h1

Publishing During A Pandemic (2): Andy Clurman, President & CEO, Active Interest Media (AIM) To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni On Changing Or Halting Any Print Schedules: “We Have Not Done That As Of Yet.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 1, 2020

“We are studying different impacts (Of The Current Pandemic), but so far advertising has held up. There has been some cancellations, but there have been more delays, with people pushing campaigns back. At least as of the end of last week we hadn’t seen a material drop in advertising, which made us read that every issue of the moment was going to be profitable, but we’re keeping our eyes wide opened and everybody is communicating in real time what they’re seeing in our different markets. It would be surprising if advertising didn’t come down a bit.”… Andy Clurman

Ingenuity and determination. Two descriptive traits that we Americans have proven over the years to have an abundance of. And during this life-altering pandemic that we’re all facing, never have we demonstrated it more, both personally and professionally. And magazines and magazine media are no different.

Recently, I spoke with Andy Clurman, president and CEO at Active Interest Media. Andy told me that his team at AIM were unbelievable, taking the work-from-home directive and running with it, coming up with creative and new ideas to keep even their events business operational (a Facebook Live team roping event) during the social distancing that we’re all practicing. From events to their print titles, AIM is moving forward during this tragedy with hope, grace and fortitude, as Andy and his team develop an awareness for this new world we are all living in currently, while keeping the business an Active, Interest-ing Media company.

So, without further ado, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Andy Clurman, president and CEO, Active Interest Media (AIM).

But first the sound-bites:

On how he is conducting business during this pandemic: We have a lot of people working remotely and thankfully through technology it wasn’t a big leap for us two weeks ago to ask everyone to work from home. We have a couple of essential positions where those people have to come in periodically, but so far just using all the tools we have and the ones we’ve gotten better at, such as Microsoft teams that I think are fully functioning, we’re doing good. The thing that has been most impacted is obviously our event business, which is growing to be a larger and larger part of our company. Fortunately, none of our largest marketing events are happening this time of the year, but we did have to cancel, postpone, or virtualize a whole number of events which included a boutique boat show we were doing in Seattle, a log and timber home show in Minneapolis, a number of team roping events in New Mexico, a fitness and yoga event that we were doing.

On whether they are changing or halting any of their print schedules for now: We have not done that as of yet. We are studying different impacts, but so far advertising has held up. There has been some cancellations, but there have been more delays, with people pushing campaigns back. At least as of the end of last week we hadn’t seen a material drop in advertising, which made us read that every issue of the moment was going to be profitable, but we’re keeping our eyes wide opened and everybody is communicating in real time what they’re seeing in our different markets. It would be surprising if advertising didn’t come down a bit.

On whether he thinks the business model will reinvent itself after the pandemic is over: Long before all the longer-term impacts and social changes, I think people were accelerating or reinventing the business on the fly, for example, we started an ecommerce initiative a while ago, last summer, and it’s been honestly somewhat languishing. Then suddenly when we got to the end of this year, we really ramped it up and we’re seeing signs of incredible traction,. Across the company, just in the last two weeks, as we’ve been looking at what else we could do to help diversify and safeguard the business against a decline in advertising, we ramped up the ecommerce-related effort and a new product that we’re going to be bringing to the market in a few weeks.

On the message he would like to send to his team during these difficult times: I think the message is all of us are in this business and in different sections of the business because we have a mission and we’re driven by what we think is a valuable service to our audience, our marketing partners, and the community that we have as a team in our company. This is a moment when I think it’s proving to be a test of people’s character and commitment. And it’s really gratifying to see the extraordinary levels people are stepping up to in order to fulfill those commitments to each other and to their communities.

On the message he would send his advertisers and readers: We’ve been sending those out almost daily. We’ve been sending access to our online yoga classes for anxiety, health and wellness classes. So our message is we’re here to support them and we’re here to support each other. The sum of that preserves the bedrock of what we all do and our business. We might all take some lumps in the short term, but it will preserve and probably create some unexpected evolution that we’ll all be a part of when we navigate through this.

On anything he’d like to add: You don’t want to be blindly optimistic, but seeing the character and the collaboration that people are rising to is a testament to the quality of our people and everyone else as well.

On what keeps him up night: In a perverse way; intellectually it focuses the mind when you’re presented with problems that you haven’t ever encountered in your very long career and think you’ve seen everything. I guess the thing that I’m wondering most is you don’t know what you don’t know, right? So what is it that I don’t know since I’ve never encountered this before? Are we doing enough of the right things?

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Andy Clurman, president and CEO, Active Interest Media (AIM).

Samir Husni: Magazines and magazine media have adapted through many crises over the years, but to my recollection there has been nothing like this. How are you conducting business through this pandemic?

Andy Clurman: We have a lot of people working remotely and thankfully through technology it wasn’t a big leap for us two weeks ago to ask everyone to work from home. We have a couple of essential positions where those people have to come in periodically, but so far just using all the tools we have and the ones we’ve gotten better at, such as Microsoft teams that I think are fully functioning, we’re doing good.

We’re very happy at the moment and grateful that we have not seen a big impact, as of yet, on people’s health as far as we can tell. We’re doing daily check-ins with everyone. We have a twice per week town hall meeting with everybody. Leadership meetings, all using videoconferencing, so people have been improving their videoconferencing game with lots of clever tricks of the trade.

The thing that has been most impacted is obviously our event business, which is growing to be a larger and larger part of our company. Fortunately, none of our largest marketing events are happening this time of the year, but we did have to cancel, postpone, or virtualize a whole number of events which included a boutique boat show we were doing in Seattle, a log and timber home show in Minneapolis, a number of team roping events in New Mexico, a fitness and yoga event that we were doing.

But what has been so amazing is how creative my team has been in coming up with ways to not just do virtual events, but finding ways to, for example, do a team roping event using Facebook Live and still be able to have people compete from the privacy of their own backyard practice arenas. So, that business is certainly challenged. And figuring out what to communicate, and the things that are longer-ranged. For example, our largest fitness event is in mid-July at Disneyland, so researching alternate dates, making contingency plans, communicating with all of our presenters and our attendees with what we’re doing so they’re not in the dark.

Another thing that has been really impressive is how each one of our groups has stepped up with different kinds of industry support and leadership efforts and assistance, particularly in places that have been really hard hit like the fitness industry where fitness trainers aren’t able to do in-person training with their clients. The skiing industry has summarily shut down and the outdoor industry, most of the retailers are closed. We have a lot of industry impacts and we’re trying to be helpful and supportive and give people resources to either be able to do what they love or, for example, we’ve opened up our entire online education library for free to all of our industry partners in all of our categories.

Samir Husni: What about the publishing side? I understand how the events side is heavily impacted, but what about the magazines? Are you changing print schedules or halting any of the print titles for now?

Andy Clurman: We have not done that as of yet. We are studying different impacts, but so far advertising has held up. There has been some cancellations, but there have been more delays, with people pushing campaigns back. At least as of the end of last week we hadn’t seen a material drop in advertising, which made us read that every issue of the moment was going to be profitable, but we’re keeping our eyes wide opened and everybody is communicating in real time what they’re seeing in our different markets. It would be surprising if advertising didn’t come down a bit.

Samir Husni: When this is behind us, do you think the publishing business model will readjust or reinvent itself? What’s your expectations in the midst of what’s going on now?

Andy Clurman: Long before all the longer-term impacts and social changes, I think people were accelerating or reinventing the business on the fly, for example, we started an ecommerce initiative a while ago, last summer, and it’s been honestly somewhat languishing. Then suddenly when we got to the end of this year, we really ramped it up and we’re seeing signs of incredible traction,. Across the company, just in the last two weeks, as we’ve been looking at what else we could do to help diversify and safeguard the business against a decline in advertising, we ramped up the ecommerce-related effort and a new product that we’re going to be bringing to the market in a few weeks.

There’s been a lot of looking at the things that we had in our development pipeline and really focusing on the ones that we think would be most helpful to our customers right now and things that will add more diversification to the business. Even though everybody is hunkered down at home, there’s a lot of creative energy flowing that’s going into driving some of these new revenue streams, which we’ve always been pretty good at, but the team is even more energized and more creative when we’re dealing with all of these unknowns.

On the social and business impact, this is really proving how much technology allows us to function in all kinds of places. I don’t know if you’re experiencing this, but I have; you can conduct your classes on Zoom, but the engagement level of students, and I would imagine the same holds true for a team, and even though it’s implicit, the quality of communication you have when you’re in person with people is much better than it is over a really good video platform.

Samir Husni: What message would you want to send to your team during these difficult times?

Andy Clurman: I think the message is all of us are in this business and in different sections of the business because we have a mission and we’re driven by what we think is a valuable service to our audience, our marketing partners, and the community that we have as a team in our company. This is a moment when I think it’s proving to be a test of people’s character and commitment. And it’s really gratifying to see the extraordinary levels people are stepping up to in order to fulfill those commitments to each other and to their communities.

One example of that I can share is shortly after we all hit the work-from-home button, our marketing services group launched a project called “Newton.” And the idea behind “Newton” was to pull together our different groups and come up with what sort of products and services we could build and bring to market at a time when all the terms of commerce and community had phased at least temporarily. They called it “Newton” because Isaac Newton was famously quarantined during the Great Plague in 1665, and that’s when he discovered gravity. So, without any prompting, one of our groups took a leadership role and pulled together other parts of the company to try and come up with some great new ideas. It’s inspiring to see people step up like that.

Samir Husni: Do you have a special message for the advertisers and the readers?

Andy Clurman: We’ve been sending those out almost daily. We’ve been sending access to our online yoga classes for anxiety, health and wellness classes. So our message is we’re here to support them and we’re here to support each other. The sum of that preserves the bedrock of what we all do and our business. We might all take some lumps in the short term, but it will preserve and probably create some unexpected evolution that we’ll all be a part of when we navigate through this.

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

Andy Clurman: You don’t want to be blindly optimistic, but seeing the character and the collaboration that people are rising to is a testament to the quality of our people and everyone else as well.

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

Andy Clurman: In a perverse way; intellectually it focuses the mind when you’re presented with problems that you haven’t ever encountered in your very long career and think you’ve seen everything. I guess the thing that I’m wondering most is you don’t know what you don’t know, right? So what is it that I don’t know since I’ve never encountered this before? Are we doing enough of the right things?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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: