Archive for August, 2017

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Salty At Heart: A New Magazine That Connects Women, Adventure & The Sea Through A Kindred Spirit Of Empowerment And Good That’s As Undeniable As The Ocean – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kirstin Thompson, Founder & Editor In Chief, Salty At Heart…

August 31, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“It goes back to being a print publication and really embracing that organic feel of human interaction, holding something in your hand, and not being on a screen. It feels more real and feels heavier and more involved with the words on the page. And that’s what this journal is. It’s really about connecting the dots; connecting the dots of what it means to be human and to exist in this world. And what it means to be a community and how we can all come together and see what our similarities are; and find out that we’re all pretty much the same. And we’re all connected in this beautiful way. So, yes, I do believe if people happen to pick up this journal, that maybe it was meant to be in their hands.” Kirstin Thompson…

Salty at Heart – a journal that’s inspired by women, adventure and the sea. And the first woman to be inspired is the magazine/journal’s founder and editor in chief, Kirstin Thompson. With sections of the publication dedicated to: surf, sustainability, art, empowerment, balance, and travel; the journal is an embodiment of many things positive in our world, when oftentimes all we hear about is the negative.

I spoke with Kirstin recently and we talked about the passion that it took to get this publication off the ground and onto bookshelves. As the phrase goes, the struggle was real, and according to Kirstin, not an easy feat. But with perseverance and determination, she can now walk into most Books-A-Million’s and Barnes & Nobles’ and see Salty at Heart on the shelves. In fact, look for the next issue there soon.

When Kirstin saw a void in the women’s space that spoke about the good things that women did within the world and the powerful impacts that they made, after careful thought and consideration, and much research, she decided to bring Salty at Heart to life. And she’s awfully glad she did.

And so is Mr. Magazine™. The magazine is filled with beautiful photography and uplifting and vibrant content that won’t be denied. Much like Kirstin’s call to action to get the publication off the ground wouldn’t be denied, proving that those who listen to their heart’s passions are often rewarded with their dreams.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kirstin Thompson, founder and editor in chief, Salty at Heart.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the story behind Salty at Heart: It really starts with what inspired the magazine, which we now call a journal. It goes back to when I was feeling this void in the media, especially in the magazine world. I felt like the voices of women were not being heard, and I felt there was no space where I could enter and learn about the inspiring things that women were doing that had nothing to do with what they were wearing and how they looked. I just felt there was this overwhelming focus on women more as objects, especially because they tend to be very commercialized, and I needed to read something that was inspiring. Something that could empower women.

On the part of her letter from the editor that speaks to the fact that maybe this unique publication chose the reader rather than the other way around: I like to think that things happen for a reason. Maybe someone stumbled upon this journal for a reason; a friend shows it to them; someone sees it in a coffee shop. I think the reason this journal even exists is all because of those kinds of things. Just random people that I met or I bumped into, connections that I made helped to create this thing into what it is. I think the more we connect and the more that we’re open to connecting, we can really tap into more as a society.

On whether anyone told her she was out of her mind for launching a print magazine in this digital age: Oh yes, all of the time. (Laughs) Maybe not my close friends, they were very supportive, but some people would comment things like: had I thought about digital, or ask me, what are you doing? (Laughs again) Who knows, maybe the magazines won’t sell; maybe no one goes to the bookstores anymore, but I really hope not, and I couldn’t resist thinking that we might be at a turning point, where people start rejecting this digital age a little bit and start really embracing that sense of community.

On whether creating the magazine has been like riding a one big wave smoothly or she’s had some bigger waves to deal with along the way: Yes, we’ve had some bigger waves, definitely. (Laughs) It’s been a struggle, for sure. I wouldn’t say that it came easy. I was thinking about this the other day, about how much I’ve been through to get this onto the shelves and to get this out there in the world. And how it’s really very difficult in this country to really get anywhere if you don’t come from money. The process was all from the heart and all from hard work and late nights on my computer; lots of emails and phone calls and research. I have a lot of grit, so I pushed though. And I think that it’s a beautiful thing and it was worth it.

On her reaction when she saw the first issue of Salty at Heart printed: It was so exciting. It was beautiful and honestly, it was a very fulfilling feeling to see it and hold it in my hands. I think I was jumping up and down. And it was funny, once you get something like that in your hands, you only allow yourself to be excited for a little bit, and then you move on to the next step and decide what you’re going to do afterward.

On why it took her three years to publish the first issue after she had done the test issue in 2014: To be honest, it had to do with money. (Laughs) It costs a lot to print. We printed the test issue and then just kind of let it fly to see what would happen. It wasn’t something that we were sure we were going to be able to keep doing, so we just wanted to see what would happen. It was a matter of trying to raise the money to print again.

On anything she’d like to add: It’s really exciting to see something that you’ve created out there in the world. And I really want to encourage people to embrace their creativity and listen to what calls to them and tune into what matters to them. I listen to NPR every day and read The New York Times every day, and I think it’s very easy for us to get overwhelmed by the chaos that seems to ensue in this world. But the thing is, we have to tune into as well the positive things that are happening.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: It would probably be the thing that I have been drawing on my wrist for so long. Ever since I was very young I’ve been drawing on my wrist a wave that kind of turned into cursive. And it always said: live free. If people wanted to remember me by something it would be that she lived free, because I think that’s something that I’ve tried to embrace over the years.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: More likely than not, you’ll find me working on my computer late at night. But I also tend to find myself catching up on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, I love him and he really helps me deal with everything going on in the world and he brings humor to it. I think that’s important. His book is actually on my bedside table, but I have yet to read it.

On what keeps her up at night: I could give you a whole list. I could be planning where I want to travel to in my head. I could be thinking about what I need to be doing for the journal; thinking about the issues of the world. I could be thinking about something I read earlier. It depends on which side of my brain is really activated that day. I could be analyzing everything, or I could be hopping out of bed and writing down ideas or something. An article idea or some sort of string of words that has appeared to me in my head. When you’re a writer, that happens often.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kirstin Thompson, founder and editor in chief, Salty at Heart.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of Salty at Heart. The idea behind the magazine; the name; the tagline “A Journal Inspired by Women, Adventure, and the Sea.”

Kirstin Thompson: It really starts with what inspired the magazine, which we now call a journal. It goes back to when I was feeling this void in the media, especially in the magazine world. I felt like the voices of women were not being heard, and I felt there was no space where I could enter and learn about the inspiring things that women were doing that had nothing to do with what they were wearing and how they looked. I just felt there was this overwhelming focus on women more as objects, especially because they tend to be very commercialized, and I needed to read something that was inspiring. Something that could empower women. To read about the wittiness and the gracefulness and the strength of women out there in the world, who were really making an impact.

And that’s really where it started, especially the surfing. I would get surfing magazines and flip through them and the only women that I would see in there were these women in bikinis, and the only time they spoke about women in surfing magazines, it wasn’t necessarily inspiring. So, I felt this void in that sense, and it’s definitely changed since then, but at the time there was no content that was really pulling me to it.

I was backpacking through Central America, and surfing and traveling with my friends for four months. I ended up meeting this woman while I was there who was a yoga instructor and whale activist. And she actually wrote for a magazine in the U.K. that was called SurfGirl. I was telling her that I really wished there was somewhere I could write, because I had been a writer since the beginning of time, but there was nothing out there that I felt like I could contribute to in a way that would inspire people and in a way that I could share.

She said something crazy to me after that, which was why didn’t I start my own magazine. At the time, I just dismissed her suggestion. But then fast forward a year or so and there I was researching how to start a zine. The original idea was to just have a very simple zine to hand out to friends and family, but it turned into something more. It really evolved into this very beautiful publication, which I am very glad that it did, because now it can impact more people.

But the idea behind it has really evolved into this notion that we’re all “Salty at Heart.” The name Salty at Heart really embodies the idea behind it; we’re all connected to the ocean. We all rely on it for food and our weather patterns; the planet is mostly covered in water and all of us, whether we realize it or not, are very connected to this part of our planet and to deny that kind of denies our connection to nature and to the world. We use it to travel and just for everything. And that’s where the name came from. We are all Salty at Heart.

So, the magazine isn’t necessarily just for people who surf or sail, or who really enjoy spending time in the water, it may pull those people in more, but it’s really for everyone because we have a wide variety of content. We feature environmentalists and adventurers, travelers and writers. I want to include some politicians, and feature artists and all kinds of people who are out there in the world making an impact.

The other void that I noticed in the media was this lack of focus on the good things that are happening in the world, so this sort of fills that space as well. From my experience, there’s nothing really good that comes out of pressing these issues and giving out negative feelings all of the time. It can be very defeating if all you ever hear about is the inequalities and how we’re always degrading ourselves. It can be taxing. People either want to shut that out or they get angry.

And so, it’s been my personal experience that doesn’t do any good at all; it doesn’t empower people, it deflates them. To really come together as a community, we have to focus on these areas of light that are popping up. And they’ve been there for a long time, these people who are doing good, and I especially focus on those women because there is just not enough mention on how women can impact society and bring out these positive changes.

So, it’s a lot going on and the magazine has a lot of potential for really digging deep into issues, while focusing on the beautiful and chaotic part of this world.

Samir Husni: You mention in your letter from the editor, after thanking the readers for choosing to read this unique publication, you write: actually, it might have chosen you. Is that part of the cosmic network of energy, matter and space?

Kirstin Thompson: Yes, I like to think that things happen for a reason. Maybe someone stumbled upon this journal for a reason; a friend shows it to them; someone sees it in a coffee shop. I think the reason this journal even exists is all because of those kinds of things. Just random people that I met or I bumped into, connections that I made helped to create this thing into what it is. I think the more we connect and the more that we’re open to connecting, we can really tap into more as a society.

And that goes back to being a print publication and really embracing that organic feel of human interaction, holding something in your hand, and not being on a screen. It feels more real and feels heavier and more involved with the words on the page. And that’s what this journal is. It’s really about connecting the dots; connecting the dots of what it means to be human and to exist in this world. And what it means to be a community and how we can all come together and see what our similarities are; and find out that we’re all pretty much the same. And we’re all connected in this beautiful way. So, yes, I do believe if people happen to pick up this journal, that maybe it was meant to be in their hands.

Samir Husni: Did anyone tell you that you were out of your mind for launching a print magazine in this digital age?

Kirstin Thompson: Oh yes, all of the time. (Laughs) Maybe not my close friends, they were very supportive, but some people would comment things like: had I thought about digital, or ask me, what are you doing? (Laughs again) Who knows, maybe the magazines won’t sell; maybe no one goes to the bookstores anymore, but I really hope not, and I couldn’t resist thinking that we might be at a turning point, where people start rejecting this digital age a little bit and start really embracing that sense of community. I think people will miss going into bookstores, or going to a coffee shop and chatting with people. People are so involved in their phones and involved with technology these days. We’ve all heard how these things are impacting society and how people are not engaging with each other personally anymore.

Of course, print isn’t as big as it was before technology came onto the scene, but I think it could come back and it could be something that people are craving. But they may not realize they’re craving it until they hold something like this in their hands and they say, wow, this is really different from flipping through my phone or reading something on Kindle.

So, people definitely asked what I was thinking, but despite what you see in the world, I always believe that you should create your own reality; what you think you should see out there in the world. And that’s how change happens, people think outside the box. They see their reality and they don’t like it, and they want to see it change. So, they push through the obstacles and create anyway. Even if what you’re doing fails, you tried and you have grown from it and because of it.

Samir Husni: I coined a phrase that I use in my teaching: isolated connectivity. That we feel we are so connected with our phones, the Internet, and everything else digital, yet we’re more isolated than ever before.

Kirstin Thompson: Yes, definitely. Isolated connectivity; yes, I like that phrase a lot.

Samir Husni: Has creating the magazine been like riding one big wave smoothly and successfully, or have you had to deal with some bigger waves along the way?

Kirstin Thompson: Yes, we’ve had some bigger waves, definitely. (Laughs) It’s been a struggle, for sure. I wouldn’t say that it came easy. I was thinking about this the other day, about how much I’ve been through to get this onto the shelves and to get this out there in the world. And how it’s really very difficult in this country to really get anywhere if you don’t come from money. I feel like this country is privileged and either you get where you want to go and succeed based on luck, sometimes hard work can get you there, but also there is some privilege that really drives a lot of success in this country.

The process was all from the heart and all from hard work and late nights on my computer; lots of emails and phone calls and research. I have a lot of grit, so I pushed though. And I think that it’s a beautiful thing and it was worth it. Through it all, I’ve learned so much about myself and the publishing industry. Not smooth sailing at all, but I think what I would tell people is that if you believe in something enough, it’s going to pull at you day and night. You’re not going to be able to rest until you’ve accomplished it, so you have to listen to that. You have to listen to that in your soul and really answer to it, otherwise it’s going to keep eating at you.

One of the reasons this journal was created was to dive into issues of inequalities and bring more awareness to them. And to bring awareness to the reality of life, which is sometimes chaotic, sometimes hard, and sometimes not so easy, but we’re all in this together. We’re all a community and we need to fight for each other.

Samir Husni: What was your reaction when you saw the first printed issue of Salty at Heart?

Kirstin Thompson: It was so exciting. It was beautiful and honestly, it was a very fulfilling feeling to see it and hold it in my hands. I think I was jumping up and down. And it was funny, once you get something like that in your hands, you only allow yourself to be excited for a little bit, and then you move on to the next step and decide what you’re going to do afterward. We were in that excitement mode for a little bit, and then we geared up for the next step.

Samir Husni: Why did it take you three years to publish the first issue after the test issue in 2014?

