Archive for March, 2017

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Jones Publishing: Serving The Hobbyist, The Retailer, and Today’s Christians Through A Host Of Print Magazines – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With President And Publisher, Diana Jones…

March 31, 2017

“The thing that we have discovered, and we have such niche publications, is that our readers want what we have. Dolls Magazine, which is probably our biggest base where we’re the only one out there, so people want it because they’re collectors. It’s the same with Teddy Bear & Friends; people want it because that’s what they collect and that’s what they’re passionate about. And so if we can provide them information on their passion, they subscribe. And we have our highest renewal rates with those two titles. But I think because we have such targeted audiences, print is never going to be dead.” Diana Jones

For over 30 years, the family-owned Jones Publishing in Wisconsin, has been producing niche titles that range from doll (Doll Magazine) and teddy bear collecting (Teddy Bear & Friends) to its venture into the Christian world (Today’s Christian Living). The leadership of the company today has moved from Joe Jones, who founded the company back in 1986, to his daughter-in-law, Diana Jones, who serves as president and publisher of all of the titles that Jones has under its umbrella.

But the one nearest and dearest to Diana’s heart, Today’s Christian Living, is a cross between her ministry and the secular family business. I spoke to Diana recently and we talked about the company in general, and more specifically about Today’s Christian Living. Diana is excited about the content of the magazine that, according to its tagline, encourages, equips and engages Christians. Applying Christian principles to the way she runs the business and treats her staff, Diana doesn’t believe there is anything hard about running a mission-based magazine as a business. In fact, she believes the two complement each other nicely.

As someone who has a master’s degree in microbiology, she also doesn’t understand why many people think that science and Christianity don’t go hand-in-hand. She certainly does. And the magazine celebrates that, and offers testimonies of faith and hope, while connecting people with their passions. It’s an inspirational magazine with a message of hope and encouragement, just like its editor. So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Diana Jones, president and publisher, Jones Publishing.

But first the sound-bites:

On the DNA of Today’s Christian Living: Today’s Christian Living exists to encourage, equip and engage Christians. That’s our tagline and it’s something that I strongly believe in. Christians need encouragement; it’s hard for people to speak out and evangelize and share with others.

On why Jones Publishing, a secular company, is publishing a Christian magazine: For me, we got into this because my husband was a pastor in the early 2000s. And so our heart has always been in the ministry. And then this publication, it was Significant Living at the time, came across our desk. Our printer knew that my husband had been a pastor and told us that he had the perfect publication for us. So, as Christians, we immediately said yes, this is a ministry for us. And it was really exciting for me, and was actually what brought me into the publishing business. I’m a microbiologist. I have a master’s in microbiology. (Laughs) I don’t do much of that these days. The thing that I was so excited about was just being able to share what Jesus is doing in people’s lives. And that’s how I got into it.

On how they combine a ministry with a business: That’s a good question, though for me it’s actually not that hard. We raised support and were pastors on campus at U.W. Madison for five years. And that gave us a good feel for ministry. I worked in the microbiology field for a few years as well, and that’s where I got all of my management experience. I also homeschooled my kids for many years. The Significant Living editor position opened up and I said, ‘this is totally doable.’ As a Christian running a business, I operate on Christian principles and that’s how I treat my employees, respectfully. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that everybody has a say. We listen to everyone, and even though they may not have the final decision, they do have a say.

On the biggest challenge she’s had to face: Honestly, Jones Publishing has been in the magazine publishing business for 31 years. We have a very well-trained staff. So, for me coming in, I had never worked in an editor’s position before, so that was probably our biggest challenge or stumbling block. My first issue was a learning experience, but I think we recovered well. (Laughs)

On what she would tell someone who asked her if she was out of her mind for continuing to publish print magazines in this digital age: Of course, we’re not out of our minds. (Laughs) The thing that we have discovered, and we have such niche publications, is that our readers want what we have. Dolls Magazine, which is probably our biggest base where we’re the only one out there, so people want it because they’re collectors. It’s the same with Teddy Bear & Friends; people want it because that’s what they collect and that’s what they’re passionate about. And so if we can provide them information on their passion, they subscribe. And we have our highest renewal rates with those two titles.

On how she balances all of the different titles within her mindset: I don’t have a problem with that at all. Just because I know that there are people in each of these areas who are passionate about what they do. And I’m passionate about what I do. I’m passionate about helping my employees be the best that they can be. And in producing the content that our readers want. I see it more as I’m passionate about what I love, these people are passionate about what they love, so it’s more about the passion of all of it. I don’t have a problem with switching gears and trying to think outside the box.

On a typical day in her life: After I get the kids off to school and I’m headed to work, it bounces everywhere. I was actually working on some of our websites the other day, just because they needed some tweaking. I like to have my hand in everything, because then I know what’s going on. As for running a company, if I don’t know what’s going on in some area, then I feel like I’ve failed, because you can’t keep the plate spinning if you’re not checking on the plate.

On what makes her tick and click about her job: I really love the management part, because I’ve probably done that the longest out of my entire career. But I love the editorial part too. I do not like ad sales. I don’t like doing that. And as publisher, just being able to direct content, and then working with the editors. I really do enjoy all of it. Some of our titles I’m not able to dig in as deep, such as with our aviation titles. I’m involved and aware, but I’m not determining how someone should fix their airplane. But Smart Retailer is one of my favorites as well. All of it is just a lot of fun.

On whether her life in the role of magazine president has been a walk in a rose garden: Well, there are always moments, but they’re fixable, and sometimes they don’t get fixed the way we want. I would never look at my life as a walk in a rose garden, just because of the things that have happened in my life, but you can always find the positive in most anything. And that’s what I try to do, especially for the sake of my kids. That has helped them transition through some different things we’ve gone through in our lives. It has allowed them to see that circumstances do not define who we are. And I think that’s important. We don’t define who we are by the negatives in our lives or the things that go wrong. We define ourselves by what we do about those negatives and how we fix them.

On anything she’d like to add: We have some exciting news; I’ll share that. We were just awarded the Small Business Associations Family-Owned Business of the Year award for the state of Wisconsin. So, we’re very excited about that.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: If you were to show up at my house you would walk in and think I really needed a cleaning lady. (Laughs) It would depend on the night, but I’ll play a game with the kids, or we’ll read a book. On the side, I created a website because our school ward isn’t doing what they should be right now. So, I’ve been challenging them. Yes, you’d find me either sitting at the computer and creating something there or hanging out with the kids.

On what keeps her up at night: Typically and honestly, nothing keeps me up at night. And I try to go to bed knowing that I accomplished what I needed to for the day. The schoolboard has been keeping me up some, however. But outside of that; I love what I do and the more I’ve thought about it, I realize I’m happy with where I’m at in my life. This is where I want to be.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Diana Jones, president and publisher, Jones Publishing.

Samir Husni: You’re the president of Jones Publishing and also the publisher of every single title your company has. And you have a variety of titles, ranging from B to B to consumer magazines. Let’s talk about Today’s Christian Living; can you give me the DNA of the magazine and tell me the mission statement of the title?

Diana Jones: Today’s Christian Living exists to encourage, equip and engage Christians. That’s our tagline and it’s something that I strongly believe in. Christians need encouragement; it’s hard for people to speak out and evangelize and share with others. And equipping, meaning that we want to be a magazine where someone can go and say, ‘here’s how I handle this situation’ or ‘this is what the Bible has to say about it’ or ‘here’s how I can relate this to the culture.’ And then to engage in the culture is the other facet, because we want people to feel comfortable about passing it on to a non-Christian friend, and then they can read about the things that God is doing in our world.

Samir Husni: What type of credibility or authority does Jones Publishing have? Two years ago, Bauer Media launched Simple Grace, which Bauer is a secular company launching a Christian magazine. And you’re the same. All of your other titles are not Christian-based. If someone asks you why are you publishing Today’s Christian Living, what do you tell them?

Diana Jones: For me, we got into this because my husband was a pastor in the early 2000s. And so our heart has always been in the ministry. And then this publication, it was Significant Living at the time, came across our desk. Our printer knew that my husband had been a pastor and told us that he had the perfect publication for us. So, as Christians, we immediately said yes, this is a ministry for us. And it was really exciting for me, and was actually what brought me into the publishing business. I’m a microbiologist. I have a master’s in microbiology. (Laughs) I don’t do much of that these days.

The thing that I was so excited about was just being able to share what Jesus is doing in people’s lives. And that’s how I got into it. When I first came in, I wasn’t thinking, ‘oh, we’re a secular company,’ I was thinking, ‘this is my ministry.’ We spun it off of Jones Publishing, it’s still under the main company, but now it’s called CrossLife, which is the company that we publish it under because we wanted to set it apart.

Samir Husni: As people see the growth of non-traditional Christian magazines, the question some ask is how do you combine a ministry with a business?

Diana Jones: That’s a good question, though for me it’s actually not that hard. We raised support and were pastors on campus at U.W. Madison for five years. And that gave us a good feel for ministry. I worked in the microbiology field for a few years as well, and that’s where I got all of my management experience. I also homeschooled my kids for many years. The Significant Living editor position opened up and I said, ‘this is totally doable.’

As a Christian running a business, I operate on Christian principles and that’s how I treat my employees, respectfully. One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that everybody has a say. We listen to everyone, and even though they may not have the final decision, they do have a say.

Samir Husni: As far as business, I do see what you’re saying. One time I had a group of students who all wanted to start Christian magazines, so I brought in Harold Smith, who is now the CEO of Christianity Today, to speak with them. I figured, let them hear the business side from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The first thing he told them was if they thought they would be working for Peter and Paul, they should think again, because they ran their business like a business. Yes, they are a Christian magazine, but they ran it as a business. While part of it might feel like a mission field, they still had to make money to survive.

Diana Jones: That is so true.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge for you since acquiring Significant Living and changing it to Today’s Christian Living?

Diana Jones: Honestly, Jones Publishing has been in the magazine publishing business for 31 years. We have a very well-trained staff. So, for me coming in, I had never worked in an editor’s position before, so that was probably our biggest challenge or stumbling block. My first issue was a learning experience, but I think we recovered well. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Diana Jones: But for me, that was the biggest stumbling block. As a company, not all of our employees are Christians, and I’m okay with that, because I know that we do things with integrity. And who knows what might happen down the road. I do think that for me the business and the ministry aspects don’t collide the way people say science and Christianity do. Going through and getting my master’s degree in microbiology, no one there was a Christian, to be honest. I took a lot of flak. But I don’t see them as butting heads, I see them working together. And that’s how I see business and being a Christian and being a ministry.

Samir Husni: Did your parents start Jones Publishing?

Diana Jones: No, it was actually my parents-in-law.

Samir Husni: So, you came into a family publishing business, and now you are the president of that family publishing business?

Diana Jones: Correct.

Samir Husni: So, if someone asks you whether you’re out of your mind for continuing to publish print magazines in this digital age, how do you answer that?

Diana Jones: Of course, we’re not out of our minds. (Laughs) The thing that we have discovered, and we have such niche publications, is that our readers want what we have. Dolls Magazine, which is probably our biggest base where we’re the only one out there, so people want it because they’re collectors. It’s the same with Teddy Bear & Friends; people want it because that’s what they collect and that’s what they’re passionate about. And so if we can provide them information on their passion, they subscribe. And we have our highest renewal rates with those two titles.

But I think because we have such targeted audiences, print is never going to be dead. And we are looking forward. I became president in December 2016, and as I’ve been asking my management staff; where are we going to be in two, five, or ten years? Everything is always changing and if in 10 years we’re still where we are today, we won’t be viable.

So, we just hired somebody last month who is now our digital guru, he was with F+W Publications, and that’s what he did there. He will be looking at how we can monetize across all of our titles. And to just grab more people’s attention.

Samir Husni: How do you balance your business brain when you’re dealing with teddy bears, dolls, and Jesus? Is there a difference for you; when you have one magazine that you totally believe in, it’s your mission, and the other magazines are strictly business, unless you collect dolls and teddy bears?

Diana Jones: I don’t have a problem with that at all. Just because I know that there are people in each of these areas who are passionate about what they do. And I’m passionate about what I do. I’m passionate about helping my employees be the best that they can be. And in producing the content that our readers want. I see it more as I’m passionate about what I love, these people are passionate about what they love, so it’s more about the passion of all of it. I don’t have a problem with switching gears and trying to think outside the box. When we got our B to B titles, which are so different from our consumers; I found that I liked the diversity.

Samir Husni: Describe for me a passionate day-in-the-life of Diana Jones.

Diana Jones: (Laughs) After I get the kids off to school and I’m headed to work, it bounces everywhere. I was actually working on some of our websites the other day, just because they needed some tweaking. I like to have my hand in everything, because then I know what’s going on. As for running a company, if I don’t know what’s going on in some area, then I feel like I’ve failed, because you can’t keep the plate spinning if you’re not checking on the plate.

So, a day would look like me seeing things that need to be done, not having anyone at that moment to do it, and me doing it myself. Or maybe talking to the staff, or typically what will happen is I won’t get much done during the day because we try to have a numbers system, like if you’re at the deli where you pick a number and wait in line, and some days it’s like that, there will be a line out my door with people waiting to ask me something. It depends on the day, but they’re never the same.

Samir Husni: What’s your favorite part of your job and makes you tick and click?

Diana Jones: I really love the management part, because I’ve probably done that the longest out of my entire career. But I love the editorial part too. I do not like ad sales. I don’t like doing that. And as publisher, just being able to direct content, and then working with the editors. I really do enjoy all of it. Some of our titles I’m not able to dig in as deep, such as with our aviation titles. I’m involved and aware, but I’m not determining how someone should fix their airplane. But Smart Retailer is one of my favorites as well. All of it is just a lot of fun.

And I told my employees, if there is a time when you don’t want to come into work anymore, come and talk to me and let’s figure out why so we can fix it. To me, that’s probably the most important thing; making sure everybody is doing what they should be, but also that they love doing what they’re doing.

Samir Husni: Some people who read this interview might think your life is nothing but a walk in a rose garden; is that true? Is the role of a magazine president these days simply a walk in a rose garden? Or are there moments that make you wonder why you got into this business?

Diana Jones: (Laughs) Well, there are always moments, but they’re fixable, and sometimes they don’t get fixed the way we want. I would never look at my life as a walk in a rose garden, just because of the things that have happened in my life, but you can always find the positive in most anything. And that’s what I try to do, especially for the sake of my kids. That has helped them transition through some different things we’ve gone through in our lives. It has allowed them to see that circumstances do not define who we are. And I think that’s important. We don’t define who we are by the negatives in our lives or the things that go wrong. We define ourselves by what we do about those negatives and how we fix them.

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

Diana Jones: We have some exciting news; I’ll share that. We were just awarded the Small Business Associations Family-Owned Business of the Year award for the state of Wisconsin. So, we’re very excited about that.

Samir Husni: Congratulations.

Diana Jones: Thank you.

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

Diana Jones: If you were to show up at my house you would walk in and think I really needed a cleaning lady. (Laughs) It would depend on the night, but I’ll play a game with the kids, or we’ll read a book. On the side, I created a website because our school ward isn’t doing what they should be right now. So, I’ve been challenging them. Yes, you’d find me either sitting at the computer and creating something there or hanging out with the kids.

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

Diana Jones: Screaming six-year-olds. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: How many six-year-olds do you have?

Diana Jones: Only one. (Laughs again) Just the other night I was up until about 2:00 a.m. with that one. Typically and honestly, nothing keeps me up at night. And I try to go to bed knowing that I accomplished what I needed to for the day. The schoolboard has been keeping me up some, however. But outside of that; I love what I do and the more I’ve thought about it, I realize I’m happy with where I’m at in my life. This is where I want to be.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Monocle and Garden & Gun: Celebrating 10 Years of Magazine Excellence

March 29, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Ten years ago, from both sides of the Atlantic, two new magazines were launched: Monocle and Garden & Gun. At the time, these valiant titles were diminutive compared to the Titan that according to many threatened to vanquish print: digital. The skeptics believed that the online universe would ultimately force all print to disappear, and there would be no room for (or use, for that matter) a heavy-duty, sink-into-your-favorite-easy-chair-to-read-and-flip-the-pages, well-done, well-crafted magazine, except for maybe something based only on sound bites or fluffy, celebrity news.

In the U.K., Tyler Brûlé, founder of Wallpaper* magazine, launched Monocle with much fanfare and press coverage. The same can be said on this side of the Atlantic when Rebecca Darwin, former publisher of The New Yorker and Fortune, launched Garden & Gun in South Carolina, with the support and funding of newspaper magnate, Pierre Manigault.

Today, both magazines are celebrating 10-year anniversaries with two of the most amazing issues that I have ever seen. With Monocle, it may take me the entire month to finish reading all 300+ pages of the enlightening content within this well-crafted, well-designed and very well reinvented and reengineered magazine. In fact, it was the first magazine I ever awarded the International Launch of the Year.

As for Garden & Gun, I can’t speak highly enough about what they have accomplished through all of the peaks and valleys that they’ve had over the years. Many have written the obituary of the magazine, yet it has proven to be as resilient as a cat with nine lives (sorry dogs), and the magazine today is stronger than ever with content second to none. Both magazines have also seen their share of imitators over the years and have become the standard by which others raise their bar.

So, here’s a toast to 10 years of excellent content and to the power and strength of print well done. In honor of magazines matter, print matters, kudos to Monocle and Garden & Gun.

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Until next time…

See you at the newsstand…

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XY Magazine: A Man, A Mission, And A Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Peter Ian Cummings, Founder & Editor, XY Magazine…

March 29, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Relaunch Story…

“What you’re paying for with a magazine is a work of art. It’s a finely-designed, carefully constructed, beautiful, physical item. A fine magazine is like a sculpture and it’s carefully created. And what you’re paying for is not just a bunch of words, but the beautiful creation of the item by the people who created it. The articles go in a certain order, certain fonts are used, next to certain kinds of photos in certain sizes. It is not the same as just reading the words on the Internet, because you’re paying for the artwork of the creator.” Peter Ian Cummings…

XY Magazine was first launched in 1996 in San Francisco. The magazine folded not long after the economy crashed and the dotcom bubble burst upon the scene. Late last year, the man behind the original launch brought the magazine back to life. Peter Ian Cummings, founder and editor, has that same invincible spirit as his creation and the two are complete soul replicas, reveling in creativity and images that are both controversial and beautiful.

I spoke with Peter recently on a trip to Washington D.C. and we talked about this XY resurrection. Peter is convinced that with the current direction of the LGBT movement, XY is needed more today than ever before. He notes the issues that the LGBT is concerned with today, such as gays in the military, same-sex marriages, and the transgender bathroom concerns, while important, are not the foundations that the movement was built upon. No one is speaking about sexual liberation or the wonder of being a gay man. This is XY’s point of view and a voice that Peter said needs to be heard again.

So, I hope that you enjoy this lengthy and intriguing interview with a man who defines himself as someone who represents the majority of gay men, Peter Ian Cummings, founder and editor, XY Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the folding of XY Magazine and then the relaunch: XY was it launched in 1996 in San Francisco, and then we moved to San Diego, then Los Angeles, but the thing about XY and why it closed in 2010; it didn’t close for lack of interest. It closed because the magazine was owned by three different people, me and two others, and the other two people were only involved in the business parts, and the whole editorial staff was pretty much the same from beginning to end. What happened was me and the two other guys who owned it got to the point in 2010 where we couldn’t stand each other and couldn’t even speak to each other. We published B magazine in between, which was essentially the same magazine, but it didn’t sell as well as XY because people didn’t know what it was, so they didn’t really see it. The first issue of XY, which we just put on sale, Issue #50, sold really well because people recognized it. We didn’t do any promotion for it, it just sold itself.

On the DNA of XY Magazine: XY started as a magazine for young gay men. The spread of demographics in the gay community was different in 1996 than it is now, some 20 years later. At the time, there was no magazines for anybody under 40. When you look at the average age of the readers of the other three big gay magazines at that time, OUT, Genre, and subsequently, Instinct, all of their average age readers were over 35 or 40. And I don’t think OUT magazine even measured readers under 30. So, for us to launch a magazine that was visually aimed at 16 to 25 year olds, was a market that was completely unserved. And still the average age of the readers of gay magazines is around 50. So, when people say that our original readers are probably in their 30s now, while that’s true, we’re still the only gay magazine that serves teens, 20s, 30s, and even 40s. And that’s quite a different thing.

On whether anyone asked him was he out of his mind to bring back a print magazine in this digital age: People always say that about print, and it’s not true. People buy magazines; people like magazines. And there have been all kinds of surveys that I’m sure you know about, which show that teenagers today really like print magazines more and more because they’re having a rebellion against social media, which must worry Facebook and others.

On whether he feels XY and himself are the leaders in the gay movement today: Well, the problem is that the movement barely exists. The majority of gay men have a certain aesthetic and cultural point of view, and feeling about themselves. I believe that XY represents 80 percent of gay men and that the gay institutions, the LGBT magazines and the LGBT movement, do not represent the culture and aesthetic of the majority of gay men in America. Very rarely has a national movement and culture been so out of touch with its rank and file. Two other examples are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. They’re totally out of touch with their rank and file. They don’t represent anybody.

On the biggest challenge he thinks he’ll face and how he plans to overcome it: The biggest challenge that we’re going to face is that the political situation in the country is terrible and it’s rapidly changing. It makes producing the editorial content of any magazine very difficult in this political climate. I don’t want every article to be Trump, Trump, Trump; he sucks all of the oxygen out of the room. And our issue isn’t even against him or for him or anything; our issue is about sexual liberation. And we have to really focus on that.

On the most pleasant moment throughout the relaunch: I have a pleasant moment every day, because people write to me every day; we get this huge volume of reader mail and we always have. They write to us every day and tell us how much they love the magazine. We have so many great writers in this issue of the magazine. We have the producer of Frontline; we have the president of the largest minority gay youth group in the country; my co-editor, who is the former news editor of Lesbian News; Steven Underhill, who is a famous photographer, but in this issue he writes an article about sociology. I’ve got the two biggest fashion photographers in Europe.

On who Peter Ian Cummings really is: Number one, I represent the majority of gay men and I am absolutely clear about that. XY has thrown gay club night all over the country. We had gay club in Oklahoma City and we had a line going around the block that came from a six-state area. We’ve thrown events everywhere, not just in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but as I said, in Oklahoma City, in Texas, Ohio and Michigan, just everywhere. And I know that with the vast majority of gay men, we’re representing what they’re thinking.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly to his home one evening: If I’m home, which I’m not always home, this year, if I’m home, I have been spending hours every day reading The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian and The New Yorker, and watching MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, and watching Stephen Colbert, which I do all of, every day, ten times per day. I’m obsessed with all of the news and finding out the latest thing. And this is bad, I am going to have to go on a news vacation next week.

On the point of view the magazine represents: I think it’s the correct one, because the point of view of the kind of classical gay movement, which we represent precisely the classical gay movement that came from Stonewall and through the ‘70s about sexual liberation. The LGBT mainstream movement has gone in another direction now, about transactional political rights like gay marriage and gays in the military and transgender bathroom rights, things like that, which are all important. But that’s not what we’re doing.

On what keeps him up at night: Primarily, I’m worried about the cruelty of American culture. Almost everyone I know who are Americans are just feeling like they’ve been betrayed by the country and I mean left, right, just everybody. Everyone feels really sad; we’re a very lonely country and there’s a certain economic meanness about the country and I think I could talk about that at great length.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter Ian Cummings, founder and editor, XY Magazine.

Samir Husni: Peter, this isn’t your first time with XY, you started it years ago and then exited the marketplace. You also launched two other magazines, and now you’ve brought back XY. Can you tell me about the relaunch?

Peter Ian Cummings: XY was it launched in 1996 in San Francisco, and then we moved to San Diego, then Los Angeles, but the thing about XY and why it closed in 2010; it didn’t close for lack of interest. It closed because the magazine was owned by three different people, me and two others, and the other two people were only involved in the business parts, and the whole editorial staff was pretty much the same from beginning to end.

What happened was me and the two other guys who owned it got to the point in 2010 where we couldn’t stand each other and couldn’t even speak to each other. We stopped getting along and we just couldn’t reach an agreement, so because we each owned a part of the magazine, we couldn’t reach an agreement on what to do with it, so we had to liquidate it.

It had nothing to do with the market; it had nothing to do with anything, it was just us, the owners, we couldn’t get along. And it took me seven years to reassemble all of the trademarks and rights, which I was working on for a really long time. We went through a lot of litigation for six or seven years, which isn’t interesting, just the typical stuff that happens in business. And then at the end, the editorial staff was all still there and finally I was able to reassemble it all and relaunch the magazine.

We published B magazine in between, which was essentially the same magazine, but it didn’t sell as well as XY because people didn’t know what it was, so they didn’t really see it. The first issue of XY, which we just put on sale, Issue #50, sold really well because people recognized it. We didn’t do any promotion for it, it just sold itself.

Samir Husni: For those people who aren’t familiar with XY, could you tell me a little about the DNA of the magazine?

Peter Ian Cummings: XY started as a magazine for young gay men. The spread of demographics in the gay community was different in 1996 than it is now, some 20 years later. At the time, there was no magazines for anybody under 40. When you look at the average age of the readers of the other three big gay magazines at that time, OUT, Genre, and subsequently, Instinct, all of their average age readers were over 35 or 40. And I don’t think OUT magazine even measured readers under 30.

So, for us to launch a magazine that was visually aimed at 16 to 25 year olds, was a market that was completely unserved. And still the average age of the readers of gay magazines is around 50. So, when people say that our original readers are probably in their 30s now, while that’s true, we’re still the only gay magazine that serves teens, 20s, 30s, and even 40s. And that’s quite a different thing.

There’s a second thing though, which is that we have a lot of gay men of all ages and many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people who read XY, because it’s not a news magazine. XY is a philosophical journal essentially and we write articles about issues such as the relationship between sexuality and economics, the way gay men treat each other, the psychological nature of people’s sexual construction, and international affairs.

We really are a kind of philosophical journal, which is really unique. There’s the Harvard Lesbian and Gay Review, which is now called The Gay and Lesbian Review. But there really aren’t any kind of commercial magazines like that, so we have a very specific thing. The last issue was called “Wonderland” and it was about the direction of the United States. And we had a lot of high-level writers talking about the things that we’ve lost culturally during the rise of inequality, and also about technology. And those aren’t the typical subjects of gay magazines.

So, I’m not saying that XY is for all LGBT people; it isn’t. The majority of gay men and many LGBT people who are looking for a magazine like this, for them it really is meaningful and they treasure it and it’s the only place that represents that point of view, which I think is the point of view of the majority of gay men in the country.

And we could talk about how we believe that the national LGBT press and the LGBT movement have lost their way, because they have stopped being interested in sexual liberation and in sexual construction and in real civil rights.

Andrew Sullivan, who is a famous LGBT writer, and this is paraphrasing, but almost exactly what he once said: effectively, all we need to do is have gays in the military and gay marriage, and a couple of other things, and the gay movement will have done its job and we can go home. But what we’re interested in is sexual rights; we’re interested in the age of consent, and not just in the tolerance of gay male sexuality, but the celebration of gay love and the wonder of gay men.

We always thought that gay men were really special. And that they represent something special, which is kind of a unique point of view and we’re the only ones who really talk about that in the U.S. It’s a very European point of view, and I think it’s quite a Japanese point of view. In Japan, many straight girls really idolize gay men’s relationships, but we just don’t have that kind of culture in the U.S. I think most gay men feel that way, so we represent the hidden majority of gay men, and that has always been our success.

I want to say something else about this, which is that XY has always been relatively high-priced, it sells for $10. We don’t discount our subscriptions, it’s expensive. We don’t have any advertising, but we sell a lot of copies on newsstand, and we have a high percentage of sales. We’ll sell 60, 70 or 80 percent of our copies at $10 per copy, and we don’t do any promotions. We don’t send out 300,000 copies and sell 15 or 20 percent like a lot of magazines. We’re a high-cost magazine and people buy it because it validates their whole existence. And we have a million people out there who idolize XY and came out because of it. It’s not like just any other magazine out there, so it’s a different economic model from the others, because it’s supported by newsstand and by retail sales. The biggest source of income that XY has is retail sales, because our magazine costs twice as much as everybody else’s and we sell a high percentage of copies and we’re now a non-profit, so we don’t have investors, and the magazine pays for itself. It doesn’t need to make a huge profit.

Samir Husni: When you decided to bring the magazine back…

Peter Ian Cummings: Which is something that I always wanted to do. The thing was, in 2010, I wrote that I was leaving and that I was looking for someone else to take it over because I was trying to figure out a financial solution. I didn’t want to involve all of the readers in my petty bickering with my two partners. And I don’t think they did either, because that’s not what the magazine was about. The magazine was about LGBT culture, politics and the meaning of that in life. And I never wanted to involve the readers in that kind of petty, typical business thing. That’s not what it was about.

Samir Husni: But did anybody come to you and ask you were you out of your mind to bring back a print magazine in this digital age?

Peter Ian Cummings: Yes, people did ask that. You know, a certain number of bookstores closed, but now there’s been a huge increase in the past two years in the number of independent bookstores. There are a lot of them. I’m not trying to print 80,000 copies of this monthly magazine; I’m only trying to print 15 or 20,000 in circulation and it’s a quarterly. All of the copies will sell, because we print less copies than people want to buy. If I could print fewer, I would. Right now, I print the minimum number of copies, so that they’ll all sell.

People always say that about print, and it’s not true. People buy magazines; people like magazines. And there have been all kinds of surveys that I’m sure you know about, which show that teenagers today really like print magazines more and more because they’re having a rebellion against social media, which must worry Facebook and others.

Our magazine is not just a throwaway item that you can read on the Internet. People love to have the physical magazines. Not only that, they’re a good investment, because the back issues auction out on eBay for $100. But separate from that, everybody likes the magazine and they like to have the physical product. It isn’t the same as the Internet.

Some people think that we just put our articles online, and this is what I always say to that, I can get a canvas and splatter paint on it and sign Picasso at the bottom. Or I can give someone a blank canvas that has Picasso’s name at the bottom and someone can stick their baby pictures on it; does that make it a Picasso? Or would you like to take one of Picasso’s collages and cut it up into 12 pieces and give it to your grandma and have her put it onto her own canvas in any order that she wants?

What you’re paying for with a magazine is a work of art. It’s a finely-designed, carefully constructed, beautiful, physical item. A fine magazine is like a sculpture and it’s carefully created. And what you’re paying for is not just a bunch of words, but the beautiful creation of the item by the people who created it. The articles go in a certain order, certain fonts are used, next to certain kinds of photos in certain sizes. It is not the same as just reading the words on the Internet, because you’re paying for the artwork of the creator.

You can get someone to write a description of a Picasso painting: Dear Sir, am writing to let you know that a harlequin was standing against a blue background and at the bottom is written Picasso in some kind of old Spanish script. Is that the same as having the picture of the harlequin? No, these things aren’t the same. And I think that people who appreciate a fine magazine know that it’s not the same.

Samir Husni: That’s one of the best answers I have ever heard to that question.

Peter Ian Cummings: Thank you. But the thing is, most people who have made magazines aren’t doing it for that reason. There are artisanal magazines out there, but the thing that makes XY unique is, number one, it is an artisanal magazine, but it also represents what I think is the highest national inheritance of a national movement, the gay movement. The gay movement, as it started at Stonewall, was about sexual liberation and XY is the natural inheritor of the gay movement more than anything else in the country.

Samir Husni: And is that the reason that you went to a not-for-profit, dot org instead of dot com? Do you feel that you’re the spokesperson for this movement now, or the leader of the movement?

Peter Ian Cummings: Well, the problem is that the movement barely exists. The majority of gay men have a certain aesthetic and cultural point of view, and feeling about themselves. I believe that XY represents 80 percent of gay men and that the gay institutions, the LGBT magazines and the LGBT movement, do not represent the culture and aesthetic of the majority of gay men in America. Very rarely has a national movement and culture been so out of touch with its rank and file. Two other examples are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. They’re totally out of touch with their rank and file. They don’t represent anybody.

But, you know, the LGBT movement is not far behind. They do not represent what most gay men stand for and what most gay men feel. We’re a magazine for gay men, by the way, but I’m happy that lots of other people want to read it, because I think that people should admire gay men because gay men are wonderful.

There are no other serious magazines in the country that are for gay men. It’s almost considered politically incorrect not to have a magazine for all lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender. If you try to have one just for gay men, everyone is mad at you for not serving lesbians. I’m not qualified to serve lesbians. This is a matter of gay male aesthetic and the magazine is about gay male aesthetic. When you try and serve everyone, you can serve everyone, but you don’t serve anyone very well.

All I’m saying about XY is it’s an intersection of three things, which makes it uniquely sellable. One is it’s the pinnacle of the aesthetic for gay men, which represents 80 percent of gay men when nothing else in the country either politically or aesthetically in publishing does. That’s number one.

Number two, it’s an artisanal magazine and very few magazines are like that. And it’s the number one thing that validated so many people’s lives. So many people did not commit suicide because of XY; met their boyfriend on the old XY.com; it gave their lives meaning. And people remember it. And it did that for several generations of gay men. And I think that we can introduce it to a new generation, which is what we’re trying to do. It’s absolutely valid and it’s just as needed as it was before, probably even more today.

There’s this idea that because everyone was able to come out, therefore they know everything. And that’s not true. In the 1970s when people came out, they went to gay clubs. The drinking age was 18 when I came out, but it wasn’t enforced. People who were 16 and 17 also went to gay clubs, that was the only way to meet people. They met older gay men and many other gay men. They were introduced to gay male culture and they learned about things. They learned about responsible drinking and responsible sexuality.

Now, the entire gay socializing has been relegated effectively to Grinder and the Hornet, which is a more socially responsible, better toned network than Grinder, but in this country Grinder is the biggest. And people have said that we don’t need gay clubs because we have Grinder; we don’t need gay magazines because we have Grinder. All of these people come out by just having one night stands, and not real great ones at that. It’s destroyed all of the questions.

So, XY, in the philosophical discourse that it represents, is much more needed today than it was before. We think that because everyone gets to come out now, and they have gays in the military and the right to get married, the gay movement has made gay marriage a proxy for gay rights. They say that they achieved gay rights. We didn’t achieve gay rights because forty-year-olds get to get married; we have no process of socialization for gay teenagers anymore, because they just do it on Grinder.

In the past, when we didn’t have gay marriage and gays in the military, paradoxically, people were much better adjusted at younger ages because they were socialized.

Samir Husni: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge that you’ll face and how will you overcome it?

Peter Ian Cummings: The biggest challenge that we’re going to face is that the political situation in the country is terrible and it’s rapidly changing. It makes producing the editorial content of any magazine very difficult in this political climate. I don’t want every article to be Trump, Trump, Trump; he sucks all of the oxygen out of the room. And our issue isn’t even against him or for him or anything; our issue is about sexual liberation. And we have to really focus on that.

One of the problems with Trump is all of his complicated discussion about not judging the discussion. I have opinions about a lot of the stuff he does that I don’t like. I like a little bit of what he does, but mostly I don’t like it.

But that’s not the point, because no one in the country, democrat, republican, or anybody, is really talking about sexual liberation. We need to keep considering questions such as, are gay men nice to each other, how do we conduct our relationships, what would make us feel satisfied with our lives, how do we negotiate our relationships with people, artistic questions, and how do we have wonderful lives? How do we be creative and what is the purpose of gay men in the world? Questions like that.

And we have to really consider those questions and not be drawn into the question of just fighting and fighting, and have every article be about Trump. And yet the landscape of all of the news is shifting so rapidly. And this is a problem for all journalists. It’s just really hard. We’ll have the whole magazine done and then there’s hundreds of crazy developments in the world and we have to delay it. Like right now we’re three weeks late with an issue because there have been so many crazy things that have happened that we have to rewrite everything. We plan to have a comic about somebody who is in the news, and then they’re not in the news anymore, there is some other crazy person in the news. Everything is moving so fast. That’s the problem for all magazine publishers and it’s our biggest problem.

Our other biggest problem is editorial. If we could produce editorial easily; if the world was easier to produce editorial about, it would be much simpler. We have a magazine that everybody wants to buy, and we’re making enough sales to pay for it. That’s not our problem. Our problem is that the world is difficult to write stories about. We don’t just write news stories. We have to come up with some philosophical understanding of the world, and it’s changing so rapidly and it’s so crazy that it’s hard to get anything done.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment throughout this relaunch?

Peter Ian Cummings: I have a pleasant moment every day, because people write to me every day; we get this huge volume of reader mail and we always have. They write to us every day and tell us how much they love the magazine. We have so many great writers in this issue of the magazine. We have the producer of Frontline; we have the president of the largest minority gay youth group in the country; my co-editor, who is the former news editor of Lesbian News; Steven Underhill, who is a famous photographer, but in this issue he writes an article about sociology. I’ve got the two biggest fashion photographers in Europe.

Then there is Max Ryder, who used to be a porn star with the same studio where Glenn Greenwald used to work, and of course, Glenn left and became a journalist with The Guardian and blew the Edward Snowden story and now Max Ryder has left the same porn studio and he’s become a journalist. And all of these great, amazing people are writing in the magazine. We have a black and white teenaged couple kissing at the monuments in Washington.

There is all of these great people in the magazine, and people write in great stuff about the magazine every day, so I never feel bad about the magazine. It’s always been really hard for me to write the articles. People write in and tell me that they really enjoy the articles I write and how amazing they are, but all of the writers in that magazine work really hard on their articles.

Samir Husni: Where did you grow up?

Peter Ian Cummings: I grew up between New York and Washington. My dad used to work for the Federal Government, and his job was in both New York and Washington, so growing up, I lived half in New York and half in Washington. And I used to be the Washington correspondent for the Sun Herald newspaper in Mississippi. And I lived half my life in England. I’m a dual national of the United States in the U.K.

And one of the reasons why I came up with XY in 1996 was because I was able to see American gay culture in the light of British gay culture, which at the time, and even now, is so much more advanced than American gay culture. You almost have to live in another country in order to see your own country in any kind of perspective. And with any young American I would always encourage them to go live in another country. How many Americans have gone and lived in Europe for a year and have had their entire perspective changed?

Samir Husni: So, do you consider yourself a rebel, a leader of a movement to be, a journalist, a gay man; who is Peter Ian Cummings?

Peter Ian Cummings: Number one, I represent the majority of gay men and I am absolutely clear about that. XY has thrown gay club night all over the country. We had gay club in Oklahoma City and we had a line going around the block that came from a six-state area. We’ve thrown events everywhere, not just in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, but as I said, in Oklahoma City, in Texas, Ohio and Michigan, just everywhere. And I know that with the vast majority of gay men, we’re representing what they’re thinking.

And by the way, the reason Trump was elected was not because the Republican Party did something great, it was a failure of the left. It was a failure of the Democratic Party to do anything to represent what actual gay people, black people, Latinos, and everybody else who doesn’t live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and New York were and are feeling. We represent what people out in the country are feeling, to the degree some people might say gay men are some kind of minority.

Who are the largest degree of XY’s readers? Gay men in the Midwest, Utah, Intermountain West, Southwest, Texas, Oklahoma and in the South. We have a lower readership in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington than OUT magazine, and we always have. But our readership out there is higher than any other in the flyover country; higher than any other gay magazine. And we understand what that is.

When people out there in the middle of the country, even wealthier, white voters, who are not here in Virginia, which is five miles outside Washington D.C., everybody knows that both Democrats and Republicans don’t give a damn about anybody outside those four cities. It’s an aesthetic thing, about people who are living in the bubble, the New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco bubble, which by the way, are the four cities in the U.S. that I’ve lived in, well, I lived in Miami for two years, but that’s kind of the bubble too.

I have a Toyota Prius that I bought in 2003 and I have driven it to 48 states. I spent seven years not having an apartment between 2010 and 2017, mostly not having an apartment, and driving all over the country. And I love the actual aesthetic of the country. I love rolling up to the big box store and going to the diners in Oklahoma, and I feel totally at home there. And it’s really great. Given the choice between living in Washington D.C. or living in Mississippi, of course, I’d live in Mississippi.

People out there in the country looked at both Clinton and Trump and they saw that these are people who not only have a faint dislike of the real American culture, which represents 95 percent of the country, but they don’t even know what it is. And I know that XY represents that. We don’t just represent that; we represent the beauty of that and the beauty of Manhattan and the beauty of everything else. We represent actual America. And if the Democratic Party or some other party really got out there and really stood up for a certain set of values, but they also serve an aesthetic that represents the real country, they could get 75 percent of the vote and demolish everybody. But they don’t, and that’s why the left stayed home. That’s why gays, blacks, Latinos and people in the Midwest, South, Intermountain West, and even the upper middle class; that’s why almost every demographic stayed home and didn’t show up and vote for the Democrats. The Democrats lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin because XY readers didn’t show up to vote. Bush was elected because XY readers in Florida didn’t show up to vote, because they weren’t inspired by the Democrats.

XY represents the vast majority of gay men and that’s why it’s so easy for us to sell a piddling 15 or 20,000 magazines. If we had money for marketing, we could probably sell 100,000 magazines.

I’m not exactly a rebel. I think I’m a good magazine editor, and really I’m a student of American studies. I’m an American studies theorist. And I’m also a very good photographer. I will say this about me, a lot of the time people start “gay youth” magazines, but we’re much more than a gay youth magazine.

I used to worry and now I don’t worry when a new magazine is started, because number one, if anybody did start a magazine like ours that was sexy and was also about cultural theory and gave people a purpose and meaning to their lives and was beautiful; if someone else did start something like that, they would have my full support. I wish someone else would do that. But nobody else does that, and no one else is going to do that.

And I don’t worry about competition. I just think that to produce XY you almost have to have been me. I came from a kind of upper class, political establishment family in New York. And I also have been to Ivy League schools. I’m a dual national of the U.K. and the U.S. I have degrees in architecture, film and journalism. I have been a Washington correspondent; I’ve been a London correspondent and a Paris correspondent. And I speak six languages. I played drums in a band. There is a certain combination of things that I’ve done, while there are people who have done that same combination of things, but most of them are working on Wall Street or Silicon Valley.

Most people with the kind of background that I have go into establishment jobs in finance or in tech. And I make one percent of the amount of money that they make, and I work really hard. A magazine is not a get-rich-quick scheme like a disappearing chat app that you do programming on for a little while and then you have an IPO on and make a bazillion dollars. It’s hard work for your whole life, staying up all night, thinking about theories. It is not a lean startup, and it’s not for everybody. And hardly anybody has the qualifications to do it. And if they do have them, they probably are working on Wall Street and that’s why you don’t see too many products like this. It’s a question of what makes life worth living and what kind of life do you want to have. I wouldn’t choose that kind of life and they wouldn’t choose to have mine.

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

Peter Ian Cummings: Just that I think it’s needed now more than ever before.

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

Peter Ian Cummings: Well, you wouldn’t find me having a glass of wine, because I’ve never drank alcohol in my whole life. If I’m home, which I’m not always home, this year, if I’m home, I have been spending hours every day reading The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian and The New Yorker, and watching MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, and watching Stephen Colbert, which I do all of, every day, ten times per day. I’m obsessed with all of the news and finding out the latest thing. And this is bad, I am going to have to go on a news vacation next week.

In fact, one of our writers, Doug Rushkoff , who is the producer of Frontline and chair of the Graduate Media Studies Program at Queens College in New York, is writing an article for this issue about how we should all have a news vacation, because you have to have less news consumption at this time in order to finish the grade, you have to do some beautiful, creative projects. And you can’t do it if you spend all day consuming all of this quick news and none of it matters.

Samir Husni: Do you read them in print or online?

Peter Ian Cummings: I read them all online. I used to tell people that you had to read The New York Times in print, but it’s just become a barrage of news now. In past years, I would lie on the sofa reading a book. I used to read 200 books a year. I would read so many books that I had a library of thousands of books. I would read all kinds, or I’d be writing. I’ve got books that I’m writing and fiction that I’m writing. Or I’d be out editing photos that I’d taken. I take a lot of XY’s pictures and sometimes I don’t even credit them with my own name, because there are so many of them.

I feel like if I write something or I take photos, because it’s me, it draws too much attention to it. If I just go out and take a picture of a bunch of guys at Gay Pride doing something, it’s a beautiful photo, but I just don’t credit it.

If you look at The New Yorker, it has longer articles that are credited, but at the beginning it will have some short articles and they don’t have a name on them because it represents the collective. There are a number of people involved with XY Magazine and they’ve been there a long time, and we work together and we talk all of the time. I talk to the other members of the XY team for some time hours every night. And we’ll have these long, philosophical discussions about the world and sometimes somebody will come up with this crazy angle about something.

The thing with The New Yorker and also with The Economist to some degree, although The Economist has a kind of cutesy take on things, but still these are questions of philosophy. They talk about what it feels like to be alive. XY represents a certain point of view. I’ve always felt like it’s not like I represent a point of view and am trying to spread it among the writers who are mentoring, although we do some of that. But it’s more that certain people have joined the XY team and we kind of bounce off of each other and we formulate a certain point of view. And that point of view is represented in the magazine.

And I think it’s the correct one, because the point of view of the kind of classical gay movement, which we represent precisely the classical gay movement that came from Stonewall and through the ‘70s about sexual liberation. The LGBT mainstream movement has gone in another direction now, about transactional political rights like gay marriage and gays in the military and transgender bathroom rights, things like that, which are all important. But that’s not what we’re doing.

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

Peter Ian Cummings: Primarily, I’m worried about the cruelty of American culture. Almost everyone I know who are Americans are just feeling like they’ve been betrayed by the country and I mean left, right, just everybody. Everyone feels really sad; we’re a very lonely country and there’s a certain economic meanness about the country and I think I could talk about that at great length.

I’m worried about the future of American society, and many times I’ve wanted to go back to England because this place is so mean. The suicide rate is rising among middle class people, among white people; there is a rising rate of immigration among educated, Americans. This has never been discussed. The suicide rate particularly is rising really fast among middle class people.

Every indicator shows that the country is failing and it’s failing 99 percent of the people. There is a vast concentration of wealth within a very small number of people, primarily in Silicon Valley and Wall Street, and as a result we’re all miserable. I’m miserable in so many ways. I’ve been homeless over the past six or seven years several times and I haven’t had health care, and I’ve been really sick a couple of times and couldn’t get health care and have been misdiagnosed. It’s happened to everybody.

Everyone I know, and because of my position in life and where I came from, I do know a lot of people in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, but that doesn’t mean there are a lot of those people in the country. These are a few thousand people who have everything and the rest of us have nothing. And this is getting bigger and bigger. I travel in both circles, so I understand exactly what it is. But I suffer a tremendous amount because of the cruelty of this country, and not that everybody else doesn’t suffer, but I really suffer. I’m scared to death that I’m going to die in the streets because of some random thing that might happen. And I think everybody that I know who isn’t Silicon Valley or Wall Street, has this underlying terror of ending up destitute by tomorrow morning, even if they have a million dollars.

One of my friends who works in Silicon Valley said he wasn’t worried because he had a billion dollars, and I said you could have a fake age of consent prosecution because you live in California, which has 18 as the age of consent, and I think there are four jurisdictions in the world that have an 18 age of consent, California, Wisconsin, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. And nowhere else in the world has that. And this age of consent in California is used by people who hate gay people to prosecute gay men. I know so many people who have been falsely accused of an age of consent violation. You can’t have that in Canada where the age of consent is 14 or in France where it’s 15.

And I said that not only that, because of the way or society is litigious, you could have your stock price crash and lose your health insurance; you could lose everything because of a stock market crash. We have a very unsteady economy. This is the thing, these people on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley think they’re secure because they have a billion dollars. They could get an age of consent prosecution against them tomorrow and they’re ruined and could spend the rest of their days in jail and lose everything that they have. And this happens because America has random enforcement of cruelty and the bottom is zero. In England, I know I can be bankrupt, but I’ll still have health care. I’ll still have nursing home care. I’ll still get free education. They’re not going to let me die in the streets. But we don’t have that solidarity; we’re the only western country that doesn’t. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

People say that I’m bitching about my own situation, and I’m not. Many people in this country lack altruism; they don’t have a feeling for the country the way that British do for Great Britain or French people do for France. Trump appeals to populism. People here don’t have a feeling of solidarity. People feel like they’re going to be the one to become a billionaire; everyone is Jonesing to get ahead in Silicon Valley; they’re getting paid slave wages in temporary jobs, but they think they’re going to have the next Snapchat and when they do, they’re going to step on everyone else and they don’t give a damn about anybody.

But when someone is mean to me, when someone says to me that XY is just a porn magazine, I don’t take it personally. What I see in them is a tremendous desire to conform, a fear that someone will accuse them of being a Porna gay man, they’re trying to conform. They’re really scared that they will be accused of something embarrassing and lose their job and die in the streets. Those cruel accusations and petty meanness’s that we get from bureaucrats in this country, even Trump; he’s never been accepted to the upper class. I come from the New York upper class, so I understand what that class is. Even Trump will never be accepted as part of the upper class in New York. It makes you feel kind of sad for him; he came from a kind of second class place in New York and he will never be accepted by my ancestors and their peers. He’s spent his whole life trying to get into that class, and he’ll never make it. And that’s why the people in the Midwest like him. I lie around and worry about the meanness in the country and it really upsets me because I’m sad we’ve lost our way. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Good Day! Magazine: The National Grange’s New Magazine That Offers A Positive Message To People Who Desire The Grass Roots Beneath Their Feet – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Amanda Brozana, Editor, Good Day! Magazine…

March 25, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Getting that first printed copy. I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.” Amanda Brozana…

The National Grange was founded as a fraternal organization for farm families in 1867 and today is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The icing on the cake for this milestone occurrence for the Grange is the organization’s latest endeavor, the launch of a new print magazine called Good Day! Amanda Brozana is editor of this new publication and is a staunch advocate for all things sustainable and community-oriented, a mindset that aligns perfectly with the 150-year-old, member-based organization. And while the National Grange may be member-based, the magazine is not.

I spoke with Amanda on a recent trip to Washington D.C. and we talked about the fact that the print magazine is geared toward anyone who believes in a grass roots effort of sustainability when it comes to their food and their lives and community caring for all, not just Grange members alone, but the public in general. With its positive title that beckons all of us to have a “good day” and its contents that are written in a wider, more enveloping context, where everyone is included, not just Grange members, the magazine is a breath of fresh air on the newsstand shelves. In a world of chaos, confusion and, oftentimes, a frigidity toward our neighbors, Good Day! Magazine actually succeeds in its encouragement of all to have a “good day.”

And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! Magazine.

*Truth in reporting: Proud to report that Amanda Brozana is a former student of mine…

But first a Mr. Magazine™ minute with Amanda Brozana followed by the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Good Day! Magazine: Good Day! is actually a magazine under the umbrella of the National Grange, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year of being a fraternal family organization. And the concept was that we would introduce the Grange to people who may or may not have heard of it, but also to make our members more aware of what was going on in Granges throughout the country and reconnect them in a way that they haven’t been in several decades.

On the folding of the Grange’s monthly publication and the relaunch of the publication Good Day!: We had the other publication for more than 50 years and it had kind of cleaved itself from the organization as a whole and became almost an entity unto itself. And like many publications, it had its own financial troubles. And so, that was resolved in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I can’t remember exactly when. Introducing the publication again allowed us to bring back a little bit of that heyday and that nostalgia, but also allowed us to connect the primary membership that would be really interested in what was going on nationally with the Grange.

On who came up with the name Good Day! for the magazine: We talked quite a bit here in the office about what the name should be, there’s only a small staff of us, about six, and we had gone through the iterations of Grange News and Grange Monthly, and all of the Grange-oriented ones, but since we wanted to be more of a general interest publication, I had pitched Good Day! along with a couple of others. And we came down to that because it wasn’t used here in the states, and it was available. But also it gives a very positive vibe and right now, the way that our society currently is, we’re not happy; we’re pretty negative. So, I think all of us are looking for that positive news, those positive connectors and connecting moments.

On all of the different movements that are going on across the country today and how she plans on addressing those types of issues and whether just Grange members will be able to access that information: Obviously, our core audience right now are Grange members, just by virtue of who found out that we were going to be publishing, but this magazine really is oriented towards anybody who is interested in both the new food movements that you referred to, or sustainability. As well as issues in their own communities, that idea of volunteerism and being a little bit more than just yourself.

On her most challenging moment: We are a staff of six full-time here in the national office and we have an intern who has been here since February who has really helped us put this publication together entirely from the concept, Kim Stefanick from New Jersey. And I think the biggest challenge is the fact that this publication is just one part of an already full platter, a job that used to be three or four people’s jobs here even ten years ago. Juggling your normal day-to-day and adding this brand new thing, in addition to the other elements of our 150th birthday celebration, it was really a challenge when it came to time management, which I always felt that I was pretty good at, but it was stressful.

On her most pleasant moment: Getting that first printed copy; I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.

On anything else she’d like to add: I think that we play a really unique role and I hope that Good Day! helps reflect that. I hope that the magazine is something that can go way beyond our membership, because there is a need for people to look and think about what they’re doing to improve the lives that they’re living. Many of us talk about whether or not we want bigger government or other organizations involved in making decisions for us or doing things in our lives, and the only way that we get away from that is doing for ourselves and doing for others.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Probably cooking for the household; I have a couple of roommates. I am also playing with my dog or at the dog park with the dog, you never know. Hopefully, as soon as the weather breaks, we’ll have a garden in the back and I think that’s very reflective of what people my age and my generation are doing.

On what keeps her up at night: Besides the fact that I work directly next to the White House and I realize that I have to drive an hour in everyday? No, honestly, what keeps me up at night is that I’m part of a 150-year-old legacy here, and I worry about having 150,000 members, instead of the one million members that we used to have. I worry about what that means for the Grange and what it means in general.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Good Day! Magazine.

Amanda Brozana: Good Day! is actually a magazine under the umbrella of the National Grange, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year of being a fraternal family organization. And the concept was that we would introduce the Grange to people who may or may not have heard of it, but also to make our members more aware of what was going on in Granges throughout the country and reconnect them in a way that they haven’t been in several decades.

Samir Husni: There used to be a monthly publication for the National Grange Society, why did that magazine fold and why did you decide to bring back another publication?

Amanda Brozana: We had the other publication for more than 50 years and it had kind of cleaved itself from the organization as a whole and became almost an entity unto itself. And like many publications, it had its own financial troubles. And so, that was resolved in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I can’t remember exactly when.

From then on, you could notice in trend on all of these organizations like us, where there was a peak of membership in the ‘50s, and that meant that many people were entering the Grange and other organizations like us at 20 and 30 years of age. Those people have stayed with the organization and have aged, so we’re now talking about people who are in their 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, who are a part of the organization. So, their primary mode of connection and communication is still print, yet we were servicing them mostly through digital means, which didn’t make a lot of sense.

So, introducing the publication again allowed us to bring back a little bit of that heyday and that nostalgia, but also allowed us to connect the primary membership that would be really interested in what was going on nationally with the Grange.

Samir Husni: Who came up with the name Good Day!?

Amanda Brozana: We talked quite a bit here in the office about what the name should be, there’s only a small staff of us, about six, and we had gone through the iterations of Grange News and Grange Monthly, and all of the Grange-oriented ones, but since we wanted to be more of a general interest publication, I had pitched Good Day! along with a couple of others. And we came down to that because it wasn’t used here in the states, and it was available.

But also it gives a very positive vibe and right now, the way that our society currently is, we’re not happy; we’re pretty negative. (Laughs) So, I think all of us are looking for that positive news, those positive connectors and connecting moments. And that was the one chosen in the end.

Samir Husni: There are all kinds of movements taking place in the country right now, in terms of things like, returning to the good old days, raising chickens on your balcony, putting a beehive on your roof, all those good things. How are you going to address these issues and do you have to be a Grange member to access the magazine or get that information?

Amanda Brozana: Obviously, our core audience right now are Grange members, just by virtue of who found out that we were going to be publishing, but this magazine really is oriented towards anybody who is interested in both the new food movements that you referred to, or sustainability. As well as issues in their own communities, that idea of volunteerism and being a little bit more than just yourself.

Maybe, it’s because I’m about to turn 35 and I think when you get to your mid-thirties you start having a legacy complex. I don’t have kids, so I have to figure out how to leave my mark, but I think that organizations like the Grange allow you to have those outlets, and so the magazine is allowing us to focus on people who are doing things for others. And also who are having some of the similar values that we have, which is figuring out how to be back to nature a little bit; back to being rooted in community and in your home and sustaining yourself, those types of things.

Certainly, you don’t have to be a member, we hope that everyone gets introduced to what the Grange’s values are what the organization is all about, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a member either. We hope that people enjoy the publication and that we’re a little bit more of a hometown and an in-home used name again.

Samir Husni: In the process of launching the magazine and getting the first issue out, what was the most challenging moment and how did you overcome it?

Amanda Brozana: We are a staff of six full-time here in the national office and we have an intern who has been here since February who has really helped us put this publication together entirely from the concept, Kim Stefanick from New Jersey. And I think the biggest challenge is the fact that this publication is just one part of an already full platter, a job that used to be three or four people’s jobs here even ten years ago. Juggling your normal day-to-day and adding this brand new thing, in addition to the other elements of our 150th birthday celebration, it was really a challenge when it came to time management, which I always felt that I was pretty good at, but it was stressful.

And the way that we overcame it was really compartmentalizing what needed to be done, by whom, and at what point in time. And where could we get assistance? So, we actually reached out to some freelance writers, something that I wasn’t expecting to have to do. I was thinking that we could do all of it in-house, but it just wasn’t going to happen, if we were going to be sure that we had the publication coming together with the quality content that we wanted.

But, I would also add that I think having those outside people writing gave it the shape and perspective that we wanted, of it being not just Grange. So, when we talk about family traditions in this first issue, we talked about the idea that the story would be about more than just Grange members’ experiences with this, but the fact that we had a non-member writing the story allowed them to pull in other resources and other contacts to put into it, that we wouldn’t have probably thought about or had otherwise. And that makes the story more appealing for somebody who doesn’t know a lot about the National Grange.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment throughout this first issue journey?

Amanda Brozana: Getting that first printed copy. I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.

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

Amanda Brozana: I think that we play a really unique role and I hope that Good Day! helps reflect that. I hope that the magazine is something that can go way beyond our membership, because there is a need for people to look and think about what they’re doing to improve the lives that they’re living. Many of us talk about whether or not we want bigger government or other organizations involved in making decisions for us or doing things in our lives, and the only way that we get away from that is doing for ourselves and doing for others.

And people don’t seem to see that. So, I think the Grange and organizations like us have a real place and we just need to refocus in on that. If we had magazines like Good Day! and other ones that tell people how to be more engaged in their communities and show them what it means to really be a good neighbor and a good citizen again. It’s stressful. I drive an hour to go 14 miles every day. It’s hard to go home and think about what I can do to help my own community. Do I really have the time or the patience to do that today? But it’s important. And so I’m hoping that this magazine is part of that revolution to get people to say what do they need to do to make sure that they have the life and the community that they want to live in.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing?

Amanda Brozana: Probably cooking for the household; I have a couple of roommates. I am also playing with my dog or at the dog park with the dog, you never know. Hopefully, as soon as the weather breaks, we’ll have a garden in the back and I think that’s very reflective of what people my age and my generation are doing. We have roommates maybe, instead of large families or small children, and we have pets. We have gardens and we have ways that we are kind of reengaging, getting involved in little things in our communities.

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

Amanda Brozana: Besides the fact that I work directly next to the White House and I realize that I have to drive an hour in everyday? No, honestly, what keeps me up at night is that I’m part of a 150-year-old legacy here, and I worry about having 150,000 members, instead of the one million members that we used to have. I worry about what that means for the Grange and what it means in general.

I don’t know if any of your readers have ever read “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam, it’s a 15 or 16-year-old book now, but he documented the disengagement basically of people from civic and social life and from civic organizations. And we’re still there. We’re still on that downward trend and I don’t know what we will look like if we don’t have organizations figuring out how to get prescription eyeglasses to kids who are in need or socks to the homeless, or anything like that. I don’t know what the country will look like if we don’t have people engaged with our communities. It really disturbs me to think that the Grange and any other organization like us would struggle to survive, and what we would look like without these organizations.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Afropolitain Magazine: A New Afro Lifestyle Magazine That Inspires To Bring All Africans & People Of Color Together Under “One United States Of Africa” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, Founder & Creative Director, Afropolitain Magazine…

March 20, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“We want to do both, (print and digital) because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

“Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou (Keziah) had a dream: launching her own magazine. Keziah comes from a magazine background, working for publications such as Popular Mechanics, UPTOWN Magazine and Vibe. But when the entrepreneurial bug bit, she literally stopped everything she was doing to focus on this project, Afropolitain Magazine.

I spoke with Keziah recently and she told me that what motivated her the most was that she realized there was a lack of a good Afro lifestyle magazine – especially in France, and in a lot of countries in Europe, hence the bilingual aspect of the publication, every issue is half English and half French. So, ignoring the naysayers and the fact that her creative side was much, much stronger than her business side, Keziah took a risk and launched Afropolitain’s first issue. And soon, Issue #3 will hit newsstands.

If passion and belief in your product makes a success, then look out world, Afropolitain is on its way, because Keziah has an ample amount of both. And her entrepreneurial spirit is no more pronounced than her philanthropic one, as she wants the magazine to be a tool that unites all Africans and people of color together to see what a difference they can make in business, fashion, and any other interest that grabs them, by amplifying each of their strengths. It’s a beautifully done magazine and one that Mr. Magazine™ is very excited to see on the newsstand.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who believes, as the magazine’s tagline reads, that her magazine provides “The Afro of Today For Tomorrow,” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Afropolitain Magazine: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

On how she actually created the magazine: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

On the DNA of the magazine: Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

On whether launching the magazine has been simple and easy for her: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

On the most challenging moment for her throughout this journey: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

On why she decided to make the magazine bilingual by creating half in English and half in French: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

On any conflict she finds between her creative side and her newly acquired business side: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise.

On launching with print first, and then considering digital: We want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

On whether anyone asked her had she lost her mind for launching a big, thick print magazine in this digital age: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up at her home unexpectedly one evening: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

On what keeps her up at night: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Afropolitain.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

Samir Husni: So, was it as easy as just deciding it? One day out of the blue, you created your own magazine, just like that?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

That’s when I decided to quit my job and focus on Afropolitain and do the prototype. And from the prototype we did Issue #1 and now the second issue just hit the market and we’re working on the third one. So, it was that wakeup call that motivated me to stop wasting time and to just do it.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name and what is the DNA of the magazine?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I was looking for a unique and different name and a friend of mine, who is an artist, were having the conversation about what the name should be. I wanted something modern and that spoke to young Africans, young black people, and we were exchanging ideas when my friend suggested “Afropolitain” and I thought it was perfect.

Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

And that’s what we hope to do with Afropolitain, I want the magazine to become a tool for people, so that they can grab the magazine and get advice for business, beauty, travel, recipes; learn things about African tradition, modern traditions, just a mix of lots of things. We’re in those Western countries too, so we need to bring everything together to make a great product.

Samir Husni: You’re working on Issue #3 now, so was it a walk through a rose garden for you with the first two issues? I mean, was it that easy?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

It’s an everyday challenge, but it’s worth it. We get a positive reaction from people and we’ve received positive critiques, so it’s good to know that we’re getting somewhere. We just have to keep pushing.

Samir Husni: What has been the most challenging moment for you throughout this journey?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

So, every step of the business is challenging. There are mistakes that we did with the first issue that we corrected with the second issue. And we’re working very hard on the third issue now. Every issue is a challenge for us to make sure we do better each time.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose for the magazine to be bilingual? You have half in English and half in French.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

It was really important to me to have French and English, because I wanted to be able and touch the whole continent, not just the French-speaking countries or the English-speaking countries. Or people just in America or Europe. That’s why it was very important to do both French and English, and to really include everybody from the continent.

Samir Husni: Where are you originally from?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: My origins are Congo Brazzaville (my dad’s side) and Côte d’Ivoire (my mother’s side).

Samir Husni: Being a creative person; being an artist, and being a creative person myself, I know that we think more with passion and our hearts than anything else, yet we have to apply a business type of thinking to most things. Do you feel a conflict between the two when it comes to Afropolitain?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise

But for me, I will say that there can be a little havoc that can take away from me wanting to be creative, such as doing a photo shoot. But, as I said, it’s a learning process, and the longer we go, the better I will learn how to balance the business side without taking away from the other.

Samir Husni: You’ve managed to create almost two magazines in one; it has that flip quality, where on one side it’s geared more toward men and the other side is geared more toward women. And you started with print first, and now you’re considering digital.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Yes, we want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

So, it’s very important to have a digital presence, but we’re going to continue to do both. We’re going to continue making sure that our print magazine is great, but also that people have access to the content wherever they want it.

And the fact that we do men and women, I think with my research into ethnic magazines, I felt like I never really saw a lifestyle magazine just for men, something where men can go and read about business, fashion, traveling, and relationships. Most of the magazines that are geared toward African men are more about politics and the economy. I’m not going to say they’re boring, but I felt like in today’s world African men travel, they go shopping , they like fashion, and they enjoy good restaurants. So, it was important for me to include men too, and that’s why I sort of divided the magazine into two parts, one for men and one for women.

Samir Husni: And when you talked to people about your idea of launching this print magazine, and a hefty-sized one too, we’re not talking about a 96-page publication; Afropolitain is a substantially thick, big magazine, did anybody ask you had you lost your mind for what you were about to do? You were launching a print magazine in this digital age.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

The print product is a great-looking one and we’re going to progress and do better and better, and keep pushing forward. The people that were telling me that print was dead weren’t even in the magazine industry, they were just going by what they had heard or the little bit they did know about the industry. It is more expensive to do print, but it costs money for digital too. To have an app up and running; to make sure the product is good, that’s expensive too. Right now, I want to keep doing both, and in the next year or two, we’ll see if doing print was a good idea or not. But so far, people are reacting very positively to it.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

If we understand that teamwork is important. I’m a creative person, but I can’t write. I have an editor in chief who can write and writers that are terrific, so they make the product look good. That’s another message that I want people to understand, working together is the future. If we want Africa to do better, we have to combine our strengths and create a unit that’s going to move forward together, not just country by country or tribe by tribe. It’s a group effort.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Third Sex: Now And Then. There Is Nothing New Under The “Magazine” Sun…

March 17, 2017

This week’s issue of TIME explores how fluid expressions of gender and sexuality are increasingly moving from the margins to the mainstream. TIME’s Katy Steinmetz reports, “A growing number of young people are moving beyond the idea that we live in a world where sexuality and gender come in only two forms.”

The above quote is taken word for word from the TIME magazine press release this week. As you can see by the cover to the right the issue deals with what some are calling “The Third Sex.”

But, wait a minute. Is it really true that this is a new subject and the young people are talking about this now! I beg to differ and so does He, The Magazine for Men, from July 1953. Yes you read that right: 1953.

The main cover line for that issue was The Third Sex: Transvestites. The Truth About Christine.

The inside headline read: TRANSVESTITES CHRISTINE JORGENSEN: MEMBER OF THE THIRD SEX? The editors wrote in the intro to the story,

“The following article is based on an exclusive interview with Miss Jorgensen’s personal medical advisor. It has been supplemented with research in transvestism and allied fields. The Editors believe it to be the first authoritative report on an area of behavior which has too long been kept from the public.”

So take a look at the article above and judge for yourself. There is a rich history in magazines both old and new for those who are willing to do their homework… There is nothing new under the magazine sun!

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Model Railroader Magazine: Celebrating Over 80 Years Of Publishing Success With A 1000th Issue That Captures Both The Past & The Future With An Authentic Vision – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steve George, Vice President – Content, And Neil Besougloff, Editor, Model Railroader Magazine…

March 15, 2017

“There is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product. And Model Railroader isn’t the only one in our stable. In about six years Trains Magazine is going to have its 1000th issue and. I just don’t see that analog on the digital side, where you show such a longevity, which of course, speaks immediately to its endurance as a brand and to the fact that it has flourished for literally generations and has attracted people with its authenticity.” Steve George…

“We do like to have fun at Model Railroader and our readers are so loyal. It’s so common for us to encounter readers who tell us that they have been reading the magazine since the 1950s or the 1960s, this is very common. And they know these names and the sequences of events, so we have the ability to have a little fun and recall some of these things from the past. The only challenge we have is the balance between newer readers and making sure that they aren’t lost should I make too many references to things that have occurred in the past. So, we can strike that balance and have some fun.” Neil Besougloff…

After over 80 years of publishing success, Model Railroader magazine, the world’s most notable monthly magazine about the hobby of model railroading, has reached a milestone, its 1000th published issue. The magazine, owned by Kalmbach Publishing, has been around since 1934 when Al Kalmbach decided to launch a magazine against all odds. According to legend, Kalmbach couldn’t get a loan from any bank to start his magazine because it was the Great Depression, but somehow he did it anyway, and the rest as they say is history. A long, profitable and passionate history, one that has flourished into 12 different SIP titles for the company.

Steve George is vice president of content for all Kalmbach titles and Neil Besougloff is editor of Model Railroader. I spoke with both men recently and we talked about the past, present and future of the long-running title. The staying power of this legacy brand is a proven strength that cannot be denied and the love and passion the readers have for the brand, both in print and in digital, according to Steve and Neil, is consuming. Even after 1,000 issues, both men are not concerned with resting on their laurels, they’re gearing up for the next 80+ years with authentic content ,print innovation, such as the Color-Logic Special Effects for print process that they used with the recent milestone issue, and a dedication to the brand’s video future and web presence with their subscription-based MRVP (Model Railroader Video Plus) program offered to their readers online.

It’s a compelling past, and a bright future that keeps Steve, Neil, Kalmbach Publishing and Model Railroader magazine smiling and looking toward that next 1000th issue. So, without further ado, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content (all titles), and Neil Besougloff, editor, Model Railroader magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On where he thinks the idea came from that the special interest category is a recent one, rather than a legacy product (Steve George): I think what’s happening is a lot of broader, special interest publishers, and I’ve worked for some of them, have slowly come around to this realization. In many ways, specialized interest has been around all along. Obviously, with companies like Kalmbach and other publishers, they’ve been doing this from day one, as in our case. It’s kind of a reverse Darwinism; we’re seeing that the specialized animal is one that’s surviving in the challenge market because, if they’re done well and they’re authentic enough, they’re going to find those smaller, but more passionate audiences who will stick with them through thick and thin over the years.

On the April issue of Model Railroader, which is its 1000th issue (Neil Besougloff): We wanted to do something to acknowledge this mark with our readers. Usually, we shy away from looking at ourselves, we want to talk about the hobby and tell people how to build model railroads and better enjoy model railroads, but we decided to do something different for the 1000th issue. The readers are our friends; they all know us, even though we may live thousands of miles away. Their passion draws them to us, so we decided to, like in the Wizard of Oz, open up the curtain and reveal the man behind that curtain.

On using the Color-Logic Special Effects for print (Neil Besougloff): We have a very good relationship with our printer, Quad/Graphics. And we are fortunate that they are located within the same county in Wisconsin that we’re in. We were looking to do something different with the cover and talking about an extra color, metallic ink. Our production coordinator was speaking to our representative at Quad/Graphics and she suggested this new process. They showed us some examples and we thought it looked pretty cool, so we decided to try it.

On how he came up with the idea of stacking 1,000 copies of the magazine on the cover to represent the 1000th issue (Neil Besougloff): One day I was looking at Google images, and I don’t know where the idea came from for a stack of magazines, but I was looking for stacks of anything, and I found a photograph of a stack of manila folders that I don’t even remember what they were for now, or why the picture had been taken. So, I thought maybe we should put magazines in a stack like that, and see how big it looks, almost as if it were “Jack and the Beanstalk.” You’re Jack and you’re at the top of the beanstalk looking down on this seemingly endless beanstalk, which would actually be the 1000th issue of Model Railroader on top of this seemingly endless stack of 1,000 magazines.

On whether he thinks as editorial director of all of the brand’s titles, he could achieve the same impact without a print component to the brand (Steve George): No, honestly, I don’t. You’ve said this, and you’ve heard others in the field say it; there is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product.

On the conversational engagement offered to the audience on the editor’s page and the scribblings included from Neil’s notes (Neil Besougloff): With the scribblings on the Editor’s page, one of the page designers that works on the magazine, I think it was Drew Halverson, came up with the idea and the art director showed it to me, and at first I said that it wouldn’t look right. But then the more I thought about it, I finally said why not. And then I asked the people on the editorial staff if they thought we had enough two-word questions to sustain this. It’s easy to do things once; it’s hard to continue to do them. And they convinced me that it would work, so we’re going to keep doing it.

On the common thread that runs through all 12 of Kalmbach’s SIP magazines (Steve George): The common thread here is that we’re as intensely passionate about producing the brands that we do in the different categories as the readers who buy those magazines and who engage with those brands. And that’s something that is consistent, even as diverse as our titles and our interest areas are, that is a consistent thread.

On anything they would like to add (Neil Besougloff): One thing that helped us do this was the thread that’s among model railroad hobbyists; I think they all minored in history in college, because they have this attraction for the subject and most of them are modeling a railroad that’s set in the past. And here at Kalmbach Publishing Company, we’ve always owned ourselves, and we’re packrats. We keep everything. So, when Steve mentioned a little while ago about getting all 1,000 magazines and laying them on the floor side by side, up and down our hallway here in the building, we have all of that stuff. And the staff and our readers and the company just have this awareness of the company’s history and the objects and artifacts, that and the passion our readers have with history; all of it just comes together really easily.

On anything they would like to add (Steve George): To follow what Neil just said, while our history and our legacy is important and our readers see that, especially for some of our longer running brands, as important and have that perspective, we also recognize that we have to be looking forward. We’re not another stodgy legacy publisher just absolutely beholden to ink on paper. That’s’ still a core part of what we do, but we recognize that there are a number of our customers who, in addition to the print core of our brands, also look to us for other types of content.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at either of their homes (Neil Besougloff): You’re going to find me in the basement of my home tinkering with mechanical things: motors, gears; electricity, model train parts. I also have a side hobby of slat cars; I tinker with those as well. I have an antique Ford in my garage, so there’s something else mechanical that I tinker with. It’s a 1931 Ford, so it’s pretty old. That’s what you’re going to find me doing.

On what someone would find them doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at either of their homes (Steve George): (Laughs) That’s impressive, Neil. I’m going to look like a slacker. (Laughs again) You’re going to find me at home with my three kids, one son and two daughters. I’m going to be doing stuff with them. Both my daughters are very crafty, they’re my inroad insight into jewelry and crafts. So, I’ll be spending time with them, but my evenings are spent reading.

On what keeps him up at night (Neil Besougloff): Too much coffee in the evening, I guess. (Laughs) No, I don’t know. It is a tough time for the magazine world and I think about do we have the advertising support anymore; how do we continually find new readers? But none of these are thoughts that are unique to me.

On what keeps him up at night (Steve George): I guess for me it’s just that question of are we doing enough? Are we doing enough for our readers and our customers? Are we presenting them content that they’re going to love and that’s going to be of high quality in all of the ways that they’re going to want to engage with us? Are we devoting enough of our resources to the places where we know they’re going to go, whether it’s in print or online? It really is that question of are we doing enough for them.

And before you read the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content (all titles), and Neil Besougloff, editor, Model Railroader magazine, click here to watch the making of the 1000th issue of Model Railroader.

Samir Husni: Almost 85 years ago when the first issue of Model Railroader started, people could have described it as a special interest magazine. Today, all of the buzz is that the future is in special interest titles. Where do you think this idea came from that special interest magazines are just a product of today and not a legacy category?

Steve George: I think what’s happening is a lot of broader, special interest publishers, and I’ve worked for some of them, have slowly come around to this realization. In many ways, specialized interest has been around all along. Obviously, with companies like Kalmbach and other publishers, they’ve been doing this from day one, as in our case.

It’s kind of a reverse Darwinism, we’re seeing that the specialized animal is one that’s surviving in the challenge market because, if they’re done well and they’re authentic enough, they’re going to find those smaller, but more passionate audiences who will stick with them through thick and thin over the years. And that’s certainly something that’s been a part of Kalmbach’s model. Obviously, we’re as concerned about newsstand as everybody else, but for us our great strength has always been that with our brands we get a very dedicated core of subscribers who keep renewing for the rest of their lives, especially in the case of long-running titles like Model Railroader or Trains Magazine, which we also do and dates back to 1940.

It’s something that I think has positioned us well. We can call Al Kalmbach a visionary for a lot of reasons; I don’t know that he envisioned today’s marketplace (Laughs), but I’m certainly glad that he did what he did, because it’s producing a very good position with strong brands that really resonate with our readers and they stick with us.

Samir Husni: And the fun part, of course, is that he started the magazine as a side business.

Neil Besougloff: (Laughs) Yes, he was a printer with a passion for trains and model trains and he made the magazine on a whim. It was the Depression, and the story goes that there were no banks that would loan him any money to launch the magazine, but he just went ahead and did it anyway.

Samir Husni: Neil, Steve mentioned the power of the brand and the relationship with the audience. The April issue, which is the magazine’s 1000th issue, is a testament to that brand power and longevity. Can you tell me a little bit more about that April issue?

Neil Besougloff: We wanted to do something to acknowledge this mark with our readers. Usually, we shy away from looking at ourselves, we want to talk about the hobby and tell people how to build model railroads and better enjoy model railroads, but we decided to do something different for the 1000th issue. The readers are our friends, they all know us, even though we may live thousands of miles away. Their passion draws them to us, so we decided to, like in the Wizard of Oz, open up the curtain and reveal the man behind that curtain.

Samir Husni: You mention in your editorial that you used the Color-Logic Special Effects for print, can you tell me more about that?

Neil Besougloff: We have a very good relationship with our printer, Quad/Graphics. And we are fortunate that they are located within the same county in Wisconsin that we’re in. We were looking to do something different with the cover and talking about an extra color, metallic ink. Our production coordinator was speaking to our representative at Quad/Graphics and she suggested this new process. They showed us some examples and we thought it looked pretty cool, so we decided to try it. And I just want to thank Quad/Graphics because we didn’t even know this process existed until they suggested us trying it.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the idea of stacking 1,000 copies of the magazine on the cover to represent the 1000th issue?

Neil Besougloff: One day I was looking at Google images, and I don’t know where the idea came from for a stack of magazines, but I was looking for stacks of anything, and I found a photograph of a stack of manila folders that I don’t even remember what they were for now, or why the picture had been taken. So, I thought maybe we should put magazines in a stack like that, and see how big it looks, almost as if it were “Jack and the Beanstalk.” You’re Jack and you’re at the top of the beanstalk looking down on this seemingly endless beanstalk, which would actually be the 1000th issue of Model Railroader on top of this seemingly endless stack of 1,000 magazines.

It was kind of hard to pull off because it’s easy to imagine in your mind what such a stack would look like, but in reality once the stack of magazines gets to about three or four feet, it falls over. So, we had our photographer on a ladder, I think it was a 12-foot stepladder, shooting straight down on about a three and a half foot stack of magazines. He used a couple of different lenses to exaggerate the “Jack and the Beanstalk” effect. Then through the magic of Photo Shop, we took these photos and put them together and changed the size and a bit of the orientation, then a little more Photo Shop magic, it looked like a stack of magazines that would seemingly go on for 1,000 issues.

