h1

Hoffman Media: Finding Print And Digital Avenues To See Continued Success For Both Their Flagship Titles & Their New Titles. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Hoffman Media’s President And Chief Creative Officer Brian Hart Hoffman.

January 17, 2018

“We want to continue making our print-brand publications better and brandier. And updated in line with what people expect and where we see revenue success today…” Brian Hart Hoffman

“It is a different proposition for the company to be launching a brand that does not necessarily have the print product first or the print counterpart to the digital platform, but I think you will see the same dedication to content creation and the user-engagement experience to have just as much thought put into it as we do for our print brands…” Brian Hart Hoffman

Believing in and promoting top-quality print products is something that Hoffman Media has been doing since its inception in 1983 when Phyllis Hoffman DePiano founded the company as Symbol of Excellence Publishers, Inc. It was renamed Hoffman Media in 1998. Today the company’s flagship brands like Taste of the South and Southern Lady are thriving, and newer titles like Bake From Scratch and Southern Cast Iron are becoming flagships in their own right.

Brian Hart Hoffman is president and chief creative officer for Hoffman Media, and has a passion for the brands and the company that is only exceeded by his energy and vision for the business. With the success of newer titles, such as the ones mentioned above, Bake From Scratch and Southern Cast Iron, and coupled with the readers’ dedication to the look and feel of these titles, Brian and the team at Hoffman saw an opportunity to up the quality of their legacy titles even more by adapting the wider format and giving them a fresh, new look for the fresh, new year.

I spoke with Brian recently and we talked about Hoffman Media and its continued efforts to always lead with quality for their readers. Putting their audience first is something that Brian said they will never cease doing. From investing in the paper, the photography, and the content, Hoffman’s hallmark of producing beautifully done and exceptionally well crafted magazines is something that the entire company takes pride in. And with their continued commitment to the digital space, their online users are never disappointed either.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who wants to continue making their print-brand titles better and “brandier” for all their customers – Brian Hart Hoffman, president and chief creative officer, Hoffman Media.

But first the sound-bites:

On the changes taking place at Hoffman Media: I would say the biggest thing happening that would address all of that, concerning new publications and some of our flagship publications that have been in print for many years; we’re seeing readers really demand the quality and that’s something that Hoffman Media has always taken pride in, publishing top quality magazines. We invest in paper; we invest in photography; and we invest in the content. But with our flagship brands now, we’re having to look back and realize that there’s even more room to upgrade that quality.

On whether Hoffman Media will continue to make its print publications printier and brandier in 2018: The Hoffman Media position on that is absolutely; we want to continue making our print-brand publications better and brandier. And updated in line with what people expect and where we see revenue success today.

On whether the success of Southern Cast Iron, Bake From Scratch and other more recent titles had something to do with the refresh of established magazines like Taste of the South and Southern Lady: Sure! I would absolutely say that us successfully testing publications that were on wide format and $12.99; they’re more expensive than the cover price of these publications still, and the success we saw from it and the demand from the audience was amazing.

On the new title Cook: Real Food Every Day: That publication was something that we saw as what we have called the savory sister to Bake From Scratch, where just an opportunity in the market to present food that’s very flavorful with fresh ingredients and solutions for how to serve them on these busy days where you may be working full-time or taking children to and from various school and sporting events, but you still want to get an amazing dinner on the table. We really just saw a lot of demand in the marketplace for that level of content and so we put out that first test issue.

On how he balances being president and chief creative officer of all the Hoffman Media titles and his baby Bake From Scratch: It’s definitely a balance. I have a really great team that I work with here at Hoffman Media. We have a dedicated editorial staff for Bake From Scratch that I have the pleasure of working with, probably daily. I do spend a lot of time overseeing that brand and all of the editorial planning and content meetings.

On the biggest challenge he thinks he’ll face as chief creative officer in 2018: I would say the biggest challenge for all of us in the industry, and for us at Hoffman Media, is just finding the avenues to see continued success for our flagship titles and our new titles. We talk a lot about the new face of magazine media and adapting daily to whatever the newest technology is that’s going to come onto the scene that’s viewed as a threat or competition to the print brands.

On anything new that might be in the hopper for 2018: The only thing that we’re exploring is the Cook: Real Food Every Day brand and we’re continuing our development and relaunch plans for cooking.com, so those two brands are in the hopper for 2018, you could say. We’ve heard an enormous amount of positive response from the first issue of Cook: Real Food Every Day, and if that same heartbeat is there that I think is, you’ll see more of that this year from our company. And the exciting launch of cooking.com as well.

On how Hoffman Media plans to balance cooking.com, a digital brand that doesn’t have a print component, with their other print/digital brands: Our plans aren’t at a state right now where I can tell too much, but I will be in touch with you the minute I am able to, so that you can get the scoop on it as well. But it is a different proposition for the company to be launching a brand that does not necessarily have the print product first or the print counterpart to the digital platform, but I think you will see the same dedication to content creation and the user-engagement experience to have just as much thought put into it as we do for our print brands.

On his definition of content in 2018: I would say that content is defined as anything that we produce and include in our print and digital products that provides the reader and user solutions for their lives. And whether it’s travel or food; cooking and baking, the time and energy that we put behind our products, from cover to cover, and everything on our website that we produce, is content. That’s how we look at content.

On whether he thinks the industry is reaching a saturation point when it comes to the amount of content that’s out there on topics such as food and travel, or he thinks there’s no such thing: I would say that there’s no such thing because of the different voices and messages by which we deliver the content. Sure, some of our content can be viewed as similar or overlapping in certain subject matters with other publishers or content creators, but I think we all bring a different perspective and voice to those conversations. I don’t know that there’s a saturation point as long as we continue to see engagement from our audiences that’s on the positive side and growing. We are certainly not at the saturation point here at Hoffman Media.

On the biggest surprise he had in 2017 when it comes to Hoffman Media: I guess when I look at the sheer volume of work that our employees and content creators here at Hoffman Media are producing. Last year was a record year for us with growth on the newsstand, both in volume and engaged readership. But I had a big wow when I realized that we published over 150 issues of magazines that went into distribution last year. (Laughs) That was my biggest wow.

On whether he is where he expected to be after coming back to the business, or he is pleasantly surprised at his role: In September of last year it was 10 years since I joined the business, and when I look back over that decade; I can answer your question in multiple ways. When I started 10 years ago, I never expected what I have experienced now, a passion and love for our industry and the story that’s not yet told, and the growth opportunities that are in front of us. But my passion and fire has just grown more and more every year. So, no, I did not see this coming, but it is a dream job that I am so on fire for every day.

On Classic Sewing’s cover price of almost $25 and whether he thinks there is a ceiling on what people are willing to pay for a single copy magazine: I think when they see the value that meets and exceeds that expectation, and it is a subject matter that they are more financially invested in than other areas; obviously, they’re buying and selling materials and various finishes, and with the machines that people are using to sew on; when they pick up a copy of Classic Sewing and realize that the content that’s in that issue and the packaged pattern that’s included in the polybag, the value exceeds $25 each issue.

On how his book sales are going now that he’s an author: Yes, it’s going wonderful. Last year, the Bake From Scratch cookbook was a number one new release and number one bestseller in some of the baking categories on Amazon. We had enormous success and had a second printing midway through the year to get through the holiday time. And the second volume of the Bake From Scratch cookbook is going to be released on March 1, 2018.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: The tattoo would say passionate.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I love to go home and cook and bake, and spend time in the kitchen with my husband. I unwind by doing more of what we do every day, but I actually get to get my hands in the kitchen and bake. I’m trying to limit the number of items I’m baking in a week, just because the consumption is not as fast as the desire to bake it. It’s truly a passion and a therapy for me all at the same time. I like to unwind by doing more of that with a glass of wine or a cocktail.