Kirstin Thompson: To be honest, it had to do with money. (Laughs) It costs a lot to print. We printed the test issue and then just kind of let it fly to see what would happen. It wasn’t something that we were sure we were going to be able to keep doing, so we just wanted to see what would happen. It was a matter of trying to raise the money to print again.

When you’re just getting started, printing in small quantities is very expensive. The more you print, obviously, the less it will cost per copy, and the more money you make off of each magazine. So, at the beginning it’s really hard, because you’re not really making much money off of the ones that you sell. It was really hard to raise the funds to get going, and really gear ourselves up for being able to consistently print twice a year. But now that we’re distributed in Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million , we have our foot in the door and we can now be more consistent.

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

Kirstin Thompson: It’s really exciting to see something that you’ve created out there in the world. And I really want to encourage people to embrace their creativity and listen to what calls to them and tune into what matters to them. I listen to NPR every day and read The New York Times every day, and I think it’s very easy for us to get overwhelmed by the chaos that seems to ensue in this world.

But the thing is, we have to tune into as well the positive things that are happening. I’ve gotten better over the years at separating myself from the sadness that can overwhelm us. And that’s what this journal is about; it’s enlightening and witty; it’s fun and has beautiful photography. It’s really designed to kind of let you dive in and embrace yourself and the world in a more positive light.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Kirstin Thompson: It would probably be the thing that I have been drawing on my wrist for so long. Ever since I was very young I’ve been drawing on my wrist a wave that kind of turned into cursive. And it always said: live free. If people wanted to remember me by something it would be that she lived free, because I think that’s something that I’ve tried to embrace over the years.

I don’t want to ever feel like I’m not in control of my own life. And not in control of who I am and I don’t want to be defined by anybody else. I tend to wander a lot; I’m a wanderer and that’s important to me. But also that she’s free, but she’s not alone. It’s kind of perfectly embodied in the poem I wrote in this latest issue, called The Wandering She:

She roams sometimes a lone wolf howling to the moon, the heavens, the towering night sky. But the wandering she is not alone – others band with her, dancing, laughing, roaming free. Their thunder is loud, hugging cliffs they climb, above the earth their dreams unfold and stories told of hurt and loss and tears of the sea, of love and strength and dignity, for the wandering she must always embrace the free spirit that belongs to no one but she.

That kind of defines it all, I think. That would be tattooed on my brain. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Kirstin Thompson: Any manner of those things, actually. More likely than not, you’ll find me working on my computer late at night. But I also tend to find myself catching up on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, I love him and he really helps me deal with everything going on in the world and he brings humor to it. I think that’s important. His book is actually on my bedside table, but I have yet to read it.

You can also find me cooking, for sure. I tend to snack all of the time. I like to swim, do some laps at the gym, and probably just doing something; I feel like there’s always something going through my head. I could also be studying; I’m taking classes at the moment. My life is pretty full.

Samir Husni: By the way, where are you based?

Kirstin Thompson: At the moment, I’m in Atlantic Beach, Fla.

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

Kirstin Thompson: I could give you a whole list. I could be planning where I want to travel to in my head. I could be thinking about what I need to be doing for the journal; thinking about the issues of the world. I could be thinking about something I read earlier. It depends on which side of my brain is really activated that day. I could be analyzing everything, or I could be hopping out of bed and writing down ideas or something. An article idea or some sort of string of words that has appeared to me in my head. When you’re a writer, that happens often. You never know when it’s going to hit you. Creativity just kind of pops in when you’re trying to sleep or something. (Laughs)

And I’m usually just thinking about all of the things that I still want to do in my life. I want to get my private pilot’s license; I want to fly. I want to learn at least five languages; I’m going to grad school this year. So, my mind is always going and I’m always thinking about anything and everything. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Veranda Magazine Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary With Its Largest Issue In 10 Years And Its Own Testament To The Power Of Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Clinton Smith, Editor In Chief, Veranda Magazine…

August 28, 2017

“So many people have already received some first-bound copies that are going to be landing in subscribers’ mailboxes very soon. We’ve received several notes from those who have gotten those few first-bound copies, and they’ve said something along the lines of they can’t wait to spend their weekends with it. I can’t imagine anyone leaving work on a Friday afternoon saying that they can’t wait to spend their weekend with their phone or their iPad, I mean of course, they might like whatever they’re streaming online and can’t wait to binge-watch it that weekend, but for people to actually say they can’t wait to spend the weekend with the magazine is pretty special and remarkable and a testament to print.” Clinton Smith…

Thirty years and still going strong. Veranda magazine is celebrating a milestone in the world of print magazines and according to Clinton Smith, the magazine’s editor in chief, the hope is to continue to bring gravitas and authority to the subject of living well, while still approaching the topic with childlike wonder and bridging the two viewpoints. And with the 30th anniversary issue, the largest in ten years, Clint confirmed, the magazine is definitely proving that childlike wonder and magic are two components that Veranda will never outgrow.

Founder of the publication, Lisa Newsom, started the magazine in her home, with her children doing most of the work a normal magazine staff would handle. It was her baby, and very near and dear to her heart. Clint shared that originally the magazine was supposed to be called Traditions, which in retrospect, is still relevant to the publication today as it continues a 30-year tradition of excellence and creative innovation that its founder began.

I spoke with Clint recently and we talked about the past, present and future of Veranda. It was a bit of a homecoming for Clint and myself, as he began his magazine career here as a student in the magazine program at the University of Mississippi, where he attended, and where I was fortunate enough to have him as my undergraduate assistant in the magazine program.

In his editor’s letter for the 30th anniversary issue, Clint wrote: An anniversary shouldn’t be about wallowing in the past. A healthy bit of reflection is good for anyone, but the occasion should be about taking stock and focusing on the future and new opportunities that await. When we discussed marking this milestone, it was important to tip our hat to Atlanta, where the magazine was founded in 1987 and where it was based for 25 years. How we ended up doing that proved serendipitous.

Serendipitous, indeed. Or meant to be. Either way the view from the “Veranda” is one that is bright, beautiful and extremely wide opened to the possibilities. And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Clinton Smith, editor in chief, Veranda magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the relationship he had with Veranda before he became its editor in chief: I finished at Ole Miss in 1999 and immediately moved to Atlanta. And within a year, year and a half, maybe two years, I got the job at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. In Atlanta, the design community is very small and it’s very intimate. And of course, the publishing community in Atlanta is even smaller, there aren’t that many magazines there, at least compared to New York. So, I was always aware of what they (Veranda) were doing. I was a long-time fan and reader. And just at some of the industry events, I came to know that staff very well. I always thought they were a great group and very talented people. I always had admiration for what they produced every couple of months.

On that moment when he was offered the job as editor in chief of Veranda: I feel like the interview process was about 12 years in the making, because I had had contact with Eliot Kaplan (Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Hearst Magazines) back in 2004/2005, somewhere in there, about various positions over the years. And along the way I had also struck up a friendship with Newell Turner (Editorial Director, Hearst Design Group), and he had become aware of the work I was doing at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles about seven years ago. So, I think they both had subscriptions to the magazine, of course, there were certain issues I wish they hadn’t seen. (Laughs) But they were well aware of everything that I was doing, and obviously, were impressed. But when the call came, it was exciting.

On how he took a regional magazine published in Atlanta to an international level that is now known worldwide: I think the reason for the success of the title is that when Lisa Newsom started the magazine, she had such a clear vision, and like you said, 30 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, a mom with four children who decided to start her own magazine was unheard of. Again, the perseverance there is just amazing. And I think the reason for this longevity and success is that Lisa had her vision and she stuck to it. And then Dara came onboard and it was the same thing. Both Dara and I have been lucky in that neither of us has inherited a magazine that was in trouble, which anytime there’s a leadership change in publishing that’s sometimes the reason behind it. So, Dara came in and built upon what Lisa had done, and then I came onboard and inherited something that wasn’t broken, but of course, I wanted to put my stamp on it.

On what he might do differently with the 50th anniversary issue versus the 30th: We had 30 years of beautiful archival imagery to go through, but when I start thinking about the next 20 or 30 years and doing an anniversary issue again, I think about the speed in which things are changing so quickly now. The iPhone is only 10-years-old, and for the 30th anniversary issue, we had all of this beautiful filmed photography, and everything is digital now. Who knows in five more years how we’ll be showcasing homes and gardens. It may be all computer-generated. We don’t know.

On a few moments throughout his career that could be defined as his “Aha” moments: It seems cliché to say that you’re only as good as your last issue, but of course, my brain right now is on November/December. (Laughs) If the next issue can stand up to this one. But I do have to say that this was something that I’m extremely proud of, and not only because of the fact that we produced this beautiful 30th anniversary issue. But also the fact that I was able to come to the table with a vision and have such an amazing team who somehow saw parts of it perfectly clearly, and some of my more obtuse ideas they were able to interpret and make them all better.

On any major stumbling block he encountered while putting together the anniversary issue: The magazine world, as you know, has a very long lead-time. And so, for the most part, a lot of the homes and gardens that we feature in the magazine are actually photographed a year in advance. And of course, the front of book stories are done much closer to our print deadline. I think it was looking at every single page and asking ourselves what we could make new there, so it would fall into Veranda’s timeless look? How could we make it timelier for today? Just making sure that nothing we had photographed a year ago felt old to us. We wanted it to be as new and fresh as we could possible make it.

On what value he believes print brings to the 30th anniversary issue: So many people have already received some first-bound copies that are going to be landing in subscribers’ mailboxes very soon. We’ve received several notes from those who have gotten those few first-bound copies, and they’ve said something along the lines of they can’t wait to spend their weekends with it. I can’t imagine anyone leaving work on a Friday afternoon saying that they can’t wait to spend their weekend with their phone or their iPad, I mean of course, they might like whatever they’re streaming online and can’t wait to binge-watch it that weekend, but for people to actually say they can’t wait to spend the weekend with the magazine is pretty special and remarkable and a testament to print.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: What would I like people to know about me? I feel like I’m writing my own tombstone here, Samir. (Laughs) But I think it’s that I’ve done the best that I can do and I hope that I’ve inspired others to do the same.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m probably in the garden out in the yard watering plants, picking some herbs, sweeping, maybe raking. Or I’m going on a walk or a hike, that sort of thing. Anytime that I can be outside is my favorite time of day. Anytime.

On whether someone would ever find him reading something at home: I have a lot of design books, which I love, and I read a lot of biographies, more than any other genre. But the very interesting thing is, interesting to me, now that I think about it, is that I don’t have many magazines at home. I think that when I leave the office at the end of the day, even some favorite magazines, I might read them on the train or when I get back to the office, but at the end of the day I sort of want to be distracted by something else.

On what motivates him to get out of bed each morning: My Type-A personality, I think. And there’s this sense of what is new and what’s next. We’re not a trend-driven magazine, but as a journalist, it’s this sense of what’s around the corner; what are we going to wake up to today that will not only peak our interest, but make us think how we as journalists can translate that to the reader, so that they’re discovering something new and inspiring as well. At the end of the day, Veranda is an interior design magazine, but more than that, it’s a celebration of beauty in almost every form.

On what keeps him up at night: Everything. The next story idea keeps me up. Deadlines keep me up. Did I get the cover right; is the headline right? I’ll wake up at 2:00 a.m. and think maybe I should rewrite a caption. All of those little things, and millions of others. Did I return an email? Did they reply to my email?


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Clinton Smith, editor in chief, Veranda magazine.

Samir Husni: Clint, congratulations on reaching a major milestone.

Clinton Smith: Thank you. Thirty is a big number.

Samir Husni: It sure is.

Clinton Smith: And we don’t look a day over 21.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) You and Veranda have a history, even before you became the editor of the magazine. As you mentioned in your letter from the editor, you pay tribute to Atlanta, which is where Veranda was located for almost 25 years. And you worked in Atlanta after you graduated, starting your first job there. Tell me a little about that relationship you had with the magazine before you became editor in chief.

Clinton Smith: I finished at Ole Miss in 1999 and immediately moved to Atlanta. And within a year, year and a half, maybe two years, I got the job at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. In Atlanta, the design community is very small and it’s very intimate. And of course, the publishing community in Atlanta is even smaller, there aren’t that many magazines there, at least compared to New York.

So, I was always aware of what they (Veranda) were doing. I was a long-time fan and reader. And just at some of the industry events, I came to know that staff very well. I always thought they were a great group and very talented people. I always had admiration for what they produced every couple of months.

It was as though I was on this parallel path, and all of us weren’t in the New York publishing industry, so to speak, even though the title was owned by Hearst at the time. So, we were all down in Atlanta doing our thing.

Samir Husni: Can you relive that moment when you were offered the job as editor in chief of Veranda?

Clinton Smith: I feel like the interview process was about 12 years in the making, because I had had contact with Eliot Kaplan (Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Hearst Magazines) back in 2004/2005, somewhere in there, about various positions over the years. And along the way I had also struck up a friendship with Newell Turner (Editorial Director, Hearst Design Group), and he had become aware of the work I was doing at Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, I guess now, about seven years ago.

So, I think they both had subscriptions to the magazine; of course, there were certain issues I wish they hadn’t seen. (Laughs) But they were well aware of everything that I was doing, and obviously were impressed. But when the call came, it was exciting. The interview process at that time wasn’t too terribly long, but again I think they were aware of everything that I had done up until that point, and it was just a natural fit. Or at least, it seemed like a great fit for me and that’s been four years ago.

Samir Husni: Some magazines when they’re born, the odds are against them; the odds of survival in the magazine business, as you know, are usually against any new title. Yet, when Veranda was started, after just five years, some people wanted to buy the magazine. But Lisa Newsom, the founder of Veranda, did not want to sell, it was her baby. But then Hearst bought the magazine, and to make a long story short, you came onboard. And now you’re celebrating the magazine’s 30th anniversary issue. Can you tell me how you took a regional magazine published in Atlanta to an international level that is now known worldwide?

Clinton Smith: I think the reason for the success of the title is that when Lisa Newsom started the magazine, she had such a clear vision, and like you said, 30 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, a mom with four children who decided to start her own magazine was unheard of. And I hope I’m not being ungentlemanly here, but she started the magazine when she was 50 years old. To start something this epic at that stage in your life is something to be commended for. And I often wonder if I would have the stamina for it. (Laughs)

And what’s interesting is that in April, there was a panel discussion that one of our senior editors, Carolyn Englefield, moderated in Atlanta. And it featured all three editors, Lisa Newsom, Dara Caponigro, and myself. Lisa Newsom talked about a few things that I had never known. We knew that she had started the magazine from her house and her kids helped with circulation and production, just everything, but at one point she had to actually mortgage her house to keep the magazine afloat. And she did not tell her husband that she had done that. (Laughs)

Again, the perseverance there is just amazing. And I think the reason for this longevity and success is that Lisa had her vision and she stuck to it. And then Dara came onboard and it was the same thing. Both Dara and I have been lucky in that neither of us has inherited a magazine that was in trouble, which anytime there’s a leadership change in publishing that’s sometimes the reason behind it. So, Dara came in and built upon what Lisa had done, and then I came onboard and inherited something that wasn’t broken, but of course, I wanted to put my stamp on it. Lisa was always a huge supporter of what I was doing in Atlanta, and was always so complimentary of it, which is a real testament to her character.

And I think out of so many shelter magazines, each of us has stuck to our own visions and what we wanted to convey to the readers, without being wishy-washy or really bowing to the trends and looking at what others are doing and even copying them. Just let everybody else do what they’re doing, and we’re going to stick to our vision and what we want to do.

Samir Husni: And it paid off.

Clinton Smith: Yes, absolutely, with our 30th anniversary issue and the biggest in the last 10 years.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, if you and I are having this conversation 20 years from now, and you’re celebrating the 50th anniversary issue; what do you think you would do differently than you did with the 30th anniversary issue?

Clinton Smith: Whenever you do an anniversary issue, and I think I mentioned this in my editor’s letter, it’s good to take stock of where you’ve been and most importantly, where do you want to go, and what does the future hold. I do think a bit of nostalgia is good for everyone in looking back. So, for us, with this issue, getting the balance was tricky, because you do want to give a nod to the past, but you don’t want to be bogged down by it either.

We had 30 years of beautiful archival imagery to go through, but when I start thinking about the next 20 or 30 years and doing an anniversary issue again, I think about the speed in which things are changing so quickly now. The iPhone is only 10-years-old, and for the 30th anniversary issue, we had all of this beautiful filmed photography, and everything is digital now. Who knows in five more years how we’ll be showcasing homes and gardens. It may be all computer-generated. We don’t know. And I think that’s the exciting part about publishing. I wish I had my crystal ball to tell you, but looking so far ahead into the future, the sheer volume of material will be so much more than what we had to work with now, which is already a lot.

Samir Husni: You have under your belt now about 18 years of magazine experience; if you look at that timetable as you did with Veranda, is there one or two shining moments out of those 18 years that you would call your “Aha” moments? Ones where you knew that you’d made it or defined your career goals?

Clinton Smith: It seems cliché to say that you’re only as good as your last issue, but of course, my brain right now is on November/December. (Laughs) If the next issue can stand up to this one. But I do have to say that this was something that I’m extremely proud of, and not only because of the fact that we produced this beautiful 30th anniversary issue.

But also the fact that I was able to come to the table with a vision and have such an amazing team who somehow saw parts of it perfectly clearly, and some of my more obtuse ideas they were able to interpret and make them all better. And whenever you work with such a great team and surround yourself with amazing people who all want to get to the same end goal and make something better than it was last time, that’s just the icing on the cake. I’m extremely proud of this issue.

Samir Husni: What was the major stumbling block as you prepared for this issue and how did you overcome it?

Clinton Smith: The magazine world, as you know, has a very long lead-time. And so, for the most part, a lot of the homes and gardens that we feature in the magazine are actually photographed a year in advance. And of course, the front of book stories are done much closer to our print deadline.

But this entire issue essentially came together in the three months before the deadline. We’ve actually never turned around some of these stories as quickly we did for this issue, and cautioned our managing editor not to tell anybody that could be done, (Laughs) because everyone would want their stories published a lot sooner.

But I think it was looking at every single page and asking ourselves what we could make new there, so it would fall into Veranda’s timeless look? How could we make it timelier for today? Just making sure that nothing we had photographed a year ago felt old to us. We wanted it to be as new and fresh as we could possible make it.

Samir Husni: As you flip through the pages of this issue, knowing that we actually live in a digital age, what value do you believe print brings to the 30th anniversary issue?

Clinton Smith: So many people have already received some first-bound copies that are going to be landing in subscribers’ mailboxes very soon. We’ve received several notes from those who have gotten those few first-bound copies, and they’ve said something along the lines of they can’t wait to spend their weekends with it. I can’t imagine anyone leaving work on a Friday afternoon saying that they can’t wait to spend their weekend with their phone or their iPad, I mean of course, they might like whatever they’re streaming online and can’t wait to binge-watch it that weekend, but for people to actually say they can’t wait to spend the weekend with the magazine is pretty special and remarkable and a testament to print.

And the fact that we go into so many houses that people have, maybe not all 30 years’ worth, but they save a lot of them. They’re collectable and they really do have this true staying power. We’re so lucky that we have some of the best paper stock in the business, so I think that makes it even more special. And people covet it even more.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Clinton Smith: What would I like people to know about me? I feel like I’m writing my own tombstone here, Samir. (Laughs) But I think it’s that I’ve done the best that I can do and I hope that I’ve inspired others to do the same.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Clinton Smith: I’m probably in the garden out in the yard watering plants, picking some herbs, sweeping, maybe raking. Or I’m going on a walk or a hike, that sort of thing. Anytime that I can be outside is my favorite time of day. Anytime.

Samir Husni: Do I find you reading something?

Clinton Smith: I have a lot of design books, which I love, and I read a lot of biographies, more than any other genre. But the very interesting thing is, interesting to me, now that I think about it, is that I don’t have many magazines at home. I think that when I leave the office at the end of the day, even some favorite magazines, I might read them on the train or when I get back to the office, but at the end of the day I sort of want to be distracted by something else.

Even looking through a beautiful cooking magazine, I might see some little idea that makes me think I could adapt that to a design magazine. I love magazines as much as I always have, but I don’t keep that many at home. And I certainly don’t keep them next to my bed. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: What makes Clint tick and click these days and motivates you to get up each morning?

Clinton Smith: My Type-A personality, I think. And there’s this sense of what is new and what’s next. We’re not a trend-driven magazine, but as a journalist, it’s this sense of what’s around the corner; what are we going to wake up to today that will not only peak our interest, but make us think how we as journalists can translate that to the reader, so that they’re discovering something new and inspiring as well. At the end of the day, Veranda is an interior design magazine, but more than that, it’s a celebration of beauty in almost every form. So, the fact that I get to get up every morning and share beauty; what else could you ask for?

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

Clinton Smith: Everything. The next story idea keeps me up. Deadlines keep me up. Did I get the cover right; is the headline right? I’ll wake up at 2:00 a.m. and think maybe I should rewrite a caption. All of those little things, and millions of others. Did I return an email? Did they reply to my email?

One of the things that I remember from one of your design classes that I took is that if you want to work at a magazine, you work with groups of people. And if you want to write a book, you work in essentially solitary confinement. And I think another student said something about creating a magazine, and essentially it was that they wanted to do it their way and not work with all of those other people. And that’s when you said that if they wanted to do that, they should go write a book. Doing a magazine is certainly not a solitary experience.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Nail Magazine: A New Magazine That Hits The “Nail” On The Head When It Comes To Celebrating Creative Professionals In Today’s World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ted Leonhardt, Publisher, Nail Magazine…

August 23, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“When I first saw the printed copy, I felt like I had come back to my roots of producing print, and what a pleasure that was. And just holding it and feeling the weight of it was amazing. And Ross’s absolutely extravagant design; basically, it’s over the top.” Ted Leonhardt…

Ted Leonhardt is a seasoned design professional whose mission in life is to help creatives fulfill their full potential. With that goal in mind, he created and launched a new magazine called Nail. The tagline reads: “Being A Creative Person In Today’s World.” Ted has a background rich in creative design and also in creative consulting. With his new magazine, Ted sees a way to look at the lives of creatives across the world and see how they are faring and thriving, and then share that through the pages of the magazine. It’s an intriguing concept and one that, with the reality of the first issue, shares analysis, career tips, and profiles of creatives.

I spoke with Ted recently and we talked about his idea of Nail and how it came about. We touched on his own background and on what he sees for the future of Nail. It was an easy conversation with a man who has strong opinions and beliefs, as the magazine shows, but also has a sincere and genuine humor that lives in his tone, making him very comfortable and open about his life, work, and his passion: the magazine.

When you’re a creative and you need some oomph and motivation to keep going in today’s chaotic environment, Ted said that Nail offers that support and looks beyond to greater ambitions and desires. So, whether you’re a designer, writer, creative director, musician, or anything that requires those skillsets one would define as “creative,” Nail is the magazine for you.

So, I hope that you enjoy this open and intriguing interview with a man who has lived creatively for most of his life, and now has a new magazine to help others who want to do the same, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ted Leonhardt, publisher, Nail magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the origin of the name Nail: Well, nails have a very sharp point. They are very powerful instruments. They put things together. They’re strong and have an aggressive nature just because of the way they’re used. And I felt like a short, very strong name that represented physical action was appropriate for a magazine that was representing creatives in a difficult world.

On what it means to be a creative in today’s world: I think it means all people who make their way in the world through their creative skills. So, you could be in the advertising and design industry, and people are actually referred to as creatives. It’s a professional category: writers, designers, art directors, creative directors and others, are defined in their roles as creatives. And that’s my background.

On that “Aha” moment for him when he decided to create Nail: It was last fall. I was thinking about writing another book and I had a good team of people working for me already, helping me to promote my consulting practice, and I thought that a magazine would be a lot more fun. (Laughs) A magazine is visual and we could use those skills that we already had, and it can represent my point of view and points of view of lots of other people. And that way I could include others, whereas with a book, it would be typically just me. So, I thought a magazine would be a lot more fun to do than another book.

On how easy it was for him to take on the role of publisher since he is a creative designer himself: It was easy, because basically later in my career I didn’t do any design work myself, I just helped other people reach their conclusions. So, my job was really as a creative manager for 20 years, where I wasn’t designing anything myself.

On his reaction when the first issue was delivered to him: I’m over the moon with it. When I first saw the printed copy, I felt like I had come back to my roots of producing print, and what a pleasure that was. And just holding it and feeling the weight of it was amazing. And Ross’s absolutely extravagant design; basically, it’s over the top. Some of my more linear friends tell me it’s actually unreadable. (Laughs) One of my mentors that I bounce ideas off of made a living, and actually became quite rich, in the direct marketing business, and he is very linear person. And he thinks I’m insane. (Laughs again)

On whether there are any changes he might want to make in the next issue after seeing the first one: No, I’m still over the moon about it. In fact, my biggest worry is what we can do for the cover of the second issue. (Laughs) How do we match the first cover? The concepts or the cover article is the “other.” Creatives throughout history have often been marginalized, burned at the stake; their work destroyed; scientific people, artistic people, thrown in jail, etc. And of course, there’s our current political climate. So, I want the cover article to be about the “other.” And how that affects creatives over time.

On the future of creativity in this day and age: I think it’s extremely bright, because I think that the advance of the computer to do repetitive tasks is going to change the face of who’s in charge. And I think we’re going to find way more creativity celebrated within human activities than we have in the past, and less spreadsheets, headcounts and pennies that are profit for items sold, being the driver.

On whether magazines can live on creativity alone or they’ll still need business models: My guess is that we will continue to evolve how our economy works. I’m not an expert in government or economics, but I suspect that some creatives will find more and more opportunity to sell their skills and work directly to others through this marvelous invention called the Internet, so that there will be a much larger cottage industry than ever, because of the ability to communicate with people all over the world. Maybe someone will design a coffee cup that only appeals to 1,000 people, but they’re all over the world.

On anything he’d like to add: I’m just finding my way with this project. I’m having a great time. I’m loving looking at it. I’m thrilled with what we’ve done together. I want to get more people writing in the magazine beyond me, and yet, I love to write. So, just balancing those things is a goal.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Let’s replace hate with love.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Talking with Robin, my significant other, about what she did that day and what I did during the day, comparing notes, and trying to understand more about the world and the people that we work with.

On what keeps him up at night: I’m moving my office to a big boat, so finishing the damned boat so that I can actually get on with my consulting practice. (Laughs) I actually have my first client meeting on the boat today, so I’m terrified that nothing will go well. I’m not qualified to run the boat yet, it’s too big. I have a captain engaged and we’re taking the client out on a little boat ride, so we’ll see how it goes.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ted Leonhardt, publisher, Nail magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me why you chose the name Nail for the magazine?

Ted Leonhardt: Why the name Nail? Well, nails have a very sharp point. They are very powerful instruments. They put things together. They’re strong and have an aggressive nature just because of the way they’re used. And I felt like a short, very strong name that represented physical action was appropriate for a magazine that was representing creatives in a difficult world.

Samir Husni: With your background as a creative person yourself; how do you define the mission of Nail? The tagline reads “Being A Creative Person In Today’s World,” and as you and I know, most creative people think with their creative side rather than any practical side, which is something that you mention in your editorial. What does it mean to be a creative in today’s world?

Ted Leonhardt: I think it means all people who make their way in the world through their creative skills. So, you could be in the advertising and design industry, and there, people are actually referred to as creatives. It’s a professional category: writers, designers, art directors, creative directors and others, are defined in their roles as creatives. And that’s my background.

But actually, creatives are in every possible professional career, and in every other way one makes it through life, from musicians to poets to writers to even lawyers. I’ve had lawyers attend my creative sessions, so I’m not limiting it to any one particular category in my mind.

And in fact, the next issue has an article about the use of comic books in medical schools to train doctors into how their patients feel and react to their advice.

Samir Husni: What was that “Aha” moment for you, when you decided the world needed Nail and you were going to creatively bring it to life?

Ted Leonhardt: It was last fall. I was thinking about writing another book and I had a good team of people working for me already, helping me to promote my consulting practice, and I thought that a magazine would be a lot more fun. (Laughs) A magazine is visual and we could use those skills that we already had, and it can represent my point of view and points of view of lots of other people. And that way I could include others, whereas with a book, it would be typically just me. So, I thought a magazine would be a lot more fun to do than another book.

It is a way more complicated endeavor, and whether I can ever sell enough to pay for it is another question. But I was just drawn to the idea as a great thing to do. And of course, early on in my career I was an actual designer myself. I designed magazines for corporations that were clients of ours. And I also designed quite a number of annual reports for public companies.

Samir Husni: That leads me to my next question; you being a designer and a creative director, how easy was it for you to take a step back and have someone else design the magazine and you take the role of the publisher?

Ted Leonhardt: It was easy, because basically later in my career I didn’t do any design work myself, I just helped other people reach their conclusions. So, my job was really as a creative manager for 20 years, where I wasn’t designing anything myself.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise for you since starting this magazine journey? When the first issue was delivered to you, what was your reaction? Was it “How Do We Survive This Bully” as the cover story on the first issue asks? Or was it “How do We Survive This Magazine?” (Laughs)

Ted Leonhardt: (Laughs too) I was thrilled and I’m still thrilled. The concept for that article was mine, but the way Ross (Hogin – Creative Director) depicted it was totally his idea. And I think I said this in my editorial, the cover line originally had the word “asshole” in it, but we decided that was inappropriate .

I’m over the moon with it. When I first saw the printed copy, I felt like I had come back to my roots of producing print, and what a pleasure that was. And just holding it and feeling the weight of it was amazing. And Ross’s absolutely extravagant design; basically, it’s over the top. Some of my more linear friends tell me it’s actually unreadable. (Laughs) One of my mentors that I bounce ideas off of made a living, and actually became quite rich, in the direct marketing business, and he is very linear person. And he thinks I’m insane. (Laughs again)

Yet, the way creative people respond to it is totally different. When we were at an AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) event in Seattle, creative people were diving into it like it was a swimming pool or something. They literally immersed themselves in it and found things and discovered things, which is exactly what our intent was. It’s not for everybody. I sold a handful to an acquaintance of mine and he actually asked me for his money back, because it’s so aggressive. (Laughs) I told him all sales were final though.

Samir Husni: Once you came down from Cloud Nine, and you took a real, in depth look at the first issue, anything come to mind that triggered any critiques or changes that you might want to make?

Ted Leonhardt: No, I’m still over the moon about it. In fact, my biggest worry is what we can do for the cover of the second issue. (Laughs) How do we match the first cover? The concepts or the cover article is the “other.” Creatives throughout history have often been marginalized, burned at the stake; their work destroyed; scientific people, artistic people, thrown in jail, etc. And of course, there’s our current political climate. So, I want the cover article to be about the “other.” And how that affects creatives over time.

In fact, we’ve already done a timeline of historical events of work being destroyed by the bureaucratic powers-that-be over history, works that they didn’t like. And people killed and burned at the stake. So, how do we depict that? I’ll leave it up to Ross, but I’d like it to be pretty dramatic. The feelings about the “other.” The whole idea of how someone would feel if they were singled out as the other. Depicting that on the cover is sort of what I would like to do.

Samir Husni: You have years of experience; you’ve worked with the bigger companies and you’ve worked with the smaller companies; you’ve worked overseas and you’ve worked here. With all of your knowledge and experience; what do you think the future of creativity is in this day and age?

Ted Leonhardt: I think it’s extremely bright, because I think that the advance of the computer to do repetitive tasks is going to change the face of who’s in charge. And I think we’re going to find way more creativity celebrated within human activities than we have in the past, and less spreadsheets, headcounts and pennies that are profit for items sold, being the driver.

My guess is that the future will be owned by people who do think out of the box, if we can get past these horrible needs that society seems to have to reach back to the past and generate hate and fear, and those kinds of things, to be the driving forces in the world. But I’m extremely optimistic that our technological advances will allow creative people to play a more significant role in the world, rather than less. And that tasks that formerly put people in charge who were less creative will be falling away.

Samir Husni: But how would you put food on the table? You mention in your editorial that if enough people buy this magazine, you can do a second issue. So, can we survive on creativity alone, or will we still need some kind of a business model to help us survive?

Ted Leonhardt: My guess is that we will continue to evolve how our economy works. I’m not an expert in government or economics, but I suspect that some creatives will find more and more opportunity to sell their skills and work directly to others through this marvelous invention called the Internet, so that there will be a much larger cottage industry than ever, because of the ability to communicate with people all over the world. Maybe someone will design a coffee cup that only appeals to 1,000 people, but they’re all over the world.

So, I suspect that small entrepreneurial efforts will be vastly helped to move forward with the Internet. The whole app craze that made it possible for people to offer specific services to people all over the world is an example of that. My guess is we’re going to see more and more of that.

But yes, we will always need big corporations, because big corporations are very efficient at supplying us, hence the low cost of goods and services that we enjoy. Things that formerly only rich people could have. However, I just spent a weekend down in South Africa, where I went to an union conference, and there’s over 24 percent unemployment there. The divide between rich and poor is right in your face. You see rich people living in houses with barbed wire all around them and signs that read “Armed Response.” And then you have grown men begging in the streets very aggressively. It was pretty clear to me that I had lived a very sheltered life.

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

Ted Leonhardt: I’m just finding my way with this project. I’m having a great time. I’m loving looking at it. I’m thrilled with what we’ve done together. I want to get more people writing in the magazine beyond me, and yet, I love to write. So, just balancing those things is a goal.

I just did a seminar for a group pf women on dealing with male privilege when they’re negotiating. You know, I want to talk about that. This magazine has opened up a creative opportunity for me personally that I have never had before. So, I’m totally over the top with it.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Ted Leonhardt: Let’s replace hate with love.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Ted Leonhardt: Talking with Robin, my significant other, about what she did that day and what I did during the day, comparing notes, and trying to understand more about the world and the people that we work with.

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

Ted Leonhardt: I’m moving my office to a big boat, so finishing the damned boat so that I can actually get on with my consulting practice. (Laughs) I actually have my first client meeting on the boat today, so I’m terrified that nothing will go well. I’m not qualified to run the boat yet, it’s too big. I have a captain engaged and we’re taking the client out on a little boat ride, so we’ll see how it goes.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Okra Magazine: Real Southern Culture From The Most Southern Place On Earth: The Mississippi Delta – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Scott Speakes, Publisher, Okra Magazine…

August 21, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“We’re working on our third issue, so we’re still very young. And we’re still learning the ropes of the business. We’ve talked to people and asked questions. I know the statistics are small for success, but we’re doing both print and digital. We talked about doing just digital, but we love the printed magazine so much, we decided to do both. We’re finding that so many people love to pick it up and touch it and smell it and feel the paper.” Scott Speakes…

You can’t get much more southern than okra. Whether you fry it, boil it, or stew it with tomatoes; okra is a vegetable pretty much synonymous with the south. And now we have a magazine by the same name. Okra’s tagline reads: Real Southern Culture, and is defined by the magazine’s publisher, Scott Speakes, as finding out what’s beneath the surface; what’s real and true and not just what’s in the headlines when it comes to the south.

I spoke with Scott recently and we talked about the new magazine and what it took to get it from the concept he and his good friend, Genie Jones, who is also editor in chief, talked about some nine years before, to the newsstands where it lives among other new and established titles today. As a passion that became a reality, Scott admitted that there have been struggles, as far as advertising and a steady revenue stream are concerned, but the dream has been realized and he is determined to keep it going.

For a magazine that celebrates southern culture, Okra has the right ingredients for an experience into the many aspects of southern living that a publication of its particular category needs. And as Scott said, the name is perfect. How much more southern can you get than a delicious helping of Okra?

And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Speakes, publisher, Okra magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the story behind Okra: The story of Okra actually started about nine years ago. A friend of mine, Genie Jones, who is the editor in chief of the magazine and a very good friend of mine since 1993; she and I started talking about this nine years ago. I was living in Atlanta; I’m a photographer and she’s a creative director, and we came up with the name immediately. What’s more southern than okra? We threw out a couple of other names, but I can’t even remember what those were, because Okra was the one that really stood out immediately. We designed the logo, and had some concepts and photography-type things that we wanted to do. We looked at it and the name and the design really stood out, and that’s what we wanted.

On the covers of both issues of the magazine having people who bear a strong resemblance to each other: (Laughs) A couple of months ago, someone asked me who our model was. Kevin Gillespie is a chef in Atlanta and is known throughout the South and really across the nation. And he was on our first cover. He was a finalist on Top Chef and owns several restaurants himself in Atlanta. We were very fortunate to get him, because we were unknown. The cover of the second issue; we had been talking to Ben and Erin Napier and they wanted to do it, but they were, and are, just so busy. But earlier this year we were able to do their story. And I didn’t even think about the similarities of the covers, and when they came out side by side, I still didn’t think about it; but yes, I finally noticed the resemblance. But that wasn’t our intent, to put people on the cover all of the time, or prominent people on the cover all of the time.

On how he defines the magazine’s tagline of “Real Southern Culture”: We thought about that one a lot. We went through some ideas of what we really thought about the south and what we believed other people thought about the south and then, what did we want to share with people about the south. We didn’t want the usual sights and places and people, that kind of thing. We wanted to explore what’s underneath the surface of it.

On the thinking behind the magazine being designed in chapters: Nobody is really doing that. It was something that just kind of happened. We think the south is like a good book; it’s full of stories. And every story has many chapters. So, we decided to make the magazine like a book, which is something that I haven’t seen anybody do. We’re trying to be different.

On where he sees Okra among other southern titles such as Garden & Gun: About two years ago, when we started researching this more and getting into it, I receive a lot of magazines to look through and I’m getting more every week, but Garden & Gun was always one of my favorites; it’s beautiful, well-done and designed great. When we started thinking about this, Garden & Gun was an ideal. And as Garden & Gun grew, to me they became more of a higher end publication. I feel like Okra is more of a companion piece to Garden & Gun.

On why he chose Cleveland, Miss. to publish from: We get asked that a lot and I’m from Cleveland. I went to school at Ole Miss and I’m a graduate from there. My father was a graduate of Ole Miss. I was doing photography there. The most southern place on earth is the Mississippi Delta. I lived in Atlanta for a long time, along with some other cities. We thought about going out of Atlanta, but there are so many things going on there. So, we said why not do a southern magazine named Okra out of the most southern place on earth, which is the Mississippi Delta, and it’s my hometown and I am super-proud of it.

On whether anyone told him he was out of his mind to bring another print magazine into this digital world: Yes, many people have asked me why I was doing this. It’s just a passion and something that I have wanted to do for a while. And it is crazy, I know. And I find out more and more everyday just how crazy it is. (Laughs) But it’s fun for me. The difficult part is having the capital to print. The printers are making the money, for sure. (Laughs again) That’s the hard part.

On anything else he’d like to add: We’re working on our third issue, so we’re still very young. And we’re still learning the ropes of the business. We’ve talked to people and asked questions. I know the statistics are small for success, but we’re doing both print and digital. We talked about doing just digital, but we love the printed magazine so much, we decided to do both. We’re finding that so many people love to pick it up and touch it and smell it and feel the paper.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I want to do the right thing when I can and be a creative person and I’m proud of the south and I’m proud of my Delta. And I really want to showcase that in the magazine in the best way that I can. I just want to be known as a great friend and a great father.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: You would find me cooking, with a glass of wine, hanging out with my wife and daughter, cooking together and just having a good time. You would see stacks of magazines, some opened, some closed, while we’re cooking. Lots of southern magazines.

On what keeps him up at night: Finding the capital and revenue for the magazine. The content doesn’t keep me up; we have a lot of our editorial calendar already knocked out. It’s mainly how do I get people to advertise and be a part of the magazine. So, getting it to the right people to find media-buyers who will take a chance on us.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Speakes, publisher, Okra magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of Okra.

Scott Speakes: The story of Okra actually started about nine years ago. A friend of mine, Genie Jones, who is the editor in chief of the magazine and a very good friend of mine since 1993; she and I started talking about this nine years ago. I was living in Atlanta; I’m a photographer and she’s a creative director, and we came up with the name immediately. What’s more southern than okra? We threw out a couple of other names, but I can’t even remember what those were, because Okra was the one that really stood out immediately. We designed the logo, and had some concepts and photography-type things that we wanted to do. We looked at it and the name and the design really stood out, and that’s what we wanted.

In 2016, all of those years later, we decided the timing was right and we should go ahead and do it. We were in the design business; we’re very visual and we read the books, researched many things. It took a little over a year to get this first issue out, and it has been a learning experience since, trying to get it distributed and get contacts. How to try and find advertising, which is the hardest part. But everything else seems to be falling into place. We’re getting large distributors and we’ve known a lot of people over the years who are in the business, photographers, designers and writers that we’re finding.

We were lucky to get the cover that we did for the first issue; the food issue. And the second cover, which is out on newsstands right now, we were lucky to get Ben and Erin Napier from Laurel, Miss. before their show started. After their show came out they became stars across the South and were doing very well. We were just fortunate with timing to have them on our second cover and it just kind of catapulted us throughout the industry and on social media.

Samir Husni: Was it on purpose or was it just pure coincidence that both men on the cover have red beards?

Scott Speakes: (Laughs) A couple of months ago, someone asked me who our model was. Kevin Gillespie is a chef in Atlanta and is known throughout the South and really across the nation. And he was on our first cover. He was a finalist on Top Chef and owns several restaurants himself in Atlanta. We were very fortunate to get him, because we were unknown.

The cover of the second issue; we had been talking to Ben and Erin Napier and they wanted to do it, but they were, and are, just so busy. But earlier this year we were able to do their story. And I didn’t even think about the similarities of the covers, and when they came out side by side, I still didn’t think about it; but yes, I finally noticed the resemblance. But people are now saying, who is the guy that you keep using for the cover? They’re, of course, totally different people, but you’re right, there is a resemblance.

But that wasn’t our intent, to put people on the cover all of the time, or prominent people on the cover all of the time. We do want to do it some; I think we need that for exposure, but we also want to go beneath the surface some with people who aren’t quite as known. They’re about to break through as a chef or a musician or an author, that’s the people who we really want to expose and show our readers. The people who never really get talked about. When our next issue comes out, it’ll be a lot of more that.

Samir Husni: Your tagline is “Real Southern Culture.” Would you define “real southern culture?”

Scott Speakes: We thought about that one a lot. We went through some ideas of what we really thought about the south and what we believed other people thought about the south and then, what did we want to share with people about the south. We didn’t want the usual sights and places and people, that kind of thing. We wanted to explore what’s underneath the surface of it.

Which brings me to the real part of it, what’s underneath the surface; the people; the places? We wanted to meet the locals and find out what made them tick. Sure, also people we’d heard of, famous people, but we wanted to find out what really makes the south tick. There’s the good and the bad, and we wanted to showcase all of that through the magazine, through the photography as well as the content and the stories that we do.

So, to me, real southern culture is brought out to the everyday person; what is real about the south to them? And then we’re figuring out what we think is real about the south to us, and all of that seems real about the south to other people, whether it’s kudzu or a big-time chef, people want to know about food and places, history and culture. I would say our reader is a culturally-minded, independent, mobile readers, and they want to know about those kinds of things. So, we’re trying to find all of those things that deal with food, history, art and travel, and bring it to them. Find out what’s going on in the real south and not just what people see in the headlines.

Samir Husni: I see that you’ve designed the magazine in chapters, rather than sections. What was the thinking behind that?

Scott Speakes: Nobody is really doing that. It was something that just kind of happened. We think the south is like a good book; it’s full of stories. And every story has many chapters. So, we decided to make the magazine like a book, which is something that I haven’t seen anybody do. We’re trying to be different.

Genie and I are very visually-oriented; I’m a photographer and she’s a creative director, so we’re looking at ways to make things stand out differently with our design and our concept. And chapters seemed like the logical thing to do.

Samir Husni: So, being different; where do you see yourself among the southern magazines that already exist in the marketplace, such as the ever-popular, mass Southern Living, to Garden & Gun, to Good Grit? I just picked up a new magazine from South Carolina called Shrimp, Collards & Grits. Where do you see Okra within that competitive set?

Scott Speakes: About two years ago, when we started researching this more and getting into it, I receive a lot of magazines to look through and I’m getting more every week, but Garden & Gun was always one of my favorites; it’s beautiful, well-done and designed great. When we started thinking about this, Garden & Gun was an ideal. And as Garden & Gun grew, to me they became more of a higher end publication. I feel like Okra is more of a companion piece to Garden & Gun. The stories that we tell may not be in Garden & Gun, because that magazine just seems more of a higher end publication. I think that’s why we’re a good companion. We kind of found our little niche. That’s why our tagline is “Real Southern Culture,” we catch the everyday person. So, side by side, I think Okra is a great companion piece. I don’t see Garden & Gun as competition. I’m not going after that higher end advertising. And I’ve noticed they’ve reached outside of the south today. But it’s still one of my favorite magazines.

And as far the others, like Good Grit; I think our design and our content is totally different than theirs. Okra doesn’t resemble their publication at all, I don’t think. And Southern Living is a different magazine. They’ve been around forever and have millions of readers, so they’re also very different from us. I think our readers are really catching on to Okra as something they can relate to, whether it’s nostalgic or the look and feel of our paper, and even the advertising we have is a part of the magazine. And that’s important to us, making our advertising look like an easy part of the magazine. We don’t put an ad in there just to have it. We design it out and make sure it flows with the magazine, because it has to be part of it so you can really be interested in what is being advertised.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose to publish in Cleveland, Miss.?

Scott Speakes: We get asked that a lot and I’m from Cleveland. I went to school at Ole Miss and I’m a graduate from there. My father was a graduate of Ole Miss. I was doing photography there.

The most southern place on earth is the Mississippi Delta. I lived in Atlanta for a long time, along with some other cities. We thought about going out of Atlanta, but there are so many things going on there. So, we said why not do a southern magazine named Okra out of the most southern place on earth, which is the Mississippi Delta, and it’s my hometown and I am super-proud of it. And people will tell me, Cleveland, Miss., I’ve never heard of that. You have all of these magazines out of Charleston and Atlanta, and bigger cities; I just thought it would be great for us to come to people from a smaller town. But we still have access to everything else.

Samir Husni: Did anybody ever tell you that you were out of your mind in this day and digital age to bring another print magazine onto the scene?

Scott Speakes: Yes, many people have asked me why I was doing this. It’s just a passion and something that I have wanted to do for a while. And it is crazy, I know. And I find out more and more everyday just how crazy it is. (Laughs) But it’s fun for me. The difficult part is having the capital to print. The printers are making the money, for sure. (Laughs again) That’s the hard part.

It also took a couple of months to get distribution across the south, but now we’re everywhere in the south and beyond. We have some partnerships and things that we’re working on. But we don’t have investors or partners with deep pockets. It’s just us. So, if the money doesn’t come in, everything is up to us. The hardest part is finding media people to buy advertising.

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

Scott Speakes: We’re working on our third issue, so we’re still very young. And we’re still learning the ropes of the business. We’ve talked to people and asked questions. I know the statistics are small for success, but we’re doing both print and digital. We talked about doing just digital, but we love the printed magazine so much, we decided to do both. We’re finding that so many people love to pick it up and touch it and smell it and feel the paper.

Like myself, I can put it in my backpack and take it with me, or put it on my coffee table, or in my car. I like having that quick access, and I give away a lot of magazines that way too, because I can be in my daughter’s pick up line at school and someone will stop me and say they love the magazine and need another copy, and I just hand them one out. It’s fun to see people’s reaction to the magazine. We’re trying hard and we’re getting a lot of good feedback, and we’re going to keep going.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Scott Speakes and his daughter Shelton

Scott Speakes: I got married later in life; I’ve only been married seven years and this is my first marriage. When I was single, I just did whatever I wanted to, lived from city to city; it was all about me. I now have a five-year-old and always try to do the right thing. I want to be a great father, a great husband and a great friend to people. And I always wanted to be a photographer, even when I was in journalism at Ole Miss. I wanted to do photojournalism.

I want to do the right thing when I can and be a creative person and I’m proud of the south and I’m proud of my Delta. And I really want to showcase that in the magazine in the best way that I can. I just want to be known as a great friend and a great father.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Scott Speakes: You would find me cooking, with a glass of wine, hanging out with my wife and daughter, cooking together and just having a good time. You would see stacks of magazines, some opened, some closed, while we’re cooking. Lots of southern magazines.

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

Scott Speakes: Finding the capital and revenue for the magazine. The content doesn’t keep me up; we have a lot of our editorial calendar already knocked out. It’s mainly how do I get people to advertise and be a part of the magazine. So, getting it to the right people to find media-buyers who will take a chance on us. It’s a Catch-22. A new magazine; people look at you and ask why would we pay X amount of dollars to advertise with you? Show us your numbers. Yes, we have good distribution across the south and we’re growing with each issue, but we don’t have the numbers. And they know that. It’s one of those things where you ask yourself, how can I convince somebody? And it’s not easy to convince somebody to buy media.

But we’re slowly getting it. The state of Mississippi is now onboard with us, and it took us a little while to get that. And the other states; we cover 13 states, so we’re literally trying to figure out how to get into all 13 states. Our social media has really taken off over the last year, so we’re getting a lot of feedback from that, especially Instagram. People are following us and finding us and reaching out to us, and they’re commenting about us. But what keeps me up at night is finding the revenue to fund the magazine. The rest seems to be coming a little easier for me.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Parents Magazine & Its Editor In Chief, Liz Vaccariello, Both Offering Inspiring Storytelling & A Quieter Editorial Experience In This Manic Digital Age – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Liz Vaccariello…

August 17, 2017

“When she’s (the consumer) reading the magazine, she needs a much quieter editorial experience. It needs to be more inspiring. And she has more time. She wants to take more of an emotional journey, rather than be hit over the head with all sorts of practical advice and alarming statistics and stories.” Liz Vaccariello…

“I feel like that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story, the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey, that’s a much different kind of experience.” Liz Vaccariello…

With the recent redesign of Parents Magazine under the direction and leadership of Parents Editor in Chief Liz Vaccariello, the brand known for its credibility and stalwart trustworthiness, has been at the forefront of media these days, and its editor interviewed about the redesign many times over.

So, in true Mr. Magazine™ fashion, I decided to do something entirely different, and mention the redesign minimally, focusing instead on something that both Parents Magazine and its editor in chief have in common: storytelling.

Liz Vaccariello comes home to Meredith (she served as executive editor at Meredith’s Fitness for seven years) after several very successful positions with other titles, most recently as chief content officer and editor in chief for Reader’s Digest. Her storytelling drives her belief in the power of magazines, and the value of the journey they take you on.

I spoke with Liz recently and we talked about the role of print in this most digital age. She was adamant; when someone is reading a magazine, they’re seeking a different type of experience than digital can provide. They’re questing, as Liz put it, for a “quieter editorial experience” and inspiration. That’s very hard to find in the busy, noisy, notification-filled world that roams online.

And while the redesign of Parents Magazine is important and a value unto itself, what fills the pages of those designs, the stories, are always icing on the designer’s cake. So, come with me and experience the passion of a storyteller, a woman who believes magazines have the magical power of telling stories in the most unique of ways, and someone who knew from the sixth grade what her life’s journey would be, a wordsmith, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief, Parents Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she feels the Parents brand needs a printed magazine in this digital age: The answer to that question is also the answer to why we did a redesign. In this digital age, the mom and dad, but mainly the mom, is on her phone and she’s on her social media, or she’s Googling or querying the solution to a problem. She might be on a Facebook page where she’s feeling a little less-than or judged, for example. When she finally puts down that phone, our research tells us that is when she is engaging with the magazine. It’s her me-time.

On being a storyteller first: I feel like that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story, the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey, that’s a much different kind of experience. And my love for storytelling is one of the first things that I wanted to bring to this team and ask them, many of whom have been here for decades or more; how do we tap into, not only a mother’s exhaustion, but her exhilaration?

On what’s different for her as an editor for Parents Magazine as opposed to other magazines she has edited, such as Reader’s Digest: What’s different about this role is that it speaks to a very unique and constantly moving readership. And that’s mothers. So, I had to immerse myself into millennial moms, and the world they were coming from. Aesthetically, who are the influencers? Also, verbally. What are the phrases that they’re using? What’s the language that they’re using? And culturally. This is a time where mothers are rejecting the mom-shaming or the guilt trips that used to be put on other mothers.

On her reaction when she was offered the job of editor in chief of Parents Magazine: My first reaction was utter shock. And I will tell you the reason why was because Parents Magazine, under my predecessor, was very strong and healthy, highly respected and admired. So, I never in a zillion years thought that this would be an opportunity for me. So, it was shock that I was talking about this suite of Parenting brands.

On the biggest stumbling block that faced her: The biggest stumbling block? I don’t know; it was a pretty seamless transition. I was surprised and delighted to find that almost every single person on my team was enthusiastic about taking a shift in direction and tone. People who had been here decades were some of the most enthusiastic participants in the early research and rethink that we did. So, really delight and surprise at how positive people were to do something new and fresh with the magazine. I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block; I’d probably call it my biggest surprise.

On why she felt the need for a change in the magazine when it was already strong and healthy: You change because your audience changes. The brand didn’t change, nor did what the audience needs from a parenting magazine change. But the generation coming into your space is different from the one that was entering your subscriber file five or ten years ago. They’re speaking a different language. Instead of helicopter parents, they’re the sons and daughters of helicopter parents. So, they’re looking at behavior in a different way. They’re looking at discipline in a different way. They are more interested in hearing from other moms and dads just like them.

