find that advertisers, and companies that really surprised us were starting to be excited by our Brooklyn readership. And that was when we decided to launch Brooklyn magazine; no one else was doing it.

Around the time that we launched The L Magazine, there were a handful of other full-sized, glossy Brooklyn magazines. There was Brooklyn’s Bridge magazine and there was BKLYN magazine, and there has been some history of other people doing Brooklyn magazines, but both Brooklyn’s Bridge and BKLYN, the two other Brooklyn, full-sized glossies, had both gone out of business, but we thought that we could do it. We thought that we could just do Brooklyn magazine; no one was doing it; the trademark was available.

We decided to launch Brooklyn magazine as a quarterly. It launched successfully and profitably. At a certain point we as a company were getting so deep into our events business, and we are also doing custom publishing; we publish the program guides for BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and The Joyce Theater and Playwrights Horizons, and we began to look at our publishing calendar and realize that between The L Magazine, Brooklyn magazine and our custom publishing, we had something between 50 and 60 print deadlines per year.

And in 2015 we decided that even though The L Magazine was still successful, and it was a difficult decision to make, but the decision was just really based on where we put the time and attention of the people in our office. And we thought that we should increase the circulation of Brooklyn magazine from four times a year to ten times per year, and end the print run of The L Magazine. And so we just did it. So that’s really the story of the birth of The L Magazine and the genesis of Brooklyn magazine and their eventual merger into a now 10-times-per-year, full sized, glossy Brooklyn magazine.

Samir Husni: When you look at Brooklyn magazine, it doesn’t really have the feel or appearance of a city magazine; it’s more about capturing that artistic movement in Brooklyn. Was that the intention? Although the name is one of a regional title, the magazine is much more than that; are you intentionally keeping it more of an artistic publication just for Brooklyn, or do you have plans to make the magazine nationwide or even global?

daniel-stedman-2Daniel Stedman: Brooklyn magazine is really a lifestyle publication for the Brooklyn enthusiast or the Brooklyn lover, or anybody nationally or worldwide who’s inspired by the creative culture that comes from Brooklyn, and also coverage of the national and global communities that also inspire Brooklyn.

I will say that as a family-run company, national and international distribution is a tricky and expensive game. We do have a national and an international audience, but relationships with national and international distributors is something of a club that has a certain barrier to entry.

Samir Husni: You’re the editor and you’re the publisher; you and your brother do almost everything. Both The L Magazine and Brooklyn were based on passion, rather than a structured business plan.

Daniel Stedman: (Laughs) Yes, existentially and much to our surprise, but yes. In many ways, you’re right.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Which do you enjoy more, being the chief creator/editor or being the publisher?

Daniel Stedman: My brother was initially our editor and then became our publisher. And in the early years of our launch I was 100 percent focused on sales. I can say that for myself personally, my creative passion lies in creating things. I love to make things. I have a lot of ideas, mostly bad. Sometimes I joke that my job is to come up with bad ideas, and as many bad ideas that I can possible come up with, the better that I’m doing my job. And then it’s the responsibility of some of the people around me who I trust to pick the good ones out of the bad.

I’ve never been an editor, but I do have a passion for taking ideas and bringing them to life and hopefully, knock on wood, they’re successful from a creative perspective and obviously from a business perspective we didn’t launch a print publication because we thought that it would make us rich, but to a certain degree if your ideas don’t generate revenue then they cease to exist.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest stumbling block for you throughout this magazine journey and how did you overcome it?

brooklyn-2Daniel Stedman: Certainly, the one that I might point out would be from 2008/2009 when the financial crisis hit us really hard and we were able to create a strategic partnership with one of our biggest vendors. We had a conversation with a vendor that we relied most upon as a company and were able to say that if they helped us through that terrible period they would be able to keep us as a client for a long time, but if they couldn’t help us they would unfortunately lose our business because we may be going out of business ourselves.

One of the biggest challenges that we had was that moment. That moment when we were really facing the question of what were we going to do; we may have to go out of business. But we were able to form a strategic partnership with our biggest vendor to get us through that period.

Samir Husni: And you resolved that challenge by going with the vendor?

Daniel Stedman: We basically resolved it in the form of an investment. We actually got our vendor to be an investor so that we could get through that period. And it ended up being a great experience for us because you always want your investor to offer more to your company than just their money; you want their knowledge, support and skills. Ideally, any investor is more of a strategic partner and has skills that the company needs, than just providing money to your company. And that turned out to be the case. A vendor is a great place to go; your biggest vendors are probably going to have a very strong skillset in your field.

So, we had our vendor come on as an investor and they helped us financially, but also with their business acumen. And even to this day that’s a very important relationship and somebody that I can say helped to save our company.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment since you began this journey?

brooklyn-4Daniel Stedman: That’s a great question. I can say that over these 14 years all of my best friends have been people that I work alongside. And work for me has always been a pleasant place to go because of the people who are there and the culture that I think we’ve worked very hard to foster.

And there are times that it’s not easy to foster a great culture, because culture can mean so many different things. Things like our 10th anniversary; I just remember that as a great moment because it was a celebration of a great milestone with all of my best friends who were obviously there because they weren’t my best friends who I invited to the party, they were my colleagues.

And another thing that I might add is that sometimes I wish that we were a company with one product and one mission that did it better than anybody, but we’re not. We’re a company that does a few different things; we have a couple different large scale festivals and we have a few different media brands. We’re always starting something new. This past year we launched a large scale food award show at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in the opera house, and we also expanded our Taste Talks festival to a new city, to L.A. The actual genesis of new programs is always exciting and a little bit hard to believe. I remember when the press release came out that announced we were doing it; I literally couldn’t believe it. I knew it was happening; I helped write the press release, but when I saw it go out I had a moment of actual disbelief. So, I have those moments of disbelief and joy at the birth of and the realization of every new idea.

Samir Husni: If I show up one evening unexpectedly to your home, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; having a glass of wine; watching television; or something else?

Daniel Stedman: I’m starting a family, so I’m playing with my young child, and I have one on the way. Me personally; a little bit of very low-volume fingerpicking is my favorite meditation; I love playing guitar. I always hope that no one can hear it; I don’t have any aspirations to do that publicly, it’s just a hobby. I’m also a chess player; I love to play chess. I’m a bit of a stargazer too. I love to look at the sky and I love spirituality or non-spirituality of life and physics that inspires; or I’m grinding away at some personal or professional creative idea.

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

Daniel Stedman: The state of our country has currently and truly been keeping me up at night, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in that fact. The challenges of being a small business owner and meeting payroll, and making my office a really employee-first and pleasant place to work, and probably a lot of distractions about things that I want to happen with my company that are probably a healthy mix of realistic and unrealistic plans. I want something to happen, but I don’t acknowledge or see that it’s unrealistic, or I’m kept up at night by something totally realistic that just isn’t happening for one reason or another.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Hearst’s David Carey & Michael Clinton: 2016’s Magazine Executive Team Of The Year Prove That Success Comes From Teamwork & Well-Executed Ideas As They Move The Company Forward Into A Very Profitable Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With David Carey, President, And Michael Clinton, President, Marketing And Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines…

December 15, 2016
David Carey, right, and Michael Clinton.

David Carey, right, and Michael Clinton.

“We believe that if you don’t grow; it’s not a question of just standing still, you actually fall behind. And so we are happy to keep pushing ahead with the growth agenda, and this is not just print, but digital, and all that we do. So, I feel fortunate that the company understands the very important need of new products to our future. We often talk about the famous strategy from the 3M Corporation. They wanted 25 percent of their profits each year to come from businesses that did not exist five years prior to show that their company would be much smaller if you did not force innovation. And we think about that a great deal, but I’m proud to say that more than 25 percent of our profits in 2016 came from businesses that either did not exist or were in a loss position five years ago.” David Carey…

“We’ve always been a print-proud company. We look at the consumer numbers. What’s been interesting about the print magazine world is, before, during and after the Recession, which was all right in the middle of the digital revolution, magazine circulations and magazine audiences have actually been very stable. And in fact, slightly growing in a world where a lot of other traditional mediums’ audiences have declined significantly.” Michael Clinton…

Inside The Great Minds Of Magazine Makers

tc-oct-cover-cakeIn a world where many believe that print is a declining medium, David Carey and Michael Clinton preach the opposite gospel. Their firm belief in and love for the printed product knows no boundaries, or to borrow their own phrase, is unbound. And as Hearst Magazines moves into the New Year, we see two more titles being launched through meticulously strategic opportunities and carefully-laid plans, and an innovative mindset that can’t be shaken. The two were named by Adweek as Magazine Executive Team of the year in its annual Hot List, and it’s a very well-deserved shout-out. While some are closing print magazines, or at the very least, scaling them back, Hearst is proving that the power of partnerships in print may very well be the future of the medium, as they innovate and create one new title after the other with strong brands that have footprints in the sands of many different markets. If you think 2016 was a good year for Hearst, wait and see what they have in store for 2017 and 2018.

I spoke with David recently on the phone and with Michael when I was in New York last week. As I asked them both most of the same questions, I found that the two men are very in sync with each other professionally and have a vision for the company that is creatively consistent. As they move toward the New Year, their thoughts and strategies are already focused on 2018, as 2017 is locked in with two new partnership launches with Airbnb and The Pioneer Woman. And as David prepares his annual New Year’s letter to Hearst employees, his mindset is as it always is; crediting and praising his teams of creative talent and thanking them for another banner year of Hearst success. In a preview to that annual letter, David send a preview letter to the Hearst Magazines employees in which he said:

While a crystal ball would have come in handy, it wasn’t hard to predict that 2016 would be a real roller coaster ride, full of change and disruption, across every sector of the media business. But as I like to say (often!) I believe that change leads to opportunities, and our teams have worked hard to make the most of each one this year. Once again, our year-end performance significantly outpaced the industry. Six of our print brands delivered record-setting results. Hearst Magazines Digital Media increased audience by 31 percent and revenue by more than 30 percent… We have evolved our structures, carefully monitored our expenses, and set aside long-held orthodoxies that at times held us back.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with two men who have their fingers on the pulse of what their audiences want continuously, which is a fantastically, well-executed print magazine. And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Carey and Michael Clinton.

But first the sound-bites:

On why they think Hearst, one of the major publishing companies around, has never stopped launching print magazines, even during the dawn of the digital age:

david_carey_portraitDavid Carey: As you’ve heard us talk about our sort of corporate tagline, which is “unbound,” this is a company that believes in the future, believes in partnerships and is comfortable with risks. We don’t do crazy risks, but our format is we greenlight a handful of test issues and we read the results and we proceed from there. We believe that if you don’t grow; it’s not a question of just standing still, you actually fall behind. And so we are happy to keep pushing ahead with the growth agenda, and this is not just print, but digital, and all that we do.

Michael Clinton: Well, first of all, we’ve always been a print-proud company. We look at the consumer numbers. What’s been interesting about the print magazine world is, before, during and after the Recession, which was all right in the middle of the digital revolution, magazine circulations and magazine audiences have actually been very stable. And in fact, slightly growing in a world where a lot of other traditional mediums’ audiences have declined significantly.

On why they think not many publishing companies have imitated Hearst’s successful strategy for launching new magazines:

David Carey: I’d say that Meredith is doing a pretty good job with what they’ve done with their partnerships and products. They rolled out The Magnolia Journal. I just wanted to point out that there is another company out there that we respect that is also committed to innovation. But to answer your question; it takes something special to have a partnership culture. These are complex, long-term relationships.

Michael Clinton: The way I would answer that is, after the Recession we had a major assessment of the world around us, our world, and we came up with a word called “unbound,” which is our sort of mantra. And unbound means “be contradictory.” It’s contradictory to think that you could launch new print products and be successful; it was contradictory when we decided to create our own digital strategy. It was different than how publishing companies did their own digital strategy. We were very counterintuitive, in terms of how we built our digital strategy, very successful.

On the secret of longevity with magazines like Town & Country, House Beautiful and Harper’s Bazaar:

David Carey: First of all, nothing succeeds like success, right? I spent time last week with the CEO of Scripps and our two ventures, as you heard from the teams, had a terrific 2016, so that makes everyone happy. But the secret is obviously just like the partnerships in your personal life, a shared vision about the future, a way to process, on occasion, unfavorable news. But a commitment, I think, adds core, which the fundamental belief here, Samir, as you know, is that we would rather own half of a really successful business than all of an unsuccessful one.

Michael ClintonMichael Clinton: We like to say that we’ve been through every media revolution possible. When the telephone was born it was going to displace magazines. When the radio was born it was going to displace magazines. When the television was born it was going to displace magazines. (Laughs) So, we’ve been through every media revolution imaginable; in fact, Town & Country has been through the Civil War, so… (Laughs again)

On the biggest challenges they’ve faced in 2016 and how they overcame them:

David Carey: The industry has been up and down. Our retail/advertising faced a lot of challenges the second half of the year, so that was new for us. The broader retail climate is very difficult, so that did throw some curve balls. I think the business challenge for 2016 was the same challenge in 2015 and will be the same challenge in 2017, and that is on the one part to lead a team that is inspired to try new things, raising workflows to set aside long-held orthodoxies, so that’s our eternal challenge; to create a scale organization of entrepreneurs in their thinking.

Michael Clinton: I think the biggest challenge continues to be that the marketing community and the advertising community; I always like to say don’t confuse me with the facts, because the medium is strong and healthy with the consumer. Newsstand has its challenges; the channel has its challenges, in terms of people in stores. And as you know that only represents four or five percent of the distribution of magazines. The challenge is that the marketing community that doesn’t acknowledge the power of the medium with the consumer is something that’s, how do I put it, well, it’s certainly a challenge in getting that message out there. So, how have we addressed that? We’ve done an enormous amount of innovation with paper and how you can work with paper, so all of our various cover configurations are native units in print and are co-branded executions in print and have stimulated the market a lot. We’ve had huge growth in revenue in these new ways that an advertiser can work with paper.