On what keeps him up at night: The to-do list for this year’s plans for 180 magazine releases. (Laughs) I think doing the best job that we can every day for our employees; for our company; for our brands; and for our readers. I’m always thinking about the next opportunity or ways to make sure that our employees feel appreciated and our magazines stay top-quality, and deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Those are the things that stay on any magazine editor’s brain, I think.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Hart Hoffman, president/chief creative officer, Hoffman Media.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on all of the changes that are taking place.

Brian Hart Hoffman: Thank you.

Samir Husni: You’ve implemented the changes with the new magazines that you’ve started and now you’re going back to the established titles and making them bigger, glossier, printier and brandier. What’s going on with Hoffman Media publications these days?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I would say the biggest thing happening that would address all of that, concerning new publications and some of our flagship publications that have been in print for many years; we’re seeing readers really demand the quality and that’s something that Hoffman Media has always taken pride in, publishing top quality magazines. We invest in paper; we invest in photography; and we invest in the content. But with our flagship brands now, we’re having to look back and realize that there’s even more room to upgrade that quality.

We just see an enormous amount of demand for the wide format publications, and giving them each a new fresh look for the New Year. Southern Lady is celebrating 20 years, so it was time for a little refresh, while maintaining the same commitment to the editorial that readers have come to know and love. We aren’t tampering with a lot of the editorial missions, we’re just upgrading the quality proposition.

Samir Husni: Is this a glimpse of what we’re going to see from Hoffman Media in 2018; making print printier and the brands brandier? And do you think some people are still hesitant to believe in print the way Hoffman does?

Brian Hart Hoffman: The Hoffman Media position on that is absolutely; we want to continue making our print-brand publications better and brandier. And updated in line with what people expect and where we see revenue success today.

My industry wish-list would be that we all embrace that same commitment to print and publishing high-quality publications, because I think as an industry that would benefit all of us. But at the same time, I can’t say that I see it happening across the board at other publishing companies, nor would I want to speculate or address why they do or they don’t do that. Our commitment and our business strategy is purely for Hoffman Media.

I don’t feel like what we’re doing would be considered a need-to of anyone that we see in our competitive set or in the industry, we just continue to listen to our own customers and what they want. And I think that’s a hallmark of Hoffman Media. We’ve always kept that line of dialogue and feedback open with our audience, and what they want to see more of.

Samir Husni:, After you launched Bake From Scratch, Southern Home, and Southern Cast Iron; all of these were launched in the larger format, was that the reason that you felt like Southern Lady and Taste of the South also needed to move in that direction, because of the success of the other titles?

Brian Hart Hoffman: Sure! I would absolutely say that us successfully testing publications that were on wide format and $12.99; they’re more expensive than the cover price of these publications still, and the success we saw from it and the demand from the audience was amazing.

We did get a lot of questions from readers about whether Taste of the South and Southern Lady were going to have the same upgrades that they saw with the newer products that were coming out of Hoffman Media. And I think that definitely motivated us to look at our flagship brands and the opportunities that would lie in front of us if we transitioned to the wide format and did some refreshing of the branding. So, absolutely, I think our own data drove us to look at the decision on these two titles.

Samir Husni: Talking about new titles; late last year you launched the premier issue of Cook: Real Food Every Day, and I chuckled when I saw it on the newsstands because I remembered your editorial where you said that you bake, you don’t cook. (Laughs)

Brian Hart Hoffman: (Laughs too). Yes, but other people cook. That publication was something that we saw as what we have called the savory sister to Bake From Scratch, where just an opportunity in the market to present food that’s very flavorful with fresh ingredients and solutions for how to serve them on these busy days where you may be working full-time or taking children to and from various school and sporting events, but you still want to get an amazing dinner on the table. We really just saw a lot of demand in the marketplace for that level of content and so we put out that first test issue.

Samir Husni: Every time I chat with you, the magazine that brings the biggest smile to your words is Bake From Scratch. How do you balance between being president and chief creative officer of all the Hoffman Media titles, and your role with your baby, Bake From Scratch?

Brian Hart Hoffman: It’s definitely a balance. I have a really great team that I work with here at Hoffman Media. We have a dedicated editorial staff for Bake From Scratch that I have the pleasure of working with, probably daily. I do spend a lot of time overseeing that brand and all of the editorial planning and content meetings.

But I have a wonderful team of editors, and tenured employees who are editors and brand directors of our other publications, so we all just have a really great synergy and work relationship where we believe in hard work. And we believe that I can be the editor in chief of Bake From Scratch and lead the creative division of Hoffman Media, because we all wear a lot of hats.

I think in previous interviews with you, we have talked about the fact that day-to-day we all wear a lot of hats, and about that being another trademark of Hoffman Media. When my mom started our publishing company 35 years ago, as the editor in chief of one publication, she continued to grow more brands. So, I guess I would say that I’m walking in her footsteps a little bit with that same balance of being editor in chief of one brand, but managing all of our other titles as well.

Samir Husni: As you move forward in your role as chief creative officer, what do you think will be your biggest challenge in 2018?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I would say the biggest challenge for all of us in the industry, and for us at Hoffman Media, is just finding the avenues to see continued success for our flagship titles and our new titles. We talk a lot about the new face of magazine media and adapting daily to whatever the newest technology is that’s going to come onto the scene that’s viewed as a threat or competition to the print brands.

But we’re really working hard to keep our brands growing in the digital space, while still keeping that strong commitment to the print product. I would look at that as my biggest challenge for the last number of years. But going into 2018, just remaining deeply committed to our print products, but seeing their growth and avenues for opportunities in other media spaces as well

Samir Husni: Is there anything in the hopper for 2018, in terms of new titles?

Brian Hart Hoffman: The only thing that we’re exploring is the Cook: Real Food Every Day brand and we’re continuing our development and relaunch plans for cooking.com, so those two brands are in the hopper for 2018, you could say. We’ve heard an enormous amount of positive response from the first issue of Cook: Real Food Every Day, and if that same heartbeat is there that I think is, you’ll see more of that this year from our company. And the exciting launch of cooking.com as well.

Samir Husni: The theme for this upcoming ACT 8 Experience in April is Print Proud, Digital Smart. And Hoffman Media is a perfect example of being just that; you didn’t throw out the baby with the water. (Laughs) So, what are the plans for cooking.com? How are you going to balance a website, such as cooking.com, that really doesn’t relate to a specific magazine brand, but to the genre of the brands.

Brian Hart Hoffman: Our plans aren’t at a state right now where I can tell too much, but I will be in touch with you the minute I am able to, so that you can get the scoop on it as well. But it is a different proposition for the company to be launching a brand that does not necessarily have the print product first or the print counterpart to the digital platform, but I think you will see the same dedication to content creation and the user-engagement experience to have just as much thought put into it as we do for our print brands.

You’ll see content that’s not just content, but it’s vetted, quality content and fun. There will be sources where you’ll see success with recipes and the content that lives on the site.

Samir Husni: This is a question that I’ve been asking all of the editorial people who I have been interviewing; what’s your definition of content in 2018?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I would say that content is defined as anything that we produce and include in our print and digital products that provides the reader and user solutions for their lives. And whether it’s travel or food; cooking and baking, the time and energy that we put behind our products, from cover to cover, and everything on our website that we produce, is content. That’s how we look at content.

Samir Husni: When you look at all of the content that you’re producing, and you look at all of the content that’s out there when it comes to food, travel and the Southern lifestyle; do you feel that we’re reaching a saturation point or there’s no such thing?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I would say that there’s no such thing because of the different voices and messages by which we deliver the content. Sure, some of our content can be viewed as similar or overlapping in certain subject matters with other publishers or content creators, but I think we all bring a different perspective and voice to those conversations. I don’t know that there’s a saturation point as long as we continue to see engagement from our audiences that’s on the positive side and growing. We are certainly not at the saturation point here at Hoffman Media.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest surprise for you in 2017 when it comes to Hoffman Media?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I guess when I look at the sheer volume of work that our employees and content creators here at Hoffman Media are producing. Last year was a record year for us with growth on the newsstand, both in volume and engaged readership. But I had a big wow when I realized that we published over 150 issues of magazines that went into distribution last year. (Laughs) That was my biggest wow.

Samir Husni: It’s been a few years now since you’ve been back in the publishing business, since you became involved with your mother and twin brother in the Hoffman Media operation. Did you expect to be where you are now when you came back, or were you pleasantly surprised, or you asked what have I done?

Brian Hart Hoffman: In September of last year it was 10 years since I joined the business, and when I look back over that decade; I can answer your question in multiple ways. When I started 10 years ago, I never expected what I have experienced now, a passion and love for our industry and the story that’s not yet told, and the growth opportunities that are in front of us. When I started 10 years ago, I was managing our company’s special events and I was traveling some, but I wasn’t involved in the editorial process day-to-day.

And I saw areas of that process that I wanted to be more involved in and I got excited, so I jumped in and started doing what I could and learning from the years of experience that my Mom had in the industry, and from the wonderful team of editors that we work with here at Hoffman Media.

But my passion and fire has just grown more and more every year. So, no, I did not see this coming, but it is a dream job that I am so on fire for every day. I love seeing our flagship brands continue to be loved by the readership. I love being a part of the new magazine launches, with new ideas that are meeting different voids in the marketplace. And everything in between. Engaging with our readers, and just our industry as a whole; I still see a lot of energy and fire from young creators who believe in the magazine industry. So, that gives me excitement every day. I would say that the energy level grows every day, and 10 years from now I’ll be even more excited.

Samir Husni: One of your magazines has a cover price of almost $25 per issue: Classic Sewing. Do you think there’s a ceiling on how much people are willing to pay for a single copy issue of a magazine?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I think when they see the value that meets and exceeds that expectation, and it is a subject matter that they are more financially invested in than other areas; obviously, they’re buying and selling materials and various finishes, and with the machines that people are using to sew on; when they pick up a copy of Classic Sewing and realize that the content that’s in that issue and the packaged pattern that’s included in the polybag, the value exceeds $25 each issue.

For a publisher to go to that level or really any level of price, the readership has to be able to see and find that value easily. And if they do, we don’t see a resistance to them paying the price. But they’re getting high quality and they’re not getting ripped off, let’s put it that way.

Samir Husni: How are your book sales going? In addition to being chief creative officer, you’re also a book author now.

Brian Hart Hoffman: Yes, it’s going wonderful. Last year, the Bake From Scratch cookbook was a number one new release and number one bestseller in some of the baking categories on Amazon. We had enormous success and had a second printing midway through the year to get through the holiday time. And the second volume of the Bake From Scratch cookbook is going to be released on March 1, 2018. So, we’re expecting another big year from another book coming out with my name on the cover.

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

Brian Hart Hoffman: The tattoo would say passionate.

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?

Brian Hart Hoffman: I love to go home and cook and bake, and spend time in the kitchen with my husband. I unwind by doing more of what we do every day, but I actually get to get my hands in the kitchen and bake. I’m trying to limit the number of items I’m baking in a week, just because the consumption is not as fast as the desire to bake it. It’s truly a passion and a therapy for me all at the same time. I like to unwind by doing more of that with a glass of wine or a cocktail.

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

Brian Hart Hoffman: The to-do list for this year’s plans for 180 magazine releases. (Laughs) I think doing the best job that we can every day for our employees; for our company; for our brands; and for our readers. I’m always thinking about the next opportunity or ways to make sure that our employees feel appreciated and our magazines stay top-quality, and deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Those are the things that stay on any magazine editor’s brain, I think.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: