h1

Tail Flyfishing Magazine: When What The Doctor Orders Is A Magazine, Sometimes The Proverb “Physician Heal Thyself” Hits Very Close To Home – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Dr. Joseph Ballarini, Founder, Tail Flyfishing Magazine…

August 3, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“The digital publication grew; we were in over 100 countries. And people were screaming for a printed version of the book. Everyone was asking us to print it. So, initially, we made a PDF site where they could download it and print it out. And that was big for our European audience. Ultimately, after a barrage of emails, and then I started getting phone calls, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And we had a big enough following, so we knew the launch wouldn’t be a shot in the dark; we were already popular and people liked it.” Joseph Ballarini (on why he added a print component to his digital platform)

When passion guides you, anything is possible. Even if you’re a busy emergency room doctor. Just ask Dr. Joseph Ballarini. An avid saltwater fly fisherman, Joe is also an ardent conservationist. When his love of fishing and his respect for the environment joined forces, after taking note of many undesirable things that were happening in and around some of his favorite fishing spots, Joe decided that he needed to write his own prescription for the problem. He already had the placebo in place that brought awareness to the issue, an online presence where he could get information out there, but eventually the prescription was filled with just the right medicine: a printed magazine.

I spoke with Joe recently and we talked about the bumps in the road that can make starting a magazine a bit of a rocky journey, especially for someone who has never been in the publishing industry before, such as himself. But beating within every true entrepreneur’s heart is that firm belief and passion for their ideas, and a determination that no one can tamp down. Joe’s heart was and is filled to overflow with those attributes. So much so, that a second publication is in the works.

So, I hope that you enjoy this doctor’s tale; one that follows him into unfamiliar territory, but also leads him down possibly his true path, that of a storyteller, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dr. Joseph Ballarini, founder, Tail Flyfishing Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On why an emergency room doctor such as himself starts a magazine: I hate to admit this, but it really happened out of a little bit of anger. The blog and the digital magazine were meant to bring light to conservation efforts. As I would fish in the Florida Keys and in Southeast Florida, there was always trash and propeller scars destroying mangroves. And I saw this. I would go out fishing and come back in with my kayak loaded with garbage and debris that I had picked up floating around. And I think I launched the magazine to make people more aware of this. As a result, the full-blown publication grew out of it, and partly because of my passion for fishing and the outdoors.

On why he felt a magazine was the answer to the problem: Well, it actually wasn’t the answer right away. (Laughs) I’ve been fishing from the age of four, and I really didn’t know what to do. I started the blog, the website, and the magazine because I just wanted to put information out there. I wanted to create awareness. If you look at the early issues of Tail in the digital side, they’re not very good to be honest. (Laughs again) We did it all in-house; we didn’t have designers, and it kind of evolved over five years into what we believe is something really strong and great.

On why he decided to venture into print: The digital publication grew; we were in over 100 countries. And people were screaming for a printed version of the book. Everyone was asking us to print it. So, initially, we made a PDF site where they could download it and print it out. And that was big for our European audience. Ultimately, after a barrage of emails, and then I started getting phone calls, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And we had a big enough following, so we knew the launch wouldn’t be a shot in the dark; we were already popular and people liked it.

On the vastly different professions of being a doctor and a magazine founder and whether it causes any struggle between his left and right brain:
There’s always a disconnect between my left and right brain. (Laughs) My background is a little odd. I went to University of the Arts, and actually started there when I was 13 years old. I went there for Industrial Design, and had a Piano minor when I was there. So, I’m very artistic to begin with. And then in my late 20s, I had a big shift and decided that I wanted to be a physician. And that’s when I made the jump.

On whether his magazine journey has been a walk in a rose garden or he’s had stumbling blocks along the way: It was a lot like a walk in a rose garden except that the garden was all thorns. (Laughs) When we launched the magazine, we were novices in the print industry. So, it was very difficult for all of us, especially Shawn Abernathy, who is the creative director. Shawn had to redesign the magazine entirely, because the digital format was not amenable to a print style. So, we had to essentially redesign the magazine, and there were so many mistakes we made along the way. We learned quickly, because we were very motivated, and we’re all hands-on. But it was a very arduous process to get to the point where we are now.