On the fact that magazines have always been marketers of content; why the hoopla over all of these new buzz phrases like content marketing and native advertising:

David Carey: I think it’s also true when you think about the television business; it used to have its sponsored television programs, such as when GE sponsored a certain program, and there were many others that did that too. The tradition of integrated advertisers is as old as the hills.

Michael Clinton: Everything old is new again. That’s a great question and I think that what happened is that over time the magazine industry had boxed itself in. And I would argue in many ways that it became too precious. It’s like you were talking about earlier with the cycle of the kinds of magazines that were born and came into play, and then left the market. What happened is these isms started making plays and the world around us completely evolved and changed and the magazine industry didn’t. And with what we do in print, we all had to move into what the digital world was doing and the Teleton world was doing and the radio world was doing, and that was tied into sponsorship and co-created content. All of that is very much the norm when it comes to how those mediums operate, and the magazine industry had lagged behind.

On what’s next for Hearst Magazines:

David Carey: I think you’ve seen our game plan now for the next couple of years. I’m very proud of our digital strategy that we’ve executed; I’m really proud of our product development, in terms of our core thinking about expanding the operation.

Michael Clinton: Well, what’s next will be our two big launches. We have a new chief content officer, Joanna (Coles) next door. She and I have been working on the Airbnb project for over a year now and we did a sampler edition that I’ll show you. It was distributed at the Airbnb Open, which is a big festival that they do once a year. They had 13,000 people in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Joanna was on the stage with Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, and I was in the audience and we taped the sampler magazine under the seats, so when she was talking, and I wish that I had had a video of it, when she was talking and they said take the magazine out from under the seats, and people were waving it in the air and asking how they could subscribe to it. So, the response was phenomenal. And people were excited that they now had a magazine.

On what keeps them up at night:

David Carey: My typical answer is always the same; I’m very fortunate that I sleep pretty well, my friend. I never really get thrown off the path or unnerved by the state of the business. We start the year with the same hope that we did this year.

Michael Clinton: I’ll go back to what I said earlier, what keeps me up is that there is a lack of appreciation and understanding of the vitality of the printed magazine, with regards to consumers. The metrics are there, when it comes to overall circulation units, which are pretty good. There are ups and downs, you know, but overall pretty good. And the audiences are quite good. And there is a lack of appreciation for that and for the role that magazines can play in the media mix. It’s a media mix. And that’s what keeps me up at night; the lack of appreciation for the strength of the medium to the consumer.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Carey, president, and Michael Clinton, president of marketing and publishing director, Hearst Magazines. Up first; David Carey:

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-9-36-54-amSamir Husni: Recently, you announced that you’re launching yet another print magazine in sponsorship; why do you think that Hearst is one of the few major companies that actually never stopped launching magazines since the dawn of the digital revolution in 2007?

David Carey: As you’ve heard us talk about our sort of corporate tagline, which is “unbound,” this is a company that believes in the future, believes in partnerships and is comfortable with risks. We don’t do crazy risks, but our format is we greenlight a handful of test issues and we read the results and we proceed from there.

We believe that if you don’t grow; it’s not a question of just standing still, you actually fall behind. And so we are happy to keep pushing ahead with the growth agenda, and this is not just print, but digital, and all that we do. So, I feel fortunate that the company understands the very important need of new products to our future. We often talk about the famous strategy from the 3M Corporation. They wanted 25 percent of their profits each year to come from businesses that did not exist five years prior to show that their company would be much smaller if you did not force innovation. And we think about that a great deal, but I’m proud to say that more than 25 percent of our profits in 2016 came from businesses that either did not exist or were in a loss position five years ago.

Samir Husni: We’re such a creative industry, and yet there are a lot of imitations that take place. Why do you think that not many publishing companies used the same approach that you’ve done when it comes to launching new magazines? You’re launching another print product, The Pioneer Woman; you’re doing two issues in 2017, and you’ll probably move forward like you did with the Food Network and all of the other past new launches, and then wait and see. Why do you think no other publisher has imitated you?

David Carey: I’d say that Meredith is doing a pretty good job with what they’ve done with their partnerships and products. They rolled out The Magnolia Journal. I just wanted to point out that there is another company out there that we respect that is also committed to innovation.

But to answer your question; it takes something special to have a partnership culture. These are complex, long-term relationships. We drive a great deal of our profit building through partnerships and those require us to have a somewhat different stance because we have to make decisions with others, and some of these businesses have great days and some have challenging days, so the credit for that really goes to Frank Bennack; it was Frank who established the partnership DNA that is part of Hearst. Frank did it scores of times and so we continue to run with the plays that Frank created when he formed the initial partnership with Capital Cities, and initially created A+E, which lost money for a number of years before it became a huge business. It’s in the water here. We’re fortunate to be the proud, not so much custodians, but keepers of that partnership flame.

Samir Husni: Once you and I were talking about the way you grow these partnerships; you actually spend a lot of time analyzing the entire process. It’s like going on so many dates before you can decide if this is someone you want to develop a relationship with. Can you explain that process you go through before deciding if a particular partnership is a good mix for all involved?

David Carey: Like anything in life; it’s about chemistry. And it’s not only about the chemistry that each partner contributes, but also how everyone works together. So there is a courtship process and I think it goes in all directions because we are committing capital; we’re committing to a business that we will want to operate for many, many years.

In fact, I can tell you that there were two meetings last week and one meeting yesterday that was the first stages of the potential new projects for 2018. We have a long-term horizon on this stuff. Our 2017 projects are in place and now we’re starting to think about what comes next. So, they take a while to get done, there’s no question about it. That gives you a sense of how this is just a part of what we do every day. We’re very focused on the test issues of these two different franchises, but then what comes after that? And we can’t start to answer that in September; we have to begin getting to know these other organizations early. So, I had the meeting last week, and there was a conversation yesterday that I was not part of, and that’s some of what we do.

tc-oct-cover-childSamir Husni: Within a span of one year you had a magazine celebrating its 170th anniversary, Town & Country; one celebrating its 150th anniversary, Harper’s Bazaar; one with its 120th anniversary, House Beautiful; what’s the secret of longevity with those magazines?

David Carey: First of all, nothing succeeds like success, right? I spent time last week with the CEO of Scripps and our two ventures, as you heard from the teams, had a terrific 2016, so that makes everyone happy. But the secret is obviously just like the partnerships in your personal life, a shared vision about the future, a way to process, on occasion, unfavorable news. But a commitment, I think, adds core, which the fundamental belief here, Samir, as you know, is that we would rather own half of a really successful business than all of an unsuccessful one. That’s something that we say often, and both companies need to really believe that they are better off together than they are apart.

Samir Husni: What has been your biggest challenge in 2016 and how did you overcome it?

David Carey: The industry has been up and down. Our retail/advertising faced a lot of challenges the second half of the year, so that was new for us. The broader retail climate is very difficult, so that did throw some curve balls. I think the business challenge for 2016 was the same challenge in 2015 and will be the same challenge in 2017, and that is on the one part to lead a team that is inspired to try new things, raising workflows to set aside long-held orthodoxies, so that’s our eternal challenge; to create a scale organization of entrepreneurs in their thinking.

And then the second is, our clients, our advertisers, they have as complex a time as ever navigating through so many different media options, and we have to make sure that our brand, ideas, and our people are front and center. I’m happy our team solved it; we’re very proud of their accomplishments, but the media business, and maybe I’ve given you this standard line, so I apologize if I’m repeating myself, but if you like an industry that’s dynamic, fast-changing, sure to reinvent itself, then the media business overall, not just magazines, is a great place to be. If you want your job and what you do to be exactly the same a year or two years from now, you should probably become a schoolteacher, and so we have to have people who feel very comfortable with change.

Samir Husni: And during that constant change, is there a point where you can sit down, draw a deep breath, and say, we’ve done it? Or is it a continuous process?

David Carey: You can go back to the founders of Dow Jones: we’re proud of what we’ve done, and next year we want to do better.

Samir Husni: Why do you think there’s such a lack of institutional history in the magazine business in this country? I was looking at some old magazines in my collection and I saw native advertising in Esquire back in the ‘30s; I saw native advertising in National Geographic, an article presented to you about the environment by the Mobil Oil Company. We’ve always been marketers of content, why is it now all about content marketing and all of these new buzz phrases?

David Carey: I think it’s also true when you think about the television business; it used to have its sponsored television programs, such as when GE sponsored a certain program, and there were many others that did that too. The tradition of integrated advertisers is as old as the hills.

One of my fondest memories, you mentioned Esquire, I worked for Esquire as my first job out of college, and the owners of Esquire before Chris Whittle and Phillip Moffit acquired it, donated the Esquire archive to the University of Kansas, into the museum there, the physical items, all of the drawings, illustrations and sketches. It was kind of a complex relationship, because Esquire owned the copyright, but the museum owned the actual, physical artwork.

I went out there and I remember going and pouring through an attic of the physical archives, and we struck a deal in the end where we would share, they would provide the original artwork so that we could create new things, and we would share in the royalties, so we worked that out. But you can imagine the owners of Esquire, which may have been Clay Felker, but I’m not 100% sure if he was the person who donated it. There wasn’t really a national institution that was a depository for magazine media.

Samir Husni: What’s next for Hearst Magazines?

David Carey: I think you’ve seen our game plan now for the next couple of years. I’m very proud of our digital strategy that we’ve executed; I’m really proud of our product development, in terms of our core thinking about expanding the operation.

The media business today; we talk all the time about battleships and speedboats, and we want to be a speedboat. We want to be able to be a company that is both nimble and robust. At times though there are opposing forces, but we work very hard at it, and I am proud of how our team solves in 2016. We have had the best performance in the U.S. But it all starts over again next year.

Samir Husni: You’ve been at Hearst now for almost seven years.

David Carey: It will be seven years in May.

Samir Husni: If someone asked you to pinpoint one major accomplishment, and I know how humble you are, David; you always give credit to the entire team, but what would somebody write for the history books about the seven years of David Carey at Hearst?

David Carey: That’s a deep thought. Luckily they’d write, which is true, that regardless of headline news, and regardless of anything, hopefully each and every day we have fun. Some people I meet will find out that I work in the magazine business and ask me if it’s hard. And I tell them how much fun it is. We always believe that there is a path to growth, sometimes it isn’t brightly lit with signs pointing at it; you have to find it. But I believe we have fun.

In our company we’re blessed with more than 10,000 team members around the world and by no means is the success we’ve achieved attributed to David Carey or Michael Clinton, who by the way is brilliant, but the success goes to the entire, huge organization that if we do our jobs well as readers, feel energized and confident to go out and take risks with products; take risks with business strategies, and know all the while that the company supports them. And that’s our goal. That’s what we would measure ourselves against.

Samir Husni: At the end of the year you always write a letter to your employees that goes public about the accomplishments, the forecast, the future; what would be three highlights from that letter?

David Carey: We’re working on it now. Three highlights; I guess there will be a knock-knock joke; though we’ve haven’t figured it out yet. (Laughs) But there is a thread that connects all of these messages and notes, to talk about what certain brands accomplished; a number of our businesses did have record performances in 2016, both properties in the U.S. as well as markets around the world, the absolute best ever. And it’s always inspiring to take the lessons from those people who led their businesses to new highs, but then to set the path forward. And it comes back to that it’s a period of great change and opportunities, the media business is filled with plenty of both. We have both complexity and opportunity to greet us every single day.

And our team members again, when we’re successful, will solve for the complexity and cease the opportunity. I feel that’s our mission as leaders of the company and as colleagues of thousands of employees. And you’ll find a similar message in my letter, and one of great appreciation. By hook or by crook, we had a terrific 2016 and now we’re, as you know, setting the stage for next year.

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

David Carey: Again, I’m appreciative of your close coverage of the industry and our company. You get it; you see the opportunities as well. It’s a broader, journalistic world. We share your belief that there’s room for new product; there’s room for innovation in a business, despite market share or the stock market being up or down.

I think the political environment this year suggested that there’s always surprise out there; and we hope to surprise people again in the New Year.

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

David Carey: My typical answer is always the same; I’m very fortunate that I sleep pretty well, my friend. I never really get thrown off the path or unnerved by the state of the business. We start the year with the same hope that we did this year.

Michael Clinton is by far the most brilliant kind of revenue, relationship-focused executive in our industry. And he’s a very big part of what we’ve accomplished. We’re happy that Joanna Coles has now joined the leadership team of the division and helps us drive to the future. It’s wonderful to have Ellen Levine still very present in the organization, after a spectacular career at the company. And Ellen, as you know, is leading the development of The Pioneer Woman, with Maile Carpenter.

We have a fantastic leader of our digital business in Troy Young that brings the very best lessons of the digital pure plays to us, a company of scale and stature. And then we have a great CFO, who is quick to point out to me if I spend too much money on my own T&E, so I can cut back. Debi (Chirichella) was very proud of me; I was recently on a business trip and I commented that I was so excited because I got an upgrade, because I was in seat 32D, and that’s what it takes to make sure that in a company you spend your money where it counts, which is on the product and on the team.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Clinton:

harpersbazaar_decjan-cover_subSamir Husni: Recently, you announced that you’re launching yet another print magazine in sponsorship; why do you think that Hearst is one of the few major companies that actually never stopped launching magazines since the dawn of the digital revolution in 2007?

Michael Clinton: Well, first of all, we’ve always been a print-proud company. We look at the consumer numbers. What’s been interesting about the print magazine world is, before, during and after the Recession, which was all right in the middle of the digital revolution, magazine circulations and magazine audiences have actually been very stable. And in fact, slightly growing in a world where a lot of other traditional mediums’ audiences have declined significantly.

So, the core number of the interest in the consumer in a printed product is there. The trick is finding the right kind of product and the right kind of editorial interpretation of that product. And if you build it right, they will come. So, in 2009, the worst year since the Great Depression, we announced that we were launching a food magazine of which there were several hundred food magazines that existed already, and everyone thought that we were crazy. But it was with a great partner, Food Network, and now it’s one of our most profitable magazines. It is the number three selling magazine on newsstands in the U.S. It has one of the best set of metrics, from the consumer’s standpoint, in our company, and so the consumer votes.

When we followed that up with HGTV and then Dr. Oz; what we know is that the consumer still has an interest in the medium if you get the concept right. Dr. O, HGTV and Food Network, all three of them are within the top ten monthly sellers on newsstand.

Samir Husni: We’re such a creative industry, and yet there are a lot of imitations that take place. Why do you think that not many publishing companies used the same approach that you’ve done when it comes to launching new magazines? You’re launching another print product, The Pioneer Woman; you’re doing two issues in 2017, and you’ll probably move forward like you did with the Food Network and all of the other past new launches, and then wait and see. Why do you think no other publisher has imitated you?

Michael Clinton: No guts, no glory. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Michael Clinton: The way I would answer that is, after the Recession we had a major assessment of the world around us, our world, and we came up with a word called “unbound,” which is our sort of mantra. And unbound means “be contradictory.” It’s contradictory to think that you could launch new print products and be successful; it was contradictory when we decided to create our own digital strategy. It was different than how publishing companies did their own digital strategy. We were very counterintuitive, in terms of how we built our digital strategy, very successful.

So, what we do is we step back and we look for an opportunity. With our new launches; we actually, as you know, have two new projects coming in 2017; one with The Pioneer Woman and one with Airbnb, one of the great disruptors in the world that is redefining the travel ethos in the world. And so if you capture a new sensibility and a new community and a new market, you can build a great print product.

Samir Husni: And yet, few have imitated you.

tc-oct-cover-horseMichael Clinton: That’s true. I can’t answer why. I guess it’s just how we’re wired as a company. I think it starts first with having a deep belief that printed magazines will be here for a very, very long time. Will all magazines be there, of course not, the strong will survive and those that have the best point of view will survive.

We’re in the lifestyle magazine business; so we have the great photography, the great visuals, and the great content. And so I think it starts first with the deep belief in our core business. It’s interesting, we call it our bricks and mortar business and there are some retailers who are doubling-down and being very innovative with their core business; Nordstrom is being extremely innovative with what they’re doing with their bricks and mortar, while other physical retailers are shrinking and/or cutting back the number of stores. Nordstrom’s is a chain that’s actually growing and opening new stores and doing new kinds of innovation.

I think it depends on how core your core belief is in your product and so we’ll continue to expand and launch; we’ll acquire the right things, and it’s that core belief. So, I’d say it starts with your core DNA.

Samir Husni: Within a span of one year you had a magazine celebrating its 170th anniversary, Town & Country; one celebrating its 150th anniversary, Harper’s Bazaar; one with its 120th anniversary, House Beautiful; what’s the secret of longevity with those magazines?

Michael Clinton: We like to say that we’ve been through every media revolution possible. When the telephone was born it was going to displace magazines. When the radio was born it was going to displace magazines. When the television was born it was going to displace magazines. (Laughs) So, we’ve been through every media revolution imaginable; in fact, Town & Country has been through the Civil War, so… (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Michael Clinton: It survived literal war; the Civil War and kept on going. And I think what’s really exciting about a magazine is that it’s a living, breathing organism, and if you evolve and change, and if what the editor’s actually put on the paper evolves and changes, then you’ll evolve along with the culture.

And if you think about the recent evolution of Town & Country, which is a great example of how that’s happened under Jay Fielden and now Stellene (Volandes), but the other part of that is that the magazine brands have such a deep texture in the American culture that generations know certain brands of magazines. Whether it’s Good Housekeeping or Harper’s Bazaar or Esquire; your father, your father’s father and so on; it’s part of the American culture. There’s a trust factor and an authoritative factor that is deeply rooted into the culture and I think if you keep that story contemporary it continues to carry on through generations.

And I think magazines have an outsized influence in the culture. If you hear somebody say I read it in Esquire; you hear the evening news talk about a recent report in – pick a magazine – it is referenced in other media and that has a lot of credibility as well, in terms of authority. In a world of fake news and suspect news and lack of credibility, these are brands that have the great credibility to their subject matter. I think as long as you keep it fresh, they keep evolving.

Samir Husni: What has been your biggest challenge in 2016 and how did you overcome it?

Michael Clinton: I think the biggest challenge continues to be that the marketing community and the advertising community; I always like to say don’t confuse me with the facts, because the medium is strong and healthy with the consumer. Newsstand has its challenges; the channel has its challenges, in terms of people in stores. And as you know that only represents four or five percent of the distribution of magazines. The challenge is that the marketing community that doesn’t acknowledge the power of the medium with the consumer is something that’s, how do I put it, well, it’s certainly a challenge in getting that message out there.

So, how have we addressed that? We’ve done an enormous amount of innovation with paper and how you can work with paper, so all of our various cover configurations are native units in print and are co-branded executions in print and have stimulated the market a lot. We’ve had huge growth in revenue in these new ways that an advertiser can work with paper.

Samir Husni: Why do you think there’s such a lack of institutional history in the magazine business in this country? I was looking at some old magazines in my collection and I saw native advertising in Esquire back in the ‘30s; I saw native advertising in National Geographic, an article presented to you about the environment by the Mobil Oil Company. We’ve always been marketers of content, why is it now all about content marketing and all of these new buzz phrases?

december-2016Michael Clinton: Everything old is new again. That’s a great question and I think that what happened is that over time the magazine industry had boxed itself in. And I would argue in many ways that it became too precious. It’s like you were talking about earlier with the cycle of the kinds of magazines that were born and came into play, and then left the market.

What happened is these isms started making plays and the world around us completely evolved and changed and the magazine industry didn’t. And with what we do in print, we all had to move into what the digital world was doing and the Teleton world was doing and the radio world was doing, and that was tied into sponsorship and co-created content. All of that is very much the norm when it comes to how those mediums operate, and the magazine industry had lagged behind. And now we’re kind of rediscovering our past in a way, because yes, you’re right, those things may have happened 20 or 30 years ago and we’re now bringing it forward into a modern interpretation.

Everybody says to me the people have been around for a long time, native advertising, isn’t that like advertorial? And I say, yes, it’s all semantics. It’s the next generation’s version of what advertorial is, so it’s just a contemporary version with a tweak.

Samir Husni: What’s next for Hearst Magazines?

Michael Clinton: Well, what’s next will be our two big launches. We have a new chief content officer, Joanna (Coles) next door. She and I have been working on the Airbnb project for over a year now and we did a sampler edition that I’ll show you. It was distributed at the Airbnb Open, which is a big festival that they do once a year. They had 13,000 people in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Joanna was on the stage with Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, and I was in the audience and we taped the sampler magazine under the seats, so when she was talking, and I wish that I had had a video of it, when she was talking and they said take the magazine out from under the seats, and people were waving it in the air and asking how they could subscribe to it. So, the response was phenomenal. And people were excited that they now had a magazine.

So, what we did with the sampler was produced it just for Los Angeles, because they were all going to be in Los Angeles. What you see in the sampler is a letter from Brian, an opener to sort of give them a taste of what’s coming. And then it goes into an Airbnb sensitivity, which as you know, their tagline is “Live like a Local.” So it’s very local tips and content about Los Angeles and the tricks of the trade when it comes to navigating around L.A. Then it covers three neighborhoods; Venice, and there was an Airbnb host in Venice and some of their favorite spots. And then there was another neighborhood, Echo Park, and things going on in that emerging area. There was also a host there and his tips. Then downtown L.A., which there is the entire renaissance going on there.

And then you may have read the piece in The New York Times recently where they introduced something called “Trips,” so when you go to a destination for Airbnb, you’re now able to sign up for experiences that you buy directly through Airbnb. So, if you want to have a surfing lesson over the weekend, you can hire this guy to give you surfing lessons, and you do that right through your Airbnb app. Or you can have a farm-to-table, urban dining experience, or you can have a disco night in Hollywood. These trips are going to be in 12 cities for launch. And then in the sampler magazine, there is a little closing essay.

But the difference is when we did all of our research, and we spent about a year doing research with consumers, the Airbnb’er has such an incredibly different sensibility about their travel experience. They are a very different kind of traveler. Airbnb had its largest night ever about two months ago; they had 1.8 million Airbnb properties rented around the world. That’s 1.8 million; this ship has sailed big time.

And when we did the research with the consumer, they don’t like any of the existing travel media; they think it’s too five-star, and there’s a market for that, it’s just not that market. And they also don’t have the belief and the trust in a lot of the content that’s on sites like TripAdvisor or some of the other rating sites. And so, we saw a real interesting white space through our research that was validated. And that’s when we together decided to move forward. So, that and Pioneer will be the two big projects for us in 2017.

Samir Husni: When is the first issue of Airbnb?

Michael Clinton: June, 2017.

Samir Husni: So, you have two magazines coming out in June?

Michael Clinton: Yes, different markets and different consumer base, primarily. I think you know that Pioneer Woman is only going to be in Wal-Mart. And how that started was, it sort of came together in two ways. Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, reached out to us because she was interested in this platform. And she knew that we did the Food Network magazine.

Then there was a group of us that was having a meeting with Christy Jenkins, who runs the Wal-Mart books and magazines buying, and we were just talking and she mentioned the wild success of Pioneer Woman products in Wal-Mart. So we put the two things together and then we went back to Christy and said if we did this, would Wal-Mart really get behind it. So, they’re going to merchandise it around the product and so forth. There is no intent to keep it Wal-Mart only necessarily beyond the test, but we figured let’s test it where she has another built-in constituency.

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

Michael Clinton: I’ll go back to what I said earlier, what keeps me up is that there is a lack of appreciation and understanding of the vitality of the printed magazine, with regards to consumers. The metrics are there, when it comes to overall circulation units, which are pretty good. There are ups and downs, you know, but overall pretty good. And the audiences are quite good. And there is a lack of appreciation for that and for the role that magazines can play in the media mix. It’s a media mix. And that’s what keeps me up at night; the lack of appreciation for the strength of the medium to the consumer

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Whether One Year Or 50 Years, Magazines Continue To Celebrate One Year At A Time…

December 15, 2016

In the continuous series of Mr. Magazine’s™ celebrating magazine anniversaries, here is another group of magazines that are celebrating their anniversaries this month. The range goes from a mere first happy birthday to a grand, but young, 50 years celebration.

Take a look, help light a candle or two or 50 and sing happy anniversary for an industry like no other.

Live, love and read a magazine or two…

The Unleashed Voice... One Year Old.

The Unleashed Voice… One Year Old.

Vie Magazine. 10 Years Old

Vie Magazine. 10 Years Old

American Short Fiction. 25 Years Old

American Short Fiction. 25 Years Old

Mississippi magazine. 35 Years Old

Mississippi magazine. 35 Years Old

New Jersey Magazine. 40 Years Old

New Jersey Magazine. 40 Years Old

Gourmet Traveller Magazine. 50 Years Old

Gourmet Traveller Magazine. 50 Years Old

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Zeke Magazine: Incredibly Powerful Global Documentary Photography Combines With Journalistic Collaborations To Bring Awareness Of What’s Going On In The World Around Us – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Glenn Ruga, Executive Editor, Zeke Magazine…

December 14, 2016

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Personally I love print and I believe a lot of other people do as well, both photographers and the general public who look at photography. It’s just much more compelling in print, particularly large, and that’s one thing that we’re committed to at the magazine; we make the photographs as large as we can. So, it really gives the audience a chance to experience the photograph in a way that they rarely can online.” Glenn Ruga…

zeke

More than a photography magazine, Zeke is a force to be reckoned with. It is powerful and emotional pictures of the world we all live in, from one side of the globe to the other, but it is also journalistic collaborations of passion and depth that help us to understand and appreciate the dynamic photographs even more. Zeke is the magazine of global documentary, so says its tagline. And Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree that documenting current global issues and bringing awareness to those stories is certainly what the publication does best.

Glenn Ruga is founder of the Social Documentary Network and executive editor of Zeke. Also a graphic designer, photographer and a lifelong human rights activist himself, Glenn’s passion for Zeke’s mission is strong and his love of print obvious as you flip through the pages of this beautiful magazine.

I spoke with Glenn recently and we talked about Zeke and where it is today and where he hopes it’s headed. The hope is to build a strong subscription base and possible partnerships with others who see the same vision; a photo-driven magazine that brings back the conscience of us all when it comes to global awareness. In Mr. Magazine’s™ opinion, not since Life or Look has there been such a breathtaking showcase of photography.

So, without further narrative, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Glenn Ruga, executive editor, Zeke magazine.

But first the soundbites:

On why he decided to launch a print magazine after being online first: It’s a combination of a few things; a few forces that were at work. One is that photographers really appreciate the opportunity to have their work in print. Since the advent of the Internet and so much of the work is going online, and that’s clearly the growth opportunity for photographers; it’s not really valued as much for them. To have their work in some type of print form is just so much more valuable done a lot of documentary work in the ‘90s in the Balkans and the former Yugoslavia. I was involved with aid and advocacy groups there and doing both direct advocacy and humanitarian aid, but also doing photography.for their careers and their opportunities.

On what gave him the idea to do a global awareness magazine:
It’s a direction that I’ve always been personally headed for. My day job has always been in graphic design, and although I’ve been very involved in photography, it’s never been what financially supported me. I had done a lot of documentary work in the ‘90s in the Balkans and the former Yugoslavia. I was involved with aid and advocacy groups there and doing both direct advocacy and humanitarian aid, but also doing photography.

On the biggest stumbling block he’s had to face with the magazine:
The cost of paper and printing clearly limits the number of pages and it’s always a trade-off; I would love to have more pages to showcase more work. But really the biggest stumbling block is the business side of it. The content; the curation, is the fun part and the easier part. There’s no lack of work to choose from. People are very eager to support the magazine with photography, but it’s really figuring out a sustainable business model to make it work. That’s clearly the biggest problem.

glenn_ruga

On what he is doing to ensure the magazine has a future: Our revenue model is based on two things right now; one is paid subscriptions. Clearly, that’s a very important part of it. And growing our subscription base is critical. Another important revenue model is that through the Social Documentary Network we do competitions; we’re doing two per year right now, and the winner of the competition is featured in the magazine. So, one of the features in the magazine is always the winners of the competition and they pay to enter. That’s a significant source of revenue for the magazine.

On whether there was that one moment when something clicked and he knew that he needed a print component to complete his vision: It really didn’t click in any one, particular moment. The concept had gelled over many, many years. Almost from day one we had toyed with the idea of having some type of print presence with the Social Documentary Network. So, it was just a matter of what the right model for it was and when was the right time.

On whether he feels this digital age is the best of times or the worst of times for design and photography: It’s a declining industry; print publishing is in a very difficult time right now. And so much emphasis is going towards mobile devices. First it was electronic and digital, but now everything is focused on our mobile devices for content and information. We have a digital version; it’s never been the primary presentation of this, but we do have it and it’s important.

On whether the photography business is being hurt by the Internet:
The photography industry has taken a hit as bad as the publishing industry in the last 10 to 15 years, particularly the still photography industry, which I’m based in. For all of the reasons that magazine publishing has had a difficult time, so have still photographers. Their work has been much devalued and their day rates have gone down. For just middle of the road photography, particularly in journalism, so many publishers now just hand their writers cameras or phones and say you take the pictures; we don’t need photographers any longer.

On whether he is still seeing quality photography in today’s world of iPhones and Smartphones: That’s a very interesting question. It’s clearly a much broader question than simply about magazine publishing. I think the technical quality of photography has improved immensely because of digital photography. Just the equipment alone makes it so much easier to take a well-exposed, sharp picture with good color. But the intent of that picture; the meaning of that picture; what’s behind it; all of the technology in the world doesn’t improve that. What that relies on is the eye and creativity of the photographer, and the soul and spirit of the person behind the camera.

On what we can do today to improve photography: For one, we totally need to accept and embrace the new horizons for social media, and the fact that everybody has a camera in their pocket. Generally, photography is so much more ubiquitous than it ever was, but it means something different as well, than it used to mean.

On what picture he considers to be the most important one of his lifetime: That’s a hard question; Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier during the Spanish Civil War; the picture of the Napalm Girl from the Vietnam War by Nick Ut. And while I appreciate the question, for me the more significant question is, on a regular basis do we continue to see really good and meaningful images, or as you said earlier, has the general feel lost its impact?

On whether he thinks now is a good time for a photo-driven print magazine: It’s not the best of times, but neither do I think those times are gone. The challenge that I always face is that I believe people really love to look at photographs, and they love to look at Zeke magazine, but it’s hard to get people to make that decision to actually subscribe. I don’t know what the key is. I don’t have the resources to have marketing professionals or to pay for the direct-mail campaigns that a traditional magazine launch would require, maybe if I had those resources things could turn around.

On anything else he’d like to add: We can’t talk about any of this without talking about the role that social media plays, particularly in our lives of digital and visual information, and publishing. I think what we’ve all experienced is, yes, everybody can now publish their own work; everybody can put their work on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but at the same time there is so much more noise as a result. The competition is so much greater than it’s ever been and that makes it almost harder for people to break through because of the chatter out there.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: Cooking, having a glass of wine; I love being with other people and sharing a meal. I like going to the gym and to go for bike rides. Recently, I went hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I don’t take a lot of serious photographs myself anymore, and I’m always kicking myself because of that. Every week I say that I should dust off my camera again, but I just never get around to it.

On what keeps him up at night: Stress about money. (Laughs) And generally, and most recently, stress about Donald Trump. That has certainly kept me up at night. But over the last few years it’s stress about the financial situation with what I’m doing

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Glenn Ruga, executive editor, Zeke magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re the first person that I know of who named his magazine after his cat.

Glenn Ruga: (Laughs) I’m surprised because cats are so popular.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Take me back to April, 2015 when you launched the magazine and tell me how the magazine came about after being a website; why did you decide to go print after being online for a few years?

Glenn Ruga: It’s a combination of a few things; a few forces that were at work. One is that photographers really appreciate the opportunity to have their work in print. Since the advent of the Internet and so much of the work is going online, and that’s clearly the growth opportunity for photographers; it’s not really valued as much for them. To have their work in some type of print form is just so much more valuable for their careers and their opportunities.

The other thing is that personally I love print and I believe a lot of other people do as well, both photographers and the general public who look at photography. It’s just much more compelling in print, particularly large, and that’s one thing that we’re committed to at the magazine; we make the photographs as large as we can. So, it really gives the audience a chance to experience the photograph in a way that they rarely can online.

And then the third reason is, I don’t know if you spent any time looking at the Social Documentary Network website which we started in 2008, but the website is a very democratic, open platform where pretty much anyone doing legitimate documentary work will have the opportunity to publish that work on the website, which is great because that’s our concept.

But the magazine is really a way for us to do a much more curated presentation of this work. Where almost anybody can put their work online, it’s much more selective when it comes to the magazine. It gives us the opportunity to really showcase the best of what’s put onto the website. So, I think those three reasons are really what propelled us to do it.

Samir Husni: Were you the founder of the Social Documentary Network?

Glenn Ruga: Yes.

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Samir Husni: So, tell me more about the genesis of all of this. I know that you’re a photographer and I know that the tagline of the magazine is: The Magazine of Global Documentary. So, you’re not limiting yourself to any geographic area. Why did you feel that there was a need to document all of this global awareness? Truthfully, I discovered you through the magazine, before I looked at the website, and I was completely bowled over by the publication. So, what gave you the idea to put global awareness into a magazine?

Glenn Ruga: It’s a direction that I’ve always been personally headed for. My day job has always been in graphic design, and although I’ve been very involved in photography, it’s never been what financially supported me. I had done a lot of documentary work in the ‘90s in the Balkans and the former Yugoslavia. I was involved with aid and advocacy groups there and doing both direct advocacy and humanitarian aid, but also doing photography.

I produced two exhibitions, one on Bosnia and one on Kosovo during that time. And both of these started out as physical exhibitions that traveled to different locations around the U.S. and to some locations around the world. But also in both cases, I produced a website for these exhibits. I have design and web design skills, but even for me it was quite an involved and arduous task back then, in the early 2000s.

It occurred to me that there had to be many photographers out there who had extraordinary work, but didn’t have the design skills that I have, and I thought it would be an opportunity to create a platform and tools for photographers to very easily create websites for their documentary projects.

My background has always been involved in human rights issues outside of my direct work. Even my graphic design work often works with human rights organizations. So, it’s really my background and my interests and proclivities that led me to the direction of global issues.

Samir Husni: As you celebrate the first anniversary of the magazine; what has been the biggest stumbling block for you and how did you overcome it?

Glenn Ruga: The cost of paper and printing clearly limits the number of pages and it’s always a trade-off; I would love to have more pages to showcase more work. But really the biggest stumbling block is the business side of it. The content; the curation, is the fun part and the easier part. There’s no lack of work to choose from. People are very eager to support the magazine with photography, but it’s really figuring out a sustainable business model to make it work. That’s clearly the biggest problem.

Samir Husni: What are you doing to ensure that the magazine will be here in the future?

Glenn Ruga: Our revenue model is not based on advertising. When we first started, with the premier issue, we were actually more successful with paid advertising because I think people were willing to get onboard right away and give us the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t think our advertisers really feel that our outreach and circulation is enough to justify the cost of advertising.

So, our revenue model is based on two things right now; one is paid subscriptions. Clearly, that’s a very important part of it. And growing our subscription base is critical. Another important revenue model is that through the Social Documentary Network we do competitions; we’re doing two per year right now, and the winner of the competition is featured in the magazine. So, one of the features in the magazine is always the winners of the competition and they pay to enter. That’s a significant source of revenue for the magazine.

And the third yet to be realized is that we would very much like to find a significant partner or sponsor that sees the value of the magazine and would like to contribute support to it financially, just because they see the value in it. And that is certainly a possibility; to find somebody. We just haven’t found that entity yet.

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Samir Husni: You’ve done the Social Documentary Network for six years now, but did you feel as though something was missing without a print component? Can you describe that moment when it clicked and you knew you wanted or needed a print magazine?

Glenn Ruga: It really didn’t click in any one, particular moment. The concept had gelled over many, many years. Almost from day one we had toyed with the idea of having some type of print presence with the Social Documentary Network. So, it was just a matter of what the right model for it was and when was the right time.

And two years ago was a time when I was really in a growth mode with the organization and really looking for new ways to increase our visibility and credibility in the field. To me it just seemed like the right time to pull it all together.

We have an advisory committee that meets periodically and we had kicked around some ideas; everything from a very cheap type of publication to something that was more substantial. And I think we kind of met in the middle with that. It’s not a book and it’s not a monograph. The idea is to use the magazine model, but to make it as high quality as we can as a magazine. Having it perfect bound, rather than saddle stitch was a very important decision. Having heavier than normal paper was also an important thing; everybody who feels it thinks that it’s substantial and real. And that means a lot to the community that we work with; the photography community.

Samir Husni: As a creative designer and a photographer, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this digital age as it relates to graphic design and photography? Do you feel like it’s the best of times or the worst of times?

Glenn Ruga: It’s a declining industry; print publishing is in a very difficult time right now. And so much emphasis is going towards mobile devices. First it was electronic and digital, but now everything is focused on our mobile devices for content and information. We have a digital version; it’s never been the primary presentation of this, but we do have it and it’s important.

But in the same respect, we’re not a major corporate publisher that needs a huge circulation to survive. If we can hit a few thousand paid subscribers, we could pretty much do what we need to do and continue to grow and assure success. And I don’t think that’s by any means an impossible thing.

But getting back to your earlier question, selling print magazines, as you know, is a very difficult thing to do. And as much as people appreciate it, people still look at it as a magazine and we’re asking them to pay $17 a year for two issues. People love it, but it’s hard to get people over that hurdle to fill out a form with their credit card and say buy, because there’s so much free content on the Internet. It’s all out there free, so people ask themselves why they should pay $17 when I could go to the Social Documentary website and get this for free or go to The New York Times or anyplace else and get it for free. It’s a hard environment out there.

Samir Husni: Are you telling me that the abundance of free content online is hurting the professions of photography and creative design? As a photographer, is the Internet helping you or hurting you? Yes, you can upload any picture and put it on the web, but who is paying you for that picture?

Glenn Ruga: The photography industry has taken a hit as bad as the publishing industry in the last 10 to 15 years, particularly the still photography industry, which I’m based in. For all of the reasons that magazine publishing has had a difficult time, so have still photographers. Their work has been much devalued and their day rates have gone down. For just middle of the road photography, particularly in journalism, so many publishers now just hand their writers cameras or phones and say you take the pictures; we don’t need photographers any longer.

So, because of that the value of what a photographer gets paid has gone down and their work has gone down. We’re not paying the photographers, they’re generally happy to have their work in the magazine. We would love to be able to pay them; if we were more successful financially that’s the first thing that we’d like to do. But right now we’re not.

Samir Husni: Do you think that the quality of photography that we have now is better or worse? I look at some of those documentary photographers from the ‘30s and ‘40s in some of the old magazines that I have in my collection, and it’s like one “Wow” after the other almost on every page. And that’s the same reaction I had when I looked at your magazine. It seems that with all of the digital platforms, everyone who Tweets has become a journalist and everyone who takes a picture with their iPhone or their Smartphone has become a photographer. Are you still seeing that quality of photography that brings that “Wow” every time a page is turned?

Glenn Ruga: That’s a very interesting question. It’s clearly a much broader question than simply about magazine publishing. I think the technical quality of photography has improved immensely because of digital photography. Just the equipment alone makes it so much easier to take a well-exposed, sharp picture with good color. But the intent of that picture; the meaning of that picture; what’s behind it; all of the technology in the world doesn’t improve that. What that relies on is the eye and creativity of the photographer, and the soul and spirit of the person behind the camera.

As you say, looking at the documentary photography from magazines in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, and today, that hasn’t changed or improved. In many cases, a lot has been lost. A lot has been lost because so many non-committed photographers, so many non-professionals are in the field now and they all think that all they have to do is point a digital camera at something and it’s a good picture. And as we all know, that’s not the case.

Samir Husni: You’re the doctor of photography here today, so what’s your prescription? What can we do today to change things, or has that train already left the station?

Glenn Ruga: For one, we totally need to accept and embrace the new horizons for social media, and the fact that everybody has a camera in their pocket. Generally, photography is so much more ubiquitous than it ever was, but it means something different as well, than it used to mean.

But then at the more serious level, the higher level in journalism where we’re trying to inspire, educate and motivate people; I think the prescription for that just has to be the industry understanding what quality photography can do and what is lost if they don’t embrace that. And I think the major media out there still gets it. The New York Times gets it and they do extraordinary work. Who else? New York Times Magazine; it’s still one of the leading forces. New Yorker magazine when they publish photography; Time is having a bit of difficulty in this field. I think as a journalist entity and a newsweekly, it’s a very difficult space for them to be in right now, although, they do have good photo editors there.

Samir Husni: What picture comes to mind as the most important and powerful photograph of your lifetime?

Glenn Ruga: That’s a hard question; Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier during the Spanish Civil War; the picture of the Napalm Girl from the Vietnam War by Nick Ut. And while I appreciate the question, for me the more significant question is, on a regular basis do we continue to see really good and meaningful images, or as you said earlier, has the general feel lost its impact?

And I have no doubt that there are excellent photographers out there doing excellent work and that’s the core belief that I had when I created the Social Documentary Network and Zeke magazine, because I see this work often. But what I don’t see is a wide scale distribution of this work. And that’s one of the things that I want to be able to add to this world is the ability to showcase really good documentary photography work. There’s no doubt that there are photographers out there as committed as ever and doing as good work as ever, and the only limiting factor is the business model for publishing; editors can’t afford to pay them because there’s not enough revenue being generated.

I think the concentration of wealth is a huge problem, because investors expect such returns these days and that slides down what everybody else gets paid. It’s ridiculous that a photographer for The New York Times day rate is $250. I think that’s criminal. That’s a leading media organization in this country and they pay their freelance photographers so little.

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Samir Husni: With your experience, do you share my feelings that this is the best of times to publish a photo-driven magazine in print, such as Life and Look, or do you think those days are gone?

Glenn Ruga: It’s not the best of times, but neither do I think those times are gone. The challenge that I always face is that I believe people really love to look at photographs, and they love to look at Zeke magazine, but it’s hard to get people to make that decision to actually subscribe. I don’t know what the key is. I don’t have the resources to have marketing professionals or to pay for the direct-mail campaigns that a traditional magazine launch would require, maybe if I had those resources things could turn around.

People love the magazine, but how do you get people to really pony up and purchase a subscription. I don’t know what that magic key is and that’s what we struggle with every day.

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

Glenn Ruga: We can’t talk about any of this without talking about the role that social media plays, particularly in our lives of digital and visual information, and publishing. I think what we’ve all experienced is, yes, everybody can now publish their own work; everybody can put their work on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but at the same time there is so much more noise as a result. The competition is so much greater than it’s ever been and that makes it almost harder for people to break through because of the chatter out there. And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s certainly a challenge that everybody faces.

Unfortunately, it’s almost a race to the bottom as we saw in this last election cycle; the more outrageous you can be the more people will pay attention to what you’re saying. And it has nothing to do with truth, integrity or values; it just has to do with capturing eyeballs and clicks however you can, as we’ve seen with Breitbart News, which is in my view despicable and that they were successful because they didn’t care about any ethical issues whatsoever, as long as they could get people to pay attention and purchase their product.

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

Glenn Ruga: Cooking, having a glass of wine; I love being with other people and sharing a meal. I like going to the gym and to go for bike rides. Recently, I went hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I don’t take a lot of serious photographs myself anymore, and I’m always kicking myself because of that. Every week I say that I should dust off my camera again, but I just never get around to it.

I look at and watch a lot of news; I read the newspaper every morning before I go to work. I have a cup of coffee and I read The New York Times. I always catch the news at night. I’m involved politically as well; I just helped to organize a fundraising event for the Syrian American Medical Society, where we had nearly 600 people at a concert recently. That took almost six months of organizing, so I’m often involved in things like that.

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

Glenn Ruga: Stress about money. (Laughs) And generally, and most recently, stress about Donald Trump. That has certainly kept me up at night. But over the last few years it’s stress about the financial situation with what I’m doing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Food Network Magazine: Seven Years Strong & Growing Exponentially – The Print Magazine That Brings Passion And Fun To Cooking – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Vicki Wellington, Vice President, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, And Maile Carpenter, Editor In Chief, Food Network Magazine…

December 12, 2016

“If you just look at our sheer circulation numbers, we’ve grown every single year. So, again, to all of the naysayers, just for a minute take a look at all of our rate base examples; all of our circulation; look at our sub file and our renewals. I mean, everything has grown positively.” Vicki Wellington

“I truly believe that because the need for a curated, calm space to look at the things you love and to get inspired to do the things you love to do, the better off we are. And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is even more precious now than it ever has been, and we see that socially. When the magazine comes out; when people post that they received their magazine, more than ever now they’re posting pictures of themselves on the couch, in the bathtub, on the beach, it’s me-time, my magazine arrived and I’m spending my hour with it. No one talk to me, I just got my Food Network magazine. And those are my favorite posts.” Maile Carpenter…

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In a way that no other food magazine on the market has, Food Network magazine has captured the imagination and attention of its audience completely for the last seven years. Since its launch in 2009, the publication has grown each and every year and proven to the naysayers of print that there will always be a place for a great ink on paper read no matter how many websites come and go in the world of cyber, especially one with a warm and welcoming invitation “to just join it in the kitchen” the way Food Network magazine does.

The head cooks in this exceptionally fun and passionate kitchen are two wonderful women whose personalities and mindsets are so in tune with each other, their thoughts and visions for the title are simpatico. It’s a positive environment when these two get together to create and along with a team of talent that they both credit with the magazine’s success, the only prediction one can have for the brand is a continued one of growth and achievement.

On a recent trip to New York, I stopped by the Hearst Tower and had a delightful conversation with Vicki and Maile and we talked about the brand’s past, present and future. Amid laughter and a true spirit of camaraderie, the two were open, honest and positive about the very successful print world that they live in. For anyone who believes that ink on paper is not a vibrant, viable and vital part of magazines and magazine media, I suggest you visit Vicki and Maile and let them show you otherwise.

The only thing that both Vicki and Maile did not reveal to me is the fact that the Food Network magazine is expecting, expecting a new magazine that is. The day after my meeting with them Hearst announced that they are launching a new magazine The Pioneer Woman in June that is edited by Malie and spearheaded by Vicki. They knew extremely well how to keep a secret.

But back to the Food Network magazine… From 13 rate base increases to circulation numbers that have grown each and every year, to a solid subscription base that has only risen in renewals, to the growth in line extensions that the brand has seen; it’s clear that Food Network magazine is a rocket ship (as Vicki describes it) that has no plans of reaching the end of its present universe. In fact, it’s soaring so high; it may just discover another one while it’s out there.

So, without further ado, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington and Maile Caprenter, because it’s a given that Mr. Magazine™ did.

But first the sound-bites:


On the genesis of the Food Network magazine (Maile Carpenter):
I think that it turned out to be a smart time to launch. For one; the brand was super-strong, economy aside, it was a strong brand and the funny thing was, I remember going into a focus group and we had the cover up for people to comment on, and one woman pointed at it and she said, “I love that magazine.” I was thinking we don’t exist yet. (Laughs) But it made so much sense to everyone that she thought she had seen it already because the brand was so big and it was everywhere.


On the genesis of the Food Network magazine (Vicki Wellington):
Maile was there before me. I came onboard and I had only been at this company for a short while, and I started taking the magazine out and people asked who would launch a magazine; no one needs another food magazine. And I thought, oh dear, I’m done before I even begin. And I remember speaking to Food Network over at Scripps, and they weren’t worried for a second. They said just you wait and see. We know our people; we know our fans, and sure enough, the magazine was like a rocket ship as it flew off of newsstands. And in four issues we hit a million in circulation.

Vicki Wellington

Vicki Wellington

On basically flipping the model of cooking magazines from niche to expansive (Vicki Wellington): (Maile Carpenter) That’s exactly right. I went in looking for a vertical space and we came out with a horizontal one. We were looking for our vertical among all of these other verticals. There were some personality-driven ones; quick and easy titles; straight-up women¹s service; some that were totally aspirational and that were going to all ends of the earth and cooking things that you¹d never cooked before, but no one was doing this across any of the ideas. They were doing it on the air; it changed from hour to hour; you could get everything from combining cans of things to Iron Chef. But no one was seeing that in print. And that turned out to be the secret.


On whether someone asked them when they launched the magazine in 2009 whether they were out of their minds to launch a print magazine in a digital age (Vicki Wellington):
A lot of people asked that for a minute, and then three minutes later they weren’t asking anymore, because this was such a huge homerun and that was obvious to everyone. But at that time, you’re right, digital was a big deal and Food Network, the brand that we come from, had a very successful cable channel for 17 years, and they had a very successful digital platform for around 16 years. And obviously, now years later, everything has grown, and so they were really ahead of the curve on all of it. We didn’t even know that, but it was a big advantage.

On whether someone asked them when they launched the magazine in 2009 whether they were out of their minds to launch a print magazine in a digital age (Maile Carpenter): Well, the very simple answer to that is, the more digital distractions we get and the more choices that we have digitally, the better off we are; I truly believe that because the need for a curated, calm space to look at the things you love and to get inspired to do the things you love to do, the better off we are. And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is even more precious now than it ever has been, and we see that socially. When the magazine comes out; when people post that they received their magazine, more than ever now they’re posting pictures of themselves on the couch, in the bathtub, on the beach, it’s me-time, my magazine arrived and I’m spending my hour with it.

Maile Carpenter

Maile Carpenter


On whether either of them expected the success they have today when the magazine launched (Maile Carpenter): No, I didn’t really set a goal, but it was so clear to me that it was going to work. I remember the moment when I was called in to talk about a food magazine and I didn’t know what it was, and that was a hard thing to brainstorm. I remember the minute that Eliot Kaplan called me and said, “I can tell you what it is now, it’s the Food Network.” And it was just BOOM; I just knew that it was going to work. I had been a fan of the Network forever and I could just immediately picture what it was going to look like.


On whether either of them expected the success they have today when the magazine was launched (Vicki Wellington):
And we’re not that duplicative. Maile’s edit is different than what’s on air and online, so that’s a good reason to have a different platform. And also people are coming for different reasons. In a lot of ways, it’s the best of both worlds, because you could always get TV, it’s practically free with your package, and we have online and that’s free, but you’re paying for this. So, I think it speaks for itself with the surrounding numbers.


On why they think it took so long for the magazine industry to appreciate print again (Vicki Wellington):
Good question. I don’t know. We’re here in our world and we’re growing; the magazines are profitable; we’re reinventing every minute on edit, on business. And I think you survive by paying attention to people’s behavior and what they want. And we’ve changed a lot. We don’t do it quickly and we don’t do it abruptly. You’re not going to get an issue that looks dramatically and suddenly different from the issue before, but if you look at the ones from when we launched; we’re totally different too.


On whether it’s easier for Vicki to sell the magazine now (Vicki Wellington):
I don’t want to say that our days are easy, and I don’t want to say that it’s always been easy, yet it’s a great brand. It’s a brand that everyone loves, men, women and children. Any room I go into, 60 percent of the people say they love Food Network, so we’re already in a very warm room. It’s an inviting environment always.


On the biggest challenge they’re facing today (Maile Carpenter):
When we launched we were in a world where you wouldn’t put an Eggo recipe next to a waffle story and that was not that long ago. And in that amount of time the entire industry has changed. We’ve been on a learning curve and I think we’re really hitting our stride, in terms of what we can do with our advertisers. I think the hardest part is negotiating that and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the reader and to the advertiser.

On whether Maile feels her job as editor is easier or harder today than it used to be (Maile Carpenter): It’s just not as straightforward. I mean, operating in your own space without any concern for marketing and advertising, that’s linear and simple. So, this is more challenging, but it’s more interesting now.


On what advice Maile gives when someone asks her about being an editor (Maile Carpenter):
We’re asked that often when college classes come in. You mean a magazine editor? Because I feel like our skillset could play out in any number of ways. I don’t think print is going anywhere, so I always hope that they go into the business. The advice would be that it’s about being real and true to yourself, and that’s our guiding principle whenever we’re dealing with these advertising concerns. You have to know who you are and stick to that. The readers know when you’re not being real.


On how Vicki defines her job as publisher and CRO (Vicki Wellington):
I think we’re everything. Sales executive; I’m a marketing executive; I’m not a PR director per se, but I think you have to be able to do everything. My advice for any young person is that they have to learn it all. It’s great to be a great writer, but go take some business classes. The successful people are going to have all of these skillsets. And I think there are fewer people doing everything, and that’s who we hire. Not a person who can only sell or market; I want a person whose mind can work in every way.


On how they deal with any misfortune that happens to the chefs on the Network or any of the programs in the magazine (Maile Carpenter):
That was a decision that we made early on and I’m grateful every day that we made it, which was that this magazine was not going to be flattening the TV program into print. That’s the opposite of playing to the strength of print. Suddenly, you look like a less energetic version of the Network. So, we decided right off the bat that we were not going to have columns with specific stars; we were not going to base stories on TV shows. This is supplemental material and I think the readers took to that.


On whether there was a specific moment in time when it hit them how successful the Food Network magazine really was (Vicki Wellington):
I knew early on. It was like a rocket ship and we were on this fast-moving object and it was going fast and high. And I feel like we still are. We had another great year; we’re up over last year. We’ve done amazing, unique work; we continue to win awards; our circulation is up and our newsstand is strong and our subscriber renewals are up. It’s all good, so we’re still on that rocket ship. And I enjoy it.


On whether they think other magazines have tried to imitate Food Network magazine (Maile Carpenter):
I think visually things change after we launched. We had a specific look in mind when we launched. We really starting stripping the props out and going with food in focus. Believe it or not, when we launched, it was a big ask from some photographers to just shoot the food in focus. We had to fight that with some people and I think the readers appreciated just seeing things the way they were really going to look. Not all dressed up and dolled up in an environment that would never be in your house. So, that was a big thing and I think other magazines did kind of start doing more of that.


On who would be standing there if they could strike the magazine with a magic wand and turn it into a living, breathing human (Vicki Wellington):
We’re so many different people. I think if we were other magazines it would be an easier question. But everyone loves us.


On line extensions with the brand (Vicki Wellington):
We still do travel; we do family, which was Kids. We did a Disney edition this year, which was a partnership with Disney. We are looking to do college this coming year in 2017, which is exciting. The Disney edition is something that Maile and her team created. It’s about the experience and food at Disney for families, which I think came out beautiful, smart and fun.

On being one of the first food magazines to go outside endemic advertising (Vicki Wellington): Yes, that was the plan from the very beginning. Part of it is the readership. And I always knew that; it’s a strong readership and I knew how obsessed they were about the brand, about the chefs; about all that goes on within this brand. And I knew that our numbers were strong. We were measured in MRI pretty early, which is a good and a bad thing for us; it was good.

On why they think media is always reporting that millennials don’t read print (Vicki Wellington): I know it’s not true. I know it’s not true from my numbers. And I met the lovely Linda, who you will be meeting with at the MPA, and during one of her presentations she talks about millennials and about the fact that magazine audiences have grown. She talks about the fact that magazine audiences are larger than the biggest 10 cable shows on air. So, when you look at the facts, they don’t back up what you read in the press. I don’t know why the press doesn’t report on all of the other.

On anything either of them would like to add (Vicki Wellington): I can’t report on anything that might be in the works, but I can say keep watching. We’re always working on new things; the entire company is. Michael (Clinton) is launching Airbnb and that’s very interesting. And I think we’re all looking at new opportunities constantly. I don’t know if that goes on at other companies, but it goes on here and it’s exciting.

On what someone would find either of them doing if they showed up unexpectedly at their homes one evening (Maile Carpenter): I made 90 sugar cookies for my daughter’s holiday cookie decorating class that I’m teaching next week, that’s what I was doing.

On what someone would find either of them doing if they showed up unexpectedly at their homes one evening (Vicki Wellington): I recently moved into the city just a few months ago; my girls are in college. I’m in a different place than Maile is. I’m actually having very nice evenings. I’m doing something different all of the time. I’m going out to dinner; I’m meeting a girlfriend tonight for dinner; I’m taking clients out to dinner; I’m going to the gym. I’m living a very civilized life, which I haven’t lived in many years. It’s true. And I’m sleeping a bit more, so these are good things.

On what keeps them up at night (Vicki Wellington): I think about that and the truth is, not work, which is a wonderful thing for me to say. I am really happy with our magazine and I’m happy with our relationships. I love our team; I’m proud of the work that we do every day. For me what keeps me up would be the fact that I have two daughters in college. I picked up my phone today and the first line of the text I had gotten was, “I’m vomiting.” So, I read further. Even though they’re in college, you never stop worrying.


On what keeps them up at night (Maile Carpenter):
Somebody asked me how I handled that Sunday night dread and I can honestly say that has never happened, never. And I think that’s a nice gift to give my kids, to see the importance of doing something you love. I can tell every time I’m interviewing somebody if they’re passionate or not. You can’t fake it. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake your excitement. You can just tell if someone is excited or not.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, Vice President, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, and Maile Carpenter, Editor in Chief, Food Network Magazine.


Samir Husni: Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s rare, or it’s becoming rare in our industry, to see a founding editor and a founding publisher stay together through the years.

Vicki Wellington: We’re like an old married couple now. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, do you have that seven-year-itch? (Laughs too) How have you maintained your relationship?

Vicki Wellington: No, we’re a team. We’re like a married couple; we are. I feel like this is our baby; she has other babies, but this is our baby.

Samir Husni: Take me back to the beginning. In 2009, the worst economic year ever, Gourmet folded. And then suddenly along comes a magazine like Food Network. How many rate base increases have you had since the launch?

Vicki Wellington: 13.

Samir Husni: 13 rate base increases. Tell me the genesis of the Food Network magazine.

Vicki Wellington: That’s for Maile; she’s the birth mother.

Maile Carpenter: I think that it turned out to be a smart time to launch. For one; the brand was super-strong, economy aside, it was a strong brand and the funny thing was, I remember going into a focus group and we had the cover up for people to comment on, and one woman pointed at it and she said, “I love that magazine.” I was thinking we don’t exist yet. (Laughs) But it made so much sense to everyone that she thought she had seen it already because the brand was so big and it was everywhere.

So, it was kind of a no-brainer to have a magazine with the timing right; it turned out to be a good time for people to be home cooking with their families. It was comforting to people and they trusted it, so it just took off.

Vicki Wellington: Maile was there before me. I came onboard and I had only been at this company for a short while, and I started taking the magazine out and people asked who would launch a magazine; no one needs another food magazine. And I thought, oh dear, I’m done before I even begin. And I remember speaking to Food Network over at Scripps, and they weren’t worried for a second. They said just you wait and see. We know our people; we know our fans, and sure enough, the magazine was like a rocket ship as it flew off of newsstands. And in four issues we hit a million in circulation.

And once it was off newsstands, it was huge. I feel like the momentum picked up immediately. And it changed everything. Gourmet closed. People started shooting food differently and the entire conversation changed.

Maile Carpenter: The reality was there really was a hole in the market and that’s when a product succeeds. We had thought that would be the case, but I came back from the focus groups knowing that was the case, because we had all of these women saying that they couldn’t get everything that they wanted in one magazine. They had to find it in up to five different magazines. They couldn’t get a certain mix that they had seen on Food Network. They couldn’t get the quick and easy combined with other things they wanted. People who needed a 10-minute meal on a Monday night, and who would then host a big, elaborate party on Saturday night, and no magazine was touching on all of that the way the Network was. So, we came back with such clear direction about what we could do and I think it just filled a need.

Samir Husni: Technically, you flipped the model. Where everybody was going specialization, such as chicken dinner magazines or some other niche title, you were going broader.

Maile Carpenter: That’s exactly right. I went in looking for a vertical space and we came out with a horizontal one. We were looking for our vertical among all of these other verticals. There were some personality-driven ones; quick and easy titles; straight-up women¹s service; some that were totally aspirational and that were going to all ends of the earth and cooking things that you¹d never cooked before, but no one was doing this across any of the ideas. They were doing it on the air; it changed from hour to hour; you could get everything from combining cans of things to Iron Chef. But no one was seeing that in print. And that turned out to be the secret.

Samir Husni: In 2009 we were in the beginnings of digital really taking hold and coming onto the scene; the iPhone followed by the iPad, and the economy busted; did anyone ask you while you were out trying to sell the magazine if you were out of your mind, a print magazine in a digital age?

Vicki Wellington: A lot of people asked that for a minute, and then three minutes later they weren’t asking anymore, because this was such a huge homerun and that was obvious to everyone. But at that time, you’re right, digital was a big deal and Food Network, the brand that we come from, had a very successful cable channel for 17 years, and they had a very successful digital platform for around 16 years. And obviously, now years later, everything has grown, and so they were really ahead of the curve on all of it. We didn’t even know that, but it was a big advantage.

Maile Carpenter: Well, the very simple answer to that is, the more digital distractions we get and the more choices that we have digitally, the better off we are; I truly believe that because the need for a curated, calm space to look at the things you love and to get inspired to do the things you love to do, the better off we are. And so the importance of the magazine and the way it makes you feel is even more precious now than it ever has been, and we see that socially. When the magazine comes out; when people post that they received their magazine, more than ever now they’re posting pictures of themselves on the couch, in the bathtub, on the beach, it’s me-time, my magazine arrived and I’m spending my hour with it. No one talk to me, I just got my Food Network magazine. And those are my favorite posts.

I truly see more of these type posts than I ever have and I think it’s because of this digital frenzy; you feel like you’re always supposed to be checking this account or that account and posting and checking on your friends. So, for a minute you can put that aside and fall into something.

Vicki Wellington: And it is true; if you just look at our sheer circulation numbers, we’ve grown every, single year. So, again, to all of the naysayers, just for a minute take a look at all of our rate base examples; all of our circulation; look at our sub file and our renewals. I mean, everything has grown positively.

Samir Husni: Did you expect this success when the job was offered to both of you? Did you have any inkling that this was going to be the biggest launch of the last decade?

Maile Carpenter: No, I didn’t really set a goal, but it was so clear to me that it was going to work. I remember the moment when I was called in to talk about a food magazine and I didn’t know what it was, and that was a hard thing to brainstorm. I remember the minute that Eliot Kaplan called me and said, “I can tell you what it is now, it’s the Food Network.” And it was just BOOM; I just knew that it was going to work. I had been a fan of the Network forever and I could just immediately picture what it was going to look like.

Vicki Wellington: And we’re not that duplicative. Maile’s edit is different than what’s on air and online, so that’s a good reason to have a different platform. And also people are coming for different reasons. In a lot of ways, it’s the best of both worlds, because you could always get TV, it’s practically free with your package, and we have online and that’s free, but you’re paying for this. So, I think it speaks for itself with the surrounding numbers.

Samir Husni: Why do you think that it took so long as an industry to actually appreciate print again?

Vicki Wellington: Good question. I don’t know. We’re here in our world and we’re growing; the magazines are profitable; we’re reinventing every minute on edit, on business. As an expert, why do you think it took so long? It pains me.

Samir Husni: I don’t know either, maybe fascination with the new. When Time magazine was published in 1923, the reason Henry Luce gave for launching the magazine was there were 22 newspapers in New York City; people didn’t have time. People were busy; so he gave them something different. And yet, you look at Esquire of the ‘30s,’40s and ‘50s and it would take you two days to read it all.

Maile Carpenter: And I think you survive by paying attention to people¹s behavior and what they want. And we¹ve changed a lot. We don’t do it quickly and we don’t do it abruptly. You’re not going to get an issue that looks dramatically and suddenly different from the issue before, but if you look at the ones from when we launched; we’re totally different too.

In print we’ve changed the importance of that idea of inspiration versus information even more so now. People do not need us to provide listings of a million places to go in a certain city in our On the Road Section or lists of things; they can get that online, so now more than ever we have to play to the power of print; what can you do in print that you could never do online. We can package beautiful things; have big images, so I think if you look, our images have grown a bit. You have to fall into the page or else you’re competing, and you can’t compete with the amount of information that people can get online. It’s really about inspiring, I think.



Samir Husni: Is it easier for you to sell the magazine now?

Vicki Wellington: I don’t want to say that our days are easy, and I don’t want to say that it’s always been easy, yet it’s a great brand. It’s a brand that everyone loves, men, women and children. Any room I go into, 60 percent of the people say they love Food Network, so we’re already in a very warm room. It’s an inviting environment always.

Maile Carpenter: It’s a more creative process now than it ever was. And Vicki and I are working more closely than we ever have.

Vicki Wellington: And it’s more exciting. We do a lot of work together and it makes a difference.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest challenge that you’re facing today?

Maile Carpenter: When we launched we were in a world where you wouldn’t put an Eggo recipe next to a waffle story and that was not that long ago. And in that amount of time the entire industry has changed. We’ve been on a learning curve and I think we’re really hitting our stride, in terms of what we can do with our advertisers. I think the hardest part is negotiating that and doing it in a way that’s respectful to the reader and to the advertiser.

We’ve put out native units that have been win, win, win. We win editorially; the reader wins; the advertiser wins and everybody is happy.

Vicki Wellington: And we take so much time, hours and hours; we sit and we brainstorm and we figure out what’s right for edit; what’s right for the readers; what’s right for the client, and we tailor things toward all of these accounts and that’s why I think, not that it’s easier, but it’s exciting and we win, and I think clients feel that.

We were just on a call with King’s Hawaiian, for example, which we worked with in October. Have you ever tasted their rolls? Oh my, they’re delicious. And you know what? A lot of people don’t know where to find them in the grocery stores, so part of it was awareness, part of it was claiming this past October “Hallowaiian” instead of Halloween.
october-kings-hawaiian-cover-peel
Anyway, Maile and I were both out in California; we met with the client, just lovely people; it’s a family-owned company, so to them it’s more personal, it’s not just a big corporation. It’s personal, so it really had to make a difference. So, Maile created this faux cover and you pull it away and then you get your real cover, and of course, you get these delicious recipes on the back.

Maile Carpenter: And here’s where the win, win comes in. We’re being clear with the reader; we’re not tricking anyone, it’s very clear that this is a King’s Hawaiian piece; you can peel this off if you want. But a lot of the readers totally loved it, sent us notes editorially saying how cute the sandwiches were, so that was the dream scenario where it’s just all comfort zone.

Vicki Wellington: On top of that we were able to create, Hearst has a wonderful shopper marketing division, and we were able to work with national grocery stores and we just spoke with them and we increased sales, a crazy amount, year over year. So, the client was just on the phone with us and he was delighted. We exceeded every single goal that was set up, and we had a memorable, unique cover to boot. So this is what we’re doing, but it takes time to do this.

Another example is we wanted to find a way to work with Land O’Lakes, and we had a sort of a callout for all bakers to compete and win this bakeoff that we put out there. And that was in May, I believe, our May issue. And in our September Reader’s Choice issue, Land O’Lakes was the cover, Maile and her team, and I think a Land O’Lakes judge chose the winner, and how amazing to get their unique recipe on the cover. So, you have Land O’Lakes here, but again it’s clear, and it’s separate from the other cover, and then we had runners-up inside the magazine with their unique recipes. So, I just think that it ties in beautifully to what our edit is doing, and again, it delivers service to readers.

Samir Husni: Do you feel your job as editor today is easier or harder than it used to be?

Maile Carpenter: No, it’s not easier.

Vicki Wellington: Because I’m taking up all of her time.

Maile Carpenter: (Laughs) It’s just not as straightforward. I mean, operating in your own space without any concern for marketing and advertising, that’s linear and simple. So, this is more challenging, but it’s more interesting now.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give someone who came to you and said that they were aspiring to be an editor?

Maile Carpenter: We’re asked that often when college classes come in. You mean a magazine editor? Because I feel like our skillset could play out in any number of ways. I don’t think print is going anywhere, so I always hope that they go into the business. The advice would be that it’s about being real and true to yourself, and that’s our guiding principle whenever we’re dealing with these advertising concerns. You have to know who you are and stick to that. The readers know when you’re not being real.

Samir Husni: We’ve always been in the business of marketing content, and then a few years ago some wizard came up with the term content marketing. Vicki, how do you define your job; are marketing content or are you a content marketer? Or are you both?

Vicki Wellington: I think we’re everything. Sales executive; I’m a marketing executive; I’m not a PR director per se, but I think you have to be able to do everything. My advice for any young person is that they have to learn it all. It’s great to be a great writer, but go take some business classes. The successful people are going to have all of these skillsets. And I think there are fewer people doing everything, and that’s who we hire. Not a person who can only sell or market; I want a person whose mind can work in every way. Since there are so few of us, everybody has to be that good and strong and talented, and their mind has to work in every way. You have to be creative and you have to write. You have to sell and you have to be able to speak.

It’s a better world for us now because there’s a lot more to do. And it’s not boring, that’s for sure. And we’ve been successful, but I’m a biased person to ask.

Samir Husni: You have so many different chefs and programs that you reflect; how do you deal with things if some bad luck hits one of the chefs or one of the programs?

Maile Carpenter: That was a decision that we made early on and I’m grateful every day that we made it, which was that this magazine was not going to be flattening the TV program into print. That’s the opposite of playing to the strength of print. Suddenly, you look like a less energetic version of the Network. So, we decided right off the bat that we were not going to have columns with specific stars; we were not going to base stories on TV shows. This is supplemental material and I think the readers took to that.

And that way we knew that we’d be able to go wherever the Network went, so I meet with them once a month and I have a pretty clear view three to six months out of what shows are doing really well and which stars they’re excited about. Our lead time is very similar, so we can line up. And we look like we’re in lock-step with them.

Vicki Wellington: It’s a benefit of being a brand filled with so many; you’re not relying on one personality.

Samir Husni: Was there a specific day or time when it hit you on how successful the Food Network magazine really was?

Vicki Wellington: I knew early on. It was like a rocket ship and we were on this fast-moving object and it was going fast and high. And I feel like we still are. We had another great year; we’re up over last year. We’ve done amazing, unique work; we continue to win awards; our circulation is up and our newsstand is strong and our subscriber renewals are up. It’s all good, so we’re still on that rocket ship. And I enjoy it. We’re a powerful brand with exactly the right editor and team and I don’t worry about tomorrow because we’re in a great position.

Samir Husni: Do you think people have tried to imitate the Food Network magazine?

Maile Carpenter: I think visually things change after we launched. We had a specific look in mind when we launched. We really starting stripping the props out and going with food in focus. Believe it or not, when we launched, it was a big ask from some photographers to just shoot the food in focus. We had to fight that with some people and I think the readers appreciated just seeing things the way they were really going to look. Not all dressed up and dolled up in an environment that would never be in your house. So, that was a big thing and I think other magazines did kind of start doing more of that.

Deirdre (Koribanick) to her credit, our creative director, does not constantly look to other places to come up with her designs. She says that she designs out of her head and she really does, I’ve watched her do it.

Vicki Wellington: And she looks like this magazine to me. I don’t know if I’m here too long, but I look at her and she’s beautiful and simple and elegant. And I look at the magazine and I see her in every page. So, it’s really meant to be.

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that could transform the magazine into a living, breathing person, and you struck the ink on paper with the wand, who would be standing there afterwards?

Vicki Wellington: It’s going to look like Deirdre, isn’t it? (Laughs)

Maile Carpenter: (Laughs too) She should get so much more credit; I feel like she’s not always mentioned in these success stories. And the visual statement this magazine made from day one was so strong and that’s really her. She just had it in her mind.

Vicki Wellington: There’s a lot of fun in this magazine. But back to your question; we’re so many different people. I think if we were other magazines it would be an easier question. But everyone loves us.

Maile Carpenter: I think it’s a family. It’s a whole family.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the line extensions. You’ve tested the Food Network Kids…
april-disney-travel_cover
Vicki Wellington: Which is still doing well; we actually expanded that to be family. We still do travel; we do family, which was Kids. We did a Disney edition this year, which was a partnership with Disney. We are looking to do college this coming year in 2017, which is exciting. The Disney edition is something that Maile and her team created. It’s about the experience and food at Disney for families, which I think came out beautiful, smart and fun.

And millennials are so crazy about food and crazy about this brand, they’re posting more pictures of food on their phones than their families. They’re saving up to go to restaurants, not bars. So, I feel like what an opportunity for us to speak to that arena, so college is one that we’re looking at for this coming year.

Samir Husni: So, everything is going great; advertising is up?

Vicki Wellington: We were up this year, and we were up, not only in food and beverage which you would expect, but we’re up in home. And Maile has done a bit with Stars at Home, which I can show you.

Samir Husni: You were one of the few, if not the first, food magazine to go outside of endemic advertising and you’ve brought a lot to the magazine, from the very beginning.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, that was the plan from the very beginning. Part of it is the readership. And I always knew that; it’s a strong readership and I knew how obsessed they were about the brand, about the chefs; about all that goes on within this brand. And I knew that our numbers were strong. We were measured in MRI pretty early, which is a good and a bad thing for us; it was good.

We were able with this story to bring in travel, and this year we really did a lot on home. We had home prior, and this year we brought in a load of beauty business. So, I do think Maile has expanded a little bit, which has been wonderful. She’s showing the chefs at home, Marc Murphy and his beautiful home and you can see how he lives. And you can’t see this anywhere else, so it’s really our special relationship with the chefs and the readers love it because they can see what their backyards are like; what their bedrooms are like; just how they really live. And I think that’s a big advantage.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that millennials loved the magazine; why do you think that every time you pick up a media-related item, it’s always reporting that millennials don’t read print?

Vicki Wellington: I know it’s not true. I know it’s not true from my numbers. And I met the lovely Linda, who you will be meeting with at the MPA, and during one of her presentations she talks about millennials and about the fact that magazine audiences have grown. She talks about the fact that magazine audiences are larger than the biggest 10 cable shows on air. So, when you look at the facts, they don’t back up what you read in the press. I don’t know why the press doesn’t report on all of the other.

It¹s frustrating because I know what I see and I know that’s not true. And I know what the readers are showing us and doing with us. It’s a shame that there’s not more press on good stories. We had a phenomenal year, maybe there could have been more reported about that.

It’s easier to talk about the negative rather than the positive, maybe?

Samir Husni: Is there anything else either of you would like to add, anything new in the works?

Vicki Wellington: I can’t report on anything that might be in the works, but I can say keep watching. We’re always working on new things; the entire company is. Michael (Clinton) is launching Airbnb and that’s very interesting. And I think we’re all looking at new opportunities constantly. I don’t know if that goes on at other companies, but it goes on here and it’s exciting.

Samir Husni: If I show up at either of your homes unexpectedly one evening, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; reading your iPad; watching television; having a glass of wine; cooking; or something else?

Maile Carpenter: I made 90 sugar cookies for my daughter’s holiday cookie decorating class that I’m teaching next week, that’s what I was doing.

Vicki Wellington: I recently moved into the city just a few months ago; my girls are in college. I’m in a different place than Maile is. I’m actually having very nice evenings. I’m doing something different all of the time. I’m going out to dinner; I’m meeting a girlfriend tonight for dinner; I’m taking clients out to dinner; I’m going to the gym. I’m living a very civilized life, which I haven’t lived in many years. It’s true. And I’m sleeping a bit more, so these are good things.

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

Vicki Wellington: I think about that and the truth is, not work, which is a wonderful thing for me to say. I am really happy with our magazine and I’m happy with our relationships. I love our team; I’m proud of the work that we do every day. For me what keeps me up would be the fact that I have two daughters in college. I picked up my phone today and the first line of the text I had gotten was, “I’m vomiting.” So, I read further. Even though they’re in college, you never stop worrying.

But the good news for me on the work front; we’re supported by them, Michael and David upstairs. We’re doing good work; we’re doing smart work. We have an excellent team, so I don’t worry about this. And that makes me happy to say.

Maile Carpenter: Somebody asked me how I handled that Sunday night dread and I can honestly say that has never happened, never. And I think that’s a nice gift to give my kids, to see the importance of doing something you love. I can tell every time I’m interviewing somebody if they’re passionate or not. You can’t fake it. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake your excitement. You can just tell if someone is excited or not.

And I can honestly say that everyone who’s here makes this a fun place to work. Everyone loves what they’re doing. We have our stresses like everyone and we worry about things, but not to the extent that I lose any sleep. (Laughs) Sleep is important. Sleeping and eating.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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Bake From Scratch Leads Mr. Magazine’s™ 30 Hottest Launches of 2015 – 2016!

December 8, 2016

Bake from Scratch

Bake from Scratch

It’s that time again; time for the 30 Hottest Magazine Launches of the Year and 2016 (October 2015 through September 2016) was an absolutely bona fide year for new magazines. Content was diverse and designs were divine and they just kept coming each and every month. Happily, new magazines have shown no signs of slowing down over the years, even with the naysayers predicting the death of print. That magazines were, are and always will be a reflector of our society and a concrete part of it forever is a fact that Mr. Magazine™ said all along and will continue to say as long as there are human beings to hear it.

Since beginning this very daunting task of selecting the 30 Hottest Launches, considering the love I have for all magazines, many have asked what the qualifications for making Mr. Magazine’s ™ list for the 30 Hottest Launches are and the first and foremost qualifying factor is you have to be a magazine. And if you’re not print, you’re not a magazine. Some might think that consideration is pretty obvious, I do; however, in this digital age, you might be surprised at what some consider a magazine.

mr-magazine-by-robert-jordanThe next qualifying factor is the time frame. The magazines chosen had to be published between the months of October, 2015 through September, 2016, and there were a total of 790 new magazines for that period that we had actual physical copies of, with 217 of those having regular frequency. The quality content and amazing designs were beyond the pale and selecting only 30 out of the 217 with promised frequency was almost impossible. Almost.

But when Mr. Magazine™ has a job to do, he gets it done. How is the actual selection process conducted, you might ask? It’s simple really, yet as complex as the cosmos. Between the months of October 2015 through September 2016, all new magazine titles with a regular frequency and that we have actual physical copies of are carefully considered for this very important list. The chosen magazines are selected based on a certain criteria.

In reaching my decision on what makes a hot magazine, by far the number one criteria point is the audience’s reaction to that magazine. How did the overall marketplace react and how did its intended audience respond to it? And just as important; how did the industry behave toward it? These questions are the first thing I ask upon selection of the hottest 30. And once I’ve answered those initial questions, then I really get down to work. Remember my mantra: Audience First.

For example, major industry leaders’ launching new print magazines certainly is something that must be recognized because it speaks of the power of the medium. These people aren’t in the business of wasting dollars on something that has no value, especially when those new babies are some of the absolutely best of the best. This time around there was new offerings from publishing giants such as Condé Nast, Meredith and the southern-born Hoffman Media. For companies as distinguished and successful as these to create and bring new titles into this digital world signifies the good health and power of print.

And then there are the entrepreneurs, with their vision and determination to launch their magazine no matter the cost to their wallets and their emotions; they are no less amazing. Some of the best titles I’ve seen in a long time are among our Top 30 and they come from relatively unknown publishers who are not without experience, just without the stolid names that audiences know so well. Magazines such as: Kazoo, Jarry and Pallet.

So, the criteria for selection is based on factors that include creativity and audience reaction first and foremost, and then industry trends and as always, those rogue wildcards out there that just won’t be denied and seem to make some of the best magazines around.

Also, something has to grab my attention to be selected as a hot new launch, based on the comparative analysis of all the other magazines that are out there. To me, every new magazine is a good magazine. Any new launch is a good launch. I’ve always said my connection to ink on paper is a mutual one, but one that chose me first, albeit willingly. The passion that I have for magazines is not one that I can deny, nor do I even want to. We are connected and I love it.

So without further ado; here is the hottest launch of the year as presented at the min: media industry newsletter breakfast award on Dec. 8, at the Yale Club in New York City followed by 29 Hottest New Launches for 2016 in alphabetical order:

bake-from-scratchHottest Launch of the Year: Bake From Scratch: Diet-goers beware, there’s a new temptation coming to a newsstand near you. Bake From Scratch is a product of Hoffman Media specializing in all things baking. I said baking, not cooking. Foodies and chefs worldwide know the difference. This delectable art-form-of-a-magazine is portrayed through eye-catching photos that make your inner chocolate and sweet bread addictions come to life. You can almost smell the raw flour and oven heating up through the sharpness of the design and art in the magazine. But don’t fall for it – that’s not actually a peak of dark chocolate frosting yearning to be scooped and devoured; it’s hard to believe, but those photos aren’t the real thing, but this ink-on-paper delicacy makes it seem so. Move over grandma. There’s a new favorite apron-wearer in town.

bB Magazine: For the first time in decades small businesses are thriving, while mega-corporations are seeing an unfavorable decline in revenue. B Magazine is the backbone and lumbar support to entrepreneurs using small and medium-sized business as a force for good. CEO Bryan Welch is a modern day Captain Picard, leading, guiding and directing his adversaries to success and overall fulfillment in the marketplace. This magazine is a purveyor of all things business, including management, merchandising and above all, morale. Read interviews with up-and-coming businesspeople that are not only looking for a profit, but to make the world today in which we buy, sell and trade a better place.

beekman-1802-1Beekman 1802 Almanac: Partners in business, in life and co-editors of Beekman 1802 Almanac, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge may be familiar to you in another setting. They competed in and won CBS’s The Amazing Race in 2012. The duo now lives on the Beekman 1802 Farm in Sharon Springs, NY, which they’ve turned into a national lifestyle phenomenon. The Farm hosts a title as a TV show, Mercantile, bestselling cookbook and memoir, website, tourism destination and now magazine. They named the magazine an almanac because they liked the day-to-day planning of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and they also wanted to encourage people to cultivate every aspect of their lives as freely and creatively as they desired. Designed in an aesthetic manner similar to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this contemporary magazine gives way to all things DIY – food, wine, décor and gardening. Also – if you’re anywhere near Sharon Springs, NY, be sure to check out the baby goat farm!

celebrity-pageCelebrity Page: Celebrity junkies rejoice! A new magazine, filled with real-life news and testimonials (not the gossipy content that is the norm) is gracing newsstands with its sparkling presence. Celebrity Page magazine branched from Celebrity Page TV, which is broadcast several times daily on the cable network Reelz, after its booming success as a rooted celebrity news purveyor. This magazine displays the essence of Hollywood life, from fashion to ultra-beauty, in just a few colorful and whimsically designed pages. Unlike its mega-competitor People, Celebrity Page has centralized design and in-depth content that will satiate any celebrity lover’s soul. Welcome Celebrity Page to the newsstand’s red carpet, as your well thought-out content will remain in the limelight for years to come.

classic-sewingClassic Sewing: The art of sewing has blossomed from hobby and craft to occupation over recent years, but the love and appreciation behind the art form still rings true. Classic Sewing is the definition of the heart and soul behind application with vibrant, unique patterns and easy-to-follow needle guides on each colorful page. The cover price is robust, $24.99, but the free pattern and mix of simple and intricate design is worth it for any intermediate or advanced sewer looking to advance his or her skills. If you’re interested in smocking, machine embroidery, ribbon work and monograms, it’s all in here, too. Classic Sewing will give you the inspiration and motivation you need to get your foot on the pedal and fingers intertwining.

color-magicColor Magic!: Coloring books bring to mind memories of grade school and hours of childhood fun, but today, adult coloring books have become all the rage. Color Magic! stands above the rest by being a creative artistic exercise in, you guessed it, having fun. Coloring inside the lines of each Color Magic! page will in turn help you think outside the box. Although the magazine’s physical stature is small, each turn of the page is durable and strong. These pages could withstand any 2-year-old, as well as any precise artist! None of the drawings are what they appear to be, so use your imagination and start coloring, highlighting and scribbling!

fabuplusFabUplus: In an era of body consciousness and the oversexualizing of women, the race to be “fit” is almost insatiable in America. Eating healthy, exercising and loving yourself have always been the staples of establishing self esteem, but what if the pounds just won’t shed? The voices of FabUplus say, “Who cares?” You can be fit and fat at the same time, and that’s what FabUplus embraces. Editor Shannon Svingen-Jones is encouraging women to love themselves (and their curves!) wholeheartedly, despite their size. You’ll find finance, fitness, sex and testimonials all from women who have decided loving their bodies is worth more than any BMI score.

forgedForged: Automotive Americana is creating a revolution in downtown squares, dusty, gravel patches and casino parking lots with miles and miles of classic cars for enthusiasts to drool over. Forged is glorifying the automotive lifestyle and culture, as well as promoting those with oil in their veins to hone their rebellious spirits. You’ll not only see classic roadsters and hot rods squealing from page to page, you’ll learn the personalities behind their owners and how they identify with the rough-and-tough lifestyle. Candid photography and comprehensive storytelling give Forged a creative edge on other automotive magazines. And stay tuned: there might be a few pages dedicated to pin-ups.

Galerie-2Galerie: Extravagantly beautiful art and design reigns supreme in Galerie magazine. From breathtaking design visuals to inspiring stories behind famous artists, becoming immersed in Galerie is an all too easy feat. The layout of the magazine is inviting, and the content is empowering for aspiring posh artists and designers. Architecture, home essentials and destinations are also featured in the magazine, with a clarity so precise you can close your eyes and envision yourself there. For each subscription, $5 will be donated to the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a professional provider of social support and programming for at-risk LGBTQ youth. Whatever your creative process may be, Galerie will help thrust your ideas to the next level.

gq-styleGQ Style: Luxury. It’s what the new quarterly fashion magazine GQ Style does, and does very well. Editor in chief Will Welch asks in his debut editor’s letter, “What the hell does luxury even mean in 2016?” He describes it as an empty shell of an idea, but says ultimately he wanted to find thriving in culture. Fashion, literature and celebrity style clout this quality publication by incorporating all things high-end. Flipping through the ultra-color pages of the gender-neutral Style will give you the courage you seek to mosey into Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue and drop your savings account on a wardrobe. And who cares? You look good.

hola-usa Hola!: Hola! magazine is a celebrity news monthly that is geared toward in-the-know Spanish speaking people living in America. And for those who aren’t Spanish speakers, the same publication is also printed in English. The U.S. version is a product of the longstanding and original Hola! founded in Madrid, Spain in the 1940s. Hola! focuses more on celebrity life, but in the sense of remarkable beauty and fashionista living. You’ll never see an actor or actress stumbling out of McDonald’s with sweatpants on. This glossy magazine has breathtaking celebrity photos that pairs well with each detailed travel and entertainment story. Say hello to your newest celebrity magazine.

homesInterior Design Homes: Interior Design Homes is a posh, modern and aesthetically unique publication specializing in displaying glamorous interior furnishings needed in your home. Each finely-made, artisan product is the masterpiece behind a creative, some of which are featured in the magazine. Homes draws from the inspiration of these artists’ products from inception to execution. If you’re content with your living space being run-of-the-mill and altogether common, the uniqueness of this magazine may overwhelm you. Embrace your inner innovative. Read Interior Design Homes.

j14J-14 Decorate!: J-14. Decorate! is a junior version of In Touch Weekly, mixed with the inspiration and DIY aspect of Pinterest. Vibrant pink and purple colors pop from the pages like fresh spring flowers, and the glossy overview makes this magazine a shelf-grabber. For teens who love home décor, this is the magazine for them. The content is made up of outstanding artwork and design, geared toward creative teenage girls. If your teen is more “in the know” then you are and can make Pinterest-type projects come to life, consider subscribing to this magazine next birthday or Christmas – your teen will thank you for it.

jarryJarry: Jarry, said with a long ‘e’ sound on the end, is a magazine for men who love men and food. In fact, Jarry was created because the editors believed a gay food magazine needed to exist in society. And they were right. Jarry is a one-of-a-kind, lighthearted magazine praising the creativity, execution and abundance of food in the lives of gay America. The magazine features chefs, Instagram royalty and next-door-neighbor gay men proclaiming their love for food. Recipes for gay gourmet are littered throughout, and new age cocktails glitter like jovial centerpieces. If you’re a proud member of gay America, love food or just like to peruse the pages of a very handsomely done magazine, Jarry will be a thrill of a read for you.

kazooKazoo: Kazoo magazine is a publication for young girls ages 5-10, specifically created to empower their generation and encourage high self-esteem and confidence that will last a lifetime. Jam-packed with science experiments, puzzles and vibrant cartoons, you and your daughter will anticipate the dive into the next issue, and the next, and then the next. When Kazoo founder and mom, Erin Bried was shopping for a magazine for her five-year-old daughter, who liked outer space and climbing trees but wasn’t much for the frivolous content offered on the stands for that age group, Erin decided to create her own brand of girls’ magazine, one geared toward the younger feminist. Hence, the spunky, artfully creative and very informative Kazoo was born.

live-with-heartLive With Heart and Soul: Strength, durability and passion come together in this quarterly magazine made with Christian women in mind. Enriching stories of travel, food, love and testimony flood this publication and displays its core values – heart and soul. By incorporating scripture with quality storytelling, the Word of God is alive and well in Live With Heart and Soul. Make time for yourself and your relationship with God with this lively publication. Prepare to laugh, cry and be empowered with each flip of the page.

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Living the Country Life: Picture a quiet setting with a ranch-style home atop rolling hills, barn animals to tend to and a garden to cultivate. If any of these descriptions fit your idea of living, Living the Country Life is your go-to magazine. Sustainability, comfort and class weave together through vibrant photos and in-depth literature in this magazine. You’ll find how to host a good ol’ tasting party, along with how to upgrade your barn and arrange and display your very own flowers. Grab a glass of lemonade and sit comfortably in your grandmother’s wicker rocking chair for an evening of quality reading with Living the Country Life.

lonely-planetLonely Planet: Traveling will forever be a bucket-list endeavor, but are you really going somewhere if you don’t see it through the eyes of Lonely Planet? This magazine is the offshoot of Lonely Planet and lonelyplanet.com, the largest travel guidebook publisher in the world. Editor Lauren Finney reassures readers this magazine was created for the way you really want to travel – immersed, informed and relaxed. If you’re traveling abroad for vacation, be sure to browse Lonely Planet’s pages for a captivating preview. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go with Lonely Planet.”

misadventuresMisadventures: Misadventures magazine began out of frustration. Most of the big outdoors-tailored magazines tended to focus mainly around men. This unique travel and outdoors magazine caters specifically to women who have wondrous, kindred spirits. Traveling and embracing the outdoors are as natural as breathing to the Misadventures staff, and they portray the beauties of the world through breathtaking photos and heart-wrenching portrayals. If you have mud in your blood, can’t stand an office job and yearn for the great outdoors, treat yourself to an indulging evening of discovery and fun in Misadventures.

my-herbs-1My Herbs: Health, happiness and herbs is what My Herbs magazine, a quarterly now available in more than 20 countries, is all about. If you’re eager to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and become rooted with nature, this magazine will give you a good start with raw ingredient recipes and natural remedies to common ailments. Herbalist lifestyles have been around for thousands of years, but they were forgotten when the industrial revolution and modern technology involuntarily took hold in our lives. My Herbs is destined to teach you how home growing and home healing can be essential methods of healthier living.

palletPallet: Never drink alone…unless you have good beer to justify it. “Thinking and drinking” is the philosophy of Pallet magazine, which encourages the “thinkers and tinkers” of the world to pair craft beer with each exciting page turn of the magazine. Pallet portrays the world of beer in a detailed and creative manner, just like the original inspiration behind the art of micro brewing. Detailed, long form feature articles accompany each quirky photo in this heavy, colorful quarterly. It’s always beer-thirty with Pallet in your hands, so hone your adventurous palate and drink the best artisan beer that’s ever been created.

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Permaculture: The food supply on Earth is undoubtedly dwindling, as well as the forests thinning, but one beacon of hope is shining the way for sustainability: Permaculture magazine. Didn’t learn what permaculture is in 8th grade biology? Not many did. It’s a relatively new phenomenon that’s focusing on creative, interconnected solutions based on how nature operates, and it can be incorporated into any lifestyle whether in metropolitan or rural areas. Permaculture moves way beyond gardening techniques into a central essence of the natural human being. This start up just integrated into North America from the U.K. and is packed full of long form articles dedicated to preserving Earth, from farming to water control, Permaculture is a must-read for any sustainability guru.

providenceProvidence: It’s no surprise America’s founding fathers built the country and all its inaugural literature on Christian ethics, morals and principles. Fast forward to 2016. Separation of church and state is practiced deep within the folds of our acting government. Providence is the uniting factor, mixing national security and government policy with our true founding principle – Christianity. Providence reads solidly, is written intellectually and is slated in a Protestant and Evangelical tone, denouncing political correctness and emphasizing Christian morale. It’s published by The Institute of Religion & Democracy and The Philos Project, a group dedicated to promoting Christianity in the Middle East.

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Southern Cast Iron: A necessity in any southerner’s kitchen is undeniably cast iron skillet ware. Frying, blackening, baking, you name it. It always tastes better coming off of a hot, seasoned cast iron pan, skillet or Dutch oven (especially if it’s been passed down from your great-grandmother). Southern Cast Iron is a magazine dedicated to promoting “recipes, maker and experts using iconic cast iron cookware to create delicious food.” Its art directors worked fervently to produce a jam-packed collection of entrancing baked goods, and a detailed story pairs well with each turn of the page. From beginners to gurus, every cast iron owner needs to snatch this hot commodity. But, be careful. Use your oven mitt.

spoonfulSpoonful: Spoonful is not your average cookbook, much less your average cookbook-turned-magazine. If Mary Poppins’s advice rings true in “A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down,” then a full dose of Spoonful will diminish all woes, worries and weariness, while replenishing the soul through good food and comp’ny. The thick-bound, durable quarterly specializes in not only food, but also the essence of lionizing artisan cooks and the act of entertaining a hungry group. The simplistic design, coupled with entertaining content and photos are must-sees for any aspiring cooks to fully grasp the inspiring phenomenon’s that are good food and laughter.

swim-swamSwimSwam: Summertime swimming is a leisure activity for most avid beach, lake and pool goers. But swimming to a select few is the essence of success in life. SwimSwam magazine is a photo-heavy quarterly that projects Olympic greats, college hopefuls and dream swimming destinations with finite clarity and delight. You can find training tips and techniques from coaches and Olympians, as well as year-in-review countdowns for all things swimming news. For a magazine that’s just getting its feet wet, SwimSwam is a stroke of media genius.

tabletTablet: Warning: this magazine may not be for you. These words are largely displayed in bold typeface next to Editor Alana Newhouse’s letter from the editor, and she’s right. Tablet is a Jewish news, ideas and culture magazine that is forthright in saying the content in between its covers is vastly different from most of America wielding its blinders. Its online counterpart, The Scroll, also features articles from the magazine. The large fold magazine has the feel of opening a freshly printed map, but with the detail and long form writing similar to the Bible. Tablet’s provocative approach to reiterating Jewish history and storytelling is like a breath of fresh air not only for Jews, but also for those who enjoy a laugh and a cry all in the same read.

the-clever-rootThe Clever Root: Marijuana culture is under much scrutiny in the United States today, but The Clever Root Managing Editor Karen Moneymaker and her comrades are embracing the culture shift and stemming the opposition. This magazine holds both the reader and grower community accountable to value what goes into our bodies and how it’s formulated for consumption. Artisans don’t always come in the persona of traditional means. Marijuana growers are just like local farmers growing cotton and soybeans. Marijuana chefs are just as valuable as those in the local bakery where you snag your coffee and cream cheese bagel each morning. Growing, consuming and advocating for safer cannabis methods is the main concern of The Clever Root, as they strike the match in becoming a recognizable and respected industry.

treadTread: There are two ways to live life: On-road or off-road. Tread magazine is a must-have for those who choose to live life like the latter. Whether it’s a tightly controlled Jeep 4×4 or a mountainous utility vehicle with tires the size of steers, your off-road adventure capabilities are endless. Tread fuses a modern day, mechanical viewpoint with that of simplistic lifestyle and spirit from days gone by. Trek the terrain through pages and pages of visually stimulating layouts and content in Tread. Remember, it’s not where you go. It’s how you get there in an off-road vehicle.

womens-golfWomen’s Golf Journal: Golf is a sport of dedication. It requires quality equipment, sound mind and body and the focus of a monk. The sport has seen a shift in male dominance to female triumph. Women golfers are thriving and taking names in golf, but they’re also mothers, daughters, friends and revelators in the workforce. Women’s Golf Journal empowers women to be better athletes, no doubt, but it also empowers them to be better women through self-love and confidence. You’ll find profiles of famous athletes, travel anecdotes, health tips, food and drink recipes and fashion and beauty aids. Home, career and sport life can be hard to balance, but Women’s Golf Journal is impactful and reassuring in helping women remain a tight grip on the iron.

A Mr. Magazine™ Note: The aforementioned list and blurbs could not have been possible without the help of my able and capable staff Angela Rogalski, Anna Grace Usery, and Austin Dean. Thanks a million.

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