On anything she’d like to add: This role is unique in that I am running; I am hands-on-editor-and-chiefing (laughs) the biggest magazine, and the biggest part of the business. But I also get to think beyond the magazine and the magazine’s core general brand and think about Latina parents, one out of every four babies born in this country is born to an Hispanic parent. So, Parents Latina is growing very quickly. And it’s fun to turn my attention to that demographic and see what we can do to interpret this voice and this information for them.

On why there are more line extensions from main titles in the Hispanic market than in the African American market: That’s a really interesting question. In the case of parenting, and I’ll answer in my space in particular, something unique happens when a second generation Latina in the United States becomes a mom. She doesn’t necessarily think of her Latina identity in the forefront of her mind until that moment she has a baby. And then suddenly she’s thinking more about her heritage and it becomes much more important to her. She wants to have one foot back in that culture.

On a memory or memories that she reflects on in her role as editor in chief and main storyteller of Parents Magazine: I often return to a moment in sixth grade when I was doing homework in my bedroom. I remember writing a book report about something and I was sitting at my desk with my pencil and paper. I remember looking at a sentence and thinking that I wanted to change the sentence, so I took another piece of paper and put it next to the first and began to change the words around in the sentence and reading it out loud and listening to the changing rhythms. And then deciding on the perfect way I wanted to say that sentence and putting it back on the paper.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: (Laughs) Mom to Sophia and Olivia. Sophia and Olivia’s mama; that’s my most important job. I think that’s why I get so excited and lit up about my job, because I get to help mommies and daddies and I know how much fun that is and how helpful that can be when you’re a mom. If we can help someone with the stories that we tell; make her laugh or feel better, or do something more efficiently, that’s wonderful. I’m in a good place and I have one of the best jobs in America.

On what keeps her up at night: We’re always concerned about the decline in print advertising. Meredith has a wonderful story about how the growth in digital advertising has far outpaced our small declines in print advertising. But, it doesn’t keep me up at night, because I just got back from a road trip with my publisher, Steven Grune, and I have to tell you, it made me proud to be a Meredith employee because I’m showing this redesign, and I’ve done a lot of road trips over the years for various companies and with various publishers. But when Meredith comes to town, and it speaks highly of Meredith and of Steve Grune and the Parents brand, but when we come to town 30 people show up and they want to hear what’s new with Meredith and with Parents Magazine. So, that speaks highly of our position in the marketplace.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief, Parents Magazine.

Samir Husni: Since the redesign of Parents Magazine, you’ve given quite a few interviews about that, so for this interview I thought I’d ask you something a bit different. In this digital age, why do you think the Parents brand needs a print magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: The answer to that question is also the answer to why we did a redesign. In this digital age, the mom and dad, but mainly the mom, is on her phone and she’s on her social media, or she’s Googling or querying the solution to a problem. She might be on a Facebook page where she’s feeling a little less-than or judged, for example. When she finally puts down that phone, our research tells us that is when she is engaging with the magazine. It’s her me-time.

We did a digital focus group where we had subscribers send in video tapes and show us precisely where in the house they kept their Parents Magazines. It was next to the big, comfy chair, or on their nightstands, or next to the bathtub.

So, when she’s reading the magazine, she needs a much quieter editorial experience. It needs to be more inspiring. And she has more time. She wants to take more of an emotional journey, rather than be hit over the head with all sorts of practical advice and alarming statistics and stories.

Samir Husni: The first thing that comes to mind when I read about you or think about you is storyteller.

Liz Vaccariello: Thank you. I feel like that’s the power of magazines; it’s the power to tell a story in a unique way. Video tells a story; social media can tell a story, but the print story, the way pictures, words, headlines and the pacing of the magazine take you on a journey, that’s a much different kind of experience.

And my love for storytelling is one of the first things that I wanted to bring to this team and ask them, many of whom have been here for decades or more; how do we tap into, not only a mother’s exhaustion, but her exhilaration? How do we tap into nostalgia when it comes to being a mom? Then suddenly, you’re nostalgic for your childhood, for example. There’s so much humor that goes with being a parent. And oftentimes, failing to be a perfect parent. Let’s be able to laugh at ourselves.

You can see in the new magazine, we have very short stories, some are longer, but there are little ways to tell those emotional stories in a way that feels like a complete and authentic life.

Samir Husni: Did you have to make any adjustments when you came to Meredith from Reader’s Digest, Prevention, Reminisce? All these magazines that you’ve edited; what’s different about Parents Magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: What’s different about this role is that it speaks to a very unique and constantly moving readership. And that’s mothers. So, I had to immerse myself into millennial moms, and the world they were coming from. Aesthetically, who are the influencers? Also, verbally. What are the phrases that they’re using? What’s the language that they’re using? And culturally. This is a time where mothers are rejecting the mom-shaming or the guilt trips that used to be put on other mothers.

So, I had to do a lot of research into “what is meaningful right now for this millennial, and even coming up soon, Gen Z mom?” And that was unique. You still want to tell good stories, but you also want to speak in a way that is familiar to your audience so that they get you.

Samir Husni: A little less than a year ago, you and I were talking and this job was in the making. And no matter how much I tried, you wouldn’t tell me the name of the magazine. (Laughs)

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs too).

Samir Husni: Can you describe that moment when you were offered this job as editor in chief of Parents Magazine? What was your first reaction?

Liz Vaccariello: My first reaction was utter shock. And I will tell you the reason why was because Parents Magazine, under my predecessor, was very strong and healthy, highly respected and admired. So, I never in a zillion years thought that this would be an opportunity for me. So, it was shock that I was talking about this suite of Parenting brands.

The magazine; the business was very, very healthy heading into the redesign. Our MRI, our household income, they were both high. We’d experienced a boost of 3.3 percent in household income. So, there was nothing at all broken about the magazine. The fact that my predecessor was leaving was a shock. That was my absolute first reaction.

And then my second one was just feeling my heart swell, because I love to lead brands that touch people’s hearts. You always want to improve people’s lives, but I loved Reader’s Digest because it spoke to positivity and hope. And an oasis of optimism in a world of snark. And with Parents, when you think about optimism and hope, and happiness and meaning, very few things rival being a parent. So, this really hit my sweet spot of service and soul.

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

Liz Vaccariello: The biggest stumbling block? I don’t know; it was a pretty seamless transition. I was surprised and delighted to find that almost every single person on my team was enthusiastic about taking a shift in direction and tone. People who had been here decades were some of the most enthusiastic participants in the early research and rethink that we did. So, really delight and surprise at how positive people were to do something new and fresh with the magazine. I wouldn’t call it a stumbling block; I’d probably call it my biggest surprise.

Normally, when you come in, the new editor in chief will often bring in their new photo director, their new assistant, their new creative director, and I didn’t do any of that. I found that the team here was filled with superstars. Agnethe Glatved, who did the redesign with me, has been with the magazine eight years, and this is her third refresh of the magazine. When you have that level of talent, they’re able to pivot and embrace change. It was a nice experience.

Samir Husni: Let me go inside your great magazine maker mind, you come to a magazine that is doing well, there was nothing wrong with it; why change?

Liz Vaccariello: You change because your audience changes. The brand didn’t change, nor did what the audience needs from a parenting magazine change. But the generation coming into your space is different from the one that was entering your subscriber file five or ten years ago. They’re speaking a different language. Instead of helicopter parents, they’re the sons and daughters of helicopter parents. So, they’re looking at behavior in a different way. They’re looking at discipline in a different way. They are more interested in hearing from other moms and dads just like them.

For 90+ years, Parents Magazine has stood on the shoulders of its credibility. We’ve always done partnerships with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Every word and picture in Parents Magazine had a reputation for being absolutely trustworthy and credible. So, this generation of reader not only expects that kind of creds from our pages, they want that enhanced by what other parents are doing.

They want to know what the experts say, they want to know that trampolines are dangerous; the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents against having any kind of trampolines in the backyard. But they also want to make their own decisions. Maybe to them the benefit of family exercise and the hours spent jumping on the safest trampoline they can get is worth the mild risk that somebody might twist an ankle. So, what are other parents doing? And how do they justify having a trampoline? So, you need to add how other people in their world are interpreting the news and the guidelines.

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

Liz Vaccariello: I think it’s interesting. We call it the Meredith Parents Network, and Parents Magazine is the jewel in the crown of the Network. And by far, the largest of the magazines, but it also includes Fit Pregnancy and Baby, FamilyFun Magazine, Parents Latina and Ser Padres.

This role is unique in that I am running; I am hands-on-editor-and-chiefing (laughs) the biggest magazine, and the biggest part of the business. But I also get to think beyond the magazine and the magazine’s core general brand and think about Latina parents, one out of every four babies born in this country is born to an Hispanic parent. So, Parents Latina is growing very quickly. And it’s fun to turn my attention to that demographic and see what we can do to interpret this voice and this information for them.

And then think about the baby space and the pregnancy space, and what kind of digital products; what apps; what magazines can we offer the pregnant mom or the wanting-to-be pregnant woman. So, there is always something new; the business is constantly evolving and shifting. It’s a bigger job in that I get to do a lot of fun things, in addition to editing the one magazine.

Samir Husni: Why have we seen more line extensions in the Hispanic market than we have in the African American markets when it comes to the main titles?

Liz Vaccariello: That’s a really interesting question. In the case of parenting, and I’ll answer in my space in particular, something unique happens when a second generation Latina in the United States becomes a mom. She doesn’t necessarily think of her Latina identity in the forefront of her mind until that moment she has a baby.

And then suddenly she’s thinking more about her heritage and it becomes much more important to her. She wants to have one foot back in that culture. And it’s important that her child be perhaps bilingual and understand the Spanish language. Maybe she doesn’t know it, so she wants to learn it too. So, the cultural touchpoints become very important to her in the parenting space. That’s why in my network Parents Latina made sense.

Samir Husni: What memories from your own childhood do you reflect on in your role as editor in chief and head storyteller of a parenting magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: I often return to a moment in sixth grade when I was doing homework in my bedroom. I remember writing a book report about something and I was sitting at my desk with my pencil and paper. I remember looking at a sentence and thinking that I wanted to change the sentence, so I took another piece of paper and put it next to the first and began to change the words around in the sentence and reading it out loud and listening to the changing rhythms. And then deciding on the perfect way I wanted to say that sentence and putting it back on the paper.

In that moment, there was a knock on my bedroom door and in walked my dad. He said you’re up late, you must be doing homework. He had come in to say goodnight. And I remember saying to him that I had just decided that I wanted to be a writer. I remember that moment and the idea of creating a story and telling it in a rhythmic, pleasing way. And working with the words. The words acting like a puzzle. So, I always remember my father being a witness to that pivotal moment in my life.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Liz Vaccariello: (Laughs) Mom to Sophia and Olivia. Sophia and Olivia’s mama; that’s my most important job. I think that’s why I get so excited and lit up about my job, because I get to help mommies and daddies and I know how much fun that is and how helpful that can be when you’re a mom. If we can help someone with the stories that we tell; make her laugh or feel better, or do something more efficiently, that’s wonderful. I’m in a good place and I have one of the best jobs in America.

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

Liz Vaccariello: We’re always concerned about the decline in print advertising. Meredith has a wonderful story about how the growth in digital advertising has far outpaced our small declines in print advertising. But, it doesn’t keep me up at night, because I just got back from a road trip with my publisher, Steven Grune, and I have to tell you, it made me proud to be a Meredith employee because I’m showing this redesign, and I’ve done a lot of road trips over the years for various companies and with various publishers. But when Meredith comes to town, it speaks highly of Meredith and of Steve Grune and the Parents brand, but when we come to town 30 people show up and they want to hear what’s new with Meredith and with Parents Magazine. So, that speaks highly of our position in the marketplace. And also of Steve. Our September issue is nice and thick; our October issue is even thicker, so it’s looking really good. I’m actually sleeping quite well. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Magazines Are Going “Boutique.” Is That A New Trend? Mr. Magazine™ Thinks Not…

August 15, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

We hear a lot of talk today about magazine publishing becoming a “boutique” business, what with all of the special interest magazines and niche publications that are so pointedly targeted that many fear not even the intended audience will be able to recognize them.

However, this “boutique” description may be new, as far as the actual wording, but let me assure you, there is nothing about being niche or a special interest magazine that hasn’t always been around. We’ve always had special interest magazines right along with the general interest ones. And we’ve always had titles that reflected very specific topics, such as: cars, music, history, celebrities; you name it, because after all, magazines have always been, in my book, the best reflectors of our society, and they always will be.

Just in these past couple of weeks, I came across a host of new magazines that are truly nothing but a reflector of our present day society. And that’s our society as a whole, because as the global magazine network starts to take shape, magazines are being published in France, printed in the Netherlands, and distributed in the United States. And the topics are as targeted and trend-worthy as they have ever been.

For example, Spinner Force, a new title about the fidget spinner craze, and also Spinner Power; can you think of a better topic that reflects what’s going on in our world today? Not since the Yoyo or the Pet Rock has the planet seen such popularity with a small, no doubt, inexpensively made toy. Yet, so far, there are at least two magazines on the topic. But of course there is. Magazines are always at the forefront of what matters to us.

Then there’s the new twist on car magazines, such as 5054, which deals with automotive culture. And as the founding editor of the magazine states inside the first issue’s cover: the magazine’s rough mission statement is to cover automotive culture. And that might mean most things with an engine. And engines might mean engineering. In other words, this is not your average car mag.

Or there’s a new magazine called Dream dedicated to objects and materia. And as the editor tells us about her “dream” finally coming true with the publishing of this first issue, we learn that this chimera of print is all about the inanimate, but takes shape in the dreams that created the objects. Quite captivating. And along with the magazine, a hardbound book called South Africa conjoins with this premier issue to allow the audience a look into one contributor’s experience in the country watching the graceful and elegant balance of objects onto people’s heads.

Wow! That’s about as niche as the 2005 magazine titled Emu Today & Tomorrow. As I said, being a special interest magazine is not as “boutique” as some might think.

Then there’s the new magazine Diaphanes that’s published in both German and English. Or the new twist on an old concept, the Romance Journal. It’s a new magazine that the first issue focuses on just emotions.

Or things I’d never heard about, but my grandson had, such as a sport called Pickleball, which I’m sure is a deserving sport that needed its own magazine. The mindfulness craze continues with a new magazine from the U.K. called In the Moment, treating us to mindful ways to live our lives well.

And there’s a new magazine from Poland all about cities and the way they have changed over the years called Cities Magazine. From our good friends at Stampington & Company, we have Bella Grace – Field Guide to Everyday Magic, which has the feel of your own personal journal and invites to write in it as you would a diary.

Then we have a new title called Swim that combines art, photography and literature in a publication driven by narrative, so we can feel free to start anywhere, even at the end if we choose.

And I cannot leave out Salty at Heart, which is a new title for those who love the ocean and living in the beauty and miracle of the moment. We have Summit; a magazine about the resurgence of Hawaiian activism that took place on the peak of Mauna Kea, and examines a new generation of globally connected thinkers and doers. As its mission statement states, “Summit is Hawai’i’s global magazine, with in-depth coverage of arts, design, style, business, civics, and literature in the Hawaiian hemisphere.”

Hemp is a magazine that explores the renaissance around the reality of hemp farming that’s sweeping the U.S. A sewing magazine published in Belgium and distributed internationally called Victor, and last, but certainly not least, a new title called Mold. Yes, Mold, a magazine that moves beyond the aesthetics of food, and celebrates design as an agent of change in our food system. Mold explores the innovations emerging at the intersections of science, technology, agronomy, gastronomy, engineering and design.

So, as you browse through those titles and as you spend a lot of money to purchase those titles, Dream has $46.99 cover price, join us in the “boutique” and sit back, relax and enjoy the eternally reflective nature of magazines.

Until next time…

Mr. Magazine™ will see you at the newsstands…

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Alie Oz: A Man With A Vision To Revolutionize The Publishing Industry Through Art & Artists, Innovation And Philanthropy Using Print As The Most Connective Medium – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Alie Oz, Director, Arts Sports International…

August 10, 2017

“There is no such thing as a “best,” because best only applies based on what we’re looking for. If you’re looking for a way to get timely information, then you cannot beat digital. However, if you’re looking for quality and beauty, and certain human elements, such as touching the paper for that physical connection, print provides that. There is no human connection like an organic texture of a good quality paper. With a monitor this is not possible, because we’re on the outside of that connection.” Alie Oz…

“With print, you’re much more connected to those pages. And there are different fundamentals for people. Some want to be in control, so they want to sit down in front of the monitor and click here or there. But many people are tired of making decisions all of the time. They want to just sit back and be entertained. With each page they flip, they want to see something surprising. They don’t want to know beforehand what they will be looking at. They just want to relax and be entertained.” Alie Oz…

Call him a dreamer, call him a theorizer; call him anything you can think of that would describe a true visionary, and Alie Oz will most probably explain to you why you think that. The man is a deep-thinker and truly sincere and concerned about this planet, the cultures that influence people’s behavior and the choices they make and the arts and artists who bring beauty and consciousness into our lives. And he has a plan to revolutionize the present-day business models that most publishers use. According to Alie, it’s a very simple approach, nevertheless, a very comprehensive one.

Alie described it in this way, “In the pursuit of creating a vision for new age philanthropy to help Artists and Children in need, the process inspired me to a vision that will revolutionize print publishing in its entirety. From its purpose, its new entity, its definition, its look, its products, its production, its publishing and its business model; it will be transformed in such a way that the print magazine world will go from what it is today, to a desirable, profitable and honorable art form, that is unimaginable by today’s standards and reality.”

Between art, sports and the beauty of both, 0-15 ArtBook Magazines were born. And the philanthropic influence of Alie himself isn’t lost on this new business model; in fact, at one point during our conversation, he described it as a new vision for the “Philanthropic Business Model.”

Alie said that we have to change everything about print magazines, beginning with the definition and identity to “ArtBook Magazines.” That they have to be created as an art form (artwork) by real artists. Timeless, collectible ArtBooks that reflect the artistic side of any given subject, or subjects, like a moderately printed coffee table book.

He added that the production process had to be changed as well, by eliminating the unnecessary waste, and by replacing old ways of doing things with clever and intelligent thinking, and unique methods of creativity and production process. And that publishers then needed to be innovative and introduce a completely new vision for the publishing business model to the equation, to make this vision so profitable (equal or more profitable than the Internet publishing business model), so that it becomes one of the most desirable new age businesses for entrepreneurs, with its new role of how ArtBook Magazines can serve us and our business in our cultures. While all of this might sound like a pipe dream to some, to Alie Oz it’s not only possible; it’s achievable.

So, come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we take a walk down a visionary’s path and possibly discover that the Philanthropic Business Model is here to rescue us all, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Alie Oz, director, Art Sports International.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the idea behind 0-15 ArtBook Magazines: There are two parts of this. On the one hand, there is the philanthropic part; how can we help people, children in need, and this is worldwide. And redefine art and artists and understand their responsibility and their effect; how they can influence the cultures and therefore our behavior changes and we become more sensible people, and in turn world problems seem not so insurmountable, because the world’s problems have become more and more senseless. We’ve become robotic and driven by greed; greed is run by fear, etc.

On why he is starting this new business model overseas and bring it into the U.S.: I discovered that the East follows the West, because of Colonialism and everything else, and they are so much more receptive to new ideas. Even by their nature they’re more open to innovations, because of their freshness and virginity when it comes to these high-end developments. If you can break down that Colonialism stage, they can be original and unique, and that allows creative minds to be so much fresher, and in turn, creates creativeness within the platform. In the West, new ideas have to convince people that their old ways are not good enough, which most people are reluctant to believe, and also to give up their old ways to adapt the new ways.

On whether he thinks print is the best medium to implement his creative vision: There is no such thing as a “best,” because best only applies based on what we’re looking for. If you’re looking for a way to get timely information, then you cannot beat digital. However, if you’re looking for quality and beauty, and certain human elements, such as touching the paper for that physical connection, print provides that. There is no human connection with a monitor; we’re on the outside of it. Also, this vision is the beginning of the one that will follow next, which will bring all three media (Print+TV+Internet III) together and make them function like one organism. After this vision is in place, I am willing to introduce the next vision for the more future-oriented players.

On how his business model will allow publishers to offer their product for free and still make money: The answer to this will be explained to certain chosen ones to give them a heads up in this visionary business plan.

On whether he’s on to something that’s possible or he’s merely a dreamer:
It is very much real and with proof of concept, all details will be explained to seriously interested players.

On the biggest stumbling block facing him in launching this business model: There are no stumbling blocks at all, because as I said, we’re doing this as a part of our philanthropy vision. In our vision, we give this licensing to retired tennis players or young tennis families, or even players as a supporting source. So, philanthropists can have this magazine and have children educated from it. The economics are so attractive that the objective is never compromised. Of course, we’ll add more of the art and the nobility and the consciousness into the product, and it will be an art platform. We’re doing this in our philanthropy business, and once the magazine is established, we’ll be introducing many other products and businesses and services. The way we use this publishing vision is unique, and as our base to introduce other new ideas and boutique business to help the needy

On the possibility that the publishing world will understand his vision and get excited by it; what would then stop him from doing it on his own and becoming that multi-billionaire:
Anything is possible, however today my focus is on the broader picture. I’m interested in changing the art and artists, fundamentally, culturally, practically, and effectively. And I’m just a single human being who has a vision that could change things from a fundamental level. If I meet the right people/publishers, I will make plans to take actions to implement this vision in a larger scale to lead all. With our philanthropy business model and the platform that we’ve created with 0-15 ArtBook Magazine, we have so many other products that will start small businesses and help everybody. So, me creating many ArtBook Magazines and storming the publishing world means I would rather work with someone and achieve that goal under special conditions. It’s not the money that motivates me, it’s doing the right thing and getting the publishing business to the right stage. And to get the publishing world to where they belong by influencing our lives in the right ways by creating the right products and awarding our artists and influencing people the way true artists should. I would like to make the publishing business a very attractive, lucrative and desirable business for young entrepreneurs by making publishing an art form.

On what keeps him up at night: Well, I am worried about what’s going on in America, in our senseless behavior, the choices we make because of our cultures that affect our decisions; our thought processes that lack taste, class, reasoning and consciousness, that senseless lack of understanding and disconnection. Why did we become this way? What causes this senselessness? Who and how can help make these corrections?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Alie Oz, director, Arts Sports International.

Samir Husni: Give me some background on the idea behind 0-15 Artbook Magazines and the company.

Alie Oz: There are two parts of this. On the one hand, there is the philanthropic part; how can we help people, children in need, by connecting many forces altogether, such as the sports world, artists, corporations, governments, philanthropists, new entrepreneurs, etc., and this is worldwide. And redefine art and artists and understand their responsibility and their effect; how they can influence the cultures and therefore our behavior changes and we become more sensible people, and in turn world problems seem not so insurmountable, because the world’s problems have become more and more senseless. We’ve become robotic and driven by greed; greed is run by fear, etc.

So, our senses are designed to protect us and give us rationale and give us an understanding of everything that’s supposed to help us to survive in the best conditions. So, the artist’s job should be that, because human beings who are in touch with their senses fully are the best part of ourselves. And that should be an artist, which we have an obligation to redefine, protect and help them to perform their best.

But overtime, like everything else, art and artists have become business components and instead of a true meaning and purpose of what art and artists should be, they become just another tool for the middleman to make more profit for all costs. It becomes another game. So, that question is very important to me personally, because I’m an artist by birth. I had my first exhibition when I was 12-years-old and I dedicated myself to question everything to make them better through arts. In this process I became an art director at 18.

Let’s say, we have these wonderful ideas and wonderful talents, but how can humankind benefit from this, instead of becoming a tool for the rich and famous? So, the idea of art and the artist is very important. And we have to reanalyze and redefine that, in order to help more humankind to influence their behavior and make them more sensible and conscious creatures.

So, the classic question is: how do you save the world? Well, everyone has their own answer. In my humble opinion, the answer is by changing the proportion of the world. Having more artists, with the right definition of the word artist, is how you can save the world. In order to do that, we have to be open to art. And we must make it so organic and so pure, and make it a part of our lives and in all business.

I extract the art and artist from the talent and the taste; not even from perfection. The consciousness has to be the guiding force of what art and the artist should be. And the artist is the ambassador of that energy. Everything is made of that energy; consciousness is the source, so the artist should be the one who brings that consciousness to our lives.

Now, true talents, true tastes, true craft; yes, of course, that is a part. In my opinion, the first artists that we know are our mothers. And they’re the ones creating something incredible with the hope that eventually wonderful things will follow.

I’ve been involved with many different projects, this being a growth process of ourselves. At one point, with a dear friend of mine, Caroline Newhouse, her family is in the publishing business, we were discussing magazines. Why are magazines so important? In those discussions, I was always arguing that those pages were being wasted and because there was no challenge to the magazine world, magazine publishers did nothing to improve them. They were basically sleeping and enjoying the glory and benefits of the publishing world.

But once they were challenged, the problems began to rise to the surface. And very quickly, some fell apart, because their models fell apart. So, these problems have been around since a couple of decades ago and I promised my friend that I was going to do something. In fact, at one point Caroline wanted to hire me for Condé Nast, although she wasn’t in charge. But I was very busy with other projects at that time, nevertheless, I promised her that I was going to do something about it, because we’d had this wonderful conversation. And she was an artist.

But going back to how we can help people using all of the elements together, because all energies have to connect to each other and then to consciousness. Everything we do has to connect to each other; our purpose of helping people, media, the arts, just everything. I realized that the best way to do this was to implement art and artists into consciousness, was into business models. I always hated it when, as a child, I would hear people say, “Don’t take it personally; it’s just business.” We have to be conscious of everything we do, even in business.

So, one after another these ideas would come in, so I decided to create an organization where we can connect these powerful elements together; to redefine art and artists and inject the idea of art and artists into businesses and connect the sports world, because that’s very much needed and they’re a very powerful group of people. And then create a business model that will help the children and artists by connecting publishing and small businesses, government and philanthropy; everything. So, the idea of helping people really motivated me to start developing the organization.

And this is a part of my passion already, as a platform, I put print publishing in the center of it. So, with the publishing we create a platform to help children, artists, the sports world; and allow governments and philanthropists to become involved and create a new vision for philanthropy. Since I wanted to revolutionize the publishing world, it has to be improved in order to do that. And the purpose of our publishing platform is to develop a vision for philanthropy, and at the same time revolutionize the publishing world.

In my vision, everything about publishing will change. Only two things will remain the same in the publishing process: the paper and distributing monthly. Besides those two elements, everything changes, because that’s my nature, I do not accept things they way they are, I like to change and improve things. Because I believe anything and everything can be improved, and that is the way civilization moves forward and true human capacity develops.

Now, I have an opportunity for a couple of years, while we are going forward with the philanthropic vision, I can start focusing on the publishing as well. I realize from my research how to develop this vision; how to improve everything. The publishing world works in a very old-thinking way. If you look at the columns and the text and the graphics, things haven’t changed very much over the years since Gutenberg. Everything else has changed in the world; why hasn’t publishing changed? Through the process of shortsightedness, the publishing world has been left behind.

When the Internet started challenging the publishing world, then everything fell apart. What I want to do with the publishing business involves three elements: the products, the production, and the publishing. In this process, in my opinion, the products have to be an artwork, because the publishing itself, touching the paper, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is something very natural and human about that.

In this out of control development; for the most part I agree with the world development, but if you lose connection from one to another, it creates big gaps. And those gaps are taken advantage of by either opportunists or by dysfunctional behavior that is created within those gaps. It’s like if you don’t brush your teeth, plaque will build up in your mouth. So, every idea has to connect to the previous one in such a way that there will be no gaps in between to break the system. All developments should be based on our needs, they have to serve us, not the other way around. We should not become a robot, just simply because the development of robotic ideas are in full swing.

In the process of developing this vision for a new product, it has to be an art platform; a form of art that I see for publishing. The production part has to be in such a way that it’s a healthy business, and the publishing part has to also be done in a way that it will award the publishing world as it deserves. So, it will be a very healthy business and therefore the idea of publishing will impact people’s lives properly.

In our business plan, we have to create these art books, and right now they’re part of the sports world, tennis, 0-15 is a tennis score, so part of the vision is also part of our philanthropy, the art and sports part. But within that, the publishing itself is revolutionized. Making publications as an art form and created by artists, and published in such a way that we make a perfect business model and a very successful business model is what we’re talking about.

Samir Husni: Why overseas? Why are you starting this outside the U.S. and then bringing it in?

Alie Oz: A long time ago, Caroline tried to put my ideas into place at Condé Nast. She set up a meeting for me and I went there to talk to the creative director. Now, I was never in the corporate world, I am an artist by birth. After a weird energy filled the room for a while, he told me that I should not be telling him my ideas, because he would steal them. And I didn’t know how to respond to that. And I have to ad that in his own little mind, he was respecting my friendship with Caroline Newhouse.

In America, we are very much driven by corporate principles. I don’t even believe in the Wall Street model. I don’t believe humans should be described as winners or losers. We can all be winners. With the Wall Street models, which is the backbone of our business, it’s okay to steal, cheat and lie, as long as you win. I don’t believe in that. I have a problem with Picasso when he said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Nobody questions why do you steal; you only steal if you don’t have it. Well, if you don’t have it, you don’t deserve it. So, in America, this has become a big part of our business principles. Everywhere else has their problems as well, but if we accept this principle that it’s okay to steal, cheat and lie as long as we succeed, no original ideas will ever be born from that. Then you’re trapped in that psyche. Then you focus your energies on that, rather than being innovative.

And I discovered that the East follows the West, because of Colonialism and everything else, and they are so much more receptive to new ideas. Even by their nature they’re more open to innovations, because of their freshness and virginity when it comes to these high-end developments. If you can break down that Colonialism stage, they can be original and unique, and that allows creative minds to be so much fresher, and in turn, creates creativeness within the platform.

In the West, first you have to convince people that what they’re doing is wrong. And if you achieve that, then you have to explain to them what else they can do; how they can progress. That’s why it became much more difficult to explain how things could be more progressive to people in the West. In the advertising world that I was a part of; the difference between European and American behavior is for one, in Europe we select creative directors and we ask them to lead us. In America, we’re always afraid of our job security, and we ask the public constantly what they want to see. And the public is busy with their own daily lives, their own careers, so it’s not their job to analyze and understand.

So, we tell our bosses this is what the public wants, let’s go with that. This to me is a plague that stops progress. We’re not progressing well. Everything has to be created outside first, then America can take it and make a business out of it. And yes, make it big business. Also, in Asia, the children have a bigger need; in India and in China.

In China especially, I was interested because they need a vision. China is losing their artists and by nature, they don’t have that many to begin with. So, I had to give them a vision. For those reasons, I was in Asia.

But I’m interested in America if we can build a trusted relationship with a powerhouse. Then I would be able to introduce this vision and the entire publishing world could change because of it.

Samir Husni: Is it because it’s your vision that you’re focusing on print as the vehicle to spread this vision, or is it that in this digital age print is still the best medium for implementing this innovation?

Alie Oz: There is no such thing as a “best,” because best only applies based on what we’re looking for. If you’re looking for a way to get timely information, then you cannot beat digital. However, if you’re looking for quality and beauty, and certain human elements, such as touching the paper for that physical connection, print provides that. There is no human connection with a monitor; we’re on the outside of it. And to me that’s also the failure of the arts in the West. In the East, the arts are a part of life. If they create a beautiful piece of art, such as a bowl, it becomes a part of their life. In the West, we create a bowl and then we put it in a museum and watch it. And call it art. No, that’s not art, you’re outside of it. You have to be inside of it.

And print is the same thing. With print, you’re much more connected to those pages, if they are created in the right ways. And there are different fundamentals for people. Some want to be in control, so they want to sit down in front of the monitor and click here or there. But many people are tired of making decisions all of the time. They want to just sit back and be entertained. With each page they flip, they want to see something surprising. They don’t want to know beforehand what they will be looking at. They just want to relax. And I don’t believe in losing or wasting things, especially print. We owe so much to print. Print has an opportunity to lead our culture.

And the Internet was created by engineers. But art is missing from the Internet. In contrast, print is all about art. So, they have to exist together. With my model, creating these art books, and by the way, we can create these art books from all topics. So, we can introduce thousands and thousands of them all over the world. But the key with this model, is they have to be free. Art book magazines have to be free. In today’s world, almost everything on the Internet is free. And yes, I have created a business model that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars of profit to publishers, even though the magazines are free. Having said all this, Internet publishing and print publishing doesn’t have to compete, they can co-exist and complete each other.

Samir Husni: But someone will say, Alie, you’re a dreamer. You’re telling us that the present publishing models are based on greed and that you want to change everything and do something completely different, but you’re still depending on advertising, albeit, you’re changing distribution. So, either you’re a genius coming up with this new idea or it’s simply a dream.

Alie Oz: Before anything else I have to say this, even though cynics will be satisfied with proof of concepts, whomever denies progress will be left behind. In contrast, the ones who are looking for opportunities will take advantage of this vision. In order to succeed, this vision, all aspects and all elements, has to be done correctly, no cutting corners. When that has happened the right way, the transformation of the publishing world through this vision will be revolutionary. Again as I said earlier, I am willing to explain all of the details to the right people in the right time.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest stumbling block that’s facing you in launching this new business model?

Alie Oz: There are no stumbling blocks at all, because as I said, we’re doing this as a part of our philanthropy vision. In our vision, we give this licensing to retired tennis players or young tennis families, or even players. So, philanthropists can have this magazine and have children educated from it. The economics are so attractive that the objective is never compromised. Of course, we’ll add more of the art and the nobility and the consciousness into the product, and it will be an art platform. We’re doing this in our philanthropy business, and once the magazine is established, we’ll be introducing many other products and businesses and services.

With this, philanthropists will be able to help people through sports and through artists. And while we’re doing that, our platform, the print magazine, will become a very visionary concept that could be implemented. One magazine can produce, in the hands of a major publisher, $100,000,000 per year profit after all of the fees and expenses. If you make 10 of them, now we’re talking billions. This is impossible for people to believe, because this is unheard of. But who would have thought a company called Google would become bigger than General Motors? Great ideas start this way.

The problem in the publishing world is that we try and fix things. We’re patching and matching, surviving. And they’re cutting quality in order to survive, which will only speed up the process of going down. So, everything has to change. First, you have to serve the people and their interests. When that happens, with a brilliant business model, success will come in the most satisfying of ways.You can’t just patch and match and put a Band-Aid on the problem. The time element has to be eliminated from the print publishing world, because fundamentally you cannot compete with the speed of the Internet when it comes to delivering information.

Also, not only do we need to eliminate handicaps, but we need to add advantages. The Internet doesn’t have that touch experience or that human connection like paper does. And if you take the time element out of the print media and add the art part to it, the quality part to it, suddenly you’re separating yourself from the Internet and you’re providing what the Internet cannot provide. So, not only are you coexisting; with my business model, you can make equal or more profit than the Internet.

By eliminating print magazines’ handicaps against Internet publishing, in addition to emphasizing its advantages, it will not only create a complimentary partnership and coexistence with each other; it will also totally complete each other in my vision. By changing the perception of what print publishing is today in its entirety and creating a new future for the print publishing era like never before.

At first, it sounds like a utopian idea and a romantic dream for print publishing and its defenders and supporters, but (remembering that in this vision, 98% of everything we know about print publishing has changed, or been altered or replaced by its new evolutionary process), the analysis of all aspects of print publishing adapted to this new vision, making this unimaginable dream a provable reality.

In order to start a revolution, a renaissance of the print publishing world today, we have to abandon what we know, what we think we know, what we think we need to fix, replace or repair. We need to rethink all aspects of print magazine publishing, and replacing the old outdated components with their new counterparts. In addition, we have to add a new purpose, new identity, new look, new definition, new production, publishing and new business model.

Samir Husni: If people see your vision and agree with it and think this is how revolutions start, what will keep you from doing it on your own and becoming that multi-billionaire?

Alie Oz: Publishers that are seriously searching to do better, will understand and will get excited by this vision. Anything is possible, however today my focus is on the broader picture. I’m interested in changing the art and artists, fundamentally, culturally, practically, and effectively. And I’m just a single human being who has a vision that could change things from a fundamental level. If I meet the right people/publishers, I will make plans to take actions to implement this vision in a larger scale to lead all. It’s not the money that motivates me, it’s doing the right thing and getting the publishing business to the right stage. And to get the publishing world to where they belong by influencing our lives in the right ways by creating the right products and awarding our artists and influencing people the way true artists should. I would like to make the publishing business a very attractive, lucrative and desirable business for young entrepreneurs by making publishing an art form. Of course, anything is possible, but we have already created one ArtBook Magazine as an example of this vision and as a part of our philanthropic vision-project, to become a centerpiece, a publishing platform for our operation. But publishing revolution doesn’t happen with just one product, it has to be many of them to become the new standard, to become the business inspiration to all, so everybody will be inspired and follow the vision to change their business model and the industry, once and for all.

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

Alie Oz: Well, I am worried about what’s going on in America, in our behavior, the choices we make because of our cultures that affect our decisions; our thought processes that lack taste, class, reasoning and consciousness, that senseless lack of understanding and disconnection. Why did we become this way? What causes this senselessness? Who and how can help make these corrections?

Well, in my opinion, what caused all this senselessness is the lack of senses in our lives, in our actions and our perception of what life is about, which is the essence of true Arts and Artists. Not a self-serving, narrowed purpose and meaningless bullshit, maybe with a little taste, a little talent, but still meaningless bullshit without any real purpose, no consciousness and no service to humankind. “The Art Game” that the rich and famous manipulated for a very long time, without realizing the effects caused in cultures and younger generations.

The Arts have to have a new definition, a new identity, a new purpose that is adjusted to our times, and to provide what is needed, what is missing, with a true and noble, and yet practical and productive, purpose that will make a difference in the world.

The Artists have to have a real purpose for a greater good that is very much needed; a direction and guidelines for our behavior, our senses and in our consciousness. For that “The Arts” have to be in our lives in all forms at all times, and “The Artists” have to have a new defining role in all aspects of our lives and business. New Age Print Magazines with their “new vision of existence” can provide this very much needed function. This new vision of ArtBook Magazines can provide the opportunity to merge in our lives to make a difference by uplifting the human spirit, representing taste, presenting new ideas and becoming the very much needed tool for the real artists to connect to people like never before.

For this, I did my job by creating and developing this vision “The ArtBook Magazines” to be implemented by all who represent the future of our Business-Culture Renaissance, and who want to take the publishing world to its new golden era like never before for the new age, “The Age of Aquarius.”

For many, these things I shared with you might sound like utopian ideas and wishful thinking, but they aren’t. They are true concepts created for practical applications that are tested, executed and proven. They are created based on responsibilities that real artists should have, a greater purpose than just a good idea, guided with consciousness and prepared as great business models and that take new age conscious business to its new heights in print publishing and its new place in our lives and cultures.

I can understand why for some this vision could feel like “A pie in the sky”. It is because most people are not used to creating things from scratch, as a completely brand new idea/vision. Usually, they are used to patch and match, fix or repair old and outdated ideas to make it work and fit into the new realities. Even some of the so-called new ideas are not new; they are a different version of the existing ideas or old ideas that were created in the past. Truly new ideas are rare, and usually difficult to relate to because they require us to forget what we know, and rethink everything without any baggage of our own belief system.

For those who are skeptical, there is a proof of concepts to convince them. For those who are already waiting for something new to change the game, there will be an inspiration like nothing before. Not only for the scale of success for the print publishing industry, which is unimaginable by today’s standards and expectations, but also what the publishing world should be in our future and its new function and responsibility in our cultures.

I will explain all of the details and step by step game/business plan to the right people, starting with those who already dedicated their efforts to improving the publishing business and who care to do the right thing and understand the potential of the “Print Publishing Business”.

We are already using this as part of our revolutionary vision of philanthropy by connecting children, artists, the sports world, corporations, philanthropists, governments etc. as the centerpiece of our publishing platform. But to start a real revolution in print publishing, there should be dozens of examples in action to become an example to all, then everybody will be inspired and understand the virtue, and everything will change after that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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