Archive for September, 2017

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Venture South Magazine: Connecting The Dots Regionally For People Passionate About Hometown Destinations And All That Goes With It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jason Niblett, Co-Founder & Publisher…

September 21, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“There was such a desire for something like Venture South in Laurel (Miss.). There are so many dynamic things happening here right now. We have the HGTV series, “Home Town,” that’s filming its second season. And last year we had the Matthew McConaughey movie, “Free State of Jones,” which is about our county. Once we announced the magazine, it has just been insanely popular. It’s crazy.” Jason Niblett…

It’s always uplifting to Mr. Magazine™ to find that the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well in this country, especially when it comes to the magazine business. Venture South Magazine is a hometown publication, but with large regional possibilities. And one of its co-founders and publisher, is not oblivious to that fact. He sees the potential of this magazine reaching far beyond the city limits of Laurel, Miss.

Jason Niblett is a University of Mississippi graduate and a newspaper man that has stepped off the broadsheet and onto the slick and glossy pages of a monthly magazine. And he is ready to move it as far as possible into the marketplace.

I spoke with Jason recently and we talked about this hometown endeavor that has suddenly found itself with a noticeable popularity and readership. And no one could be happier about it than its publisher. Having planned to offer it free to the public, depending on advertisements for its survival, Jason and his two other partners in the magazine, were shocked when they found themselves with about 200 subscriptions before the first issue even came off the presses. But that kind of shock is a good thing to new magazine publishers and owners.

So, grab your glass of sweet tea and come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we “Venture South” and learn about the spirit of one entrepreneur that just won’t be denied, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jason Niblett, co-founder & publisher, Venture South Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Venture South: I’ve been working for newspapers for many years. And of course, with the newspapers we’ve always had the newspaper-style magazine that we were required to do. I’ve always done social and lifestyle magazines, and I’ve had this concept in the back of my mind for a long time; something for everyday, normal people, not all about the million dollar houses, the gardens, huge swimming pools, but a magazine that everyone could use. From girls’ night out, to family weekends; things like that.

On whether he believes people think he has lost his mind for starting a print magazine in a digital age: (Laughs) Probably so. But there was such a desire for something like Venture South in Laurel. There are so many dynamic things happening here right now. We have the HGTV series, “Home Town,” that’s filming its second season. And last year we had the Matthew McConaughey movie, “Free State of Jones,” which is about our county.

On how he is taking what he learned from his newspaper career and applying it to his new magazine business: Definitely market research and demographic information that I’ve learned over the years at the newspaper. We have beautiful lifestyle magazines already, and we did not want to be a lifestyle magazine. There’s a huge audience in Mississippi that’s just normal, everyday people; the nurses, teachers, office personnel; those are the normal people in Mississippi. Of course, there’s the upper class echelon, but that audience isn’t huge, especially in our area. And so, you definitely have to learn how to target your audience.

On whether he has any plans to “venture further south” than his own city limits: Absolutely. We had a name that I’d had in the back of my head for five or six years, and once the three of us starting meeting, we were all leaning toward that name and going in that direction. Then suddenly, we had an epiphany and decided that wasn’t what we needed to name the magazine. We knew that we needed to go in a different direction where we could expand into New Orleans, Mobile, or Pensacola, or wherever. There is potential to do just that, explore and expand more regionally.

On the first conversation he had right after the first issue came out: One of my former high school teachers emailed me and she was just telling me how wonderful the magazine was. She loved the content and the direction and ideas. And she lives in Mendenhall, Miss. She started sharing it around, and that’s why we see the potential for a more regional publication, because once she started pushing it toward the city she lives in, and her friends and family in surrounding areas, and even her hometown of Natchez, Miss., we began to receive requests for subscriptions and we had planned to be just a free distribution-type magazine.

On any advice he would offer students should he ever speak to a class: Keep an open mind. When I was at the University of Mississippi, I was majoring in broadcast journalism. I went to NewsWatch 12 and the SMC (Student Media Center). I didn’t pay too much attention to the Daily Mississippian or to the yearbook, because I wanted to be on TV. I did that for about six months after I left Ole Miss, and I hated it. I ended up in newspapers.

On the advice he would give his newspaper colleagues about their own magazines: A problem that we had at our operation was not to make it a glorified people section of the newspaper. You have your daily, weekly, or biweekly newspaper, or whatever frequency you have, for that people section. Your magazine needs to be something nicer, with exceptional features, photography, and design. Don’t skimp on your freelancers, and if you don’t have the skills to design it yourself, hire a good graphic artist, because there are so many magazines in Mississippi that look like nothing but glossy, people sections.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: That I always tried to be a big community proponent; family first, work second, but if you enjoy your job, you don’t really have to work. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Definitely playing with the dogs. And I do love to cook; I joined one of those meal delivery services to try different things, and we’ve been doing that for about a year now. We get this cardboard box every week and sometimes the food is great and sometimes it’s not, but we’re always trying it. We love to travel to the Coast a lot, even if it’s just to walk on the beach or grab something good to eat. Here lately, we’ve been reading a lot of magazines and reading industry publications.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s definitely advertising, even though we broke even. It’s one of those things that you have to trust in God, because yesterday was a horrible advertising day and we’re going to press very soon. And then that afternoon late, bam, bam, bam; we booked several ads. So, I try to just have faith, because this is definitely a God-thing when I talk about divine intervention for the timing and everything. It’s all going to be okay. Even when I get stressed out, I know that it’s going to be okay. So, I try not to let that keep me up at night. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jason Niblett, co-founder & publisher, Venture South Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Venture South magazine.

Jason Niblett: I’ve been working for newspapers for many years. And of course, with the newspapers we’ve always had the newspaper-style magazine that we were required to do. I’ve always done social and lifestyle magazines, and I’ve had this concept in the back of my mind for a long time; something for everyday, normal people, not all about the million dollar houses, the gardens, huge swimming pools, but a magazine that everyone could use. From girls’ night out, to family weekends; things like that.

That was in the spring. I was working for a newspaper corporation in Laurel, Miss. And in Laurel, there were two newspapers, which it was a struggle for both newspapers to make it. And I knew that our newspaper was probably in trouble, but I thought that they would get rid of me and put the newspaper operation under a neighboring operation in Hattiesburg. So, we were all surprised when the paper closed completely in June.

In the spring, we had moved our office across town to a place that was a little bit cheaper, and about a week later, I got an email that my salary had been cut drastically. So, I knew that it was time for me to figure out what I was going to do next. I had been laid off from three different newspapers throughout my career and I’m only 38 years old. That’s a lot of layoffs for someone my age.

So basically, me and two of my friends decided that it was time to pull the trigger and do our own thing. So we started meeting that spring, after I received that email about the salary cut, and I had planned on sometime this fall, maybe winter, quitting my job to do this magazine. Then I find out my last day to work would be July 14, because we were being laid off and the paper closed.

So, everything accelerated, but honestly it was perfect timing, and definitely some divine intervention, because right after we started selling advertising, we had our media kits ready, but we didn’t have our premier edition to show everybody, we started hearing that there were two other groups, one an individual and one a corporation, looking at Laurel for starting a magazine. And so we knew we had to get ours out. Thankfully, we were able to break even for the first one, which was wonderful. But we had to get it out to stave off any victims of the competition.

Samir Husni: After seeing what’s happening with newspapers, and after being laid off three different times, do you still believe in ink on paper? Why are you starting a print magazine in this digital age; do people think you have you lost your mind?

Jason Niblett: (Laughs) Probably so. But there was such a desire for something like Venture South in Laurel. There are so many dynamic things happening here right now. We have the HGTV series, “Home Town,” that’s filming its second season. And last year we had the Matthew McConaughey movie, “Free State of Jones,” which is about our county.

And once it was announced that the paper was closing, my own phone and the office phone rang constantly for the next few weeks with people telling me that I had to do something. And of course, while I was still at the office, I was very professional in closing down that operation the way that it needed to be. Once we announced the magazine, it has just been insanely popular. It’s crazy. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: We’re seeing a lot of new magazines appearing, and as you mentioned earlier, almost every newspaper in Mississippi has its own magazine, or two or three. I remember in one of my seminars at the Mississippi Press Association, I challenged the newspaper people to follow more of a magazine style on a daily or weekly basis, because the problem is not with the ink on paper, it’s with what you put on that ink on paper. How are you taking what you learned from your newspaper career and offering it now on a monthly platform to your audience?

Jason Niblett: Definitely market research and demographic information that I’ve learned over the years at the newspaper. We have beautiful lifestyle magazines already, and we did not want to be a lifestyle magazine. There’s a huge audience in Mississippi that’s just normal, everyday people; the nurses, teachers, office personnel; those are the normal people in Mississippi. Of course, there’s the upper class echelon, but that audience isn’t huge, especially in our area. And so, you definitely have to learn how to target your audience.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you broke even with the first issue, which is rare in our business. If you wanted to use your crystal ball for a minute; what does the future hold for Venture South? And also, with a name like Venture South, do you plan on going beyond the city limits, maybe down toward the Gulf Coast?

Jason Niblett: Absolutely. We had a name that I’d had in the back of my head for five or six years, and once the three of us starting meeting, we were all leaning toward that name and going in that direction. Then suddenly, we had an epiphany and decided that wasn’t what we needed to name the magazine. We knew that we needed to go in a different direction where we could expand into New Orleans, Mobile, or Pensacola, or wherever. There is potential to do just that, explore and expand more regionally.

Samir Husni: When you mention the “three” of you, who are you referring to?

Jason Niblett: Lacey Slay, our editor and designer, and Kevin Dearmon, who handles advertising, are the other two owners. And Lacey and Kevin both hold down full-time jobs in addition to the magazine. I’m the only full-time person.

Samir Husni: What was the first phone call or conversation you had after the magazine was distributed?

Jason Niblett: One of my former high school teachers emailed me and she was just telling me how wonderful the magazine was. She loved the content and the direction and ideas. And she lives in Mendenhall, Miss. She started sharing it around, and that’s why we see the potential for a more regional publication, because once she started pushing it toward the city she lives in, and her friends and family in surrounding areas, and even her hometown of Natchez, Miss., we began to receive requests for subscriptions and we had planned to be just a free distribution-type magazine. And we ended up with 200 subscriptions before the magazine even launched.

Samir Husni: If you were to come and speak to journalism students here at the University of Mississippi, what advice would you give them?

Jason Niblett: Keep an open mind. When I was at the University of Mississippi, I was majoring in broadcast journalism. I went to NewsWatch 12 and the SMC (Student Media Center). I didn’t pay too much attention to the Daily Mississippian or to the yearbook, because I wanted to be on TV. I did that for about six months after I left Ole Miss, and I hated it. I ended up in newspapers.

So, keep an open mind and definitely learn the different concepts and multimedia, and always have integrity and do what’s right, and you will be blessed.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give your colleagues at other newspapers about their own magazines?

Jason Niblett: A problem that we had at our operation was not to make it a glorified people section of the newspaper. You have your daily, weekly, or biweekly newspaper, or whatever frequency you have, for that people section. Your magazine needs to be something nicer, with exceptional features, photography, and design. Don’t skimp on your freelancers, and if you don’t have the skills to design it yourself, hire a good graphic artist, because there are so many magazines in Mississippi that look like nothing but glossy, people sections.

And we want to be debt-free, because we know in the publishing industry that debt can weigh you down, or put you out of business. We’re actually working out of my house, we turned a third bedroom into an office. We close the door when we’re done for the day and we stay out of that room, but you also have to be disciplined enough to get up in the morning, get a shower and get dressed, and act like you’re going to work. If you don’t, the day gets away from you.

Samir Husni: Who’s going to be on the cover of issue two?

Jason Niblett: Actually, we’re doing a story on “Phantom of the Opera” at the University of Southern Mississippi. So, that’s probably going to be our cover story.

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

Jason Niblett: That I always tried to be a big community proponent; family first, work second, but if you enjoy your job, you don’t really have to work. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, after you had closed that office door, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; playing with your dogs; watching TV; or something else?

Jason Niblett: Definitely playing with the dogs. And I do love to cook; I joined one of those meal delivery services to try different things, and we’ve been doing that for about a year now. We get this cardboard box every week and sometimes the food is great and sometimes it’s not, but we’re always trying it. We love to travel to the Coast a lot, even if it’s just to walk on the beach or grab something good to eat. Here lately, we’ve been reading a lot of magazines and reading industry publications.

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

Jason Niblett: It’s definitely advertising, even though we broke even. It’s one of those things that you have to trust in God, because yesterday was a horrible advertising day and we’re going to press very soon. And then that afternoon late, bam, bam, bam; we booked several ads. So, I try to just have faith, because this is definitely a God-thing when I talk about divine intervention for the timing and everything. It’s all going to be okay. Even when I get stressed out, I know that it’s going to be okay. So, I try not to let that keep me up at night. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Two “Faces” of Family Circle Magazine – Different Covers, One Great Experience…

September 19, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

There’s nothing new about magazines having split covers, or the same magazine having several different covers, this has been happening for as far back as I can recall. However, what we’re seeing lately is how magazine editors and publishers are using the best attributes of technology and their own excellent publishing skills to laser-target their magazines to the intended audience.

Take for example the October issue of Family Circle. The magazine provides two different covers; one sold specifically at and for Wal-Mart, priced at $1.99, and the other sold to the rest of the country at bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million at the $3.79 cover price. The two covers are amazingly different and each has its own personality.

When I asked Family Circle’s editor in chief, Cheryl E. Brown, about the two covers, and noted that besides the well-known fact that at Wal-Mart you always get the magazine a bit cheaper than at the bookstores, I also commented that what really grabbed my attention this month with the magazine was how upscale the bookstore version looked compared to the much more mass market appeal the Wal-Mart issue had. This was Cheryl’s answer:

“On the price difference, Family Circle and a number of other titles (including Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping, in our competitive set) have Walmart-only pricing, mostly due to Walmart’s commitment to “Every Day Low Pricing.”

“On the different cover images, we had shot multiple Halloween covers that we liked, so decided to test a different version in Walmart. Walmart has calendar themes they like to promote, like Halloween and Game Time, so we thought the more playful/brighter image might fit in better with that in-store theme. And we tried a few cover lines that were more aligned with Walmart’s emphasis on everyday value and ease. It will be a couple months before we have results back; it will be interesting to see if the cover experimentation moves the needle on sales in that venue!”

The $3.79 issue shines with a more upscale and elegant look, showcasing golden-etched and silvery pumpkins that invite us to pour a cup of pumpkin spiced cider and sit by the roaring fire as we prepare for the Halloween and jack-o’-lantern season. While the Wal-Mart $1.99 edition begs us to discover easier ways to pick our pumpkin on a budget. And while the Wal-Mart magazine is just as engaging as the more polished one, the differences are subtly depicted, yet comfortably blatant. When one is shopping at Wal-Mart, they’re looking for great sales and short lines. When one is sipping cider by the firelight, the read should be more intimate and refined; a totally different experience. And that’s what magazines provide: different experiences, as any good editor in chief and publisher knows.

Either way, the October issue of Family Circle is a good example of a magazine well done. Depending on your budget, go pick up a copy from a store or a bookstore near you; both choices will give you a good read and a good experience that only magazines can provide.

So kudos to Cheryl Brown and her team for having a focused eye on their customers, both the reader and the retailer. It’s a comforting thought to know that magazine leaders maintain a healthy scrutiny that can only make the magazine experience more customized and fun!

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…
See you at the newsstands!

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Take Magazine 2.0: Publisher And Founder, Michael Kusek & Its Editor In Chief, Stacey Kors, Reveal To Mr. Magazine™ Why The Second Time Around Is The Real Charm…

September 18, 2017

“We can demonstrate that people who read Take in print really consume the print product and hang onto it. We just did a subscriber survey over the summer and we asked people how long they hung onto their copy of Take, and well over 55 percent of the people in that survey said they never throw their copies away. We’re reaching people who really, not only love our content, but love the magazine as an object that they want to hang onto. And I think that also from a business perspective, translating that and bringing that before advertisers is a really attractive prospect.” Michael Kusek…

“For me, yes, we’re in a digital world. We have access to new information every second and it’s also customized to our tastes. And we get this information, but there’s no real absorption of it because we’re immediately on to the next thing. For me, looking at a magazine is such a different experience, because it’s an active experience. There’s an intentionality to sitting down and reading it. There is an engagement of more than just sight; we hold it; we feel it as we turn the pages; we smell the paper. You’re obviously reading it.” Stacey Kors…

Relaunching a magazine takes real vision and commitment and a significant, underlying reason to do so. Take Magazine has all of that. It has dedication and a strong perception of its future in its publisher and founder, Michael Kusek, and a powerful affection and belief in its existence from its relatively new editor in chief, Stacey Kors. And a valid reason for being: its ever-growing audience.

Stacey Kors came onboard Take about nine months ago and hasn’t looked back since. She is a dynamic force for the magazine and brand with her sheer will and determination that the print component should and would be born back into the marketplace. As a new partner in Take Industries, Stacey, whose publishing career began in Western Massachusetts when she worked as a college intern for the region’s first high-end culture magazine, New England Monthly, has joined efforts with Michael, the magazine’s founder and publisher, to bring the print product back to its loyal readership better and stronger.

I spoke with Michael and Stacey recently and we talked about this Take-2 go-round for the printed magazine. The decision to go digital-only about a year ago was not one that Michael made lightly. His love for the Take brand was strong, but the reality of finances had to be considered. And as with any small, independent title, money is always a behemoth. But with Stacey climbing aboard and offering not only financial support and strength, but a passion for Take as strong as Michael’s, it would appear that the second time around will be the charm for this new duo, who also give much credit to the team behind them that makes everything more stalwartly creative.

So, I hope that you enjoy this interview with two people who share much more than the bottom line, but also a zeal and excitement for all things “Take”-able, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Kusek, founder & publisher, and Stacey Kors, editor in chief, Take Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the resurrection of Take Magazine (Michael Kusek): We ran out of money. By the end of last July, we had had a fair amount of success at selling advertising for that fall, but came up short in terms of the capital we needed to get ourselves there. We needed a bridge to get from June to the fall when we’d sold some revenue. And I had to make the really tough decision about stopping the print edition and staying digital-only. The switch to just digital-only was really made possible because somebody lent us the money to refurbish our website. In late August, Stacey emailed me out of the blue, expressing interest in helping Take come back into print, and I was pretty surprised about getting that kind of email. (Laughs) We met and had coffee, and the conversation started there, and it lasted a few months, while we envisioned what we would need to be a bit more stable.

On the resurrection of Take Magazine (Stacey Kors): I’m an old print junkie. I cut my teeth in this business; I was actually an intern at New England Monthly, our first successful regional magazine. I have been involved with covering arts and culture for a couple of decades now, and have been previously writing for the Boston Globe. In the spring of last year, they started very heavily cutting their arts coverage and their arts staff, like so many other places, unfortunately. I had an opportunity to be able to participate, and see if I could help Michael return the magazine to print. And as he said, we started talking and we were able to make that happen. It’s been a long road, but a wonderful one.

On why they brought Take Magazine back into print in this digital age (Stacey Kors): I can answer from the editorial side. For me, yes, we’re in a digital world. We have access to new information every second and it’s also customized to our tastes. And we get this information, but there’s no real absorption of it because we’re immediately on to the next thing. For me, looking at a magazine is such a different experience, because it’s an active experience. There’s an intentionality to sitting down and reading it. There is an engagement of more than just sight; we hold it; we feel it as we turn the pages; we smell the paper. You’re obviously reading it.

On why they brought Take Magazine back into print in this digital age (Michael Kusek): When we stopped the print issue, we got a lot of emails from readers who were upset to see it go, and then we announced that we were coming back and we received a lot of response from readers who were very excited to be able to add to their stack of Take Magazine’s on their coffee tables. I think that the loyalty that we’re building with our readers is something that, by being local people producing a local magazine, is something that we can demonstrate to advertisers. And because we do have at least a glowing, robust presence online and a real building loyal readership in print, I think that bodes really well for relationships with advertisers down the road.

On any challenges that they had to overcome when they relaunched in print (Michael Kusek): I think one of our challenges, at least on the business side, has been the idea that we went away once, so are we going to be here this go-round. So, it’s that convincing people, particularly advertisers, that if we’re going to build a relationship with them we are going to be here. We’re working our hardest to stay here. We’re definitely having a better response from advertisers than we did the first time around. And I think that’s one of the challenges, certainly from a business perspective.

On whether that first issue made all of the nine months’ of work and worry worth it (Stacey Kors): The two experiences that I’ve had that made it all seem worth it was going to the printer with the team, our amazing printer, Cummings in New Hampshire, watching the process and seeing that all of those ideas we’d had for so long were made real for everyone; it was just amazing. And the other experience happened recently, where our writers and our subjects started to receive the magazine. And everybody was so excited; everybody talked about how gorgeous it was. They were all so pleased and that we did something right and that was definitely worth it.

On what’s next for Take Magazine (Stacey Kors): From an editorial point of view, we have the train on the track and moving, and we’re working on three issues at a time. And we’re trying to create beautiful, timeless copy, with wonderful profiles of artists and culture-makers here.

On what’s next for Take Magazine (Michael Kusek): One of our challenges is figuring out the best way to do distribution. I have to credit ACT 7 this past spring, in particular, for getting good contacts with specifically independent magazines. Lukas Volger and Steve Viksjo from Jarry magazine have become good friends in the months that followed, because both as small, independent titles, we’re trying to figure out newsstand. And we’re trying to figure out the best way to convert digital followers into print subscribers.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Michael Kusek): I think work hard and have fun doing it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Stacey Kors): Live in the present and be mindful.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Stacey Kors): For me, unwinding is sitting with a glass of wine or a drink and reading the magazine or looking at some magazines and books, taking my eyes off of screens for a while. If the weather is conducive and it’s the right season, I might be in my garden, picking things to cook for dinner, making a beautiful meal ad savoring it fully.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Michael Kusek): For me, probably scrolling social media and watching the Rachel Maddow Show. (Laughs)

What keeps her up at night (Stacey Kors): The state of the world concerns me greatly on a macro level. Otherwise, honestly? Just thinking about the magazine a lot, there are a lot of balls in the air all at once and I’m always thinking about how to not drop one. How to make things better and stronger and successful.

What keep him up at night (Michael Kusek): The amount of unanswered emails that I have. (Laughs) And trying to remember to get back to people on the 10 different platforms that they message me on. That keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Kusek, publisher, and Stacey Kors, editor in chief, Take Magazine.

Samir Husni: It’s always a sad day when a print magazine goes out of business, but it’s also a joyful day when that magazine comes back. Tell me a little about the story of Take 2.0. (Laughs)

Michael Kusek: (Laughs too) We ran out of money. By the end of last July, we had had a fair amount of success at selling advertising for that fall, but came up short in terms of the capital we needed to get ourselves there. We needed a bridge to get from June to the fall when we’d sold some revenue. And I had to make the really tough decision about stopping the print edition and staying digital-only. And that was about the end of June.

The switch to just digital-only was really made possible because somebody lent us the money to refurbish our website. We spent the better part of July working on the website, and then getting that launched in early August. In late August, Stacey emailed me out of the blue, expressing interest in helping Take come back into print, and I was pretty surprised about getting that kind of email. (Laughs)

We met and had coffee, and the conversation started there, and it lasted a few months, while we envisioned what we would need to be a bit more stable. And what resources we needed that we lacked in our first go-round. And we worked on that through December.

Stacey Kors: I’m an old print junkie. I cut my teeth in this business; I was actually an intern at New England Monthly, our first successful regional magazine. I have been involved with covering arts and culture for a couple of decades now, and have been previously writing for the Boston Globe. In the spring of last year, they started very heavily cutting their arts coverage and their arts staff, like so many other places, unfortunately.

It was a combination of my lamenting that and trying to figure out personally what I was going to do next. And also lamenting the state of the print industry as a whole, just seeing it shrink more and more. I had known about Take from the beginning and had seen many copies of it and really liked it. I happened to come across the last issue, was reminded of it again, and thought that it would be a wonderful place to write and engage, and I was so glad that it existed. And then I looked at the website and I read Michael’s post, that unfortunately they weren’t going to continue. And I was heartbroken. It was such a wonderful and important resource. It was so beautifully put together; the stories were so interesting and timeless.

I had an opportunity to be able to participate, and see if I could help Michael return the magazine to print. And as he said, we started talking and we were able to make that happen. It’s been a long road, but a wonderful one.

Samir Husni: My question for the both of you is why print in this digital age? Besides being romantics about print, including myself, if we talk from the business side, why print? What’s the fascination you and Michael have with print that brought Take Magazine back to life?

Stacey Kors: I can answer from the editorial side. For me, yes, we’re in a digital world. We have access to new information every second and it’s also customized to our tastes. And we get this information, but there’s no real absorption of it because we’re immediately on to the next thing. For me, looking at a magazine is such a different experience, because it’s an active experience. There’s an intentionality to sitting down and reading it. There is an engagement of more than just sight; we hold it; we feel it as we turn the pages; we smell the paper. You’re obviously reading it.

And it’s not about disseminating information the way that we get it now; it’s really about the art of storytelling that involves thoughtfully written articles and gorgeous images. And specifically, for us, I love that across the board and I think it’s important that there’s a place for us to all stop and take the time to read a long-form article and engage in that way.

But for what we do, we cover artists and culture-makers in the region, and they’re all people who take their time to make something special, meaningful and beautiful, be it visual art or a well-crafted cocktail. And I think they deserve to have their stories told with that same intentionality.

Michael Kusek: It’s interesting, our period of time where we were digital-only put us in this position where we really had to think about what we were doing digitally for those six months. Beginning last September, we really put more focus on it and have seen some great results in the last year. We’ve gone from just over 3,000 readers per month on our website to being in the mid-thirties now every month in the last year. And that’s like 20 percent growth per month, which as one of my friends would say, is Facebook numbers. (Laughs) And I’m very happy with that, because we’re reaching an audience.

And it’s very interesting on the digital front to see who reads us. In August, our number two city that reads Take online was New York. And it’s not even in New England. (Laughs) So, the digital side of it certainly allows us to reach readers that aren’t part of our geographic focus for the physical distribution of the magazine.

I still think that print, particularly because we’re tightly, regionally focused, it’s easier for us, certainly not easy, but it’s easier for us to make a real connection with our readers, and it’s through our editorial, but also through who’s working for us. We have freelancers who are located all over the region, who help us create our content. So, as a print piece, people are picking it up and we’re not landing in New England from some far off place. We are a publication that is made by New Englanders for New Englanders. And I think that has been the basis of the success that we’ve had so far in reaching readers.

When we stopped the print issue, we got a lot of emails from readers who were upset to see it go, and then we announced that we were coming back and we received a lot of response from readers who were very excited to be able to add to their stack of Take Magazine’s on their coffee tables. I think that the loyalty that we’re building with our readers is something that, by being local people producing a local magazine, is something that we can demonstrate to advertisers. And because we do have at least a glowing, robust presence online and a real building loyal readership in print, I think that bodes really well for relationships with advertisers down the road.

We can demonstrate that people who read Take in print really consume the print product and hang onto it. We just did a subscriber survey over the summer and we asked people how long they hung onto their copy of Take, and well over 55 percent of the people in that survey said they never throw their copies away. We’re reaching people who really, not only love our content, but love the magazine as an object that they want to hang onto. And I think that also from a business perspective, translating that and bringing that before advertisers is a really attractive prospect.

