Archive for April, 2020

h1

Ink Co-CEO & Founder, Simon Leslie, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “If There Was Ever A Time When People Needed To Go Back To Trusted Sources Of Information, This Is It.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 22, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (20)

“Our message is we’re going to come back stronger; we’re going to come back more energetic, more positive, more enthused. We’re going to do everything we can to grow and use this as an opportunity, while others are shattering and closing and stuttering, we’re going to be prepared, ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities.” … Simon Leslie

“We don’t have to reinvent anything; we can just get better at what we do and improve our products and improve our way of doing business. Improve our communication with both our readers and our clients to make sure we’re giving them much more value, because I think that’s what we’ll end up doing during this period, showing people how much we care, because ultimately, this is about who cares. The companies that are shown to care about their employees, their clients, their advertisers, will come out of this much stronger that people who’re just after having the least impact on their bottom line.” … Simon Leslie

Ink travel media was founded in 1994 and has grown from six offices around the globe to 300. They’re storytellers and sellers of advertising to some of the largest brands in the world today, such as American, Qatar, Etihad and Virgin Airlines and also sells digital media space to airlines. The company’s Co-CEO and Founder, Simon Leslie, is remaining totally positive during this pandemic. While the world may see this tragedy as an enormous enemy to the magazine media industry, Simon prefers to see the possible opportunities it presents.

I spoke with Simon recently and we talked about how basically the entire world has come to a standstill, but also how he has chosen to see the potential this pandemic offers to the world of business, rather than the detriments. And how caring about people and your company is paramount to the continued success of your business.

My conversation with Simon was upbeat, positive and a delightful one to have during a time when those attributes are hard to come by.

So, now here is the 20th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Simon Leslie, Co-CEO & Founder, Ink.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Ink is operating during the pandemic: We’ve gone from six offices to 300,  and we don’t have many landlords. So, it’s a whole new world that we’ve created. It’s been a little bit challenging in terms of being an office-based business to a work-from-home environment, but actually I think we’ve adapted quite well and quite quickly. We’re doing things to keep people entertained and to learn and grow during this period.

On whether the work-from-home transition was smooth or difficult: With the technology we had, we were already set up to do most things. The technology was quite adaptable, we had to buy a lot of headsets and setups and landlines so people could work from home. We had to buy a few extra printers, but it wasn’t a huge shift.

 On how the pandemic has impacted business as usual for Ink: It’s business very much unusual, most of our carriers are grounded. The only airline that’s continued publishing all the way through is American. Obviously, as the biggest airline in the world, they haven’t stopped. The others have stopped and when they’re going to be back at reasonable levels of passengers, we’ll start publishing again. We basically lost most of April, May, and maybe a little bit of June as well.

On whether he ever imagined working during a pandemic, where basically the entire world shut down: I’ve always thought about something like this, where we could switch off for a couple of months. I’ve been working flat-out for 33 years and the ability not to have to worry about a target, a budget, and hitting some sales numbers is quite pleasant. So, it’s not a perfect scenario, but we’re going to make the best of it. And we have to go back when this finishes and make sure that we did something that was productive in this period, that we don’t just waste it and fritter it away.

On what he thinks magazines and magazine media may learn after the pandemic is over: I think what has been interesting, and I’ve been watching and observing some of the things people have been saying to you, for example; I’m not sure anyone is learning anything, they’re just trying to reinvent the wheel. And some of them are trying to reinvent it as a square. And I believe that’s wrong. This is an opportunity where we have to look at everything we do and figure out the most sensible way we can stay in business.

On what message he is communicating with his employees, clients, advertisers and readers during these uncertain times: Our message is we’re going to come back stronger; we’re going to come back more energetic, more positive, more enthused. We’re going to do everything we can to grow and use this as an opportunity, while others are shattering and closing and stuttering, we’re going to be prepared, ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities.

On whether he sees any negative things about what’s happened to the magazine industry during this or is he thinking strictly positive: I think it’s just going to be different. People are still going to behave, and I keep challenging myself on this point, which is are we not going to want to go to a football match and sit next to somebody, are we not going to go to a bar and get a drink? Are you going to go into the most popular bar in whatever city you’re in and everyone is going to stay at six-foot intervals? That’s not how we behave as humans. So, I just think for a short period of time we’re going to be a bit more germophobic, but after that we’ll just go back to normal. And I think that the normality will come.

On looking at the pandemic as an opportunity: I certainly love opportunity and I love when people get scared and I love it when they start panicking because it’s not a time to panic. It’s not like a war where something is broken and the infrastructure is gone or like when the banking system broke in 2008. This is a situation where we’ve all been hit by the same wave and it’s no one’s fault, nobody caused it. We’re all going to come out of it relatively at the same time, most of us pretty much scarred by it, but nothing is fundamentally broken.

On why he thinks print media is relevant today: I’m going to let you in on a little secret, for the first time in I don’t know how long, I bought a newspaper yesterday. I wanted to read something, I wanted to have an opinion and I wanted to see what people were saying. The letters to the editors were interesting. And the paper was still thick and full of advertising and full of great content, trustworthy content. I’m sick of watching the news. I’m sick of watching the press briefings. They’re all saying what they want to hear, they have their own hidden agendas.

On what keeps him up at night: We had a speaker once who came on and told us that we have to think about the next day the night before, so we’re excited when we wake up. And I was so excited I couldn’t actually get to sleep, so that has always kept me up a little bit. Nothing is really worrying me right now. I’m excited about the opportunities that are going to present themselves, I really am.

And now  the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Simon Leslie, Co-CEO & Founder, Ink.

Samir Husni: How is Ink operating during this pandemic?

Simon Leslie: We’ve gone from six offices to 300,  and we don’t have many landlords. So, it’s a whole new world that we’ve created. It’s been a little bit challenging in terms of being an office-based business to a work-from-home environment, but actually I think we’ve adapted quite well and quite quickly. We’re doing things to keep people entertained and to learn and grow during this period.

Our teams are doing creative work for our clients, so we’re helping them with their social, outreach, messaging and their videoing. We’re keeping everyone busy and we’re going to come back in a good way. We certainly have our sales team on high alert, so when the doors open again they’re going to be rushing back out.

Samir Husni: You said you moved from six offices to 300, how was the move to work-from-home? Was it a smooth transition?

Simon Leslie: With the technology we had, we were already set up to do most things. The technology was quite adaptable, we had to buy a lot of headsets and setups and landlines so people could work from home. We had to buy a few extra printers, but it wasn’t a huge shift.

And maybe some people are asking why we even have to go back to the office, why can’t we just work from home continuously, but I don’t think any of my team is asking that, they’re looking forward to getting back to the office. Our culture is very much about being together, celebrating and doing stuff together. While we do have a lot of meetings while we’re working from home, it’s not the same as just walking up to someone and chatting in the office.

Samir Husni: How has this impacted the current status of publishing the magazines; is it still business as usual or are you cutting some of the frequencies or suspending some of the publications?

Simon Leslie: It’s business very much unusual, most of our carriers are grounded. The only airline that’s continued publishing all the way through is American. Obviously, as the biggest airline in the world, they haven’t stopped. The others have stopped and when they’re going to be back at reasonable levels of passengers, we’ll start publishing again. We basically lost most of April, May, and maybe a little bit of June as well.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic, where the entire world was grounded?

Simon Leslie: I’ve always thought about something like this, where we could switch off for a couple of months. I’ve been working flat-out for 33 years and the ability not to have to worry about a target, a budget, and hitting some sales numbers is quite pleasant. So, it’s not a perfect scenario, but we’re going to make the best of it. And we have to go back when this finishes and make sure that we did something that was productive in this period, that we don’t just waste it and fritter it away.

I’ve been through every single challenging situation since 1988 and there’s never been anything where you can’t go and pray, you can’t fly anywhere, you can’t do anything; all the things we love to do have been taken away from us. But then again, we’re all in the same situation. And no one is going to look at us in five years’ time and say, you had a terrible 2020, what did you do wrong? We’re all going to have a blip on our balance sheets, on our profit and loss this year, with the exception of the toilet roll and hand sanitizer producers. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Once this pandemic is over, what do you think the magazine and magazine media industry will have learned?

Simon Leslie: I think what has been interesting, and I’ve been watching and observing some of the things people have been saying to you, for example; I’m not sure anyone is learning anything, they’re just trying to reinvent the wheel. And some of them are trying to reinvent it as a square. And I believe that’s wrong. This is an opportunity where we have to look at everything we do and figure out the most sensible way we can stay in business.

Also, at the same time, we don’t have to reinvent anything; we can just get better at what we do and improve our products and improve our way of doing business. Improve our communication with both our readers and our clients to make sure we’re giving them much more value, because I think that’s what we’ll end up doing during this period, showing people how much we care, because ultimately, this is about who cares. The companies that are shown to care about their employees, their clients, their advertisers, will come out of this much stronger that people who’re just after having the least impact on their bottom line.

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

Simon Leslie: Our message is we’re going to come back stronger; we’re going to come back more energetic, more positive, more enthused. We’re going to do everything we can to grow and use this as an opportunity, while others are shattering and closing and stuttering, we’re going to be prepared, ready and able to take advantage of the opportunities.

Over the last year I’ve been craving a recession, because there are so many good businesses out there which are being poorly run, and I would love to get my hands on some of these brands that seem to be underappreciated and uncared for by the people who own them. If I can use this as an opportunity to pick some of those up, I will be doing that.

Samir Husni: Do you see any negative things about what’s happened to the magazine industry during this, other than the blip on your P & L, or you’re thinking strictly positive?

Simon Leslie: I think it’s just going to be different. People are still going to behave, and I keep challenging myself on this point, which is are we not going to want to go to a football match and sit next to somebody, are we not going to go to a bar and get a drink? Are you going to go into the most popular bar in whatever city you’re in and everyone is going to stay at six-foot intervals? That’s not how we behave as humans. So, I just think for a short period of time we’re going to be a bit more germophobic, but after that we’ll just go back to normal. And I think that the normality will come.

If there are three businesses that have been affected by this it’s travel, advertising and publishing. And I have all three of those right in my sweet spot. So, I don’t think I could have been hit any harder, and yet I’m standing here and I’m actually grateful for this opportunity. I’m grateful that we’ve had this time and I promise you the people who have stuck with me, clients, staff and advertisers, I will do whatever I can to repay that support.

Samir Husni: So, you’re looking at the pandemic as an opportunity more than a negative?

Simon Leslie: I certainly love opportunity and I love when people get scared and I love it when they start panicking because it’s not a time to panic. It’s not like a war where something is broken and the infrastructure is gone or like when the banking system broke in 2008. This is a situation where we’ve all been hit by the same wave and it’s no one’s fault, nobody caused it. We’re all going to come out of it relatively at the same time, most of us pretty much scarred by it, but nothing is fundamentally broken.

How people will behave will depend how quickly and completely this is over. I think having been locked down for 12 to 16 weeks, most people will be dying to go to a restaurant or a bar to sit and relax, just do things they haven’t been able to do. And especially get on a plane.

Samir Husni: What makes print magazines and print magazine media relevant today? Will print play a different role after the pandemic is behind us?

Simon Leslie: I’m going to let you in on a little secret, for the first time in I don’t know how long, I bought a newspaper yesterday. I wanted to read something, I wanted to have an opinion and I wanted to see what people were saying. The letters to the editors were interesting. And the paper was still thick and full of advertising and full of great content, trustworthy content. I’m sick of watching the news. I’m sick of watching the press briefings. They’re all saying what they want to hear, they have their own hidden agendas.

This is a crisis of communication. If there was ever a time when people needed to go back to trusted sources of information, this is it because our leaders are telling us something different, there’s inconsistencies in countries, and there are inconsistencies even within governments. And we’re supposed to believe a load of people who, quite frankly, haven’t ever managed this type of situation in their lives either.

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

Simon Leslie: We had a speaker once who came on and told us that we have to think about the next day the night before, so we’re excited when we wake up. And I was so excited I couldn’t actually get to sleep, so that has always kept me up a little bit. Nothing is really worrying me right now. I’m excited about the opportunities that are going to present themselves, I really am.

If there are people out there who are in media and are frustrated with their current employees, or they’ve been taught to go and do something else, tell them to reach out and talk to us, because we’re going to grow after this, we’re going to take on more people. We have lots more inventory that we’re creating and I genuinely believe that if you want to be in an industry that’s going to bounce back, travel is definitely going to be part of it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Katriina Kaarre, Publishing Director, Octavamedia, Finland, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “This Situation Will Change Things For Good.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 21, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (19)

“This situation will change things for good: redo content planning to serve the audience in the current mental atmosphere, connect with co-workers digitally just to see how everyone is doing, don’t waste energy on things you cannot change. And to the readers: try to make the best of this, go out and focus on quality time at home. We’re re-packaging content for the audience to make the best of time spent at home.” … Katriina Kaarre

 “Knowing the reader, anticipating his/her behavior. Giving content that serves them well at the right time, in the right channel, in the right package. Trusting in trustworthy quality content that the readers are willing to pay for it.” … Katriina Kaarre (On the relevancy of magazines)

A leading player among Finnish magazine publishers, Otavamedia Ltd. is part of the Otava Group and publishes a total of 25 magazines in Finland and more than 30 websites. Katriina Kaarre is publishing director for the company and is dealing with the pandemic much like her American counterparts, as best she can.

I reached out to Katriina recently and asked her about this “new normal” the magazine and magazine media industry are having to adjust to for now: working from home, social distancing and anticipating a truly uncertain future. Katriina is staying positive and said, “Corona will help the quality media thrive, the hunger for good (quality) content is stronger than ever, which can be seen in our figures, especially on the web. The power of legacy brands is stronger than ever.”

Indeed, quality content is always needed, especially through times such as today.

So, now the 19th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Katriina Kaarre, publishing director, Octavamedia.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Octavamedia is operating during this pandemic: Otavamedia has been doing fairly well through this so far. However, our print media sales are down and anticipated to drop even more toward the end of the year; online is doing a lot better (but will not be enough to cover for the print loss). We thought that single copy sales would take a stronger blow but they haven’t (since people go to grocery stores less frequently). By far our biggest sales channel, subscription sales, is down by five percent.

On how easy, hard, or disruptive the move to working from home was: Luckily, we renewed the tech when moving to our new offices the end of February and all the connections have worked well. The move from office to homes has been easier than expected (so many Finns are introverts anyhow). For people with small kids at home, it has been a lot harder.

On the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, events, etc.: There has not been any changes to frequencies of publications so far. Also, we print almost all of our magazines in Finland, so we haven’t had problems on that front either. Events have been cancelled, so we’re expecting big losses of sales in that. The year’s biggest event called “Housing Fair” is still in the works, but the prospect is that it will at least be moved to a later date or cancelled.

On whether she ever imagined she would be working during a pandemic: There had been a few stories about the next possible pandemic in the past years, but we never imagined anything on this scope. Finland has basically had the same problems that other countries have had: insufficient resources to test the virus, the lack of respirator masks and scarcity of respirators. Finland is coping rather well with the situation, all in all, and the percentage of people deceased is still quite moderate.