On what he would say is hindering the growth of the magazine today: There’s such a huge expense involved with printing, especially when you decide to go to print with a quality book such as we have. It’s 100 lb. cover stock with a soft touch finish. And the inside pages are 80 lbs., so this is not an inexpensive magazine that we make. One of the big stumbling blocks that we have is capital. As quick as it comes in, it goes right back out.

On how he came up with the name for the magazine: It’s funny, because it took about 14 months to actually come up with the name. And it’s based on sight fishing. When you fly fish in saltwater, a lot of it is done on shallow water flats, and what you look for is a tailing fish. And that’s a fish in shallow water that’s nosing in to catch the prey. So, you’ll see its tail sticking out of the water and it’s iconic for fly fishing in salt water. The name is actually an abbreviation for tailing fish.

On what letter grade he would give the magazine and himself as he approaches the first anniversary of the printed edition of Tail: As you know, you’re always your own worst critic. And I’m very hard on myself. So, at this stage I would say this, we have improved with every issue. And we’ve corrected some little, minor things. So, I think I would probably give myself and our team a B at this point. Maybe a B+. Moving forward, starting with September, we have gone out of our way to reach out to some of the most notable figures in fly fishing, and we’re making it a point to get into that A category.

On when he thinks he might give up medicine and become a full-time magazine publisher: That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t dislike medicine; I don’t want to give that impression. I actually love helping people and love taking care of them. However, it would be really nice to be able to be at home more frequently and work less, and be with my family more. So, I would say after Tail becomes a little more established, maybe another year.

On the second magazine he plans to launch that will complement Tail:
We are going to launch a complement to Tail, which is of course focused on saltwater, but we are going to launch a freshwater book as well. This will be a book that focuses on the other side of the fishing spectrum. And I think it’s necessary to complete our portfolio of fly fishing in general.

On a name for the new magazine: We have a couple, and we’re going to hold off on sharing them until we actually hone in on one and decide.

On a launch date for magazine number two: We’re looking at the preview copy being ready in late 2018, with a full launch in the spring of 2019.

On anything he’d like to add:
The only thing that I would like to add is for the people who are reading this interview, we are very conservation-focused and if you page through our issues, you’ll see the Everglades Foundation and you’ll read the articles that are very concerned about our environment. And I would just ask people to support our cause and take the environment seriously, because we only have one planet and if we destroy it, it might not come back.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:
That’s a tough question. (Laughs) Being that the magazine is a saltwater publication and I love saltwater fly fishing, I wouldn’t mind being remembered as a very “salty” guy, similar to the way the Tail title has multiple connotations. (Laughs again)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: That’s an easy one to answer. Tail is a startup, and we are grossly understaffed. So, if I’m not taking care of my child or spending time with my wife, I am at my computer working on the magazine or I am packing and shipping products for the magazine. I’m kind of a one-man-show at the actual facility with designers that work there and remotely as well.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me staring at the ceiling until 3:00 a.m. many nights is that launching a magazine, having never been in the publishing industry, and trying to learn an industry that isn’t that easy to learn and trying to wrap my head around how to make this magazine successful, can be hard. But it’s working and it’s exceeding expectations.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dr. Joseph Ballarini , founder, Tail Flyfishing Magazine.

Samir Husni: You started a blog four years ago and then last year in September, you launched the first issue of Tail Flyfishing Magazine. And you are an M.D., an emergency room doctor. How did the magazine happen?

Joseph Ballarini: Actually, we did launch the magazine almost five years ago as a digital magazine, but we just made the jump into print last September. And I hate to admit this, but it really happened out of a little bit of anger. The blog and the digital magazine were meant to bring light to conservation efforts. As I would fish in the Florida Keys and in Southeast Florida, there was always trash and propeller scars destroying mangroves. And I saw this. I would go out fishing and come back in with my kayak loaded with garbage and debris that I had picked up floating around. And I think I launched the magazine to make people more aware of this. As a result, the full-blown publication grew out of it, and partly because of my passion for fishing and the outdoors.

Samir Husni: But why did you, a doctor, think the answer to this problem was a magazine?

Joseph Ballarini: Well, it actually wasn’t the answer right away. (Laughs) I’ve been fishing from the age of four, and I really didn’t know what to do. I started the blog, the website, and the magazine because I just wanted to put information out there. I wanted to create awareness. If you look at the early issues of Tail in the digital side, they’re not very good to be honest. (Laughs again) We did it all in-house; we didn’t have designers, and it kind of evolved over five years into what we believe is something really strong and great.

Samir Husni: And last September you decided to venture into print. Why?

Joseph Ballarini: The digital publication grew; we were in over 100 countries. And people were screaming for a printed version of the book. Everyone was asking us to print it. So, initially, we made a PDF site where they could download it and print it out. And that was big for our European audience. Ultimately, after a barrage of emails, and then I started getting phone calls, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And we had a big enough following, so we knew the launch wouldn’t be a shot in the dark; we were already popular and people liked it.

So, we figured out how to do it and decided to launch it last September. We spent about eight months planning to go to print. We had to change the format of the magazine and bring in professional designers. We just did it out of wanting to give our audience what they wanted. And I’m glad we did because it’s actually working.

Samir Husni: To me, publishing the magazine and giving the audience what they want, seems a little bit different than being an emergency room doctor, where you hope that the patient wants the doctor to give them what they need. (Laughs) So, it’s like a reverse of what you otherwise do every day. How do you wrap your brain around the idea that during your regular job you’re in control, you’re the one that’s helping people, but with the magazine the people are in control and you’re just giving them what they want? Does that cause any struggle between your left brain and right brain?

Joseph Ballarini: (Laughs) There’s always a disconnect between my left and right brain. (Laughs) My background is a little odd. I went to University of the Arts, and actually started there when I was 13 years old. I went there for Industrial Design, and had a Piano minor when I was there. So, I’m very artistic to begin with.

And then in my late 20s, I had a big shift and decided that I wanted to be a physician. And that’s when I made the jump. Fortunately, I’m blessed that I was able to make that jump and do both, but in reality, emergency medicine is taking care of people and it’s customer service, because they’re coming to you with their needs, at all hours, and it’s never scheduled and it’s never planned. It’s not unlike publishing a magazine, because you never know what’s coming at you and you have to think on your feet, and do what’s best. So, they’re very similar in an abstract way.

Samir Husni: You’re coming up on your first anniversary this September. Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you, or have you had some stumbling blocks along the way?

Joseph Ballarini: It was a lot like a walk in a rose garden except that the garden was all thorns. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Joseph Ballarini: When we launched the magazine, we were novices in the print industry. So, it was very difficult for all of us, especially Shawn Abernathy, who is the creative director. Shawn had to redesign the magazine entirely, because the digital format was not amenable to a print style. So, we had to essentially redesign the magazine, and there were so many mistakes we made along the way. We learned quickly, because we were very motivated, and we’re all hands-on. But it was a very arduous process to get to the point where we are now.

I’m embarrassed to admit, but there were a few typos that slipped by us in the early print editions. And that was something that we nipped in the bud after about two issues. We had a couple of little faux pas’ on our part. But now it’s smooth sailing. I’d have to say that now it’s become pretty automated. And it’s much, much better, but there’s still room to grow and room to improve, which is what we try to do with each issue.

Samir Husni: And what would you say is hindering the growth of the magazine today?

Joseph Ballarini: There’s such a huge expense involved with printing, especially when you decide to go to print with a quality book such as we have. It’s 100 lb. cover stock with a soft touch finish. And the inside pages are 80 lbs., so this is not an inexpensive magazine that we make. One of the big stumbling blocks that we have is capital. As quick as it comes in, it goes right back out.

The other issue is distribution, since we are a new name and we are a new publisher, it’s very hard to get people to take a look at us, because there are so may established books and companies out there. I think the biggest difficulty has been having enough money and enough resources and enough contacts to get to the right places. We’ve employed a distribution company and a circulation company, so we have some really good professionals helping us out and getting us where we need to be.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name of the magazine? It’s such an obvious name, yet one would think it had been used before.

Joseph Ballarini: It’s funny, because it took about 14 months to actually come up with the name. And it’s based on sight fishing. When you fly fish in saltwater, a lot of it is done on shallow water flats, and what you look for is a tailing fish. And that’s a fish in shallow water that’s nosing in to catch the prey. So, you’ll see its tail sticking out of the water and it’s iconic for fly fishing in salt water. The name is actually an abbreviation for tailing fish.

Some people thought it was a bit risqué, because it kind of has some connotations. However, it seemed to work and people seemed to get it. One famous person, Lefty Kreh, and if you’re not familiar with him, he is probably the base of fly fishing and has been for at least 50 years; he’s a very nice man, who is probably in his 80s.

He still fishes and still teaches children how to fish. He is at all of the conventions and shows, so he is still very active. But he was one who said that he didn’t get the name. And it’s funny; about a year and a half ago I was talking with him and he told me that he loved the magazine, but that he didn’t understand the name. And it was quite funny. After I explained it to him, he told me that it finally made sense. But he asked me why I didn’t just call it “Tailing?” (Laughs)

Samir Husni: As you approach your first anniversary of the print magazine, what letter grade would you give yourself? Do you feel you’re at an A+, an A, or maybe a B level right now?

Joseph Ballarini: As you know, you’re always your own worst critic. And I’m very hard on myself. So, at this stage I would say this, we have improved with every issue. And we’ve corrected some little, minor things. So, I think I would probably give myself and our team a B at this point. Maybe a B+. Moving forward, starting with September, we have gone out of our way to reach out to some of the most notable figures in fly fishing, and we’re making it a point to get into that A category.

If all goes well with our September issue, with our five year anniversary launch; I think that will be the first A magazine that I have put out. And I think it’s going to happen. Everything is in place and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong, because as you know many things can go wrong between the time you plan it and the time you print it.

Samir Husni: When do you think that you’ll quit practicing medicine and become a full-time magazine publisher?

Joseph Ballarini: That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t dislike medicine; I don’t want to give that impression. I actually love helping people and love taking care of them. However, it would be really nice to be able to be at home more frequently and work less, and be with my family more. So, I would say after Tail becomes a little more established, maybe another year. We do have a second publication in the works, which will be a complement publication to Tail. So, I think when we get both of those launched and established, I’ll take a look at my medical career and make a decision at that point.

Samir Husni: Mr. Magazine™ can’t hear about a new launch without asking; can you tell me a little more about the second publication that’s in the works?

Joseph Ballarini: We are going to launch a complement to Tail, which is of course focused on saltwater, but we are going to launch a freshwater book as well. This will be a book that focuses on the other side of the fishing spectrum. And I think it’s necessary to complete our portfolio of fly fishing in general. We’ve recruited a couple of big names, a couple of established editors in the field, to go forward with this. And we’re also going to work with Rajat Sports and make their fishnique water initiative a priority to the magazine.

Samir Husni: Do we have a name for the new magazine yet?

Joseph Ballarini: We have a couple, and we’re going to hold off on sharing them until we actually hone in on one and decide.

Samir Husni: Do you have a target date for when the second magazine might be launched?

Joseph Ballarini: We’re looking at the preview copy being ready in late 2018, with a full launch in the spring of 2019.

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

Joseph Ballarini: The only thing that I would like to add is for the people who are reading this interview, we are very conservation-focused and if you page through our issues, you’ll see the Everglades Foundation and you’ll read the articles that are very concerned about our environment. And I would just ask people to support our cause and take the environment seriously, because we only have one planet and if we destroy it, it might not come back. And a lot of fisheries have been destroyed by gill netting and pollution. On the freshwater side, dams are destroying a lot of fisheries, and I’d like to see a lot of these things change and improve.

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

Joseph Ballarini: That’s a tough question. (Laughs) Being that the magazine is a saltwater publication and I love saltwater fly fishing, I wouldn’t mind being remembered as a very “salty” guy, similar to the way the Tail title has multiple connotations. (Laughs again)

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

Joseph Ballarini: That’s an easy one to answer. Tail is a startup, and we are grossly understaffed. So, if I’m not taking care of my child or spending time with my wife, I am at my computer working on the magazine or I am packing and shipping products for the magazine. I’m kind of a one-man-show at the actual facility with designers that work there and remotely as well. So, you would probably find me working.

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

Joseph Ballarini: The long list or the short list?

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Either one I can handle.

Joseph Ballarini: What keeps me staring at the ceiling until 3:00 a.m. many nights is that launching a magazine, having never been in the publishing industry, and trying to learn an industry that isn’t that easy to learn and trying to wrap my head around how to make this magazine successful, can be hard. But it’s working and it’s exceeding expectations. However, being a perfectionist, I really don’t know if I can make it better, and that does keep me up at night. I’m always second-guessing my decisions and my actions. And I’m always making sure that I try to do the right thing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: