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ROVA Magazine: A New Magazine For Millennials Who Love Their RV’s & Hitting The Open Road For Epic Adventures – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Gemma Peckham, Publisher & Editor, ROVA Magazine…

March 3, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

ROVA Issue 1“Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.” Gemma Peckham (On whether she’s out of her mind for launching a print magazine for millennials)…

RV’s and millennials, the two haven’t necessarily gone together in the past, but a new title called ROVA thinks that they certainly do conjoin on today’s modern roadmaps. Gemma Peckham is a publisher and editor who works for an Australian company that has decided the United States has the right canvas to paint this particular portrait of millennials and RV’s on. And from the feedback she said she is receiving from the magazine’s premiere issue, they seem to be right.

I spoke with Gemma recently and we talked about the uniqueness of the concept. The premise is many millennials and Gen Xer’s are taking to the open road to work, explore and experience authentic, retro life. It’s a niche area usually reserved for retirees, but Gemma said that is no longer the case. From research she conducted herself; she discovered that RV buyers in the U.S. were getting younger by the mile and were off to find epic adventure in their homes on wheels.

Gemma herself is a digital nomad, as she describes younger people who like to jump in an RV and go, she loves road travel and she loves print magazines. And she believes that many millennials are a bit Internet fatigued, as she puts it, and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with her. There is nothing like the tangible print experience.

So, grab your paper map and your homey RV and let’s hit the road with Gemma Peckham, publisher and editor, ROVA magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

Gemma PeckhamOn whether she thinks she’s out of her mind for launching a print magazine for millennials: (Laughs) That is a very good question, and one that I’ve been asked numerous times. Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.

On what her thinking was behind the premise of RV traveling for millennials: I’m from Australia and it came about because I work at a publishing company there, which I’ve brought here to New York, and we had a magazine there for RV traveling and it was called “Caravanning Australia” and it was very targeted toward the retired market, the audience had an average age of about 60 or so. When I decided to come here and bring the company over to the states, I looked at RVing here, because obviously we have experience in that area. And I did a bit of research and one of the things that I discovered was that the largest group of people buying RV’s currently is between the ages of 35-44. So, the demographic is slowly, but surely getting younger.

On the biggest challenge she faced in launching this first issue: Number one for us is this is the very first magazine that we’ve made in the United States. So, in terms of just making people aware of who we are and what we do, and then also trying to communicate the idea for this magazine to them was a bit of a challenge. And I guess that relates to advertising as well, as you said, some people asked were we crazy for doing a print magazine for millennials who are RV enthusiasts. They thought it was a very strange concept.

On how she is combining her passion for the magazine with business: In ROVA’s case, this is both. The stories that we have here and the kind of content that I’m curating for the magazine is really what I would like to read and other travelers that I know would like to read. We’ve created the design so that it appeals to people in my age group. But by the same token, I’m fully aware of the fact that we really need to make sure that what we’re putting into the magazine is really appealing to advertisers, because without them it’s not going to work.

On the future and other plans in the works: We definitely have more plans. ROVA is obviously our flagship publication at the moment, it’s the one we’ve been able to promote and it’s doing quite well. We think it’s doing quite well from the feedback we’re getting. The plan for ROVA is just to grow it, make it bigger and get it out there, and build on that. But Executive Media Global is a publishing company that’s based on a model in Australia where we have 50 or 60 different titles that we produce every year.

On her plan for connecting ROVA with its audience: Digital is a big part of it for us, simply because that’s where millennials and Gen Xer’s go to get their information. Other than that, we’re going toward a number of RV shows. For example, Escapees, which is a big RV club and they have a big yearly event. So, we have a booth and we’re going out there, where we’ll actually be talking to people and connecting with them, and showing them the magazine. We have plans to do a few of those over the next few months to get this first edition out there.

On whether she found any differences in traveling with an RV in the United States versus Australia and New Zealand: It’s very similar in one way, which is the size of the country. The size of the U.S. is very similar to the size of Australia. Road trips are a really big part of the way people explore their own countries. So, that’s very similar, both here and in Australia.

On any plans to take the magazine to Australia: I don’t know. I believe Australia is moving in a similar direction with the age of the people who are taking up the RV way of traveling. It could work. I think probably what we would do, because this is a very U.S.-centric publication, we could potentially make an Australian focus, and I think that’s definitely something that isn’t out of the question. It’s something that we have the resources to do.

On anything she’d like to add: The main thing that I’m experiencing is I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the feedback that we’ve gotten and the way that people receive new magazines here. It’s very different than t is in Australia; people really give you kudos if you have an idea and you take it to the market and if you have passion behind the product, I think that people react in a really positive way. And that’s something that I’ve been really surprised by; the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten for this magazine. And that’s one of the things that make me happiest and most satisfied doing this, just seeing the reaction from people. And feeling like that we’re on the right track.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: It will depend upon how hard the day was. After a very hard day, yes, it will be binge-watching TV and having a glass of wine. Otherwise, I know it’s very strange, since I work in publishing, but I like to read when I go home. I’ll read the latest book that has caught my attention, or just having dinner with my husband and chatting, just catching up on the day.

On what keeps her up at night: Usually I go to sleep pretty quickly, but the status of politics in this country probably keeps everyone up. (Laughs) But usually I’m just daydreaming about different things, whether it’s personal or something to do with the magazine. And new ideas, imaginations, travel destinations, things like that. I’m always thinking of what’s next in my life, so that takes up a lot of my headspace when I have free time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gemma Peckham, publisher and editor, ROVA magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re embarking on this new venture, a print magazine, for millennials. Are you out of your mind?

ROVA Issue 1Gemma Peckham: (Laughs) That is a very good question, and one that I’ve been asked numerous times. Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.

Samir Husni: Not only is there a tendency for people to think you might be crazy because this magazine is targeted toward millennials and it’s in print, but you might be considered double-crazy because it’s for millennials who also like to travel in RV’s, rather than retirees. When most people think about RV travelers, retirees come to mind. What was your thinking on this?

Gemma Peckham: I’m from Australia and it came about because I work at a publishing company there, which I’ve brought here to New York, and we had a magazine there for RV traveling and it was called “Caravanning Australia” and it was very targeted toward the retired market, the audience had an average age of about 60 or so.

When I decided to come here and bring the company over to the states, I looked at RVing here, because obviously we have experience in that area. And I did a bit of research and one of the things that I discovered was that the largest group of people buying RV’s currently is between the ages of 35-44. So, the demographic is slowly, but surely getting younger.

And that seemed very positive to me, because I’ve been all over RVing myself, and I’m just a millennial, right on the cusp between a millennial and Gen X, and I’ve driven an RV across the states, around New Zealand, and in Europe. And to me there is a culture there that is really growing that isn’t necessarily catered to by any of the publications out there at the moment. The main RV magazines in America are “MotorHome” and “Trailer Life” and they do incredibly well. They’re geared toward the older, retired RV users, but there is this whole contingent of people who are missing out on a quality, print product that speaks to them and shows the kind of experiences that they want.

So, we set up shop and we’ll see how it goes. There’s obviously a bit of a lack in the market. We thought that we could reach a younger audience and appeal to millennials. And we’re giving it a shot. We’ll see how it goes. So far, the feedback has been great. We’ve managed to sell some advertising, and obviously that was a very important thing. I’m hoping that it will keep growing.

Samir Husni: As I look at the first issue, which recently hit newsstands, what was the biggest challenge that you had to face in launching it and how did you overcome that challenge?

Gemma Peckham: Number one for us is this is the very first magazine that we’ve made in the United States. So, in terms of just making people aware of who we are and what we do, and then also trying to communicate the idea for this magazine to them was a bit of a challenge. And I guess that relates to advertising as well, as you said, some people asked were we crazy for doing a print magazine for millennials who are RV enthusiasts. They thought it was a very strange concept.

Being able to communicate this vision that was something a bit different and probably unexpected was a bit of a challenge. But when you have something that you really believe in as we do, it’s easier. I have a vested interest in it just because this is the kind of stuff that I love. Our sales team is really excited about the product, so all of that has really helped to communicate to people what we’re doing. And it’s turned out well. In the first edition we have something like 15-16 advertisers, and in the next edition, which we’re working on now, we have a similar amount already, so it looks like it’s going to be a little bit bigger.

In terms of challenges, just really making ourselves known and getting the word out about what we’re doing would be the number one challenge.

Samir Husni: You wrote in the first issue that you started ROVA because you love road travel and you love print magazines. So, is it a magazine based on passion? How are you combining the passion part with the business part?

Gemma PeckhamGemma Peckham: It’s definitely a bit of both. When I was in Australia I tried to start a similar magazine, but it was more global travel than RV travel. And that was something that was definitely a passion for me, because I have traveled a lot and it was something that I felt really strongly about. And I think we did have a really strong niche for that magazine, but it was competing with a lot of other travel magazines and it just wasn’t getting the advertising that it needed to. From that experience I learned that it doesn’t really matter how much passion you have for something, if it doesn’t fit into a market in some way, it may not work.

But in ROVA’s case, this is both. The stories that we have here and the kind of content that I’m curating for the magazine is really what I would like to read and other travelers that I know would like to read. We’ve created the design so that it appeals to people in my age group. But by the same token, I’m fully aware of the fact that we really need to make sure that what we’re putting into the magazine is really appealing to advertisers, because without them it’s not going to work.

We’ve put a lot of effort into marketing; we had a 1,000 followers on Instagram before the magazine was even launched, which was great. It’s really a matter of balancing the two. I’ve been working in magazine publishing for 10 years and over that time I’ve learned that no matter how much you want something to work, it’s not going to unless you have a business plan in place as well.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about your future plans. You’ve established a magazine and yourselves in the United States; what’s next? Is ROVA going to be the entire ball of wax or you have other things in the works?

Gemma Peckham: We definitely have more plans. ROVA is obviously our flagship publication at the moment, it’s the one we’ve been able to promote and it’s doing quite well. We think it’s doing quite well from the feedback we’re getting. The plan for ROVA is just to grow it, make it bigger and get it out there, and build on that. But Executive Media Global is a publishing company that’s based on a model in Australia where we have 50 or 60 different titles that we produce every year.

So, what we’re trying to do here is build a publishing company in a similar way and it will take a while. We already have another magazine that we’re working on, which is a custom publication for a private club in New York City, in Manhattan. What we do for them is produce a magazine for their membership and the magazine is sent to every member of this club, as well as targeted to essential members. So, that’s another aspect of the business that we established in Australia and we’re trying to establish here, custom publishing on behalf of organizations, clubs and those sorts of things. And that’s what we’re looking at for the moment, just trying to get some partnerships happening and build a stable of publications.

Samir Husni: What is your mechanism for connecting ROVA, the printed magazine, with its audience?

Gemma Peckham: Digital is a big part of it for us, simply because that’s where millennials and Gen Xer’s go to get their information. Other than that, we’re going toward a number of RV shows. For example, Escapees, which is a big RV club and they have a big yearly event. So, we have a booth and we’re going out there, where we’ll actually be talking to people and connecting with them, and showing them the magazine. We have plans to do a few of those over the next few months to get this first edition out there.

Other than that, just reaching out to PR companies; sending out press releases. We’ve been interviewed by a couple of the online RV news sources, industry people, manufacturers and dealers. So, it’s really just a matter of finding the kinds of people that we think would disseminate this kind of information, putting ourselves in front of them and hoping they see enough value in our product to tell their audiences about it.

Samir Husni: Content-wise, you mentioned that you’ve taken a few trips in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Did you find any differences between traveling with RV’s here, in the United States, versus other countries?

Gemma Peckham: It’s very similar in one way, which is the size of the country. The size of the U.S. is very similar to the size of Australia. Road trips are a really big part of the way people explore their own countries. So, that’s very similar, both here and in Australia.

But I do think that in the United States there’s a bigger group of younger people who are doing this. What they’re trying to do is get out and see their country, have these really authentic experiences. They’re all about living life on their own terms, so they’re trying to make a life for themselves that they enjoy. A lot of them work through this too; they call themselves digital nomads. So, they might be graphic designers or writers or photographers. There’s a lot of that happening here; instead of people doing a normal 9 to 5 job, they decide to get out and work from there. And I think that’s something that’s a lot bigger here than it is in Australia. In general though, the cultures are pretty similar. Hit the road, drive to the place that you’ve always wanted to see, interact with people along the way, and just enjoy yourselves.

Samir Husni: I noticed that the company that’s publishing the magazine, Executive Media Global, lists not only New York, but Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Any plans to take the magazine to Australia?

Gemma Peckham: I don’t know. I believe Australia is moving in a similar direction with the age of the people who are taking up the RV way of traveling. It could work. I think probably what we would do, because this is a very U.S.-centric publication, we could potentially make an Australian focus, and I think that’s definitely something that isn’t out of the question. It’s something that we have the resources to do.

The thing with launching a magazine here as opposed to in Australia, we just have such a huge audience as a population; I can’t remember what exactly the difference in population is, but it’s quite substantial. Australia only has 20-25 million people, where the U.S. is around 370 million. I think ROVA is working because we really do have a large audience, but in Australia, we did very well with “Caravanning Australia” magazine, so it’s definitely something we’ll look at down the road.

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

Gemma Peckham: The main thing that I’m experiencing is I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the feedback that we’ve gotten and the way that people receive new magazines here. It’s very different than t is in Australia; people really give you kudos if you have an idea and you take it to the market and if you have passion behind the product, I think that people react in a really positive way. And that’s something that I’ve been really surprised by; the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten for this magazine. And that’s one of the things that make me happiest and most satisfied doing this, just seeing the reaction from people. And feeling like that we’re on the right track.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening, what would I find you doing; watching TV with a glass of wine; flipping through a magazine; or on the road in an RV?

Gemma Peckham: (Laughs) It will depend upon how hard the day was. After a very hard day, yes, it will be binge-watching TV and having a glass of wine. Otherwise, I know it’s very strange, since I work in publishing, but I like to read when I go home. I’ll read the latest book that has caught my attention, or just having dinner with my husband and chatting, just catching up on the day. Or I’ll go to the gym, if I’m feeling really energetic.

Samir Husni: Are those books you read ink on paper or e-books?

Gemma Peckham: Right now, I’m reading a paper book. But generally, I read on my Kindle, because it’s so much easier to store, because I travel with it. I just love being able to carry a 1,000 books with me if I want to.

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

Gemma Peckham: Good question. Usually I go to sleep pretty quickly, but the status of politics in this country probably keeps everyone up. (Laughs) But usually I’m just daydreaming about different things, whether it’s personal or something to do with the magazine. And new ideas, imaginations, travel destinations, things like that. I’m always thinking of what’s next in my life, so that takes up a lot of my headspace when I have free time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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