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Jack And Jill Magazine: 80 Years Of Publishing And As Young As Ever With A Mission To Create A Magazine By, For & About Kids – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Joan SerVaas, Publisher & Steve Slon, Editorial Director…

November 6, 2017

“A magazine connects a lot better with kids today, because it’s something that they can hold and touch and feel, and use to interact with their parents. And it’s something that they can write on and color and fill-in, and just discover and go back to. It’s a much different aspect that being on a computer and looking at a screen. So, when we were talking about us connecting as editors to our audience, there’s also what connects the kids to their parents. How do they connect?” Joan SerVaas…

“I’ll tell you that one shift I’m working on developing now with our editor is to make it even more by, for and about kids. Many children’s magazines, including Jack and Jill, have traditionally been about some created kid content, let’s say, but generally we’re sort of instructional or didactic material, delivered by adults or teachers, and more in the vein of teaching. In rethinking the magazine, we’re looking at making it all about you, changing the little slug line on the cover to be “All about you,” and more by, for and about kids. And have more kid-created content; more stories about kids who are doing interesting things; inspirational pieces, and so on. As well as continuing our games and cartoons, recipes, and fun stuff for kids.” Steve Slon…

For a magazine that’s about to turn 80 years old next January, one might think with that kind of legacy behind them, they don’t need a plan for the future; just keep on doing what they have been for almost eight decades and get ready for the next 80. But Jack and Jill magazine doesn’t believe in resting on its laurels, the powers-that-be behind the magazine, namely Publisher, Joan SerVaas, and Editorial Director, Steve Slon, have a definitive plan for the brand’s foreseeable future; make it more kid-centric. More by, for and about kids. And according to Joan SerVaas, that’s what it’s all about.

I spoke with Joan and Steve recently and we talked about the historical title and about the other two very esteemed magazines that reside in Joan’s family tree: The Saturday Evening Post and Humpty Dumpty. All three publications have a legacy of tradition and prominence in the world of publishing, and with Jack and Jill’s list of past contributors, from Pearl S. Buck, who contributed “One Bright Day,” a two-part story that appeared in August and September of 1950, to Cartoonist Ted Key (best known for his “Hazel” cartoons, which appeared in the Post), and who contributed the 2-page cartoon feature “Diz and Liz” from 1961 to 1972, to New York Times bestselling author, Ben H. Winters, who contributed an original short story in the Nov./Dec. issue from 2012, the children’s title deserves its 80-year recognition.

Steve shared with me the many kid-loved aspects of the magazine, such as the cover contest, in which Steve said Jim Davis (cartoonist and creator of Garfield) has been a judge for in recent years. The cover contest is an art contest in which readers are invited to send their original illustrations for use as cover art. Steve was excited by the 1300 entries they had last year combined for Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty, and that the winner’s school receives a check for up to $1,500 to support their art classes, with the winning illustration used on the cover of the magazine.

And while the magazine is certainly a business, it’s not all about the bottom line. Joan and Steve agree that the future is the children and the magazine is about the betterment of children and everything that concerns them, from health and education, to just plain fun; all of the things that the Jack and Jill brand believes in.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with the living, breathing counterparts of “Jack and Jill,” two people who are determined to make the hill climb a wonderful experience for children, Joan SerVaas, publisher, and Steve Slon, editorial director, Jack and Jill magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the status of children’s magazines in this digital age (Joan SerVaas): Well, I don’t think it matters what age you’re in, children always love a story. And they like to play games and interact with their parents or parents like for them to be entertained by stories, activities and games, and we’ve been introducing those in a traditional way. But we’re not shying away from the digital age either.

On what has kept the magazine going for all of these years (Joan SerVaas): What has kept the magazine going is the fact that children are being born every day and are entering into what the editor used to refer to as their “growing up.” And as they grow up, they are learning and discovering and are curious, and I think that we continue to provide that option for parents through our magazine by finding wholesome, entertaining material.

On what role Editorial Director, Steve Slon thinks the printed children’s magazine plays in today’s marketplace (Steve Slon): That’s a good question. Certainly, there are many other entertainment sources competing for a child’s attention, so to make a magazine relevant, the magazine has to kind of reach in and grab the attention of the kids about subjects that they are already interested in. Today, of course, there is so much digital content going on that we’re increasing our coverage of, say, the digital stars, so we’re doing stories about kids who are famous on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and this is our way of finding that same connection to the reader that the magazine has always had.

On whether connectivity to the reader today is easier or harder or has digital made it simpler to connect with them (Steve Slon): I think it’s a little harder if your primary publication is print these days, because we’re talking to them in print about digital subject matter. Of course, we also have an online presence too, so through Facebook, Q & A’s, and that kind of possible engagement; it’s still certainly not easy. As I said, there are so many competing resources.

On whether connectivity to the reader today is easier or harder or has digital made it simpler to connect with them (Joan SerVaas): A magazine connects a lot better with kids today, because it’s something that they can hold and touch and feel, and use to interact with their parents. And it’s something that they can write on and color and fill-in, and just discover and go back to. It’s a much different aspect that being on a computer and looking at a screen. So, when we were talking about us connecting as editors to our audience, there’s also what connects the kids to their parents. How do they connect?

On why it’s important for her to continue the SerVaas legacy in publishing with their historic titles, such as The Saturday Evening Post, Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill (Joan SerVaas): Carrying on the tradition, especially for children, is important because we need to give them that continuity and to continue to reach out to them and respect their capabilities for learning. And I feel like it’s a little more challenging today to connect to children, because in a lot of ways there’s a lot of censorship out there now. You have to go through much today, especially in school-age kids and books, to be politically correct. And so, you don’t want to offend anybody; you want to be careful. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult to go in and bring something out that might be an uncomfortable aspect of life.

On whether her position as guardian of three very powerful brands weighs on her as a burden (Joan SerVaas): It doesn’t weigh on me as a burden; I feel like it’s an opportunity and something that’s important to preserve, because it goes back to 1938, before World War II. They continued through the war, although they did not continue to put it on the newsstand because they had to save paper, but when you go through and look at the activities and the type of interest that kids had in those days, it’s interesting to see how it evolved and how it was considered a modern magazine. And we want to continue to be a modern magazine, but for kids growing up, with their curiosity and interest to absorb all of this information; we want them to be stimulated. But the important thing is it’s entertaining and joyful for them.

On whether his position as editorial director of three very powerful brands weighs on him as a burden (Steve Slon): I would add that as far as The Post is concerned, rather than being a burden, I see it as incredibly exciting to look at the extraordinary reporting and illustration and fiction that makes up the body of this legacy publication. We can draw on some of that and put stories of today in context by talking about something that happened 50 years ago that we reported on. It’s been very exciting and not at all a burden. Just thrilling, really.

On the letter grade they would give Jack and Jill magazine, compared to other children’s magazines (Joan SerVaas): I would give us an A on content. The struggle for us is the cost of getting the distribution of the magazine to readers. It’s a very expensive process to do it through the mail, and getting circulation. So, that’s our biggest challenge and our biggest burden.

On the letter grade they would give Jack and Jill magazine, compared to other children’s magazines (Steve Slon): The whole circulation model of magazines is antiquated and extremely expensive. You send out a million pieces of mail to get maybe 20 to 30,000 responses. It’s a horrendous amount of waste and cost. And that’s very difficult. One thing we do that’s a little unique with Jack and Jill is that we have the mailing list, of course, for subscribers of The Saturday Evening Post. And probably our most successful mailing now, and I would rate it maybe B+ if not an A, is that we do an Annual around this season, for a gift-giving offer to The Saturday Evening Post reader, for their children or grandchildren.

On why they think there seems to be two extremes in magazine pricing today; the magazines with high cover prices for one issue and the magazines with the same price for an entire year (Steve Slon): The usual relationship is very high-priced, high-quality paper; very expensive production with very low circulation. Then you have Highlights, for example, which is low-priced and has high circulation; we’re somewhere in between. Certainly, we’d like to increase our circulation, but we’re delivering high-quality substance at lower cost than the new arrivals.

On why they think there seems to be two extremes in magazine pricing today; the magazines with high cover prices for one issue and the magazines with the same price for an entire year (Joan SerVaas): There is a lot of effort being made with people trying to figure out how to continue to reach the market for the younger audience, and it’s directed to parents, not to children when it’s selling on a newsstand. And I’m not an expert in this area, but I would say there are a lot of magazines that come and go that are trends. We’re trying to navigate, but I feel like magazines will not go away and we’re looking for the right formula to provide it.

On the plans for Jack and Jill as the brand approaches its 80th anniversary in 2018 (Steve Slon): I’ll tell you that one shift I’m working on developing now with our editor is to make it even more by, for and about kids. Many children’s magazines, including Jack and Jill, have traditionally been about some created kid content, let’s say, but generally we’re sort of instructional or didactic material, delivered by adults or teachers, and more in the vein of teaching. In rethinking the magazine, we’re looking at making it all about you, changing the little slug line on the cover to be “All about you,” and more by, for and about kids.

On the plans for Jack and Jill as the brand approaches its 80th anniversary in 2018 (Joan SerVaas): I think our audience will continue to grow and we’ll continue to provide great content. We want to make it more kid-centric and not necessarily focus on the educational points, such as math and science, and all the things that are so important in the curriculum-building that seems to be popular. We want kids to enjoy the magazine and be engaged and we want parents to be able to enjoy reading it with their children and discovering new things about parenthood and childhood as they go. I don’t see a big shift; I think that kids are going to always enjoy our magazine. It’s a great magazine.

On how long they think they can survive in an ink on paper business in this digital age (Steve Slon): We’re surviving fine, but we’re expanding our digital footprint, and we’re developing a website now that will allow readers of The Post and Jack and Jill to see past issues of the magazines and past covers, past articles and fantastic illustrations of The Saturday Evening Post, all the way back to the turn of the last century. Obviously, we have to keep up with that kind of aspect, but we’re solid, in the black with the magazine as it is. So, we expect to have continuing interest in a readable magazine. A magazine, as Joan said, that you can hold, interact with, share with friends, color, read with your parents and talk about.

On how long they think they can survive in an ink on paper business in this digital age (Joan SerVaas): I would add to that, we’ll see. Because if it becomes not worth our while; if it gets to the point where the mail is too expensive and we can’t do it, maybe we’ll continue to publish it, but we will have it on the newsstand. Or we’ll go to different intervals in publishing, instead of monthly we would go to a four times a year, larger booklet that would go out. We’re going to remain open-minded, because it’s not worth it if we can’t afford to send it by mail.

On any plans to go beyond what they’re doing now with the Jack and Jill brand (Joan SerVaas): I think it’s important, and yes, I think especially if we’re not going out to individual parents and selling it, that it would be much more important. We’re lucky to have such an iconic brand that people know and so, I don’t disagree with it. It’s something that we’ll continue to focus on . And what Steve was talking about; if we did it more child-centric or got more children involved in it. We’ve talked about working with schools and having kids interact with us in the publishing part of the magazine.

On any plans to go beyond what they’re doing now with the Jack and Jill brand (Steve Slon): I don’t know what “brandier” means, but we have an 80-year-old brand. And just by that alone, we have recognition that really gives us an advantage over the startups.

On whether a children’s magazine could implement the changes of a magazine like Sports Illustrated that is going to less frequency, higher-quality paper, and making its presence known on every available platform (Joan SerVaas): The difference between us and Sports Illustrated is that the kids grow up and the parents’ interests change as they get older, and different types of material become more important. And we’ve set this on a younger age, so that brand marketing has to be continuous, in terms of contacting parents.

On anything they’d like to add (Steve Slon): We’re a non-profit, so part of the mission is education, of course, and part of it is health and self-care; better awareness of health issues for kids. And Joan has developed as a brand extension the Fitness Farm in Indianapolis, which is a summer camp dedicated to health and weight loss, but it’s really more than just a camp; it’s developing a prototype of programs that would guide and could be replicated elsewhere. And it’s received significant outside funding to help kids with learning about health and fitness and childhood obesity is one of the big subjects.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Joan SerVaas): Creative thinker.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Steve Slon): I think I’m a good magazine creator and revitalizer and help people, as far as my industry reputation goes.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Joan SerVaas): I would be out running three miles.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Steve Slon): A glass of red wine and a good book. And it would be print. The Kindle is certainly a convenience for traveling, but when you’re at home and you have time, it’s print.

On what keeps them up at night (Joan SerVaas): (Laughs) My dog. There are a lot of challenges today, but I look forward to the challenge, so I sleep well. But what I do want to make sure of; we have a lot of great employees and I want the magazines to work and I want them to have a job. We have a great group and so we’re working really hard to survive in a world that’s transitioning big into the digital age. I want to keep this team together. And we’re going to work hard to do it.

On what keeps them up at night (Steve Slon): On a large scale, I’m worried about global warming, which we can’t even call global warming anymore; we have to call it climate change. I live in Florida, and Miami is already flooding regularly. And it’s pretty scary. I have grandchildren who are going to have to face this. I doubt we will overmuch in the next ten or twenty years, but in 100 years; I have no idea how we’re going to cope.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joan SerVaas, publisher, and Steve Slon, editorial director, Jack and Jill magazine.

Samir Husni: In this digital age that we live in, when you tell somebody that you have a children’s magazine that’s now entering its 80th year, some people probably ask you what gives? What’s the status of children’s magazines in this digital age?

Joan SerVaas: Well, I don’t think it matters what age you’re in, children always love a story. And they like to play games and interact with their parents or parents like for them to be entertained by stories, activities and games, and we’ve been introducing those in a traditional way. But we’re not shying away from the digital age either.

Samir Husni: What has kept Jack and Jill going for all of these years?

Joan SerVaas: What has kept the magazine going is the fact that children are being born every day and are entering into what the editor used to refer to as their “growing up.” And as they grow up, they are learning and discovering and are curious, and I think that we continue to provide that option for parents through our magazine by finding wholesome, entertaining material.

Samir Husni: And Steve, from an editorial standpoint, you’ve seen your share of magazines that you’ve edited and that you continue to edit; what role do you think the printed children’s magazine plays in today’s marketplace?

Steve Slon: That’s a good question. Certainly, there are many other entertainment sources competing for a child’s attention, so to make a magazine relevant, the magazine has to kind of reach in and grab the attention of the kids about subjects that they are already interested in. One of the innovations that the magazine did historically was when adult magazines were focusing on movies, this was back in the 1950s, movie stars had started talking about television, which was something that kids were more engaged with. And they would go behind the scenes on TV shows and it would attract and be something that kids would really relate to, because 1950-era kids were TV addicts, as we all know.

Well today, of course, there is so much digital content going on that we’re increasing our coverage of, say, the digital stars, so we’re doing stories about kids who are famous on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and this is our way of finding that same connection to the reader that the magazine has always had.

Samir Husni: You talk about that connection to the reader; do you feel your job as an editor today is easier or harder than what it used to be? Is that connectivity more elusive today or has digital made it simpler to connect?

Steve Slon: I think it’s a little harder if your primary publication is print these days, because we’re talking to them in print about digital subject matter. Of course, we also have an online presence too, so through Facebook, Q & A’s, and that kind of possible engagement; it’s still certainly not easy. As I said, there are so many competing resources.

You asked is it easier today or not to be an editor; one thing that’s harder for me as the overseer of this whole program, is relating to the interest of, say, six, seven and eight year olds. It’s one thing when I’m dealing with The Saturday Evening Post, which is a magazine whose readers are my peers and I can intuit or feel in a sense what we’re looking at. But we have a terrific young editor, Jennifer Burnham, who is in her twenties and who’s tapped into the age group. She visits schools and she talks to kids all of the time, so we rely on her to have that feel of where kids are at and what they’re doing.

Joan SerVaas: A magazine connects a lot better with kids today, because it’s something that they can hold and touch and feel, and use to interact with their parents. And it’s something that they can write on and color and fill-in, and just discover and go back to. It’s a much different aspect that being on a computer and looking at a screen. So, when we were talking about us connecting as editors to our audience, there’s also what connects the kids to their parents. How do they connect?

Samir Husni: Joan, Steve mentioned The Saturday Evening Post, which is a part of your family heritage; as a family member that is guardian of these very highly-esteemed, traditional and historic magazines such as The Post and Humpty Dumpty and Jack and Jill, why is it important that you continue the legacy?

Joan SerVaas: Carrying on the tradition, especially for children, is important because we need to give them that continuity and to continue to reach out to them and respect their capabilities for learning. And I feel like it’s a little more challenging today to connect to children, because in a lot of ways there’s a lot of censorship out there now. You have to go through much today, especially in school-age kids and books, to be politically correct. And so, you don’t want to offend anybody; you want to be careful. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult to go in and bring something out that might be an uncomfortable aspect of life.

So, I think having the continuity and the structure; it’s important for us to continue to find ways to reach kids to bring deeper character descriptions about the things that are happening. When Steve mentioned our editor today, she is connected very well with our current audiences and also with what parents want for their children.

Samir Husni: Does your position feel like a burden, that you have been entrusted with three very powerful brands, that at one stage were the movers and shakers of the magazine media industry? How does that weigh on you?

Joan SerVaas: It doesn’t weigh on me as a burden; I feel like it’s an opportunity and something that’s important to preserve, because it goes back to 1938, before World War II. They continued through the war, although they did not continue to put it on the newsstand because they had to save paper, but when you go through and look at the activities and the type of interest that kids had in those days, it’s interesting to see how it evolved and how it was considered a modern magazine. And we want to continue to be a modern magazine, but for kids growing up, with their curiosity and interest to absorb all of this information; we want them to be stimulated. But the important thing is it’s entertaining and joyful for them.

So, we have to continually translate what is going on in our society to continue to reach those kids. And it’s very interesting to go back and look at what was important. And to look at the games, where you might see a wooden spool for knitting and thimbles. It probably wouldn’t make any sense to kids today, because their mothers don’t have the sewing machines necessarily, in some families. It’s a different society. But it’s an interesting historical retrospective, if you’re interested in that.

Steve Slon: And I would add that as far as The Post is concerned, rather than being a burden, I see it as incredibly exciting to look at the extraordinary reporting and illustration and fiction that makes up the body of this legacy publication. We can draw on some of that and put stories of today in context by talking about something that happened 50 years ago that we reported on. It’s been very exciting and not at all a burden. Just thrilling, really.

Samir Husni: As you’re enjoying this thrill of editing an 80-year-old magazine for children, with no advertising; where does that place you on the marker of successful publishing? If you were going to give yourself a letter grade, in terms of children’s magazines, what would that be, specifically with Jack and Jill?

Joan SerVaas: I would give us an A on content. The struggle for us is the cost of getting the distribution of the magazine to readers. It’s a very expensive process to do it through the mail, and getting circulation. So, that’s our biggest challenge and our biggest burden.

And what everybody is going to today is going online to see if kids do in fact read online. We’re searching for the right formula to be able to continue getting the actual magazine to kids, with a mix of opportunity online to read stories and enjoy looking at the magazine online. And those are challenges. I don’t know that we can really give ourselves a grade, but it’s A for effort.

Steve Slon: The whole circulation model of magazines is antiquated and extremely expensive. You send out a million pieces of mail to get maybe 20 to 30,000 responses. It’s a horrendous amount of waste and cost. And that’s very difficult. One thing we do that’s a little unique with Jack and Jill is that we have the mailing list, of course, for subscribers of The Saturday Evening Post.

And probably our most successful mailing now, and I would rate it maybe B+ if not an A, is that we do an Annual around this season, for a gift-giving offer to The Saturday Evening Post reader, for their children or grandchildren. The average age of The Saturday Evening Post reader is high-40s to mid-50s. Some have children, some have grandchildren, and they’re more likely to subscribe and we do have those lists. So, we have that going for us, but again, it’s an inefficient system.

Samir Husni: If you look at the market as a whole; we’ve seen a lot of new magazines arrive on the marketplace aimed at children, more at young girls than young boys. But there’s certainly no shortage of new magazines coming to the marketplace. And some of them have cover prices for one issue that costs as much as an entire year’s subscription of Jack and Jill. Why do you think we have those two extremes now? We have magazines that sell for $12 per issue and magazines that sell for $12 for the whole year.

Steve Slon: The usual relationship is very high-priced, high-quality paper; very expensive production with very low circulation. Then you have Highlights, for example, which is low-priced and has high circulation; we’re somewhere in between. Certainly, we’d like to increase our circulation, but we’re delivering high-quality substance at lower cost than the new arrivals.

Joan SerVaas: There is a lot of effort being made with people trying to figure out how to continue to reach the market for the younger audience, and it’s directed to parents, not to children when it’s selling on a newsstand. And I’m not an expert in this area, but I would say there are a lot of magazines that come and go that are trends. We’re trying to navigate, but I feel like magazines will not go away and we’re looking for the right formula to provide it.

We’re not going to lose money; we’re going to try and do it so that we can make money. We’re not on the newsstands; we’re not selling to parents on those newsstands, so we’re trying to keep them engaged through various ways of communication, which used to be the mail, or through affordable magazine sales to schools and that type of thing. The income from that has gotten lower and lower, in terms of what actually comes to the publisher. We’re hanging in there because we think it’s an important part of our mission as well. And we’ll continue to do it. But it’s not easy, but I’m not going to call it a burden.

Samir Husni: As you look toward 2018, you’ll be celebrating the 80th anniversary of Jack and Jill, what are your plans? What do you have in store for Jack and Jill?

Steve Slon: Well, I’ll tell you that one shift I’m working on developing now with our editor is to make it even more by, for and about kids. Many children’s magazines, including Jack and Jill, have traditionally been about some created kid content, let’s say, but generally we’re sort of instructional or didactic material, delivered by adults or teachers, and more in the vein of teaching. In rethinking the magazine, we’re looking at making it all about you, changing the little slug line on the cover to be “All about you,” and more by, for and about kids. And have more kid-created content; more stories about kids who are doing interesting things; inspirational pieces, and so on. As well as continuing our games and cartoons, recipes, and fun stuff for kids.

Joan SerVaas: I think our audience will continue to grow and we’ll continue to provide great content. We want to make it more kid-centric and not necessarily focus on the educational points, such as math and science, and all the things that are so important in the curriculum-building that seems to be popular. We want kids to enjoy the magazine and be engaged and we want parents to be able to enjoy reading it with their children and discovering new things about parenthood and childhood as they go. I don’t see a big shift; I think that kids are going to always enjoy our magazine. It’s a great magazine.

Samir Husni: You have two children’s magazine and one adult magazine, The Saturday Evening Post; you’re doing quite a few SIPs; how long can you survive in this ink on paper business in this digital age?

Steve Slon: We’re surviving fine, but we’re expanding our digital footprint, and we’re developing a website now that will allow readers of The Post and Jack and Jill to see past issues of the magazines and past covers, past articles and fantastic illustrations of The Saturday Evening Post, all the way back to the turn of the last century. Obviously, we have to keep up with that kind of aspect, but we’re solid, in the black with the magazine as it is. So, we expect to have continuing interest in a readable magazine. A magazine, as Joan said, that you can hold, interact with, share with friends, color, read with your parents and talk about.

Joan SerVaas: I would add to that, we’ll see. Because if it becomes not worth our while; if it gets to the point where the mail is too expensive and we can’t do it, maybe we’ll continue to publish it, but we will have it on the newsstand. Or we’ll go to different intervals in publishing, instead of monthly we would go to a four times a year, larger booklet that would go out. We’re going to remain open-minded, because it’s not worth it if we can’t afford to send it by mail.

Samir Husni: One of the things I hear throughout the industry these days is about the importance of making the brand “brandier” and the print “printier,” as we move into 2018 and beyond. Any plans for the Jack and Jill brand to go beyond what you’re doing now?

Joan SerVaas: I think it’s important, and yes, I think especially if we’re not going out to individual parents and selling it, that it would be much more important. We’re lucky to have such an iconic brand that people know and so, I don’t disagree with it. It’s something that we’ll continue to focus on . And what Steve was talking about; if we did it more child-centric or got more children involved in it. We’ve talked about working with schools and having kids interact with us in the publishing part of the magazine. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity in that area as well, but I do believe it’s important and it’s something that we try to do and will continue to do.

Steve Slon: I don’t know what “brandier” means, but we have an 80-year-old brand. And just by that alone, we have recognition that really gives us an advantage over the startups.

Samir Husni: When I interviewed the editorial director of Sports Illustrated, he told me they’re reducing the frequency of the magazine; they’re enhancing the quality of the paper; increasing the editorial pages; and trying to be on every platform, wherever the readers are. Can we do that with a children’s magazine?

Joan SerVaas: The difference between us and Sports Illustrated is that the kids grow up and the parents’ interests change as they get older, and different types of material become more important. And we’ve set this on a younger age, so that brand marketing has to be continuous, in terms of contacting parents.

Today millennials are getting everything through the digital world and social media, so that’s how brand is developed now, so we’ll continue to try and do that. At the same time, we’re continuing our traditional way of doing things too. I think through educational programs and events and sponsorships, that’s the way we will continue to try and reach out and work on the branding. But it’s going to be a continuous effort, because our audience comes and goes pretty fast.

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

Steve Slon: We’re a non-profit, so part of the mission is education, of course, and part of it is health and self-care; better awareness of health issues for kids. And Joan has developed as a brand extension the Fitness Farm in Indianapolis, which is a summer camp dedicated to health and weight loss, but it’s really more than just a camp; it’s developing a prototype of programs that would guide and could be replicated elsewhere. And it’s received significant outside funding to help kids with learning about health and fitness and childhood obesity is one of the big subjects.

You asked earlier about brand and by implication, brand extension, and this is a really strong example of Joan’s creative ideas around what can be done always for the benefit of the children; it’s not strictly bottom line issues, it’s what we can do to take the message of good health and good self-care and good fitness to kids.

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

Joan SerVaas: Creative thinker.

Steve Slon: I think I’m a good magazine creator and revitalizer and help people, as far as my industry reputation goes.

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; watching TV; or something else?

Joan SerVaas: I would be out running three miles.

Steve Slon: A glass of red wine and a good book. And it would be print. The Kindle is certainly a convenience for traveling, but when you’re at home and you have time, it’s print.

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

Joan SerVaas: (Laughs) My dog. There are a lot of challenges today, but I look forward to the challenge, so I sleep well. But what I do want to make sure of; we have a lot of great employees and I want the magazines to work and I want them to have a job. We have a great group and so we’re working really hard to survive in a world that’s transitioning big into the digital age. I want to keep this team together. And we’re going to work hard to do it.

Steve Slon: On a large scale, I’m worried about global warming, which we can’t even call global warming anymore; we have to call it climate change. I live in Florida, and Miami is already flooding regularly. And it’s pretty scary. I have grandchildren who are going to have to face this. I doubt we will overmuch in the next ten or twenty years, but in 100 years; I have no idea how we’re going to cope.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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