Archive for April, 2020

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Liz Vaccariello, Editor In Chief, REAL SIMPLE Magazine, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “When You Make A Magazine, It’s Important To Look Around And Realize How Much Of What We Do Is Relevant In The Best Of Times, And Also During The Worst Of Times.” The Mr. Magazine Interview…

April 30, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (26)

“No matter if it’s 9/11 or if it’s a global pandemic, people care about their happiness and their families. They want to find ways to be healthier; they want to find ways to simplify their lives; they want to see the world, whether they’re able to travel at that moment or if they want to travel vicariously through others, and so the nature of magazines is to transport our readers. To make our readers’ lives a little better warms my heart. We’re not curing brain cancer, but we do improve people’s lives. It shows by how excited they are when the magazine arrives in their mailboxes.” …Liz Vaccariello

“When you look at the brands in the magazine industry, they all have that serendipitous connection right now with their readers. This is exactly what readers need at this moment. And that’s why I love this brand.” … Liz Vaccariello

Nothing has been “Real Simple” of late. Not the news; not the world we live in; not the way of life we all knew and quite possibly took for granted. Nothing. Nothing that is, except that loyal and trusted friend we all call REAL SIMPLE magazine. Even during a pandemic, REAL SIMPLE has stayed true to form by giving us useful and helpful tips that are “simply” what we need at this uncertain time we’re living in. The May issue offers “Life Made Easier” by showing us how to Get It Done while we have quite a bit of time on our hands. It’s, as Editor in Chief, Liz Vaccariello calls it, “a serendipitous connection.”

I spoke with Liz recently and we talked about this bit of serendipity that REAL SIMPLE has with its readers. While the world may seem like its spinning out of control, REAL SIMPLE, the brand, keeps us focused and alert to what is really important: our friends and family and keeping them safe and as happy as possible.

And now the 26th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief, REAL SIMPLE.

But first the sound-bites:

On if it has been “Real Simple” or tough operating REAL SIMPLE during the pandemic: It’s been both. It’s been “REAL SIMPLE” because at the end of the day, life is about our families, our homes, the spaces around us, feeling at peace and finding a way to discover happiness. It’s about making a good dinner for the family; it’s about loving my dog more than I ever have before. Those are “REAL SIMPLE” things. At the same time, this is a very complicated time because uncertainty is complicated.

On how easy, hard, or disruptive was the move to working from home: One of the many surprises about working from home has been how much more connected I feel with my team. We are having Webex staff meetings at the beginning of every day instead of once a week.

On whether she thinks once the pandemic is behind us the way things are done might change or be influenced by the pandemic: So much has changed, but so much is the same. When I’m working on a print product, I’m working with paper, so I often want to see a layout on paper. Right now, we don’t have that luxury.

On whether she thinks readers will be ready to get back to a “normal” mode of operation: I always post the cover of my editor’s letter on my Instagram and social media feeds, and I often hear from readers that way and I watch our REAL SIMPLE feeds. Readers are also excited to get the issue in the mail. It’s this treat that arrives. Bless the U.S. Postal Service. (Laughs)

On whether she ever imagined she’d be working during a pandemic: No, not at all. I’ve read stories about epidemiologists and global health experts warning about a global pandemic and I watched SARS carefully years ago. There’s a certain element of humanity that believes it’s not going to happen to us, or it’s not going to happen in the United States, or the people in charge are on top of it and they would never let it get out of hand.

On any additional words of wisdom: It’s been heartwarming for me to look around at the publishing industry, not just REAL SIMPLE and not just Meredith, but all of our colleagues. When you make a magazine, it’s important to look around and realize how much of what we do is relevant in the best of times, and also during the worst of times. No matter if it’s 9/11 or if it’s a global pandemic, people care about their happiness and their families.

On what keeps her up at night: People who interpret dreams and who charge for it could probably make a killing these days. (Laughs) I will just say that the metaphors of my dreams are quite something. It’s about stress; it’s about, yes, we’re going to come back, the economy is going to come back someday, but we might be in this for a long slog.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief, REAL SIMPLE magazine.

Samir Husni: Has it been “REAL SIMPLE” or tough operating during this pandemic?

Liz Vaccariello: It’s been both. It’s been “REAL SIMPLE” because at the end of the day, life is about our families, our homes, the spaces around us, feeling at peace and finding a way to discover happiness. It’s about making a good dinner for the family; it’s about loving my dog more than I ever have before. Those are “REAL SIMPLE” things. At the same time, this is a very complicated time because uncertainty is complicated.

We’re all working remotely. We sorted all of those things out very quickly and we’ve all had to adjust. Change is often complicated.

Samir Husni: How easy, hard, or disruptive was the move to working from home?

Liz Vaccariello: One of the many surprises about working from home has been how much more connected I feel with my team. We are having Webex staff meetings at the beginning of every day instead of once a week.

I speak with every member of the REAL SIMPLE team by phone one-on-one much more regularly. Whereas before in the office this one-on-one communication was less, I’m getting to know people even more. I’m calling them up and asking them how they’re doing; how their family is doing. There has been a higher level of connection in some ways.

Samir Husni: Do you think in the six or so weeks we’ve been dealing with the pandemic, it’s going to force you to change the way you do things once it’s behind us?

Liz Vaccariello: So much has changed, but so much is the same. When I’m working on a print product, I’m working with paper, so I often want to see a layout on paper. Right now, we don’t have that luxury. Everything has gone electronic, which I think is a good thing in terms of ecology and the environment. If we print less paper in our daily work lives, that’s better.

When I’m shipping the magazine, there is this need and desire as an editor in chief to see that one page, that one layout, on real paper. Even though you’ve seen it on your screen a hundred times, the experience of the product is paper. It’s holding it in your hands. I look forward to getting my final proof on paper and bringing out my red pen again.

Samir Husni: Do you think readers will feel the same? Yes, they will see REAL SIMPLE online and they will see a PDF edition, but it’s not the same as when they get their copy in the mail and actually hold their ink on paper magazine?

Liz Vaccariello: That’s been one of the delights of this entire experience and I can talk about it in terms of advertisers, readers and staff. First of all, in terms of the staff, when the May “Get It Done”-themed issue came out, it was about the little projects on your to-do lists that you’ve been meaning to get done for the last year and that you seem to never get around to. This came out and I called the Production team and asked them to send me two big boxes of the issue. Then I went to Staples with my mask on, I bought envelopes, my own set of office supplies, and then I mailed a copy of the issue to everyone on my staff. I sent a quick note that read, “Liked your story on dusting,” or “Glad we ran this photo,” or something personal about something they had done with that issue.

I was surprised at how touched they were. I wanted them to see the issue. I almost teared up. We’ve been apart and we’re making this magazine that lives and breathes and exists in people’s hands. To see it and hold it was a point of pride.

We also did a mailing to some of our advertisers in which we provided a digital edition of the issue to people so they could see it. We also continue to mail boxes of magazines that Meredith publishes to our biggest clients and they receive these issues with a note that reads: Happy Reading. And our partners are thrilled because there is something very special and magical about the print edition.

I always post the cover of my editor’s letter on my Instagram and social media feeds, and I often hear from readers that way and I watch our REAL SIMPLE feeds. Readers are also excited to get the issue in the mail. It’s this treat that arrives. Bless the U.S. Postal Service. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You’ve been editor of Prevention magazine, Reader’s Digest; you’ve seen it all in terms of categories, from health to making life easier. Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic?

Liz Vaccariello: No, not at all. I’ve read stories about epidemiologists and global health experts warning about a global pandemic and I watched SARS carefully years ago. There’s a certain element of humanity that believes it’s not going to happen to us, or it’s not going to happen in the United States, or the people in charge are on top of it and they would never let it get out of hand.

To your point, I was at Fitness magazine during 9/11. The world can change in a day and that’s what happened here. It’s nice to be able to tell my daughters, who are 15, that this feels like we’re in this pit of something truly awful, and yes, the world has changed, and life will change, but there is hope. Life will go back to normal — a new normal. We will get through this. So yes, there is something to be said for being an old lady like me who has seen it all.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Liz Vaccariello: It’s been heartwarming for me to look around at the publishing industry, not just REAL SIMPLE and not just Meredith, but all of our colleagues. When you make a magazine, it’s important to look around and realize how much of what we do is relevant in the best of times, and also during the worst of times. No matter if it’s 9/11 or if it’s a global pandemic, people care about their happiness and their families. They want to find ways to be healthier; they want to find ways to simplify their lives; they want to see the world, whether they’re able to travel at that moment or if they want to travel vicariously through others, and so the nature of magazines is to transport our readers. To make our readers’ lives a little better warms my heart. We’re not curing brain cancer, but we do improve people’s lives. It shows by how excited they are when the magazine arrives in their mailboxes.

Our April issue of REAL SIMPLE was the “spring-cleaning issue, spring clean your life.” It hit newsstands on March 20 and people have asked if we knew something, and of course, we didn’t. However, what we do organically is perfect for the times.

When you look at the brands in the magazine industry, they all have that serendipitous connection right now with their readers. This is exactly what readers need at this moment. And that’s why I love this brand.

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

Liz Vaccariello: People who interpret dreams and who charge for it could probably make a killing these days. (Laughs) I will just say that the metaphors of my dreams are quite something. It’s about stress; it’s about, yes, we’re going to come back, the economy is going to come back someday, but we might be in this for a long slog.

So, keeping me up at night is how long the pain is going to be for Americans, for my family, and for my readers. For people who are buying food and trying to put dinner on the table, and who want to maybe make their homes look a little better, or they want to take a trip. I want those people to have that ability sooner rather than later. I’m hopeful, though there is uncertainty.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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On Isolated Connectivity And Social Distancing… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

April 30, 2020

Social Distancing or Isolated Connectivity, two names for the same situation.

There are three ships that cruise all the channels of our physical nature… read on:

A few years back I coined the phrase “Isolated Connectivity” after a friend of mine told me the following story:

“One day I came home from work to find my son watching something on his laptop and texting at the same time. I asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ My son answered, ‘Duh, can’t you see, I am watching a movie.’

I responded, ‘But you are also texting.’ His response: ‘Duh, I am texting with my girlfriend who is watching the same movie at home.’

That made me think, so I asked, ‘Why don’t you just take your girlfriend to the movies and watch together, like the good old days?’

My son replied, ‘Duh again, Dad, we can’t discuss the movie at the theater.’”

“Isolated Connectivity” was the first thing that came to mind when I heard that story. Folks today feel we are so connected, yet we are more isolated than ever before.

That took place years before the COVID-19 has almost forced the entire world to go into “Isolated Connectivity” under the new phrase “Social Distancing.” The major difference of course is “Isolated Connectivity” was a choice adopted by millions who enjoyed what they felt to be the privacy of their home and the virtual connectivity that kept folks screens apart. Today “Social Distancing” is not a choice. It is a must and a force to reckon with.

Going Against Human Nature

Whether you want to call it “Isolated Connectivity” or “Social Distancing,” I believe this seclusion goes against our nature as human beings. We are physical creatures, and we thrive on three “ships” that cruise all the channels of our physical nature. I have written and preached in my seminars about those three “ships” time and time again.

The first “ship” is ownership. This is the ship we are born with. The sense and necessity to own things. My late grandfather used to tell me, “From the moment of birth, people want to own and have things. Watch the babies coming out of the womb with their fists tight. They want to grab everything they can grab.”

That sense – or as I said earlier, necessity – grows in urgency as we grow up; the older we get, the more stuff we own. Just check your surroundings and see how much “stuff” you own and how much of that “stuff” you really don’t need. Yet, that physical “stuff” has become a part of our “necessities” simply for our sense of comfort. Virtual ownership, if there is such a thing, sounds like an oxymoron. You can’t actually own virtual stuff; you can’t touch those things, feel them, or even say they are yours, truly yours.

The second “ship” is membership. This is the ship that we grew into. A sense of belonging that starts with our parents, siblings, family, friends, colleagues, etc. The old saying, “No man is an island” rings true today as we all struggle to “isolate” ourselves or “social distance” physically from each other. It runs counter to human nature and the sense of belonging and engaging in a group, a physical group that you interact with and use all your five senses as a human being with during those interactions. You want to feel a member of a family, a group, a class, you name it, and as in virtual ownership, virtual membership is not the same. It is another oxymoron.

The third “ship” is showmanship. This is the ship that we adjust to. A sense that we develop where we need to “show off” to gain acceptance or approval from those whom we consider part of our membership groups. By showing off, whether the type of books you read or the clothes you wear, you’re always looking for a nod or a response from the folks around you. If no one comments on your appearance, actions, or stuff that you own, you will never get the satisfaction that you look good, did something good, or that what you are reading is a great book or magazine. When practicing “Isolated Connectivity,” the same is true if no one adds a comment or “like” to the pictures or quotes you post on social media. “Showmanship” is yet another oxymoron if you are only looking at a mirror.

What Does This Mean for Magazines?

So, you might ask how is Mr. Magazine™ taking his aforementioned philosophical analysis to the only world he knows, the one he lives and breathes, magazines? Well, magazines (and keep in mind my definition of a magazine, “If it is not ink on paper it is not a magazine”) are like human beings. They are physical entities that share the same “ships” as those who cruise through human lives.

I always challenge my students and my clients and anyone else who is willing to listen, “If you had the power to transfer your ink-on-paper magazine to a human being who would it be?” Unless we are able to humanize our magazines and offer them the advantages of ownership, membership, and showmanship they are not going to survive.

That is why it is important to view your magazine as a human being, reaching another human being, and to focus on establishing a sense of ownership, membership, and showmanship. A sense of physical engagement with the other – something, yet again, virtual can’t do. That is why I am a firm believer in the future of print and the printed word. Magazines will continue to survive after human nature recovers from “Isolated Connectivity” and “Social Distancing” and goes back to the physical contact and that sense of touch that will never be satisfied with the virtual world.

Here’s the sum of what I am trying to say: As long as we have human beings we are going to have physical things, and as long as we have physical things, we are going to have magazines. Magazines, unlike their business model, are not going to go by the wayside of life; it is how we manufacture and sell them to the public that is going to change. To quote a magazine executive I recently interviewed, “Customers will continue to vote with their pockets.”

And the people said, AMEN.

This blog appeared first on Publishing Executive website.

 

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Bill Falk, Editor In Chief, The Week Magazine, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Feel An Even Greater Responsibility To Our Readers To Be Able To Sift Through This Information And Try To Detect A Signal In The Noise…” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 29, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (25)

“I actually think that it has made us more relevant than ever, because the amount of information coming at people now is exponentially greater than when we launched almost 20 years ago. There’s just a constant firehose coming at people on social media and various online sources. Our mission and our value proposition to the reader is the same, except that it may be even more needed now, which is: Let us read most of it for you and curate it, make sense of it, group it into categories, subjects and topics that cohere in a sensible way. And then give you a variety of opinions about a topic from a lot of different sources so you can get some perspective on the story and connect the dots, that’s what we’ve always tried to do, connect the dots.” … Bill Falk

“We’re rallying to meet this challenge and my message to staff has been that we have a real duty here to carry on in this crisis. In a sense, I think people in the information, journalism business are in the class of First Responders. People need information; they’re scared and worried and we have to convey information to them from experts and political leaders and various other sources. That’s been my message to staff. We do things to cheer ourselves up through meetings and Slack channels where we post photos of ourselves at home and our pets and families and things.” … Bill Falk

The Week magazine will soon celebrate its 20th anniversary, and its one and only editor in chief, Bill Falk, says never has the magazine been more needed than during this pandemic. As the curation is tight, and during these ambiguous times, extremely concise and as accurate as possible, each issue will alert you to all the important updates and COVID-19 information as possible, and quite often to a few sources to follow up on.

I spoke with Bill recently and we talked about all of the particulars of working from home, publishing a magazine with your staff via remote communications, and about how journalists and information providers rank right up there with First Responders to him when it comes to helping people get the content they need to stay safe and well.

And now the 25th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Bill Falk, editor in chief, The Week.

But first the sound-bites:

On how a weekly publication such as The Week is operating during the pandemic: We’re actually doing pretty well. Again, I think we are fortunate in that our business model has always been to get the majority of revenue directly from subscribers, rather than to rely on advertising. And that has held us in good stead through various recessions and other problems, obviously through the whole digital disruption of the magazine industry.

On how easy, hard or disruptive the move to working from home was: It certainly makes it more difficult. It’s a degree of difficulty of about a seven or eight to a nine or ten. I miss the ability to communicate with staff instantly, face-to-face; to huddle; to discuss things. And not being able to do that easily and having to rely on electronic communications definitely adds a layer of friction to the process.

On how relevant he thinks The Week is today in the midst of the pandemic, and in the midst of everything that has taken place over the years with the industry: I actually think that it has made us more relevant than ever, because the amount of information coming at people now is exponentially greater than when we launched almost 20 years ago. There’s just a constant firehose coming at people on social media and various online sources. Our mission and our value proposition to the reader is the same, except that it may be even more needed now, which is: Let us read most of it for you and curate it, make sense of it, group it into categories, subjects and topics that cohere in a sensible way.

On whether he had ever thought of working during something like a pandemic and if he thinks someone could prepare for something like it: It’s impossible to be fully prepared for something like this. I think like a lot of other media, we have run stories in the past from experts predicting that this day would come.

On what message he is communicating with his staff during these uncertain times: To the staff, I try to convey the message that we have a really important responsibility here and this is the biggest story of our lifetimes. I guess we thought 9/11 and the aftermath would be the biggest story and this supersedes that. We have a great opportunity to use the skills we’ve honed to help readers understand this, make sense of it, to give them tips.

On any additional words of wisdom: I recently read an editor’s letter about this, that there is a reminder here that nothing in life is sure or guaranteed. We should appreciate every day. I find myself being very grateful for a lot of things , including the fact that I can continue to work under these circumstances. I know many people cannot and are in dire economic straits as a result.

On what keeps him up at night: In terms of the magazine, my big fear would be that members of my staff would become ill and this could interfere with our ability to work, so I have some contingency plans on that, but so far, we’ve all been healthy, thank God, but that is something to worry about. We are a small staff, we need all hands on deck, so that is a danger.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Bill Falk, editor in chief, The Week.

Samir Husni: You’re publishing a weekly magazine, so how is The Week operating during this pandemic?

Bill Falk: We’re actually doing pretty well. Again, I think we are fortunate in that our business model has always been to get the majority of revenue directly from subscribers, rather than to rely on advertising. And that has held us in good stead through various recessions and other problems, obviously through the whole digital disruption of the magazine industry.

So, where our advertising has been hurt, just like everyone else’s, we can’t escape that, but subscriptions are going strong and we actually raised our prices before the pandemic hit. We’re actually anticipating an increase in revenue from subscriptions this year. We should be pretty solid through this pandemic.

Samir Husni: How easy, hard, or disruptive was the move to working from home?

Bill Falk: It certainly makes it more difficult. It’s a degree of difficulty of about a seven or eight to a nine or ten. I miss the ability to communicate with staff instantly, face-to-face; to huddle; to discuss things. And not being able to do that easily and having to rely on electronic communications definitely adds a layer of friction to the process.

But we’ve been increasingly moving to doing our surveying of what’s in the media to online sources, just because it’s so convenient now. Most of our major source newspapers and magazines we can access digitally. In a lot of ways, that hasn’t changed dramatically. We’re able to still look at all the original source material with relative ease.

It’s the actual making of the physical product that is more complicated. We have Slack communications among the staff. We also use email for certain things. And on deadline days, which for us are Monday and especially Tuesday and Wednesday, the messages are flying fast and furious. If multitasking makes you stupid, as they say, then we’re very dumb indeed. (Laughs) We’re multitasking like crazy, sometimes editing, fielding an email, looking at photos, answering copy editors’ questions, all at the same time.

It gets really stressful. I think that the degree of stress that we experience on deadline is greater. It’s more multitasking and more things to pay attention to. You miss something without the direct face-to-face communication. Sometimes in the office I could just pick my head up and say to the art director who was five feet away, “Did you get that photo from Mark yet?” (Laughs)

Whereas at home I’ve got to Slack him and maybe he’s doing something else and I have to wait and then I get interrupted by a different message and a different problem to deal with. It reminds me of that old Ed Sullivan Show skit where the guy would come out with 10 sticks and 10 plates and try and spin all the plates while the Flight of the Bumblebee played without dropping any. (Laughs again)

But it is doable. We’re fortunate that within the last year we moved our office and in so doing we upgraded our technology. We’re all equipped with laptops that can very easily access the server. It was more complicated before with the dial-in and all sorts of things. And now we can all be on the server and work pretty seamlessly remotely in that way.

Samir Husni: The Week launched almost 20 years ago, so how relevant is The Week today in the midst of the pandemic, and in the midst of everything that has taken place over the years with the industry?

Bill Falk: I actually think that it has made us more relevant than ever, because the amount of information coming at people now is exponentially greater than when we launched almost 20 years ago. There’s just a constant firehose coming at people on social media and various online sources. Our mission and our value proposition to the reader is the same, except that it may be even more needed now, which is: Let us read most of it for you and curate it, make sense of it, group it into categories, subjects and topics that cohere in a sensible way. And then give you a variety of opinions about a topic from a lot of different sources so you can get some perspective on the story and connect the dots, that’s what we’ve always tried to do, connect the dots.

And there are a lot more dots now, so it’s harder. What we’re doing is still very much needed and I think now in the midst of a time where we’re all frightened, worried, scared and overwhelmed, I feel an even greater responsibility to our readers to be able to sift through this information and try to detect a signal in the noise and give people an idea of what we know about COVID-19; what we know about the policy disagreements; what we know about the science and treatments; and where this may go. What’s happening in the rest of the world.

We had a briefing on a longer story recently about the South Korea experience with COVID-19 and how they were so successful in minimizing the number of cases and deaths without destroying their economy. And we explained that to readers.

There are many different ways we can cast light on this, and honestly, I’m pretty obsessed with the subject. I find myself going from reading three or four hours a day in preparation for work to maybe six hours a day reading constantly. I have CNN on and various other networks, switching around, trying to educate myself every day as to what the latest developments are and what the smart people are saying about this.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic and do you think anyone could ever prepare for something like this?

Bill Falk: It’s impossible to be fully prepared for something like this. I think like a lot of other media, we have run stories in the past from experts predicting that this day would come. There have been many people in infectious diseases, after SARS, MERS, Ebola and HIV, who said there would be more new pathogens emerging, probably across the species barrier from animals and at one point we’re going to be very unlucky and one of these pathogens is going to be very infectious and spread easily.

So we have runs stories about that in the past, but it’s like running a story about an asteroid strike on the earth, we all know it’s possible, but you don’t really believe it until something like that happens. On one hand it’s not surprising, but on the other hand it’s shocking.

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your staff, advertisers, and readers during these uncertain times?

Bill Falk: To the staff, I try to convey the message that we have a really important responsibility here and this is the biggest story of our lifetimes. I guess we thought 9/11 and the aftermath would be the biggest story and this supersedes that. We have a great opportunity to use the skills we’ve honed to help readers understand this, make sense of it, to give them tips.

We actually created two new pages, we changed our format which we rarely do, but we got rid of the travel page, which is obviously irrelevant at this point, and we turned it into a page called “Life At Home” that’s full of stories about how to make-do in quarantine, and dealing with your kids and how to make a mask. We’ve devoted our art section to various streaming movies and series that people can watch. We’re heavily covering any kind of entertainment that you can still access online.

So, we’re rallying to meet this challenge and my message to staff has been that we have a real duty here to carry on in this crisis. In a sense, I think people in the information, journalism business are in the class of First Responders. People need information; they’re scared and worried and we have to convey information to them from experts and political leaders and various other sources. That’s been my message to staff. We do things to cheer ourselves up through meetings and Slack channels where we post photos of ourselves at home and our pets and families and things.

To the readers, we’ve actually put a few letters on the cover of the magazine addressed to our readers telling them not to worry, we will continue publishing and that we’re all working remotely and safe. So they don’t have to worry about us. And that should there be any disruption in the ability to print or distribute the magazine, we’ve asked people to give us their email and we can give them information. We will then make it available to all the print subscribers online, get them behind the paywall, or look at our APP version of the magazine. So, that’s been our message to readers, that we will continue to publish and we will be here for them.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Bill Falk:  I recently read an editor’s letter about this, that there is a reminder here that nothing in life is sure or guaranteed. We should appreciate every day. I find myself being very grateful for a lot of things , including the fact that I can continue to work under these circumstances. I know many people cannot and are in dire economic straits as a result. It’s just particularly gratifying to be able to be immersed in this and to meet the challenge of trying to make sense of what is going on. And I’m grateful to be in journalism.

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

Bill Falk: In terms of the magazine, my big fear would be that members of my staff would become ill and this could interfere with our ability to work, so I have some contingency plans on that, but so far, we’ve all been healthy, thank God, but that is something to worry about. We are a small staff, we need all hands on deck, so that is a danger.

I worry about disruptions in delivery, but the postal service seems to be carrying on. And I obviously worry about the pandemic’s effect on our country and the economy, the political divisions. Some of what’s going on is very disturbing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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“You’ll be glad tomorrow…you smoked Philip Morris today!” The Cigarettes of 2020…

April 28, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

Marc Benioff co-CEO of Salesforce and co-owner of TIME magazine said it best, “Facebook is the new cigarettes. It should be regulated.” And he said that in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.  I’m really not concerned about the regulated part as much as the cigarettes part, plus I might add all of social media to Mr. Benioff’s comparison:  today’s social media is the cigarettes of the 1950s.

So for those of you who are too young to remember the fifties and all the movies and television programs where all the “cool” people smoked, the ads for cigarettes from that era promised users good health, good digestion, and good flavor.  Cigarettes back then were good for you, so said the manufacturers anyway . You smoke today and you will thank the cigarette manufacturer tomorrow, the ads stated.

In this age of social distancing  that we now find ourselves living in, social media has become our only window to the outside world. So what are we to expect from an audience if we combine the stay at home orders and social media?  Well, before I answer that question, read what researchers have found in 2018.  That was the time our social distancing was an option and not a must.  The Australian website CBHS Health Fund quotes a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Researchers “found that when people reduced their use of social media to just 30 minutes a day (spread across three platforms), their overall mental wellbeing improved. This study found that feelings of depression and loneliness in particular declined.” Keep in mind that was the time we were staying at least eight hours less outside the home as we are doing today.

Move forward to 2020 and the Neuro-Central website tells us in an article written by Sharon Salt, its senior editor, “Constant updates about coronavirus, especially those concerning confirmed cases and the number of deaths to date, can be extremely overwhelming and feel relentless. Moreover, rumors and speculation can add fuel to anxiety, which is why obtaining good quality information is so important.”

In the midst of this doom and gloom, social media combined with the so-called 24-hour news cycle is leading to more depression and more suicide according to Mike Ragsdale, CEO of 30A company and publisher of the new magazine Beach Happy.

“When I was growing up the news that we were consuming had to be bundled within 22 minutes of time. And if it didn’t make that cut, then you never heard about it. But now we hear about every single awful thing because we’re in a 24/7 news cycle. And not just that, we have pushup notifications and breaking news alerts, so we hear every awful thing that happens.” Ragsdale said.

Since the dawn of cable television late in the 1970s and the introduction of 24-hour channels with no turn off switches, followed in the 1990s and beyond with the explosion of news channels and social media outlets, people have become accustomed to “breaking news.”  Some thought that was the democratization of the media and the making of everyone into a publisher… instead we now have the law of the jungle, with no gatekeepers or editors etc.

Too much information leads to less comprehension and less impact.  It desensitizes the audience in a way that they tune in and tune out and hear exactly what they want to hear.

More than ever, we need to hit the brakes on the dissemination of the shotgun information delivery and get back to the laser targeted news that was delivered in less time with more information that was curated and fact-checked before it was delivered.

Between the delivery, whether from presidential press conferences to comments of the sane and insane alike on social media, we are moving with the speed of a bullet, fast and furious, to destroy the social fabric (some say we already have) of our society and drive a bigger wedge between the people, among themselves and among their authority figures.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle, while they claim to be keeping us connected, they are  in fact creating the biggest divide ever and the biggest threat to our democracy and freedom of the press.

So to paraphrase the cigarette ads of the 1950s, “You will be glad tomorrow that you hopped on our social media platforms, turned on our 24-hours news channels today.”

But will you, really?

To sum it up, would you please let me know how many people today are thanking the cigarette companies?

I rest my case. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to welcome the stack of magazines that just arrived on my doorsteps via Fed Ex.  Credible and trustworthy journalism awaits. There are good times ahead. Count on it!

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Steve Cohn: 9/11 Is the Closest Magazine Media Crisis Precedent to COVID-19, But It Does Not Compare

April 27, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Guest Blog

Steve Cohn, Editor-in-Chief, Media Industry Newsletter, 1986 – 2016

As editor-in-chief of Media Industry Newsletter from 1986 through 2016, I witnessed the business ups and downs in the magazine industry.  Although the aftermath from the September 11, 2001, attacks proved not to be the low industry point during my career (the economic effects from the 2008-2009 “great recession” were more damaging), the common denominator with the COVID-19 crisis was that the enemy was external.  Back then, it was a man: Osama bin Laden; now, it is a virulent germ.

Like today, it seemed as if everything stopped after 9/11. The literal “fear of flying” (air travel was actually banned for about a week) impacted sales calls and advertising, which was already hurting from the “dot.com” crash, plummeted further.  Many of the events that fall (important to establish  rapports with advertisers for 2002) were cancelled.

But that did not damage the spirit.  September 19, 2001, was supposed to be Condé Nast’s “welcome” to new Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive with a reception celebrating the release of the November issue. Instead, Leive and her staff worked late that night overhauling the issue to add a section honoring female “heroes from 9/11.”  It would be the first of many hallmarks in her 16-year career.

Leive’s optimism was matched by the many editors’ notes that min ran weekly through Thanksgiving.  The inspiration was the first one, from 1993-2014 Travel + Leisure editor-in-chief Nancy Novogrod, who capped her reasoning for the necessity of travel by quoting a post-9/11 French newspaper headline: Nous Sommes Les Americains (“We are all Americans”).

And 2000-2011 Bon Appétit  editor-in-chief Barbara Fairchild was so moved by the widow of a fallen New York firefighter telling The New York Times of his love of cooking and BA that she gave her a free subscription “in perpetuity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is worse because of the enormity of the deaths, the restrictions to our “normal” way of life and the devastation to the economy, Were min publishing and I being editor, I would have again reached out.  But the editors’ notes will be more challenging at a time when most group publishers are furloughing and cutting staff and salaries. The uncertainty after 9/11 was comparatively mild to what we face today.

If the 2020 “Fortune 500″ follows its 65-year pattern by rating companies based on 2019 revenues when the issue is released later this spring, the data for many will be outdated because of the poor, COVID-19-affected performances since March.

Physicians, nurses and other health-care professions are now getting the recognition that firefighters and police officers received after 9/11. Included in an unlikely place: Vogue, where four female “health professionals in scrubs” are saluted in the June/July 2020 issue.  In an April 24 Washington Post feature, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion correspondent Robin Givhan wrote that “the pandemic’s first responders have been ‘Vogue‘-i-fied. They haven’t been glamorized.”

Givhan also reported that the June/July issue was Vogue‘s first combined release in its 128-year history. That encompassed wars, recessions and an earlier pandemic: the 1918 “Spanish Flu” outbreak.

Technology now allows editors and staff members to produce print and digital editions from home as well as publishers and their staffs having teleconferences with advertisers. “Invention is the mother of necessity,” they say, and maybe these will be the new norms.

On 9/11, “We are all in this together” was best exemplified by members of Congress from both parties singing God Bless America on the Capitol steps. Today, with Washington and America in so much discord, perhaps magazine media can lead the way.

If editors with large and small readerships can rally the country as they did after 9/11, this would, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, be “their finest hour.”

 

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Beach Happy Magazine: A New Title Bringing The Voice Of Hope & Optimism During A Pandemic – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mike Ragsdale, Founder Of 30A & Will Estell, Editor In Chief/ Director of Publishing, The 30A Company…

April 27, 2020

Photo by Lauren Athalia

Publishing During A Pandemic (24)

“We just launched this new endeavor, which again might seem like strange timing, but as Will said, this has been in the works for a very long time. We looked at it and we could have all walked away, but the reality is the world needs optimism. I’m not saying that in some philosophical, mumbo-jumbo kind of way, I’m saying just like fast-food found an anecdote by offering organic, free-range healthy alternatives, we’re going to be one of the first movers in providing a healthy information alternative to all of the toxic news and information that we consume every, single day.” … Mike Ragsdale 

“We’re thinking positive; the sky is the limit. We believe this publication can do better right now  than it would have done 10 years ago. And I think more people in our industry need to have that kind of mindset with what they’re doing.” … Will Estell

The 30A Company and the nationally distributed travel publication, Beaches, Resorts & Parks have merged and created a new title called Beach Happy. The moniker alone makes you smile. And we can all certainly use something to smile about in these uncertain times.

Mike Ragsdale by Peyton Hollis,
Good Grit magazine

Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A and Will Estell, former founder & editor-in-chief of Beaches, Resorts & Parks and now editor in chief/ director of publishing, The 30A Company have joined forces, and between the two of them have big plans for their new magazine, even during a pandemic.

According to the Beach Happy brand and motto, “30A is the official and original BEACH HAPPY brand. Inspired by a two-lane road that meanders along Florida’s Gulf Coast, 30A shares eco-friendly products and stories that celebrate our small beach town way of life.” Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t have said it better himself.

In fact, I didn’t have to. I spoke with Mike and Will recently and we discussed this negativity and doom and gloom that seems to permeate our world today. From Mike’s observation, we’re getting too much toxic information, even during a pandemic, and our brains are in overload. Beach Happy magazine and the brand itself are here to uplift and give us hope and optimism with stories from beaches around the world, not just that two-lane road on the Florida Coast.

Will joins Mike’s sense of buoyancy and exuberates his own optimism by not allowing negativity to enter his thoughts very often. And while this may seem like an inopportune time to start a new print magazine, even one with an extensive digital reach,  Mike and Will suggest we all have faith and just “Be Happy.”

And now the 24th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Mike Ragsdale, founder Of 30A & Will Estell, editor in chief/ director of publishing, The 30A Company.

But first the sound-bites:

Will Estell

On launching a new magazine during a pandemic (Mike Ragsdale): I’ll be honest, I am an optimist and I believe and have believed for a long time now, more than a decade, that we are suffering a mental health crisis in our nation, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well. I’ve been trying to sound the alarm, at least among my peer groups and our audience, that we have a lot to be happy about and we have a lot to be optimistic about. So, we’re promoting the agenda that news isn’t always negative, it doesn’t have to be.

On how he went from selling Beaches, Resorts & Parks to 30A and then becoming editor in chief of the new magazine (Will Estell): I’m kind of married to this thing and I tell you, there have been times when it would have been a lot easier to jump ship, to sell it out. We had offers in the past to buy Beaches outright that I probably would have gone along with, but this just seemed like the perfect opportunity and I’ve always been a huge fan of the 30A Company, literally going back to Mike’s early days with the company some 10 years ago. I was donning the stickers on my car and wearing the first T-shirt and all that.

On when the first issue will be launched (Mike Ragsdale): We were planning to launch in mid-May and it will be a quarterly publication at first, and so the issue would have been on newsstands in June, July and August, with a follow-up issue in the fall. We’re not going to deviate from that path very far. We’re waiting really until May 1 to make the decision. We’re going to be prepared to go to print on May 1, but if circumstances call for us to wait a few more weeks so we’ll know a little more, then we may push it back.

On how they’re going to take the large social media base, the radio base, the merchandising, and curate all of that onto the pages of a printed magazine (Will Estell): That’s something that we’re still working through, but the positive aspect is that we do have to be concerned about that. In other words, those things exist, so this magazine is not in a startup phase, standing alone, and having to go out there and find Reader One from Day One. It will be more of a pairing of both sides, where the other side of the 30A Company, be it the apparel or the decals, or people following the website to find events; all of that will promote the magazine just as the magazine will promote all of that.

Photo by Lauren Athalia

On whether the creation of 30A was a walk in a rose garden for Mike or he had some challenges along the way (Mike Ragsdale): It’s interesting, I’ve had a couple of really amazing successes and I’ve absolutely buried those with the failures I’ve had in business. I received my master’s degree in advertising and public relations, but I couldn’t get a job, despite sending out all of the resumes I could send and doing a few interviews, but I just wasn’t able to secure anything. So, I became an entrepreneur by accident and out of necessity to pay the bills, scrounging to stay afloat.

On anything they would like to add (Will Estell): The only thing I would add is for all the negativity and all the doom and gloom that’s talked about in the industry, and I know you’re a huge advocate for the growth and continued success of magazines, what we’re doing with this and what a lot of the companies that have learned to survive are doing is we’re finding new ways to get our message out, still be a magazine, but do it in  different ways.

On what keeps them up at night (Mike Ragsdale): Right now, of course, I’m concerned during my waking hours about the fact that we have a business that’s struggling like everyone is. Our three stores are closed; our 380 wholesale partner stores are closed; our digital advertisers, from restaurants to rental companies are shut down. And so we’re not expecting to see them paying any bills.

Mike Ragsdale

On what keeps them up at night (Will Estell): I do not lay in bed and worry about things. I don’t lay in bed and worry about the fact that the world has stopped spinning for a period of time right now. I don’t worry about the fact that we’re not out selling advertisers left and right. Now that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about those things, but I have learned to be more solution-oriented in my thinking than problematic. It takes the same amount of energy to find a solution than worry about the problem.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mike Ragsdale, Founder Of 30A & Will Estell, Editor In Chief/ Director of Publishing, The 30A Company.

Samir Husni: You’re launching a new magazine during a pandemic, what are you thinking?

Mike Ragsdale: I’ll be honest, I am an optimist and I believe and have believed for a long time now, more than a decade, that we are suffering a mental health crisis in our nation, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well. Despite living in the greatest time in human history and despite the fact that so many amazingly good things are happening in the world despite the current circumstances, we’re seeing an alarming increase in depression and suicides.

I believe personally it’s because about 10 or 15 years ago, we began consuming information at a rate that our minds simply aren’t accustomed to. We are absorbing so much negativity and bad information and stressful, anxious information that, despite the fact that we live in the golden era of humankind, we’re increasingly depressed and increasingly suicidal and anxious. I believe that we’re going to find in the years ahead that consuming so much information, good, bad, indifferent, consuming so much information is skewing our worldview and it is causing a great deal of suffering.

Photo by Lauren Athalia

I believe it is going to be akin to the ‘70s and ‘80s when people began to come to the realization about the health risks of smoking and then later with fast food consumption or foods that haven’t been grown under the right circumstances which causes heart disease and other health issues. So, I think consuming so much information as we do today is like eating one Big Mac after another. And we’re going to realize that the mental toll it’s taking on us individually and collectively is immense.

I’ve been trying to sound the alarm, at least among my peer groups and our audience, that we have a lot to be happy about and we have a lot to be optimistic about. So, we’re promoting the agenda that news isn’t always negative, it doesn’t have to be. But unfortunately, and you know this as well as I do, no one writes about the millions of planes that land safely, they write about the one that had the issues. And that’s the nature of where we’ve come with news. And news has really stopped becoming news, it’s more entertainment. It’s no longer Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather talking for 22 minutes a night and that’s it.

When I was growing up the news that we were consuming had to be bundled within 22 minutes of time. And if it didn’t make that cut, then you never heard about it. But now we hear about every single awful thing because we’re in a 24/7 news cycle. And not just that, we have pushup notifications and breaking news alerts, so we hear every awful thing that happens.

So, Beach Happy the brand is something that we’ve been promoting internally. And then when Will comes along with this publication that has this great distribution and great reach, it just seemed like a perfect marriage for us and to say, let’s take what we’re already doing on the digital side, kind of a bastion for optimism and positivity, and let’s reach all new audiences across newsstands. We’re already doing the work of content writing; we’re already doing the work of photography and content creation, we might as well add an additional platform. And

Will has really been brilliant in the way he has architected his business, in that it doesn’t require as much overhead as the more traditional publications, so we don’t view it as a risky proposition at all. We view it perhaps as the perfect message at the perfect time. And we certainly wouldn’t wish ill on anyone else who is on the newsstands, but we also know the impact on those companies that have massive overheads, so we’re lean and mean and we’re looking at it as an opportunity to present a platform for happiness and positivity.

Will Estell

Samir Husni: Will, I read the press release and you sold your Beaches Resorts & Parks to 30A Company, which Mike heads, so people might think you’re jumping ship. But then when I finished reading the press release, you’re editor in chief of the new magazine. Can you explain what happened?

Will Estell: I have managed through four different iterations of Beaches Resorts & Parks and of course, you were familiar with the magazine when you tracked it that first year. In 2013, you named us the New Launch of 2012, with the highest newsstand sell-through at the time, and the magazine continued to do really well. There were four different iterations of ownership, including one period where I solely owned it on my own, which by the way, was not an easy thing and not the way I would ever want to go again.

You know though, I’m kind of married to this thing and I tell you, there have been times when it would have been a lot easier to jump ship, to sell it out. We had offers in the past to buy Beaches outright that I probably would have gone along with, but this just seemed like the perfect opportunity and I’ve always been a huge fan of the 30A Company, literally going back to Mike’s early days with the company some 10 years ago. I was donning the stickers on my car and wearing the first T-shirt and all that.

I’m a lot like Mike in that I’m an optimist too, so I saw this as a great pairing. Actually, we’d been talking about this, I guess our first conversation was about the potential of 30A doing the magazine, probably about six years ago. But then we really got serious about this around last June and again talked about it. I can’t think of a better entity to be able to acquire the Beaches Resorts & Parks magazine than 30A. I’ve worked for quite  a few publishing companies outside of partnerships of my own, some large companies and some small companies in the past, and I’ve never had the ability to work for a company that had a magazine that already had a brand and a consumer reach that 30A does already built around it. So, we’re super-stoked about what we think this can do and the people it can reach.

And that’s part of the opportunity. Will had newsstand reach; he obviously had decades of print experience that we did not have. But we did have 1.5 million social media followers; we’ve got a quarter-million newsletter subscribers; we have orders that are being shipped to all states every day out of our fulfilment warehouse. So, we have the ability to take Will’s newsstand reach and combine it with our digital audience.

Mike Ragsdale: As Will and I were working through this, we realized we have an audience size that very few people can touch. There are some companies out there that have big established, decades’ worth of audiences, but to be able to come in with Issue One and have a print reach that Will has and have a digital reach of 1.5 million fans is a great platform to build upon.

Photo By Lauren Athalia

Samir Husni: When will the first issue be released?

Mike Ragsdale: We were planning to launch in mid-May and it will be a quarterly publication at first, and so the issue would have been on newsstands in June, July and August, with a follow-up issue in the fall. We’re not going to deviate from that path very far. We’re waiting really until May 1 to make the decision. We’re going to be prepared to go to print on May 1, but if circumstances call for us to wait a few more weeks so we’ll know a little more, then we may push it back. But we’re not going to push it off more than a month. One way or another we’ll be in May or June and we’re just waiting to see what happens with COVID-19 and the travel restrictions.

To us, and this is why it’s important that the launch isn’t really predicated on the physical; in my mind, again, Will comes from a little bit of a different place with the prior magazine, it really was focused on a lot of destinations, and we’re certainly going to have destination information in the magazine, but it’s as much or more about lifestyle.

In a regular week, the 30A brand; we do not think of ourselves as a travel or tourism brand. We’re a lifestyle brand that keeps people in touch with the beach when they can’t be there. So, whether you want to talk about Margaritaville or Disney World, you can’t be at Disney World every week. Our target audience is not people who are here on this beach and it’s not people who are coming to this beach next week. Our target audience is the people who wish they could be on the beach, whether it’s this beach, Key West, or whether it’s a fantasy beach in their mind.

So, we’re all about reaching that person who’s landlocked, wherever they may be. We want to reach that person who is having a tough time, be it their mortgage, boss or because they’re freaking out about the pandemic, we’re about giving them a moment of vacation in their minds, even if they can’t be on vacation at the moment. And that’s really what we build our products around. We have 30A Radio, which plays uplifting beach music 24/7; we have recycled apparel, shirts, hats, drinkware; we have all these things that I liken to Corona or Red Stripe, no one drinks Red Stripe beer because it’s great beer, they drink it because it mentally transports them to an island, Jamaica typically. And never mind that it’s brewed in Pennsylvania. It’s a way for them to step away from the pressure of their jobs or anything that is stressful, it enables them to take a beach vacation.

And Beach Happy, the magazine is the same thing. It’s really not about booking immediate plans and coming down to spend a week with us in Florida, we want to bring stories to people that make them happy and make them smile, give them a little bit of relief during what can only be described as some of the most stressful times we’ve seen as a nation in recent memory.

Photo by Lauren Athalia

Samir Husni: How are you going to take this large social media base, the radio base, the merchandising, and curate all of that onto the pages of a printed magazine?

Will Estell: That’s something that we’re still working through, but the positive aspect is that we do have to be concerned about that. In other words, those things exist, so this magazine is not in a startup phase, standing alone, and having to go out there and find Reader One from Day One. It will be more of a pairing of both sides, where the other side of the 30A Company, be it the apparel or the decals, or people following the website to find events; all of that will promote the magazine just as the magazine will promote all of that.

So, we’re being careful within the magazine not to let it come off like a glorified marketing piece or a catalog, if you will, for the 30A Company, but instead to, obviously, show a lot of what we offer and to show what the 30A Company is about, while also integrating that with everything else that has to do with the beach too.

I think in a lot of ways the magazine will be a lot like any other travel magazine, except beach-oriented, it won’t be a heavy push on necessarily promoting only 30A,  just the beach in general. I don’t think we’ll have to do a whole lot different than if we were just launching any travel magazine. It just has the backing of the rest of the brand behind it.

I would also say that obviously, a lot of people who would know about this or hear about this might think that we’re ignoring the fact that we’re a publication that’s launching in what could be deemed a bad time, if nothing else than economically speaking, because it’s no secret that advertisers aren’t jumping through hoops with any publication right now to put ads out there. But we do believe that the lifestyle surrounding the beach will be something that comes back quicker than anything else in our current economic situation.

So, we made that commitment to go ahead and put that issue out like Mike told you, however, we think as soon as everything opens up, advertisers are going to want in the issue. We don’t have any doubts about people buying the issue, but back to Mike’s point about the timing being potentially better than ever, I think after all of us have been cooped up for 30 to 45 days, we haven’t left our homes and we haven’t taken vacations, we haven’t even been able to walk in a store and buy our favorite apparel or anything, everyone is going to be ready for some good news and nothing is better to some people than the whole lifestyle surrounding the beach.

Mike Ragsdale by Peyton Hollis,
Good Grit magazine

Samir Husni: Mike, was creating your company 30A just a walk in a rose garden for you or did you have some challenges along the way?

Mike Ragsdale: It’s interesting, I’ve had a couple of really amazing successes and I’ve absolutely buried those with the failures I’ve had in business. I received my master’s degree in advertising and public relations, but I couldn’t get a job, despite sending out all of the resumes I could send and doing a few interviews, but I just wasn’t able to secure anything. So, I became an entrepreneur by accident and out of necessity to pay the bills, scrounging to stay afloat.

The first business I started was a success, it still took seven or eight years to build it and to exit at the right time, but it was a trial by fire and a wonderful thing to experience as a young person, the ability to grow a company from a literal idea into 70-person operation, then to be able to sell it. It was awesome.

But it was also a curse, because as a young arrogant person who went through that process, you think that was easy, I’ll be able to do that easily enough again. But the reality is that’s not how entrepreneurship works, you can have the best business plan in the world, you can have the best minds and a great idea, but it just doesn’t always work.

I spent the next 10 years just absolutely striking out, having failure after failure. And although it was painful and demoralizing to go through, it also enabled me to understand what things I’m good at and what things I’m not. And to stay away from the things I’m not good at and recruit other people. A great example, there’s not a chance in the world that I would have gotten into the print business if Will was not staying on. This merger would not have happened if Will’s experience wasn’t part of the package, because I don’t want to go in and learn a business; I can’t learn his 20 years of expertise myself. I don’t have that kind of time or inclination.

I have learned some important things and what I have learned is to focus on what I do very well and what I don’t do well, either stay away form or partner with someone who does do it well. And Will certainly does print publications well.

In some ways we’re really looking at Beach Happy as a cooler, hipper version of some of the more traditional publications, such as Coastal Living. I’m not knocking Coastal Living, but one of the things that we’re doing is integrating our audiences. We’re making it more fun, some of the themes we might have are : Five  Beach Beers You Need In Your Cooler This Summer. Fan comments: If This Were Your Beach Ball, What Would You Name It? That way, we make our fans some of the stars in the new publication.

It’s not a catalog; it’s not a 30A mouthpiece, and it’s not even about the particular stretch of beach we live on. I tell our team all the time, we’re like Coastal Living, we just happened to headquartered on a beach as opposed to being headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. But being on our beach doesn’t mean we can’t share incredible stories from Bali or Turkey or Ecuador or other beaches around the world.

Will Estell

Samir Husni: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

Will Estell: The only thing I would add is for all the negativity and all the doom and gloom that’s talked about in the industry, and I know you’re a huge advocate for the growth and continued success of magazines, what we’re doing with this and what a lot of the companies that have learned to survive are doing is we’re finding new ways to get our message out, still be a magazine, but do it in  different ways.

And one of those is all the ways we have of reaching people through digital means. It’s no secret that Beach Happy magazine will reach a lot more readers digitally than in print. Although we hope to grow the print way beyond what I ever had with Beaches Resorts & Parks. I’m saying all this because everyone in the industry, no matter what point they’re at, whether they’re an editor in chief or writer coming right out of school or a publisher in the business for 20 years, everyone has to rethink how we’re doing things. I would love to hear an end to the doom and gloom and just have more people think about new ways to do stuff. And that’s with every industry, not just  magazines.

We’re thinking positive; the sky is the limit. We believe this publication can do better right now  than it would have done 10 years ago. And I think more people in our industry need to have that kind of mindset with what they’re doing.

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

Mike Ragsdale: Right now, of course, I’m concerned during my waking hours about the fact that we have a business that’s struggling like everyone is. Our three stores are closed; our 380 wholesale partner stores are closed; our digital advertisers, from restaurants to rental companies are shut down. And so we’re not expecting to see them paying any bills.

We just launched this new endeavor, which again might seem like strange timing, but as Will said, this has been in the works for a very long time. We looked at it and we could have all walked away, but the reality is the world needs optimism. I’m not saying that in some philosophical, mumbo-jumbo kind of way, I’m saying just like fast-food found an anecdote by offering organic, free-range healthy alternatives, we’re going to be one of the first movers in providing a healthy information alternative to all of the toxic news and information that we consume every, single day.

This is an immense business opportunity. We’re going to start to see that information is causing slowly and in small bites, in fact, so slowly we don’t even realize it, to affect our minds. Once those studies start to come out, once we realize the suicides and depression are related to the ingestion of information, people are going to be unplugging. We’re already seeing that happen on our own, but they will be seeking healthy sources of information. And positive sources of information.

So, we view Beach Happy as being right in that first mover just as if someone was coming out with the first free-range organic product on the grocery aisle. We’re going to be one of those first movers to give people a sense of hope and optimism and a sense of escapism on a crowded shelf, competing with people who are peddling in scandal, sensationalism and division.

Will Estell: I go to bed at night and many times lay there for about two hours. The last time, for example, that I looked at my phone this morning was about 2:00 a.m. and I fell asleep right after that.

But all that to say, I do not lay in bed and worry about things. I don’t lay in bed and worry about the fact that the world has stopped spinning for a period of time right now. I don’t worry about the fact that we’re not out selling advertisers left and right. Now that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about those things, but I have learned to be more solution-oriented in my thinking than problematic. It takes the same amount of energy to find a solution than worry about the problem.

So, I stay up at night, but I am brainstorming mostly. I’m thinking of a new article to write or a new way to reach people or how to do something no one else has done, even within our industry. Coming up with something that hasn’t been done does occupy my thoughts.

You will never find a piece of negative information within the pages of Beach Happy. There will not be an interview where we put someone down.  And I think people are ready for that. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

If there’s any negativity in my world right now, even with what we’re going through with this pandemic, it would be that I have three children, one in Atlanta, Georgia, one in Birmingham, Ala. and one that lives with his mom in Oxford, Ala. And the only thing that does keep me up at night from a negative standpoint is the fact that I haven’t been able to see them through this for about six weeks now. Other than that, nothing negative on my part.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.  

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Presidents, Magazines, and the Power of Good Slow Journalism… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

April 26, 2020

The more I dive into my old magazines collection, the more I discover that there is nothing new under the sun.  Same stories, same characters, similar events, and similar affairs, yet the similarities end there. What is different is the role and power of how magazines covered those issues and events.

Take for example the January 1942 issue of Fortune magazine.  The world is in the midst of World War II and the country is facing dire decisions on both political and economic situations dealing with the war.  Excuse me, if I say, this sounds so eerily familiar! But, let me not digress here, but rather head back to the early 1940s.

In addition to the regular magazine and its monthly coverage, Fortune started a series of round tables that gathered around all kind of experts in their fields and discussed and debated the issues of the days with them and later published them in white papers.

The Ninth Fortune Round Table was held on May 9, 10, 11, 1941 at the Seaview Country Club, Absecon, New Jersey.  The topic “Labor Policy and National Defense.”  The Tenth Fortune Round Table was held on September 5, 6, 7, 1941 at Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  The topic “On Demobilizing The War Economy.”

Those white papers represented the best of what journalism can offer in a calm calculated constructive way in order to help both country and public. The magazine publishers and editors took their responsibility seriously and rather than pontificate they sought answers, they assembled the who’s who from the experts on the issues, asked the right questions, checked the answers and double checked them, then summed up the questions and answers and presented them to the public.

So, back to the January 1942 issue of Fortune magazine.  The lead story of that issue was titled “The Presidency: Its tradition is leadership in freedom. Will Franklin Roosevelt preserve that tradition against the world thrust toward the all-powerful state?”  The lead paragraph of the article stated, “Several years ago, during debate on the Neutrality Act, a delegation of congressional leaders went to the White House to discuss it with President Roosevelt. Afterward it was widely rumored that the President, angered at some phase of the argument over this attempt to hobble him in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations, had blazed out: “I could put this country into war in six weeks, and you know it.”

Again, not to digress, does the aforementioned paragraph sound familiar? Just change the names and the war from World War II to World War C.  But, back to the magazine.

The article on The Presidency went on to reprint a series of cartoons of several important presidents from Washington to Roosevelt, with the following caption at the end, “These are contemporary cartoons of the chief Presidents who, after Washington had endowed the office with his personal prestige, enlarged the powers of the presidency. One and all have been assailed as would-be despots. Sample alarm: “The eyes and hopes of the American people are anxiously turned to Congress… The will of one man alone prevails and governs the republic…The premonitory symptoms of despotism are upon us.” Henry Clay on President Andrew Jackson, December 26, 1833.

Case closed.  We need more magazines like the Fortune of 1942 and less talking heads like we see on TV where everything is breaking news.  Good magazines stop the rat race and the horse race and focus on the issues, in-depth coverage, or what some folks like to call slow-journalism.  Slow journalism is good journalism, race against time and the clock was, is and will never be good journalism.  The old saying in the 24 hours news cycle, “report first, check second” is the beginning of the ills of journalism.

In this faster than fast delivery of news and information, it is about time, time that we have in this “stay at home” order, to rethink the role of magazines and good journalism and deliver some great “slow journalism” to help inform, educate, and serve the “customers who count.”

Magazines that focus on those customers will continue to be the light at the end of the tunnel while other platforms will continue to be the train coming at you.

 

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