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Your Teen For Parents Magazine: A Resource For Teen Parenting That Strives To Shed Light Into The Sometimes Scary Darkness That Is Adolescent Parenting – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Borison, Cofounder & Editor In Chief…

November 9, 2018

“The experience of holding a magazine feels like an entirely different experience than sitting at my computer getting information or looking at my phone for information. I’m on the couch; it’s just a different interaction. I even feel as though I retain things differently when I’m touching paper. Obviously, my kids don’t have the same attachment, because they’ve grown up with their brains learning how to read textbooks online. For our demographic at that time, it seemed like a natural and everybody was excited to have it.” Susan Borison (on why she chose print for the cornerstone of the brand)…

Almost 12 years ago, Your Teen for Parents Magazine was born out of a personal passion, but grew out of a universal need that cofounder Susan Borison and her business partner, Stephanie Silverman, along with a group of other concerned women, saw in the marketplace when it came to a resource for teen parenting. Susan and the other ladies saw that their own parenting concerns and fears resonated with most everyone they polled. As they were wondering whether their teens’ struggles were normal, or whether their parenting woes were typical, other parents were dealing with the same insecurities. Unfortunately, the books and magazines they had relied on when their children were younger didn’t help much with teenagers. And so, Your Teen Magazine for Parents was born.

I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about this concerned niche that she and the others were trying to fill as they created the cornerstone print publication, which later became a multiplatform brand with the magazine’s digital website. Launching a print magazine 12 years ago, at the height of the digital onset, was something that may have seemed odd to naysayers, but according to Susan, seemed only natural for them at the time. But it hasn’t been a walk in a rose garden for them either, she added. However, what began 12 years ago is still growing today and this year the magazine won Best Print Publication for Editorial at the Content Marketing Awards, something that Susan said proves there are still people out there who prefer print.

So, I hope that you enjoy this conversation with a mother of five who decided to let her passion and her concerns drive her toward a print dream that she didn’t really know she had until she began, much like the effect a print magazine has on you when you discover a pleasant surprise between its covers. And now, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Borison, cofounder and editor in chief, Your Teen for Parents Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Your Teen for Parents: I have five children and when they started getting older, I started feeling like I didn’t have the resources that I needed, that I had when they were younger. And I could only equate it to walking into my house with my husband with my firstborn and we looked around and said, “Where are the grownups?” And we felt very much unqualified to be in charge of this child and keeping her alive. So, as time went on, you get better at parenting, but it’s not really a cumulative skillset all the way through; you hit early adolescence and what I saw happening made me realize that the way I had been parenting was not going to work anymore. It wasn’t working, and so I didn’t know what to do. And I was looking for resources, but I didn’t want to read books on every issue. And there really wasn’t any resource that kind of mimicked Parents Magazine when our kids were younger, so I felt at a loss. So, I brought a group of women together and we started from there. No one had a background in media; I was a lawyer before, my business partner was a banker, we had a host of women who were just looking for this kind of resource. And that’s how it started.

On why she thought a print magazine should be the cornerstone of the brand: We were probably late to the game, in terms of understanding that print was not the future, although we jumped onboard later and understood that we had to be a much bigger platform, rather than just creating great content that gets distributed wherever you are. But at that time, I guess what I was locked into was replicating what had mattered to me when my kids were younger. And the experience of holding a magazine feels like an entirely different experience than sitting at my computer getting information or looking at my phone for information. I’m on the couch; it’s just a different interaction. I even feel as though I retain things differently when I’m touching paper.

On what she’s doing right in print to win the Best Print Publication at the Content Marketing Awards: I think there are still many people who prefer print, not exclusively, because there is no way to live in that space. It is just a different experience. You dog-ear something that you read when you want to go back to it; you store it as a resource. How many times do people store something on their computers, never to go back to it again? Or even be able to figure out where they saved it. Our magazines are a resource. And they cover adolescence through applying to college, so wherever you are on that scale, you might say to yourself this article is interesting, but it doesn’t apply to me at the time, but I know that I’ll want to go back to it. So, you keep the magazine and use it as a resource later on. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time.

On whether it has been a walk in a rose garden to publish the magazine: I would not call it a walk in a rose garden; it’s a struggle for everyone right now. One of the things that we did in the beginning was build relationships with schools. The bimonthly magazine is predominantly a regional and the bulk of it goes to the parents whose kids are in the district where the school wanted the parents to receive it. It’s free; we have a free distribution for that model. We have another print magazine that is a parents’ guide to the college process and we created our own databases, schools and college counselors, and again we offer that as free distribution. The business model is advertising sponsorship and the distribution is predominantly free in those arenas.

On her plans for the future: Well, we have lots of plans. Some of them are underway and some of them are about to move from the backburner to the front burner. What we’re trying to do is take this arsenal of really valuable information and figure out where it gets distributed so that it has a broader reach.

On that a-ha moment when she said: yes, we’ve done it: I feel that over and over again, and maybe in the same day having the same opposite emotions, so I can’t give you a moment where that happened. The pace is too quick, the change is too quick. We get onboard with something and it’s doing great and then Facebook changes its algorithm or Google makes a change or something else happens where we have to keep pivoting. And I think that our biggest strength is we started in an industry where people who were in it for a long time said things like, we’ve always done it this way, and so it was very hard to pivot.

On the biggest challenge facing her and how she plans to overcome it: We’ve really always felt like we could be Parents Magazine, a household name where somebody has a friend or a relative who has a kid, a daughter who just got left out at a table in the lunchroom because she’s 11 or 12-years-old, and the mother is as devastated as the child and the friend said, I have to get you a subscription to this magazine or sends the link or shares Pinterest or Facebook or any other platform and says, you have to be a part of their Facebook group, just whatever it is. And to us, that will make us feel like we have succeeded with what our goal is, which is to be a resource for all parents who are looking for information about raising teenagers.

On anything she’d like to add: I’d just like to say that we are women who started this and we’re now called entrepreneurs. We didn’t go at it thinking we were going to be entrepreneurs, we went out and tried to sell a niche that we were looking for. And the journey along the way has just shown us how many times you have to go with your gut and not listen to people who are naysayers and it’s so easy to find that advice all over, with everyone’s story. But when you’re in the thick of it – we would be having these meetings and feel our bodies retreating as someone was telling us basically that it was a dumb idea or that what we were doing would never work, and then we’d say, well, we’re just going to keep going until we find people who tell us this is a great idea. So, we rejected the “no’s” and we embraced the “yeses” and 12 years later, we’re still here.

On her reaction to a reader’s less than agreeable comment: I’ll tell you a story that recently happened and I’ll tell you why I think people were surprised by my reaction. We reposted an article that we had originally posted a year ago with no comments whatsoever. And the article was by a mom who had wrote: I had teenagers come to my door trick or treating, the guy had facial hair, I think she wrote that he had a beard, and he didn’t have a costume on and there was a little suggestion of a sneer. And she wrote, what I thought was tongue-in-cheek, an article about how the next year she was putting up a sign that she was not giving out Halloween candy to teenagers, but she was going to go buy extra cleaning supplies.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: The real answer is that I’m still working. (Laughs) But the other answer is my youngest child is a senior in high school, so he just finished his last football season and so he’s actually home some now. So, I’ll sit and watch a TV show with him and we’ll have dinner. So, I guess that’s my new normal for a short time and then my husband and I will have to figure out a new normal as we hit empty-nesting.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: In relation to Your Teen magazine, I hope people will think that my business partner, Stephanie Silverman and I, built something that has enhanced their family lives and has helped them to enjoy parenting and to know how to navigate the really tough times that happen during adolescence, and coming out on the other side saying we did a good job and we thank your team. And we get those emails all of the time and it’s so satisfying.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) I think the world. Sometimes it ties into access to information and some of it is just terrifying. In my world, I find leadership to be entirely significant in the tone of a conversation. And I see that happen over and over again. I see it happen on a very grand way in families, when parents scream, kids seem to scream. And I find that in schools, in organizations, that leadership matters. So, when the tone is caustic and the tone has attack, I think the culture changes around that. For me, that’s very unnerving.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Borison, cofounder, editor in chief, Your Teen Magazine for Parents.

Samir Husni: Tell me about this little engine that could, and has been going now for almost 11 years, Your Teen for Parents.

Susan Borison: I have five children and when they started getting older, I started feeling like I didn’t have the resources that I needed, that I had when they were younger. And I could only equate it to walking into my house with my husband with my firstborn and we looked around and said, “Where are the grownups?” And we felt very much unqualified to be in charge of this child and keeping her alive.

So, as time went on, you get better at parenting, but it’s not really a cumulative skillset all the way through; you hit early adolescence and what I saw happening made me realize that the way I had been parenting was not going to work anymore. It wasn’t working, and so I didn’t know what to do. And I was looking for resources, but I didn’t want to read books on every issue. And there really wasn’t any resource that kind of mimicked Parents Magazine when our kids were younger, so I felt at a loss. And I always felt like I wished someone would do this and no one had done it. I decided to see if this idea would resonate with other people, so I kept asking friends who had young adolescents and the unequivocal answer was that we’re all struggling. And we’re all unsure as to how to navigate this new space.

So, I brought a group of women together and we started from there. What we realized very quickly was there are a number of reasons why we were sitting around the table at that moment. One was, we all had the resource of Parents Magazine when we were younger, so if you look at why things happen generationally, we had all had that experience of having quick, easy access to short tips that might change our day, and cumulatively might change your whole parenting experience. So, that didn’t exist for this demographic.

Also, I had playgroups when my kids were little. We sat around as moms, sharing the things that were challenging to us. And they were topics that were a little more neutral: my kid isn’t sleeping through the night, they still use a pacifier; they were topics that didn’t carry so much judgment with them. Also, the stories weren’t so threatening, my baby, my toddler, they didn’t own those stories yet. So, for all of those reasons, it became much harder to get bolstered and even to know whether something was normal or not normal. And even erratic, crazy behavior in adolescence can be normal and might require intervention, but how do you go about figuring that out.

So, we were all onboard and we just said let’s do it. No one had a background in media; I was a lawyer before, my business partner was a banker, we had a host of women who were just looking for this kind of resource. And that’s how it started.

Samir Husni: Between a lawyer, a banker, and a group of other parents, why did you think that a print magazine should be the cornerstone for this whole endeavor, especially since it was born around the same time that the digital age was really taking hold?

Susan Borison: We were probably late to the game, in terms of understanding that print was not the future, although we jumped onboard later and understood that we had to be a much bigger platform, rather than just creating great content that gets distributed wherever you are. But at that time, I guess what I was locked into was replicating what had mattered to me when my kids were younger.

And the experience of holding a magazine feels like an entirely different experience than sitting at my computer getting information or looking at my phone for information. I’m on the couch; it’s just a different interaction. I even feel as though I retain things differently when I’m touching paper. Obviously, my kids don’t have the same attachment, because they’ve grown up with their brains learning how to read textbooks online. For our demographic at that time, it seemed like a natural and everybody was excited to have it. That’s not true, from the business side of things, it didn’t get a lot of respect, but from the user end, people were really excited to have it.

Samir Husni: You just recently won Best Print Publication at the Content Marketing Awards. What are you doing right in print to continue that community that you started 11 years ago?

Susan Borison: I think there are still many people who prefer print, not exclusively, because there is no way to live in that space. It is just a different experience. You dog-ear something that you read when you want to go back to it; you store it as a resource. How many times do people store something on their computers, never to go back to it again? Or even be able to figure out where they saved it. Our magazines are a resource. And they cover adolescence through applying to college, so wherever you are on that scale, you might say to yourself this article is interesting, but it doesn’t apply to me at the time, but I know that I’ll want to go back to it. So, you keep the magazine and use it as a resource later on. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time.

Samir Husni: As a mother of five and in trying to reach this community for parents with teenaged children, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you, so easy to do, with the weekly newsletter online and the bimonthly magazine? Has it been simple?

Susan Borison: I would not call it a walk in a rose garden; it’s a struggle for everyone right now. One of the things that we did in the beginning was build relationships with schools. The bimonthly magazine is predominantly a regional and the bulk of it goes to the parents whose kids are in the district where the school wanted the parents to receive it. It’s free; we have a free distribution for that model. We have another print magazine that is a parents’ guide to the college process and we created our own databases, schools and college counselors, and again we offer that as free distribution. The business model is advertising sponsorship and the distribution is predominantly free in those arenas.

Samir Husni: As you look ahead to 2019 and beyond, what’s next on your plate? Anything new on the horizon or just staying the course? What’s the plan?

Susan Borison: Well, we have lots of plans. Some of them are underway and some of them are about to move from the backburner to the front burner. What we’re trying to do is take this arsenal of really valuable information and figure out where it gets distributed so that it has a broader reach.

One of the things that we hate hearing from somebody is, how did I not know about this? There are very few parents, moms in particular, hitting adolescence who aren’t feeling uncertain. And the stakes are so high, if you miss certain cues and red flags, you go back and relive that in a horrible way. But if you know up front that this is the moment when you can say to yourself, this is so typical and they’re going to get through it, or I really have a problem and I better get someone in here to help us.

We try very hard to give those tips over and over again to parents in different environments, so when we’re talking about technology, it might be the exact same advice, but you hear it differently when it’s around technology than if you’re talking about driving or letting your kids become independent, which is a topic today and Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote this whole book about it, I believe she was the former dean of freshmen at Stanford. Her book is all about how we’re letting our kids down by not getting them to adulthood before we send them off to college.

So, in every print issue we talk about move-out skills and we do that online and we have digital-only editorials. We’re starting to do online courses and there’s going to be a lot of attention to that this year. We’re just looking at all of the different ways that we can repurpose the content so that wherever you are, you know about us and you’re benefiting from the great advice.

Samir Husni: Since you started Your Teen for Parents, what has been the most pleasant moment? Can you look back and remember that a-ha moment where you said, we’ve done it?

Susan Borison: I feel that over and over again, and maybe in the same day having the same opposite emotions, so I can’t give you a moment where that happened. The pace is too quick, the change is too quick. We get onboard with something and it’s doing great and then Facebook changes its algorithm or Google makes a change or something else happens where we have to keep pivoting. And I think that our biggest strength is we started in an industry where people who were in it for a long time said things like, we’ve always done it this way, and so it was very hard to pivot.

And because we started as it was crashing we said, we’ll try that, so we’ve basically grown up in a culture of pivoting. I don’t know that you can ever get to the point in media where you’re saying, ah-we’re there, but we’re really good at seeing what’s coming down the pike and how we can integrate that into what we’re doing. And we’re really good at reaching out to people who know better than we do and getting advice.

Samir Husni: What’s your biggest challenge, opportunity or stumbling block that you’re facing and how do you plan to overcome it?

Susan Borison: We’ve really always felt like we could be Parents Magazine, a household name where somebody has a friend or a relative who has a kid, a daughter who just got left out at a table in the lunchroom because she’s 11 or 12-years-old, and the mother is as devastated as the child and the friend said, I have to get you a subscription to this magazine or sends the link or shares Pinterest or Facebook or any other platform and says, you have to be a part of their Facebook group, just whatever it is. And to us, that will make us feel like we have succeeded with what our goal is, which is to be a resource for all parents who are looking for information about raising teenagers.

And on the business side, when that audience gets big enough and we’re not hearing from people: why didn’t I know about you, then in selling a course, we’ve created an easy pipeline for that, so that’s our 2019 for us.

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

Susan Borison: I’d just like to say that we are women who started this and we’re now called entrepreneurs. We didn’t go at it thinking we were going to be entrepreneurs, we went out and tried to sell a niche that we were looking for. And the journey along the way has just shown us how many times you have to go with your gut and not listen to people who are naysayers and it’s so easy to find that advice all over, with everyone’s story. But when you’re in the thick of it – we would be having these meetings and feel our bodies retreating as someone was telling us basically that it was a dumb idea or that what we were doing would never work, and then we’d say, well, we’re just going to keep going until we find people who tell us this is a great idea. So, we rejected the “no’s” and we embraced the “yeses” and 12 years later, we’re still here.

Samir Husni: Here’s a question that I borrowed from one of our graduate students who now works for 60 Minutes, she asked Paul McCartney: what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Susan Borison: I’ll tell you a story that recently happened and I’ll tell you why I think people were surprised by my reaction. We reposted an article that we had originally posted a year ago with no comments whatsoever. And the article was by a mom who had wrote: I had teenagers come to my door trick or treating, the guy had facial hair, I think she wrote that he had a beard, and he didn’t have a costume on and there was a little suggestion of a sneer. And she wrote, what I thought was tongue-in-cheek, an article about how the next year she was putting up a sign that she was not giving out Halloween candy to teenagers, but she was going to go buy extra cleaning supplies.

So, we posted it last year, had some readers, and no negative reactions. We post it this year, and there’s a climate right now where everybody is on edge, it was right after the week of the Kavanaugh hearing, and there’s probably a host of reasons why people were just waiting for an opportunity to really ream somebody. I didn’t know that trick or treating wasn’t benign. You know, kids go trick or treating and either they get candy or they don’t get candy, I did not know how loaded a topic it was. And neither did anyone else on my team because no one flagged it. And we had ran it last year.

So, I came out of a movie after that and I had a text that read: check out Facebook, what should we do? There were 800 comments. Now, I guess some people might see it as constructive criticism, but the comments ranged from: I will never read another thing from Your Teen and I’m going to tell everyone I know to never read anything to one woman who sent me a private message saying: I am going to your advisory board to tell each one of them what you did. (Laughs) What did I do, right?

It was so over-the-top, calling names to the writer; it was such an assault. And so I took it down and I posted it on my own personal page, asking people to give me a clue as to what was tone deaf about the article. And I got similar comments, but what you could see, the closer you got to friendship, was that people spoke nicer. It was the same range. It turns out trick or treating is a hot button for many people. People who have kids with disabilities, minorities; there’s a host of hot buttons about trick or treating that I did not know a few weeks ago, but I know deeply now.

But on my own personal Facebook page, people were polite in their disagreement, but in a somewhat anonymous situation on Your Teen’s Facebook page, people did not feel like they had to be. So, I lived with that. I couldn’t sleep at night. I felt personally invaded and I also felt vulnerable in a very weird way. And I think people would be surprised – I think there’s a certain sense when women run something, start something, own something, of this, thick-skinned isn’t the right word, but we can navigate a lot and deal with a lot of ups and downs and you have to figure out how to keep smiling through all of it.

And this situation really threw me in a way that – I just got an email from one of our writers, she had to further the conversation this week, and I sent it to someone else who was copied on the email and said you have to reply, I just can’t do it.

So, I think that’s the biggest surprise, that no matter how tough we appear and how tough we are, at the end of the day all of us have feelings and all of us feel, when someone points a finger at you in your face and calls you names, you feel assaulted. And that’s true, we see it in the media all of the time, it’s coming out now. I watch Monica Lewinsky’s “Ted Talk” and I feel like I have to email her and apologize to her because when I was that age, which when it was happening with her I was probably in my late 20s, she was free game. It was like a unifying fun. And now that she’s put a face to that name and told her story, I’m horrified at my behavior.

So, I think that Facebook has a little bit of that same feeling, not even a little bit, probably even an exaggerated feeling, of “no one on the other side is going to get hurt.” That’s my opinion.

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 Borison: The real answer is that I’m still working. (Laughs) But the other answer is my youngest child is a senior in high school, so he just finished his last football season and so he’s actually home some now. So, I’ll sit and watch a TV show with him and we’ll have dinner. So, I guess that’s my new normal for a short time and then my husband and I will have to figure out a new normal as we hit empty-nesting.

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 Borison: In relation to Your Teen Magazine, I hope people will think that my business partner, Stephanie Silverman and I, built something that has enhanced their family lives and has helped them to enjoy parenting and to know how to navigate the really tough times that happen during adolescence, and coming out on the other side saying we did a good job and we thank your team. And we get those emails all of the time and it’s so satisfying.

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

Susan Borison: (Laughs) I think the world. Sometimes it ties into access to information and some of it is just terrifying. In my world, I find leadership to be entirely significant in the tone of a conversation. And I see that happen over and over again. I see it happen on a very grand way in families, when parents scream, kids seem to scream. And I find that in schools, in organizations, that leadership matters. So, when the tone is caustic and the tone has attack, I think the culture changes around that. For me, that’s very unnerving.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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