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Linda Thomas Brooks To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: Magazines Are A Shortcut To All Knowledge… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The President and CEO Of The MPA – The Association Of Magazine Media, On 100 Years Of MPA Excellence & The Upcoming American Magazine Media Conference In New York City On February 5, 2019…

January 13, 2019

“What’s interesting is it’s a word that gets overused now, this idea of influencers, but I think magazines and magazine brands and magazine editors were the original influencers. And when somebody wants to know something about whatever the topic is, travel or cooking or parenting or fashion or outdoor sports, or just whatever, magazines are sort of a shortcut to all of that knowledge.” Linda Thomas Brooks…

On February 5, 2019 at the beautiful Henry R. Luce Auditorium in New York City, 300 of the most influential people in the magazine media industry, including presidents and CEOs, top publishers, notable editors,  advertisers and working press, representing the decision makers from both publishing and content, will gather together to explore the power and influence of magazine brands and to celebrate magazine media’s long-standing, trusted relationship to both consumers and marketers.

The year 2019 also designates the 100thanniversary of the MPA – The Association of Magazine Media and Mr. Magazine™ (circa 1919) will step through the portals of time to discuss some of the top titles being published during that exceptional year of magazines. Just as today, there were ups and downs during that year, but magazines were on hand, reflecting society’s interests and issues, and of course, Mr. Magazine’s™ 100-year-old counterpart was there too, tabulating and buying every first edition he could get his hands on.

I spoke with MPA’s President and CEO, Linda Thomas Brooks recently about the American Magazine Media Conference and her upcoming third anniversary (January 15) at the helm of the MPA. Linda is excited and jubilant about the MPA’s marvelous past and about where the association is headed into the future. From Magazine Media 360° to the MPA’s Social Media Report which tracks social media performance, Linda is proud of the accomplishments the MPA has realized before and during her almost three year tenure.

And with the Kelly Awards ceremony and the Top 13 Hottest Launches of 2018, presented by today’s Mr. Magazine™, the February 5 event is chocked full of more fun, excitement and knowledge than can be believed.

Mr. Magazine™ hopes to see you there! And Mr. Magazine™ 1919 certainly invites you to attend as well, before it’s too late and he has to return to the magazines of the past.

So now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of MPA – The Association of Magazine Media (with comments by Susan Russ, as well).

But first the sound-bites:

On the upcoming 100thanniversary of the MPA and why she thinks magazines and magazine media have lasted so long: I have 100 reasons, but you don’t need 100 reasons. What’s interesting is it’s a word that gets overused now, this idea of influencers, but I think magazines and magazine brands and magazine editors were the original influencers. And when somebody wants to know something about whatever the topic is, travel or cooking or parenting or fashion or outdoor sports, or just whatever, magazines are sort of a shortcut to all of that knowledge.

On whether the upcoming conference is time to dwell on the past, on what a great 100 years it has been, or look forward to the next 100 years and the future: All of the above, of course. I think we need to own this amazing history that we have, but obviously looking forward is a big part of that. All of these brands have amazing plans, they’ve already made amazing transitions in their business and how they look at things. So, we’re going to celebrate all of that.

On how she feels the MPA is still as relevant today as it was 100 years ago: I haven’t been around for too many of those 100 years (Laughs), but what’s interesting is the issues that were at the forefront 100 years ago are still relevant: dealing with how magazines get into consumers’ hands, and the postal, etc., but our role now is so much broader. When the MPA was started magazines had one format, one life, they were printed magazines. And now our magazines are print, digital, mobile, social and video content and they’re so robust and so dynamic. And why we’re relevant is because we have to stay on top of that, whether that’s things like measurement, like our social media engagement report where we try to put some metrics to it, or helping to advocate for issues that are important in the digital landscape, whether that’s privacy or any of the data issues.

On the points of differentiation between magazine media and the rest of the mass media that’s out there, especially in this day and age: It’s funny somebody else asked me if I had to say the one word that was going to be important in 2019 and I said it would be credibility and that was sort of my word because again, the digital media ecosystem, it’s a really interesting place; you can get lost for a long, long time in the content that’s out there. Some of it’s really good and some of it’s entertaining and some of it’s really horrible and some of it is downright evil. And not just the content, that’s not even getting into the data collection and the data uses. So, the credibility that magazine brands have, the care that they put into the content that they produce, again, across formats, is a really important distinction.

On whether she thinks people should take the conference as a whole package or should they make sure they don’t miss one certain topic: Well, they absolutely must be at my remarks, of course. (Laughs) No, seriously, I think it is the whole package because we’re addressing so many different issues across the day. Some of it talks about the print legacy, some of it talks about the way people are transforming across formats and using things like Instagram; some of them are business side people, some are editors. So, I think they’re all important, but if you look at them in isolation, you’re going to miss the bigger picture, which is how will those pieces come together.

On the longevity of magazine brands and magazine media and why we don’t celebrate them more: We’re going to. And it’s great that you’ve been helping us sort of figure out the trajectory and the path. A publisher asked me recently, they were doing an internal sales meeting and he was looking for some fun facts, and I gave him some of those to say that we really need to own this. It’s funny, I think the industry, and not just the magazine industry, but the broader media marketing industry sort of shied away from the word legacy like it was a bad thing. And I talk to people about that all of the time and ask them: isn’t a legacy what we all want? We want to leave professional legacies; we want to leave personal legacies for our children and our grandchildren, for the people who work for us.

On any other plans for celebration this year of the MPA’s 100thanniversary: I’m not sure about another special event, but hopefully we’ll be celebrating all year in the way that we talk about the business and the things that we highlight and through the facts and amazing background pieces that you’re uncovering. Part of what the MPA does is help our members come to grips with business issues and we spend all year working really, really hard internally with our members. And so I think looking for some additional opportunities to not only do the hard work, but even if it’s just a moment or two of celebration or the reflection of just looking back on what we’ve accomplished, I think that’s a really important thing.

On approaching her own third year anniversary with the MPA and whether she would liken it to a walk in a rose garden or similar to the marathons that Michael Clinton likes to run: Every day is a walk in the park. It’s funny, Michael and I have gotten comments about it, and I haven’t done as many marathons as he has, but I’m a runner too and I’ve done a number of them. In a lot of ways, I do liken this job to a marathon, because you know, in every job you have good days and you have bad days, you have challenges that didn’t exist, you have things that crop up that you have to deal with, and we always try to remember and to take the long view.

On the one thing she is most proud of accomplishing in those three years: Number one is really sort of focusing on new analytics that help explain the complexity of the magazine ecosystem, so Magazine Media 360, which actually preceded me, I can’t take credit for it, but I think we’ve enhanced and made that better, made it bigger and easier for people to use, and to really help explain how our magazine brands come to life across channels.

On anything she would like to add: Obviously, we’re really excited about the people who are going to be on the stage and sharing their perspective, but the cool thing about this conference too is just the interaction between all of the attendees. So, you’ve been coming long enough and you probably remember that we did that strolling lunch last year, and the impetus for that was our attendees, our members love talking to one another. They don’t want to sit still in one spot, they want to keep the conversations going.

On this being the first time the conference is being held at a magazine publisher’s instead of a hotel or conference venue: As far as we know, yes. Susan has a few more years than me, but we’re both relatively new, but yes, as far as we know this is the first time. And we’re really lucky. Meredith’s facility is so fantastically beautiful and we know that they get a lot of calls for that space, from inside and outside the industry. It’s just an incredible space and we’re really lucky that they’re willing to allow the industry to use it and for people to gather there, because it’s going to be fantastic.

And now for the lightly edited interview with Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO, MPA: The Association of Magazine Media:

Samir Husni: On February 5, 2019 during the American Magazine Media Conference, the MPA will be celebrating its centennial. Why do you think magazines and magazine media have lasted so long?

Linda Thomas Brooks: I have 100 reasons, but you don’t need 100 reasons. What’s interesting is it’s a word that gets overused now, this idea of influencers, but I think magazines and magazine brands and magazine editors were the original influencers. And when somebody wants to know something about whatever the topic is, travel or cooking or parenting or fashion or outdoor sports, or just whatever, magazines are sort of a shortcut to all of that knowledge.

Somebody put hours and hours of work into collecting and editing and curating this amazing set of information that I can just pick up on a whim and gain from all of their knowledge and perspective. That continues to be a very valuable package for consumers. I could go on the Internet and find all of that stuff, but Holy Cow, I don’t have time to do all of that. I have a day job.

Samir Husni: As you look forward to the conference in less than three weeks, are you going to dwell on the past, on what a great 100 years it has been, or you’re looking forward to the next 100 years and the future?

Linda Thomas Brooks: All of the above, of course. I think we need to own this amazing history that we have, but obviously looking forward is a big part of that. All of these brands have amazing plans, they’ve already made amazing transitions in their business and how they look at things. So, we’re going to celebrate all of that.

SamirHusni: How do you feel that the MPA is still as relevant today as it was 100 years ago?

Linda Thomas Brooks: I haven’t been around for too many of those 100 years (Laughs), but what’s interesting is the issues that were at the forefront 100 years ago are still relevant: dealing with how magazines get into consumers’ hands, and the postal, etc., but our role now is so much broader.

When the MPA was started magazines had one format, one life, they were printed magazines. And now our magazines are print, digital, mobile, social and video content and they’re so robust and so dynamic. And why we’re relevant is because we have to stay on top of that, whether that’s things like measurement, like our social media engagement report where we try to put some metrics to it, or helping to advocate for issues that are important in the digital landscape, whether that’s privacy or any of the data issues. So, we have a much bigger job now that magazines themselves are much more diverse businesses.

Samir Husni: I noticed some key words for the conference this year, such as trust and credibility. What do you feel are the points of differentiation between magazine media and the rest of the mass media that’s out there, especially in this day and age?

Linda Thomas Brooks: It’s funny somebody else asked me if I had to say the one word that was going to be important in 2019 and I said it would be credibility and that was sort of my word because again, the digital media ecosystem, it’s a really interesting place; you can get lost for a long, long time in the content that’s out there. Some of it’s really good and some of it’s entertaining and some of it’s really horrible and some of it is downright evil. And not just the content, that’s not even getting into the data collection and the data uses.

So, the credibility that magazine brands have, the care that they put into the content that they produce, again, across formats, is a really important distinction. And I think both consumers and marketers are starting to figure that out because there’s a lot of stuff out there that is unhealthy for a brand, unhealthy for a person to read or consume; unhealthy for our society.

Samir Husni: Needless to say, the conference is the largest gathering of magazine and magazine media makers in the country. If you were to point to one session, would it be the C-suite insights, the sales and marketing leadership, the business transformation; I mean, do you think people should take the conference as a whole package or should they make sure they don’t miss one certain topic? In other words, you might miss this, but definitely don’t miss that.

Linda Thomas Brooks: Well, they absolutely must be at my remarks, of course. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Linda Thomas Brooks: No, seriously, I think it is the whole package because we’re addressing so many different issues across the day. Some of it talks about the print legacy, some of it talks about the way people are transforming across formats and using things like Instagram; some of them are business side people, some are editors. So, I think they’re all important, but if you look at them in isolation, you’re going to miss the bigger picture, which is how will those pieces come together.

Samir Husni: As I look back at some of the history of magazines, I’ve been researching magazines from 1919 and also looking at the charter of the MPA and the folks who founded it, there are more than 55 magazine titles, brands, that are still being published today and more than 100 advertising brands that are still in business today. Can you think of any other entity that has survived through thick and thin, good and bad, the way magazines have? And why don’t we celebrate magazines even more?

Linda Thomas Brooks: We’re going to. And it’s great that you’ve been helping us sort of figure out the trajectory and the path. A publisher asked me recently, they were doing an internal sales meeting and he was looking for some fun facts, and I gave him some of those to say that we really need to own this. It’s funny, I think the industry, and not just the magazine industry, but the broader media marketing industry sort of shied away from the word legacy like it was a bad thing. And I talk to people about that all of the time and ask them: isn’t a legacy what we all want? We want to leave professional legacies; we want to leave personal legacies for our children and our grandchildren, for the people who work for us.

So, I think the fact that these magazine brands have this unbelievable legacy, and by the way, many of them were the earliest adopters on new ways to bring their brands to life too. And I think that is something that we need to celebrate more than we do.

Samir Husni: I know that the AMMC is going to be the beginning of the celebration for the MPA’s centennial, but what other plans do you have this year to celebrate such a milestone?

Linda Thomas Brooks: I’m not sure about another special event, but hopefully we’ll be celebrating all year in the way that we talk about the business and the things that we highlight and through the facts and amazing background pieces that you’re uncovering. Part of what the MPA does is help our members come to grips with business issues and we spend all year working really, really hard internally with our members. And so I think looking for some additional opportunities to not only do the hard work, but even if it’s just a moment or two of celebration or the reflection of just looking back on what we’ve accomplished, I think that’s a really important thing.

And sometimes just like in your everyday life, you have work to do and errands to run and you forget to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. And so we’re going to try and incorporate those moments all year.

Samir Husni: Talking about celebration, you’re approaching your own third anniversary at the MPA. Tell me, do you feel this journey at the MPA has been a celebration for you, a walk in a rose garden, or maybe one of those marathons that Michael Clinton likes to run?

Linda Thomas Brooks: (Laughs) Every day is a walk in the park. It’s funny, Michael and I have gotten comments about it, and I haven’t done as many marathons as he has, but I’m a runner too and I’ve done a number of them. In a lot of ways, I do liken this job to a marathon, because you know, in every job you have good days and you have bad days, you have challenges that didn’t exist, you have things that crop up that you have to deal with, and we always try to remember and to take the long view.

And to say that there are hard things that we need to help remember, there are issues on which we need to advocate, but always remembering why we’re doing it, which is that these brands matter. They matter to marketers and to consumers and to the world at large. And we want to make sure that we help those brands perpetuate themselves. I don’t want to live in a world where all media is crowdsourced. I want our brands to be around to inform and engage people and to bring people together on the basis of facts and culture and inspiration, and enlighten people. Those are all really important societal elements, beyond just advertising and marketing.

Samir Husni: If you look back at your three years so far with the MPA, and someone cornered you and asked you to name one thing you are most proud of, what would it be?

Linda Thomas Brooks: (Laughs) Can I have two?

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) Okay, the art of the deal, go ahead.

Linda Thomas Brooks: Number one is really sort of focusing on new analytics that help explain the complexity of the magazine ecosystem, so Magazine Media 360, which actually preceded me, I can’t take credit for it, but I think we’ve enhanced and made that better, made it bigger and easier for people to use, and to really help explain how our magazine brands come to life across channels.

And then related to that, the social media engagement tool is just another example and we have more tools in the works to help quantitatively explain the benefits of magazine media content. So, I’m really proud of that because it changed from just sort of an esoteric conversation to something that we can really point to the data and say: look, you don’t have to believe me, here are the comparable data facts that really prove the value of magazine brands.

And then also I think related to that is the focus again on quality content and helping to explain to people what goes into a magazine. Why is that such a beautiful thing? What’s behind it? And I know you’ve seen it, we did the first one at your conference, the Bubble Charts, where we deconstructed edits to show people what goes into it. We’ve done a number of those and some other exhibits and conversations like that.

I think for a while, as an industry, we forgot to explain to people why what we do is different than somebody just sitting down and opening their laptop and sharing their perspective. And so focusing again on the content and the quality of the content, and the process; what is the editorial process and what goes into it? I think that’s a really important element and another thing that I’m really proud of.

Susan Russ: And I would add conversations. Linda has conversations literally all day, every day. And I think that has really moved the deal in many, many areas, whether it be among the board, among our members, the people who are out on the street every day, and the marketers and the advertisers. So, there is a lot of really good, healthy conversation.

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

Susan Russ: I’ll just say that we obviously want everyone to attend the conference, but the agenda is really packed with star-studded magazine media luminaries. We have editors in chief from all over the spectrum of types and size, new magazines and older magazines, and I can’t remember any conference that has had such representation from so many leaders that are doing this business every single day.

Linda Thomas Brooks: Obviously, we’re really excited about the people who are going to be on the stage and sharing their perspective, but the cool thing about this conference too is just the interaction between all of the attendees. So, you’ve been coming long enough and you probably remember that we did that strolling lunch last year, and the impetus for that was our attendees, our members love talking to one another. They don’t want to sit still in one spot, they want to keep the conversations going.

So, we’re doing a similar thing this year at lunchtime, so that people have real food and don’t starve, but also have the chance to talk with one another. It’s not that they don’t know each other, but it’s hard for people to work in time for that in their day jobs. So, having that time to share and celebrate, to give one another some ribbing, just whatever it is, is really cool.

Then the awards at the end, including the recognition that you help us with, but also the Kelly’s and the people that we’re honoring from the industry. Again, I think just taking a few minutes to celebrate what is good and the work that gets done in our business.

Samir Husni: Isn’t this the first time that the event actually takes place at a magazine publisher’s and not at a hotel or a conference venue?

Linda Thomas Brooks: As far as we know, yes. Susan has a few more years than me, but we’re both relatively new, but yes, as far as we know this is the first time. And we’re really lucky. Meredith’s facility is so fantastically beautiful and we know that they get a lot of calls for that space, from inside and outside the industry. It’s just an incredible space and we’re really lucky that they’re willing to allow the industry to use it and for people to gather there, because it’s going to be fantastic.

And also I think it’s a cultural shift. I think for many, for a lot of years in the business people were sort of very competitive; a publisher from one house didn’t necessarily want to be at the other guy’s house, and I think that’s all changed now. People are still competitive in the marketplace, of course, but their very collegial and I think that they understand that there are many aspects of the business in which it helps to collaborate.

Samir Husni: And that sends a great message as far as the MPA’s centennial, because when the association was formed, all of these competitors, all of these 19 competitors, came together to help the membership and to help promote the business, rather than to promote their individual titles. It was more of a collective force, all working together from all of the aspects of the industry. And 100 years later, almost the same thing is happening.

Linda Thomas Brooks: Yes, here we are again.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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One comment

  1. […] was also interviewed by Mr. Magazine recently. Click here to read the […]



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