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Farmhouse Style: A New Quarterly Title That Transports You Easily To The Downhome Comforts Of The Farm – From The Publishers Of Country Sampler Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Wagner, Editor…

August 27, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.” Susan Wagner…

Available on newsstands and by subscription, Farmhouse Style celebrates the casual, comfortable appeal of today’s popular farmhouse decorating and lifestyle movement. From the folks who bring you Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style is a new quarterly title that celebrates step-by-step DIY projects and fully illustrated decorating tips to create an authentic farmhouse-style look.

Susan Wagner is editor of the magazine and special projects director at Annie’s Publishing, the company that owns Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style, Good Old Days and a variety of titles in crochet, knitting, quilting and cross stitch. But when it comes to their latest offering, Farmhouse Style, they’re “crowing” loudly about its downhome and easy style.

I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about the new magazine and about its $9.99 cover price, something that Susan said reflected the quality content and overall aesthetic of the magazine. With around 50 DIY projects in each issue, complete with full instructions on how to do them, she believes the magazine is worth every penny paid for by their readers. And from the initial response of its audience, the people must agree.

Susan said the tangible product of print had to be the cornerstone of the new brand. While all of the digital components are in place: website and social media, the laid back experience the reader gets from the print foundation is irreplaceable. And the beautiful photographs could only be justified in ink on paper.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy a moment in the “Farmhouse” as we take a walk around the place with our tour guide, Susan Wagner in the Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Farmhouse Style as a quarterly and why now: We have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies. Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do. And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription.

On a letter from a reader begging them not to change anything inside the magazine: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

On why print for the magazine: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

On the $10 cover price and why people are willing to pay it: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

On the future and if she expects to add a younger, more active audience to Farmhouse Style that will also add to Country Sampler’s readership: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

On what other “style” might be in store for Country Sampler: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

On anything she’d like to add: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating. So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Wagner, editor, Farmhouse Style.

Samir Husni: You decided after one test issue to go ahead with Farmhouse Style and publish it as a quarterly magazine, give me some background on this decision. I know you’ve done Country Sampler for years, but why now and why Farmhouse Style?

Susan Wagner: As you said, we have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies.

Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We started a few years back, in 2014, doing some SIPs that were focusing a little bit more on DIY decorating, where Country Sampler really is more home tours and this unique kind of magalog area in the back, with these SIPs we did more of an individualized kind of decorating styles and more of these DIY angles.

We did some Christmas ones; we did prairie-style ones; we did different kinds of genres. Last year we decided we would do a farmhouse SIP that would come out in January 2018 and that particular SIP pretty much blew all of the other SIPs away, that one did really well when we compared it to our newsstand figures and our advertising revenue for the other SIPs. It was comparable to when we put out the first Christmas issue, which did really well.

So, we knew that it was a genre and a magazine that resonated very much with our current subscriber base, the people who enjoy Country Sampler, but were also looking to refresh and brighten their homes a little bit more, because the Farmhouse issue is a lighter kind of country and it’s more typical of the type of country decorating we’re seeing or showing up in Today’s Homeowner, a little bit more of the younger and more urban crowd, and a lot of what the shows on the DIY Network and things like that are airing.

That hit really well, so we combined it with our unique look that we’ve created for the SIPs, where we had some home tours of farmhouse decorating, but then we also had our designers work on DIY projects, so we were able to incorporate that. And I think that’s what makes our magazine definitely different than some of the other SIPs or other publications that touch on this look as well. We have that project DIY base in there so that people who love this style can not only see how others are decorating, but they can also create things for themselves to put in their own homes for this style.

So, that first SIP issue did really well for us. As I said, it came out in January 2018 and our sales team had a great success selling it and it had wonderful crossover with our existing subscriber database, plus we had also picked up a lot of new people from the newsstands.

With the success of that first we figured we would do another SIP. And once we started working on the second one for 2018, we just continued to get way above what our plan was as far as the newsstand sales and a lot more advertiser encouragement and we knew that this was an area where we wanted to expand. As a company, we had been looking to see if there was an SIP or title that we could turn into another subscription because we wanted to have an additional subscription besides Country Sampler that could also work within that country decorating realm.

We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do.

And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription. And it seems that we were on target with what we did because we’ve been marketing it now, as far as some direct mail pieces and to our existing subscribers for Country Sampler, some ads in the other publications we do, and we have a big chunk of subscribers so far.

And then we have a big direct mail piece that we’ll be sending to outside lists at the end of September. Right now, the early results and the subscriptions that we’re happy with so far that we’ve gotten, have all come from internal outlets. So, we’re expecting of course, once we reach out even farther, to increase that even more.

Samir Husni: I was reading your editorial in the autumn issue and you singled out one reader from Arizona, Kay Connelly, where she is technically begging you to not change a thing in the magazine.

Susan Wagner: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

Samir Husni: Can you in reality hear the crunch of hay under your feet, feel the fresh breeze in your hair and smell those cinnamon buns rising on the stove in any other form than print? Can you do the same thing in digital? Why print?

Susan Wagner: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.

Samir Husni: How do you explain the audience who’s engaging with the magazine and willing to pay the $10 cover price?

Susan Wagner: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

If you’re browsing on the web and trying to find items for decorating your home and you’re all over the place, but if you know and you trust the Country Sampler editor to give you what you’re looking for because you follow them along and you know they’re really hitting the target, you’ll get that all in that one magazine. And it saves you time, you’re not browsing and browsing online for hours or you’re not getting a magazine somewhere else for $5.99 or $6.99 and maybe one or two articles apply to you.

For a $9.99 price we have a whole section of DIY projects and we’re typically looking at 50 different projects with complete instructions and that’s a lot of content right there. Plus we have the traditional home tours and things that are great to look at. And then we have recipes; various articles, such as growing your own organic produce or raising backyard chickens, things like that.

So, all of that is combined into our Farmhouse Style magazine. And when you think of all of that pulled together, to me, that is definitely worth the $9.99 cover price. And I think nowadays people, if something really resonates with them and they feel like it’s something they can get right in their hands without having to run around all over the place for that, they will pay that higher price point. We definitely see where people are paying a bit of a higher price point for a convenience or something that is really targeted completely to them.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, if you and I are having this conversation a year from now, do you think would you tell me you were able to acquire a younger, more active millennial audience for Farmhouse Style that added to the Country Sampler or do you envision the same audience as Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

In the whole general trend of farmhouse decorating, like urban homesteading and things like that, it is a millennial thing. It is a younger audience. It’s people who want to grow their own fruits and vegetables and they want to have fresh eggs in their backyard. If you look at the blogger world and home decorating, it’s a lot of the younger people who are decorating and are out in the blogosphere and showing things.

In fact, in our spring issue we’re doing an article about these two men who used to live in Philadelphia, Penn., in more of an urban area, and they wanted to raise chickens and were getting pushback from the city, and finally that was kind of the impetus they needed to say, okay, we’re definitely moving to the farm, which was something they had always wanted to do. So, they ended up buying some land up in Vermont and now they run an organic flower farm. One of the guys does the organic flower farm and the other one does a bakery, foods and catering. And we’re seeing that a lot. People moving out of the cities or buying land in areas where they can have chickens in their backyards or raise goats or grow fruits and vegetables.

Samir Husni: You have Prairie Style that you still publish on a quarterly basis, so what other style is in store for Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

Having said that, there are definitely some people in the Chicago area, the urban areas, Indianapolis, places like that, who are more of the un-urban dweller, but we are a smaller town, we’re more middle America; we’re not an L.A., New York kind of audience.

And I think some of the other farmhouse SIPs or some of the other magazines that will touch on farmhouse style, and even some of the TV shows, it ends up being a little more of an upscale kind of farmhouse, where somebody maybe took an old barn and they brought in a designer and paid the designer $500,000 to revamp it for them. And ours is more of a casual, easygoing, relax, this is a place where you can decorate in that look and still have your four little children running around and not worry about them messing something up or breaking something. So, it’s a very approachable, very easy look and I think that’s what makes who our audience is and who we’re reaching with that little difference than some of the others.

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

Susan Wagner: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating.

So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks. Or maybe it could be more of a Southern look or we’ve talked around the idea of doing an SIP that would be American bungalows or something. It would all be very much the casual, common man with a DIY aspect to it. More so than the designer look of that style.

As far as anything else, we are very much putting everything behind this Farmhouse Style. We’ve created a website; we have the social media sites out there, we have Pinterest, Instagram and a Facebook page for it. We will be doing some additional work with it, because nowadays I feel like print media is not solely print only and I’m sure all the other publishing companies would agree. But what we’re providing to our readers is decorating ideas, decorating styles, inspiration, for this and they can get them in a variety of ways. They can be inspired by looking at the magazine; they can hit an emotional chord by looking at the magazine, they can love the beautiful pictures.

But we can also provide them quick tips and maybe some ideas and some links to other blogs through our website. We’re thinking of doing an editor’s blog where we talk about more of the day-to-day farmhouse related topics and bring in other people. Bring in people to share their memories. With the older crowd we see that people love that about the Farmhouse look, they like being able to share their memories about how they were doing blueberries in their grandmother’s kitchen or something like that.

So, we do have a lot of this in the works, as far as putting more on the website, doing more social media, where we’re really connecting with the readers in a lot more ways. We definitely want to incorporate events, we’ve talked about that, doing different contests and just really trying to connect with them on their level, so it’s not so much just us giving them info, but more of a feel that we’re all part of this Farmhouse family together.

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? How do you unwind?

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

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

Susan Wagner: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

I want to have something interesting to create or work on or to do, whether it’s a new project we’re doing at work and I’m really excited about it, or whether it’s planning a get together for the afternoon with my friends, such as a scavenger hunt that’s really cool. So, she was always coming up with new ideas and very enthusiastically implementing them in a way that got everyone else excited about the project or event as well.

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

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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