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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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