Archive for June, 2017

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Cuisine Noir: From A Website To A Printed Magazine, And A Brand Where African American Culinary Talents Shine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sheree Williams, Publisher & Editor In Chief, Cuisine Noir Magazine…

June 23, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Also, I love, but just can’t compete with, in some instances, Essence and Black Enterprise and Ebony. They all have forty plus years on me. I’m a newbie in the game. So, there are some challenges there in terms of the advertising dollars and things like that. But, we continue to move forward. I have a wonderful staff of different people around the world, and we continue to believe in the project, what we’re doing and telling the stories that we tell; the stories of some of the heroes that are in these industries that are not necessarily featured in some other publications. That really keeps us going. Unfortunately, there is no walk in a rose garden, but we’re just excited to be able to be in the space and tell the stories that we are able to tell.” Sheree Williams…

Cuisine Noir debuted in the world of cyberspace in 2007, setting a precedent by featuring the talents of African American culinary and wine professionals. The online entity tapped into the world of African American foodies and became a vehicle for showcasing these great chefs from the industry.

In 2009, Sheree Williams took the lead with the website and began to show that not only did African Americans like to experiment with different flavors and food cultures, they also loved traveling, wine and the entire scope of the foodie lifestyle. Sheree raised the bar even more when she took the pixels from the screen and transposed them to the printed page with vibrant life and amazing vision.

I spoke with Sheree recently and we talked about Cuisine Noir and the multicultural message the magazine strives to convey with every page. Showcasing what African Americans are doing around the globe is a cultural movement and Sheree is determined to passionately continue the magazines mission.

From celebrities who are just as at home in the kitchen as they are onscreen or onstage, to unsung heroes who know more about mixing ingredients and producing amazing flavors than they do holding a mike or reading a movie line, Cuisine Noir is the platform that encourages both factions. And shows that African Americans have influence throughout the worlds of food and travel around the globe.

I hope that you enjoy this very “tasty” Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who knows a thing or two about food, wine and travel, but more importantly, about the passion it takes to put that knowledge to the test, inside the pages of a magazine, Sheree Williams, publisher, editor in chief, Cuisine Noir magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Cuisine Noir: I always tell everyone that I didn’t start the magazine. A different chef who is in California started it in the late ‘90s. He’s a chef down in L.A. and just wanted to get more exposure to black chefs. I connected with him in 2007 and, at that time, he had introduced the concept to me. So, we worked together to launch it [the Cuisine Noir site]. Then in 2008, I took it over because he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with it.

On whether everything went as she expected, or there were some bumps along the way: I’m sure you know how tough the magazine industry is. We still face that challenge, you know, being a multicultural publication, in terms of dollar allocation. Before, a lot of advertising agencies would have pockets of money just for multicultural initiatives, whether it was black, Latino, Asian, etcetera. Now we’re finding a lot of the agencies are rolling those dollars into the general market and not having that pot anymore, so it is tough.

On whether Cuisine Noir’s platform is about promoting famous chefs or discovering hidden talents: Well, we go in and out. I’ve personally had the honor of speaking to Dr. Maya Angelou; that was an awesome interview that I was able to do. With her two books that she had out, she was all about cooking and entertaining. We’ve interviewed Russell Simmons and Wendy Williams, so we do try and capture the celebrity foodies. We don’t make it just about celebrity foodies, because again there is so much talent among people who are not celebrities. But, we do want to capture what the celebrities are doing.

On how she convinces advertisers that Cuisine Noir is deserving of their dollars: We’ve really tried to present my analytics; we’ve got a great customer base. Unfortunately, there are some stereotypes and there are some perceptions about black consumers, about black travelers, etcetera, that we try to make sure we, in terms of where we’re spending, especially, our disposable income.

On getting traction in the multicultural publications with ad dollars: I have found, not naming any particular brands or companies, but I’ve worked with some in the past and had a good relationship. But then people are always changing in agencies. People are always leaving, and sometimes it’s like a revolving door. You have to ask, “Okay, who is the new person overseeing this account?” and you have to start building that relationship all over again. I think it’s important to have people in these roles that are making the decisions of where these multicultural dollars are going, to understand publications such as ours. Again, you want the quality of trying to reach the consumer—in terms of the quality of the consumer and not necessarily the quantity.

On whether she feels being based on the West coast is helping or hindering her success with the magazine: For me, I think it helps—especially when it comes to the food [industry]. I feel California is a leader when it comes to the food movement, especially around sustainable eating and things like that, and especially when it comes to the wine industry. I feel that I either need to be here or in New York, and luckily I’ve got correspondents in New York that help me make sure that if there’s anything in New York that we’re invited to, then we’re there. I definitely think that we’re in a good place, being here in Oakland and San Francisco that allows us to keep a good pulse on the industry and what’s going on.

On if she had the opportunity to present her sales pitch about Cuisine Noir to a big ad agency CEO, what she would say: I would definitely try to talk about, one: working with someone who is truly about getting their brand in front of consumers and making a difference. For me, it’s not about just taking someone’s money. I understand that there’s a return on investment that needs to come back and that they’re looking for certain things. For me [though], it’s about relationship-building. So, if they [the advertising CEOs] are looking for someone who is going to partner with them to help meet their goals, plus build a really good relationship, that’s who Cuisine Noir is.

On the most pleasant moment so far during her Cuisine Noir experience: It was one of those days where I was thinking, “Oh, you know, nothing is clicking today.” It was just one of those off days. I remember receiving an e-mail from the Smithsonian Channel, and it was one of the producers that was putting together a video for the African American Museum of History and Culture in D.C. They wanted to secure one of our covers to be placed in a video that can still be seen today when you go to the fourth floor of the museum. There is a video that talks about African American cuisine, and the cover of Cuisine Noir comes up on the video.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face: I think one of the biggest ones unfortunately, is around engaging advertisers. When there’s an advertiser that you’re trying to engage and, for whatever reason—it could be something that we did, but I try to make sure to fulfill our agreements—but when they decide to go in a different direction, those are advertising dollars that are taken away from you. Those are planned, and so the only thing that I can do is just work harder. It shows you that you really still have to work harder because nothing is guaranteed. No one is guaranteed to stay. That was sort of, I think, an eye-opener.

On anything she’d like to add: I would just say that we really love the people we are able to showcase and the stories. It’s really great. I love getting emails from people who have discovered us. For instance, we just got an email from the comedian Bernie Mac’s ex-wife’s publicist, about doing something with her.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: You would probably, if I’m not on a deadline, find me with a glass of wine, just watching my TV or something. I think sometimes I just try and turn my brain off. I read so much; I’ve got a whole table full of magazines. But, you know, I definitely just like to relax.

On the one thing she would have tattooed on her brain to be remembered about her forever: That I never gave up.

On what keeps her up at night: Trying to figure out how to get my advertisers and my sponsors engaged. That keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sheree Williams, publisher, editor in chief, Cuisine Noir magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Cuisine Noir. How did you come up with the name, and then how did you get from the blog all the way to the magazine?

Sheree Williams: I always tell everyone that I didn’t start the magazine. A different chef who is in California started it in the late ‘90s. He’s a chef down in L.A. and just wanted to get more exposure to black chefs. I connected with him in 2007 and, at that time, he had introduced the concept to me. I was doing my backgrounds in PR advertising and PR, and thought it was a very interesting idea, because I also was writing as well.

So, we connected in 2007 and I told him, because at the time I was in grad school, that the web was about to really blow up and a lot of media properties were going to be on the web. I worked with him to launch a Cuisine Noir site online in 2007. It was really exciting, because that’s when Tre Wilcox was on Top Chef and Aaron McCargo, Jr. had just won Food Network Star and the Neely’s (Gina and Pat) were just coming out. That’s when we were really starting to see diversity in Food Network and things like that.

So, we worked together to launch it [the Cuisine Noir site]. Then in 2008, I took it over because he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with it. From there, I said, “You know what, I want to do food, wine, and travel.” I was an avid reader of Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines, and I just saw that there was a big opportunity to really showcase black food, wine, and travel.

In 2009, as I started to lead the magazine and take it over, that’s when I started to rebrand it. I relaunched it, and relaunched a website online with Carla Hall, so that was exciting. Then, in 2011 is when I said, “You know what? I think we’ve got a good following and a good market, let’s take it into print.” I took it into print then, with Tre Wilcox being our first cover story. We’ve been going ever since then.

Samir Husni: Has it been like a walk in a rose garden for you—everything went exactly like as you expected—or have you hit some bumps along the way?

Sheree Williams: I’m sure you know how tough the magazine industry is. We still face that challenge, you know, being a multicultural publication, in terms of dollar allocation. Before, a lot of advertising agencies would have pockets of money just for multicultural initiatives, whether it was black, Latino, Asian, etcetera. Now we’re finding a lot of the agencies are rolling those dollars into the general market and not having that pot anymore, so it is tough.

Also, I love, but just can’t compete with, in some instances, Essence and Black Enterprise and Ebony. They all have forty plus years on me. I’m a newbie in the game. So, there are some challenges there in terms of the advertising dollars and things like that.

But, we continue to move forward. I have a wonderful staff of different people around the world, and we continue to believe in the project, what we’re doing and telling the stories that we tell; the stories of some of the heroes that are in these industries that are not necessarily featured in some other publications. That really keeps us going. Unfortunately, there is no walk in a rose garden, but we’re just excited to be able to be in the space and tell the stories that we are able to tell.

Samir Husni: It has been said that when it comes to the multicultural—to African Americans, to Latinos, to folks from Middle Eastern descent, like me—that you have a certain color until you become rich and famous. Then, everybody’s color is green. How do you deal with that? Are you featuring the famous? Or, are you working more as the talent discoverer and that’s what the Cusine Noir platform is all about?

Sheree Williams: Well, we go in and out. I’ve personally had the honor of speaking to Dr. Maya Angelou; that was an awesome interview that I was able to do. With her two books that she had out, she was all about cooking and entertaining. We’ve interviewed Russell Simmons and Wendy Williams, so we do try and capture the celebrity foodies. We don’t make it just about celebrity foodies, because again there is so much talent among people who are not celebrities. But, we do want to capture what the celebrities are doing.

We just talked about—we had her on the cover before—Laila Ali. She was on one of my fall covers and just announced that she’s coming out with a cookbook to honor her father that’s due to come out in January, 2018. We talk about Patti LaBelle’s cookbook that just came out. So, we do celebrities, and I think if we can do more, get the brand out there more… I don’t know if the celebrities are going to help us blow up a little bit more? But definitely just more of them communicating to their audiences who will probably help bring more awareness to what we’re doing.

We definitely find as we’re growing, when it comes to the dollars, it seems to be a numbers game. They [the advertisers] want the millions of viewers. Essence has a circulation of over 800,000, and I’m not there yet. When it comes to those dollars, if they’re looking at eyeballs and things like that, then they [Essence] are going to be the obvious choice, and deservingly so. I get it; it’s just a numbers game.

Samir Husni: So, how do you then convince those advertisers and ad agencies that you’re more about the customers who count, rather than counting customers?

Sheree Williams: We’ve really tried to present my analytics; we’ve got a great customer base. Unfortunately, there are some stereotypes and there are some perceptions about black consumers, about black travelers, etcetera, that we try to make sure we , in terms of where we’re spending, especially, our disposable income.

Looking at a snapshot of our reader [base], I try and tell them that our readers are very sophisticated. They love to try different cuisines. They love to travel internationally—and this next print issue that we’re working on is all about travel. We’re all about that, so we talk about that. We talk about the spending power of African Americans, and how it’s in the trillions, and a lot of that is being spent in the food and beverage categories. We really just try to look at our customers, where they shop and what they like to do. I try to make sure, as much as possible, that I can say, “You know what? Here is a customer that is all about trying new products and getting out and trying new experiences,” saying, “This is someone that you definitely want to market to. This is someone that we’re talking to directly.”

We’ve got a very active group on Facebook. We’re sharing recipes all of the time. We’re sharing stories all of the time. Really, we’re just trying to let the advertisers know that the readers are engaged and they’re all about food, so if you’re coming out with a food product or you’re talking about this, then we’re the right people to talk to. That’s what the readers are coming to us for.

Samir Husni: Why do you think this is falling on deaf ears? Why do you think, after all these years, we keep celebrating diversity and yet—when the rubber hits the road—we feel as though we are not getting any traction?

Sheree Williams: I have found, not naming any particular brands or companies, but I’ve worked with some in the past and had a good relationship. But then people are always changing in agencies. People are always leaving, and sometimes it’s like a revolving door. You have to ask, “Okay, who is the new person overseeing this account?” and you have to start building that relationship all over again. I think it’s important to have people in these roles that are making the decisions of where these multicultural dollars are going, to understand publications such as ours. Again, you want the quality of trying to reach the consumer—in terms of the quality of the consumer and not necessarily the quantity.

Sometimes, I have to admit, and I can’t say it for sure, but sometimes I have to wonder are the people making the decisions in some of these agencies, do they truly understand our publications, the influences that we can have in these markets and in these communities? And, if they did, would that change things? Would they say, “You know what? I’m not going to spend a $100,000 here, or $50,000—or whatever they’re spending on some of the more seasoned publications—but I am going to take a risk with you.” Again, sometimes I think it comes down to who is making the decisions and [whether or not] they truly understand what we do and who we reach in order to give us a chance to really knock it out of the park.

Samir Husni: Do you think that being based on the west coast is helping or hindering you when it comes to the magazine’s success?

Sheree Williams: For me, I think it helps—especially when it comes to the food [industry]. I feel California is a leader when it comes to the food movement, especially around sustainable eating and things like that, and especially when it comes to the wine industry. I feel that I either need to be here or in New York, and luckily I’ve got correspondents in New York that help me make sure that if there’s anything in New York that we’re invited to, then we’re there. I definitely think that we’re in a good place, being here in Oakland and San Francisco that allows us to keep a good pulse on the industry and what’s going on.

Samir Husni: If you had the opportunity to meet a CEO of one of those big ad agencies, say, you’re alone with him or her in an elevator and you have 18 seconds to give your sales pitch about Cuisine Noir, what would you tell them?

Sheree Williams: I would definitely try to talk about, one: working with someone who is truly about getting their brand in front of consumers and making a difference. For me, it’s not about just taking someone’s money. I understand that there’s a return on investment that needs to come back and that they’re looking for certain things. For me [though], it’s about relationship-building. So, if they [the advertising CEOs] are looking for someone who is going to partner with them to help meet their goals, plus build a really good relationship, that’s who Cuisine Noir is.

We’re really about those relationship buildings, and we’re really about getting their products in front of our consumers—and I also love getting new things in front of my readers; that’s what it’s all about too. I think it’s a win-win situation. That’s what we’re all about: that relationship-building, trying to be an influencer for them, and then also engaging our readers and letting them know this is what’s new, this is what’s great, and this is what’s out there.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment in the history of you and Cuisine Noir. Is there one specific moment you reflect back on and say, “Wow?”

Sheree Williams: It was one of those days where I was thinking, “Oh, you know, nothing is clicking today.” It was just one of those off days. I remember receiving an e-mail from the Smithsonian Channel, and it was one of the producers that was putting together a video for the African American Museum of History and Culture in D.C. They wanted to secure one of our covers to be placed in a video that can still be seen today when you go to the fourth floor of the museum. There is a video that talks about African American cuisine, and the cover of Cuisine Noir comes up on the video.

And that just made me cry. We celebrated that with the opening of the museum last September. My family and I went to the museum a couple of days later to see the cover just flash up on the screen in the museum. That was ad still is definitely a very proud moment for me.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest stumbling block you’ve had to face, and how did you overcome it?

Sheree Williams: I think one of the biggest ones unfortunately, is around engaging advertisers. When there’s an advertiser that you’re trying to engage and, for whatever reason—it could be something that we did, but I try to make sure to fulfill our agreements—but when they decide to go in a different direction, those are advertising dollars that are taken away from you. Those are planned, and so the only thing that I can do is just work harder. It shows you that you really still have to work harder because nothing is guaranteed. No one is guaranteed to stay. That was sort of, I think, an eye-opener.

But I also have to admit, too: I have a bachelors in advertising, and I did an advertising internship here in California before I actually moved from Chicago to California. I’m glad that I had that background. I think this whole thing with trying to solve the advertising puzzle and what is really going to get our foot in the door comfortably, is softened because of my background, knowing the lingo, what they’re looking for, and things like that.

I’m constantly having to overcome objections of “You’re too small. You’re great! But you’re too small.” So that’s still a stumbling block that I’m still overcoming right now. I’m actually constantly working on what is a good strategy, and I actually have a meeting with someone who I’m throwing out some strategy ideas to continue to overcome that stumbling block. I would say that’s one of the things I am constantly trying to overcome.

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

Sheree Williams: I would just say that we really love the people we are able to showcase and the stories. It’s really great. I love getting emails from people who have discovered us. For instance, we just got an email from the comedian Bernie Mac’s ex-wife’s publicist, about doing something with her.

We just contributed to something with Steve Harvey’s producer who is a baker. I love being able to tell those stories, when it comes to the community heroes. And also to share the stories of the celebrity foodies who are known for singing or doing something else, but also just awesome in the kitchen. I really am excited about that and just excited to see where we can go. I definitely hope people continue to follow us and join us for the journey and the ride.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Would you be drinking a glass of wine, eating some Southern cuisine, reading a book, watching TV, on your iPad, or something else?

Sheree Williams: You would probably, if I’m not on a deadline, find me with a glass of wine, just watching my TV or something. I think sometimes I just try and turn my brain off. I read so much; I’ve got a whole table full of magazines. But, you know, I definitely just like to relax.

You’d probably find me, if I’m not out eating with someone, just sitting here on different things. I’ve been trying to catch up on what’s going on, watching some of the culinary competitions on TV to see who’s doing what. Or I’m just organizing. We get so busy sometimes. I’ve got a bookshelf I need to put up, so one evening I’m going to get to the bookshelf that I need to do. It really just varies, but one thing is sure, I’m relaxing. I definitely need to relax.

Samir Husni: If there was one thing you would want engraved or tattooed on your brain, that would be remembered about you forever, what would it be?

Sheree Williams: That I never gave up.

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

Sheree Williams: Trying to figure out how to get my advertisers and my sponsors engaged. That keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Bloomberg Businessweek: A Rejuvenated Magazine Capturing An Audience Pursuing Quality Over Quantity – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Megan Murphy, Editor, Bloomberg Businessweek…

June 21, 2017

“With Businessweek, there’s no question that we skew, and we’re always going to skew, towards capturing people who are pursuing quality over quantity, people who are going to prefer to look for more intensive analysis, insight and value to add, than you can get from just a commoditized news platform.” Megan Murphy…

Bloomberg Businessweek has been around for the last 88 years. And yes, some of those years it existed without the Bloomberg attachment. The brand has covered the companies, people, and products that have shaped and reshaped the world’s economy. But evolvement in the 21st century is a given. While our world has become more instantaneous, more urgent, and in more need than ever for a clear and concise, authoritative voice out there, Businessweek is reinventing itself to meet those needs.

Megan Murphy has been at the editor’s helm for around seven months now, having previously been a Financial Times reporter and the journalist who ran Bloomberg’s Washington, D.C., bureau during the election. In her most recent editor’s letter, Megan stated that, “More than ever, Businessweek readers need journalism to be more authoritative, more urgent, and more indispensable. We need to take you to where today’s events will be tomorrow’s trends. And we need to do more to help you to cut through the noise to better understand the dynamics that are disrupting the way we work and live.”

Mr. Magazine™ agrees. In all the chaos and melee that surrounds us, news and information that is indispensable is definitely most welcomed. I spoke with Megan recently and we talked about the new relaunch and her ideas and thoughts for Businessweek’s future. Megan is passionate about news, politics, finance and business; everything that her brand deems important as well. So, it’s a match made in magazine heaven, or at least Mr. Magazine™ thinks so.

Megan Murphy, Editor, Bloomberg Businessweek, Photo by Lori Hoffman/Bloomberg.

Her editor’s letter promises a magazine, with sharper storytelling, cleaner and more consistent design, and richer graphics and photography. And on the digital front, there is a suite of digital products you can access wherever you are and whenever you need them, including a redesigned app, “Daily IQ,” which is an email newsletter delivering analysis and insight from senior Bloomberg Businessweek editors worldwide directly to your inbox each afternoon; and a revamped vertical on Bloomberg.com, with fresh stories, a sleeker design, and easier navigation.

Who says you can’t find compelling stories and provocative design among exceptionally precise, important journalism? Certainly not Mr. Magazine™, because I do believe I’ve found it in the new Businessweek. So, I hope you enjoy the equally compelling interview with its editor, Megan Murphy.

But first, the sound-bites:

On where she thinks magazine media is heading: I think the biggest shift is really just the bifurcation of taste and habit that has been radically transformed by consumption habits. Here’s the thing, social media has been a great disruptor, but people also forget, in terms of where people go for immediate news, that we increasingly live in a TV society as well. So much of what you see playing out in Washington or Westminster or Hong Kong is dominated by what used to be called the twenty-four-hour news cycle, which now is almost like the one-hour-thirty-minute news cycle. That is really great for TV and why you see continued strength in TV, but also why you see print mediums really struggling; obviously magazine brands struggling at some point, but also newspapers as well. I’m an ex-newspaper hack for a long time.

On whether she is overwhelmed by her role as editor of Businessweek, with all of Bloomberg’s many platforms: When I first took over Businessweek as the editor, I had been the Washington Bureau chief—obviously, a tumultuous campaign—and one of the big things I was really clear about from the start, and I’m glad in retrospect now, seven months later that I was, is Businessweek always needs to have a clear lane within the broader Bloomberg enterprise. And when I came in, the other point I tried to make was, we don’t want to compete at all, or cannibalize at all, with our existing platforms. We want to be complimentary and do what we can to surface all of the great journalism that’s being done at Bloomberg, but we have to be distinct and separate from them.

On why she thinks that even though times have changed within the world of journalism, the actual reporting hasn’t: I know, it drives me crazy. Just to go into background, about five years ago I created a product at the Financial Times called “Fast FT,” because what I believe passionately is that you can actually add value within the first five minutes. It’s just that more people aren’t doing it. So at Fast FT that’s what we were really trying to do, add value immediately. Instead of just reporting what everybody already knows at length.

On the specialness of the six to eight issues digital subscribers get of the printed magazine: As the editor of Businessweek, I think one of the amazing things about Businessweek is that I learn so much, especially about topics I’d fancied myself very knowing on. I think, if we surface that content, if we patch it in the right way and we get it to people—that’s what some of the special issues are designed to do about these issues that we feel really passionately about—that’s why we do them. That’s why, for digital access, we’re giving them to them.

On how her own personality figured into the new redesign of Businessweek: When I came in, they wanted to redesign. Time has moved on. We live in incredibly different times then when Bloomberg first acquired Businessweek during the first year of the Obama presidency. We face challenges unlike we’ve known in foreign policy, in economic populism, in very disruptive trends that are really changing the way people live, the way they retire, the way they care for their families, the way they project their own personal and national identity, so I try to stay in lanes and empower the people. They knew that they wanted to take this product to be a cleaner, simpler, more robust design that would allow the quality of our journalism to shine through. I pretty much got out of the way and let the experts take the reins on that and do it.

On if someone gave her a magic wand that could humanize Businessweek, both the print and digital versions, who would that person be: The recent cover of the book is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. And do you know why I think he is the perfect manifestation of what you just described? It’s because he is, and I’d actually never met him; he is a deeply thoughtful human being. And we had a deeply thoughtful, substantive discussion.

On whether she feels they’re on the top of the mountain with the new redesign: In terms of the book, we’ve done a really good job of cracking at least most of that. And I think now it’s about execution. Obviously, it’s always going to be about content and what we get and how we do it. But in terms of directionally knowing where we’re going and how we want it to look, I’m looking at the current issue now and it looks so amazing. And we’re so excited about it.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening after work: I have been wanting to write a book for a long time about people and YouTube. And the sort of weird communities that exist around YouTube, because I’ve heard of this one community, and there are a lot of strange communities on YouTube, but this one is about people who film themselves at garage sales looking for very unique things, such as baseball cards or old video games, things like that.

On the words or phrase that she would want tattooed on her brain to keep with her forever: One thing that is already tattooed on my brain, and I’ve said this before, but I’m quite competitive, and when I was growing up my dad had this favorite phrase that he would always say: show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.

On what keeps her up at night: What keeps me up at night is the same thing that keeps so many people, I think, up at night, which is not political polarization; not a decline of civility; not any of these disruptive trends. But it is the biggest, I think, disruptive trend of all that we’ll look back and say was the unifying factor. And it’s that we do have this increasing divide between the elite, or the perceived elite, and everybody else.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Megan Murphy, editor, Bloomberg Businessweek.


Samir Husni: In the middle of all of the instant changes that are taking place in our industry, now it’s no longer just mobile, it’s voice first. And for the last 10 years, we’ve heard everything from the tablet is taking over, to mobile, to voice—so, where do you think we are really heading and how are you adapting to all of these changes?

Megan Murphy: I think one of the most profound changes in our industry—and when I say our industry, I might be talking about journalism more broadly, is that okay?

Samir Husni: Definitely.

Megan Murphy: I think the biggest shift is really just the bifurcation of taste and habit that has been radically transformed by consumption habits. Here’s the thing, social media has been a great disruptor, but people also forget, in terms of where people go for immediate news, that we increasingly live in a TV society as well. So much of what you see playing out in Washington or Westminster or Hong Kong is dominated by what used to be called the twenty-four-hour news cycle, which now is almost like the one-hour-thirty-minute news cycle. That is really great for TV and why you see continued strength in TV, but also why you see print mediums really struggling; obviously magazine brands struggling at some point, but also newspapers as well. I’m an ex-newspaper hack for a long time.

With Businessweek, there’s no question that we skew, and we’re always going to skew, towards capturing people who are pursuing quality over quantity, people who are going to prefer to look for more intensive analysis, insight and value to add, than you can get from just a commoditized news platform.

That being said, I don’t think you can be relevant in 2017 unless you address consumption habits of people by trying to go to the mediums where they’re consuming journalism. That means on mobile, on tablet—through social, in terms of how we effectively mobilize our audience through social—on TV, on the radio. I feel for us the responsiveness is making more people aware of how quality a publication our content is on more platforms; so keeping that commitment to excellence and quality in everything we do, trying to get that out to as many people as we can to actually see it, and, at the same time, being more responsive in a thoughtful, considered, shall we say Businessweek way, as things happen and develop. [We do it in a way] where we can really carve out and develop out a lane for us that we see consumers and readers responding to.

Samir Husni: When you look at your big network of 2,700 writers, correspondents, and staffers all over the world, are you overwhelmed by your role? And how do you curate all of that and then distill them to say, “Okay, this is going to be on the app, this is going to be on mobile, and this is going to be for the magazine.”

Megan Murphy: That’s a great question and this answer may get a little long, but I’m still going to bring it out. When I first took over Businessweek as the editor, I had been the Washington Bureau chief—obviously, a tumultuous campaign—and one of the big things I was really clear about from the start, and I’m glad in retrospect now, seven months later that I was, is Businessweek always needs to have a clear lane within the broader Bloomberg enterprise. So, you’re exactly right, in that we have 2,700 journalists and analysts in 120 countries around the world; we’ve got a whole TV network, we’ve got various premium products, various sort of analytical premier products like Business Intelligence; we’ve got our editorial site; we’ve got our radio station. We have invested so much in our editorial operations over the years. It truly can be overwhelming when you think about it.

I run a very important part of that enterprise, we think, because it is consumer facing and it’s such a well-known brand, and has been around for so long, and is known for its excellence. But it’s also, people-wise, relatively small.

And when I came in, the other point I tried to make was, we don’t want to compete at all, or cannibalize at all, with our existing platforms. We want to be complimentary and do what we can to surface all of the great journalism that’s being done at Bloomberg, but we have to be distinct and separate from them. We have Bloomberg.com; we have a separate consumer app; we have the Terminal, which is an amazing product. So, we were very ruthless, I would say, about making sure that we had had a very clear sense of mission and purpose about what we’re doing.

So, taking all of that into this question, let’s use an example, as we’re talking right now, we’ve got Whole Foods and Amazon merging, and I was onset when the story broke. My thing now is going back to the journalists and saying to, not a Businessweek reporter, but actually a Bloomberg editor, who is the head of global business, and saying, ‘I want to know everything that you’re going to do on this deal.’ But Businessweek is never going to write “Amazon Just Acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 Billion,” because that editor knew that immediately. Anybody who is at all interested in the sector knew it already.

What I need to think about now for Businessweek and my audience, is what are they going to want to know about this deal, not immediately when it happened, but maybe in a hour or two? What’s counterintuitive? Who are the players behind it? What is this going to mean for the rest of the industry? What does this mean for the trajectory of Amazon? More importantly, the trajectory for other supermarkets, other grocers in the sector?

Again, everybody can see the immediate share-price reaction, but what I want to know is what’s going to really push me to think differently about what Jeff Bezos’ strategy was, or about what Wal-Mart is going to do to respond to this?

So, that’s what I do as the editor of Businessweek, which is an incredibly fortunate position, and I’m a business and finance, news junkie. I always have been. I’ve been a business reporter all of my life, except for my stint in politics. So, that’s what I really want to think about for my consumer, my reader; what are they looking to Businessweek to value-add to a deal that really will be an industry changer. And how can I harness those 2,700 journalists in 120 countries, this time we’re looking at a lot of them domestically and internationally, to say, ‘What are you guys looking at that we can combine on; that we may take and curate for our app, that’s going to push this story in a direction that’s more than what everybody knew five minutes ago?

Samir Husni: What you said is just common sense, yet why haven’t the newspaper people and some of the media people changed their way of reporting?

Megan Murphy: I know, it drives me crazy. Just to go into background, about five years ago I created a product at the Financial Times called “Fast FT,” because what I believe passionately is that you can actually add value within the first five minutes. It’s just that more people aren’t doing it. So at Fast FT that’s what we were really trying to do, add value immediately. Instead of just reporting what everybody already knows at length.

I’ve been surprised by the lag in our industry about moving to that type of quicker analysis takes, and being not so heavy on what’s already known and out there. Social is so dominant, and as I said earlier, TV is so dominant too in the “what’s happening” space.

And I do think that as professionals, we really need to push ourselves harder when we are asking people to invest their time and more than 140 characters. We need to be giving them content that’s worth more than 140 characters. (Laughs) And I don’t think that everybody is quite there yet.

Samir Husni: I tell my students, “What’s in it for me?” It’s as simple as that.

Megan Murphy: Why would I give you my eyeballs? Why would I give you my time?

Samir Husni: Exactly. Now, as you move forward; I’ve noticed that if people just subscribe to the digital, they still get six to eight special issues of the printed magazine. Can you explain those six to eight issues? What’s so special about them?

Megan Murphy: We still breakout the year ahead, and what we call our “Franchise Issues” here, so, I can’t tell you some of them, because they’ve changed since I’ve come in. Businessweek has been an incredibly fun list editorial, in terms of changing direction, but we’ve also put it at the center of our events strategy at Bloomberg. Frankly, we have been underleveraged at Bloomberg on events. I’m not saying that as like a PR person; I’m just saying as a journalist, events can be a platform to really service your journalism again to other people to get exposure.

So, when we think about franchises and these special issues, those are usually franchises that are tied into broader events that we really want to use as showcase events. For example, we’ve had a franchise called “The Year Ahead,” which has traditionally been one of our blowout issues where we really step back, draw on some of our analysts, and say, “Okay, really think hard about what this coming year is going to look like.” We use their projections across business, finance, ecology, the economy, to really build a cool magazine around those projections. That’s one of those special issues that we’ll be keeping.

Some of the other franchises are changing a little bit, some that we haven’t announced yet. We have a special issue coming up that’s focused around jobs. It goes directly to what we were just talking about, “What’s in it for me?” I do believe that so much of journalism now—and I’m a passionate, passionate advocate for fantastic, investigative reporting and long form—but I also believe that you have to have a way that makes people invest their time.
One way to do that is to do special issues where you say to them, “Look, everybody is talking about bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. Everyone’s talking about technology disrupting the workforce. Everyone’s talking about ‘Are robots going to be doing my job?’ not just in America but around the world. Okay, let’s really talk about this and let’s blow it out and give you twenty pages that really look at this, at the disruptive workforce, where the future of the work force is going, why manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, why everybody’s probably going to be more in the service sector, what’s going on with Asia in terms of China, Japan, and the knock on in Southeast Asia, why do we still have a persistent wage gap, [etc.]. Let’s really look at these issues, go in depth.”

I think when you make that value prop to people and you say, “Give me thirty minutes. Give me five minutes on your mobile at first. Give me twenty minutes at night. Give me an hour on the weekend.” If I can get people to do that with Businessweek content, that is great. I do think that is the way, directionally, we want our readers to experience and consume our content. If you are really interested in the subject, and I think everybody is, we’re going to give you a package of articles that are going to make you think differently. Maybe it’s going to confirm some of the things you thought, but it’s also going to really push you to think “Okay, I know a lot more about this landscape than I ever thought I would.”

As the editor of Businessweek, I think one of the amazing things about Businessweek is that I learn so much, especially about topics I’d fancied myself very knowing on. I think, if we surface that content, if we patch it in the right way and we get it to people—that’s what some of the special issues are designed to do about these issues that we feel really passionately about—that’s why we do them. That’s why, for digital access, we’re giving them to them.

Samir Husni: As I hear you talking, I can feel your passion to the subject matter you’re covering and working with. How did your own personality and background factor into the redesign that took six months in the making, especially after Businessweek was relaunched as Bloomberg Businessweek. There was a lot of talk about the design and the whole aspect of the magazine. How did all of that factor in this new redesign?

Megan Murphy: I feel incredibly grateful and lucky in the sense that I am a journalist. I love the content. Of course, I love breaking news, but I love even more when I can tell you that something you thought you knew isn’t really true. Just to use an example: In our recent issue, we’ve got a story on exposure of female workers in technology companies in South Korea and how, as of recently in 2015, they have been exposed to toxic chemicals during the chip making process, something that should’ve been eradicated twenty-five years ago. That journalist has spent years working on that. We’ve got a story on Western Union. The thing I love about that story is you think you know what Western Union does? Guess again. It’s surprising. It’s an amazing corporate profile.

I’m so proud of some of the journalism in the front of the book—all of the journalism in the front of the book. But we’ve also done stand-out graphics. I am a journalist. I am a content person, and I think everybody knew that about me when I came in. The flip side of that is, I let the people who are experts about design, about photography, about art direction—of which we literally have many of the best in the industry—I want to empower them to take responsibility for the design direction of this magazine. That is what they did.

When I came in, they wanted to redesign. Time has moved on. We live in incredibly different times then when Bloomberg first acquired Businessweek during the first year of the Obama presidency. We face challenges unlike we’ve known in foreign policy, in economic populism, in very disruptive trends that are really changing the way people live, the way they retire, the way they care for their families, the way they project their own personal and national identity, so I try to stay in lanes and empower the people. They knew that they wanted to take this product to be a cleaner, simpler, more robust design that would allow the quality of our journalism to shine through. I pretty much got out of the way and let the experts take the reins on that and do it. (Laughs)

Of course, there are certain things that I like that are reflected, but what Rob Vargas, our creative director, and Clinton Cargill, the director of photography here; what they have done is exactly what I wanted and 100 times more. And I’m so grateful and proud of them, in taking responsibility and ownership of the book and putting it on themselves to develop a product which we always say that we wanted it to come out to market and have people say that it was so much better.

Yes, the design is cleaner, but it’s also better, in terms of showcasing the stories and the content that we really want to get out to people. And at the end of the day, Businessweek will always be about fantastic design, but it’s also about fantastic business journalism. Fantastic journalism about technology; fantastic journalism about politics, and we want people to know that and they hit out of the park with the redesign, as far as I’m concerned.

Samir Husni: If I gave you a magic wand that allowed you the power to humanize Businessweek; those pixels on the screen and that ink on paper, who would that person actually be?

Megan Murphy: The recent cover of the book is Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. And do you know why I think he is the perfect manifestation of what you just described? It’s because he is, and I’d actually never met him; he is a deeply thoughtful human being. And we had a deeply thoughtful, substantive discussion. In fact, I did an interview with Obama a year ago, and he reminded me of that interview, in the sense of, many times when you talk to corporate leaders, I’ve been in this business a long time, and even if they give the impression that they’re really engaging with you and telling you what they really think, many of them are so studied that it’s actually just PR statements repeated in a false folksy way. And what really struck me about Tim was his genuineness and humanity; his passion in ways that I didn’t expect, his passion about music, about Steve Jobs, and the Apple legacy being very separate from his own.

And I think there are things that he talked and said that were totally unexpected and surprising, engaging and thought-provoking, and that go far beyond Apple, but more about America’s place in the world.

And that is what we seek to do every week at Businessweek. To give you the substance beyond what you think you knew, or the headlines, or where you think directionally things are traveling. In that sense, putting totally aside whether or not people agree with him and what he’s saying, in terms of conveying substance, genuineness and surfacing ideas, I thought it was a really interesting discussion.

Samir Husni: What’s next? Are you on top of the mountain now, after the redesign?

Megan Murphy: In terms of the book, we’ve done a really good job of cracking at least most of that. And I think now it’s about execution. Obviously, it’s always going to be about content and what we get and how we do it. But in terms of directionally knowing where we’re going and how we want it to look, I’m looking at the current issue now and it looks so amazing. And we’re so excited about it.

But digitally; when you layer this on the digital products, the app, the new vertical, and with the newsletter, which I will be personally writing next issue, it’s a lot of stuff. First of all, we’re not even in the footholds. I actually used to be a mountain climber; I would climb Mt. McKinley and Denali, and I would always think, before you get to Denali there’s like 100 miles of no population and very tall mountains, and that’s where we are. It’s like this is work; this is hard work. It’s hard work to create journalistic excellence; it’s hard work to create design excellence; and it’s hard work to create and sustain this much of a product relaunch, in terms of ethos, mission, brand and design.

It is going to continue to require work every single day, and creativity, innovation, and teamwork. So, I wish we were at the top of the mountain, but all I know is that this crew is strapped in and they have shown, every time I thought we were all going to collapse during what was a frankly grueling time, they always rose to the occasion. And they always just wowed me. I always say that I was along for the ride with some of the most talented people that I’ve ever worked with. And I think that’s going to continue to be the case. Maybe later in the summer, when we have more great issues to look at, we’ll feel that we’re halfway up the mountain. (Laughs) I am so pleased at how the rollout has gone, but there’s so much more work to be done.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Are you on your iPad, watching TV, having a glass of wine, reading a book, or something else?

Megan Murphy: I have been wanting to write a book for a long time about people and YouTube. And the sort of weird communities that exist around YouTube, because I’ve heard of this one community, and there are a lot of strange communities on YouTube, but this one is about people who film themselves at garage sales looking for very unique things, such as baseball cards or old video games, things like that.

There are certain characters that I identify with; I am just fascinated by how communities form in modern society and how even now through social media platforms, your weird little obsessions can become something that 10,000 people watch, such as filming yourself going to garage sales looking for video games. To me that’s a fascinating thing about how communities form, so you would likely find me with a glass of wine, probably watching YouTube videos about this subject. So, that’s a weird one, but it’s true. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If there was one thing that you’d want tattooed on your brain, something that would be with you forever, what would it be?

Megan Murphy: One thing that is already tattooed on my brain, and I’ve said this before, but I’m quite competitive, and when I was growing up my dad had this favorite phrase that he would always say: show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.

Samir Husni: (Laughs)

Megan Murphy: So, that’s the permanent tattoo that’s on my brain. I could never get it out.

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

Megan Murphy: What keeps me up at night is the same thing that keeps so many people, I think, up at night, which is not political polarization; not a decline of civility; not any of these disruptive trends. But it is the biggest, I think, disruptive trend of all that we’ll look back and say was the unifying factor.

And it’s that we do have this increasing divide between the elite, or the perceived elite, and everybody else. And for me, that is the most worrisome; the most dangerous; the most underreported, on a global sense; and the most potentially catastrophic element of both Western Democracies and in places like China and Japan. Until we can find a way where globalization, either true or perception-wise, does lift all boats. That we can have people begin to think that the political class is not elite, but relevant to their daily lives.

Where people feel that the decisions being taken in centers of government actually are going to make their lives better. That there representatives are working for them and that we don’t have a capitalist society or a corrupt society, like other places in the world that just strips and cleans off the world for the elite. Where things talked about have real world impact and people believe that. Until we start moving that way as a society again, where people feel truly vested in the decisions made in the corridors of companies and the corridors of Westminster and the corridors of Washington, we are in for a really big problem if this continues to go in the other direction. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about that topic, and whether media is a part of the problem or part of the solution. And I try to be part of the solution.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Michael Clinton: Hearst Magazines’ Strong Belief In Its Core Print Product & Its Continued Dedication To Digital Innovation Makes For A Bright Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines…

June 19, 2017

“Great ideas do get funded. You know, create and sell. Great ideas get funded. Oftentimes, what I would tell our team when they would say “Well, they don’t have a print budget.” I would say, “Let me ask you a question: do they have a budget?” Because every brand has a marketing budget, right? And, if you bring them a great idea, a great idea will get funding. And so we have many, many, many examples of business that has been created with no budget. The idea creates the budget. So, my mantra is “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.” Michael Clinton…

Hearst Magazines has been at the forefront of print since the dawn of the digital age. While never turning a deaf ear on what the innovations of the 21st century offered, Hearst also never gave their core product the cold shoulder either. Print was and still is the foundation of their company and no one has ever felt the need to apologize for that. Kudos to Hearst. Mr. Magazine™ has never felt that particular need either. Print remains the backbone of publishing and the only format that defines the word “magazine.”

That being said, we’re approaching that midway point in 2017, and I wanted to catch up with Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, and ask him how things were going at this stage of the yearly game, and also what the future looked like for Hearst Magazines. Michael was in Paris recently and I spoke to him by phone to propose a few questions. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about the company and about new things that are up and coming, which are both innovative and exciting.

From Hearst for Humanity to partnerships with companies like Airbnb and Pioneer Woman, Hearst is leading the way when it comes to new ideas and projects. As Michael himself put it, “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.” Enough said.

I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is both grounded in print, but open to all of the possibilities that the 21st century has to offer, Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director, Hearst Magazines.

But first the sound-bites:

On where he thinks Hearst is heading in the future: It continues to be a very topsy-turvy time in the business world at large–all business, all media. You may have read recently that Amazon is buying Whole Foods, so you’re getting all sorts of interesting acquisitions and partnerships and all of that. You know, in the midst of it I think that we continue to have a very strong point of view about our business. Obviously, we believe in our core product—which is print. Why do we believe so strongly? It’s because the consumer believes so strongly in it.

On how he keeps up with the fast-paced changes in the publishing world today: I think that you have to figure out where you’re going to place your bets. You know, you have to figure out when the marketplace is shifting. For example, it was shifting to mobile first. It was really great [for us], because we were right there at that moment with all our technology and our digital team. So, it’s capturing the shift at the time that it [the current trend] begins to get stale and [the new trend] begins to gain momentum.

On why he thinks partnerships are the key to the future of magazines: Partnerships are a very important part of our strategy. And, you know, with a lot of noise and a lot of clutter out there, it’s always great to partner with a brand that has lots of touch points with consumers. Airbnb is a great example. Obviously, it is a community driven brand. The Airbnb community has a huge brand allegiance and is connected to the Airbnb world, and they learn lots of different things from Airbnb.

On anything that might be in the hopper for the future: We always have a couple of things that are, you know, “in the hopper,” but we do this process called the “discovery phase.” I think that before we even knew that we were talking to Airbnb, there was maybe a year of this discovery phase. You know, it is a way to get the name checker, the research, and really understand the plan, get the opportunities, talk to consumers, talk to advertisers, and so there are a couple of ideas that we have “in the hopper.” Oftentimes they never see the light of day, but, you know, a new idea is born.

On why Dr. Oz The Good Life became a bookazine: I think it has an enormous consumer following. And, you know, when we looked at the business model, and we looked at how we thought we could make a bigger business and profit, we felt that shifting it to the bookazine model would give us a bigger partnership together.

On what Hearst for Humanity is about: Well, first of all it won’t be every magazine every month. I had an observation, as many people have, that started about eighteen months ago. Many consumers, especially younger consumers, especially those “famous millennials,” like to buy products where there is a give back, a cause-relationship, an ability for them to participate in a way that they feel they’re a part of doing good. And so, I challenged our consumer marketing team—and it took about a year to put in place—to come up with what could be a unique cause-related platform for the Hearst magazines to create and develop. This is what has become Hearst for Humanity. So, if our editors, in any given issue, decide that there is a theme that has the potential, they will inform our consumer marketing department, who will then create with them a give back approach. We’re going to test it in the second half of this year with four magazines.

On anything else he’d like to add: I’m trying to think if there’s any sort of hot news that I didn’t cover. You might be interested in this. We’ve had a very successful—extremely successful—business with delish.com, so we began to look at other areas of other categories where we might be able to use that digital model. So, we’re going to launch later in the year a new site called Glo.com. Glo is going to be in the wellness/health/fitness space. It will be what delish is and it will be predominantly video. It’ll have a fun, quirky sense of humor, and it’ll be cheeky the way delish is—and fun. We’re going to see if we can create another digital business along the delish model with Glo later in the year.

On what he would tattoo on his brain that he would like people to remember about him forever: Great ideas do get funded. You know, create and sell. Great ideas get funded. Oftentimes, what I would tell our team when they would say “Well, they don’t have a print budget.” I would say, “Let me ask you a question: do they have a budget?” Because every brand has a marketing budget, right? And, if you bring them a great idea, a great idea will get funding. And so we have many, many, many examples of business that has been created with no budget. The idea creates the budget. So, my mantra is “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director, Hearst Magazines.

Samir Husni: Michael, what’s your feeling now, as we hit that midpoint in 2017? You’ve launched two new magazines this year and you’ve relaunched other magazines last year. Where do you think Hearst Magazines is heading?

Michael Clinton: Well, you know, it continues to be a very topsy-turvy time in the business world at large–all business, all media. You may have read recently that Amazon is buying Whole Foods, so you’re getting all sorts of interesting acquisitions and partnerships and all of that. You know, in the midst of it I think that we continue to have a very strong point of view about our business. Obviously, we believe in our core product—which is print. Why do we believe so strongly? It’s because the consumer believes so strongly in it.

I think you know, because we’ve talked about this in the past, that magazine circulations have been surprisingly stable, in terms of consumer buying. It’s been a very, very stable part of the business. The audiences are actually growing in a lot of places, and there aren’t a lot of media that can say that. When you think of all media—television, cable, newspapers—magazine audiences continue to be very strong. Now, as we know, newsstands continue to be a challenge for a whole host of reasons, but we ask consumers to pay for our media. You know, that’s a big differentiator. So, it’s one of the reasons why we continue to test new products, like Airbnb and Pioneer Woman, and always innovate on our existing products, you know, evolve them. And then, as things become available, we take a look at products that might be available to buy.

So, that’s sort of part one, you know, continuing to believe in our core business. Then, of course, like everyone else, have a very significant build-out on all digital and social platforms. All that has to run parallel to our print issues. We want our brands living everywhere. Now we have six brands on Snapchat. We want our brands to be on Snapchat and on Instagram and on Facebook and on whatever is going to be invented in the next, you know, year or two. Somebody could invent something new and we’re going to want to be there too.

I think that’s a multiplatform approach, with the core always being very important.

Samir Husni: Tell me Michael, as you expand the brand on all platforms: for now everyone is saying “Video, video, video. We have to be on video. Mobile is the thing for now.” You know, ten years ago it was the tablet. Before that, it was the homepage. So, how can you, keep up with the pace of the changes that are taking place that we have no control over?

Michael Clinton: Well, I think that you have to figure out where you’re going to place your bets. You know, you have to figure out when the marketplace is shifting. For example, it was shifting to mobile first. It was really great [for us], because we were right there at that moment with all our technology and our digital team.

So, it’s capturing the shift at the time that it [the current trend] begins to get stale and [the new trend] begins to gain momentum. So, you know, right now everybody is talking about “voice first” as the next thing. At the CES Show in Las Vegas, it was all about Alexa and all about Siri and now Amazon has announced its product, so this is the next thing on the horizon; the “voice first” platform. But, it’s still in its early days, you know? At what point do you say “Okay, I’m going to spend time, money, and people to build out a “voice first” acquisition. You have to figure out when the market is going to be ripe to go in and make that move. Then you decide how you spend your resources.

So, you’re absolutely right. On the iPad—when the iPad was born–all the magazines had a mad rush to the iPad. Certainly, we were on the front, leading edge of that; we’re always going to want to try and be the first mover in the beginning, to test different things.

We created the “App Lab,” you might remember. And it was our little incubator for trying and testing and playing with different formats on the iPad. I mean, others did too. You know, we put the resources against it, to make sure we were tracking it, watching it, and, as you know, it didn’t have the big promise—or certainly hasn’t had the big promise yet—nor did it have the big promise that everyone thought.

You know, every year there seems to be a new “next thing.” We have to play in the space, and we have to know when to push forward or to pull back based on time and resources and people. And so that’s just the skill of it, I think. Yes, we always have to look at everything.

Samir Husni: One of the things that you looked at and that you did very well with were the partnerships you created. Since the launch of O, The Oprah Magazine, to the Food Network, HGTV, Dr. Oz; some are very successful and some, you know, are limping a little bit. Why do you think partnerships and launching new magazines is going to be the key to our future? Or do you think that?

Michael Clinton: No; as you point out, that has been a very important part of our strategy. And, you know, with a lot of noise and a lot of clutter out there, it’s always great to partner with a brand that has lots of touch points with consumers. Airbnb is a great example. Obviously, it is a community driven brand. The Airbnb community has a huge brand allegiance and is connected to the Airbnb world, and they learn lots of different things from Airbnb. Airbnb communicates with them, obviously through their site, but also through newsletters and email and social, so being able to join forces with them to talk to their community about a new magazine that they’re going to do with us has really been a great example. You know, the famous Pioneer Woman has twenty-six million blog followers.

So, when she puts out a communication to her followers, that sure does help, in terms of having a successful liftoff of a new product. So, I think today and in the future, it’s those brands that have lots of various touchpoints with consumers [that help us]. You know, comments that say like Food Network and HGTV. Obviously, there’s a big Cable channel play, and conversations when Oprah was on daily television. Airbnb is more of a digital communication. So, you know if you get the right idea and the right partner, it can all work very well.

Samir Husni: Last time I was in NYC, David [David Carey; President, Hearst Magazines] was talking about something in the hopper for next year?

Michael Clinton: Did he now? (Both laugh) You know, we always have a couple of things that are, you know, “in the hopper,” but we do this process called the “discovery phase.” I think that before we even knew that we were talking to Airbnb, there was maybe a year of this discovery phase. You know, it is a way to get the name checker, the research, and really understand the plan, get the opportunities, talk to consumers, talk to advertisers, and so there are a couple of ideas that we have “in the hopper.” Oftentimes they never see the light of day, but, you know, a new idea is born.

Samir Husni: Well, you were hoping for a trifecta with The Food Network, HGTV, and Dr. Oz The Good Life. What happened with Dr. Oz The Good Life?

Michael Clinton: You know, I think it has an enormous consumer following. And, you know, when we looked at the business model, and we looked at how we thought we could make a bigger business and profit, we felt that shifting it to the bookazine model would give us a bigger partnership together. Obviously that would give us a bigger plot structure than a magazine, a magazine staff, and all that stuff. I think that, when you look at the consumer and you do the research, when you see how we approach the bookazine, there’s going to be a deeper dive into a variety of different health subjects. So, we just thought that this shift in this business model, I think David [David Carey] was quoted, and it’s true, that, aside from regularly published magazines, the bookazine sector is very strong at the moment. We haven’t played a lot in that space, but we want to, and this was a really good opportunity to pivot.

How we see the future is: not all magazines will be [published] ten times [a year]. Some will be six. Some will be four. Some might be two, you know? I’m not saying necessarily our existing magazines, but, maybe. And maybe new magazines. I think that, when you look at where there’s consumer engagement and on what level, then you decide from there. We looked at the Esquire Big Black Book and, you know, we think it makes sense to continue to do that twice a year. We don’t think it makes sense to do it four times.

But, then again, we might look at something else and say that, okay, this is four times. So, we haven’t made the decision too early on our newest products: Pioneer Woman and Airbnb. But I think we have to break out of our traditional thinking that you go out with a new product and it automatically has to become a ten times a year product; that’s not necessarily so. So, we’ve been looking into different approaches.

Samir Husni: Yes, you know, the worst thing we can do is the same thing we did five hundred years ago. (Laughs)

Michael Clinton: Right, exactly.

Samir Husni: So, tell me a little bit about Hearst for Humanity. I was reading recently about you launching this venture, where every magazine or every brand would team with a charitable or humane organization. What’s the genesis of that? I mean I know your folks talk so much about your generosity. So, is this a reflection of you? Or is this a whole Hearst venture?

Michael Clinton: Well, first of all it won’t be every magazine every month. I had an observation, as many people have, that started about eighteen months ago. Many consumers, especially younger consumers, especially those “famous millennials,” like to buy products where there is a give back, a cause-relationship, an ability for them to participate in a way that they feel they’re a part of doing good. And so, I challenged our consumer marketing team—and it took about a year to put in place—to come up with what could be a unique cause-related platform for the Hearst magazines to create and develop. This is what has become Hearst for Humanity.

So, if our editors, in any given issue, decide that there is a theme that has the potential, they will inform our consumer marketing department, who will then create with them a give back approach. We’re going to test it in the second half of this year with four magazines.

So the first one, this year’s Country Living magazine, they have something called the ‘Water’ issue. It’s all about, not just the spawning of lakes and oceans and summertime and getting out on the water, but literally [it’s about] clean water, if your community water is clean, etcetera.

Throughout the magazine, there are tips about how you can conserve water, keep water clean, use water in an efficient and green way. Then, if you believe in this as a cause, you can participate by going online to donate to The Nature Conservancy Group. We have a big water initiative.

So, if someone is a reader of Country Living and they say “You know what, I really believe in clean water and good water and all this stuff they’re putting in the magazine. This is a really important cause to me. I’m going to go online and make a donation towards the cause, I’m going to learn a little more about the cause.” Obviously, we’ll connect that to a special offer to subscribe to Country Living if you’re not a subscriber.

Then when Marie Claire wants to do an issue on sustainable fashion or if Good Housekeeping wanted to do a theme on feeding hungry children in poor parts of the country, we can connect the stories directly to the charity that is their partner. So everybody wins. The magazine wins because it’s doing good, the consumer wins because they’re being informed and connected to an important cause, and the cause wins because they’re getting engagement and—hopefully—a donation and may talk to people who want to be a part of their world.

It all started with this observation that—and you’ve seen this research too—brands that are connected to causes have a higher level of brand engagement with their consumers. And some good examples of that in the product stage is the Iowa Company, Toms Shoes; there have been other one-off initiatives in media like “Stand Up for Cancer” in the television world, which you might be familiar with. You know, the old fashioned thing was the telethon. This is our way of saying, “How do we build out a cause-related platform?” And this is really through our editorial products. I mean, our editors have another arm.

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

Michael Clinton: I’m trying to think if there’s any sort of hot news that I didn’t cover. You might be interested in this. We’ve had a very successful—extremely successful—business with delish.com, so we began to look at other areas of other categories where we might be able to use that digital model. So, we’re going to launch later in the year a new site called Glo.com. Glo is going to be in the wellness/health/fitness space. It will be what delish is and it will be predominantly video. It’ll have a fun, quirky sense of humor, and it’ll be cheeky the way delish is—and fun. We’re going to see if we can create another digital business along the delish model with Glo later in the year.

You know, our big push in the last year has been on a lot of our global buildout, and so one of the reasons why I’m spending a few days in the marketplace here in Paris before I get down to Cannes, is that we’re doing a lot of big digital, global deals, which is very exciting. We’ve taken our platform media in the US and we’ve pushed it across the globe, [such as] all of our owned and operated companies, for starters. From a digital point, a brand can buy a digital campaign or a digital cobranded project across ten countries, and we can deliver it in a very seamless way because we have the technology now. We’re having a lot of success in that area. We’ve gone more global in our digital technology, in our digital abilities. So that’s a big area of development.

Samir Husni: My new final question; if you were to tattoo or engrave something on your brain that people would remember you forever for, and you would remember yourself, what would it be?

Michael Clinton: Well, it would be something we just did. We just did a fun session that we do every year in the company which is called Unbound 360, which is when all the magazines present to each other their best and most innovative projects of the year. And I can share with you that Harper’s BAZAAR won, because the whole company votes. You might be familiar with Harper’s BAZAAR’s Empire State Building project a while back. And, you know, Tiffany was the business partner; Tiffany was our advertising partner in this huge project. It was extremely innovative in print, digital, video, and all the above.

So, management all had a little piece of advice, and mine was, “Great ideas do get funded.” You know, create and sell. Great ideas get funded. Oftentimes, what I would tell our team when they would say “Well, they don’t have a print budget.” I would say, “Let me ask you a question: do they have a budget?” Because every brand has a marketing budget, right? And, if you bring them a great idea, a great idea will get funding. And so we have many, many, many examples of business that has been created with no budget. The idea creates the budget. So, my mantra is “Great ideas do get funded” when you have the great, innovative idea.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Learning From The Past When It Comes To Launching A New Magazine – Sometimes The Vintage Ways Work The Best. Plus Time Inc. Multi Media Ventures Circ. 1930s…

June 16, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

I often hear the question: how do you launch a magazine in today’s digital age? And what role does digital play in today’s magazine media market place? Now, those are loaded queries if I’ve ever heard one, simply because there is no definitive answer. You need passion, innovation, a really good idea, stick-to-itiveness, which is a non-word that will become your mantra, and of course, financial backing. So what better answers to get from searching our past as we chart the present and the future.

A new launch and the role of digital in today’s magazine world can always use a leg-up as well; an edge, if you will. That’s why this Mr. Magazine™ Musing was written, because I discovered a golden nugget from the past that still rings very true today. Going that extra mile or offering that little oomph that maybe some other magazine isn’t, could quite possible be someone’s “leg-up” or “edge” when it comes to launching a new magazine today. There really is nothing new under the sun; if you thought of it, so has someone else. Even Time Inc. in the 1930s opted to go beyond print to spread its content. So here are some pearls of wisdom from the past that people fail to look for; just because the oyster’s shell is old, doesn’t mean there isn’t a treasure inside.

I was perusing the treasures inside the Mr. Magazine™ Classic Vault recently, (my own personal oyster shell pile) when I stumbled upon an amazing find. Beneath the bounty of exquisite classic titles, in a corner all its own, lay the oversized (14 x 17 inches) preview issue of Cinema Arts magazine, launched in September, 1936 . The cover showcases the striking features of the inimitable actress Jean Arthur, who in 1936, with the release of the Frank Capra film, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” was celebrating her first featured role.

Now, what is so significant and important to note with this preview issue, not that the beautiful Jean Arthur was anything to sneeze at, is that this particular sneak peek at the magazine was meant entirely for private circulation and not for public sale.

The magazine has an announcement at the very front of the book which proclaims that, “it should be stated that none of these advertisements were paid for and advertisers in no way endorse Cinema Arts. Our purpose in publishing this preview issue is to acquaint national advertisers, agencies and motion picture executives with the type of publication they may expect.” The announcement goes on to list the advertisers, agencies, and they also thank people in the motion picture industry.

However, what really grabbed my attention and impressed me was the magazine, in this private issue, introduced itself to the public, the industry and the advertisers. It didn’t just show up in someone’s mailbox or on their doorstep. The publisher actually took the time to explain the magazine’s mission statement and its goal to each of the publication’s three different customers that it would be serving.

There is an introduction for each one in the beginning of the book and this is a fantastic lesson for new magazines today to learn from. You have to cater to your customers who count, instead of trying to count all of John Q. Public as your customers. And in the case of Cinema Arts those customers were the film industry, as a whole, the public and the advertisers. So, in the Cinema Arts Presents introduction, each individual consumer is addressed singularly.

Another amazing thing about the magazine is the quality of the printing and the size of the preview issue. It’s an experience unto itself, before you even start to read it. Just touching the paper that they used for some of the pages gives you such a sensory perception of the passionate offering the magazine put out there.

Time Inc. Multi Media Ventures

In addition to the way the magazine was introduced, there were unbelievably interesting and informative articles within its pages. One that really caught my attention was written by Ralph Rolan, who was vice president of radio’s, “MARCH OF TIME,” and was also circulation manager of TIME before he became the producer of “MARCH OF TIME.”

In the article he talks about how in 1931, Henry Luce, “After establishing two great magazines in the publishing field, “TIME” and “FORTUNE,” turned to radio and introduced on Friday nights, the “MARCH OF TIME,” presenting the significant news of the week dramatized by able actors and pointed with TIME’s own style of editorial writing. For five years the “MARCH OF TIME” on the air has won most of the polls and awards offered for dramatic programs.”

The article continues with more enlightening content: “Most talked of factor of TIME, FORTUNE and the MARCH OF TIME on the air has been the frankness and keenness with which its editors have discussed the world’s news. So it was with considerable trepidation on the part of motion picture theater operators that they learned the MARCH OF TIME was to be made into a motion picture. They wondered, under the censorship regulations of almost every state, if such a strong fare could get by and, if passed, how the audiences, who were used to the happy endings of fictional romances and drama, would receive the strong, stark happenings of real events.”

“The MARCH OF TIME on the screen made its appearance February 1st, 1935 in 417 theaters scattered throughout the United States. Today it shows in more than 6,000 theaters in the United States, has spread over a thousand in the British Empire, hundreds in the Spanish speaking nations and some 300 more theaters scattered throughout the United States possessions and miscellaneous English speaking colonies throughout the world – an excellent answer to all skeptics.”

So, this magazine, Cinema Arts, had the vision of reaching its three audiences, and producing some very informative articles, such as the one that caught my attention about Time Inc. and its role in multimedia from the company’s inception. The importance of what Rolan was talking about in his article shows the depth and value of good content. Something that still holds true today.

For those of us willing to open our minds and see the possibilities that history presents us and the very real publishing lessons that we can learn, there’s no telling what “new” information we might reintroduce to the world of magazines.

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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Spoonful Magazine: When Passionate Entrepreneurship Is The Prescription For Launching A Magazine, A “Spoonful” Is Definitely The Right Dose – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kristina Pines, Founder/Publisher, Spoonful Magazine…

June 15, 2017

“The truth is, we didn’t have much time to reflect quietly on the magazine because, as soon as it got printed, we actually had a launch party. I think that I hadn’t even had a chance to read through the entire physical copy of the magazine until after the launch party. At that point, everyone had a copy and everyone was just feeling it. They were feeling that it had a soft-touch glaze and they would smell the pages—there’s something really wonderful about freshly-printed magazines. So they were sniffing it, they were feeling it. There was such a tactile sense to the product that they were literally petting it during the launch party.” Kristina Pines…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

In 2016, Spoonful Magazine was one of Mr. Magazine’s™ picks for the 30 Hottest Magazine Launches of the year. The passion that radiated from the pages of the unique food magazine was palpable. After talking at length with its founder/publisher, Kristina Pines, I now see where the magazine gets its intense warmth and zeal from.

Kristina started the magazine with a group of friends who had one thing in common: they were creatives who had a strong belief and love for the subject matter they were about to launch into the magazine marketplace. While the business side of publishing wasn’t exactly their forte, the entrepreneurial spirit was certainly something they were riding high on. And when you flip through the pages of Spoonful Magazine, you can see and feel the result of Kristina’s dream.

Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, watching her parents open their home to other immigrants that were living and working in the country, home entertaining became second nature to Kristina and the experience has overflowed into the pages of Spoonful. It’s a unique magazine that uses food and home cooking to bring people together. And isn’t that what magazines do best? Bring people into the circle of communities where they can experience joy and comfort?

I spoke with Kristina recently and we talked about Spoonful and her hopes for its continued production. And while nothing is assured in this crazy world that we live in today, one thing is absolute when it comes to her passion and love for the magazine: a “Spoonful” is definitely the right dose for her dream’s prescription.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kristina Pines, Founder/Publisher, Spoonful Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On how she used her own passion for the subject matter to create the magazine: This was a passion project between friends that kind of took over and became its own thing, and became this magazine. We’re hoping that with this magazine we’re giving the modern-home cook—those who don’t have the same luxury of time as in years past—to entertain again in their home by giving them recipes that other home cooks have trusted for years in their own family, giving them time management tips, and giving them other resources that would make it a successful event for them.

On how she took her passionate idea and actually turned it into a magazine: I was always a writer, and I wanted a platform to bring this message out there. I’ve had a blog for a long time. My other friends that have worked in various publications helped me start this. But, we were all freelancers. We had never done this full time. So, we just started researching, asking, “What are the practical measures?” and “How much do we need to raise?” We knew that the concept of the magazine was interesting enough. It was a niche in the food industry that hadn’t been covered yet.

On her most pleasant surprise after holding the finished magazine in her hands for the first time: To be able to kind of step back and watch everyone else who was seeing it for the first time fall in love with it, and to just understand what we’re trying to get… When we say that we’re about celebrating home cooking, it’s such a vague concept, you know? There are a lot of other publications that talk about home cooking and, you know, the different niches that are in home cooking; whether it’s gluten-free or paleo or easy recipes under thirty minutes and that type of thing. But we [Spoonful] are talking about specifically entertaining, and when all of these people who have thrown parties and who have opened their doors for us to take photos of them and show other people how they gather and then they see it all put together, they’re like, “Oh, this is what it is! I understand now.”

On the biggest challenge that she’s had to face: The problem is that we are not as widely circulated. Our distribution is still pretty minimal, compared to a lot of the other publications, so we’re not able to attract the same advertisers. And we kind of held off too long. So, I think the honeymoon started dwindling when we were trying to make this a financially viable project, and it was no longer just a passion project. But it’s all still about passion and just doing it for fun. You know, you kind of throw caution to the wind and say, “Okay, whatever happens happens.”

On the magazine’s current circulation: We have just over 1,000 subscribers, and we have 14,000 circulating as single copies throughout stores. About 500 single-issue purchasers per issue, at least, and then the rest are through our distribution point.

On whether she has any regrets about the magazine’s $20 cover price: I wish that we’d been more pragmatic and immediately dove into trying to get those ad sales. We were hoping, to be quite honest, that we would survive just through subscribers, you know? We were kind of like a “Field of Dreams” philosophy, “If you build it, they will come,” that type of thing. And they are coming, but it’s not as fast as we were hoping it would be, and it’s not as widely distributed as we would want it to be.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening to her home: At the end of the day, I cook. I mean, I cook every single day for my family. Friday nights are my only night off; I’ve decided that’s when we order in stuff. But for every other day, every meal, I cook. That’s what I do, and I find joy in that.

On what keeps her up at night: I think the sense of uncertainty that is in the publishing industry, but specifically for Spoonful; I want this to be stable for the people that are working for me. I want them to continue with that sense of joy and pride, without feeling vulnerable because our product feels vulnerable to the tides of time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kristina Pines, Founder/Publisher, Spoonful Magazine.

Samir Husni: I know for a lot of people who publish new magazines these days, it’s more of a passion rather than a business. So, tell me, how did you combine that passion of yours for this specific subject matter, Spoonful, and create the magazine?

Kristina Pines: You’re right, this was a passion project between friends that kind of took over and became its own thing, and became this magazine.

I personally grew up in Saudi Arabia. When my parents moved there, met each other there, and got married, they didn’t really know the people that lived in the area. So, to combat that loneliness, they started inviting people to their home – as a potluck party. Through that, they started building a community in Saudi. That community became their family. And they kept up the tradition.

Soon, they became known as the people that would invite you over if you were new in town. So, if you were a fresh, new immigrant to Saudi Arabia; if you were working there; if you didn’t know anything about the city, and didn’t know anyone else, you were typically invited to my parents’ home. That’s where all of these other immigrants, from all over the world, would come together and they would have weekend potluck parties. That was my childhood.

When I came to America and moved to Chicago, I first experienced that sense of separation—there’s so much space in America, more than I’ve experienced in any other country that I’ve lived. In the Philippines, certainly, everyone lives side by side. So, there you didn’t really have that sense of separation or isolation.

So, when we moved to Chicago my parents did the same thing—they decided to open their doors, invite in strangers, and soon our immediate neighborhood became our community, our family, and our friends. When I moved to Philadelphia, I did the exact same thing. I had moved away from my family, I didn’t know anyone in the Philadelphia area, and I knew the power food had over building communities. I wanted to show that.

So, Spoonful is really the vehicle for me to send that message out there, and it makes sure that people continue inviting people over. Because, these days, you don’t hear people saying, “Come on over for dinner!” They say, “Let’s go out for pizza.” Or, “Let’s go eat somewhere at a restaurant.” Which does build a relationship, but it’s not the same sense of intimacy.

And so, we’re hoping that with this magazine we’re giving the modern-home cook—those who don’t have the same luxury of time as in years past—to entertain again in their home by giving them recipes that other home cooks have trusted for years in their own family, giving them time management tips, and giving them other resources that would make it a successful event for them.

Samir Husni: Besides the family upbringing and all the travels, what gave you the idea to do a magazine? Just thinking: ‘Oh, I know nothing about this magazine business, but I know a lot about how I grew up.’ How did you put the two together?

Kristina Pines: (Laughs) I was always a writer, and I wanted a platform to bring this message out there. I’ve had a blog for a long time. My other friends that have worked in various publications helped me start this. But, we were all freelancers. We had never done this full time.

It really began when we started reading books on how to launch a magazine. We used Lorraine Phillips’ “Publish Your First Magazine” as a guide. That book had very practical tips in it. We also used James B. Kobak’s “How to Start a Magazine: And Publish It Profitably.”

So, we just started researching, asking, “What are the practical measures?” and “How much do we need to raise?” We knew that the concept of the magazine was interesting enough. It was a niche in the food industry that hadn’t been covered yet. So much of the food magazine industry currently is focused on celebrity chefs and how they cook at home. And there are other magazines that don’t have that same angle, but we’re really all about entertaining. We knew that at the heart of the concept of the publication, it would work and, at least be attractive to people.

We knew what we wanted—visually. We decided to hunt around for a printer that would partner with us, and we were lucky enough to find Standard Group Analytics that was able to handle our small run. At first, we were looking at larger printers, but they had a minimum of 50,000 and we just couldn’t commit to that.

So, having gotten the numbers and having gotten a practical understanding of what we needed to start it, we began putting together a pitch for investors. Our immediate funders were private investors—people that we knew, family, friends. And, as you put it in that entrepreneur article that I read; we were “Family, friends, and fools.” (Laughs) But, most of them were family and friends. I hope that they weren’t fooled, anyway. They were very supportive of the concept, and that’s how we got our first seed funding. From there, we started building our first issue, which was the ‘Love Affairs’ issue, Spring 2016, and we are now on our 6th issue. We just released our ‘Salt’ issue, with Carla Hall as the feature story.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant surprise that you can recall when the issue came back from the printer and you were flipping through the pages? What was the most pleasant moment for you when you finally held your baby in your hands for the first time?

Kristina Pines: The truth is, we didn’t have much time to reflect quietly on the magazine because, as soon as it got printed, we actually had a launch party. I think that I hadn’t even had a chance to read through the entire physical copy of the magazine until after the launch party. At that point, everyone had a copy and everyone was just feeling it. They were feeling that it had a soft-touch glaze and they would smell the pages—there’s something really wonderful about freshly-printed magazines. So they were sniffing it, they were feeling it. There was such a tactile sense to the product that they were literally petting it during the launch party.

I think the most pleasant surprise was being able to step back that evening and watch their reaction to this thing we’d been working on for a year. We had a year lead time to prep the Spring 2016, so, for me, it was old material. We were already at that point working on our third issue, at least content-wise. So, mentally, I was no longer really attached to the subject of the first issue.

But to be able to kind of step back and watch everyone else who was seeing it for the first time fall in love with it, and to just understand what we’re trying to get… When we say that we’re about celebrating home cooking, it’s such a vague concept, you know? There are a lot of other publications that talk about home cooking and, you know, the different niches that are in home cooking; whether it’s gluten-free or paleo or easy recipes under thirty minutes and that type of thing.

But we [Spoonful] are talking about specifically entertaining, and when all of these people who have thrown parties and who have opened their doors for us to take photos of them and show other people how they gather and then they see it all put together, they’re like, “Oh, this is what it is! I understand now.” And that type of understanding that they had on the concept of the magazine, the support that they’d already given us, plus having that double, even triple that evening was really a pleasant surprise and a pleasant experience.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge with the magazine? Is the honeymoon phase still going on, or have you had your first fight?

Kristina Pines: (Laughs) I think the first fight happens when you start feeling like it’s not as profitable as you’d hoped it would be. We also didn’t have as much experience with publishing. First of all, we didn’t have 100,000 in circulation. We couldn’t attract the same advertisers that we wanted to at the beginning—at least not the big, national brands. So, we were hoping to build more of a portfolio to attract them, to show them how we are unique, and who all our subscribers are.

Now we’re in our second year and we have a 90% re-subscribe rate, which is amazing. So the people that have signed on with us in the first year, have then actually recruited their friends to subscribe. It’s amazing, really, the reception to the magazine. Once you understand and see the magazine, you fall in love with the magazine.

The problem is that we are not as widely circulated. Our distribution is still pretty minimal, compared to a lot of the other publications, so we’re not able to attract the same advertisers. And we kind of held off too long. So, I think the honeymoon started dwindling when we were trying to make this a financially viable project, and it was no longer just a passion project. But it’s all still about passion and just doing it for fun. You know, you kind of throw caution to the wind and say, “Okay, whatever happens happens.”

But when you start relying on it as a source of income, as a source of stability, your relationship with it becomes tenuous, because it’s now laden with other responsibilities. You’re making it responsible for your livelihood. So, that makes it a little bit more of a difficult relationship. We still love what we’re doing, we still love the product that we’re producing. I think we have a really beautiful product, and with the launch of our summer issue, I think we’ve really hit our stride, in terms of the look and the writing and the aesthetic that we’re trying to put out there. But, at the same time, there is a lot more strain in making this profitable.

Samir Husni: What is your current circulation; how many subscribers do you have now?

Kristina Pines: We have just over 1,000 subscribers, and we have 14,000 circulating as single copies throughout stores. About 500 single-issue purchasers per issue, at least, and then the rest are through our distribution point.

Samir Husni: And, if I may add, your cover price is $20?

Kristina Pines: Yes, it is.

Samir Husni: And what’s your subscription price now?

Kristina Pines: We usually have a 10%-20% off discount, depending on the season. It’s $80 a year standard, but it’s usually around $64 to $72, depending on what promotion we’re putting out there.

Samir Husni: You’re one of the many, what they like to call in the United Kingdom, boutique magazines, where you need to find your cult audience and get them to pay that high cover price, because for the price of one issue of Spoonful, you can buy two years of other food magazines on the marketplace. But, yours is more like the “Kinfolk,” more like the “Jarry” magazines—I mean all of these boutique magazines that have the very high cover price, yet, once the honeymoon is over and you start thinking about the business model, that’s where the rubber meets the road. So, as you look toward the future, do you have any regrets? I mean is there ever a time that that you’ve said, “I wish that I had done this, rather than that?”

Kristina Pines: If we could start over, knowing what I know now, we would have started looking for advertisers as soon as our first issue hit the shelves, and for our second, third, and other issues. We wouldn’t have waited until we’d perfected our writing style or really found our voice.

But, we were hoping that once we kind of put together the perfect package, what we thought was the best work that we could really put out there, that it would just come; that other people would agree; that advertisers would see what we’re trying to do and say, “Yes, I believe in what you’re doing. Here’s some advertising money.”

I wish that we’d been more pragmatic and immediately dove into trying to get those ad sales. We were hoping, to be quite honest, that we would survive just through subscribers, you know? We were kind of like a “Field of Dreams” philosophy, “If you build it, they will come,” that type of thing. And they are coming, but it’s not as fast as we were hoping it would be, and it’s not as widely distributed as we would want it to be.

Samir Husni: If I show up at your house unexpectedly one evening after work, what do I find you doing; sitting on your couch, having a glass of wine; cooking; reading a book or a magazine; watching TV; or something else?

Kristina Pines: At the end of the day, I cook. I mean, I cook every single day for my family. Friday nights are my only night off; I’ve decided that’s when we order in stuff. But for every other day, every meal, I cook. That’s what I do, and I find joy in that. My family would much prefer to eat in than they would eating out. That’s how I relax. After business hours are over, I step away from my phone—I literally turn it off and put it away—because I devote all of my focus on my family at that time.

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

Kristina Pines: I think the sense of uncertainty that is in the publishing industry, but specifically for Spoonful; I want this to be stable for the people that are working for me. I want them to continue with that sense of joy and pride, without feeling vulnerable because our product feels vulnerable to the tides of time. We don’t know if it’s going to survive the test of time. So, we’ll see.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines Always Deliver… Whether Numbers Are Up Or Down – Magazines Never Disappoint

June 12, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing Comparing The First Five Months Of 2017 To 2016

As I surveyed the Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor for the first five months of 2017, I couldn’t ignore that the musing I am about to write comes to you with a slight bittersweet positivity. An odd description, you might think, but the reason for the oxymoronic tinge of phrasing is because, unfortunately, as happens occasionally, the numbers being compared for the first five months of 2017 show a slight downward trend, in both frequency and specials. However, on the flip side, that positive flow that always propels ink on paper is still supremely prevalent. No matter the “numbers,” magazines always deliver the goods. Always. Just as Mr. Magazine™ himself feels the random slowdown, so does the stream of magazines rolling off the presses. It doesn’t mean that I or they are down for the count, it merely signifies an “off” day, so to speak.

From January through May, 2017, the numbers are as follows:

• Total Frequency Titles – 47
• Total Special Titles (including bookazines & annuals) – 205

From January through May, 2016, the numbers are as follows:

• Total Frequency Titles – 86
• Total Special Titles (including bookazines & annuals) – 252

As I’m sure you can do the math yourself, I won’t waste your time showing you the actual numerical difference. Suffice it to say, major publishers and companies haven’t let the thought of a “slowdown” curtail them in the least. This year alone, we’ve seen past magazines reborn, leading companies creating new ones, and entrepreneurs stepping out onto that visionary limb to go for their dreams. From the rebirths of Paste, Brio, and Zink magazine to the premiere issue of Airbnb Mag, the successful company’s new travel magazine published with partnership with Hearst Magazines, to the February, 2017 magazine launch, Rova (about millennials who love to roam the open roads in their RV’s) that any entrepreneur would be proud to call their offspring, new launches are still being catapulted into that stratosphere called the magazine market. Slowdown means nothing to the medium that knew what it was like to stand against the forces of darkness a few years ago, namely the naysayers who were determined that the last nail in the magazine coffin belonged to them.

Of course the launch of The Pioneer Woman (this month, and also published in partnership with Hearst Magazines) is not included in this musing, neither the one million new circulation numbers for The Magnolia Journal (published in partnership with Meredith)… just keep in mind we are comparing the first five months of 2017 to that of 2016.

But have no fear magazine lovers everywhere: the printed word is going nowhere. Except maybe onto the page of the next new magazine launch, which I’m sure will be out any day now.

Until we meet at the newsstands…

The chart below compares the first five months of 2017 to that of 2016 and is followed by the month to month breakdown of the numbers:

• January 2017:

• Frequency – 5
• Specials – 32

• January 2016:

• Frequency – 21
• Specials – 56

• February 2017:

• Frequency – 4
• Specials – 33

• February 2016:

• Frequency – 12
• Specials – 57

• March 2017:

• Frequency – 6
• Specials – 62

• March 2016:

• Frequency – 7
• Specials – 46

• April 2017:

• Frequency – 12
• Specials – 30

• April 2016:

• Frequency – 21
• Specials – 50

• May 2017:

• Frequency – 20
• Specials – 48

• May 2016:

• Frequency – 25
• Specials – 43

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The Story Of HOLA! Made In The U.S.A.: The Final ACT 7 Experience

June 7, 2017

The final ACT 7 Experience was reserved for Sylvia Banderas, Publisher/VP Integrated Sales, HOLA! newly launched Spanish magazine in the United States. Ms. Banderas presented the story of the launch and the need for such a publication in the U.S. market… Click below to watch the video.

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