Archive for February, 2017

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Country Living Magazine: Taking The Mission Of “Country Coast-To-Coast” To The High Seas – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Rachel Barrett, Editor In Chief, Country Living Magazine…

February 27, 2017

cl-july-august-2016-cover-unit“I think Country Living is in a unique space because our readers tell us that we’re a breath of fresh air delivered to their mailbox every month. And so we are a brand that represents slowing down, life doesn’t have to be that hard; so the idea of this magazine arriving in their mailbox is that moment on the porch for them.” Rachel Barrett

“Country Living in print is very important because it’s this tactile experience that represents relaxation, but then they also consume our brand through digital, video; who doesn’t love an adorable puppy photo? It’s interesting as an editor to see what resonates online, and it may not necessarily resonate in the magazine, because the magazine experience is slightly different. But I do think it’s really promising to see how our readers have a hunger for the brand through all of these different channels. And hopefully that continues.” Rachel Barrett

For the first time ever, Country Living magazine will set sail for the brand’s “Country Coast-to-Coast Cruise,” leaving from Fort Lauderdale March 12-19, 2017 aboard the luxurious Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam. The Country Living Coast-to-Coast Cruise will bring the magazine’s content to life over the seven day voyage and give cruisers a chance to meet Country Living editors, contributors, and special guests including the Junk Gypsies, Amie and Jolie Sikes. Passengers will also have the opportunity to participate in a number of interactive classes and demos in between stops in Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, St. Maarten, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Rachel Barrett is editor in chief of Country Living and has used the authenticity of the magazine’s relatively new home in Birmingham, Ala. to bring a subtle trueness and real vision to the magazine. From the first-ever guest editor, country music superstar, Miranda Lambert, two years ago, to today’s mission of taking “Country Coast-to-Coast,” Rachel’s passion for the brand and her team player spirit is what adds to the genuineness of the brand.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-50-34-pmI spoke with Rachel recently and we talked about where Country Living has been since its move to Birmingham, where it is today, and where it’s heading. The upcoming Coast-to-Coast Cruise is the type of event that does what Rachel and her team like, it gets them up close and personal with their readers. And that’s what’s most important to them.

The cruise will include bonafide junkers, Texas businesswomen, and all-around southern girls, the Junk Gypsies, Amie and Jolie Sikes, who will share their addiction to flea marketing and Americana-inspired design on the cruise through demonstrations, DIY projects, and Q&A sessions. There will also be a special “Junk Gypsy Prom”—a chance to dance the night away on the high seas in “junk fashion.” It sounds like a Country Living good time. And who would want to miss that?

So, join me for a conversation with a woman who is passionate, fun, and an absolutely firm believer in the attributes and benefits of “Country Living,” Rachel Barrett, editor in chief, Country Living magazine.

But first the soundbites:

CLX090116_006On what it’s been like since Country Living moved from New York City to Birmingham: Since we’ve been in Birmingham, just last year we ended the year three percent up on newsstand, which as you know these days is no small feat; the industry average is down 16 percent. And we did this all while raising our cover price from $4.50 to $4.99, so hopefully, everyone can see that it’s working.

On the most difficult challenge that she had to overcome since moving to Birmingham: What was really unique in that particular move was that we started from scratch, so everyone was new to their role. Usually with a magazine, even when you walk in as a new editor, there’s a staff in place and you can sort of recognize people’s strengths. Here, we were all getting to know each other; we didn’t know each other’s personalities; we didn’t have an existing workflow, so it was definitely a bonding experience. I felt like we all went through cowboy boot camp together. (Laughs)

On whether she believes her audience can detect the magazine’s change in venue, from New York to Birmingham: I don’t know that they’ve noticed a change. Even when I talk to readers at fairs, we have a fair in Atlanta, and so I’ll mention that this is a great fair, and they’ll ask why, and I’ll say because we were able to drive here. Then they’ll ask; where are you? So, I think there’s not necessarily this awareness with our entire audience that we’re a Birmingham-based magazine, and we didn’t want to change dramatically, to be honest, because it was a healthy brand when we inherited it, so we weren’t looking to make crazy changes.

On whether they aren’t doing anymore guest editors from the world of country music, such as their issue almost two years ago that had Miranda Lambert as the guest editor: Our readers do come to us for houses, and so the country music issue was so much fun internally and there’s so much momentum around country music, and our audience definitely aligns with a lot of that audience. So, we’re definitely not “not” going there, but as we were looking at issue themes for 2017, we did Miranda Lambert as our first guest editor and then Sheryl Crow graced the cover last June, and it did fine on newsstand; it wasn’t knocking out of the park, but obviously, celebrity shoots come with a lot more logistics too. So now, I think our approach is that we definitely want to check out country music artists and celebrate that lifestyle in the magazine, but we’ve shifted this year. Instead of June being a country music issue, we’re doing our Country from Coast-to-Coast theme that we did last July/August.

On how she can utilize the magazine to reflect the audience from Coast-to-Coast: I lived in New York for more than a decade and you can find yourself living in a bubble from time to time. And so I do think really celebrating just the reader all over the country is important. And I think that’s what people really like about Country Living is that these aren’t all designer projects; these are real people who have decorated their homes themselves, so we use the term “aspirational brand” a lot; we’re an aspirational brand for a mass audience. And I think that’s what’s great about the homes that we feature; they feel real enough and achievable for the average person. But they’re still elevated and beautiful.

cl-july-august-2016-sub-coverOn the brand’s first-ever Coast-to-Coast Cruise: We’ve teamed up with Life Journeys and Holland America Cruise ships to offer this cruise experience, where our Country Living readers can vacation alongside likeminded design enthusiasts, while getting hands-on experience, whether it’s making a DIY beach hat with our crafts director, or getting one-on-one style consultations with our style director. And so, I will be first in line. (Laughs)

On what role she thinks print plays in today’s magazine media landscape: Country Living is a really interesting brand because we are really diversified. When you look at the new magazine 360 numbers, Country Living is at, I think, 25+million now and print factors into that, digital; our social audiences are huge, Facebook has surpassed four million; our Instagram audience has just hit one million, and so I think our readers come to us from a lot of different directions. And I think Country Living is in a unique space because our readers tell us that we’re a breath of fresh air delivered to their mailbox every month. And so we are a brand that represents slowing down, life doesn’t have to be that hard; so the idea of this magazine arriving in their mailbox is that moment on the porch for them.

On whether it’s all been fun and a walk in a Rose Garden for her at Country Living or have there been some thorns along the way: I really do have that much fun and I am so passionate about this brand. I was a reader for a long time before I had this job, and I’m biased, but I think it’s the most fun magazine to produce. Our readers are so fun and so engaged, it’s such a positive vibe set when they’re coming to this magazine. It’s a really fun brand to produce.

On what she considers her biggest competition in the marketplace today: In the country category, there’s obviously Magnolia Journal that recently launched, and it’s a beautiful magazine and our readers definitely overlap, in terms of being a fixer-upper audience too. But we love what Chip and Joanna have been doing, they seem like great people, and have a really great aesthetic. It’s a little bit different from the Country Living aesthetic, but I would say that they’re emerging as a competitor, and then anything that falls into that shelter or lifestyle space. But the beautiful thing about the country is that there’s plenty of room for everyone.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: Probably having a glass of wine as I’m playing with my kids, and right now as we’re preparing this Country from Coast-to-Coast issue, we’re looking for reader spaces in every single state, so I’m probably obsessively searching Instagram, doing late-night deep dives searching hashtags such as #IdahoFarmhouse or #NorthDakotaDesigns… (Laughs), trying to find some hidden gems for that issue.

On anything else she’d like to add: I can’t say enough good things about our staff. We all work so well together, I think, because of that boot camp experience we had a few years ago. I’m constantly inspired by them. Right now we have 16 people on staff, so everyone pitches in and helps in different categories. Our copy chief does our cross-stitch that opens so well every single month, and our design director may produce crafts, so everybody really does pitch in and always in beautiful ways. It’s a small group in an old biscuit factory in downtown Birmingham, so it really is a fun place to work, so I have to sing their praises.

On what keeps her up at night: My oldest child just turned four and my youngest turns three this April, and even last night there were the calls for a sip of water or to cover them up again with their blanket, but they probably make me more productive at work, because after I wake up in the middle of the night for them, I end up on my phone. Who knows what sort of wonderful gem I might uncover; a great house that’s potentially a fit for the magazine?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rachel Barrett, editor in chief, Country Living magazine.

Samir Husni: Give me an update on Country Living magazine after leaving New York City and moving to Birmingham.

Rachel Barrett: It’s been great. It’s such a unique experience to be able to be a magazine editor and not live in New York City, but I think for a brand like Country Living, it makes a ton of sense. The experience for our editors is really interesting as we’re talking about recipes. We’re aware that the grocery store down the street may not carry certain ingredients, but I think we’re a lot more in tune with the non-New Yorker. And for a brand like Country Living, obviously that’s a great thing.

And since we’ve been in Birmingham, just last year we ended the year three percent up on newsstand, which as you know these days is no small feat; the industry average is down 16 percent. And we did this all while raising our cover price from $4.50 to $4.99, so hopefully, everyone can see that it’s working.

Samir Husni: The newsstand is always the acid test for any magazine, so being up on newsstand is, like you said, is a great thing by itself.

Rachel Barrett: Yes, and I think Erynn Hassinger, our design director, has been in the fold for a little over a year now and I think she has a great sense of our reader. I’ve also gotten to know our reader much better and I do think that we’re benefiting as a brand. There’s this national move toward embracing a country lifestyle, an increasing hunger for this laidback life.

I’ll also say with our sales calls, the peach truck is the new banana stand. What I mean by that is it used to be that people would fantasize about quitting their jobs and someday moving to the beach to sell bananas, and that was their ultimate dream. But now there’s this whole set of younger consumers who really dream about picking up and moving to the country and selling peaches from their vintage pickup truck. There’s this desire to have that great country farmhouse, and have two dogs running all those wide open spaces, so hopefully we’re doing something right internally, but I think that there’s this national movement and momentum for the country lifestyle that is only helping our brand.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, can you recall the most difficult challenge that you had to overcome since moving to Birmingham?

cl-july-august-2016-cover-unitRachel Barrett: What was really unique in that particular move was that we started from scratch, so everyone was new to their role. Usually with a magazine, even when you walk in as a new editor, there’s a staff in place and you can sort of recognize people’s strengths. Here, we were all getting to know each other; we didn’t know each other’s personalities; we didn’t have an existing workflow, so it was definitely a bonding experience. I felt like we all went through cowboy boot camp together. (Laughs)

Now, being on the other side of it, it was great for the staff. We’re a very close knit staff; a very small group. I can’t say that there weren’t hiccups along the way. Even as we were staffing up, people would ask; what’s the job description? And I’d ask; what can you do? We weren’t filling this one particular void; we were filling this giant void. We had a student crafts director, for example, because I met Charlyne Mattox, who had worked at Real Simple and she could do crafts and she could do food, so we created a job around her skillset. It was a unique opportunity, but it came with plenty of challenges. But now, three years down the road, I think it’s been really beneficial for the whole staff.

Samir Husni: As you put your finger on the pulse of your audience, do you think they noticed your change in venue? Do you think they could see a difference from when you were based in New York to now, being in Birmingham?

CLX090116_006Rachel Barrett: I don’t know that they’ve noticed a change. Even when I talk to readers at fairs, we have a fair in Atlanta, and so I’ll mention that this is a great fair, and they’ll ask why, and I’ll say because we were able to drive here. Then they’ll ask; where are you? So, I think there’s not necessarily this awareness with our entire audience that we’re a Birmingham-based magazine, and we didn’t want to change dramatically, to be honest, because it was a healthy brand when we inherited it, so we weren’t looking to make crazy changes.

But I think there’s this subtlety of being a little bit more in our reader’s world, so even our offices here in Birmingham are in walking distance of a garden shop or an antique shop, so there’s this sort of natural reader experience that our editor’s get a chance to experience day to day, so hopefully it’s a subtle feel in the magazine.

Samir Husni: When we talked last time, which was almost two years ago, you had your first guest editor, Miranda Lambert; have you decided not to do that anymore?

Rachel Barrett: You know what’s funny, our readers do come to us for houses, and so the country music issue was so much fun internally and there’s so much momentum around country music, and our audience definitely aligns with a lot of that audience. So, we’re definitely not “not” going there, but as we were looking at issue themes for 2017, we did Miranda Lambert as our first guest editor and then Sheryl Crow graced the cover last June, and it did fine on newsstand; it wasn’t knocking out of the park, but obviously, celebrity shoots come with a lot more logistics too.

So now, I think our approach is that we definitely want to check out country music artists and celebrate that lifestyle in the magazine, but we’ve shifted this year. Instead of June being a country music issue, we’re doing our Country from Coast-to-Coast theme that we did last July/August. It was our big reader issue and we received so much great feedback from that particular issue. The theme was essentially 50 states, one state of mind, Country from Coast-to-Coast. And it was celebrating how mainstream county style and country culture had become, and we featured a reader space from all 50 states, which was no small feat for our homes department.

A lot of readers wrote in, and this was just July/August; a lot of readers wrote in to say that it was so refreshing to see America being celebrated at a time when the country felt so divided. And I think the country still feels a little divided, so we’re revisiting that theme this June and it’s really great, especially for readers. We feature plenty of houses in upstate New York, or we feature a lot of houses in California; we feature a lot of houses that are obviously close geographically because they’re more in our radar, but it’s so nice for our reader in Idaho, North Dakota and Delaware to see spaces in the magazine, but now if Carrie Underwood wants to submit her house for that issue, great. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Rachel Barrett: She can represent Tennessee. I think we’ve put the focus back on the reader, which doesn’t mean to say that we’re stepping away from the country world. I had an exchange with someone from the CMA organization in Nashville just the other day, talking about how we could collaborate down the road, but in terms of a dedicated issue theme, we’re going back to celebrating the reader as our celebrity.

Samir Husni: As you continue to make the magazine a reflector of the entire country, how do you think you can utilize the magazine to reflect the audience from “Coast-to-Coast?”

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-5-50-34-pmRachel Barrett: I lived in New York for more than a decade and you can find yourself living in a bubble from time to time. And so I do think really celebrating just the reader all over the country is important. And I think that’s what people really like about Country Living is that these aren’t all designer projects; these are real people who have decorated their homes themselves, so we use the term “aspirational brand” a lot; we’re an aspirational brand for a mass audience. And I think that’s what’s great about the homes that we feature; they feel real enough and achievable for the average person. But they’re still elevated and beautiful.

So, just making sure that we’re digging across the country and not just automatically looking at the projects that fall into our laps; if we haven’t featured a home in the Midwest in a while, we want to be sure that we’re showcasing how people live in the Midwest. If we haven’t showcased a home in California, we’ll make sure that we’re Coast-to-Coast digging. In any given issue of Country Living, I think you’ll notice the homes in the feature well are very geographically distinct, and that’s what’s so great about the brand.

Samir Husni: To continue that intimate relationship with your audience, you’re setting sail for the brand’s first ever Coast-to-Coast Cruise. Are you going on the cruise with your readers?

Rachel Barrett: I know when you hear the words Country Living, Caribbean Cruise doesn’t automatically come to mind, but we started researching the experiential cruise category and it seemed like there was a fit. Our readers are very much a community; we see them bonding while standing in line for the Country Living fairs. By the end of the day they’re grabbing drinks together, and we thought it would be fun to offer this once-in-a-lifetime vacation experience.

So, we’ve teamed up with Life Journeys and Holland America Cruise ships to offer this cruise experience, where our Country Living readers can vacation alongside likeminded design enthusiasts, while getting hands-on experience, whether it’s making a DIY beach hat with our crafts director, or getting one-on-one style consultations with our style director. And so, I will be first in line. (Laughs)

We’re really excited; it will be a really fun experiment, we’ve never done this before. I’ve been reading about other brands like Master Chef and The Biggest Loser doing these cruises and there is such an appetite for it. Even the Property Brothers from HGTV recently did a cruise, so we thought we’d dip our toes into those waters and see how readers react. What’s really fun is that this July/August we’re doing our first-ever water issue and so we will be able to recap the cruise in a natural way.

Samir Husni: Linda Thomas Brooks from the MPA said that 2017 was going to be the year for magazine media. Hearst is launching two new magazines in June; nobody is speaking the phrase “print is dead” or “print versus digital” anymore. What role do you think print plays today versus pre-digital days; pre-2007?

Rachel Barrett: Country Living is a really interesting brand because we are really diversified. When you look at the new magazine 360 numbers, Country Living is at, I think, 25+million now and print factors into that, digital; our social audiences are huge, Facebook has surpassed four million; our Instagram audience has just hit one million, and so I think our readers come to us from a lot of different directions. And I think Country Living is in a unique space because our readers tell us that we’re a breath of fresh air delivered to their mailbox every month. And so we are a brand that represents slowing down, life doesn’t have to be that hard; so the idea of this magazine arriving in their mailbox is that moment on the porch for them.

Country Living in print is very important because it’s this tactile experience that represents relaxation, but then they also consume our brand through digital, video; who doesn’t love an adorable puppy photo? It’s interesting as an editor to see what resonates online, and it may not necessarily resonate in the magazine, because the magazine experience is slightly different. But I do think it’s really promising to see how our readers have a hunger for the brand through all of these different channels. And hopefully that continues.

Samir Husni: You sound as though you’ve been walking in a Rose Garden at Country Living these days, are you really having that much fun, or have there been some thorns here and there along the way?

Rachel Barrett: I really do have that much fun and I am so passionate about this brand. I was a reader for a long time before I had this job, and I’m biased, but I think it’s the most fun magazine to produce. Our readers are so fun and so engaged, it’s such a positive vibe set when they’re coming to this magazine. It’s a really fun brand to produce.

Samir Husni: Looking at the marketplace, what do you consider to be your biggest competition today?

Rachel Barrett: Any magazine that touches on shelter or lifestyle I consider a competitor. I’m a naturally competitive person, so even magazines that probably don’t even fall into our competitive set, if they have a great cover; I get jealous when I’m staring at the newsstand. (Laughs)

But in the country category, there’s obviously Magnolia Journal that recently launched, and it’s a beautiful magazine and our readers definitely overlap, in terms of being a fixer-upper audience too. But we love what Chip and Joanna have been doing, they seem like great people, and have a really great aesthetic. It’s a little bit different from the Country Living aesthetic, but I would say that they’re emerging as a competitor, and then anything that falls into that shelter or lifestyle space. But the beautiful thing about the country is that there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening, what would I find you doing; having a glass of wine and reading a magazine; cooking; playing with the kids, or something else?

Rachel Barrett: Probably having a glass of wine as I’m playing with my kids, and right now as we’re preparing this Country from Coast-to-Coast issue, we’re looking for reader spaces in every single state, so I’m probably obsessively searching Instagram, doing late-night deep dives searching hashtags such as #IdahoFarmhouse or #NorthDakotaDesigns… (Laughs), trying to find some hidden gems for that issue.

Samir Husni: Are you going to visit all of these places?

cl-july-august-2016-sub-coverRachel Barrett: I wish we could. Someday maybe we’ll have the budget to go and knock on every single reader’s door. (Laughs) It’s really great in this day and age of social media; it’s fun to be able to search the Country Living hashtag a little too obsessively, but it’s so great to see how readers are experiencing the magazine. What are they doing that provokes them to tag a Country Living mag? Whether it’s a beautiful view of the countryside or they’re showcasing the magazine style beautifully on their dinner table. What represents Country Living magazine to them? But yes, someday I would love to be able to go and knock on everyone’s door.

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

Rachel Barrett: I can’t say enough good things about our staff. We all work so well together, I think, because of that boot camp experience we had a few years ago. I’m constantly inspired by them. Right now we have 16 people on staff, so everyone pitches in and helps in different categories. Our copy chief does our cross-stitch that opens so well every single month, and our design director may produce crafts, so everybody really does pitch in and always in beautiful ways. It’s a small group in an old biscuit factory in downtown Birmingham, so it really is a fun place to work, so I have to sing their praises.

And also working for Hearst is great. We were a little bit of an experiment, in terms of being a satellite office. Hearst has just done a really great job of making us feel in the fold. I obviously get back to New York fairly often, but our staff doesn’t necessarily, and they’re also very happy to be working for this company. We all feel taken care of and that’s very nice.

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

Rachel Barrett: My oldest child just turned four and my youngest turns three this April, and even last night there were the calls for a sip of water or to cover them up again with their blanket, but they probably make me more productive at work, because after I wake up in the middle of the night for them, I end up on my phone. Who knows what sort of wonderful gem I might uncover; a great house that’s potentially a fit for the magazine?

My assistant, Natalie, laughs because I’ll send her leads when I see them online at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. She’ll always ask, those kids weren’t sleeping last night, were they? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.

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Curious Jane Magazine: Empowering Young Girls To “Think With Their Hands” Through Innovative Summer Programs & A Quarterly Print Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Samantha Razook Murphy, Founder, Curious Jane…

February 24, 2017

Curious Jane Super Silly issue

“A few other people have said that I was crazy to launch a print magazine and that I really needed to be in the digital space, but part of it is a personal passion, having a background in design and loving objects and paper and magazines. So, the print part was very important to me. But also our audience is 6 to 11-year-old girls, so they’re not really consuming online media in a way that say, a 12 to 13-year-old girl would, so the in-print aspect of it was important to us. But plenty of people asked and still ask what in the world was I thinking.” Samantha Razook Murphy…

A community of confident, inquisitive girls between the ages of six and 11, who like to make things, is the heart of Curious Jane magazine. And the woman who pumps that heart with her passion and dedication is its founder, Samantha Razook Murphy.

I spoke with Samantha recently and we talked about the genesis of Curious Jane, the projects and the summer programs, and we talked about Curious Jane, the magazine. All of which fall under one brand that has become quite popular with its audience and with those readers’ parents. Samantha actually gave birth to the idea for a great summer camp when her own two daughters were small and has worked hard to grow the business since then. The magazine was launched two years ago and has become an incredible tool to promote the brand and engage with readers. Today, you don’t have to live in the NYC area (which is where Curious Jane originates from, Brooklyn to be exact) to have a Curious Jane experience. It’s happening for girls all across America with the magazine.

So, I hope that you enjoy this interview with a woman who believes empowering young girls to “think with their hands” and be curious, while learning to create at the same time, is done best through an environment of projects, programs and print, Samantha Razook Murphy, founder, Curious Jane.

But first the sound-bites:

Samantha Razook MurphyOn the genesis of Curious Jane: When I started Curious Jane, I literally opened up a bank account with $500, so there wasn’t a business plan, it wasn’t funded, anything like that. It was just its own truck, sort of motoring down the road. And when we received this grant we were able to use some of that to work with a group, focus on how we might grow Curious Jane and the business. And one of the ideas that came out of it was taking all of these projects and activities that we had developed over the years with the summer camps and repackaging it into an in-print magazine for girls that was ad-free, subscription-based, so that girls in different parts of the country who certainly couldn’t actually attend the camp due to geography could be a part of the Curious Jane experience. And girls who were a part of our programs could continue to have those projects during the schoolyear, instead of just during the summers.

On whether anyone told her she was crazy to start a print magazine in this digital age: This man I was chatting with said to me that just because I was getting bored with the camps didn’t mean that I should start a magazine. And that was a pretty eye-opening statement, but it did help me to reframe. We continued with the magazine though, and I actually had lunch with him recently and told him that we had continued, but that his statement was very helpful in reframing my thoughts about it and about how the numbers work around the magazine.

On how she chose the name Curious Jane: The fact that there is a Curious George and that people know it and it sort of rolls off the tongue has certainly worked in our favor. Honestly, I think it was right before the first summer of camp and I was thinking about what to name this little thing that I was doing for my young daughters in order for me to be able to work, and I truly think it was one day when I was walking back from the laundromat and thinking what was the most important attribute that I wanted to instill in my girls? And it was curiosity. And something that I say even now when I work with girls is, think with your hands. Take the thinking out of your head and think with your hands.

Curious Jane Kitchen ChemistryOn the biggest challenge that she’s had to face: I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had and continue to have is how to make it a financially positive aspect of what we do. When we started we had a very small subscriber base, a lot of them were our campers and people who knew us. And then about a year and a half into it, a mother of one of our camper’s works with a group called Sterling Publishing. She came to me and asked whether I had ever thought about doing a book of our projects. And I told her that in my mind a book meant taking a lot of time and resources and not making any money. We’re such a small business, wearing a million different hats; I can’t devote the resources to that. And she said that they wanted to make it really easy on me by taking all of the content that we’ve produced for the magazine so far and repackage it for the book.

On her most pleasant moment: Every time we work on the magazine is the most pleasant moment. We have a great time working on the projects and the fun little tidbits that have come up into it. A lot of things have changed from the first issue, in both the trim size and the layout. With my background in industrial design, something that I think has benefitted me is the comfort level I have of getting something to prototype stage and then getting it into people’s hands, and seeing the feedback we get and how we feel about it.

On how she met Jack Kliger and John Griffin: I met someone who knew Jack, and when I was telling this woman that we had just printed the first pre-issue of the magazine, she said she knew a few people who might be of help. I wrote down their names and she asked if I would like her to connect me with them. And one of them was Jack. And at that time we were looking for funding, we’re always open to it. But I specifically wanted to pick his brain and get as much advice as I could, so I met him for coffee. And at that point I understood what his very large and successful background in publishing and magazines was, and something that I really appreciated was he was willing to talk to someone who had only printed the second issue of a magazine. It was ad-free, we had 250 subscribers and he was able to give me very specific and useful suggestions for the magazine. About a week later, he called me and asked me was I interested in a little bit of funding and taking on an advisory board. He had another friend, John Griffin, who he wanted me to meet. So, that’s how I met them. And then they did ultimately become investors, but really advisors, and not just in the magazine, but in Curious Jane as a company.

On anything that she would like to add: Via the magazine, which has been a great tool for us, when I think of Curious Jane, it started as a camp, now we have a magazine; I really think of it as a community. I want it to feel like a community for girls, where they make things and feel empowered and self-confident. And to remove fear of failure is really at the core of that as well. In the past couple of years we have been able to work with a few organizations that have a national audience, Amy Poehler, Smart Girls, Parents Magazine, Family Fun, and we have our book coming out, so these types of collaborations with other groups, and likeminded organizations are something that we really enjoy and that we want to encourage and continue to grow.

The Curious Jane team: Melisa Coburn (L) – editorial, Samantha Razook Murphy (M) brainstorming, projects and layout, and Elissa Josse (R) –  artwork, doodles, layout and project creation.

The Curious Jane team: Melisa Coburn (L) – editorial, Samantha Razook Murphy (M) brainstorming, projects and layout, and
Elissa Josse (R) – artwork, doodles, layout and project creation.

On what drives her and makes her get out of bed every morning: All of the things that drive me are getting to work with the amazing people that I work with; we’re a small office year round. There are three to four of us; a tremendous, awesome, fun group. And then during the summer we hire about 100 to 120 young women to work with us, and the type of people that Curious Jane attracts to work with the girls over the summer is outstanding. So, getting to work with them is a complete honor.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: I really value the evening time. You would find me cooking; I find that to be really enjoyable and relaxing. I put a lot of value on the family meal in the evenings. My older daughter is quite musical, and what you will find in my small, cozy, warm apartment is cooking and music and candles, things like that. I don’t have a television and I don’t really consume digital media, but I guess a lot of people don’t have a television anymore; they use their computers for that sort of thing.

On what keeps her up at night: That’s a good question and I have a very specific answer, which is that I constantly run numbers in my head. I’m very fortunate that I have two girls, sort of a reconstructed family, and none of these things keep me up at night. Everyone is doing great, knock wood. As far as enjoyment of my workday, all of that is wonderful. It’s the numbers and how to keep the business moving forward.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Samantha Razook Murphy, founder, Curious Jane.

Samir Husni: There seems to be a movement when it comes to launching new magazines for girls. In the last two or three years, I’ve seen at least five or six magazines that have come to the marketplace and each one of them are one-of-a-kind. Tell me about the genesis of Curious Jane.

Curious Jane Spa ScienceSamantha Razook Murphy: I have two daughters; they’re now 13 and 15. And I started Curious Jane nine years ago. It really started as a summer camp and continues as a summer camp. I did my undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Yale, and then I moved to Brooklyn and did my master’s in Industrial Design at Pratt. And both of my girls were born by that time. They were young during the summers when I was pursuing my master’s at Pratt, and I directed all-girls residential programs on college campuses, so that’s how I go into the all-girls summer camp environment.

And then 2008/2009 rolled around and the economy took a nosedive and at that time my husband and I had to get a bit creative with what we did and how we stayed in Brooklyn, so I started an overnight camp program because that’s what I was familiar with and used to. But I needed something for my own girls to do; they were early elementary school aged, so I started Curious Jane. And it began truly as something for them and their friends to do during the summer months while I tried to get this overnight camp for girls off the ground.

That was the summer of 2009 and I hired a couple of instructors; I rented a van from a rental place in the city, we were living in Brooklyn and still do, and literally drove the camp van, picked up their friends, dropped them off at a school where we had rented some classrooms and the teachers were the instructors who taught the programs.

So, from that first summer of Curious Jane, the way the camp worked was girls could sign up for a week or two or three weeks, and then they would choose their favorite theme for the week. And all of the themes revolved around science, engineering and design. And that’s still what we do. That first summer we had just a handful of girls, but they could take a week-long class called “Why Buildings Stand Up,” which was architecture and engineering combined. They could take a week of “Toy Design.” So, these were the types of things that were the foundation of Curious Jane.

Then over the years Curious Jane really grew. People were really receptive to it; the girls loved it; the parents loved the idea of it, and in the end the residential programs certainly didn’t grow at the same pace and ultimately shrank. So, we stopped running the overnight program and only focused on Curious Jane. We added things like after-school programs, and we did run it in a few other states, but now we just focus on the New York City area.

In 2014, we applied for and did receive a small business grant; we are for-profit, so the word “grant” is a little bit misleading, but we applied via Chase through a program they had at the time called “Mission Small Business” and it was an unrestricted quarter of a million dollars. It was pretty competitive, I think there were around 35,000 applicants, and we were one of 12 recipients. And that helped us continue doing what we were doing and it also gave us the opportunity to work with, for the first time, a business development group and they were wonderful.

When I started Curious Jane, I literally opened up a bank account with $500, so there wasn’t a business plan, it wasn’t funded, anything like that. It was just its own truck, sort of motoring down the road. And when we received this grant we were able to use some of that to work with a group, focus on how we might grow Curious Jane and the business. And one of the ideas that came out of it was taking all of these projects and activities that we had developed over the years with the summer camps and repackaging it into an in-print magazine for girls that was ad-free, subscription-based, so that girls in different parts of the country who certainly couldn’t actually attend the camp due to geography could be a part of the Curious Jane experience. And girls who were a part of our programs could continue to have those projects during the schoolyear, instead of just during the summers.

We have been printing the magazine itself for two years now and it comes out quarterly. I think the issue you have is the “Super Silly” issue, and most of our issues revolve around our popular camp themes and we have used those projects to repackage into a magazine. The “Super Silly” issue was kind of a fun departure from that. It was a little bit more lighthearted and filled with different craft projects. But for example, some of the others were a “Spa Science” issue, girls could make anything to do with bath products and spas, and also learn about science in the process. We had a “Spy Science” one, which is very popular at classic camp, which is learning about detective work and things like that.

Samir Husni: You took your passion and your necessity and created Curious Jane, both the summer programs and the magazine. Did anybody tell you that you were out of your mind to start a print magazine for girls in this digital age?

Curious Jane Pre Launch IssueSamantha Razook Murphy: Actually, there was a conversation that I had a couple of years ago, because when we started the magazine it wasn’t as though we were receiving additional funding, the camp business was what was funding and continues to fund the magazine, so a couple of years ago before I met Jack (Kliger) and John (Griffin), I had lunch with a brother of a friend of mine and he has a private equity group, and his group particularly focuses on grants, so it’s sort of a niche area for private equity. And I think at that time we had printed the first, very slim pre-issue of the magazine at great expense, and when I say “we” I mean our small office of two to three people, where most of what we do is other business and then we have a sunny space in the office where we do all of the photography and layout, because my background is in graphic design; all of that is done in-house.

So, this man I was chatting with said to me that just because I was getting bored with the camps didn’t mean that I should start a magazine. And that was a pretty eye-opening statement, but it did help me to reframe. We continued with the magazine though, and I actually had lunch with him recently and told him that we had continued, but that his statement was very helpful in reframing my thoughts about it and about how the numbers work around the magazine.

And then a few other people have said that I was crazy to launch a print magazine and that I really needed to be in the digital space, but part of it is a personal passion, having a background in design and loving objects and paper and magazines. So, the print part was very important to me. But also our audience is 6 to 11-year-old girls, so they’re not really consuming online media in a way that say, a 12 to 13-year-old girl would, so the in-print aspect of it was important to us. But plenty of people asked and still ask what in the world was I thinking.

Samir Husni: I know the name Curious Jane is obvious, but tell me how you chose that name. Everybody knows Curious George. Is it the fact that you have two girls and you didn’t want them reading Curious George, you wanted them to have their own magazine?

Samantha Razook Murphy: The fact that there is a Curious George and that people know it and it sort of rolls off the tongue has certainly worked in our favor. Honestly, I think it was right before the first summer of camp and I was thinking about what to name this little thing that I was doing for my young daughters in order for me to be able to work, and I truly think it was one day when I was walking back from the laundromat and thinking what was the most important attribute that I wanted to instill in my girls? And it was curiosity. And something that I say even now when I work with girls is, think with your hands. Take the thinking out of your head and think with your hands.

Having spent eight years in an educational environment, graphic and industrial design, we’re basically studio classes. I mean, everyday you’re putting your work in front of someone and having it critiqued and talked about and given feedback on. So this idea of continuing to be curious and collaborative, and to feel comfortable putting yourself and your work out into the world in order to learn and grow from it, rather than to feel defensive about it, private about it, or shutdown about it; the idea of curiosity is very important to me for myself, my girls and what we do as a business. So, that word was set. And Jane is just the idea that I wanted it to reference every girl, Jane being a sort of “every girl” theme.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had and continue to have is how to make it a financially positive aspect of what we do. When we started we had a very small subscriber base, a lot of them were our campers and people who knew us. And then about a year and a half into it, a mother of one of our camper’s works with a group called Sterling Publishing. She came to me and asked whether I had ever thought about doing a book of our projects. And I told her that in my mind a book meant taking a lot of time and resources and not making any money. We’re such a small business, wearing a million different hats; I can’t devote the resources to that. And she said that they wanted to make it really easy on me by taking all of the content that we’ve produced for the magazine so far and repackage it for the book.

That helped us continue the magazine and it sort of balanced out the cost that we were using to get the magazine off the ground. In order to produce this book, she made it very easy on us. Sterling happens to be owned by Barnes & Noble and so via that she asked why I didn’t send some magazines over to the woman who runs newsstand for Barnes & Noble. And we did that, and she has been incredibly supportive. So, the issue that you picked up at Barnes & Noble is actually only the second issue that has been on newsstand.

The obstacle has been how do we continue to print this, grow the word, get it into girls’ hands, and thrive as a business.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment?

Samantha Razook Murphy: Every time we work on the magazine is the most pleasant moment. We have a great time working on the projects and the fun little tidbits that have come up into it. A lot of things have changed from the first issue, in both the trim size and the layout. With my background in industrial design, something that I think has benefitted me is the comfort level I have of getting something to prototype stage and then getting it into people’s hands, and seeing the feedback we get and how we feel about it.

So, the most pleasurable moments of all have been seeing the magazine itself. And I continue to look forward to working on it. Even for the next issue, which we’re working on now; we have new ideas for how we want to change a few things, really include more girls, that sort of thing. This growing organic product has been a huge amount of pleasure to me, and then also just the chance to actually work on the magazine is great fun.

Samir Husni: How did you meet Jack Kliger and John Griffin? These are giant names in the industry.

Samantha Razook Murphy: I really enjoy talking to people, learning about business, growing a business, and Curious Jane itself is a female-started and female-run business that, like I said, was started with $500 in the bank. A few years ago, we did cross the one million in revenue mark, which is somewhat of an indicator. So, we started connecting to other people in the business world. I like to meet other people. And they would tell me that more female business representatives were needed at such and such dinner and if I could please come.

So, through those channels I met someone who knew Jack, and when I was telling this woman that we had just printed the first pre-issue of the magazine, she said she knew a few people who might be of help. I wrote down their names and she asked if I would like her to connect me with them. And one of them was Jack. And at that time we were looking for funding, we’re always open to it. But I specifically wanted to pick his brain and get as much advice as I could, so I met him for coffee.

And at that point I understood what his very large and successful background in publishing and magazines was, and something that I really appreciated was he was willing to talk to someone who had only printed the second issue of a magazine. It was ad-free, we had 250 subscribers and he was able to give me very specific and useful suggestions for the magazine. About a week later, he called me and asked me was I interested in a little bit of funding and taking on an advisory board. He had another friend, John Griffin, who he wanted me to meet. So, that’s how I met them. And then they did ultimately become investors, but really advisors, and not just in the magazine, but in Curious Jane as a company.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: What I would add is that we’re a small business, but we are completely committed to getting this off the ground and growing it. What I’m doing now is reaching out to as many people as possible to continue to spread the word, to grow subscriber base; and what I’m looking for is, in general, feedback and thoughts. I’m very open in that way in connecting and working with people.

Via the magazine, which has been a great tool for us, when I think of Curious Jane, it started as a camp, now we have a magazine; I really think of it as a community. I want it to feel like a community for girls, where they make things and feel empowered and self-confident. And to remove fear of failure is really at the core of that as well. In the past couple of years we have been able to work with a few organizations that have a national audience, Amy Poehler, Smart Girls, Parents Magazine, Family Fun, and we have our book coming out, so these types of collaborations with other groups, and likeminded organizations are something that we really enjoy and that we want to encourage and continue to grow.

Samir Husni: If someone were to stop you on the street and tell you that they had seen your brochure and that they knew you were the founder of Curious Jane. And they knew what all you did, summer programs, workshops, events and a magazine. And they asked you, with all of that, what drives you? What makes you get out of bed in the morning; everything or one thing in particular?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I do love getting out of bed every morning and coming to Curious Jane. That is something that I value so highly and have a great appreciation for. I actually had this conversation with my 15-year-old daughter the other night and we were talking about if you’re with a new social group, especially for adults, and they ask the common question: what do you do? And I said to her sometimes Eleanor, I’ll say to the person that I’m happy to tell you what I do, but something that’s even more relevant to me is “what do I enjoy about what I do?”

So, all of the things that drive me are getting to work with the amazing people that I work with; we’re a small office year round. There are three to four of us; a tremendous, awesome, fun group. And then during the summer we hire about 100 to 120 young women to work with us, and the type of people that Curious Jane attracts to work with the girls over the summer is outstanding. So, getting to work with them is a complete honor.

Getting to have a balance to my day; you know, sometimes it’s admin and paperwork, sometimes it’s getting to do photos for the magazine, sometimes it’s trying out a new project; there is so much variety. And then also there is challenge and that’s a complete pleasure. So, I would say that these things that create a work environment or a professional environment are what I enjoy so much. And then also I get to do something that has such a strong, positive social mission, and that’s a real treat.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; doing some designing; having a glass of wine; or something else?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I really value the evening time. You would find me cooking; I find that to be really enjoyable and relaxing. I put a lot of value on the family meal in the evenings. My older daughter is quite musical, and what you will find in my small, cozy, warm apartment is cooking and music and candles, things like that. I don’t have a television and I don’t really consume digital media, but I guess a lot of people don’t have a television anymore; they use their computers for that sort of thing. What you’ll see when you walk in is a guitar, a keyboard, a bass, a kitchen, a dining table, which is where we eat and do homework. It’s where we do crafts, when the opportunity arises I like to make things. But really the office is a great place to make things. And that’s what you would find me doing in the evening.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: That’s a good question and I have a very specific answer, which is that I constantly run numbers in my head. I’m very fortunate that I have two girls, sort of a reconstructed family, and none of these things keep me up at night. Everyone is doing great, knock wood. As far as enjoyment of my workday, all of that is wonderful. It’s the numbers and how to keep the business moving forward.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.

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From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault: Magazines From 1919 and 1932 — Similar Topics As Magazines From 2017, But Perhaps Better Coverage And Content?

February 21, 2017

Second of a Series of Mr. Magazine™ Musings About Classic Creative Innovation…

the-independent747the-independent-inside749the-indie-4752When it comes to the creative innovations of today, we have a tendency to think that 21st century humans are the “be all and end all” of everything. But Mr. Magazine™ is here to tell you that is simply not the case. Inside my classic vault of vintage magazines, you’ll find stories and articles that are 50 years, or much older, which cover many “cutting edge” topics.

For example, I have a copy of The Independent magazine that was published weekly by the Independent Corporation in New York. This magazine incorporated Harper’s Weekly within its pages. The lead story in this particular August 2, 1919 issue is “Can Congress Compromise?” The story talks about the divide between the Democrats and the Republicans (way before Presidents Trump, Obama, or Bush were even born, imagine that), and there is another article about “The British Ratification,” which is very similar to today’s British Brexit. There is a story titled, “Another Mexican Crisis,” one about “The Public Utility Crisis,” and one called “The Washington Riots.” An editorial about “The Black Man’s Rights,” and one titled, “The New Melting Pot.” Is any of this sounding familiar? If it isn’t, where have you been for the last several months and years?

And from the September/October 1932 issue of Asia magazine, an article entitled, “The Stars and Stripes Overseas,” in which the president of the American University of Beirut,(Lebanon), gives an observation on the appropriate conduct of Americans overseas, leading with principles by which our contacts with foreign nationals should be governed:

asia748I. We should not attempt to work abroad at all unless we can improve upon the methods of local agencies and take the time to carry on our activities in a thorough and creditable way.
II. Our contacts abroad should be based upon a sincere exchange of ideas. We should wish to learn as well as to teach.
III. We must base our success on personality rather than on organization, creed or propaganda.

The idea that the world we live in today is any different than the world people lived in decades ago is simply narcissistic. And the one thing that you can count on to show you that fact is a magazine. I have said it repeatedly; magazines are reflectors, mirror images of ourselves and what is going on around us. But rest assured, there is nothing new under the “creative innovation” sun when it comes to ideas, political landscapes, or the interaction between people of all cultures.

So, when you see the cover of your favorite magazine depicting our President as a strong leader or a shyster, because both sides are out there, remember that 75 years from now, President Trump may be proving another point besides the fact that he can indeed win an election; he might be proving that someone else isn’t the first of their ilk to do it!

Until next time…

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act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.

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There’s No Place Like The Newsstand…There’s No Place Like The Newsstand…

February 20, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

bikers-for-trump689rise-up687mad690golfer-in-chief688Some Yellow Brick Roads do exist and not just in the Land of Oz. If you follow the trail of what’s going on in our world today, the great and powerful Oz awaits you at the end of a road called “Newsstand.” And it’s there that you can find the stories that stimulate your brain; touch your heart; and more often than not; bolster your own courage as well.

In the life of Mr. Magazine™, there’s no place like the newsstand. It’s where I meet my new friends, old friends and my well-established friends; those who are very dear to my heart: my beloved magazines.

And with this Yellow Brick Road, you know what’s behind the curtain; you may not know what the exact outcome of that particular journey will bring you, but you can rest assured that it will be provocative and emotional as the magazines and their covers grab your attention and refuse to let it go. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the airport, train station, bookstore, or the supermarket; you know that the welcome mat is out, no one is going to tell you to “go away” and your friends will be there to meet and greet you.

As reflectors of the society that we live in, magazines do the same thing that they did yesterday and will continue to do tomorrow: they mirror our thoughts, emotions and the events that are happening in our lives. For example, as we hear all of the political rhetoric; the pros and cons of our new presidential resident and his team; or the assaults on the media or the assaults on the president; magazines play their own role in all of this, by being reflectors of these unsettling and unrestful times that we live in.

To show you what I mean, there is a commemorative issue on newsstands now called “Bikers for Trump,” which Easyrider magazine came up with in stalwart support of our new president. And then on another wave of the magical magazine wand, Condé Nast launched a magazine called “Rise Up,” a publication about the “Women’s March on Washington” in protest of President Trump. And then you have those magazines out there who illustrate yet another sentiment of folks who try not to take either political side, such as “Mad Magazine” that vowed on its most recent issue that they wished there was nothing about Trump between the pages of that particular issue. By the same token, just to show that magazine publishers can be magnanimous and shouldn’t be depicted by some as the Wicked Witches of the West, Condé Nast released not only the “Rise Up” issue to protest the president, they also did a magazine entitled “TRUMP, Golfer In Chief,” where their Golf Digest magazine published a special issue on President Trump and his “golfing” habits.

There are magazines out there that have a strong opinion and those that might have one, but have sworn to stay non-political. There are magazines that support Trump and magazines that do as much damage to his presidency as a falling house would, but you can rest assured magazines are out there to reflect on all sides.

So, when you need to step back and really see what’s happening in our world today, here is some aged and wise advice that was given to a young lady a long time ago; albeit this time around it’s the good wizard of the South, “Mr. Magazine™” who is offering it:

Just close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, “There’s no place like the newsstand; there’s no place like the newsstand.”

Until next time…

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act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.

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Long Live Vinyl Magazine: Some Things Are Meant To Be Connected Forever, Like Magazines & Music. The Print & Vinyl Love Affair Continues – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ian Peel, Founder & Editor At Large, Long Live Vinyl Magazine…

February 16, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

long-live-vinyl597

“How valuable is print? Well, it’s incredibly valuable within the context of coexisting with online, because if I think of all of those people at BMG Records working away, they all look at email newsfeeds every morning. Then when you walk into their reception area, there are print magazines everywhere. And both have to exist, they each have their role.” Ian Peel…

Ink on Paper and vinyl records have always had an easy courtship. From Rolling Stone to Spin, these music magazine couplings usually turned into magic. That is, until the world decided both genres were dead or dying a slow, digital death. Of course, those with their fingers on the pulse of both industries knew that evolution did not necessarily mean extinction. In the 21st century our airspace is large enough for turntables and iPods; tablets and print magazines; and just about anything else the innovatively, creative human mind can come up with. No reason to fret.

And that’s exactly what the founder and editor at large of Long Live Vinyl magazine knew when he thought about the many ways you could make a print publication about vinyl records interesting in this day and age. As simple as “American Pie” really.

Ian Peel is a freelance journalist, marketing consultant, and magazine thinker and maker. He has contributed his fresh and innovative ideas to Anthem Publishing in the U.K., and so far, together, the two have created Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl magazines, which are both increasing their frequency from bimonthlies to monthlies. Not bad for two industries that are on the verge of extinction, hmm?

ian-peel-long-live-vinyl-classic-popI spoke with Ian recently and we talked about the newest edition to the fold, Long Live Vinyl, and about the creative design, a 12-inch format that, as Ian put it, lacks only the hole in the middle to actually fit on a turntable. Ian is a man with two obvious passions: music and magazines. And his adoration for both runs deep, as I soon learned early in our conversation when I asked him what he’d say to people who would accuse him of using two dying or vanishing industries to create this magazine. His answer: I’d say to them they’re not dying, they’re changing. And his success is proof of that belief.

So, I hope that you enjoy this look into the relationship between magazines and music, because just like Diana Ross & Lionel Richie sang: it’s an “Endless Love.” OK – music puns are over – enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ian Peel, Founder and Editor At Large, Long Live Vinyl magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On that moment of conception for the magazine and how he brought it to fruition: I started to talk to the team at Anthem Publishing about my ideas; how you could do a really interesting magazine about vinyl records. And of course this happened at the exact same time that the vinyl revival began. So, they thought about it for about two years, and then eventually we decided to give it a go.

On what he would say to those who would criticize him about combining two supposedly vanishing industries (print & vinyl) to create a new magazine: What would I say to them? Well, I’d say that these industries aren’t really dying, they’re changing. And with the changing times too, you have to be really, really bold, and try and strike out and do something new. When vinyl and magazines were both flourishing, it was probably harder to take risks, so it might have been harder to have done this 10 years ago, because there was far too much in the publishing world and the music world, so it was easy for people to just sit back and carry on with what they were doing and had always done. But when people’s backs are against the wall they have to be a bit more creative and daring. So, that’s what we did.

On why he thinks it took the magazine industry so long to realize that print and digital must co-exist with each other: Sometimes it’s just easier, isn’t it; to keep doing the same thing all of the time. And this is why maybe it was quite an interesting role for me, because I’ve never launched a magazine before Classic Pop. What I had been doing was working in the music business creating CD compilations and album reissues, and then trying to sell them into the media to get press coverage. So, I was coming from a slightly removed standpoint, and I was finding it very difficult in the case of classic pop music to get the page space in the traditional music magazines and newspapers.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face: I don’t know if it was a challenge, but there was always a concern that I was just in a bubble and no one else would agree or see the value in it. That was a concern. There’s always this challenge that you have to create the magazine, or at least the structure and the style, before the publisher can start selling ad space, so there is a challenge, which is to get over that initial hump of going from concept to actually being able to gauge the revenue that the publication can generate.

On his most pleasant moment: When Anthem said yes, it was a surprise, because don’t forget, I had pitched Long Live Vinyl about two years ago to them, so they had sat very quietly and watched the vinyl revival grow for two years and remembered the proposal. So, it was a nice surprise when they phoned and said we will do this. We will make it happen.

On whether he thinks he could have achieved what he’s achieved with just a digital platform and no print component: We could have, but there are lots of vinyl blogs out there already, and I really like them. In fact, it’s interesting, because when I was devising Long Live Vinyl, there were some really great websites about vinyl, in terms of how they looked and what they said and their viewpoint. And I thought, none of that exists in print. There wasn’t a cool, contemporary vinyl print magazine. So, there was another reason, to replicate how far forward with vinyl journalism the Internet had moved.

On what role he will play at Long Live Vinyl now that he’s there full-time: On the masthead I’m founder plus editor at large. And in fact, that’s the title for both Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl. So, that involves something that Anthem is quite keen on, and that is monitoring and developing what they call the DNA of the magazine. And I think they know from experience that it’s possible for the DNA to drift if it’s not sat up on a regular basis. And that could be anything from a font that someone has used temporarily for one issue that still accidentally in place 10 issues later, because no one has sat down and had a proper font discussion. Or it could be about the tone of voice that’s used.

On anything new he’s working on now: Yes. (Laughs) The third one is going to be brilliant. (Laughs again) Classic Pop was great and exists in its own way; Long Live Vinyl is kind of broader and a slightly wider platform, then the third idea is broader and wider still, but with a quite unique sense of purpose.

issue-01On whether he believes we’re seeing a return to a broader-topic type magazine with a niche audience, rather than a niche magazine itself: That’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think that one of the reasons that Classic Pop magazine did very well is that the four or five music magazines in the U.K. are all general list. They’ll have a Rock front cover, then they’ll have an Electronic front cover, and that was fine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the only way that you could get music content was to buy a magazine. They were duty-bound to cover all of the genres. But now that I can’t avoid music content, it’s coming out of my phone, computer, TV and everywhere, I think the job of the magazine is to be specialists, to celebrate more specialist areas.

On what advice he would offer to someone who came to him with an idea for starting a new magazine: If someone has a great idea for a print magazine, then I would encourage them to go and see a print publisher, because you’re taking them a revenue stream. And it would be great if that idea for a print magazine had really good unique content. And maybe you do start to blog, but I think if what we’re asking is, would it be best to do it online for a year and see how it goes, the answer is no, because you’re creating a totally different product than the one that you wanted to create in the first place. The best case scenario is they coexist together, straight on.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: There’s quite an easy answer to that, which is, as soon as the magazine goes to bed, I go straight on to the next one. And it’s because it’s like this weird zone that you get into, when you’re finishing an issue, you just can’t stop. You’re on a roll.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) I think the easy answer to that is the idea for magazine number three. It does keep me up at night, because when I look at this proposal, I’m excited. I’m excited and happy to read the proposal through.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ian Peel, founder and editor at large, Long Live Vinyl magazine.

Samir Husni: Can you relive that moment of conception, that moment when you came up with the idea for Long Live Vinyl, and how did you bring it to fruition?

Ian Peel: It’s quite a long story, so I’ll try and give you the abridged version. There’s a magazine in the U.K. called “Record Collector” and I started writing for them when I left school in 1988. And I had lots of fun, really, writing for them. But I always had strong views as to how you could do a magazine for people who loved vinyl and loved records. And I would pitch these ideas to Record Collector over the years at different times and in the intervening 25 years. And some of those ideas they listened to and took onboard and some of them they didn’t.

Then flash forward to 2011when I had a great idea for a magazine about Pop music that I called “Classic Pop.” I went to Anthem Publishing and they really jumped onboard; they loved the idea. They set the magazine up and we made it a great success, so Classic Pop has been running for three years as a bimonthly.

And once that was doing really well and it was in supermarkets in the U.K., I started to talk to the team at Anthem Publishing about my ideas; how you could do a really interesting magazine about vinyl records. And of course this happened at the exact same time that the vinyl revival began. So, they thought about it for about two years, and then eventually we decided to give it a go.

long-live-vinyl-2598We did a test issue for Long Live Vinyl in November, 2016. I wasn’t hugely involved in anything other than conception with that, because I was doing a long consultancy with a record label called BMG, so I was working in-house with them on lots of vinyl releases as it happens. Aside from kind of setting Anthem Publishing up with the idea for Long Live Vinyl, and some very strict notes initially about pitching and selling in stage around two or three years ago, I left them to go ahead and put the magazine together.

One of the most exciting things was seeing Issue One on the shelves in November and it being pretty much exactly what I’d hoped for and exactly what I had dreamt we could do. All that time ago during the pitching process, I’d written really detailed notes about the style, tone and how the pages should be laid out; the type of fonts that should be used and the writers that should be in the magazine, and they worked through all of those notes and it came out really well. So, it was a good team effort, albeit quite remotely for me during Issue One.

So, then we sat back and looked at how Issue One had sold in November, and it sold very well and advertisers had picked up on it, so it was enough for me to leave BMG, and as of this month, turn Long Live Vinyl into a monthly magazine. We go monthly in April, and at the same time, we’re going to expand the remit of Classic Pop magazine, which is really the forerunner of Long Live Vinyl, and that will switch from bimonthly into a monthly in May.

Samir Husni: What would you tell the naysayers who might come to you saying that you are taking two supposedly dying or vanishing industries and combining them to create a very well-crafted, beautiful, album-sized magazine?

Ian Peel: What would I say to them? Well, I’d say that these industries aren’t really dying, they’re changing. And with the changing times too, you have to be really, really bold, and try and strike out and do something new. When vinyl and magazines were both flourishing, it was probably harder to take risks, so it might have been harder to have done this 10 years ago, because there was far too much in the publishing world and the music world, so it was easy for people to just sit back and carry on with what they were doing and had always done. But when people’s backs are against the wall they have to be a bit more creative and daring. So, that’s what we did.

And it was quite daring to do the magazine in 12-inch form, which was one of the initial ideas that we came up with. I wanted to go one step further and that was put a hole through the middle. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Ian Peel: But I couldn’t get approval on that. We’re still going to drill some holes though, for promotional type things.

Samir Husni: If we consider magazine makers the most creative people around, why do you think it took the magazine industry so long, almost a decade, to recognize that print isn’t going anywhere; digital isn’t going anywhere, and we have to live in an environment where all forms of media exist?

CP23.Cover.FINAL.inddIan Peel: Sometimes it’s just easier, isn’t it; to keep doing the same thing all of the time. And this is why maybe it was quite an interesting role for me, because I’ve never launched a magazine before Classic Pop. What I had been doing was working in the music business creating CD compilations and album reissues, and then trying to sell them into the media to get press coverage. So, I was coming from a slightly removed standpoint, and I was finding it very difficult in the case of classic pop music to get the page space in the traditional music magazines and newspapers.

But I knew there was a market for it, because there were festivals and they were booming and the CD and music business was booming with classic pop music, and there were television stations launching. It became quite clear that it should be very straightforward for a magazine to work in tandem with all of those other areas of media. So, why do we find it difficult? I don’t know, maybe a lack of objectivity.

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

Ian Peel: I don’t know if it was a challenge, but there was always a concern that I was just in a bubble and no one else would agree or see the value in it. That was a concern. There’s always this challenge that you have to create the magazine, or at least the structure and the style, before the publisher can start selling ad space, so there is a challenge, which is to get over that initial hump of going from concept to actually being able to gauge the revenue that the publication can generate.

With Classic Pop magazine, it was a challenge to get certain businesses onboard, in terms of seeing its value, but not so with Long Live Vinyl. Every record label is producing vinyl editions, and when I went out to them; it was like a one-word pitch. What’s the magazine? Vinyl. And then they were straight onboard. So, it wasn’t too much of a tough sell in that respect.

There is this other magazine that has existed in the U.K. for a long time called “Record Collector” that I’ve written for and that gave me my first job in journalism. And I love that magazine; I have a lot of respect for it. And long may it continue. But I set myself the challenge of looking and feeling completely different that the Record Collector, in terms of tone of voice, type of photography used, because I wanted them to carry on being successful in their world, and I wanted us to be successful in ours. And I also wanted to avoid any confusion between potential readers as to what to buy.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment? Was it when Anthem said yes?

Ian Peel: Well, when Anthem said yes, it was a surprise, because don’t forget, I had pitched Long Live Vinyl about two years ago to them, so they had sat very quietly and watched the vinyl revival grow for two years and remembered the proposal. So, it was a nice surprise when they phoned and said we will do this. We will make it happen.

I think the nicest part of it was as I described earlier when I saw the first issue. Once I’d gone off into the corporate world and seen that we’re all on the same page, it was great; all of my notes and ideas really gelled with theirs. That’s always a worry, especially if people work remotely, in different offices, emailing, rather than sitting at the same desk. To realize that everyone is thinking along the same lines is great. On which note I should mention Andy Jones, the editor of Issue One, who did a great job, and Jon Bickley, who is the CEO of Anthem Publishing and a big vinyl lover. And a big music fan. The two of them especially, and then Simon Lewis, who is our commercial and advertising man It didn’t take too much description on my part, we could see what it could be quite quickly.

Samir Husni: You combine your passion, music/journalism, and you’re in the music industry, you’ve worked with the labels; what value do you think print, as opposed to digital, brings to this genre? Could you have done what you’ve done with just a digital platform?

Ian Peel: We could have, but there are lots of vinyl blogs out there already, and I really like them. In fact, it’s interesting, because when I was devising Long Live Vinyl, there were some really great websites about vinyl, in terms of how they looked and what they said and their viewpoint. And I thought, none of that exists in print. There wasn’t a cool, contemporary vinyl print magazine. So, there was another reason, to replicate how far forward with vinyl journalism the Internet had moved.

How valuable is print? Well, it’s incredibly valuable within the context of coexisting with online, because if I think of all of those people at BMG Records working away, they all look at email newsfeeds every morning. Then when you walk into their reception area, there are print magazines everywhere. And both have to exist, they each have their role.

Samir Husni: Now that you’re at the magazine full-time, what role will you play at Long Live Vinyl? Are you going to be the editor in chief or the editorial director?

Ian Peel: On the masthead I’m founder plus editor at large. And in fact, that’s the title for both Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl. So, that involves something that Anthem is quite keen on, and that is monitoring and developing what they call the DNA of the magazine. And I think they know from experience that it’s possible for the DNA to drift if it’s not sat up on a regular basis. And that could be anything from a font that someone has used temporarily for one issue that still accidentally in place 10 issues later, because no one has sat down and had a proper font discussion. Or it could be about the tone of voice that’s used.

So, really I will be monitoring and measuring the DNA of both publications, while at the same time I’m doing lots and lots of writing. For issue two of Long Live Vinyl, I will be news editor and reviews editor. With Classic Pop, I think I wrote 80 percent of the first issue, partly to build structures and templates for the different sections so everyone could just go off and replicate.

Samir Husni: After Long Live Vinyl, is there anything else in the hopper; something new that you’re working on now?

Ian Peel: Yes. (Laughs) The third one is going to be brilliant. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Ian Peel: Classic Pop was great and exists in its own way; Long Live Vinyl is kind of broader and a slightly wider platform, then the third idea is broader and wider still, but with a quite unique sense of purpose.

Samir Husni: Are we seeing a return from the ultra-niche magazines, or what you refer to in the U.K. as the “Patchwork” magazines, to a broader topic type magazine with a very niche audience, rather than a niche magazine?

Ian Peel: That’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think that one of the reasons that Classic Pop magazine did very well is that the four or five music magazines in the U.K. are all general list. They’ll have a Rock front cover, then they’ll have an Electronic front cover, and that was fine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the only way that you could get music content was to buy a magazine. They were duty-bound to cover all of the genres. But now that I can’t avoid music content, it’s coming out of my phone, computer, TV and everywhere, I think the job of the magazine is to be specialists, to celebrate more specialist areas.

So, Pop is a specialist area; vinyl is a specialist area, because people are in love and they want to read about vinyl for one, number two, is what’s on it, the actual music that’s on it. But the number one reason is the love of vinyl.

With my third project, it’s broader, but you’re right, it has to have an absolute purpose and that purpose might actually be quite niche, and that audience might actually be quite niche. Even if it’s maybe covering, without giving too much away, various area of entertainment, there has to be a twist or a particular unifying factor.

Samir Husni: You’re a believer in print and bringing new ideas to the forefront, and you’re also, it would seem, more of a believer in protecting that DNA. So, if somebody comes to you and tells you that they have an idea for a new magazine, a new print entity; what do you tell them? You’re out of your mind, go start a blog, or you offer them different advice?

Ian Peel: If someone has a great idea for a print magazine, then I would encourage them to go and see a print publisher, because you’re taking them a revenue stream. And it would be great if that idea for a print magazine had really good unique content. And maybe you do start to blog, but I think if what we’re asking is, would it be best to do it online for a year and see how it goes, the answer is no, because you’re creating a totally different product than the one that you wanted to create in the first place. The best case scenario is they coexist together, straight on.

Even with Long Live Vinyl, two or three years ago when I first pitched it, Anthem did say why don’t you start it as a section within Classic Pop magazine, and as a section within Vintage Rock, which is another of their print music listing magazines. But from the start we created it asking the question: how would it look in print? As opposed to let’s start a Twitter page and see how many people we can amass.

So, I think if someone came up with a great print idea, they have to absolutely work hard to get it into print. And then bring everything else along with it. I would encourage someone, instead of starting a blog; I’d encourage them to mock up the first issue, to lay out the pages and think about the type of paper or the page size, and what other print magazines that it would sit alongside.

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

Ian Peel: There’s quite an easy answer to that, which is, as soon as the magazine goes to bed, I go straight on to the next one. And it’s because it’s like this weird zone that you get into, when you’re finishing an issue, you just can’t stop. You’re on a roll.

And that’s why I think that bimonthly magazines are quite hard, because there’s that dip for readers and potential purchasers, of two months, where they might forget about you in the middle of those two months. But there’s also this kind of dip in energy between the two months, which is why a monthly is great. It keeps the energy levels up all of the time. With Classic Pop, when it was bimonthly, I would literally finish one article and start making the next one, because I couldn’t get out of the zone.

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

Ian Peel: (Laughs) I think the easy answer to that is the idea for magazine number three. It does keep me up at night, because when I look at this proposal, I’m excited. I’m excited and happy to read the proposal through.

Also, whether these ideas work or not, it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to put them together and to try them.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines And Music: Long Live Vinyl And Ink On Paper…

February 15, 2017

Mr. Magazine™ Video Minute…

When you’re the founder & editor at large of a new magazine called “Long Live Vinyl,” which is the actual size of a record album, and you’re immersed in two of your life’s biggest passions, music and magazines, when Mr. Magazine™ asks you the question: what are the differences and the similarities between those two passions, and your name is Ian Peel, this is what you answer:

Stay tuned for the full interview tomorrow on the Mr. Magazine™ blog…

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Magazines 2020: Launch, Distribute, And Make Money Again… 41 Experts Show You How At The Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT 7 Experience…

February 13, 2017

ACT_LogoThe reimagining of magazines and magazine making will be alive & well at the ACT 7 Experience, April 25-27, 2017 at the Magazine Innovation Center in Oxford, Miss. From publishing, editing, printing, advertising, marketing, distribution and designing, leaders and experts from each field of the magazine and magazine media business will cover every facet of the world of magazines. There will be no page left unturned and no topic untouched as we get into the minds of some of the world’s greatest magazine makers and distributors.

So, join us for a spring magazine revival as we look toward Magazines 2020 and learn what it takes to make magazines make money again; make magazines rise again; and most importantly, what it takes to MAKE MAGAZINES GREAT AGAIN!

Magazines Matter Print Matters is our theme this year and below is the tentative agenda with all the confirmed speakers for the ACT 7 Experience… So do not delay and come join us for three days of Magazines, Music, and Mississippi!

Remember space is limited to the first 100 registrants, so ACT NOW by clicking here to register…

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Magazines Matter, Print Matters: ACT 7 Experience Agenda

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ACT 7 Experience Opening Gala:
The Inn at Ole Miss
120 Alumni Dr.
University, Miss. (on campus)

6:00 p.m.: Registration and Reception

7:00 p.m.: Welcoming remarks – Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

8:00 p.m.: Opening Keynote Address – Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, CEO, Hoffman Media –
Brian Hart Hoffman, Chief Creative Officer, and Eric Hoffman, Chief Operating Officer

9:00 p.m.: “Oxford on Your Own,” with shuttles from the Inn at Ole Miss to the Oxford Square and back

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

7:30 a.m.: Breakfast (Overby Lobby in Farley Hall)

8:15 a.m.: “Setting the Stage for the ACT 7 Experience” – Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni

8:30 a.m.: Opening Keynote Address – Daniel Dejan, North American ETC, (Education, Consulting and Training), Print & Creative Manager for Sappi Fine Paper
“The Neuroscience of Touch: Haptic Brain/Haptic Brand”

9:00 a.m.: Reed Phillips – CEO & Managing Partner, DeSilva+Phillips
“How to Add Value to Your Brand Before You Sell It”

9:30 a.m.: John French – Former CEO of Cygnus Business, Former CEO of Penton and Former President of Business Magazines, Primedia
“Life Lessons in Adding Value”

10:00 a.m.: “Making Magazines Make Money Again”
Jim Elliott – President, James G. Elliott Company, leads a panel discussion on the topic with:
John French – Former CEO of Cygnus Business, Former CEO of Penton and Former President of Business Magazines, Primedia
Daniel Fuchs – VP, Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, HGTV Magazine
Steven Mayer – Publisher, Plate Magazine

11:00 a.m.: Break

11:15 a.m.: Todd Krizelman – CEO, MEDIARadar

11:45 a.m.: Jerry Lynch – President, Magazine and Books, Retail Assoc. (MBR)

Trip to the Mississippi Delta – Hosted by Scott Coopwood, Publisher, Delta Magazine

12:30 p.m.: Boxed Lunch on the Bus & Trip to the Mississippi Delta

2:30 p.m.: B.B. King Museum, Indianola, Miss.

3:30 p.m.: Dockery Farms Historic District, Cleveland, Miss.

4:00 p.m.: Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Miss.

5:00 p.m.: Downtown Clarksdale (Free to walk around and experience the Delta, Clarksdale-style)

6:00 p.m.: Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, Miss.

6:45 p.m.: Dinner at Ground Zero

9:30 p.m.: Depart Clarksdale heading back to Oxford

Thursday, April 27, 2017

7:30 a.m.: Breakfast (Overby Lobby in Farley Hall)

8:15 a.m.: “Continuing the ACT 7 Experience” – Samir “Mr. Magazine™ Husni

8:30 a.m.: Opening Keynote Address – Doug Kouma – Editorial Content Director, Meredith Core Media

9:00 a.m.:Distribution 2020 – Panel Consisting of:
Jay Annis – VP/Business Manager, Hello & Hola Media Inc.
Steve Crowe – VP/Consumer Marketing, Meredith
Eric Hoffman – COO, Hoffman Media
Curtis Packer – Director of Promotions, OTG
David Parry – President & CEO, TNG
Sebastian Raatz – Executive VP, Bauer Publishing, U.S.A.
Tony Romano – CEO, Co-founder, Topix Media Lab

10:30 a.m.: Break

10:45 a.m.: “Tales of a Magazine Launch” –Tony Silber, VP, Folio, leads a panel discussion on the topic with industry leaders from printing, publishing, production, and distribution:
Ron Adams — Publisher, Via Corsa magazine
Laura Bento – Founder and Editor, Good Grit magazine
Brian Hart Hoffman – Editor in Chief, Bake From Scratch magazine
Michael Kusek – Publisher, Take magazine
Gemma Peckham – Founder and Editor, ROVA magazine
Lukas Volger – Co-founder/Editorial Director, Jarry magazine

12:00 noon: Boxed Lunches

12:45 p.m.: “Launching a New Magazine? Here’s How You Do It”
Joe Berger – Publishers Marketing & Sales Consultant, Joseph Berger Assoc.
Nicole Bowman – Founder & Principal, Bowman Circulation Marketing
Ingrid Jakabcsin – Senior VP, Procurement & Distribution, TNG
Steven Knapp – Emmy Award winning Producer/Director, entertainment & advertising
Marshall McKinney – Design Director, Garden & Gun
Jennifer Reeder – VP, Sales, Democrat Printing
Steve Viksjo – Co-founder/Creative Director, Jarry magazine

2:15 p.m.: Franska Stuy – Founder and Editor, Franska.nl, The Netherlands
“Life in Digital”

2:45 p.m.: Break

3:00 p.m.: Bo Sacks – President/Publisher, Precision Media Group
“The Truth About Digital Advertising Lies…”

3:30 p.m.: John Harrington – Partner, Harrington Associates, Former Editor/Publisher, The New Single Copy
“Why I’ve Learned: A Personal Perspective.”

3:50 p.m.: “Life in Custom Publishing”
Christian Anderson – Associate Publisher, iostudio
Bobby Stark – President, Parthenon Publishing

4:30 p.m.: Alison Baverstock – President & Founder, Alison Baverstock and Associates, The United Kingdom
“How to Build a Community through Shared Reading of a Printed Book”

6:00 p.m.: Closing dinner and Closing Keynote address – Sylvia Banderas, Publisher/VP, Integrated Sales, Hola!

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