Steve George: What’s funny is it’s hardly an exaggeration. The cover is a great impression of the tenacity and the longevity of the magazine. We depict a stack of 1,000 issues on the cover, but one of the other things that we did was get every copy of Model Railroader out of our library and laid them out side by side here in the office on the floor, and shot a video for our website of the whole visual history of the magazine.

And that line of magazines ran from one end of the building to the other, and almost back again. It was quite an event here in the building and it took a while for our video folks to shoot it. They were on a cart slowly going down the hall and back. Obviously, we couldn’t put that on the cover, that would have required quite a foldout. And you look at all of those covers and at how the magazine has changed over time. From the first issue, which was a mere pamphlet; from that modest beginning to this brand that is so great today; it’s truly awesome. And I use that word in its truest sense.

Samir Husni: Steve, being the editorial director of all of the titles, do you think that you could ever achieve the same visual and editorial impact if you did not have a print component?

Steve George: No, honestly, I don’t. You’ve said this, and you’ve heard others in the field say it, there is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product.

And Model Railroader isn’t the only one in our stable. In about six years Trains Magazine is going to have its 1000th issue and. I just don’t see that analog on the digital side, where you show such a longevity, which of course, speaks immediately to its endurance as a brand and to the fact that it has flourished for literally generations and has attracted people with its authenticity. And has a dedicated staff who are also lovers of the hobby and true experts in their field, and who deliver authentic content that readers continue to respond to year in and year out. I really do mean it when I say, here’s to the next 1,000 issues because I think Model Railroader will last that long and beyond. I don’t expect I’ll be here to see it (Laughs), but I have every confidence that day will come.

Samir Husni: Neil, you engage your readers with a conversation in your Editor’s Letter, even allowing them to read scribblings from your notes. Tell me about that dialogue between you and the audience in the 1000th issue.

Neil Besougloff: As I said earlier, we try not to make ourselves part of the content. So, we had to let go of that idea for this issue. With the scribblings on the Editor’s page, one of the page designers that works on the magazine, I think it was Drew Halverson, came up with the idea and the art director showed it to me, and at first I said that it wouldn’t look right. But then the more I thought about it, I finally said why not. And then I asked the people on the editorial staff if they thought we had enough two-word questions to sustain this. It’s easy to do things once; it’s hard to continue to do them. And they convinced me that it would work, so we’re going to keep doing it.

I figured our readers would ask why there was handwriting on the magazine, so I would rather explain it to them, in this case in the editorial, than to have them puzzled about something. I really believe our job is to have our readers enjoy the magazine, enjoy their hobby, and to not have to work very hard to read the magazine or to turn the page. We try not to use any kind of jump lines ever; we try to make everything linear. I don’t want the reader to have to fight to read the magazine.

As far as the content goes, I wasn’t lying when I said that we have been asked for decades to write a story about the layout here at Kalmbach’s building in Wisconsin. And it truly is in the magazine frequently, because we use that as sort of our test workshop for different stories that are written by staff members, rather than stories that are written by outside hobbyists. So, it was just time to put all of that stuff together.

And then to write the story, I looked at the 50th anniversary issue of Model Railroader magazine back in 1984 and there was a fictional character that was named Boomer Pete, which was a railroad name. He had written a story about visiting the company at the 50-year mark and he made reference to the fact that he was part of the early days; he was a columnist, which was true. I devised this idea that we would have his son come visit us for this 1000th issue.

And what this allowed me to do in writing the story was to be able to ask questions about the layout and make comments in the story that would have maybe been a little awkward for one of the actual staff members to do, but by using a pseudonym you could ask and answer questions and make observations that were more from a visitor’s point of view than a staff member’s.

Steve George: Neil, do you know who the original Boomer Pete was? It was Al, right? He was the alter ego for one of the staffers, correct?

Neil Besougloff: In the beginning, it was Al Kalmbach, and recently I found out that during the 50th anniversary, Russ Larson, who was one of the staff members, and went on to become the publisher of the magazine, wrote that story in 1984.

We do like to have fun at Model Railroader and our readers are so loyal. It’s so common for us to encounter readers who tell us that they have been reading the magazine since the 1950s or the 1960s, this is very common. And they know these names and the sequences of events, so we have the ability to have a little fun and recall some of these things from the past. The only challenge we have is the balance between newer readers and making sure that they aren’t lost should I make too many references to things that have occurred in the past. So, we can strike that balance and have some fun.

With this issue, we had eight pages of readers writing in about their favorite issues, which most of them were quite a while ago. So, they understand the whole body of work and they’re with us. They see it as we’re making this magazine for each one of them and they have this relationship with us, even though it exists through ink on paper, over hundreds, if not thousands of miles.

Samir Husni: Steve, when you think about the 12 SIP magazines that Kalmbach publishes, from Astronomy to Discover, from Bead & Button to Trains to Drone 360, and using your vision as editorial director, what is the common thread that runs through all of the magazines?

Steve George: The common thread here is that we’re as intensely passionate about producing the brands that we do in the different categories as the readers who buy those magazines and who engage with those brands. And that’s something that is consistent, even as diverse as our titles and our interest areas are, that is a consistent thread.

I started here almost five years ago as the editor of Discover, which seemed in many ways very different from the portfolio that Kalmbach has, but one of the things that I realized very quickly was just like Trains or Astronomy or Model Railroader, there was a passionate base of readers there who were intensely curious about science and intensely curious about the world.

I came from service magazines, so for me, I thought, let’s look at this through the lens of engagement, as we do with our other titles. Let’s do everything we can to make them feel that they’re part of a conversation with the editors and to show them that this isn’t just our magazine, it’s their magazine as well. And I would say that’s a pretty consistent thread that’s been part of Kalmbach’s legacy, and it’s something that when I took over this role one year ago, I immediately saw was not broken. So, I’m not going to try and fix it just to make my mark. (Laughs) That’s the secret sauce and it’s not really that big of a secret.

You look at your customer as the boss of everyone and you find a way within each of the different brands to deliver content that speaks to them and their passions. And also you need to articulate your own passions and enthusiasm as well. And even though you may never actually meet your customers and you’re separated by distance and time, they’re going to respond to that. It’s something that has been consistent and it’s something that, obviously, the editors here needed no direction from me on.

It’s funny, a year ago I did meet individually with the editors. Neil was the first that I sat down with, and that was one of my first questions for each of the editors so that I could understand a little bit more about their particular audience and their particular interests and needs. And they all have very unique interests and desires, things that look for from us and our individual brands, but the one thread that remains consistent is that this magazine is their magazine too, whichever title we’re talking about.

And they have a certain expectation. And even if they’re not necessarily articulating it this way, they respond to a level of authenticity in the content of our brands that can only come from a staff who is just as passionate as they are, and who truly embraces those special interests and categories that they serve. So, if anything, I just want to continue to reinforce that as we go forward. It really is the tie that binds all of our brands together.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that either of you would like to add?

Neil Besougloff: One thing that helped us do this was the thread that’s among model railroad hobbyists; I think they all minored in history in college, because they have this attraction for the subject and most of them are modeling a railroad that’s set in the past.

And here at Kalmbach Publishing Company, we’ve always owned ourselves, and we’re packrats. We keep everything. So, when Steve mentioned a little while ago about getting all 1,000 magazines and laying them on the floor side by side, up and down our hallway here in the building, we have all of that stuff. And the staff and our readers and the company just have this awareness of the company’s history and the objects and artifacts, that and the passion our readers have with history; all of it just comes together really easily. And the readers appreciate the recognition of the past and the model railroading of the past. They don’t just live for today or live for tomorrow, but they embrace the past as well. So, we were able to pull it off.

Steve George: To follow what Neil just said, while our history and our legacy is important and our readers see that, especially for some of our longer running brands, as important and have that perspective, we also recognize that we have to be looking forward. We’re not another stodgy legacy publisher just absolutely beholden to ink on paper. That’s’ still a core part of what we do, but we recognize that there are a number of our customers who, in addition to the print core of our brands, also look to us for other types of content.

That’s one of the things that Model Railroader as a brand has been very innovative about. We do a lot of how-to videos and have various other programming that exists on our website, and in fact, exists as a separate brand, if you will, or sub-brand, which is MRVP (Model Railroader Video Plus) and it’s an online subscription service. We do fresh video content weekly, and actually David Popp, who is in charge of that; it was actually his idea to lay out all of the magazines on the floor, thinking rightly that it would make for an impressive video.

So, we don’t rest on our laurels. We do absolutely celebrate and cherish our history; it’s part of our DNA. But we also want to make sure that as our readers, even as our oldest readers are starting to embrace, perhaps grudgingly in some cases, their Smartphones, iPads and computers, that we’re there on all platforms. While they still want the print experience, and they’re always going to want that, they’re voracious in their desire for fresh content, so we’re going to do what we can to give it to them in other platforms that they’re going to embrace, especially digital.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to either of your homes one evening after work, what would I find you doing; playing with a model train; having a glass of wine; watching TV; cooking; or something else?

Neil Besougloff: You’re going to find me in the basement of my home tinkering with mechanical things: motors, gears: electricity, model train parts. I also have a side hobby of slat cars; I tinker with those as well. I have an antique Ford in my garage, so there’s something else mechanical that I tinker with. It’s a 1931 Ford, so it’s pretty old. That’s what you’re going to find me doing.

Steve George: (Laughs) That’s impressive, Neil. I’m going to look like a slacker. (Laughs again) You’re going to find me at home with my three kids, one son and two daughters. I’m going to be doing stuff with them. Both my daughters are very crafty, they’re my inroad insight into jewelry and crafts. So, I’ll be spending time with them, but my evenings are spent reading.

In my office at home, basically I have this little corner (Laughs), it’s really my wife’s house, and in this corner I have a desk with my iPad and I’m usually reading off of that. I’ll be searching various websites, looking at industry stuff or other categories or competitors for our brands and doing my own reading for pleasure. But right next to that is a stack of magazines. Ours and a lot of other folks’ issues. And right next to that is my vintage drugstore comic book spinner rack, which I have stuffed with tons of my old comics and which is still my great pleasure. One of the biggest pleasures for me is to walk into that space and smell that great smell of old, pulpy comics and magazines.

In many ways, the 1000th issue kind of intrigued me because of that. In fact, in my very first conversation with Neil, we were talking and I did this very quick math and said this magazine has been around since 1934, you’ve published monthly for all of this time, even war years, so we have to be close to our 1000th issue. And as you probably know, in comics, the 25th, 50th, or 100th issue, it doesn’t matter, they look for every opportunity to promote that as something special and an event. And I thought, whether you’re reading comics or Model Railroader, there’s that level of passion and engagement, where any kind of milestone is going to be a great opportunity to celebrate and be an event. So I thought that the 1000th issue would be a really cool thing for us to do. But yes, that’s me. I’m reading mostly, either digitally or in print.

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

Neil Besougloff: Too much coffee in the evening, I guess. (Laughs) No, I don’t know. It is a tough time for the magazine world and I think about do we have the advertising support anymore; how do we continually find new readers? But none of these are thoughts that are unique to me.

Steve George: I guess for me it’s just that question of are we doing enough? Are we doing enough for our readers and our customers? Are we presenting them content that they’re going to love and that’s going to be of high quality in all of the ways that they’re going to want to engage with us? Are we devoting enough of our resources to the places where we know they’re going to go, whether it’s in print or online? It really is that question of are we doing enough for them and I’m afraid the answer is no. (Laughs) We could be doing more, but I suppose that’s a good thing. I would be worried if the answer was yes, we’re good. (Laughs again) To me that would be the path to the road of complacency and that wouldn’t be good for any of us.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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