h1

Road Grays Magazine: A New Print-Only Title About Baseball That Digs Deeper Into The Stories Of The Sport For The “Curious” Fan – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Aaron Stahl, Cofounder, Editor & Creative Director…

September 19, 2019

“A lot of it was wanting to provide something that allowed people to slow down a little bit, especially with sports media, there’s so much on the Internet that’s about “what happened in the game last night,” “what’s going to happen coming up this weekend.” It’s all about “right now.” And there’s a place for that and it’s really important if you’re following a team or you’re following a sport. But we wanted to do the opposite of that. We felt like there was a niche for the exact opposite, where you’re slowing down, you’re not worrying about what’s happening right now, you’re worrying about things that are a bit more timeless. And that’s something that print can do really well.” … Austin Stahl

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Available in print-only and dedicated to the “curious” baseball fan, Road Grays is a new magazine from Austin Stahl and his wife Megan Deyo Stahl that is beautifully done and tells original nonfiction stories from the world of baseball. Austin is an art director and designer by trade, working often for professional associations and educational institutions.

I spoke with Austin recently and we talked about this creative project that has become a twice-yearly published magazine that he is thrilled to say belongs entirely to his vision, from start to finish. Something he can’t say when he is designing work for others. And of course, Mr. Magazine™ is thrilled to see print the number one (and only) way to receive this great new title.

As with many others who have come to realize; in the world we live in today, slowing down and moving away from our screens on occasion is becoming a necessity for our psyches, and that’s one of the reasons Austin decided on a print-only format. The website will give you a preview of the magazine and give you a place to order it, but to enjoy it, you have to hold it in your hands, feel it, touch it, and experience it.

Austin adds that he and his wife’s goal is to tell great nonfiction stories, from all eras and levels of the game, that use baseball as a lens through which to see the world. And these stories are deeper and richer than most you find on the Internet or in other sports magazines on newsstands already. The storytelling doesn’t concentrate on the “right now” as the Internet does, but instead takes you down many times unknown paths and to baseball diamonds you may not have heard too much about until Road Grays.

So, I hope that you enjoy this delightful interview with a man who has been in love with the sport of baseball since he was a child and has found a way to express that love through the pages of a magazine, (if you print it, they will come), the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Austin Stahl, cofounder, editor & creative director, Road Grays magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he decided to publish a print magazine in this digital age and why one about baseball: I’ve been an art director and designer for quite a while and specifically in the publication world. And I really love print; I always have, but most of my work has been for clients, serving their visions and their missions. So, a couple of years ago I got the itch to create something that was entirely my own. We weren’t sure at first what we wanted it to be; my wife, Megan, is my partner in this project and we spent a lot of time talking about what the magazine could be if we did our own thing. Ultimately, we hit on this idea of a different kind of baseball magazine. It seemed like there weren’t really any other magazines quite like this idea already out there. There are some really interesting ones about other sports that do a similar thing to what we’re trying to do: digging a little bit deeper and going into stories that aren’t being told anywhere else.

On what makes Road Grays different from other sports magazines: The idea is that we’re using baseball as a lens to see the world. These are stories about real people, whether it’s people who play the game, watch the game, or the people who make it happen behind the scenes. We’re not really focusing on big stars or stats, or what’s happening on the field day-to-day. Really we’re focusing on the stories that maybe you haven’t heard before, about the real people who are involved.

On why the magazine is available in a print-only format: For us, I think a lot of it was wanting to provide something that allowed people to slow down a little bit, especially with sports media, there’s so much on the Internet that’s about “what happened in the game last night,” “what’s going to happen coming up this weekend.” It’s all about “right now.” And there’s a place for that and it’s really important if you’re following a team or you’re following a sport. But we wanted to do the opposite of that. We felt like there was a niche for the exact opposite, where you’re slowing down, you’re not worrying about what’s happening right now, you’re worrying about things that are a bit more timeless. And that’s something that print can do really well.

On any stumbling blocks he’s had to face since launching the first issue in February 2019: I think my main challenge has been getting enough people to know about it. I’ve always been on the making of the magazine side, not so much about selling or promoting it. So, that’s been a bit of a learning curve, determining how best to do that and how best to get the word out. And that’s something that we’re still figuring out. Through a lot of trial and error; what are the best strategies on social media, or what other ways can you get the word out about what you’re doing. So, I think our biggest struggle right now is just growing enough to make this sustainable.

On what he’s learned since the execution of the first issue that has helped him with the second issue: Different strategies on social media and advertising, it’s been a lot of trial and error. I think slowly, as we continue to do each issue, we learn which things get a little more traction and which things don’t, in terms of actually making the magazine itself. I learned a whole lot about being an editor (Laughs), which is a new thing for me. And I found that I actually really enjoy it more than I even thought that I might. Just little things about how far in advance you need to talk to people and how long certain parts of the process takes on the editorial side. In my career, I’ve been used to just getting the content when it’s done and taking it from there as a designer. So, learning how to do it all from step-one has involved a bit of just jumping in and doing it.

On what type of experience he envisions his audience having with Road Grays: As I said before, I think it’s a slower experience, certainly, than what you get as a sports fan on the Internet, where everything is pretty much about right now. We wanted to emphasize that in the way that the stories are laid out and the way that the entire package is put together. It’s something that you want to sit down and spend some time with and just slow yourself down a little bit as you read. So, we wanted to design it in that way.

On what he would like to tell someone he had accomplished one year from now with the magazine: Hopefully, to have grown enough or reached enough people to make it a more sustainable project. We’re not making any money yet (Laughs), so I would like to get to a point where it’s at least paying for itself well enough that we can imagine doing it for quite a while. And I think that’s just a matter of reaching a little bit more people every single time.

On how he felt when he received that first issue of the magazine from the printer: It was exciting. I remember opening the box up and seeing all of them stacked up. Our first issue’s cover is a larger-than-life baseball (Laughs), so it was kind of cool to just open the box for the first time and see that cover staring back at me. The smell of ink is always exciting to me. As I’m sure you know as a magazine maker, there’s always something nice about that sensory thing that happens when you smell the ink for the first time. So, I remember that well. It’s always exciting when you get something back from the printer and it’s real, something that you’ve only seen on the screen until that moment, suddenly you can hold it in your hand. It was even more exciting because this time it was entirely mine, from start to finish.

On where he came up with the name Road Grays: I think it was one of those things where it just popped into my head and felt right, but the idea behind it is, traditionally in baseball the home team wears white and the visiting team wears gray. So, I kind of liked the implication that we were going out on a road trip, visiting all of these different people and stories kind of metaphorically. And bringing what we found back to you, the reader. Maybe there’s a little bit of a subliminal message in there about that idea of going out into the world and seeing what’s out there.

On why it’s available in print only: The print-only aspect is really about time; we’re doing this in our spare time, we have day jobs. So, it felt like a little bit too much to bite off if we were also running a website, a website that was more than just a place to purchase the magazine, but was an entity in and of itself. So, part of it was that and part of it was I just liked the idea of something more permanent, something that people might want to keep on their shelves, and maybe even refer back to it years later. I wanted to be sure that it felt quality enough that people wanted to keep it.

On the fact there is no advertising in the magazine and if that was a conscious decision based on the business model: We do have what we call sponsorships. Brands can sponsor us and we’ll thank them on a page in the magazine, but not having any display advertising was definitely a conscious decision, because I didn’t want it to take away from what we were doing, content-wise and design-wise. I guess I kind of wanted a little bit more control of everything that was on the pages.

On the magazine’s tagline: The Magazine For Curious Baseball Fans, and how he would define “curious” baseball fans: I think it’s people who want to dig a little bit deeper into some of the stories, instead of just the day-to-day of a long season or what’s happening on the field. People who are more curious about what goes on behind the scenes or who are interested in some of the stories beyond what you see at game time.

On anything he’d like to add: Just that my wife’s role is business and marketing advisor and she has been invaluable in helping with the business side of the magazine.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Honestly, probably working on Road Grays. (Laughs) As I said, it’s more of an evenings and weekends thing for us, because we have day jobs. I would probably be getting something done on the magazine, or, I’m also a musician, so maybe playing some music or just hanging out with our dogs.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: One thing that I’ve had a few people who have gotten in touch with us suggest is, it seems like they think that we’re a much larger organization than we really are. I think people don’t realize that it’s just a couple of people in a spare bedroom making this magazine. (Laughs) And they kind of assume that we’re some big publishing company, which I guess is rather flattering. (Laughs again) Maybe it means that we’re doing something right.

On what keeps him up at night: I spend a lot of time worrying about the state of our country right now, the state of the world. Sometimes it kind of feels frivolous to be spending a lot of time thinking about a game, given what’s going on in the world right now, but maybe putting a little bit more empathy into the world by telling people stories is something positive, so that’s something I hold onto.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Austin Stahl, cofounder, editor & creative director.

Samir Husni: You launched your new print magazine, Road Grays, earlier this year and it’s about baseball and the human stories behind the game. Why did you decide in this day and age to publish a print magazine and why one about baseball?

Austin Stahl: I’ve been an art director and designer for quite a while and specifically in the publication world. And I really love print; I always have, but most of my work has been for clients, serving their visions and their missions. So, a couple of years ago I got the itch to create something that was entirely my own. We weren’t sure at first what we wanted it to be; my wife, Megan, is my partner in this project and we spent a lot of time talking about what the magazine could be if we did our own thing.

Ultimately, we hit on this idea of a different kind of baseball magazine. It seemed like there weren’t really any other magazines quite like this idea already out there. There are some really interesting ones about other sports that do a similar thing to what we’re trying to do: digging a little bit deeper and going into stories that aren’t being told anywhere else. There are a lot of great ones about soccer, and of course, Racquet, which is about tennis, and a number of others, but there wasn’t anything about baseball. Once we hit on that idea, we started to get pretty excited about it and it came together pretty quickly after that.

Samir Husni: What makes Road Grays different? Give me your elevator pitch for the magazine if someone asks you to define the concept.

Austin Stahl: The idea is that we’re using baseball as a lens to see the world. These are stories about real people, whether it’s people who play the game, watch the game, or the people who make it happen behind the scenes. We’re not really focusing on big stars or stats, or what’s happening on the field day-to-day. Really we’re focusing on the stories that maybe you haven’t heard before, about the real people who are involved.

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print plays today in magazine publishing and how do you think it plays into Road Grays specifically, because even on your website you explain that it’s a “print-only” magazine. You can see a preview to order the magazine, but you can only receive it in print.

Austin Stahl: For us, I think a lot of it was wanting to provide something that allowed people to slow down a little bit, especially with sports media, there’s so much on the Internet that’s about “what happened in the game last night,” “what’s going to happen coming up this weekend.” It’s all about “right now.” And there’s a place for that and it’s really important if you’re following a team or you’re following a sport.

But we wanted to do the opposite of that. We felt like there was a niche for the exact opposite, where you’re slowing down, you’re not worrying about what’s happening right now, you’re worrying about things that are a bit more timeless. And that’s something that print can do really well. Hopefully, if you make it well, if you make an object that people like and want to keep around for a little while, they can come back to it a year from now if it’s still on their shelf and the stories are still just as relevant as they were then. That was our thinking on that. The Internet has its place, but print also has its place. They each do their own thing well.

Samir Husni: Since the first issue came out in February 2019, has this journey been a walk in a rose garden for you? Or have you had some stumbling blocks along the way?

Austin Stahl: I think my main challenge has been getting enough people to know about it. I’ve always been on the making of the magazine side, not so much about selling or promoting it. So, that’s been a bit of a learning curve, determining how best to do that and how best to get the word out. And that’s something that we’re still figuring out. Through a lot of trial and error; what are the best strategies on social media, or what other ways can you get the word out about what you’re doing. So, I think our biggest struggle right now is just growing enough to make this sustainable.

Samir Husni: What have you learned since the execution of the first issue that has helped you to enhance or change or do with the second issue?

Austin Stahl: Different strategies on social media and advertising, it’s been a lot of trial and error. I think slowly, as we continue to do each issue, we learn which things get a little more traction and which things don’t, in terms of actually making the magazine itself. I learned a whole lot about being an editor (Laughs), which is a new thing for me. And I found that I actually really enjoy it more than I even thought that I might. Just little things about how far in advance you need to talk to people and how long certain parts of the process takes on the editorial side. In my career, I’ve been used to just getting the content when it’s done and taking it from there as a designer. So, learning how to do it all from step-one has involved a bit of just jumping in and doing it.

 

Samir Husni: One thing I tell my students and my clients is that in this day and age you have to be more than just content providers, you have to be an experience maker. What type of experience do you envision your audience having with Road Grays?

Austin Stahl: As I said before, I think it’s a slower experience, certainly, than what you get as a sports fan on the Internet, where everything is pretty much about right now. We wanted to emphasize that in the way that the stories are laid out and the way that the entire package is put together. It’s something that you want to sit down and spend some time with and just slow yourself down a little bit as you read. So, we wanted to design it in that way.

We also wanted to make sure that there was enough fun involved too. The way that I have approached the art direction is making sure there’s enough color and plenty of smart editorial illustrations. We wanted the readers to feel like they’re being taken care of.

Samir Husni: Now that you have issue two under your belt, if you and I are talking again one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with the magazine?

Austin Stahl: Hopefully, to have grown enough or reached enough people to make it a more sustainable project. We’re not making any money yet (Laughs), so I would like to get to a point where it’s at least paying for itself well enough that we can imagine doing it for quite a while. And I think that’s just a matter of reaching a little bit more people every single time.

Samir Husni: If we could go back in time just a bit; can you describe the emotions it stirred within you when you received that first issue from the printer?

Austin Stahl: It was exciting. I remember opening the box up and seeing all of them stacked up. Our first issue’s cover is a larger-than-life baseball (Laughs), so it was kind of cool to just open the box for the first time and see that cover staring back at me. The smell of ink is always exciting to me. As I’m sure you know as a magazine maker, there’s always something nice about that sensory thing that happens when you smell the ink for the first time. So, I remember that well. It’s always exciting when you get something back from the printer and it’s real, something that you’ve only seen on the screen until that moment, suddenly you can hold it in your hand. It was even more exciting because this time it was entirely mine, from start to finish.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name? From all of the names you could have called a baseball magazine, why did you choose Road Grays?

Austin Stahl: I think it was one of those things where it just popped into my head and felt right, but the idea behind it is, traditionally in baseball the home team wears white and the visiting team wears gray. So, I kind of liked the implication that we were going out on a road trip, visiting all of these different people and stories kind of metaphorically. And bringing what we found back to you, the reader. Maybe there’s a little bit of a subliminal message in there about that idea of going out into the world and seeing what’s out there.

Samir Husni: Was it a conscious business model decision that you’re ad free, with a $12 cover price, on premium paper and only available in print?

Austin Stahl: The print-only aspect is really about time; we’re doing this in our spare time, we have day jobs. So, it felt like a little bit too much to bite off if we were also running a website, a website that was more than just a place to purchase the magazine, but was an entity in and of itself. So, part of it was that and part of it was I just liked the idea of something more permanent, something that people might want to keep on their shelves, and maybe even refer back to it years later. I wanted to be sure that it felt quality enough that people wanted to keep it.

Samir Husni: And the decision not to have any advertising?

Austin Stahl: We do have what we call sponsorships. Brands can sponsor us and we’ll thank them on a page in the magazine, but not having any display advertising was definitely a conscious decision, because I didn’t want it to take away from what we were doing, content-wise and design-wise. I guess I kind of wanted a little bit more control of everything that was on the pages.

Samir Husni: Define your audience for me. Your tagline is: The Magazine For Curious Baseball Fans, define the “curious” baseball fans.

Austin Stahl: I think it’s people who want to dig a little bit deeper into some of the stories, instead of just the day-to-day of a long season or what’s happening on the field. People who are more curious about what goes on behind the scenes or who are interested in some of the stories beyond what you see at game time.

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

Austin Stahl: Just that my wife’s role is business and marketing advisor and she has been invaluable in helping with the business side of the magazine.

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; gardening; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Austin Stahl: Honestly, probably working on Road Grays. (Laughs) As I said, it’s more of an evenings and weekends thing for us, because we have day jobs. I would probably be getting something done on the magazine, or, I’m also a musician, so maybe playing some music or just hanging out with our dogs.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Austin Stahl: One thing that I’ve had a few people who have gotten in touch with us suggest is, it seems like they think that we’re a much larger organization than we really are. I think people don’t realize that it’s just a couple of people in a spare bedroom making this magazine. (Laughs) And they kind of assume that we’re some big publishing company, which I guess is rather flattering. (Laughs again) Maybe it means that we’re doing something right.

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

Austin Stahl: I spend a lot of time worrying about the state of our country right now, the state of the world. Sometimes it kind of feels frivolous to be spending a lot of time thinking about a game, given what’s going on in the world right now, but maybe putting a little bit more empathy into the world by telling people stories is something positive, so that’s something I hold onto.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Advertisements

One comment

  1. […] “For us, I think a lot of it was wanting to provide something that allowed people to slow down a little bit, especially with sports media, there’s so much on the Internet that’s about ‘what happened in the game last night,’ ‘what’s going to happen coming up this weekend,’” said Stahl in an interview with Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni. […]



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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: