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Hungry Girl’s Founder & Editor In Chief, Lisa Lillien To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: While The Digital Stuff Does It To Some Degree, You Really Can’t Compete With The Beauty Of A Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Scott Mortimer, VP/Group Publisher, Hungry Girl Magazine & Lisa Lillien…

January 11, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I also feel like there’s definitely content that lends itself more to magazines than anything else. Certain things work so much better when you see them visually, and things that you can’t actually put into a cookbook, whether it’s how-to instructions on how to cook or success stories from people who have lost weight thanks to the Hungry Girl brand. Those things really work well in magazine form. And I cried when I saw this magazine; it’s so beautiful.” Lisa Lillien…

“When we look at these businesses that are predominantly digital-first businesses, we try to figure out if it makes sense for them to live in a magazine format and we have to check a couple three boxes first; do they have a big digital and social following, and Lisa certainly does. Do they have an established brand that’s well-known and that has been around a while and that people know, and Lisa’s brand certainly does. And is there a passion by the owner of the brand to do a magazine, and I couldn’t have said any better than Lisa just did.” Scott Mortimer…

Lisa Lillien is the Hungry Girl, and a New York Times best-selling author. She is the founder of hungry-girl.com, the free daily email service that entertains and informs hungry people everywhere, and now she has teamed up with Meredith to extend her brand with an ink on paper magazine. And both parties couldn’t be any more excited.

I spoke with Lisa and Scott Mortimer, vice president and group publisher for the magazine, recently and we talked about the new addition to the Meredith family. The magazine is an extension of Lisa’s guilt-free eating and cooking repertoire and really resonates with freshness and a unique quality that is Lisa 100 percent. She is lively, animated and extremely passionate about her brand and this new format for it. Bringing this colorful and beautiful magazine to her loyal followers and new readers is something that she couldn’t be happier about. And with Meredith’s ongoing success when it comes to partnerships, such as the Gaines’ Magnolia Journal, success for Hungry Girl looms on the horizon.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who says she is always “hungry” for the next big thing, so it stands to reason Hungry Girl magazine should be on the guilt-free menu, Lisa Lillien, founder & editor in chief and Scott Mortimer, VP/group publisher, Hungry Girl magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she felt her Hungry Girl brand still needed an ink on paper magazine in today’s digital age (Lisa Lillien): That’s a great question. My roots are in magazines. I started my career as a magazine editor, so magazine have always had a very large place in my heart. And as much as I love the Hungry Girl brand and the daily emails are the heart and soul of the business that I’ve built, and having a cookbook come out, the idea of putting out a magazine and being able to bring the content in a different way, in a new way to the audience, is super-exciting to me.

On why she chose Meredith to publish her magazine or did Meredith choose her (Lisa Lillien): I think it’s a match made in heaven. They’re the leader in beautiful publications, so I couldn’t be more excited or have a better partner.

On why she chose Meredith to publish her magazine or did Meredith choose her (Scott Mortimer): We chose Lisa for several reasons. When we look at these businesses that are predominantly digital-first businesses, we try to figure out if it makes sense for them to live in a magazine format and we have to check a couple three boxes first; do they have a big digital and social following, and Lisa certainly does. Do they have an established brand that’s well-known and that has been around a while and that people know, and Lisa’s brand certainly does. And is there a passion by the owner of the brand to do a magazine, and I couldn’t have said any better than Lisa just did. She really wanted to do a magazine and I think it checked all of those boxes for us. So, we’re really hopeful that it’s going to do well and all indications are that it will.

On what the launch plan is for the magazine (Scott Mortimer): The launch plan is an issue that goes out now and then an issue that goes out on May 1. And we will obviously gauge how well it sells through on the newsstand; what kind of traffic we get on the website; there are three or four metrics that will really matter to us as we sit down and figure out what to do with it after the first two issues come out. I think there’s certainly an appetite to do more with the brand and we’re excited to see consumer acceptance with it. I’m sure it’s going to do really, really well.

On whether she feels like this is the last link in the chain and that the magazine completes her brand (Lisa Lillien): There’s never a last link, but I would say that this is like a giant medallion in the chain. (Laughs) I am super-excited about it. I feel like, especially with building a digital brand, the opportunity to have something that’s tangible and that’s so beautiful couldn’t be more exciting to me.

On why she thinks people are rediscovering the power of the printed magazine (Lisa Lillien): I think there’s always going to be content that people like to see and hold in their hands. That’s why when people are reading books on Kindles and iPhones, they still like to buy a cookbook. They really like fashion magazines; they like lifestyle magazines; and they really like food magazines, because nothing can really do a recipe justice like a beautiful photograph in a magazine that you can hold in your hand. So, while the digital stuff does it to some degree, you really can’t compete with the beauty of a magazine.

On what they would hope to say one year from now about Hungry Girl the magazine (Lisa Lillien): Hopefully, I’ll be saying that it is exactly what I expected it to be and just an extension of the brand that the audience has really embraced and is super-excited about. I love the challenge of bringing the very engaged audience Hungry Girl in a new format and know they’re going to eat it up literally. So, I hope a year from now we’re laughing and talking about how fantastic the magazine is and how we’re seeing four issues a year. That would be my goal.

On what they would hope to say one year from now about Hungry Girl the magazine (Scott Mortimer): And I would add to that, one of the things that really struck us when we met Lisa was when she explained to us her business and that she has really close interaction with all of the people who want to interact with her, whether it’s the crews or emails that come in or on the social channels, Lisa and her team interact with her fans and followers in a way that I think is really unique and in a way that really sets us up for success for this print product as well.

On her busy schedule, especially her daily emails, cookbooks and TV appearances, and whether she’s just a Hungry Girl or a Super Hungry Girl to get it all done (Lisa Lillien): (Laughs) A little of both. I am a workaholic, but I’m lucky to have a team of people who are so fantastic and a lot of people who have worked with the brand for many, many years, so we really have it down. We work out of a place called Hungryland. We’re always developing new recipes and there’s not a lot of time to sleep, but that’s okay because it’s a lot of fun.

On where, if readers had time to read only one article, she’d like them to begin in the magazine (Lisa Lillien): That’s a tough question. If they had time to read only one single article, I think it would be great for them to start at the beginning to get the back story to get them to become more engaged with the brand in case they’re not familiar with it. Because a lot of people try to do what Hungry Girl does and I hope it’s not terrible to say, but I think we do it better than anyone else. And if you read that first page, you get that summary of what the brand is and what it means, and how passionate we are about it. After that, just dive into all the rest.

On whether that point of differentiation will be an easy sell when the magazine is presented to advertisers (Scott Mortimer): I think that story is still to be written, Samir, to be candid. It’s one of those things where getting the advertising community excited about a brand new print product is always a challenge, but there was a little bit of support in this one and we’re very happy with who’s there. I think over time as we prove the product and get the product in market, that job will become easier for us. Again, the biggest gauge of acceptance on this is how well consumers adopt it and will they buy it. And everything indicates that’s going to be a smashing success and time will tell and prove that out.

On whether he feels mergers and acquisitions, such as Meredith buying Time Inc., will help the magazine media industry and the brands themselves, both established and new ones (Scott Mortimer): I don’t know if I’m qualified to speak to that, to be very candid with you. What we’re trying to do with the group of titles that I work with and the partner projects, what this falls under, is find brands that we think have really high consumer acceptance out there and brands that are well-poised to go from, in this case, a digital format to a magazine format.

On anything else they’d like to add (Lisa Lillien): Just that it’s something that I personally am really proud of and I could not be more excited about working with Meredith on this project and I’m so thrilled to bring such a quality product to the audience, because they really deserve it.

On how many of the millions of people who subscribe to Lisa’s newsletter they’d like to convert to the magazine (Scott Mortimer): Of course, we’d like to get them all to buy it. (Laughs) The initial print run is 225,000 copies, and you’re well aware of how things typically sell on newsstand. Our expectations are it’s going to be considerably better than most titles that are out there. There’s really not a hard number that we put on these things, lots of things come into play when we put success on it and certainly copies sold and reader engagement is one. And advertising comes into play. So, there’s three or four things that we will sit down together with and evaluate. But I can’t tell you there’s a magic number, because there certainly isn’t. Several things come into play as we look toward the future.

On these high-profile partnerships with TV brands and whether he feels this is a new way to bring magazines to the marketplace (Scott Mortimer): I do. We’ve had considerable success with it. Obviously, Magnolia Journal being the biggest. But we also work with Forks Over Knives and with other brands out there. These things aren’t always easy and they’re not always slam-dunks, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s finding the right partner who has a passion for the business and has that really big digital following, and a couple three of the things that really matter to us when we evaluate partners. So, we’re on the lookout for others and absolutely, if the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll see if we can get something done together.

On what we can expect to see in the second issue (Lisa Lillien): The second issue is the summer issue, so there’s a lot of great grilling recipes and the Instant Pots, lots and lots of those. That’s like the hottest item out there right now, so we’ve been very busy developing new recipes for the Instant Pot.

On whether she feels like she’s on top of the mountain now or still climbing (Lisa Lillien): I’m always climbing. (Laughs) I always want to do the next thing. I like new and exciting and so, I’m not sure I’ll ever be on top of the mountain.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Lisa Lillien): As it relates to Hungry Girl, I would like for them to think of me as the guru of guilt-free eating. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Scott Mortimer): In the business that we’re in, I just want people to consider us to be really good partners and I want people to feel that we operate with a lot of integrity and we want to do our best to work together to come up with really successful products that we can all do well with.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Lisa Lillien): I will probably be watching television with my husband and my dog, Lolly who is in this magazine; all over it. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Scott Mortimer): I’ll probably be having a glass of wine and watching a sporting event.

On what keeps them up at night (Lisa Lillien): New ideas. I often wake up in the middle of the night with my cell phone next to me and I email myself all of the ideas I’m thinking about while I sleep.

On what keeps them up at night (Scott Mortimer): We create products and we want people to know about them and people to find them and people to engage with them. It’s increasingly harder in an age where there are other choices out there, but there’s a real desire and need for the products that we create and I want people to spend time with them and I know that they’ll love them.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lisa Lillien, editor in chief & founder, and Scott Mortimer, VP/group publisher, Hungry Girl magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the launch of the first major magazine of 2018. The magazine looks great, and in typical Meredith tradition, I’m happy to see the continuation of service journalism that they began 115 years ago. So, Lisa, tell me, why did you feel that your brand still needed an ink on paper magazine today in this digital age?

Lisa Lillien: That’s a great question. My roots are in magazines. I started my career as a magazine editor, so magazine have always had a very large place in my heart. And as much as I love the Hungry Girl brand and the daily emails are the heart and soul of the business that I’ve built, and having a cookbook come out, the idea of putting out a magazine and being able to bring the content in a different way, in a new way to the audience, is super-exciting to me.

And I also feel like there’s definitely content that lends itself more to magazines than anything else. Certain things work so much better when you see them visually, and things that you can’t actually put into a cookbook, whether it’s how-to instructions on how to cook or success stories from people who have lost weight thanks to the Hungry Girl brand. Those things really work well in magazine form. And I cried when I saw this magazine; it’s so beautiful.

Samir Husni: And why did you choose Meredith or did Meredith choose Lisa?

Lisa Lillien: I think it’s a match made in heaven. They’re the leader in beautiful publications, so I couldn’t be more excited or have a better partner.

Scott Mortimer: We chose Lisa for several reasons. When we look at these businesses that are predominantly digital-first businesses, we try to figure out if it makes sense for them to live in a magazine format and we have to check a couple three boxes first; do they have a big digital and social following, and Lisa certainly does. Do they have an established brand that’s well-known and that has been around a while and that people know, and Lisa’s brand certainly does. And is there a passion by the owner of the brand to do a magazine, and I couldn’t have said any better than Lisa just did.

She really wanted to do a magazine and I think it checked all of those boxes for us. So, we’re really hopeful that it’s going to do well and all indications are that it will. We’re really excited to partner with her on this and bring it to the pages of a magazine.

Samir Husni: Scott, the first issue is dated Spring 2018, so will it be a quarterly frequency, with the cover price of $9.99; is it only going to be on the newsstands and on Lisa’s website, or will it be available for subscriptions later on? What’s the launch plan for this magazine?

Scott Mortimer: The launch plan is an issue that goes out now and then an issue that goes out on May 1. And we will obviously gauge how well it sells through on the newsstand; what kind of traffic we get on the website; there are three or four metrics that will really matter to us as we sit down and figure out what to do with it after the first two issues come out. I think there’s certainly an appetite to do more with the brand and we’re excited to see consumer acceptance with it. I’m sure it’s going to do really, really well.

Samir Husni: Lisa, is this the last link in the chain for your brand? Do you feel like now you’re complete as a brand?

Lisa Lillien: There’s never a last link, but I would say that this is like a giant medallion in the chain. (Laughs) I am super-excited about it. I feel like, especially with building a digital brand, the opportunity to have something that’s tangible and that’s so beautiful couldn’t be more exciting to me.

Samir Husni: I’m sure you’re familiar with all of the digital-first brands that have discovered print lately; why do you think suddenly everyone is rediscovering the power of the printed magazine in this digital age?

Lisa Lillien: I think there’s always going to be content that people like to see and hold in their hands. That’s why when people are reading books on Kindles and iPhones, they still like to buy a cookbook. They really like fashion magazines; they like lifestyle magazines; and they really like food magazines, because nothing can really do a recipe justice like a beautiful photograph in a magazine that you can hold in your hand. So, while the digital stuff does it to some degree, you really can’t compete with the beauty of a magazine.

Samir Husni: And as you look toward the future; as you look toward the second test issue in May, if you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me about Hungry Girl the magazine?

Lisa Lillien: Hopefully, I’ll be saying that it is exactly what I expected it to be and just an extension of the brand that the audience has really embraced and is super-excited about. I love the challenge of bringing the very engaged audience Hungry Girl in a new format and know they’re going to eat it up literally. So, I hope a year from now we’re laughing and talking about how fantastic the magazine is and how we’re seeing four issues a year. That would be my goal.

Scott Mortimer: And I would add to that, one of the things that really struck us when we met Lisa was when she explained to us her business and that she has really close interaction with all of the people who want to interact with her, whether it’s the crews or emails that come in or on the social channels, Lisa and her team interact with her fans and followers in a way that I think is really unique and in a way that really sets us up for success for this print product as well.

Samir Husni: Did I understand you correctly that your email is a daily that you send out?

Lisa Lillien: Yes, five days a week.

Samir Husni: Five days a week. How do you do it? You have a daily newsletter; you’re writing books; you’re appearing on TV; are you just a Hungry Girl or are you a Super Hungry Girl?

Lisa Lillien: (Laughs) A little of both. I am a workaholic, but I’m lucky to have a team of people who are so fantastic and a lot of people who have worked with the brand for many, many years, so we really have it down. We work out of a place called Hungryland. We’re always developing new recipes and there’s not a lot of time to sleep, but that’s okay because it’s a lot of fun.

Samir Husni: If you look at this issue, this specific first edition, where do you want your audience to go first? If your readers had time to read only one article, where should they go?

Lisa Lillien: That’s a tough question. If they had time to read only one single article, I think it would be great for them to start at the beginning to get the back story to get them to become more engaged with the brand in case they’re not familiar with it. Because a lot of people try to do what Hungry Girl does and I hope it’s not terrible to say, but I think we do it better than anyone else. And if you read that first page, you get that summary of what the brand is and what it means, and how passionate we are about it. After that, just dive into all the rest.

Samir Husni: Scott, is that point of differentiation going to be an easy sell for you when you take the magazine out to advertisers; it’s uniqueness and difference?

Scott Mortimer: I think that story is still to be written, Samir, to be candid. It’s one of those things where getting the advertising community excited about a brand new print product is always a challenge, but there was a little bit of support in this one and we’re very happy with who’s there. I think over time as we prove the product and get the product in market, that job will become easier for us. Again, the biggest gauge of acceptance on this is how well consumers adopt it and will they buy it. And everything indicates that’s going to be a smashing success and time will tell and prove that out.

Samir Husni: A friend of mine was talking recently and said it would seem there was going to be two big magazine companies left in this country, Meredith after they bought Time and Hearst after they bought Rodale. Do you think mergers or those acquisitions are going to help the magazine media industry, help those brands, both the established and the new ones?

Scott Mortimer: I don’t know if I’m qualified to speak to that, to be very candid with you. What we’re trying to do with the group of titles that I work with and the partner projects, what this falls under, is find brands that we think have really high consumer acceptance out there and brands that are well-poised to go from, in this case, a digital format to a magazine format.

I can’t predict the future and predict what that will be, but we’re focused on the task at hand, and it’s working with folks like Lisa to take her brand to a different place. And that’s why we’re so excited about it.

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

Lisa Lillien: Just that it’s something that I personally am really proud of and I could not be more excited about working with Meredith on this project and I’m so thrilled to bring such a quality product to the audience, because they really deserve it.

Samir Husni: When the folks at Meredith tell you Lisa, we just hit half a million in circulation, or we sold 250,000 copies; what’s the magic number that you and Scott have discussed that will put you over the top? You have millions that subscribe to your newsletter; how many of those do you want to convert to the magazine?

Scott Mortimer: Of course, we’d like to get them all to buy it. (Laughs) The initial print run is 225,000 copies, and you’re well aware of how things typically sell on newsstand. Our expectations are it’s going to be considerably better than most titles that are out there. There’s really not a hard number that we put on these things, lots of things come into play when we put success on it and certainly copies sold and reader engagement is one. And advertising comes into play. So, there’s three or four things that we will sit down together with and evaluate. But I can’t tell you there’s a magic number, because there certainly isn’t. Several things come into play as we look toward the future.

Samir Husni: With this partnership business model, such as Meredith partnering with the Gaines and Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart; Hearst is doing similar things with the Food Network, HGTV, and The Pioneer Woman; do you think this is the nucleus of a new way to bring magazines to the marketplace?

Scott Mortimer: I do. We’ve had considerable success with it. Obviously, Magnolia Journal being the biggest. But we also work with Forks Over Knives and with other brands out there. These things aren’t always easy and they’re not always slam-dunks, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s finding the right partner who has a passion for the business and has that really big digital following, and a couple three of the things that really matter to us when we evaluate partners. So, we’re on the lookout for others and absolutely, if the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll see if we can get something done together.

Samir Husni: What can we expect to see in the second issue?

Lisa Lillien: The second issue is the summer issue, so there’s a lot of great grilling recipes and the Instant Pots, lots and lots of those. That’s like the hottest item out there right now, so we’ve been very busy developing new recipes for the Instant Pot.

Samir Husni: I loved when you said that when you held the magazine in your hand, you cried. Do you feel that you’re now on top of the mountain, or you’re still climbing?

Lisa Lillien: I’m always climbing. (Laughs) I always want to do the next thing. I like new and exciting and so, I’m not sure I’ll ever be on top of the mountain.

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

Lisa Lillien: As it relates to Hungry Girl, I would like for them to think of me as the guru of guilt-free eating. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that.

Scott Mortimer: In the business that we’re in, I just want people to consider us to be really good partners and I want people to feel that we operate with a lot of integrity and we want to do our best to work together to come up with really successful products that we can all do well with.

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?

Lisa Lillien: I will probably be watching television with my husband and my dog, Lolly who is in this magazine; all over it. (Laughs)

Scott Mortimer: I’ll probably be having a glass of wine and watching a sporting event.

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

Lisa Lillien: New ideas. I often wake up in the middle of the night with my cell phone next to me and I email myself all of the ideas I’m thinking about while I sleep.

Scott Mortimer: We create products and we want people to know about them and people to find them and people to engage with them. It’s increasingly harder in an age where there are other choices out there, but there’s a real desire and need for the products that we create and I want people to spend time with them and I know that they’ll love them.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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