Samir Husni: Since December, when the partnership took place between you and Stacey and the decision was made to relaunch the print magazine, has it been an easy walk in a rose garden, or were there any stumbling blocks that you both had to overcome? And if there were, how did you overcome them?

Michael Kusek: I think one of our challenges, at least on the business side, has been the idea that we went away once, so are we going to be here this go-round. So, it’s that convincing people, particularly advertisers, that if we’re going to build a relationship with them we are going to be here. We’re working our hardest to stay here. We’re definitely having a better response from advertisers than we did the first time around. And I think that’s one of the challenges, certainly from a business perspective.

Another thing, in terms of how we were moving forward from Take-version 1 to Take-version 2, was repairing our relationship with freelancers, who had waited a long time to get paid. And part of this deal was making sure that we made everyone whole that we owed money to. And we were very fortunate that we were in a position that when we restarted the magazine that we were able to start with a clean slate. And the challenge there is that for people who are content creators, they’re happy to work for us, but they also need to know that they’re going to get paid.

And reassuring them of that is a challenge, and certainly in that process, everybody wants to get paid for the work that they do, and some people were very vocally upset about that, some people offered to forego payment, and some folks were just very patient and didn’t say anything one way or another. But that was a really important thing that we needed to do.

Samir Husni: And Stacey, now that the first issue is done and the magazine is back, what was your reaction? Was it worth all of that worry and work for almost nine months, the time is equivalent to an actual birth. (Laughs)

Stacey Kors: (Laughs too) And that’s what it felt like.

Samir Husni: Were the labor pains worth it when the magazine came out? (Laughs)

Stacey Kors: Oh yes, but to continue in that vein, it was a laborious process. We did have some staff who had moved on to other positions. We hired a new art director and a managing editor. So, part of the process was getting our small team together and running smoothly, but of course, the first issue is going to be the most difficult time. To the regrouping and figuring out how we wanted to change things; how we wanted to keep things the same for the magazine, there was a lot of back and forth, we’re a team who shares visions, and there was and is a lot of serious discussion, and certainly a lot of very hard work, assigning and editing and going back and forth on art, and coming up with something that really felt like Take. And even better.

The two experiences that I’ve had that made it all seem worth it was going to the printer with the team, our amazing printer, Cummings in New Hampshire, watching the process and seeing that all of those ideas we’d had for so long were made real for everyone; it was just amazing. And the other experience happened recently, where our writers and our subjects started to receive the magazine. And everybody was so excited; everybody talked about how gorgeous it was. They were all so pleased and that we did something right and that was definitely worth it.

Samir Husni: Now, you’re on top of the mountain, what’s next?

Stacey Kors: (Laughs) The December/January issue.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Stacey Kors: From an editorial point of view, we have the train on the track and moving, and we’re working on three issues at a time. And we’re trying to create beautiful, timeless copy, with wonderful profiles of artists and culture-makers here. From the business point of view, Michael…

Michael Kusek: One of our challenges is figuring out the best way to do distribution. I have to credit ACT 7 this past spring, in particular, for getting good contacts with specifically independent magazines. Lukas Volger and Steve Viksjo from Jarry magazine have become good friends in the months that followed, because both as small, independent titles, we’re trying to figure out newsstand. And we’re trying to figure out the best way to convert digital followers into print subscribers.

And there are no simple answers for that path forward, because even as a small title we get some of the difficulties that larger legacy titles have at the newsstand. But we don’t have the budget to sort of pay to be there. So, we have to get innovative and creative about our distribution efforts. We’re relying on partnering with cultural organizations around the region, where we can distribute copies of Take so that people get it in their hands and get a sense and a feel for it. So, that’s one of our big challenges. And we have really great help from the folks from Tyson Associates in Connecticut, getting around that. So, that’s a piece of the puzzle that we’re working on, figuring out what’s best for a small magazine.

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

Michael Kusek: I think work hard and have fun doing it.

Stacey Kors: Live in the present and be mindful.

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?

Stacey Kors: Yes. (Laughs) All of those, though not at the same time. For me, unwinding is sitting with a glass of wine or a drink and reading the magazine or looking at some magazines and books, taking my eyes off of screens for a while. If the weather is conducive and it’s the right season, I might be in my garden, picking things to cook for dinner, making a beautiful meal ad savoring it fully.

Michael Kusek: For me, probably scrolling social media and watching the Rachel Maddow Show. (Laughs)

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

Stacey Kors: The state of the world concerns me greatly on a macro level. Otherwise, honestly? Just thinking about the magazine a lot, there are a lot of balls in the air all at once and I’m always thinking about how to not drop one. How to make things better and stronger and successful.

Michael Kusek: The amount of unanswered emails that I have. (Laughs) And trying to remember to get back to people on the 10 different platforms that they message me on. That keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

h1

Kent Johnson, CEO, Highlights, to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Our Belief Is That The Conditions In The World Today, The Pace Of Change And The Disruption, Makes Highlights Even More Relevant Than When We Were Founded 71 Years Ago… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

September 14, 2017

The Story of Highlights Documented in the Movie 44 Pages

“I think my son at age 12 is pretty engaged across the spectrum of technology, but it was eye-opening to hear him say there might not be print when he becomes an adult. But I’m convinced there will be for my lifetime, particularly for kid’s magazines. I think we face different issues in some types of adult titles and different issues in current events and news than in true audience-based magazines. But at Highlights, we’re believers in print.” Kent Johnson…

Highlights has been around for 71 years, educating and entertaining children throughout generations. It is a legacy brand, certainly, but it’s also a brand that believes in creativity and innovation, evolving perfectly with the times, becoming globally successful, while remaining the beloved companion of children across the U.S.

A 90-minute documentary entitled “44 Pages,” chronicling the history, process and philosophy behind the Highlights brand has been released and the film premiered on the national film festival circuit earlier this spring and is now touring across the country making stops in select cities for screenings and events. It’s a poignant look at the family who brought us this great children’s educational tool, exploring the rich and tragic history of the magazine and brand.

Kent Johnson is the CEO and the great-grandson of the founders of the company, Garry Cleveland Myers and his wife Caroline Clark Myers. I spoke with Kent recently and we talked about the past, present and future of the brand. We even discussed the controversy surrounding the company’s diversity values and how they handled the situation. It was nothing less than you’d expect from a man who grew up on those same values; ones that are enveloped with ethics, fairness and the firm belief that children are the most important people in the world.

So, I hope that you enjoy this glimpse into a brand that has been around for a very long time, and has found that with age, not only does wisdom come, but also a layer of commitment and ethical truth that the company’s CEO is in perfect step with, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kent Johnson, CEO, Highlights.

But first the sound-bites:

On his then 12-year-old son’s question of will there be print when he is an adult, which was highlighted in the new Highlights documentary: Well, I had asked him what did he think it would be like when he was an adult, and he had the reaction that he wasn’t sure there would be print magazines. And so they took that quote from me during the filming where we talked about that because I think they liked the way that worked as the lead-in for the section they were going to do. It kind of portrayed some of the tension that our company and our digital partners have had about the role of print versus the role of digital.

On whether, at 71-years-old, he feels the magazine is still relevant and needed in these digital times: Yes. Our belief is that as we look out into the world, many of us feel that we’re living in times that are filled with some contention, trouble and challenges in our society. Our belief is that the conditions in the world today, the pace of change and the disruption, makes Highlights even more relevant than when we were founded.

On having a Ph. D. in physics and whether it’s the scientist in him or the passion for the brand that makes him believe it’s still relevant today: I think it’s both. But I think it’s also the data that we see, and maybe that’s the scientist side of me. We see and measure positive reaction; we see millennial parents; we see parents looking for meaning and connection, and we listen to the feedback. We don’t have advertisers, so the people we listen to, in terms of relevance, are our readers and our subscribers.

On the magazine’s rocky start: There was a rocky start from a business perspective, and I think that if it weren’t for my great-uncle getting involved and having an entrepreneurial inspiration, as well as many others. People who believed in their vision and invested money, and printers and vendors that were critical, the sales team; we probably wouldn’t have made it through the first half dozen years.

On whether he thinks that Highlights’ business model is still just as valid today as it was years ago: Our model includes extending well beyond magazines. And we tend to think of our magazines as products, but there’s also an audience associated with each of our magazines to the progression from infant and toddlers, up to preschool, and then our Highlights readers. So, we’re constantly working to think about new ways to serve those audiences and that might be with digital products that we hope our subscribers would buy, and we do sell digital subscription products. Or it might be with our clubs, where we have people join who want to go deeper into a specific content area or really want to get into puzzling as opposed to something else. To move beyond and extend from a general interest magazine.

On his role (other than CEO) within the company: I’m a relatively humble leader. I try to spend as much of my time as I can talking about our mission, our values, and what we’re trying to do. I think it’s critical that as a leader I’m working to ensure that we’re bringing really talented, skilled people into the company, but also making sure that people who come to work here share our beliefs and our mission. We want to have employees who in addition to being happy and successful in their jobs, we want them to gain an extra sense of satisfaction because of what we do for children. Because they tend to be happier here and more successful.

On the diversity controversy the magazine faced last year: We tend to focus on and think about how does a child see themselves in our magazines. What was interesting when we came under criticism around the issue of same sex, same gender parents, was when we really looked at our magazine, we don’t have many depictions of parents. We tend to focus the content from the kids’ point of view. In some ways, we may have been a little surprised that an adult issue was coming with such strength to us. On the other hand, I think what we learned was that the world has changed pretty quickly on these issues. And Highlights has tended to evolve and change with society and this may have been a case where we were slower than some would have liked to evolve.

On whether it’s easier or harder to take a centrist’s point of view in the magazine with the divisiveness that faces our country today: I’m not sure whether it’s easier or harder; it certainly feels like one can be criticized more readily today. I think for us when we did go through the controversy, one of the things that allowed us to not be too distracted was once we decided what we wanted to do, what was consistent with our editorial point of view, our values, and how we wanted to execute it, we were able to shut out the inputs from the outside world. We have an incredible staff, who’s judgement and decision-making I have complete trust in. So, once we knew what we wanted to do, we knew we were doing it with our audience, with children in mind, and we knew there was no way to make everyone happy.

On whether it’s easier or harder to remain ethical these days: I don’t know if it’s easy or hard, it’s just the way we’ve done things from the beginning. And it’s not really a daily choice, it’s the air that we try to breathe as an organization. And I think there are many organizations like that. It can be hard if you’re not rock solid in understanding your commitment to integrity and ethics. It can be difficult in a highly-pressured, highly-competitive world for some organizations.

On the four key values of the company: Our four key values as a company are teamwork, creativity, excellence and integrity. We also have a primary value, which is that children are the world’s most important people. And we carry that along as our primary value to remind everyone that when we look at our values or talk about them, that one is our primary value.

On anything he’d like to add: One thing that I’d like add is we’ve been having some neat success internationally. And a lot of our international success is related to English-language learning and content and products. So, it’s not all magazines. But I found it neat that I got to visit our magazine partner in China back in April. And we are now, I think starting next month, we are simultaneously publishing with our partner in China, both Highlights and High Five, the same issue in China in English, but we also record all of the audio and we print a special layer on the magazines. So, they have a talking pen. The kids in China are reading Highlights and High Five at the same time kids are reading them in the U.S., but they will have a pen where they can touch on anything and it will read them the article, because we’re trying to help them learn English.

On any plans to bring the magazine with the reading pen to the U.S.: Innovative, global partners; every time they do something different that surprises us or often inspires us, we do ask the question: is that something we should bring to us? Or how would that idea work in the U.S. market? And that is often digital, because we feel there’s a lot of great innovation with technology in our foreign markets. We don’t have a distribution approach associated with the talking pen for the U.S., but it’s on our minds to think about whether that would be a retail or a direct to consumer, or something that we need in our market. We don’t have any specific plans yet, but we’re always thinking.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: If it’s about me personally, I just hope people would read that I have had a positive impact on those around me. A positive impact on the world and a positive impact on the company I’m part of and positive impact on my own family. That would be my ultimate goal for someone to see on that tattoo.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m a bit more of an introvert than my job typically requires. I like to try and unplug in the evenings, so you’d see me with my kids. You might see me reading with them or playing a computer game with them, or doing homework. You would probably see me with a glass of wine. If it’s hockey season, you might see me watching a hockey game. And I like to read a lot. If it’s late enough, you might catch me in my bed reading a book, trying to stay awake because it’s interesting or not.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s a good question, because I’m not the best sleeper. Mostly, I’m up at night thinking about all of the opportunities and all of the changes and pressures. So, I’m up a lot thinking about work and how do we adapt to the world that’s changing so quickly, and how do we deliver for our customers on the potential we have, just because of the Highlights brand’s heritage and our ability. We have more opportunities than we know what to do with, and that keeps me feeling a level of pressure and urgency and excitement that does interfere with my sleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kent Johnson, CEO, Highlights for Children.

Samir Husni: I just finished watching the new “44 Pages” documentary about the creation of Highlights, and I was struck by the question your son asked you, “Dad, will there be a Highlights in the future when I’m an adult?”

Kent Johnson: Well, I had asked him what did he think it would be like when he was an adult, and he had the reaction that he wasn’t sure there would be print magazines. And so they took that quote from me during the filming where we talked about that because I think they liked the way that worked as the lead-in for the section they were going to do. It kind of portrayed some of the tension that our company and our digital partners have had about the role of print versus the role of digital.

I think my son at age 12 is pretty engaged across the spectrum of technology, but it was eye-opening to hear him say there might not be print when he becomes an adult. But I’m convinced there will be for my lifetime, particularly for kid’s magazines. I think we face different issues in some types of adult titles and different issues in current events and news than in true audience-based magazines. But at Highlights, we’re believers in print.

Samir Husni: The magazine is now 71 years old, and from the days when I was working with the company, I’ve always heard that you’re a mission-driven, family operation.

Kent Johnson: Yes.

Samir Husni: So, do you think that Highlights today, at 71, is still relevant and needed? And is it still a reflection of our times in this digital age?

Kent Johnson: Yes. Our belief is that as we look out into the world, many of us feel that we’re living in times that are filled with some contention, trouble and challenges in our society. Our belief is that the conditions in the world today, the pace of change and the disruption, makes Highlights even more relevant than when we were founded.

And I think part of that at 71 years, Highlights, even though the majority of people know us for our magazine and know that we’ve had the magazine for that entire time, we tend to think of ourselves as you said, as a mission-driven company, but we also think of ourselves as a company that’s focused on serving children and families. And we have a philosophy and a set of values that we think resonate as much today as they ever have with the aspirations that parents have for their children.

We think that people want to try to raise children to become their best selves, and that’s really what we focus on trying to do with our magazine, but also in our digital products, and across all of our other products throughout the company. We even like to talk that we’re not ultimately trying to create a magazine, it’s the experience that’s created when a child engages with the magazine that we care about. I like to think that what we’re doing is creating experiences that help children grow in positive ways.

Samir Husni: I know that your great-grandparents started the company, but something very few people may know is that you actually have a Ph.D. in physics. So, is it the scientist in you or the passion in you that makes you believe the magazine is still relevant?

Kent Johnson: I think it’s both. But I think it’s also the data that we see, and maybe that’s the scientist side of me. We see and measure positive reaction; we see millennial parents; we see parents looking for meaning and connection, and we listen to the feedback. We don’t have advertisers, so the people we listen to, in terms of relevance, are our readers and our subscribers.

I am passionate; we really try to recruit people to our company who are passionate about what we’re doing, who are believers when it comes to the impact that we have on children, and the positive impact that we have in society. But we’re also a group of data-driven, analytic folks who are looking at the data to say that we think we’re still relevant.

Samir Husni: Very few people, including myself, who thought that I knew the history of Highlights; I did not know that it had a rocky start. That after four years, they were losing money and getting ready to close shop. And then your great-uncle came into it. And the tragedy when your family was flying to New York in 1960, and the planes collided and everyone died on that flight. So, it wasn’t always a walk in a rose garden for Highlights.

Kent Johnson: I think that’s true. And I think that the founders started this company as their final chapter. They were 59 and 61 years old, and they were passionate about the mission. And they were exceedingly knowledgeable about parenting, education, literacy and children, but as we like to say when we’re looking back on history, maybe they weren’t as skilled as businesspeople as they were in child development and as educators and editors.

So, there was a rocky start from a business perspective, and I think that if it weren’t for my great-uncle getting involved and having an entrepreneurial inspiration, as well as many others. People who believed in their vision and invested money, and printers and vendors that were critical, the sales team; we probably wouldn’t have made it through the first half dozen years.

And then to be, as they show in the documentary, to be at the stage where, really at that point in 1960 being at half a million subscribers, it had become clear that this was going to be a viable, long-lived company. And to have a tragedy, which was a tragedy for the Columbus community and many, many families, but to have a tragedy where we lost three of our five senior executive, including two family members, was the kind of blow that I think you could easily imagine would do a company in and cause a family to falter.

But I think the reaction, as I look back, the non-family executives, the family members, our founders, who were living and still in the business, but now had lost their son and their president of the company, everyone decided that the company had to go forward. I think that level of commitment to the mission is what allowed us then to get through crises, but it is the kind of commitment that I was brought up in thinking, believing and understanding that we ought to have at Highlights. And it gives us a bit of resilience to get through whatever the crisis of the day, or the difficulties are. We kind of believe that we can and will keep going, no matter what.

Samir Husni: The magazine has never had advertising, so your source of revenue always depended on circulation and subscription. And for years, you were the most expensive children’s magazine on the marketplace. But now with the slew of new children’s magazines coming out, some with cover prices of $12; do you think that the business model that you follow at Highlights is still as valid as it was years ago? Or do you have any plans to change it or do something different?

Kent Johnson: That’s a great question. I think we have often been relatively high-priced compared to some competitors. But we are a mass market magazine, and it’s part of our mission, we want to reach as many children as possible here in the U.S. and around the world, so we try to price in a way that is a good value, given the quality of the content and the investment of the content, but is also enough that we’re able to continue to invest in the content. So, we believe that content has value and the experience we create with magazines justifies the expense. And that it’s a good investment for the quality of time it creates in a family and for a child.

That being said, our model includes extending well beyond magazines. And we tend to think of our magazines as products, but there’s also an audience associated with each of our magazines to the progression from infant and toddlers, up to preschool, and then our Highlights readers. So, we’re constantly working to think about new ways to serve those audiences and that might be with digital products that we hope our subscribers would buy, and we do sell digital subscription products. Or it might be with our clubs, where we have people join who want to go deeper into a specific content area or really want to get into puzzling as opposed to something else. To move beyond and extend from a general interest magazine.

And we’re also trying to go into retail, because we know that in addition to our subscriber base, many people are familiar and have positive emotional connections to the Highlights brand. And to be there in retail with Highlights’ branded products, books and activities, and a variety of categories gives them another way to engage with us. So, I think our business model is evolving, and will continue to evolve, but is evolving to try and really shift from people thinking they are a Highlights subscriber; we want people to say they are part of the Highlights family, and we want them to say they engage with Highlights products beyond the magazine.

Samir Husni: I understand that now Highlights is platform agnostic. What role do you play, besides CEO, when we look at the theme that Highlights will always be an evangelist for children, helping kids be happier and healthier; are you the high priest or are you the altar boy? (Laughs)

Kent Johnson: (Laughs too) I’m a relatively humble leader. I try to spend as much of my time as I can talking about our mission, our values, and what we’re trying to do. I think it’s critical that as a leader I’m working to ensure that we’re bringing really talented, skilled people into the company, but also making sure that people who come to work here share our beliefs and our mission. We want to have employees who in addition to being happy and successful in their jobs, we want them to gain an extra sense of satisfaction because of what we do for children. Because they tend to be happier here and more successful.

I go in and out of a lot of different things with the company, but mostly I try to fertilize and cross-fertilize aspects of our mission and values, and keep us all energized on the things that we’ve been doing for 71 years. We have an incredible energy right now about magazine publishing and I think that’s what you see in the documentary “44 Pages.” The passion and energy for something we’ve been doing for 71 years, but it’s new with every issue. And we’re having a blast on international, on digital, and doing apps. So, I try to keep the excitement and enthusiasm up, because I think that makes it a much more fun place to work. And it ultimately means we’ll create better things for kids, if those things are true.

Samir Husni: I have to ask the question about the diversity issues that took place last year, and some of the criticisms you received in the press regarding the LGBT community. Those who don’t study Highlights; I rarely look at an old issue of Highlights that I don’t see a white child, a black child, a woman, a man, a boy, a girl. Why do you think that for the magazine that has diversity as part of its DNA, you were in that maelstrom of controversy? How did you deal with it? And was it a big surprise to you that someone thought Highlights wasn’t diverse?

Kent Johnson: I do think that a sense of tolerance and a sense of inclusivity and the idea that as humans we always share more with each other than we differ; those have been core tenants that we at Highlights have always tried to focus on. These are human values that we believe in, and we’re proud of our heritage. We have had a lot of diversity within the pages of our magazine over the years. Actually, someone wrote a paper looking at our representation of women and minorities in roles related to science. And it was rewarding for me as a scientist to see the report card that we had been well ahead of the curve, in terms of going against stereotypes, with respect to math and science, because we do have a problem in the science industry with the diversity of folks who are successful and advancing in those careers.

We tend to focus on and think about how does a child see themselves in our magazines. What was interesting when we came under criticism around the issue of same sex, same gender parents, was when we really looked at our magazine, we don’t have many depictions of parents. We tend to focus the content from the kids’ point of view. In some ways, we may have been a little surprised that an adult issue was coming with such strength to us. On the other hand, I think what we learned was that the world has changed pretty quickly on these issues. And Highlights has tended to evolve and change with society and this may have been a case where we were slower than some would have liked to evolve.

We were surprised at the level of intensity of feedback. And I think it all happened at a time, and I think we’re still in this time, but at a high level of contention or divisiveness in our society. And the digital means of communication allow people to pour a fair bit of emotion or intensity in their communications. So, we were a little surprised at the intensity when that all happened.

Samir Husni: One of your editors told me once that Highlights tried to be like an island of clarity in the world that kids are living in. That reminded me of what the former CEO of the Wall Street Journal told me once, that the WSJ had been referred to as an island of clarity in a sea of madness when it comes to business. As we live in this, not only digital age, but with everything that is taking place in our country today, is it easier or harder for Highlights to take that centrist’s point of view and try to provide this island of clarity in a very divided country today?

Kent Johnson: I’m not sure whether it’s easier or harder; it certainly feels like one can be criticized more readily today. I think for us when we did go through the controversy, one of the things that allowed us to not be too distracted was once we decided what we wanted to do, what was consistent with our editorial point of view, our values, and how we wanted to execute it, we were able to shut out the inputs from the outside world. We have an incredible staff, who’s judgement and decision-making I have complete trust in. So, once we knew what we wanted to do, we knew we were doing it with our audience, with children in mind, and we knew there was no way to make everyone happy.

But I think it’s easier for a company like Highlights, being privately-held and committed to the audience and the readers, when we make our decision and make our judgements about what’s in the magazine, we go forward with those decisions. So, we will never sit in the middle of any discussion and try to make the calculation of what exactly does that do to our subscriptions or our marketing, or did people cancel because they didn’t like that decision.

I think as a company, we feel we have a responsibility to be comfortable in our own skin and own our decisions and implement them in the way that we think is best for children in our society. So, I think it’s hard because there’s more external pressures, but it’s also, I think, something that is our obligation as magazine publishers to make and commit to how we want to do things based on the expertise and experience of the team we’ve put together.

Samir Husni: And is it easier or harder to remain ethical? Somebody mentioned in the documentary that you’re one of the few remaining ethical publishing companies.

Kent Johnson: I would never try to compare us to others, because I think there are so many ethical people in the world. Integrity is one of our four key company values. So, for us we have all bought in that being ethical is not a choice, it’s part of who we are. When we make that level of commitment to being ethical, you realize that you have to own up that sometimes that means you’re willing to sacrifice things to be and strive to always behave in the most ethical way one can.

I don’t know if it’s easy or hard, it’s just the way we’ve done things from the beginning. And it’s not really a daily choice, it’s the air that we try to breathe as an organization. And I think there are many organizations like that. It can be hard if you’re not rock solid in understanding your commitment to integrity and ethics. It can be difficult in a highly-pressured, highly-competitive world for some organizations. We try to take it off the table and just say that first and foremost we have to do the right thing.

Samir Husni: You mentioned integrity and ethics, what are your other two core values for the company? You said there were four.

Kent Johnson: Our four key values as a company are teamwork, creativity, excellence and integrity. We also have a primary value, which is that children are the world’s most important people. And we carry that along as our primary value to remind everyone that when we look at our values or talk about them, that one is our primary value.

Those values really came out of a process where we discovered those and engaged our whole organization to define them. What was remarkable is that we went through that process recently, I had my cousin, Pat Michaelson, who is a granddaughter of the founders, to look at it and she said that was exactly what we’d been about since day one. I thought it was neat that today’s organization reflects in an ongoing, consistent way the values that we’ve had for 71 years.

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

Kent Johnson: One thing that I’d like add is we’ve been having some neat success internationally. And a lot of our international success is related to English-language learning and content and products. So, it’s not all magazines.

But I found it neat that I got to visit our magazine partner in China back in April. And we are now, I think starting next month, we are simultaneously publishing with our partner in China, both Highlights and High Five, the same issue in China in English, but we also record all of the audio and we print a special layer on the magazines. So, they have a talking pen. The kids in China are reading Highlights and High Five at the same time kids are reading them in the U.S., but they will have a pen where they can touch on anything and it will read them the article, because we’re trying to help them learn English. And it’s been fun to watch that business grow knowing that audio recorded and content created in Honesdale, Pennsylvania is appearing across China at the same time every month.

We’re printing them; we send the audio and they print a fifth layer that’s readable by a sensor in the pen, so it knows where your touching. They encode it and we record the audio and we’re printing and selling them vinyl copies for their growing subscriber base. We’re somewhat non-traditional as a magazine by going international, so we’ve had to find our way. A lot of our applications have to do with our core identity as a kid’s company and an educational company, so reaching English-language learning in many different ways, a lot of time digitally, but also in print around the world.

Samir Husni: Any plans to bring that reading magazine here?

Kent Johnson: Innovative, global partners; every time they do something different that surprises us or often inspires us, we do ask the question: is that something we should bring to us? Or how would that idea work in the U.S. market? And that is often digital, because we feel there’s a lot of great innovation with technology in our foreign markets. We don’t have a distribution approach associated with the talking pen for the U.S., but it’s on our minds to think about whether that would be a retail or a direct to consumer, or something that we need in our market. We don’t have any specific plans yet, but we’re always thinking.

I’ve tried to say to our company that we should be, not only global, in terms of our sales and distribution of product, but we want to allow being a global company to accept how we think about everything. So, more and more we think about our systems and our ways that we tag our content, or even some of our decisions about product development. We think they all have to at least be looked at through a global lens to make sure we’re doing the very best we can and serve kids all over the world.

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

Kent Johnson: I’ll answer that two ways. One; what I used to weave into speeches, and I still do, if someone ripped me from my sleep and said: quick, you have to tell me about the identity of Highlights for Children or the company, what matters? I always say there are three things: we’re mission-driven and for-profit, two – we’re always balancing the short and long-term time horizons, we’re always thinking both short-term and long-term, and three – we’re an ethical company.

If it’s about me personally, I just hope people would read that I have had a positive impact on those around me. A positive impact on the world and a positive impact on the company I’m part of and positive impact on my own family. That would be my ultimate goal for someone to see on that tattoo.

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?

Kent Johnson: I’m a bit more of an introvert than my job typically requires. I like to try and unplug in the evenings, so you’d see me with my kids. You might see me reading with them or playing a computer game with them, or doing homework. You would probably see me with a glass of wine. If it’s hockey season, you might see me watching a hockey game. And I like to read a lot. If it’s late enough, you might catch me in my bed reading a book, trying to stay awake because it’s interesting or not.

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

Kent Johnson: It’s a good question, because I’m not the best sleeper. Mostly, I’m up at night thinking about all of the opportunities and all of the changes and pressures. So, I’m up a lot thinking about work and how do we adapt to the world that’s changing so quickly, and how do we deliver for our customers on the potential we have, just because of the Highlights brand’s heritage and our ability. We have more opportunities than we know what to do with, and that keeps me feeling a level of pressure and urgency and excitement that does interfere with my sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Kalmbach Publishing’s New CEO Is A Firm Believer In The 83-Year-Old Company’s Steadfast Mission Of Putting The Customer Front & Center – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach Publishing…

September 11, 2017

“There’s room for it (print), of course, and if you’re in the relationship business, to some extent you’re agnostic. Your job is to really know the customer and how they want content experiences delivered to them. And if they’re raising their hands and saying they want magazines, then you provide magazines. And they still today provide fantastic and immersive lean-back experiences.” Dan Hickey…(on whether there is room for print in the magazine media world’s future)

A legacy publishing company, Kalmbach Publishing has been around for 83 years and has no plans to slow down now. A force to be reckoned with in the world of niche, with titles such as Model Railroader, Discover, Bead & Button, Classic Toy Trains, and Astronomy, plus many more, Kalmbach’s long dedication to its mission statement of putting the customer first is something that drew media veteran, Dan Hickey to the position he now holds as CEO.

Dan is someone who brings an array of skills to the top post at Kalmbach, from his tenure at Meredith, where he oversaw all digital businesses, to his executive position at AOL, and his editorial leadership roles at Walking Magazine and National Gardening, along with many other career experiences that will no doubt help him along this niche path he is now traveling.

I spoke with Dan recently and we talked about his vision for the company’s future, which consists of accelerating Kalmbach’s already very prevalent commitment to its customers, and to keep what he considers the core of the magazine business, relationships, revved up. It was a highly informative and interesting conversation, and one I hope you enjoy.

And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach Publishing.

But first, the sound-bites:

On his vision for the future as the new CEO of the company: The 83-year-old history of the customer coming first, a value that Kalmbach has embraced, is really the foundation of the future as well. I believe that the magazine business at its core is a relationship business. Great content, experiences that you find in magazines, that you find on websites and with other platforms, is the conduit that allows for those relationships. And ultimately, I think it builds the brand loyalty over time.

On his reaction when he learned the Kalmbach board had selected him as CEO: The reason I’m excited, and why I was so attracted to Kalmbach is after a number of visits to the company, I found out several things. First, they are a very proud company and it reminded me of my days at Meredith. Meredith is very similar; 100+ years-old, Kalmbach’s 83-years-old. Kalmbach was not shy about their history of values, they have put the customer front and center for 83 years. And simple things impressed me. They keep their building and campus immaculate, and I saw that right away. I said to myself, this is a company that really cares; about itself, about its employees, and about its customers. So, that was impressive to me.

On whether he thinks his editorial background prepares him better for the business side of the company or could it be a possible stumbling block: I think it prepares me well, and not only my editorial background, but my digital background as well. For the last 20 years, I’ve pretty much been on the digital side of the business, as well as marketing. So, it’s not just editorial. It’s editorial, marketing, circulation, and ad sales. I’ve touched all of those sides of the business and I feel that I have a deep enough understanding of how to weave all of those things together in preparing for the future. I’ve see a lot of silos in my day; I’ve seen editorial silos, ad silos, consumer marketing silos, so I think my background will really help me bring those functions together in an harmonious way to really prepare for the future.

On whether he believes those silos are being torn down quickly enough: I think that as a whole, the industry isn’t clear enough as to where the puck is going. And I really believe we’re in the relationship business and I think there is a shift mentally from companies that say they’re a magazine publisher, to they’re in the relationship business, because once you can shift mentally into that relationship faction, you’re less focused on a particular form factor. And you’re really focused on the relationship itself and the needs of your customers. In my view, the slowness of the industry is embracing that. Once everyone embraces that and ask themselves how they can super-serve their customers, then the silos will naturally break down.

On whether he believes there is still room for print in the future, for our children and grandchildren: Of course. The customer is going to determine that, right? There’s room for it, of course, and if you’re in the relationship business, to some extent you’re agnostic. Your job is to really know the customer and how they want content experiences delivered to them. And if they’re raising their hands and saying they want magazines, then you provide magazines. And they still today provide fantastic and immersive lean-back experiences.

On whether he believes there will ever come a time when people will pay for digital in the same way they pay for print: Yes, and it will be easier. I do think that’s part of building a relationship platform. As you have an ecosystem of platforms from magazines to digital to social to events to potentially subscription boxes or other things that you deliver to your customers, and mobile products as well. Part of the strength of a company like Kalmbach is our circulation departments or consumer marketing departments are essentially very good at handling recurring revenue streams.

On something he looks back on today and wishes he hadn’t done: Ten or 15 years ago, when I first got into digital, I think most publishers, if they could rewind the clock, wouldn’t be giving away free content like they are today. It was the reality that we knew at the time. We thought that “search” was the great disruptor, that it was going to be a level playing field, and that anything behind a paywall was not going to get indexed and we wouldn’t get traffic. And if you could look at what we know today, I think most publishers would agree, we should have been asking for money right away.

On anything he’d like to add: I’m super-excited. We’ve got a great organization with a great legacy and a lot of talent; we have 187 employees and everybody is very proud of our company. They live their work and they work their lives. They’re all enthusiasts at their core, so I’m just super-excited to be here.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I’m a big believer in show, don’t tell, in journalism. But if I had to have something tattooed, it would probably be something more aspirational for me. If people were going to remember it forever about me, I would love to be remembered as a kind person. That would make me very happy, and it’s something that’s, again, aspirational and something I have to work on every day.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m probably binge-watching YouTube with fishing or boating videos. I’m trying to perfect my boat-trailering launching, and there’s an endless supply of videos showing, and sometimes they’re very humorous, showing what to do and what not to do with your boat when you’re backing into a lake.

On what keeps him up at night: Figuratively, as I mentioned before, it’s phones, and how we’re going to create and maintain the relationships that we have on that device. It’s already a real challenge for media companies and it’s not talked about enough, and that worries me. It’s something that I think about a lot.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dan Hickey, CEO, Kalmbach Publishing.

Samir Husni: You’re quoted in the press release about your position as the new CEO of Kalmbach Publishing, as saying that Kalmbach has a long and compelling history of putting the customer front and center. That being said, what’s the vision that you bring to the company as you look toward the future?

Dan Hickey: The 83-year-old history of the customer coming first, a value that Kalmbach has embraced, is really the foundation of the future as well. I believe that the magazine business at its core is a relationship business. Great content, experiences that you find in magazines, that you find on websites and with other platforms, is the conduit that allows for those relationships. And ultimately, I think it builds the brand loyalty over time.

More and more this is happening across the brand ecosystem, so Kalmbach has very strong relationships with its customers through the magazine, the website; through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and we have a very robust email program. And it’s emphasizing the strengthening of each platform. Again, Kalmbach’s audience is engaging in print, digital, and events. For example, Kalmbach’s Bead & Button show is the largest event of its kind. So, we have the foundation for a relationship platform, and the vision is to really continue to invest in that platform and better allow the company to manage those relationships across the entire brand ecosystem, including print, digital, social and email.

The vision is a continuation of the nurturing of those relationships, and also creating new relationships. Once you have a relationship platform in place that serves the passion communities that they serve today, you can start looking at new categories and new communities, hopefully with younger audiences, and develop new relationships. And from those relationships, as they become trusted, you can serve those audiences.

And the expectation is that you’ll serve new products and services that enhance the customer’s experience, especially in these niche, enthusiast categories. We’re already doing this at the company, and we’ll continue to do more of it. An example would be premium video in the train category. We have 10,000 people subscribing to the magazine who already pay additional to subscribe to the video service. That’s an example of extending the brand, extending the relationship by providing more value to content in whatever form the audience wants it.

Samir Husni: When the board selected you as the new CEO, what was your initial reaction?

Dan Hickey: The reason I’m excited, and why I was so attracted to Kalmbach is after a number of visits to the company, I found out several things. First, they are a very proud company and it reminded me of my days at Meredith. Meredith is very similar; 100+ years-old, Kalmbach’s 83-years-old. Kalmbach was not shy about their history of values, they have put the customer front and center for 83 years. And simple things impressed me. They keep their building and campus immaculate, and I saw that right away. I said to myself, this is a company that really cares; about itself, about its employees, and about its customers. So, that was impressive to me.

And the second thing I saw was that because of the niche, enthusiast audiences, passion audiences or passion communities, I saw that they didn’t have some of the challenges of the mass market publications, because they’re serving these niche, enthusiast audiences that love their products, from trains and beading, to model cars and astronomy.

And again, it wasn’t just the magazines either; their audiences were already buying premium content in experiences above and beyond the magazine. So, that was super-impressive to me and I thought this was directionally and instinctively the way I would take the company as well, just really kind of accelerate it.

Third, they had a strong balance sheet and they’re very strong operationally. They’re set up for endemic growth, as well as acquisition, and finally I’m one of them. I’m an enthusiast; I have many hobbies and interests, from fishing and remodeling, to gardening and biking. And I understand the importance of passions and how they feed, at least my own, heart and soul. So, I thought that this is something bigger than just a publishing company; that Kalmbach really does serve an important service. Hobbies and passions will be around for a long, long time. And in fact, they may become even more important in the lives of future generations, especially when we see what’s happening with phone usage and the younger generation.

There was just this bigger picture thing there as well, and when they told me that I had been selected, I was super-thrilled. I felt like in some ways the job was just made for me.

Samir Husni: You’re one of the few CEO’s now in the media world with an editorial background. You’ve held a lot of editorial positions, from the days of Walking Magazine to National Gardening to newspapers; do you feel that your editorial background prepares you better for the business side or could it possibly be a stumbling block?

Dan Hickey: I think it prepares me well, and not only my editorial background, but my digital background as well. For the last 20 years, I’ve pretty much been on the digital side of the business, as well as marketing. So, it’s not just editorial. It’s editorial, marketing, circulation, and ad sales. I’ve touched all of those sides of the business and I feel that I have a deep enough understanding of how to weave all of those things together in preparing for the future.

I’ve see a lot of silos in my day; I’ve seen editorial silos, ad silos, consumer marketing silos, so I think my background will really help me bring those functions together in an harmonious way to really prepare for the future. The future is going to take a team. And not just an editorial team, or just a sales team; it’s everybody working together as one team. And I think my background prepares me for that.

Samir Husni: Looking at the industry as a whole, not just specifically Kalmbach, do you feel that we’ve been fast enough when it comes to destroying those silos and building a big brand warehouse for the product, or do you think we’re still taking our own sweet time doing that?

Dan Hickey: I think that as a whole, the industry isn’t clear enough as to where the puck is going. And I really believe we’re in the relationship business and I think there is a shift mentally from companies that say they’re a magazine publisher, to they’re in the relationship business, because once you can shift mentally into that relationship faction, you’re less focused on a particular form factor. And you’re really focused on the relationship itself and the needs of your customers.

In my view, the slowness of the industry is embracing that. Once everyone embraces that and ask themselves how they can super-serve their customers, then the silos will naturally break down. I think you have to understand where your vision and your future is, and then you’ll start to understand that you can’t have it with silo practices and functions within your organization.

Samir Husni: Being in the relationship business, what type are of relationship are you looking for with your customers? A one night stand; a love affair, or a long-lasting relationship? (Laughs)

Dan Hickey: (Laughs too) A long-lasting one, for sure.

Samir Husni: If someone asked you what the future of magazine publishing is, what would your answer be? We know we can’t be just print or just digital, we have to be in it all. But is there still room for print in the future, for our children and grandchildren?

Dan Hickey: Of course. The customer is going to determine that, right? There’s room for it, of course, and if you’re in the relationship business, to some extent you’re agnostic. Your job is to really know the customer and how they want content experiences delivered to them. And if they’re raising their hands and saying they want magazines, then you provide magazines. And they still today provide fantastic and immersive lean-back experiences.

So, to some extent I don’t know why we are a little obsessed with the question. To me, it’s a matter of what the customer wants. And what we do know is that they’re always interested in being immersed in great content experiences, whether that takes the shape of a printed magazine, tablet, or subscription boxes; it really doesn’t matter about the platform to some extent.

Tablets, for example, never exploded like they were originally forecasted to, some of the phone companies are actually giving them away, but no one is asking the question are tablets dead. Again, with the customer as your strategy, you’re going to say, I will deliver content however they want me to deliver it.

What worries me a little bit is the phone and how content is consumed on the phone. And how media companies and publishers are meeting some of the challenges to monetize and maintain the relationship on that particular platform. With most publishers, there is less engagement on the phone than on either desktop or print, or other platforms. And socially than more so. I think one of the challenges for us is to really think about how are we going to deliver on the phone in the future versus some of the other platforms.

Samir Husni: With your digital experience at Meredith, and acknowledging that the phone may be one of the stumbling blocks for magazine media and publishers, do you believe that we will ever reach a stage where people will pay for digital in the same way that they pay for print?

Dan Hickey: Yes, and it will be easier. I do think that’s part of building a relationship platform. As you have an ecosystem of platforms from magazines to digital to social to events to potentially subscription boxes or other things that you deliver to your customers, and mobile products as well. Part of the strength of a company like Kalmbach is our circulation departments or consumer marketing departments are essentially very good at handling recurring revenue streams.

And so, we want to make sure that’s a strength within the company going forward, so that across the entire brand’s ecosystem, our ability to transact with customers and provide those great products and experiences that get them into the recurring revenue streams happens easier and faster. And service those customers along the way just as well as we do today.

Samir Husni: What has been something that you look back on today and wish you hadn’t done, and maybe even promise yourself you will never do again?

Dan Hickey: (Laughs) Great question. Ten or 15 years ago, when I first got into digital, I think most publishers, if they could rewind the clock, wouldn’t be giving away free content like they are today. It was the reality that we knew at the time. We thought that “search” was the great disruptor, that it was going to be a level playing field, and that anything behind a paywall was not going to get indexed and we wouldn’t get traffic. And if you could look at what we know today, I think most publishers would agree, we should have been asking for money right away. We just didn’t know the future; we didn’t know that advertising in the digital space, although there’s a lot of hype around it, it has devolved, if anything. And it has become less valuable in some regard.

So really, it’s understanding that our business has all along been the relationship business and getting the consumer to pay us for great experiences. We somehow forgot that 15 years ago, and now the smart publishers and media people are all coming back to that concept of, what are the other products and services that I can offer to my audiences?

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

Dan Hickey: I’m super-excited. We’ve got a great organization with a great legacy and a lot of talent; we have 187 employees and everybody is very proud of our company. They live their work and they work their lives. They’re all enthusiasts at their core, so I’m just super-excited to be here. And looking forward to digging in, of course.

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

Dan Hickey: I’m a big believer in show, don’t tell, in journalism. But if I had to have something tattooed, it would probably be something more aspirational for me. If people were going to remember it forever about me, I would love to be remembered as a kind person. That would make me very happy, and it’s something that’s, again, aspirational and something I have to work on every day.

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?

Dan Hickey: I’m probably binge-watching YouTube with fishing or boating videos. I’m trying to perfect my boat-trailering launching, and there’s an endless supply of videos showing, and sometimes they’re very humorous, showing what to do and what not to do with your boat when you’re backing into a lake.

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

Dan Hickey: Figuratively, as I mentioned before, it’s phones, and how we’re going to create and maintain the relationships that we have on that device. It’s already a real challenge for media companies and it’s not talked about enough, and that worries me. It’s something that I think about a lot.

And sometimes I literally wake up during the night with something that gets me excited for the next day, and once I wake up I usually can’t get back to sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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August Sparks 18 New Frequency Titles & A Different Approach To Mr. Magazine’s™ Monthly Launch Monitor…

September 5, 2017

With the autumn season approaching, changes are imminent. And for many, those changes are welcomed and long overdue, from cooler weather to football season to pumpkins, s’mores and bonfires. For Mr. Magazine’s™ Launch Monitor, changes begin with this month’s listing of new magazines. Just as there’s a time for everything under the sun, it is time for a new look over at Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor headquarters and those changes consist of displaying and documenting the heart of the magazine industry: the frequency titles.

While specials, annuals and bookazines play a major role in the magazine marketplace, the heartbeat and life’s blood of the industry has been and always will be those frequency titles that show up at the newsstands or in your mailbox on a regular basis, whether that is weekly, monthly, or bimonthly. So, beginning with August’s beautiful, and might I say, healthy number of new titles, the Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor will list only frequency magazines. That way you can enjoy these gorgeous new magazines here and at the newsstands on a customary level. Also included will be the magazines that arrive to the newsstands for the first time or those which we failed to list in a prior month or that we missed when they first appeared. In addition, magazines that change their name are also included in the count for future researchers to be aware of. Case in point, People Style that used to be Style Watch and MASS that used to be MMM.

So, without further ado, Mr. Magazine™ presents 18 new frequency titles that will give you pleasure and delight (such as the new title Shrimp, Collards & Grits, a new magazine that brings the South to your front door) to a magazine that personalizes and shows the strength in regional titles (J, the magazine all about downtown Jacksonville, Fla. and the many new and wonderful things going on there), to a new title that comes in a box for founding members (the Golfer’s Journal – and please note that the black box this title is sent in to founding member subscribers is also displayed next to the magazine, so it is not listed in the count).

To see all of our beautiful 18 new magazine covers for August 2017, please visit Mr. Magazine’s™ Launch Monitor

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