On what message she is communicating with her employees, clients and readers during these uncertain times: This situation will change things for good: redo content planning to serve the audience in the current mental atmosphere, connect with co-workers digitally just to see how everyone is doing, don’t waste energy on things you cannot change. And to the readers: try to make the best of this, go out and focus on quality time at home. We’re re-packaging content for the audience to make the best of time spent at home.

On what makes magazines and magazine media relevant today: Knowing the reader, anticipating his/her behavior. Giving content that serves them well at the right time, in the right channel, in the right package. Trusting in trustworthy quality content that the readers are willing to pay for it.

On any additional words of wisdom: Corona will help the quality media thrive, the hunger for good (quality) content is stronger than ever, which can be seen in our figures, especially on the web. The power of legacy brands is stronger than ever.

On what keeps her up at night: The economical state of Finland and the world, the speed with how fast it is getting worse. At least we can comfort our readers and give them advice on how to get through these crazy times.

And now  the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Katriina Kaarre, publishing director, Octavamedia.

Samir Husni: How is Octavamedia in Finland operating during this pandemic?

Katriina Kaarre: Otavamedia has been doing fairly well through this so far. However, our print media sales are down and anticipated to drop even more toward the end of the year; online is doing a lot better (but will not be enough to cover for the print loss). We thought that single copy sales would take a stronger blow but they haven’t (since people go to grocery stores less frequently). By far our biggest sales channel, subscription sales, is down by five percent. Since nobody knows how long the situation will last, we’re making estimations every month of the whole.  All this means is that we will not able to make the budget for this year and have had to cut some costs.

However, we are not cutting development cost of the digital, which has been on a significant rise, both in media sales and in subscription sales.

The staff of Otavamedia is of course worried about the situation, but are working conscientiously, getting the work done as well as possible.

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

Katriina Kaarre: Luckily, we renewed the tech when moving to our new offices the end of February and all the connections have worked well. The move from office to homes has been easier than expected (so many Finns are introverts anyhow). For people with small kids at home, it has been a lot harder. Also, developing things (bouncing ideas, testing reactions etc.) hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting better at it.

 Samir Husni: What has been the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, events, etc.?

Katriina Kaarre: There has not been any changes to frequencies of publications so far. Also, we print almost all of our magazines in Finland, so we haven’t had problems on that front either. Events have been cancelled, so we’re expecting big losses of sales in that. The year’s biggest event called “Housing Fair” is still in the works, but the prospect is that it will at least be moved to a later date or cancelled.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic? And can you ever be prepared for something like this?

Katriina Kaarre: There had been a few stories about the next possible pandemic in the past years, but we never imagined anything on this scope. Finland has basically had the same problems that other countries have had: insufficient resources to test the virus, the lack of respirator masks and scarcity of respirators. Finland is coping rather well with the situation, all in all, and the percentage of people deceased is still quite moderate. People gathering together is strictly forbidden, but people can move outdoors quite freely (in a party of only a few people).

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

Katriina Kaarre: This situation will change things for good: redo content planning to serve the audience in the current mental atmosphere, connect with co-workers digitally just to see how everyone is doing, don’t waste energy on things you cannot change. And to the readers: try to make the best of this, go out and focus on quality time at home. We’re re-packaging content for the audience to make the best of time spent at home. Besides corona stories (which do still really well on the web), do-it yourself, gardening, grilling, knitting tips are well read now. Also, we’re constantly developing new native concepts for advertisers that adapt to the current situation. Print advertisers are particularly cautious and we’re expecting at least a 30-50 percent drop by the end of the year. Digital sales and single copy sales are doing okay (people have time to read) so far.

Samir Husni: What makes magazines and magazine media relevant today?

Katriina Kaarre: Knowing the reader, anticipating his/her behavior. Giving content that serves them well at the right time, in the right channel, in the right package. Trusting in trustworthy quality content that the readers are willing to pay for it.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Katriina Kaarre: Corona will help the quality media thrive, the hunger for good (quality) content is stronger than ever, which can be seen in our figures, especially on the web. The power of legacy brands is stronger than ever.

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

Katriina Kaarre: The economical state of Finland and the world, the speed with how fast it is getting worse. At least we can comfort our readers and give them advice on how to get through these crazy times.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Steve Cohn, Former Editor in Chief, min: Media Industry Newsletter To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “[Magazines] Haven’t Changed In This Day & Age From Past Days & Ages; It’s Connecting, Establishing Relationships With The Readers.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 20, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (18)

“It’s the emotions of the publishers and editors out there; it was their emotions that I always tried to convey in the Newsletter. I never liked to use the word “it” for a magazine, it was always the editor, publisher or a top executive of the magazine that I would talk to that was representing the magazine. It was always their emotions that I tried to convey. To me, that made it very personal and not only to me, but also to the readers and really reflected on what they did.” … Steve Cohn

 “One thing I used to write about all the time was advertising is finite, but media is infinite. And that’s always been a challenge for publishers. And it’s a deeper challenge now. Publishers and editors who connect with readers, who give them content that they want to read right away, are the ones who will succeed. I always worried about that myself. I wanted to write what people wanted to read because I didn’t want to waste their time. That was a real concern of mine.” … Steve Cohn

If you are in the magazine and magazine media world, the name Steve Cohn has to conjure up good memories of a journalist who edited the leading magazine media newsletter, min: media industry newsletter, for 30 years, and edited it well, very well indeed.  He is, in fact, the only journalist I have never heard anyone say a single negative word about.  He took his job seriously and acted as any good journalist would, he reported the facts and documented the magazine media world with numbers and figures.  His lunches with the “who’s who” in the business were a fixture of his reporting and people awaited the arrival of the newsletter every Monday morning nonstop.

I spoke with Steve recently to chat about his views on the world of magazines and magazine media, as someone who watched and reported on the industry for years. He was there after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and he was there during the economic crisis of 2008/09.  I asked his opinion  of the current magazine media situation as a part of my series of Publishing During A Pandemic.  His stroll through memory lane sheds a lot of highlights on an industry that is determined to be resilient and in search of a new business model after a century of success with an ad-driven one.

Please join me as Steve and I take a stroll down magazine media memory lane and stay tuned for more in the series of Publishing During  A Pandemic.

But first the sound-bites:

On people saying he is an expert at putting a positive spin on things: I was being honest, I put a positive spin because I didn’t just write things willy-nilly. Obviously as a good journalist, I talked to them and got their answers to my questions. If they said something positive, I would record that. I also questioned it, and I would record that too. I was being fair, I wasn’t being a Pollyanna.

On what he thinks the role of magazines are today in these uncertain times: If you look at The New Yorker, for example, it’s just as influential as it’s always been. I think magazines have to be out there and they have to be a voice. It’s far more challenging with the Covid-19 outbreak; it’s probably more challenging than it’s ever been before. But they have to be out there because people depend on them.

On a quote from his former boss, the late Bill Barlow– Magazines are a people business: Definitely, because it’s the emotions. It’s the emotions of the publishers and editors out there; it was their emotions that I always tried to convey in the Newsletter. I never liked to use the word “it” for a magazine, it was always the editor, publisher or a top executive of the magazine that I would talk to that was representing the magazine. It was always their emotions that I tried to convey.

On what he thinks makes magazines relevant in this day and age: It hasn’t changed in this day and age from past days and ages; it’s connecting, establishing relationships with the readers. Whatever sector you’re in, be it fashion, sports, news; be it science or lifestyle, there has to be a one-to-one connection with the reader. I think PEOPLE magazine does that brilliantly, that’s why they’re so strong.

On making people need a magazine rather than just wanting one: I think in order to change a want to a need, you have to put the content out there that people really want. Home improvement magazines do that; if you need to fix your house in some way, you buy The Family Handyman. The cover lines attract you and that’s why they’re so important, especially on newsstand, because they can hook the reader. Then you can change that want to a need.

On what advice he would give the magazine industry today about moving forward: It might seem Pollyannaish, so I apologize, but I’d say just do the best job you can and put out the best content you can. In a correct society, that would bring results. It doesn’t always do that, but just be as professional as you can. That’s easier said than done sometimes, I also know that too, especially with what’s going on today with Covid-19. It has to be unbelievably challenging to publishers. Obviously, I think digital editions’ readerships are probably going up with most everyone at home.

On the highlight of his long career: The highlight of my career was the way MIN responded after the 9/11 attack. It was a very difficult time, especially in New York, as it is today. And there was a lot of media out there. And with the travel magazines, people were afraid to travel, to fly, as they are today, but for different reasons. I decided, instead of all the publishers asking me what I was going to do, I decided to call an editor, in this case Nancy Novogrod, she was the editor of Travel + Leisure.

On what he is doing these days: I live in White Plains, New York and I write a lot of stuff gratis for the library. I’ve been doing that for about three or four years. I do it to keep me busy and test my writing skills to some degree. I’ve also written articles for Folio. I did one on David Carey when he retired from Hearst, but now he’s back.

On whether he has considered writing a memoir or a book about his life: I would say to some degree, I have been thinking about it for a while. People will ask me why I don’t write a book about this or that. There are two things I’ve thought about: number one, if I wrote a book it wouldn’t have a lot of people who would buy it, maybe the Square, which is 14th Street, and Columbus Circle, which is 59th Street, the rest of the country, with some exceptions, maybe Oxford, Miss. (Laughs), probably wouldn’t buy it. So, I haven’t taken it really very seriously, and I still don’t.

On what kept him up at night when he was editor of MIN: What kept me up at night then was worrying about the issue, mostly Sunday nights, just worrying about the issue closing.

And now  the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve Cohn, former editor, Media Industry Newsletter (MIN).

Samir Husni: People have said that you’re an expert at putting a positive spin on things, no matter how bad they look.

Steve Cohn: I was being honest, I put a positive spin because I didn’t just write things willy-nilly. Obviously as a good journalist, I talked to them and got their answers to my questions. If they said something positive, I would record that. I also questioned it, and I would record that too. I was being fair, I wasn’t being a Pollyanna. And being fair was really important to me, because the health of MIN (Media Industry Newsletter) depended on the health of the industry, the magazine industry. To just knock everybody didn’t do me any good, unless there was justification for it.

So, a positive spin? Yes, you’re correct to a degree. I was an honest journalist. If the magazine was in trouble I would report on it. If their ad pages were down at the time, that was a fact. I based on facts not on rumors. I tried to be honest. That’s something I did throughout my career.

And I think it worked, because obviously, I built a trust with many of the people I talked to. And that was important because there’s a natural adversarial relationship between a journalist and his/her subject. You deal with these people day-to-day and their wellbeing made my wellbeing. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Samir Husni: In your opinion, as a 30+ year journalist and as editor of one of the most influential media newsletters that we’ve had, what is the role of magazines today in the midst of this doom and gloom that we’re passing through now?

Steve Cohn: If you look at The New Yorker, for example, it’s just as influential as it’s always been. I think magazines have to be out there and they have to be a voice. It’s far more challenging with the Covid-19 outbreak; it’s probably more challenging than it’s ever been before. But they have to be out there because people depend on them.

I think in the short-term, they will be more dependent on their websites, because single copies may be hard to buy with all the stores closed, at least limited anyway. So, the websites are important. And also magazines offer reassurance and service, and that’s something unique.

Today, in 2020, to some degree it’s like what happened after September 11, to some degree. There was a lot of gloom and doom back then, especially for the travel magazines. But they pulled through and hopefully they will again. I think the challenge is must greater because we don’t know when this is going to end. And we don’t know if the Coronavirus is going to come back.

Samir Husni: One of my favorite quotes is one that you told me your former boss, the late Bill Barlow said, “Magazines are a people business.”

Steve Cohn: Definitely, because it’s the emotions. It’s the emotions of the publishers and editors out there; it was their emotions that I always tried to convey in the Newsletter. I never liked to use the word “it” for a magazine, it was always the editor, publisher or a top executive of the magazine that I would talk to that was representing the magazine. It was always their emotions that I tried to convey. To me, that made it very personal and not only to me, but also to the readers and really reflected on what they did.

One of my favorite stories – in 2003 I had lunch with David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, and we talked for a bit. He’s a brilliant guy who’s still there. And I asked him how long he thought he was going to be at The New Yorker, and he answered, “Until my knees creak.” And I put that in the Newsletter because it was an emotion. And he’s still there, to his credit. It was a way to catch a little of the emotion behind the person and the personality, more than just blah, blah, blah.

I see a lot of bland reporting out there, and certainly I’ve also done my share, but I think you have to try and make things emotional so you can connect with your readers, especially if you have a newsletter like MIN, which is sort of a one-to-one relationship with the audience. That was something I believed in. Bill Barlow certainly did too, and he influenced me. He passed away in 1994, but he was the owner and the guy who hired me.

He was also the guy who introduced me to you too, I don’t think he knew you, but he had heard about somebody at Meredith, and I guess it was Jim Autry at the time, who had hired someone who had a connection with you, and he told me about you. And I called you – it was August 1986, and that’s how we met.

Ironically, Bill also gave me the idea in December to do a launch review. And in those days there was no Internet, so I had to go to the New York Library and get back issues of Folio. I used to do a launch roundup every month. I did that for about a year or two and then I got wiser. (Laughs) I started leaving that to you. But Bill was a big influence. He was a guy who lived on the Upper Eastside, very wealthy. MIN Newsletter launched in 1947 and he bought it in the mid-‘70s as a hobby and that’s sort of how he treated it. But he needed someone to do the work, the nitty-gritty, and that’s why I was hired in 1986.

Samir Husni: What do you think makes magazines relevant, necessary and sufficient in this day and age?

Steve Cohn: It hasn’t changed in this day and age from past days and ages; it’s connecting, establishing relationships with the readers. Whatever sector you’re in, be it fashion, sports, news; be it science or lifestyle, there has to be a one-to-one connection with the reader. I think PEOPLE magazine does that brilliantly, that’s why they’re so strong. I think Vogue and Anna Wintour has done that brilliantly; to make the audience feel like a part of the business and not strangers. I think that’s very important. It always has been and it always will be. Those are the magazines that are the most successful.

When they publish an article that strikes a chord and gets a lot of attention and that the reader really wants to read, and not just put away for a rainy day, those are the magazines that are successful and they will be and will continue to be.

Samir Husni: And can you make people need a magazine, instead of just wanting one? Can you change that want to a need?

Steve Cohn: I think in order to change a want to a need, you have to put the content out there that people really want. Home improvement magazines do that; if you need to fix your house in some way, you buy The Family Handyman. The cover lines attract you and that’s why they’re so important, especially on newsstand, because they can hook the reader. Then you can change that want to a need. That can be a very difficult challenge, especially in 2020 with so much media out there.

One thing I used to write about all the time was advertising is finite, but media is infinite. And that’s always been a challenge for publishers. And it’s a deeper challenge now. Publishers and editors who connect with readers, who give them content that they want to read right away, are the ones who will succeed. I always worried about that myself. I wanted to write what people wanted to read because I didn’t want to waste their time. That was a real concern of mine.

If there was big news early in the week and I came out on a Friday with it, I couldn’t just write the same thing that was already out there a thousand times, I had to put my own spin to it. I needed to tell them something they didn’t know. And that was a way of connecting with the readers. They would see something they hadn’t seen before and they wanted to read it. That was the key to our success for many years, that and the Box Scores and our other features.

I always put the weekly Box Scores on an odd page, either number 3 or 5. And I would always go directly to page three to see how I was doing, New York Magazine, versus my competition. I never forgot that. And I put a lot of emphasis on their accuracy and the monthly Box Scores accuracy, just making sure we had all the participants. And that was a big challenge for me every week. I didn’t do the work personally, but I was responsible for it. And that was really paramount to our success, because Ad Week and everybody published words, but only we had the numbers.

After 9/11, for example, with the Box Scores, everything dropped precipitously after the attack, it wasn’t the fault of the economy, it was the fault of Osama Bin Laden. I didn’t use those words, but it was the terrorist attacks that made everything tank from the fall of 2001 to the fall of 2002. So I tried to be sensitive to that and write it carefully, and it was the right thing to do.

Samir Husni: If you were to reach out to the magazine industry today, the CEOs, publishers and editors; if they were to ask your advice, based upon your experience, about what they should do to move forward, what would you tell them?

Steve Cohn: It might seem Pollyannaish, so I apologize, but I’d say just do the best job you can and put out the best content you can. In a correct society, that would bring results. It doesn’t always do that, but just be as professional as you can. That’s easier said than done sometimes, I also know that too, especially with what’s going on today with Covid-19. It has to be unbelievably challenging to publishers. Obviously, I think digital editions’ readerships are probably going up with most everyone at home.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me the highlight of your long career?

Steve Cohn: The highlight of my career was the way MIN responded after the 9/11 attack. It was a very difficult time, especially in New York, as it is today. And there was a lot of media out there. And with the travel magazines, people were afraid to travel, to fly, as they are today, but for different reasons. I decided, instead of all the publishers asking me what I was going to do, I decided to call an editor, in this case Nancy Novogrod, she was the editor of Travel + Leisure.

It was about 10 days after 9/11 and I asked her what she was going to do. She said she was closing the November issue and the editor’s note that she had planned to write, she changed it to the importance of travel and how travel was needed, even in the difficult times after 9/11. And I asked her to fax it to me, email was relatively new back then. So she faxed it to me. I put it in the Newsletter and over the next three months, other editors began sending these things to me. I didn’t even request them. I received tons of them. And I ran a page of them from September through Thanksgiving. Maybe a little beyond. And that was my proudest moment.

I got editors to share their thoughts about the major tragedy of that time and how they were persevering. And if I was editor of MIN today, I’d probably try and do the same thing, although it would be more difficult because the tragedy is ongoing.

My favorite story, David Zinczenko, who at that time was in his first or second year as editor of Men’s Health, told me in those days he lived near the World Trade Center and he ran past it very early on the morning of 9/11 before the attacks came. And then he went back to his apartment. Later, he met a police officer who had found someone’s keys or something like that, and he asked David if he knew whose they were and David said no. Afterward, he wondered whether that officer had run down to the World Trade Center after the attack. He asked that question in his editor’s letter. It turned out the officer was okay. But that struck a chord with me. And hopefully with the readers. Just another thing in my career that I’ll never forget.

Samir Husni: What are you doing these days? Enjoying retirement, reading a lot of magazines?

Steve Cohn: I live in White Plains, New York and I write a lot of stuff gratis for the library. I’ve been doing that for about three or four years. I do it to keep me busy and test my writing skills to some degree. I’ve also written articles for Folio. I did one on David Carey when he retired from Hearst, but now he’s back. And I did one on Glenda Bailey about a year ago when she was then editor of Harper’s Bazaar, when she was about the sole survivor left among editors, except for Anna Wintour and David Remnick.

If you ever talk to her she sounds very Cockney, very East End London, sort of like Eliza Doolittle before My Fair Lady. And she was put down because of that when she was editor of Bazaar, yet she succeeded. It’s a wonderful story. I have done things like that for Folio, all gratis, for free. I tried to do the Barbara Smith story, but they said they were “too busy” for it, and it was suggested that I send it to you, which I did and thank you for publishing it.

I try to keep busy and really observe the industry from afar, rather than up close. It concerns me and its wellbeing concerns me. I read Ad Age, Adweek, The New York Post, and Mr. Magazine™ and Women’s World Daily, just to see what’s going on. Most of the names I worked with, other than a few, are no longer there anymore. I left MIN in July 2016 and I think easily the majority of the editors and publishers I worked with are gone.

It’s a difficult time for the industry and who knows where it’ll be a year from now or five years with this virus. That’s what is so scary. Your health is paramount. So you social distance and stay indoors and hope for the best. If I were editor of MIN today and not being able to see people, that would be a huge detriment to my reporting. It would be so much harder. Meeting people was one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.

Samir Husni: Are we going to see a memoir or a book from your long career in journalism?

Steve Cohn: I would say to some degree, I have been thinking about it for a while. People will ask me why I don’t write a book about this or that. There are two things I’ve thought about: number one, if I wrote a book it wouldn’t have a lot of people who would buy it, maybe the Square, which is 14th Street, and Columbus Circle, which is 59th Street, the rest of the country, with some exceptions, maybe Oxford, Miss. (Laughs), probably wouldn’t buy it. So, I haven’t taken it really very seriously, and I still don’t. I like to reminisce a lot and that’s why I was happy to do this interview. And I thank you for that.

Samir Husni: What kept you up at night when you were editor of MIN?

Steve Cohn: What kept me up at night then was worrying about the issue, mostly Sunday nights, just worrying about the issue closing. I used to use an old expression, if you’ve watched the movie “The Godfather,” it was X-rated, but James Caan’s character, Sonny Corleone, in one scene mentioned that he didn’t want his brother, Michael, to come out of the toilet with just his private part in his hand. I always thought about that, and “when the fat lady sings,” I had to be ready. I didn’t want to be like Michael Corleone or something, I wanted to be prepared. So, that was a motivator for me, believe it or not. A line from “The Godfather”…(Laughs)

It was a motivator for me to get the issue out. I was the editor, so the buck stopped with me. It was my responsibility. In 30 years, I broke my elbow once, so I missed maybe five closings at the most, when my kids were born, something like that. Otherwise, I was there every Friday. It was a challenging job, a demanding job, but it was a fun job.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Philip Drumheller, President & Owner, Lane Press, Inc. To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Would Advise Publishers To Lean On Their Printers For Problem-Solving – Now More Than Ever.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 20, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (17)

 “Magazines have always been an effective form of entertainment – a chance to dive into a tactile, sensory experience that is immersive and can take your mind off the stresses of the day. How much do we all need that right now? To step back and read about inspiring home design or the noble undertakings of our alumni peers, or just to look through a curated photo gallery? When your favorite magazine comes right to you at your doorstep and you can sit back and get lost in it – that’s something we can all benefit from now.” … Philip Drumheller

 

Founded in 1904, Lane Press, located in Burlington, Vermont, is distinguished by its rich history of printing and publishing innovation. During this pandemic, Philip Drumheller, president and owner of the company, said they are open and ready to serve their clients, but are operating “very carefully and very thoughtfully.”

I reached out to Philip recently and asked him about this tragic pandemic, its effect on the business, and what he feels makes magazines and magazine media relevant, especially during these uncertain times.

“At a time like this, people are seeking trustworthy content that helps them understand the many aspects of this evolving health care crisis.”

So, here is the 17th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Philip Drumheller, president & owner, Lane Press, Inc.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Lane Press is operating during this pandemic: Very carefully and very thoughtfully. We are an essential business per the state of Vermont’s Governor’s “Stay Home” order, and we very much agree with that. We know how important it is for publishers to be able to communicate with their readership without interruption – especially in such an unusual time.

On the steps they are taking to keep employees who are still working onsite safe: The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. We have followed the guidance of the CDC from the very beginning of the outbreak. We have very thorough cleaning and disinfecting procedures in place; we ensure that employees who are in the plant maintain adequate distancing between each other; and we have as many employees working from home as possible

On the impact of the pandemic on the business: We do have a few customers who are cancelling their spring issues. Some are consolidating their spring issues with summer or combining months. It very much depends on market segment – we serve many different types of magazine publishers, all of whom have different needs and challenges right now. Our goal is to help them meet those challenges by being as flexible and creative as we can.

On any shortage of materials or workforce: No, we haven’t seen any disruption in our supply chain. And our workforce is incredibly dedicated.

On whether he ever imagined working during something like a pandemic: I’m sure none of us imagined anything of this ilk and magnitude occurring, but we’ve always believed it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected. We’ve always focused on having solid processes and well-established lines of communication in place – both internally and with our customers – so that when something comes up, these foundational pillars give us a functional, effective framework to operate in.

On what message he is communicating with his clients and his employees: Lane Press remains open and is here to help publishers continue serving their readership. And we’re doing this with a constant eye toward protecting our employees and our community.

On what he feels makes magazines and magazine media relevant today: Magazines are a vehicle for high-quality content – vetted, trustworthy, in-depth content. At a time like this, people are seeking trustworthy content that helps them understand the many aspects of this evolving health care crisis.

On any additional words of wisdom: I would advise publishers to lean on their printers for problem-solving – now more than ever. When our customers tell us they’re challenged in a particular way, we work hard to come up with novel ways to help them.

On what keeps him up at night: Concerns about the economy keep me up. There are so many small businesses in our local community and among our customer base that have worked so hard to build their businesses. And there are so many employees depending on them to continue to do so.

And now  the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Philip Drumheller, president & owner, Lane Press, Inc.

Samir Husni: How is Lane Press operating during this pandemic?

Philip Drumheller: Very carefully and very thoughtfully. We are an essential business per the state of Vermont’s Governor’s “Stay Home” order, and we very much agree with that. We know how important it is for publishers to be able to communicate with their readership without interruption – especially in such an unusual time. People need continued access to information and thought leadership. We’re glad that we can be here, open, and of service to our customers in this delicate time.

Samir Husni: Since you can’t print from home, what are the steps you are taking to social distance and ensure everyone still at the workplace is as safe as possible?

Philip Drumheller: The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. We have followed the guidance of the CDC from the very beginning of the outbreak. We have very thorough cleaning and disinfecting procedures in place; we ensure that employees who are in the plant maintain adequate distancing between each other; and we have as many employees working from home as possible – our administrative staff and a portion of our customer service staff. I think it’s fair to say we haven’t skipped a beat.

Samir Husni: What has been the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, mailing, etc.? Any change in the print schedule from your clients? Skipping issues, reducing print run, etc.

Philip Drumheller: We do have a few customers who are cancelling their spring issues. Some are consolidating their spring issues with summer or combining months. It very much depends on market segment – we serve many different types of magazine publishers, all of whom have different needs and challenges right now. Our goal is to help them meet those challenges by being as flexible and creative as we can.

For example, we’ve been offering our customers special incentives on add-on features so they can add pandemic-related messaging to their magazine – like on a bellyband, a tip, or an onsert inside a polybag. All of these are great ways to add an extra layer of communication at this time. We’re also offering special pricing on a publication of narrow specifications – one we can produce most quickly and cost-efficiently. Our goal is to help publishers stay in contact with their readers. This type of flexible approach enables publishers to do that even while they’re dealing with their own very new and constantly evolving constraints.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any shortage in paper, ink, workforce?

Philip Drumheller: No, we haven’t seen any disruption in our supply chain. And our workforce is incredibly dedicated.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic? And can you ever be prepared for something like this?

Philip Drumheller: I’m sure none of us imagined anything of this ilk and magnitude occurring, but we’ve always believed it’s important to be prepared for the unexpected. We’ve always focused on having solid processes and well-established lines of communication in place – both internally and with our customers – so that when something comes up, these foundational pillars give us a functional, effective framework to operate in.  It worked for us during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu, two world wars, the Great Depression, numerous banking crises, oil embargos, the Great Recession, and, of course, 9/11. Together with nearly 120 years of experience, I’d say that’s why we’ve been able to adjust so quickly to this situation.

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your employees and clients during these uncertain times?

Philip Drumheller: Lane Press remains open and is here to help publishers continue serving their readership. And we’re doing this with a constant eye toward protecting our employees and our community.

Samir Husni: What makes magazines and magazine media relevant today?

Philip Drumheller: Magazines are a vehicle for high-quality content – vetted, trustworthy, in-depth content. At a time like this, people are seeking trustworthy content that helps them understand the many aspects of this evolving health care crisis. Many of the magazines we produce provide this kind of content to readers in business, health care, education, and wellness sectors. But also, magazines have always been an effective form of entertainment – a chance to dive into a tactile, sensory experience that is immersive and can take your mind off the stresses of the day. How much do we all need that right now? To step back and read about inspiring home design or the noble undertakings of our alumni peers, or just to look through a curated photo gallery? When your favorite magazine comes right to you at your doorstep and you can sit back and get lost in it – that’s something we can all benefit from now.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Philip Drumheller: I would advise publishers to lean on their printers for problem-solving – now more than ever. When our customers tell us they’re challenged in a particular way, we work hard to come up with novel ways to help them. All businesses are thinking out-of-the-box right now. And it’s incredibly refreshing to see businesses and consumers relying on each other in such creative ways. I truly believe this is how we’ll come out of this stronger – by trusting and relying on each other.

Further, despite the enormous and obvious challenges of this pandemic, it is also a calling to simpler times… meals with family, a reduction in the frenetic pace of life, more time to read (magazines) and reflect, less noise, cleaner air and water…. It seems to me this is a crucial and especially opportune time for publishers to deliver their product to their readers’ doors.

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

Philip Drumheller: Concerns about the economy keep me up. There are so many small businesses in our local community and among our customer base that have worked so hard to build their businesses. And there are so many employees depending on them to continue to do so.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

O The Oprah Magazine At 20: Celebrating Hope And Bloom In The Midst Of Doom And Gloom. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 17, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (16)

A Virtual Round Table With O, The Oprah Magazine’s Senior Vice President/Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, Jayne Jamison; Editor in Chief, Lucy Kaylin; & Digital Director, Arianna Davis…

“If you think about right now, how people need inspiration, for the times, it’s just amazing how this brand has morphed into what everybody is looking for. It’s not something that’s cookie cutter, you don’t have a lot of magazines out there that are competitors. O, The Oprah Magazine doesn’t really have a competitor. We’re not competitive with lifestyle magazines, certainly not Real Simple. We’re certainly not a women’s service magazine, so we have a very unique position and because of that it gives us an audience that’s not duplicative.” … Jayne Jamison

“There are learnings here, and that’s exciting. If this has taught us anything, we know now that we have to be agile and we have to be able to get by on very little sometimes. We can’t just assume that we’ll have the resources and the luxury, the incredible luxury, to all just sit around together and bang out ideas. We have to think in terms of new ways of working. And we have to always be adhering to our mission at O, which is to help women live their best lives, no matter what befalls them.” …Lucy Kaylin

“The lens that we look at everything through is whether or not this will inspire our reader or helping them live their best life. If it’s a celebrity news story, we still want to make sure that the story is told from a positive perspective. That there is a point beyond contributing to the celebrity news cycle. Or the flip side of that, really digging in and finding the reported story or the essay that’s going to move our reader or stay with her for a long time.” … Arianna Davis

From the vault: At the O, The Oprah Magazine launch party. I took a few pictures of Oprah (never published them before now) and received a boxed copy of the magazine signed by her. Happy 20th anniversary. Wish it was a different time, but “this too shall pass.”

One thing I know for sure is that O, The Oprah Magazine, with no competition in the marketplace, has been spreading the “you can do it” message for 20 years strong now. Even in the midst of this pandemic, the message of the magazine and its namesake is still the same: “Live Your Best Life.” Oprah Winfrey is such a positive force in the world today and her magazine is just as upbeat and hopeful. During a pandemic, Oprah’s message and that of the magazine’s has never been needed more. And on top of everything else, this is the 20th anniversary of O, the Oprah Magazine. I was lucky enough  to be at the O, The Oprah Magazine launch party 20 years ago, where I received a boxed copy of the magazine signed by her. What an amazing event and gift!

I recently spoke with the team leaders over at O, The Oprah Magazine: Jayne Jamison (Senior Vice President/Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer), Lucy Kaylin (Editor in Chief), and Arianna Davis (Digital Director), and we talked about publishing during a pandemic, and not only publishing, but celebrating a milestone – the 20th anniversary issue. It was a remarkable round table discussion held virtually, of course, but with true hope, inspiration and honesty.

So, please enjoy the 16th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Jayne, Lucy & Arianna as they celebrate 20 years of Oprah and Live Our Best Lives, even during a pandemic.

But first the sound-bites:

On operating during a pandemic (Jayne Jamison): We’re trying to engage where we can. There are some clients who have put their ad plans on pause; there are clients who are moving forward and are highly engaged with us, so it really depends on the category of business that we’re talking about. CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) people are very active and interested.

On how she is ensuring that the magazine is relevant, needed and sufficient in today’s uncertain times (Lucy  Kaylin): I think it’s more relevant than ever. This is not a time to put your head under the pillow or allow yourself to be paralyzed with fear. We are all about the connection in its various forms. One of the things that we’re finding as we endure this surreal circumstance is that we are desperate to connect. And that even means connecting in our way with people on the other side of the world. We have an enhanced sense of people everywhere going through what we’re going through and we care a lot.

On the impact of the pandemic on the website (Arianna Davis): The lens that we look at everything through is whether or not this will inspire our reader or help them live their best life. If it’s a celebrity news story, we still want to make sure that the story is told from a positive perspective. That there is a point beyond contributing to the celebrity news cycle. Or the flip side of that, really digging in and finding the reported story or the essay that’s going to move our reader or stay with her for a long time.

On what we will find in the 20th anniversary issue (Jayne Jamison): First, we did a really cool ink jetting on the front cover with our partner Olay, and like many of the partners of Oprah Magazine, they have been with us since the beginning. We started with a personalized message from Oprah, which is ink jetted in our Oprah font, her handwriting, so 500,000 subscribers received a personalized cover with an ink jetted message from Oprah. Then you open it up to consistent spreads, for Olay’s spacing, of some of our most iconic covers that we’ve had in the last 20 years, including the one of Oprah wearing a 3.5 pound wig that won an ASME award for the magazine a number of years ago. It’s a really amazing high-impact unit with this custom personalization on the cover.

On where she sees things heading after the pandemic is behind us (Lucy Kaylin): That’s a good question. I feel like we’re going to have to see when this fog dissipates and then try to tell where we are, because one thing I think this has done for us is forced us to work in a new way, but it has also encouraged us to think in a new way. To think about what are some of the things, the practices, maybe even the crutches, that we’ve used over the years that we really don’t need.

On what the 20th anniversary digital counterpart will look like (Arianna Davis): Much of the content from the 20th anniversary issue will be going online and there will be an oral history of the magazine and how it came to be and how the magazine has progressed through the years. It’s a really delightful story that I think readers will love that we’re going to do online in a big way.

And now for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Senior Vice President/Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, Jayne Jamison; Editor in Chief, Lucy Kaylin; & Digital Director, Arianna Davis, O, The Oprah Magazine.

Jayne Jamison

Up first Jayne Jamison:

Samir Husni: How are you operating during this pandemic?

Jayne Jamison: We’re trying to engage where we can. There are some clients who have put their ad plans on pause; there are clients who are moving forward and are highly engaged with us, so it really depends on the category of business that we’re talking about. CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) people are very active and interested.

Obviously, retailers who have furloughed their employees and aren’t opened, even if they have ecommerce, it’s a little more difficult. But we have armed the staff with tons of ideas and we’re doing it through Zoom calls, Webex and Zoom, we’re doing a lot of video calls with our clients, because for us, we’ve always been in a high-touch business, so it’s really hard just to be emailing back and forth without seeing your client’s face and being able to present the concept yourself. So, we’re doing it a lot and it’s working really well, actually, except maybe for my dog barking in the background or a screaming child occasionally. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: How easy or difficult was the move to working from home for you?

Jayne Jamison: For me, I think it depends on each person and their digital savvy. Some people have a few more issues than others, but if you have a good connection and there are no problems with Internet, it’s a pretty easy system to learn and everybody really got up to speed quickly. Before we left we gave everybody a tutorial and on how to use Webex and Zoom. Many of our clients were already using them, especially those who have offices all over the world. So, we got used to it and used to it very quickly. I prefer to be in front of someone, but because we can’t it’s the next best thing really.

Samir Husni: As the chief revenue officer of a magazine that’s celebrating 20 years, and not just any magazine, but O, The Oprah Magazine, what’s your plan going forward? You have the 20th anniversary issue, and I assume everything inside it took place before the pandemic hit us, so what’s next?

Jayne Jamison: We actually closed the first week in March, so our timing was impeccable on that. Moving forward, it’s hard to say. It all depends on when we are out of the isolation mode, because right now I think a lot of advertisers are waiting for their stores to reopen to spend again. So, we don’t really know.

We’re working on things like the summer issues, but we don’t know when we’re going back to work. It’s a hard situation because there is no answer right now, everybody would love to have one, but we don’t. And we’re based in New York, so we’re in the epicenter of this problem. We live in a very high-density area, we have to know that there is going to be testing so that everyone can get back to work.

Samir Husni: What will we find in this 20th anniversary issue of O, The Oprah Magazine?

Jayne Jamison: For our brand, it’s all about the engagement. Oprah’s fans are really excited about everything she does. For us, this idea of personal growth is important. When you think about Oprah launching this magazine 20 years ago, it was about mindfulness, the mind/body connection, and about elevating your lives and positive mental health; all of these things are really in the forefront now. And also being the most diverse general market magazine in America and the fact that we’ve always had diverse voices. And not just ethnicity, we’re talking about age, sexual orientation, and body shape and size. So, in terms of what America looks like and what America is interested in, this idea of connecting with other human beings, obviously at this moment, that’s hard, but we’ve always been about how to create stronger connections in your life, whether it’s with your family, your work associates, or globally.

The people who read this magazine are lifelong learners and they’re very interested in learning about others, people who are different than them, and Oprah is so great about finding the commonalities among people. It’s just been a joy because this is a brand that whatever we do, if we have a custom collaboration with Talbots and we’re trying to drive people into the store, or if it’s Amazon we’re working with, everyone looks to Oprah, she’s the arbiter of taste and she’s the person we go to for inspiration.

And if you think about right now, how people need inspiration, for the times, it’s just amazing how this brand has morphed into what everybody is looking for. It’s not something that’s cookie cutter, you don’t have a lot of magazines out there that are competitors. O, The Oprah Magazine doesn’t really have a competitor. We’re not competitive with lifestyle magazines, certainly not Real Simple. We’re certainly not a women’s service magazine, so we have a very unique position and because of that it gives us an audience that’s not duplicative.

Samir Husni: Give me three unique things that you feel you’ve achieved with the 20th anniversary issue.

Jayne Jamison: First, we did a really cool inkjetting on the front cover with our partner Olay, and like many of the partners of Oprah Magazine, they have been with us since the beginning. We started with a personalized message from Oprah, which is inkjetted in our Oprah font, her handwriting, so 500,000 subscribers received a personalized cover with an inkjetted message from Oprah. Then you open it up to consistent spreads, for Olay’s spacing, of some of our most iconic covers that we’ve had in the last 20 years, including the one of Oprah wearing a 3.5 pound wig that won an ASME award for the magazine a number of years ago. It’s a really amazing high-impact unit with this custom personalization on the cover.

And what we did on the back cover was with Hallmark. They’re doing a really big digital campaign with us, which is actually launching very soon, and it’s all about connection, which is very timely right now; we actually polybagged a greeting card in the issue. It went specifically to millennial readers, our millennial readership has grown significantly because Oprah obviously resonates a lot with millennials. So we did a card that was all about connection and how you could celebrate Mother’s Day if you’re not with your mother physically. These reader’s will get a card to send to their mothers and it’s going to 100,000 subscribers that the client chose, in addition to running an ad on our third cover and having the big digital campaign.

We also have various clients who basically ran ads thanking us for the partnership that we’ve had. There are fashion brands like Bionic Shoes, Lane Bryant, people we have credited throughout the years continuously, and they all ran really nice ads congratulating us and touting the credits that they’ve had in our magazine. So that was really nice too.

There’s a lot of really great advertising and content in it. It’s our biggest issue of the year thus far. We had about 66 pages of advertising within the issue, so we had many new advertisers too. But I would say the thank you ads, such as with our partner Holland America, we have a cruise partnership, they took out a spread to thank us for that partnership, those were just so nice because we have a lot of synergy and very deep relationships with many of our core clients.

Samir Husni: What is your message to your readers, clients and employees during these uncertain times?

Jayne Jamison:  My message is one of resilience. Every day we have to get up and say this is a new day, we’re going to try again. We’re going to come up with another new idea; we’re going to get one client on the phone that we haven’t been able to connect with.

If you’re in this industry, overtime you’ve built up, obviously, a sense of resilience, but this is a lot different, because you have people working from home. So, for me, it’s find the time, and I don’t care when you do it. Some of my staff have children at home and they’re homeschooling, so it’s a matter of trying to balance all the things in their lives. If today is a bad day, we can get to it tomorrow, but I think that resilience is what makes a good salesperson a great salesperson. You never take no for an answer, you always go back and find another option or another idea that’s going to get your clients excited because it’s going to help them grow their business.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add?

Jayne Jamison: One thing I do want to tell you very badly is my husband is from Memphis, Tenn. and one way I can get my children to Zoom with me is send them food, so we are having Rendezvous BBQ tonight. My kids are all over the place, but everyone got their Rendezvous last night and we’re going to eat together tonight via Zoom. (Laughs)

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

Jayne Jamison: The question is when can I get in front of my clients again, face to face. It is a high-touch business and it always has been. That’s really what we’re all craving for, not just obviously clients, but also to be with our staff face to face. You can communicate nicely through a computer, but we’re all wondering when can we go back. Will it be this month or next month, the summer? There are so many unanswered questions and we all want to plan the future, but right now we can’t.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Lucy Kaylin

Up Next Lucy Kaylin:

Samir Husni: When I look back and reflect on the first issue of O, The Oprah Magazine from May/June 2000, Oprah’s call to action was “Live your best life,” “Have courage for the next 31 days.” Twenty years later, after showing people how to live their best life, what’s the message today during this pandemic?

Lucy Kaylin: To be honest, we’re the perfect companion for something like this. It would be wonderful to avoid anything like this pandemic ever again, but since we find ourselves in this position, we’re the magazine that’s truly there for you in good times and bad. We are very much dedicated to the idea that you really have everything you need inside yourself, in a sense. You have strength that you didn’t realize that you had; you have powers of expression, exploration and imagination.

And of course, connecting will now be happening over Zoom and Webex and on the phone, and all the rest, but you still have the power in you to reach out and connect, to comfort and to bring joy to yourself and others again, in good times and bad. That’s really what we counsel all the time, it’s not about the external things, at the end of the day it’s not about what you can buy, even though we do show lovely things that you can buy in the magazine should you want to, but that’s not where the lasting joy is going to come from.

Going through what we’re going through now, we’re just eager and delighted to be providing yet more of that inspiration and counsel. And also great ideas that we can share with readers on how to make even a time like this a rich and fulfilling one, where you ultimately find out new things about yourself.

Samir Husni: How are you ensuring that the magazine is relevant, needed and sufficient in today’s uncertain times?

Lucy Kaylin: For the reasons I just said, I think it’s more relevant than ever. This is not a time to put your head under the pillow or allow yourself to be paralyzed with fear. We are all about the connection in its various forms. One of the things that we’re finding as we endure this surreal circumstance is that we are desperate to connect. And that even means connecting in our way with people on the other side of the world. We have an enhanced sense of people everywhere going through what we’re going through and we care a lot.

And it’s the kind of thing that we are very focused on at O, The Oprah Magazine. We are always finding ways to shine our light and to use ourselves in ways that will be, not only joyful for us, but helpful for others. We need it now more than ever, so I think the relevance is rather acute at the moment.

Samir Husni: There was a quote you made once that Oprah taught you not to overthink or do something just to check it off your list. How are you handling that to-do list with your team during this pandemic?

Lucy Kaylin: Thank goodness for the apps, the technology that we all have to make that happen. The first few days were really hairy, where we were just kind of scrambling, shooting off emails like crazy, with me getting messages to the team and delivering edits that way, which was a very cumbersome way to work. Soon enough, of course, we’re all up on Slack and we have the opportunity to see each other and we have the opportunity through Slack to look at pages together, look at layouts together, and we all talk and share and brainstorm almost as if we’re in the office together at the Hearst Tower.

We’re also planning some ways to be social together. One of the things that I’ve been doing is check-ins with small teams because it’s sort of hard to do with 35 people, but I just had a check-in with my copy and research department on Slack and I’m having a check-in with the fashion department, with the books department and a check-in with the beauty department, etc. So, it’s a way to at least maintain some personal contact with my wonderful staffers and just stay in touch.

We have a tradition of something called an “O Bar,” which is when we close an issue or there’s something to celebrate, we break open some wine and have some cheese, we just have a really fun time at the office just being together. Obviously, we can’t do it quite the same way this time, but we’re going to have a Zoom O Bar next week which I’m excited about. There is going to be some fun and games that will help us feel like we’re together.

Samir Husni: The 20th anniversary issue is themed “Visionaries,” and you’ve been with the magazine now for over a decade; did you ever imagine anything like this happening, that you would be publishing during a pandemic?

Lucy Kaylin: No, I certainly never imagined it. It blows my mind every time I think about it, that this isn’t just some terrible thing that New York City is going through, it’s happening all over the world. Obviously, it has just compromised business on all levels in the worst ways. And even though that’s terrible, I’m quick to be grateful for everything I have to be thankful for and all of us at Hearst are more grateful than we could possibly say, that we have our jobs through this. And that the company has been really quite wonderful in terms of putting the employees first through this terrible circumstance.

Samir Husni: What’s Oprah’s and your message through the pages of the magazine during this pandemic?

Lucy Kaylin: You know Samir, I do not write a letter from the editor, that’s Oprah’s role and Oprah definitely writes for the magazine, she’s very of-the-moment and exceedingly aware, concerned and compassionate in regards to whatever the world is going through. And that’s reflected in what she’s writing.

In fact, I was just proofing a “Here We Go” section and we added a box underneath the picture this month that is a shout-out to the photo team that pulled off some stories this month under unbelievable circumstances. For instance, we had the fabulous team of  Gentl and Hyers doing a food story and they made the food themselves, they shot it themselves in a very different and strict-down way. And the people who did the fashion story, I think the photographer’s girlfriend was the model and she did her own hair and makeup. People are finding incredibly creative ways to get this work done. And we make sure that our readers know what went into it, who came up with great ideas and sacrificed to bring them the content they love.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, what do you think is next? Try to look into your crystal ball, through the fog and tell me what you see.

Lucy Kaylin: That’s a good question. I feel like we’re going to have to see when this fog dissipates and then try to tell where we are, because one thing I think this has done for us is force us to work in a new way, but it has also encouraged us to think in a new way. To think about what are some of the things, the practices, maybe even the crutches, that we’ve used over the years that we really don’t need. For instance, does the entire team need to be joined at the hip, Monday through Friday, all day, every day, to put out this magazine. Is there something creative we can do, a sort of rotating cast of people on the premises and then some remote, just that sort of thing.

There are learnings here, and that’s exciting. If this has taught us anything, we know now that we have to be agile and we have to be able to get by on very little sometimes. We can’t just assume that we’ll have the resources and the luxury, the incredible luxury, to all just sit around together and bang out ideas. We have to think in terms of new ways of working. And we have to always be adhering to our mission at O, which is to help women live their best lives, no matter what befalls them. Sometimes it’s personal tragedy and difficult circumstances in one’s own life and sometimes it’s something like this. Our mission is vast and ongoing and we’re proud to be of service with that mission.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Lucy Kaylin: Just be kind to each other, connect in every way you possibly can, and also know that lovingly-made media, along the lines of monthly magazines like O, are a great way to foster a connection. You can reconnect with you and you can connect through what you’re learning in O and what inspires you in O and share it with others.

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

Lucy Kaylin: Aside from a global pandemic? And a completely ravaged stock market and the fact that both of my kids are on the West Coast; what’s keeping me up at night? It’s really just my normal insomnia, Samir. Even in good times I’m up a few hours in the middle of every night. I’m choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to use those hours for reflection, because we live in a world where that is required to maintain your equilibrium. We really need to hunker down and reflect. And whether that’s at 3:30 in the morning or on a lazy Sunday, it’s something I strongly encourage.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

Arianna Davis

And last, but certainly not least, Arianna Davis:

Samir Husni: In the midst of this pandemic, what role is oprahmag.com playing today in spreading Oprah’s message and the magazine as a whole?

Arianna Davis: There has always been an online presence in some way or another for the magazine. For a long time there was oprah.com, which was a bit more of a marketing site for things happening in Oprah’s world. There was some coverage of the magazine, but it wasn’t its own editorial site. So, in 2018 Hearst decided it was the right time. It was coming on the heels of Oprah’s infamous Golden Globe speech where she inspired a lot of hope in people and talked about the Me Too movement. It was really an inspirational moment. And the magazine was so successful, I think Hearst decided it was time that the magazine have its own editorial website.

We launched in October 2018. The magazine has been around so long and is incredibly rich with the kind of stories you really want to sit down and spend your time with. The online edition is more of what’s happening right now, looking through the lens of living your best life, while the print magazine is an inspirational tool for what you may want to do later with the sense of Oprah’s positivity.

There are a few things that we’re able to do online that the magazine may not gear as much toward, which is news stories, even some celebrity content, but also most of the great content from the magazine goes online. We also do a lot of personal essays, the same kind of inspirational, riveting content that you’ll see in the magazine. It’s definitely the same ecosystem as the print magazine, we’re just able to do things a bit more timely since we can get a story up on the same day.

Samir Husni: Has it been easier or harder to do the digital when you’re isolating and social distancing from your team?

Arianna Davis: That’s a good question. I wouldn’t say easier or harder, it’s been different. Digitally, we had the tools that we needed in order to create content. Our team works on Slack, so we were used to messaging each other using that platform. We file all of our stories using that messenger service and we had access to our CMS, so everything workwise could definitely be done digitally.

Just like every other industry right now, what our team is missing is that time together, having meetings, brainstorming face-to-face, just seeing everyone every day, that’s the piece we’re missing a bit of. But we’ve definitely been able to be just as productive working remotely. We just don’t get that face time. But we having been doing Zoom calls and lots of key meetings via Zoom, so I’ve been very thankful for the technology during this time.

Samir Husni: What has been the impact of the pandemic on the website?

Arianna Davis: The lens that we look at everything through is whether or not this will inspire our reader or helping them with their best life. If it’s a celebrity news story, we still want to make sure that the story is told from a positive perspective. That there is a point beyond contributing to the celebrity news cycle. Or the flip side of that, really digging in and finding the reported story or the essay that’s going to move our reader or stay with her for a long time.

That being said, we’ve never really done breaking news. We know that we’re not CNN or a newspaper, we’re more in the lifestyle and inspirational space. But when the pandemic hit, it was definitely tricky for us to find the balance. When we were publishing some of our typical content, we saw that it wasn’t getting as much traffic as it normally might. People weren’t clicking on the inspirational content at that time because all everyone wanted to read about was the Coronavirus to a point of near hysteria, everyone was so worried.

So, we had to pivot our content to figure out how we could be helpful and make sure we were providing our reader with stories that could help her, but at the same time not turn into a newsroom where we were just delivering bad news all day long, which was what most of the news cycle was at the time.

So, we pivoted some of our typical service content. Maybe it might have been: How To Be Productive When Working From Home, or giving tips to our readers on how to work from home while your child is also at home and your husband is home, and how do you find time for you. We just had to rethink our topics and our strategies a little. Just make sure we were providing service that was meaningful and timely.

Samir Husni: As the 20th anniversary issue comes out in print, what’s the digital counterpart going to be like?

Arianna Davis: Much of the content from the 20th anniversary issue will be going online and there will be an oral history of the magazine and how it came to be how the magazine has progressed through the years. It’s a really delightful story that I think readers will love that we’re going to do online in a big way.

But in addition to that we have a series called the “OG Chronicles,” which features Oprah and Gayle. It started out as kind of an advice column where they were on video answering questions and it has progressed to them sometimes playing fun games or interviewing each other. Oprah’s signature column in the magazine is “What I Know For Sure,” so we have a fun game, a lightning-round version of “What I Know For Sure,” where we asked Oprah and Gayle to each tell us what they know for sure about 20 different topics in 10 seconds or less. So, that’s a fun additional moment for the 20th anniversary.

We’re also covering all of the visionaries that they’ve been doing throughout the year with special extras, sometimes extra questions that they didn’t have space for in the magazine and we’re really celebrating those visionaries in a big way as well. The 20th anniversary will definitely be a big moment on the website in addition to print.

 Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be publishing or working during a pandemic?

Arianna Davis:  No, I never imagined a pandemic. I don’t think anyone saw it coming. Even when we started to hear things about the virus happening, I don’t think we saw it coming to this extent. I’ll be honest, March was a tough month, because as I mentioned, we’re still a relatively new site in the world of media, so for us, we’re really serious about what is our voice and our content and how can we be of service right now. That was important. We wanted to be sure we were aligned with what Oprah was feeling. It was not something that I would have ever saw coming.

I was an intern at the magazine right after college, so I don’t think I ever really foresaw the job of being the digital director at the time. I was still thinking of my career in print magazines. I definitely never foresaw that one day I would be running a nine million – plus user website, and definitely not in the midst of a pandemic. But here we are. (Laughs)

 Samir Husni: Anything you would like to add?

 Arianna Davis: Just to pat ourselves on the back a little bit. We were the fastest-growing website launch in Hearst history, which I am really proud of that fact. When we were first launching oprahmag.com, a lot of people were surprised, most thought Oprah Magazine already had a website, and people were also surprised that we were launching something new in this media climate, in digital media.

So the fact that we were so fast-growing and we’ve been able to launch a lot of different series, the OG Chronicles that I mentioned; we have over five million views across platforms, so we’ve grown it quickly and I’m really proud of what we’ve done  with our team. I’m excited to see what’s next for us post-pandemic. And I’m happy we have this platform right now to offer our readers comfort and escape, and hopefully some service as well.

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

Arianna Davis: The pandemic right now in this particular moment. Just worrying about family members and loved ones. I have had some loved ones who have been affected by this virus; I have had friends who have lost family members to this pandemic. I fell very lucky and blessed that I can work from home and that I do have a job. I’m working from an apartment that I love, but not everyone is so lucky. There’s just so much uncertainty right now and that keeps me up at night, in addition to traffic and making sure our website stays afloat in all of this. And that we are able to be a true resource to our readers at this time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

h1

David Fry, Chief Technology Officer, Fry Communications, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We’re Optimistic There Will Be A Rebound In The Magazine Marketplace This Summer.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 16, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (15)

“Now more than ever, we’re relying on communication channels to stay safe, to stay sane, to do our jobs, and to hold our communities together while we have to remain distant from each other. A good percentage of our customers’ products feature content about COVID-19 right now, including both consumer periodicals and specialized trade journals. The Pennsylvania governor was right, printing is indeed life-sustaining.” … David Fry

 “We’re emphasizing regular communications with both employees and clients. The most important messages to both audiences include the specific steps we’re taking to keep everyone safe, and what we are doing to ensure we’re here for our customers for the long haul.” … David Fry

In 1934, Fry Communications, Inc. in Pennsylvania began as one of the first publishers of weekly shopping guides. A small family operation, the company focused on publishing – but not printing – that shopper for over thirty years. Henry Fry, the current Chairman of the Board, purchased the company’s first offset press in 1967. The rest they say is history.

David Fry is chief technology officer for the family-owned company. I spoke with David recently and he said that during this pandemic the company was operating fairly normally, but very cautiously. Since the governor of Pennsylvania deemed printing a “life-sustaining industry,” Fry Communications has remained open to serve their customers, with employee safety paramount .

“We’re emphasizing regular communications with both employees and clients. The most important messages to both audiences include the specific steps we’re taking to keep everyone safe, and what we are doing to ensure we’re here for our customers for the long haul.”

David feels magazines and magazine media are more relevant than ever with the uncertain times we’re all living in. The information and content on the pages of a magazine not only informs and entertains, but can also be one of those, “communication channels we have to stay safe and to stay sane.”

So, please enjoy the 15th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with David Fry, chief technology officer, Fry Communications.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Fry Communications is operating during the pandemic: Fry Communications is operating essentially normally, albeit with extreme caution. The governor of Pennsylvania has deemed printing a “life-sustaining industry” and we are making great efforts to serve our customers while keeping our employees safe.

On the steps being taken to ensure the safety of his employees still working onsite: We started planning for COVID-19 mitigation measures in the first week of March. We asked our customers to stop visiting the plant for press inspections the following week. Nearly all non-production staff members, such as finance, sales, HR, IT, etc., are working from home. We have been educating our team members about the necessary safety protocol for five weeks now, washing hands regularly, wiping down your workspace frequently during a shift, stay home if you’re experiencing any symptoms, etc.

On whether the pandemic has impacted any of his client’s printing schedules: We have definitely seen volume reductions, in all forms. Some periodicals have reduced page counts or print runs, and some are skipping issues all together. Some vertical and geographic markets, like travel and NYC, have been affected more than others.

On whether he has seen any shortages in paper, ink or workforce: No, we haven’t seen any shortages in materials or manpower yet and we don’t foresee any.

On if he had ever imagined something like a pandemic happening: No, we certainly never considered the problems around a pandemic putting most of the country on lockdown. Like everyone, we were initially shocked to see how quickly everything changed.

On what message he’s communicating with his clients and employees during this time: We’re emphasizing regular communications with both employees and clients. The most important messages to both audiences include the specific steps we’re taking to keep everyone safe, and what we are doing to ensure we’re here for our customers for the long haul.

On what he thinks makes magazines and magazine media relevant today: Now more than ever, we’re relying on communication channels to stay safe, to stay sane, to do our jobs, and to hold our communities together while we have to remain distant from each other.

On any additional words of wisdom: While no one knows what the next six to nine months will bring, we’re optimistic there will be a rebound in the magazine marketplace this summer.

On what keeps him up at night: Right now a lot of things keep me up at night! But let’s hope Congress does something to keep the USPS properly funded in the next two months.

And now for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with David Fry, chief technology officer, Fry Communications.

Samir Husni: How is Fry operating during this pandemic?

David Fry: Fry Communications is operating essentially normally, albeit with extreme caution. The governor of Pennsylvania has deemed printing a “life-sustaining industry” and we are making great efforts to serve our customers while keeping our employees safe.

Samir Husni: Since you can’t print from home, what are the steps being taken to social distance and ensure everyone is well at the workplace?

David Fry: We started planning for COVID-19 mitigation measures in the first week of March. We asked our customers to stop visiting the plant for press inspections the following week. Nearly all non-production staff members, such as finance, sales, HR, IT, etc., are working from home. We have been educating our team members about the necessary safety protocol for five weeks now, washing hands regularly, wiping down your workspace frequently during a shift, stay home if you’re experiencing any symptoms, etc.

We enforce a two-week quarantine for any employees who report symptoms either in themselves or family members. We’re staggering break periods to prevent people from clustering in small areas. Our sanitation team has greatly increased its efforts around cleaning bathrooms, break areas, doorknobs, etc. We mandate that anyone visiting the plant for pickups or deliveries must wear a face mask.

Samir Husni: Has there been any impact so far on publishing frequencies, printing, mailing, etc.? Any change in your client’s print schedules, such as  skipping issues, reducing print run, etc.?

David Fry: We have definitely seen volume reductions, in all forms. Some periodicals have reduced page counts or print runs, and some are skipping issues all together. Some vertical and geographic markets, like travel and NYC, have been affected more than others.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any shortage in paper, ink, or workforce?

David Fry: No, we haven’t seen any shortages in materials or manpower yet and we don’t foresee any.

Samir Husni: Did you ever in your worst nightmares imagine something like this could happen?

David Fry: No, we certainly never considered the problems around a pandemic putting most of the country on lockdown. Like everyone, we were initially shocked to see how quickly everything changed. Things that seemed impossible to imagine on a Monday became commonplace by Wednesday. We quickly learned to respond to the problems dynamically, however, and the team has risen to the challenge amazingly well. It has been a great time to relearn the old adage, “Worry about what you can control and ignore the rest.”

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your employees and clients during this uncertain time?

David Fry: We’re emphasizing regular communications with both employees and clients. The most important messages to both audiences include the specific steps we’re taking to keep everyone safe, and what we are doing to ensure we’re here for our customers for the long haul. The responses from our customers have been overwhelmingly positive and hugely gratifying to the team working in such trying conditions.

Samir Husni: What makes magazines and magazine media relevant today?

David Fry: Now more than ever, we’re relying on communication channels to stay safe, to stay sane, to do our jobs, and to hold our communities together while we have to remain distant from each other. A good percentage of our customers’ products feature content about COVID-19 right now, including both consumer periodicals and specialized trade journals. The Pennsylvania governor was right, printing is indeed life-sustaining. One of our customers perhaps said it best: “[Our publication] has not missed a monthly issue since it was launched in June 1850. It would have been unthinkable for me to fail in my obligation to my subscribers and newsstand buyers. When this crisis passes, I would be very grateful to have the chance to thank Governor Wolf in person in Harrisburg.”

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

David Fry: While no one knows what the next six to nine months will bring, we’re optimistic there will be a rebound in the magazine marketplace this summer. I think about the famous Sam Walton quote on the 1991 recession: “I’ve thought about it and I decided not to participate.” He knew it was a great time to invest and win market shares from his competitors. We think many other businesses will respond similarly and we’re hopeful that magazine media will benefit from that burst of economic activity.

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

David Fry: Right now a lot of things keep me up at night! But let’s hope Congress does something to keep the USPS properly funded in the next two months.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

h1

Thomas Whitney, President, Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Focus On Your Content! Now’s The Time To Build Your Brand.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 16, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (14)

 “There is a tremendous amount of demand for everything right now.  Once businesses reopen, advertisers will be fighting to get the word out that they’re back in business, and they’re going to pay the most to advertise with the best.  And we hope you’re with Democrat Printing when that happens!” … Thomas Whitney

 “The message to both our employees and our customers is the same.  DP&L is still alive and well.  We will do everything within our means to help you during these challenging times.  Focus on your work and your families.  Most importantly, stay healthy.  This too shall pass.” … Thomas Whitney

For more than 140 years, Democrat Printing & Lithographing Company has offered quality printing services. Over the decades, the family-owned business has grown with the times and kept abreast of the many changes in technology and services. Today Thomas Whitney serves as president of the company and takes his heritage very seriously, especially during the pandemic.

I spoke with Thomas recently and we talked about this tragic occurrence that is affecting both the public health and economy of our nation. Thomas said that the number one priority is the safety of his employees and that Democrat has no intention of closing or slowing down. They are onboard to help their clients in any way they can and will stand behind that promise.

“DP&L’s greatest strength has always been our customer service.  We take great pride in the relationships we’ve built with our customers.  These relationships are what have kept our doors open for 149 years.  We consider our customers as partners and we’ll do anything in our power to support them.   Even if it doesn’t make sense financially, we’ll find a way to help our customers in times of need as any true partner would.”

So, please enjoy the 14th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Thomas Whitney, president, Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Democrat is operating during this pandemic: Carefully.

On the steps Democrat is taking to ensure all personnel still working in place are safe: When we first understood the threat of COVID-19, we immediately took steps to protect our employees.  All office non-essential office personnel have been working from home for the last several weeks.  Plant production staff have been provided with face shields, masks and hand sanitizer.  We have also implemented a social distancing policy.

On the impact the pandemic has had on Democrat’s printing schedules: The impact on our customers has been mixed.  Our estimating team has been flooded with requests for reduced press runs, page counts, cheaper paper, etc.  Anything to save costs.  Our revenue has taken a hit, but nowhere near as bad as I expected.

On whether he’s seeing any shortage in ink, paper or workforce: We haven’t seen any shortages of paper, ink, or any other materials that we need to produce magazines.  Freight companies have tightened up a bit.  Many aren’t guarantying on time delivery, or they’ve frozen refunds for late deliveries.  FedEx and UPS both announced that they no longer guaranteed on time delivery for small parcels.  Most of our parts suppliers are doing fine.

On whether he had ever imagined something like this pandemic ever happening: Never in my wildest dreams did I think something like this would happen.  Not in my personal life, nor in business. Tornadoes and earthquakes; sure. A deadly virus; only in the movies.  And, as such, I never thought of what it could do to our country, our economy, let alone what it could do to our customers and our company.

On what message he is communicating with his clients and employees: The message to both our employees and our customers is the same.  DP&L is still alive and well.  We will do everything within our means to help you during these challenging times.  Focus on your work and your families.  Most importantly, stay healthy.  This too shall pass.

On what makes magazines and magazine media relevant today: I think magazines are more relevant today than they’ve been in years.  We live in a world of social distancing.  A world without handshakes.  Most Americans are home and have been for weeks.  Who knows how much longer that’s going to last?  In general, Americans have a lot of time on their hands, and they need and crave entertainment.

On any additional words of wisdom: Focus on your content!  If your magazine has been devastated by this pandemic, use this time to create new and more relevant content with staying power.  Now’s the time to build your brand and strengthen the relationship with your audience.

On what keeps him up at night: The uncertainty of the economic damage that this pandemic has done to our economy, and ultimately our collective industry as publishers and printers.  However, I really try to not let things that are out of my control cause me to lose sleep.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Thomas Whitney, president, Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company.

Samir Husni: How is Democrat operating during this pandemic?

Thomas Whitney: Carefully.

Samir Husni: Since you can’t print from home, what are the steps you are doing to social distance and ensure all are well at the work place?

Thomas Whitney: When we first understood the threat of COVID-19, we immediately took steps to protect our employees.  All office non-essential office personnel have been working from home for the last several weeks.  Plant production staff have been provided with face shields, masks and hand sanitizer.  We have also implemented a social distancing policy.  It’s very easy for us to distance ourselves.  Our equipment is big and we operate with small crews.  We’ve almost always social distanced, though we’ve never realized it.  Whether it has to do with Company policy or not, I will say that everyone is certainly more conscious of their health and cleanliness in the facility.

Samir Husni: What is the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, mailing, etc.? Any changes on the print schedule from your clients? Skipping issues, reducing print run, etc.

Thomas Whitney: The impact on our customers has been mixed.  Our estimating team has been flooded with requests for reduced press runs, page counts, cheaper paper, etc.  Anything to save costs.  Our revenue has taken a hit, but nowhere near as bad as I expected.

At the same time, we’ve had an influx of requests from publishers looking for stability.  The mega printers have been moving publishers from one facility to another, which is nothing new.  Since the pandemic began, this has been happening much faster, and in greater volume.  DP&L only has one plant, and we’re not closing it.

We’ve had a few magazines decide to push their monthly titles into the next month.  Many publishers have been looking for ways to right size their printing costs to their revenue or projected revenue.

From what we’ve seen, City and Regional pubs have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.  It’s even worse on those in parts of the country with the highest infection rates.  Most of their advertising revenue comes from local retail shops, dentists, cosmetic surgeons, and restaurants.  Many of which are closed.  Their problems are compounded if their distribution is free, on public racks at their advertiser’s businesses. Free city regional pubs that mail seem to be doing much better.

For the most part, and depending on their industry focus, B2B publications have suffered far less during the pandemic.  Most B2B magazines are 100% subscription based.  B2B publishers with titles focused on non-essential industries have been concerned that their mail won’t reach its destination, or that the mail will go to a closed business.  We’ve helped several publishers refine their lists and to make sure they’re not wasting money on postage, but we’ve always done that.

DP&L’s greatest strength has always been our customer service.  We take great pride in the relationships we’ve built with our customers.  These relationships are what have kept our doors open for 149 years.  We consider our customers as partners and we’ll do anything in our power to support them.   Even if it doesn’t make sense financially, we’ll find a way to help our customers in times of need as any true partner would.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any shortage in paper, ink, workforce?

Thomas Whitney: We haven’t seen any shortages of paper, ink, or any other materials that we need to produce magazines.  Freight companies have tightened up a bit.  Many aren’t guarantying on time delivery, or they’ve frozen refunds for late deliveries.  FedEx and UPS both announced that they no longer guaranteed on time delivery for small parcels.  Most of our parts suppliers are doing fine.  Some equipment support companies aren’t doing well which concerns me.  DP&L, like most of the printing industry, has had a very hard time finding the skilled labor that we need for years.  With the amount of plant closures and layoffs of late, I expect that to change for the printing companies that survive.

Samir Husni: Did you ever in your worst nightmares think something like this would happen? And can you ever be prepared for such a thing?

Thomas Whitney: Never in my wildest dreams did I think something like this would happen.  Not in my personal life, nor in business. Tornadoes and earthquakes; sure. A deadly virus; only in the movies.  And, as such, I never thought of what it could do to our country, our economy, let alone what it could do to our customers and our company.

The best preparation for any catastrophe in business is liquidity.  And, in a scenario like the one we’re currently in, the more cash you have, the better you’ll be able to weather the storm.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many companies that can operate for months with no money coming in.  Hopefully, our government’s relief packages will come quickly and stabilize the economy.

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your employees and clients?

Thomas Whitney: The message to both our employees and our customers is the same.  DP&L is still alive and well.  We will do everything within our means to help you during these challenging times.  Focus on your work and your families.  Most importantly, stay healthy.  This too shall pass.

Samir Husni: What makes magazines and magazine media relevant today?

Thomas Whitney: I think magazines are more relevant today than they’ve been in years.  We live in a world of social distancing.  A world without handshakes.  Most Americans are home and have been for weeks.  Who knows how much longer that’s going to last?  In general, Americans have a lot of time on their hands, and they need and crave entertainment.  The content that lures people to magazines, is desired more now than it has been in years.  People still love the products we produce.  They still want the connection they get from the printed piece.  And, probably now more than ever.   Especially if it show’s up in the mail.

 Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

Thomas Whitney: Focus on your content!  If your magazine has been devastated by this pandemic, use this time to create new and more relevant content with staying power.  Now’s the time to build your brand and strengthen the relationship with your audience. There is a tremendous amount of demand for everything right now.  Once businesses reopen, advertisers will be fighting to get the word out that they’re back in business, and they’re going to pay the most to advertise with the best.  And we hope you’re with Democrat Printing when that happens!

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

Thomas Whitney: The uncertainty of the economic damage that this pandemic has done to our economy, and ultimately our collective industry as publishers and printers.  However, I really try to not let things that are out of my control cause me to lose sleep.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Joel Quadracci, Chairman, President and CEO, Quad, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I’d Say That People Need To Understand That As We Come Out Of This, Everyone’s Going To Be Looking At How They Should Do Things Differently.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 15, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (13)

 “I think the magazines that have great content can really use it to their advantage now and everybody should really be, as an industry, pushing forward when we come out of this because marketers out there, consumers of content, are all going to be going through some sort of reset in behavior, whether they overtly know it or not. So you’ve got to be in front of everybody with why this is an important medium.” Joel Quadracci

 “I think it’s less about preparing for the actual “what happens,” and  more about having a communication style and network within the culture of your company. It allows for people to drop everything and shift gears rapidly. Quad’s a very strong culture. It’s a very non-hierarchical culture. I wear the same uniform that the people on the floor wear and I had already started doing video blogs a bit ago on and off, but now I’ve ramped it up because the technology has changed so much.” Joel Quadracci

Quad is an American printing company based in Sussex, Wisconsin. It was founded on July 13, 1971, by Harry and Elizabeth Quadracci. The company has 39 printing facilities in the United States, as well as facilities throughout Europe, Canada, and Latin America.

Joel Quadracci is Chairman, President and CEO of the company today and has been running the company during this tragic pandemic with bold, yet sure steps. Joel says that you cannot be afraid to be bold and fast and not scared to pull really tough levers early in a situation. As long as you’re honest and communication through all channels is open and key to the process, making resolute and often hard decisions comes a bit easier, especially when those decisions are based on the good of the company.

I spoke with Joel recently and we talked about a few of the decisions he’s had to make during this pandemic, especially when it comes to the importance of keeping his staff and employees safe and the company secure.

“There’s a lot of actions we’re taking and we’ve been very flexible in terms of not being scared to go there, maybe in some cases, a little bit too far, because you are going to the point it hurts. The future is unknown right now in this situation, so you just have to assume that the worst is happening and you don’t know how long it’s going to be with us, therefore err on the side of dealing with the crisis as it is and make really bold moves.”

A future that may be unknown indeed, but Quad is dealing with it boldly and surely.

So, please enjoy the 13th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Joel Quadracci, Chairman, President and CEO, Quad.

But first the sound-bites:

On operating during a pandemic: I’ve had to tell a lot of people that for the next 12 weeks they were on furlough, because when an economy just quickly shuts down, people stop marketing. And the biggest hit so far has been on the retail side with retailers not doing retail inserts

On ensuring safety at the workplace: One of the latest things we’re doing to protect our employees is, now that the CDC wants our employees to wear masks, you can’t find them. Meanwhile in the last couple weeks, some of my people came up with their own prototype of a mask that we can do on a web press.

On the impact of the pandemic on printing: It’s sort of a mixed bag. I mean certainly it’s down, whether you are talking ad pages, or what we’re seeing is a lack of visibility because everyone’s trying to understand when the pandemic is going to end.

On any shortage in ink or paper: No, we haven’t had any problem there. As you know, we manufacture our own ink…

On whether you can ever prepare to such a crisis: I think it’s less about preparing for the actual “what happens,” and  more about having a communication style and network within the culture of your company.

On his message to staffers and customers: First of all, communication is key, not just to my internal staff, but what I’d really wish I could have more of from our customers right now is true communication.

On any additional words of wisdom: Just that, in disruptive times, at least in any kind of disruption I’ve ever seen, it has always been an opportunity for the world to rethink how they do things. In our case, how they use media. I’d say that people need to understand that as we come out of this, everyone’s going to be looking at how they should do things differently.

On what keeps him up at night: I think it’s sort of the obvious, the coronavirus, and the safety of my employees.

And now for the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Joel Quadracci, Chairman, President, and CEO of Quad printing company.

Samir Husni: Considering what is going on, how are you doing and how is Quad operating during this pandemic?

Joel Quadracci: Relative to what’s going on in the world, I’m doing pretty well personally. The company is very focused and doing a lot of things during a tough situation, but hanging in there.

We have done a lot of aggressive things and we have done a lot of them very early. I guess being in the printing industry you’re used to having to react to tough things. I think we’ve learned that you always want to get ahead of things and be aggressive. We obviously have never seen a situation like this, but we’ve dealt with situations where we had to react very quickly.

We actually started in February, pushing two thousand people, within a three day notice, to work from home. And part of that was because we wanted to start heeding the safety warnings as soon as possible. And we wanted to test our idea for structure, to see if it crashes with all these people working virtually. And it ended up working quite well. I think on average we have around 3,800 people working from home and we are using a lot of technology to do it. And it’s working very well.

I’ve had to tell a lot of people that for the next 12 weeks they were on furlough, because when an economy just quickly shuts down, people stop marketing. And the biggest hit so far has been on the retail side with retailers not doing retail inserts. Just look at all the department stores that had to close overnight. We knew that was coming, so we started getting ahead of it. We’ve actually furloughed a few plants as well, just shutting them down for a couple of weeks here and there, depending on the schedule, just to get the cost down.

There’s a lot of actions we’re taking and we’ve been very flexible in terms of not being scared to go there, maybe in some cases, a little bit too far, because you are going to the point it hurts. The future is unknown right now in this situation, so you just have to assume that the worst is happening and you don’t know how long it’s going to be with us, therefore err on the side of dealing with the crisis as it is and make really bold moves.

Samir Husni: Since you can’t print from home, what steps are you taking to social distance and ensure everyone at the workplace is safe?

Joel Quadracci: That would be a lot of the back office, customer service, accounting, finance, IT people, those types of positions. And the reason you do that is because those are the people who work closely, physically close, to each other, with cube setups and office environments. On the floor of a printing plant, we are sort of naturally socially distanced. Specifically in our platform where we’ve done a lot of automation over the years. In finishing, where you typically see a lot of concentration on our large perfect binder doing a magazine, we have automation there and we’re not using that many people. The people are very spread out on the floor and we’ve really enhanced all the safety measures that the CDC has to do.

One of the latest things we’re doing to protect our employees is, now that the CDC wants our employees to wear masks, you can’t find them. Meanwhile in the last couple weeks, some of my people came up with their own prototype of a mask that we can do on a web press. Basically you run it through a printing machine with inline finishing to create a mask. Recently, we started up the presses. Now we are in the midst of wrapping up the printing of hundreds of thousands of them. We will be able to distribute them to all of our plants hopefully by early next week. I’ll be getting masks to every plant so that every employee on the floor has multiple masks they can use, because as you know these masks have a lifespan. So, that’s a big deal because of everyone in this economy dealing with the mask situation. We found some material that has never really been used for masks, but it’s a great filter and we can get it in rolls. We combine that with regular paper and we’ve created a mask that works.

And so, each part of the business has it’s different challenges with how you manage the COVID-19 virus. On the floor it’s going to be how do we get people masks and make sure we’ve got enough hand sanitizer, and make sure people are following the social distancing.

Samir Husni: What is the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, mailing, etc.? Any change on the print schedule from your clients? Skipping issues, reducing print run, etc.

Joel Quadracci: I’ve seen other interviews with some of the publishers in the group. It’s sort of a mixed bag. I mean certainly it’s down, whether you are talking ad pages, or what we’re seeing is a lack of visibility because everyone’s trying to understand when the pandemic is going to end. When you want to understand what’s going on in the economy, it’s constipated and the comeback is not going to be like a light switch, it’s going to be slow. I can’t start printing until an advertiser wants to give a publisher pages and so it’s going to be an interesting unwinding of this, but meanwhile what we’ve seen is people cutting back on the number of issues, some temporary, some will be permanent. I get the feeling that there are also some decisions being made that were decisions that were ultimately going to get made anyway, but this was a good excuse to move on them now.

We saw some spikes in certain parts of the newsstand side, especially in grocery stores. My wife comes home with magazines every time she goes to the grocery store because everyone is just dying for content while they are sitting around their house, which I think is a good thing, but on the other hand no one is really going to airports right now and so we’ve seen that spike kind of erode a little bit. We do a lot of high volume magazines between Hearst, Meredith, Condé Nast, National Geographic, and I think everyone is just trying to be creative, trying to manage it as they can and yet I think no one really has great visibility and that makes it hard to manage.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any shortage in paper, ink, etc.?

Joel Quadracci: No, we haven’t had any problem there. As you know, we manufacture our own ink and we control upstream supply chain for ourselves, where we source directly to pigment providers. We even manufacture some of the other components. We’ve been able to maintain good control there. I’d say that distribution has been interesting because we get stuck in sort of a global economics of trade right now in distribution where, for instance, if we are going to the west coast from the Midwest oftentimes we are using train cars and containers and things like that and everything is a little bit disrupted because you have containers stuck in the wrong places and you’ve got disruption in distribution in general so that’s been an interesting thing to follow. It’s certainly not a shortage, so no, I can’t think of anything where we’ve had a shortage of much other than visibility.

Samir Husni: As printers you are always prepared for a crisis, but did you ever, in your nightmares or dreams, ever think of such a situation and can you ever be prepared for such a thing?

Joel Quadracci: You’d never believe it. I decided to watch that series Pandemic that came out ironically just before all this happened. I’ve watched the bird flu and I’ve watched the situation in China. You logically understand how people would be concerned that some pandemic could happen, but then you emotionally never believe it. You think, that’s never going to happen in my lifetime. I get the reasons why they worry, but then you see this happen and the pace at which it happened. You never thought you’d see something like this. We were getting ready for a recession, I think everyone was kind of anticipating something was coming, but when you see full brakes on everything within a week, no, I never would have thought we’d see something like that.

 Samir Husni: And can you ever prepare for such a thing?

Joel Quadracci: Yes, you can. I think it’s less about preparing for the actual “what happens,” and  more about having a communication style and network within the culture of your company. It allows for people to drop everything and shift gears rapidly. Quad’s a very strong culture. It’s a very non-hierarchical culture. I wear the same uniform that the people on the floor wear and I had already started doing video blogs a bit ago on and off, but now I’ve ramped it up because the technology has changed so much.

Every week or multiple times a week, I’m now doing some sort of interview with someone, but then just telling it like it is. I don’t go out there and do a video blog that’s scripted where I’ve got things I have to say that have been vetted by everybody. I actually just wing it and do it in one shot because it’s real and I know our business and I know what we’re doing, so I just tell it like it is. When we say I need to furlough a lot of people, like tomorrow, we are honest with them. We opted to tell them it’s a longer time that we were originally thinking versus a shorter time because we want them to be able to plan in their own personal lives and we just try and be very honest and also be very fast about it.

You can never prepare for what kind of disaster is coming. Everyone does disaster planning, but when it comes, the disaster usually comes in some other form than your scenarios. But if your corporation is used to pulling levers fast, and you are able to communicate very quickly, not just about what lever you’ve pulled, but the why you did it and be credible about it, you will have the following. There’s a lot of people I’ve seen pulling levers.

One of my executives has a husband who works at an industrial company in Milwaukee and he got furloughed and his notice was on his way out the door. They handed him a letter that said “you’re being furloughed indefinitely” and it was not even signed by an individual, it was signed by the HR department. That was the explanation. With us, we told everybody that we’d be doing it, it’s coming. When we did it, we told people what was happening, we kept in touch with them. Layers of communication allows you to do a lot. When you are in my position, you’re the one who’s saying we are going to charge the hill or we’re going to jump behind these barriers to defend ourselves. That’s only good if you turn around and see that the troops are following you and following what you say and if they actually believe in it. Because if it gets really insane, like it is now, you need the buy-in for it to happen.

To me, the way organizations need to be prepared for any type of disaster is how you should run your business day-by-day. I think a lot of learning experience will come out of this for a lot of companies about how they could have really been much better, and we realize now that we weren’t as good as we should have been. It’s spurring a lot of thought on our side even though we think that we are really good at it. But what is our learning now and how can we use this to be innovative in the workplace and be innovative in how we communicate on a going forward basis.

Samir Husni: Briefly, if you were to send a sound-bite to your staff and clients, what would be your message?

Joel Quadracci: First of all, communication is key, not just to my internal staff, but what I really wish we could have more of from our customers right now is true communication. They may not have the visibility I want, but it might be more than they are giving me now. And for us to be able to react and be of service to them is so important. Also in the future, trust your vendor and bring them into the circle as the crisis unwinds and how tell them how you are thinking about it. We can handle the bad news, but it’s hard to handle the bad news if it comes last minute when you’ve known about it for several weeks.

We are all trying to plan through this. I think at a certain point right now, in this industry, is respect your supply base because it’s been in trouble. I think that unfortunately we just saw that LSC filed for bankruptcy Sunday night, which was – I don’t know if it was somewhat expected, but I think it was really sped up, and there’s a whole lot of printers in trouble.

We are doing everything to make sure that we maintain a good balance sheet and get through this to the end, but it requires a true honest dialogue and communication between customer and vendor. I say that for the paper companies. I say that for the distributor. Everyone right now needs to know what you are thinking even if it’s not great news. The sooner you can let us all in on that, the better. I got a pilot’s license when I was in high school. I flew for quite a while, but I haven’t done it lately. The one thing you learn from anybody who flies in an airliner, no matter how long the runway is, you’ll typically see the pilot use every inch of it. They’ll pull to the end of the runway, even if it’s a 20,000 foot long runway and the plane only needs 3,000 feet. The reason they do that is because on takeoff, if something goes wrong the runway behind you that you didn’t use is not usable.

That’s the point of being bold and fast and not being scared to pull really tough levers early in a situation, even when you don’t know how long the situation is going to last or what the turnaround is going to be, because it’s about protecting your company for the future. If that means you cause a lot of uncomfortable pain early on for your employees personally, it’s probably the right thing to do for the business so that everyone has the strength to weather the storm.

Samir Husni: Anything you’d like to add before I ask you my typical last question?

Joel Quadracci: Just that, in disruptive times, at least in any kind of disruption I’ve ever seen, it has always been an opportunity for the world to rethink how they do things. In our case, how they use media. I’d say that people need to understand that as we come out of this, everyone’s going to be looking at how they should do things differently.

The world will go for a reset on a lot of different fronts, whether it’s how people use telecommunications now or having fewer people working. But in terms of the magazine industry, I think it’s an opportunity – or it might be a missed opportunity –to really recalibrate the world on the importance of ink on paper. I don’t know about you, but I watch four different news channels and look at ten different news sites just to try and triangulate on what’s actually true and what’s really happening. Having good content in the future might be a great opportunity.

I think the magazines that have great content can really use it to their advantage now and everybody should really be, as an industry, pushing forward when we come out of this because marketers out there, consumers of content, are all going to be going through some sort of reset in behavior, whether they overtly know it or not. So you’ve got to be in front of everybody with why this is an important medium.

One of the things that is going to come out of this is, everyone learned, those who have had to work out of their homes for a long time, they’ve learned to slow down again.  The pace at home, even though you are working hard, it’s still a different environment, so you feel like you can slow down and you start remembering things you want to do again and get hold of doing some things in between calls, whether it’s hobbies or whatever. I think that people will kind of slow down again and consume content, not just news content, but other content, sort of closer to the old world where we spent a little more time just relaxing and enjoying it.

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

Joel Quadracci: I think it’s sort of the obvious, the coronavirus, and the safety of my employees. We had our first death of someone who got coronavirus. He didn’t actually get it in our plant, he was off for a couple weeks. But that’s close to home. Beyond that, it’s a bit about the ecosystem we plan and the point that I was just making. Our successful futures relies on the successful management that all our customers do in managing through a crisis. I would hope that through this that trust between all the parts of the ecosystem only increase, because we need to be a healthy ecosystem to do it. One part can’t be healthy without the other.

Samir Husni:  Thank you.

h1

Freeport Press’ David Pilcher to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Our Workforce Is Doing Well; They Are Adapting Like Champs and Doing Their Usual Great Work.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

April 14, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (12)

“We are also seeing many publishers getting creative. We’ve printed some special issues, with limited runs to make them more collectible.” David Pilcher

“We’ve had some projects reduced or canceled. Yet I don’t want that to sound worse than it is. Sportsbooks, event-related literature, city/regional magazines and similar publications are suffering the most, which would be expected during something like this.” David Pilcher

A major part of the magazine and magazine media industry is the ink on paper and the manufacturing of the magazines.  In addition to the interviews with the creators of the magazines and magazine media, I decided to reach out to the printers of the magazines, those who actually take the creative work of the magazine creators and make it a reality, i.e., print it and deliver it through the different distribution channels to the readers.

David Pilcher, is owner and  VP of Sales and Marketing at family-owned print business: Freeport Press.  The printing company identify itself as “a nationally-recognized leader in the print production of high-quality niche publications and catalogs, Freeport Press has been in continuous operation at our centrally-located facility in New Philadelphia, Ohio, since 1880.”

While adhering to the recommendations of the CDC and the World Health Organization, Freeport Press continues to operate in a manner to “to ensure Freeport Press takes every necessary precaution to protect our associates and each other from the spread of this virus, and not contribute to a spike in COVID cases.”

I asked David my usual Publishing During A Pandemic questions, and his answers were reassuring, to the point, with a touch of hope and reality mixed together… to quote David, “Healthy people and healthy businesses are both needed to ensure the long-term viability of our business.”  And all Mr. Magazine™ can say in response to that is Amen!

So, here is the 12th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with David Pilcher, VP and Director of Sales, at Freeport Press.

But first for the soundbites:

On operating during a pandemic: Our primary concern right now is the health and safety of our associates and taking excellent care of our customers.

On ensuring safety at the workplace: We are working to ensure Freeport Press takes every necessary precaution to protect our associates and each other from the spread of this virus, and not contribute to a spike in COVID cases.

On the impact of the pandemic on printing: We’ve had some projects reduced or canceled… However, we are also seeing many publishers getting creative. We’ve printed some special issues, with limited runs to make them more collectible.

On any shortage in ink or paper: No. Paper and ink are still in ready supply

On whether you can ever prepare to such a crisis: A business should always be prepared for the worse because it will always be unexpected. Financial stability and healthy relationships are vital. This is how you prepare for the unexpected.

On his message to customers: I’ve seen a lot of messaging around about print being an “essential business” and how printers are open and here to help businesses get through this. That’s absolutely true.

On any additional words of wisdom: I recently saw an interview with Simon Leslie of (INK) that discussed using the proper language to create the right narrative. Are we creating stories of hope or fear? The same information, worded differently, can create positive or negative tones.

On what keeps him up at night: My cats usually.

And now for the lightly edited interview with David Pilcher, VP for Sales and Marketing at Freeport Press:

Samir Husni: Considering all that is going on, how is Freeport Press operating during this pandemic?

David Pilcher: Our primary concern right now is the health and safety of our associates and taking excellent care of our customers. Healthy people and healthy businesses are both needed to ensure the long-term viability of our business.

Samir Husni: Since you can’t print from home, what the steps you are taking to social distance and ensure all are well at the workplace?

David Pilcher: We have seen a glimmer of hope over the last week. Forecasting models now predict that the country may need fewer hospital beds, ventilators, and other equipment than previously projected and that some states may reach their peak of COVID-19 related deaths sooner than expected. While this is good news, we all need to be very aware that forecasting models are just that — models. They will continue to shift and change as data continues to flow into them.

For our part, we will continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and the World Health Organization, along with our state and local authorities. We are working to ensure Freeport Press takes every necessary precaution to protect our associates and each other from the spread of this virus, and not contribute to a spike in COVID cases.

We are all working diligently to maintain a safe distance between each other at our manufacturing facilities. We’ve also implemented these precautionary measures to stay as safe as possible:

  • Temperature checks for anyone entering the building at the beginning of each shift
  • Single-use restrooms
  • Reinforcing proper hygiene regarding hand washing
  • Single seating in the cafeteria
  • Modifying breaks so fewer people are in break rooms at any given time
  • Thoroughly cleaning equipment and providing the necessary sanitizers
  • Remote work assignments and teleconferencing whenever possible, especially for our non-production team members
  • No customer or supplier visits to our offices or production facilities

We’ve been successful in keeping everyone healthy so far. And we know a continued focus on safety is vital, especially as people come out from the lockdown and get back out in public. We’ll continue to be vigilant to protect our team members and our customers.

Samir Husni: What is the impact so far on the publishing frequency, printing, mailing, etc.? Any change on the print schedule from your clients? Skipping issues, reducing print run, etc.

David Pilcher: Absolutely. We’ve had some projects reduced or canceled. Yet I don’t want that to sound worse than it is. Sportsbooks, event-related literature, city/regional magazines and similar publications are suffering the most, which would be expected during something like this.

However, we are also seeing many publishers getting creative. We’ve printed some special issues, with limited runs to make them more collectible. We’ve had regional publishers print features about their city stepping up to the pandemic – especially healthcare and frontline workers – and these are popular with their readership. We see a focus on restaurants to get the word out, with takeout menus to help their eateries survive. So many of our customers are adapting and finding incredibly creative ways to support their communities through this.

Samir Husni: Are you seeing any shortage in paper, ink, workforce?

David Pilcher: No. Paper and ink are still in ready supply. And our workforce is doing well; they are adapting like champs and doing their usual great work. Our primary focus is to keep them healthy and safe.

Samir Husni: Did you ever, in your nightmares or dreams, ever think of such a situation and can you ever be prepared for such a thing?

David Pilcher: You and I are both old enough to remember 9/11 and the resulting downturn of the economy. A business should always be prepared for the worse because it will always be unexpected. Financial stability and healthy relationships are vital. This is how you prepare for the unexpected. In times like these, we realize just how important it is to have solid relationships with your bank, with your vendors, and with your customers. And with your employees as well; I’m really, really proud of how our team has responded to this challenge.

Preparation begins with trust. When we trust each other to do the right thing, we know we can work together to get through it.

Samir Husni: What message are you communicating with your employees and clients?

David Pilcher: I’ve seen a lot of messaging around about print being an “essential business” and how printers are open and here to help businesses get through this. That’s absolutely true. More importantly, I believe, is direct communication with your employees and your clients. Everyone is worried about something, and probably needs more than just a general “we’re here for you” message. Strong leadership and communication are what makes a business truly “essential.” Make sure you are addressing the needs of each part of your business and the challenges that still exist – both internally and externally.

Samir Husni: What makes magazines and magazine media relevant today?

David Pilcher: Their perspective. I believe the offline format of magazines makes them unique, of course. But besides ink on paper, magazine publishers offer a unique view of whatever subject they are covering – and that’s something their audience adores and craves about them. That in-depth perspective where readers can learn something new about a topic they are interested in from a voice they already trust. We need that more than ever right now.

Samir Husni: Any additional words of wisdom?

David Pilcher: I recently saw an interview with Simon Leslie of (INK) that discussed using the proper language to create the right narrative. Are we creating stories of hope or fear? The same information, worded differently, can create positive or negative tones. You’re still communicating the same information, yet it can leave the reader feeling positive, hopeful. It’s a very timely perspective that, I believe, is worth sharing.

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

David Pilcher: My cats usually.

Samir Husni: Thank you


PS:  As my gentle readers will notice Freeport Press is one of the Mr. Magazine™’s Blog sponsors, however this interview is only one of few interviews with different owners, presidents and CEOs of the many printing companies in the country, so for the sake of truth in reporting, here you have it.

 

h1

Stephen Orr, Editor in Chief, Better Homes & Gardens to “Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “The Magazine Media World, Particularly In Print, And In Digital And Video Too, Has Been Needing To Dismantle Old Ways That Are Based On The Past.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview

April 13, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (11)

“This crisis forces our hand to do things in new ways that’s current with media consumption habits of our next generation audience, who are used to more offhand, casual Snapchat, TikTok, DIY content.” Stephen Orr on his views on moving forward…

 “But you’re right, now, during this period, they have much more time to read or flip through a magazine. And I believe people are enjoying those slow joys more, and it’s up to the future to decide how much that will continue.” Stephen Orr on readers engaging with print during the pandemic…

Bringing people joy and giving readers the content they want even before they know they want it; according to Stephen Orr, editor in chief, Better Homes & Gardens, this is what makes for good editors and what makes a service journalism magazine relevant during these uncertain times.

I spoke with Stephen recently and we talked about publishing during this pandemic and about how the differences in producing magazines today versus just a few months ago can be challenging, the process can also be reenergizing, causing innovation and creativity to jump to the forefront.

Staying upbeat, positive and delivering the same joyful content that Better Homes & Gardens has always created is something that Stephen and his team continue to do, even in the face of a pandemic.

For it’s a given the world needs joy now more than ever and magazines always come through.

And now for the eleventh installment in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic, in the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stephen Orr, editor in chief, Better Homes & Gardens.

But first the sound-bites:

On what he believes the role of service journalism magazines are during this pandemic: Meredith has a range of titles, and as editor in chief of Better Homes & Gardens and overseeing about 12 of our brands  we’re in the business of inspiring people, lifting them up and educating them in a very positive manner. We’re not all covering hard-hitting, investigative stories that are about troubling things. Some brands do amazing investigative journalism about subjects. PEOPLE, for instance, comes to mind. But for the most part, magazines like BH&G  are service journalism, and we are in the business of trying to make people happy.

On his message for his audience when they read his editorial in the May issue of BH&G: When I thought of my neighbors as I wrote that editorial, and I was thinking about them obviously as I walked by, it touched my heart because I can imagine all of those families; all of those single people; all of those couples; all of those elderly people, doing the things that made them happy. We’re quarantined here in New York and every day I’m doing things that make me happy. We all have our own repertoire of activities that we do to make us happy, hopefully. That’s one way to combat certain aspects of feeling down.

On what makes BH&G more wanted during a pandemic: I love cooking. For me, I can rest on cooking very easily, and I don’t use many recipes. In my ordinary pre-Covid life, I didn’t use recipes, unless I was baking. Now I find that I’m looking for recipes more because I’m tired of my way of doing it. I’m cooking three meals a day, and I’m looking for new ideas. That’s what we’re bringing people… the newness and the novelty. The surprises of things that you didn’t think of yourself.

On how BH&G is operating during the pandemic: The Better Homes & Gardens team has been  awesome, and all the editors that I work with and their teams have been amazing too, especially about realizing that it’s a new day, at least for now. We don’t know about forever. But something positive that forces our hand is that we’ve been needing to work in new ways for a long time. The magazine media world, particularly in print, and in digital and video too, has been needing to dismantle old ways that are based on the past. Perhaps, you might say, the glory days of the New York magazine scene. And the efforts, money and budgets that went into that. This crisis forces our hand to do things in new ways that’s current with media consumption habits of our next generation audience, who are used to more offhand, casual Snapchat, TikTok, DIY content.

On whether he thinks after this pandemic we’ll see a time when readers are hungrier for a print magazine:  I’m a big fan of multiplatform content, the multiplatform brand, and how that works across each  channel, but you’re exactly right. Humans are social creatures; we’re that way, we’ve had good success as a species because of that, and even though we drive each other nuts, we work together. To borrow a Joni Mitchell line: “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”. And that’s what this crisis is doing. It’s making everyone reevaluate priorities; it’s making people reevaluate their previous lives when it comes to what they put their efforts into. And it’s making people reconnect.

On his overall message to his BH&G readers during these uncertain times: Be optimistic, because we have to be optimistic. Even though right now it’s extremely  challenging, especially in New York City; it gets more challenging by the minute and the news is frightening. We all have to find ways to be happy and some days it takes more effort than not, but I’m very happy I’m in the business of bringing people joy.

On anything he’d like to add: One thing I have not done but is on my to-do list for the next couple of days is, we have an online archive and I’m going to look at how Better Homes & Gardens, which is nearly 100 years old, handled times of extended crisis in the past. I’m going to look at what we did after Pearl Harbor; how we handled the wars; how we handled 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, and all sorts of things that predate me here. And I believe that will be inspiring. We’ve done this before in various versions, so I think media will do it again.

 On what keeps him up at night: What is worrisome to me is the future of creating content and visual content, meaning photography. Photo shoots right now are incredibly hard because of the physical proximity of unrelated people. That’s  what we’re working on right now, and  even with that, we have viable solutions coming up where people are shooting at home; people are working with teams, it might be a husband and wife team, where she’s a stylist and he’s a photographer or vice versa.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stephen Orr, editor in chief, Better Homes and Gardens.

Samir Husni: I read your editorial in the May issue of Better Homes & Gardens, which included a lot of hopeful and encouraging words to your audience, so during this pandemic, what’s the role of a service journalism magazine? How are you shedding some light for your readers on this tragic topic?

Stephen Orr: Meredith has a range of titles, and as editor in chief of Better Homes & Gardens and overseeing about 12 of our brands  we’re in the business of inspiring people, lifting them up and educating them in a very positive manner. We’re not all covering hard-hitting, investigative stories that are about troubling things. Some brands do amazing investigative journalism about subjects. PEOPLE, for instance, comes to mind. But for the most part, magazines like BH&G  are service journalism, and we are in the business of trying to make people happy.

We’ve always done that and now with all the uncertainty and anxiety that just floats through the air so thickly, it’s even more important than ever to inspire people and make them happy.

Samir Husni: What is the message you have for your audience when they read your editorial in the May issue or pick up any one of your magazines? What are you trying to tell them?

Stephen Orr: When I thought of my neighbors as I wrote that editorial, and I was thinking about them obviously as I walked by, it touched my heart because I can imagine all of those families; all of those single people; all of those couples; all of those elderly people, doing the things that made them happy. We’re quarantined here in New York and every day I’m doing things that make me happy. We all have our own repertoire of activities that we do to make us happy, hopefully. That’s one way to combat certain aspects of feeling down.

On the other hand, you run out of those activities and projects, and that’s why media in all its forms, and particularly magazines, are providing inspiration for something new. Magazines serve the function of giving people fresh content and keeping them happy, because surprise and delight is the goal of all of our magazine brands at Meredith.

Samir Husni: As you’re trying to surprise and delight your audience, it’s been said that nobody needs a magazine, you have to make people want it. What makes Better Homes & Gardens more wanted during this pandemic?

Stephen Orr: I love cooking. For me, I can rest on cooking very easily, and I don’t use many recipes. In my ordinary pre-Covid life, I didn’t use recipes, unless I was baking. Now I find that I’m looking for recipes more because I’m tired of my way of doing it. I’m cooking three meals a day, and I’m looking for new ideas. That’s what we’re bringing people… the newness and the novelty. The surprises of things that you didn’t think of yourself.

When I can pop into a search bar on Google and look for what I need, I’ll get it, but I’ve said it before, the best editors give their readers  what they want before they know they want it. And being slightly ahead is helpful. It’s hard right now to give people what they want in advance because the future is uncertain, so that is a challenge for content creators like myself. We want to hit in the right spot, and as I wrote in my ed-letter, we’re planning content a year out and we don’t know what that future looks like. So, that’s a big challenge for all  of us right now. And that’s why digital and video are very important. We can be immediate on those platforms.

Samir Husni: How are you operating everything during this pandemic?

Stephen Orr: The Better Homes & Gardens team has been  awesome, and all the editors that I work with and their teams have been amazing too, especially about realizing that it’s a new day, at least for now. We don’t know about forever. But something positive that forces our hand is that we’ve been needing to work in new ways for a long time. The magazine media world, particularly in print, and in digital and video too, has been needing to dismantle old ways that are based on the past. Perhaps, you might say, the glory days of the New York magazine scene. And the efforts, money and budgets that went into that. This crisis forces our hand to do things in new ways that’s current with media consumption habits of our next generation audience, who are used to more offhand, casual Snapchat, TikTok, DIY content.

Our editors, producers, and everyone working remotely, are making their own videos. I’m going to be making one that announces the launch of  BH&G’s “America’s Best Front Yard” contest.. You just have to jump in and do it yourself. And it makes a product look different. Just watching newscasters from home these days, it’s interesting and not that strange to look at. In the old days we would have thought  that was crazy, but now we’re used to it because we’re all doing Zoom meetings regularly.

Our expectations have changed and needed to change, and it will give content creation a much-needed rattle to start working in those new ways we’ve talked about.

Samir Husni: One thing that has surprised me during this quarantine/social distancing directive is I texted my 127 students and 120 of them answered me back and said what they miss the most during this pandemic is the personal interaction between classmates, walking on campus, being physically present. And this is the generation that most would think would treasure today’s “isolated connectivity.” But because it’s no longer a choice, they seem to miss the old ways. Do you think that we’ll see a day where people are truly hungrier for the printed magazine? Or will it be all digital from now on?

Stephen Orr: I’m a big fan of multiplatform content, the multiplatform brand, and how that works across each  channel, but you’re exactly right. Humans are social creatures; we’re that way, we’ve had good success as a species because of that, and even though we drive each other nuts, we work together. To borrow a Joni Mitchell line: “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”. And that’s what this crisis is doing. It’s making everyone reevaluate priorities; it’s making people reevaluate their previous lives when it comes to what they put their efforts into. And it’s making people reconnect.

It also exposes a lot of social problems, a lot of inequities. It exposes problems people have in their home lives, for better or for worse. This is  a transformational event for our global society. And media plays a big part in that , from the hard-hitting investigative journalism of the highest order to the everyday joy, inspiration  and lifestyle service that our Meredith magazines bring every month to readers  and the content they access  on all the platforms we offer. They can have it; however and whenever they want.

But you’re right, now, during this period, they have much more time to read or flip through a magazine. And I believe people are enjoying those slow joys more, and it’s up to the future to decide how much that will continue.

Samir Husni: What’s your message to the millions of readers that Better Homes & Gardens has, both in print and digital? If you had one thing to tell them, what would that message be?

Stephen Orr: Be optimistic, because we have to be optimistic. Even though right now it’s extremely  challenging, especially in New York City; it gets more challenging by the minute and the news is frightening. We all have to find ways to be happy and some days it takes more effort than not, but I’m very happy I’m in the business of bringing people joy.

I recognize that even in my own neighborhood there are people who have lost their jobs, who will lose their jobs; there are people who are struggling with their housing situation; there are beloved restaurants closed. I urge people to look for ways to help. If I complained about anything, my parents would take my head and literally point it toward someone who needed help. That’s how I was raised.

One way that Meredith  is trying to help is by bringing everyday joy to people and now all of us are trying to get behind causes that are beginning to emerge during this crisis and  mobilize our audiences to help others. That’s one of the socially human things that we do so well; we want to help. And that’s what I think is important: optimism and our natural tendency to help.

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

Stephen Orr: One thing I have not done but is on my to-do list for the next couple of days is, we have an online archive and I’m going to look at how Better Homes & Gardens, which is nearly 100 years old, handled times of extended crisis in the past. I’m going to look at what we did after Pearl Harbor; how we handled the wars; how we handled 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, and all sorts of things that predate me here. And I believe that will be inspiring. We’ve done this before in various versions, so I think media will do it again.

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

Stephen Orr: I have been so impressed with the nimbleness of our teams. Our teams in Des Moines, Iowa, where I’m normally based, but I’m now here in my previous home in New York under quarantine until who knows, and I deeply value the teams in Des Moines, the teams in New York City, the teams in Vermont, the teams in Birmingham, Ala. Everybody is figuring it out on their own, they’re not waiting for someone to tell them what to do. They’re figuring out the best solutions for their brands and jumping in and solving that. So, that’s been great.

We are producing our magazine seamlessly at Better Homes & Gardens, because we have talented, resourceful and tenacious editors in production and the art department, and everybody is just moving pages every day. I closed the magazine on my cell phone. I did it all with PDF’s and that worked great.

What is worrisome to me is the future of creating content and visual content, meaning photography. Photo shoots right now are incredibly hard because of the physical proximity of unrelated people. That’s  what we’re working on right now, and  even with that, we have viable solutions coming up where people are shooting at home; people are working with teams, it might be a husband and wife team, where she’s a stylist and he’s a photographer or vice versa.

That’s what’s keeping me up at night  a little bit, though I know that we’re going to solve that problem. We just need to be flexible; we need to compromise; and we need to keep the quality up, and we have to solve that problem first and foremost in the coming months. Getting the new imagery together for all platforms: video, digital and print. I know we’ll do it. It’s inspiring to see people solve that problem.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: