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Scott Santos, CEO & Publisher, StripLV Magazine To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Want Our Magazine To Be More Like An Art Book, That’s How I Want It To Come Across. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 8, 2021

“…There’s something about touching a magazine. I’m an older guy, but I believe there’s a lot of people out there, we have a nice subscriber base that still wants to get that magazine in the mail every month and touch it and feel it in the form of a nicely printed magazine, where it’s heavy print and done beautifully.” Scott Santos…

If you were to combine Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame and Bob Guccione of Penthouse fame, you would end up with Scott Santos, the founder, CEO and publisher of StripLV magazine.  But that’s where the similarities end. The married man of Italian descent has “four beautiful children” and lives a few miles outside of Las Vegas in the mountains. Scott cherishes his photography and creative work seen on the pages of the magazine and the pixels on the screen, but not as much as he cherishes his family life that gives him the reason to get up and face the day. The magazine is filled with erotic and beautiful pictures of women who Santos says he wants to feel empowered in the pages of his magazine. Published like a coffee table book with the focus on art and beauty, StripLV is celebrating its 15th anniversary in print. And while Scott is an integrated publisher, with much accolades for the digital side of his business, he believes that there is something about print that speaks to people.

I spoke with Scott recently and we talked about his magazine and his brand. Being a photographer, one who does the images for his product, he has an eye for angles and beauty and tries to show a diverse quality in his work that projects the softer, more artsy images that he loves. Based in Las Vegas, the magazine showcases many different models in many modes of disarray, but with a haunting quality that blends very nicely with the eroticism the magazine touts, thus filling a major void left in this sector with the demise of Playboy magazine and the decline in sales of Penthouse magazine.  

So I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Santos, CEO and publisher, StripLV magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On launching a print magazine in 2006 when everything was moving toward digital: Growing up, I was always a big fan of Playboy and Penthouse and those types of magazines. And when I moved out here to Las Vegas I was in the real estate business at the time; I was buying and selling homes. There was no magazine in town here that spoke to the adult side of Las Vegas, but there was a lot of adult things going on.

On any challenges he faced during 2020: To tell you the truth, we’ve seen a surge in business from 2020. People want to get something every month in their mailboxes, so our subscription business and our distribution has actually increased dramatically since 2020. I think things are going to be good and people are going to go back to wanting something printed; I’m seeing that. It’s like vinyl; vinyl has had a surge in records. Our digital distribution as well, through Zinio.com, has been very strong. So, honestly, it’s been good for us.

On when he decided to make the magazine more of a national publication rather than just in Las Vegas: At the end of 2007 we struck a deal with a major distributor. And in 2008 we launched nationally with that distributor. It was Curtis Distribution at the time, they’re no longer in business. We spent a lot of money and we bought into all the airport Hudson News locations. My attitude back then was “go big or go home.” Then at the end of 2008 when the recession hit we had to rethink the whole business, because we were staffed up. I had offices with a big staff. I had to rethink how we did everything.

On how he achieves that differentiation in the magazine between erotic and pornographic photography and if that’s his goal: It’s completely my goal and purpose. I love women and I think women are beautiful creatures. And I want the women to feel empowered in the pages of our magazine. So I approach it like I really want it to be artful and beautiful, but I don’t want to be doing stuff that you might see in Hustler magazine. I mean, there’s a place for that, but not in our magazine. I want our magazine to be more like an art book, that’s how I want it to come across.

On the role he thinks print plays in the presentation of the erotic photography in his magazine: Well, even online I want it to be beautiful and I think you can present it that way. But there’s something about touching a magazine. I’m an older guy, but I believe there’s a lot of people out there, we have a nice subscriber base that still wants to get that magazine in the mail every month and touch it and feel it in the form of a nicely printed magazine, where it’s heavy print and done beautifully. But I want the digital to be beautiful too, so I work hard to make sure our digital presentation is beautiful as well. Our website and our digital magazine. But to me there’s something about print that still speaks. 

On whether he finds that the models photographed in his magazine are more interested in being on the cover of the printed edition rather than on the website: Of course. All my models want to be on the cover, that’s the most important thing. Obviously, we only have 12 covers a year, so not everybody can be there, but  it’s a big thing that the models really want. And you have to have a good one, that is very important. Once I get the cover, everything else seems to come together.

On whether he has received any pushback from newsstands, distributors or bookstores about any of his uncensored covers: It’s a fine line. We have had pushback from an issue maybe five years ago where we had to actually put a sticker on it. It was her butt. And the distributors made us put a sticker on it and that cost money, so you don’t really want that situation. Honestly, I try to push it as far as I can push it, but not too far where I’m going to have problems with it being on the newsstand. I want it to be erotic and if we do push it, we will sell more magazines sometimes.

On doing split covers: I’ve done a couple of issues before throughout the years where we’ve had multiple covers, but it’s a cost issue and being a publisher and a businessman and staying in business for 15 years, I have to think about those things. You don’t want to spend money where you don’t need to spend money.

On his biggest business challenge: The biggest challenge is securing advertisers. That’s the tough thing because a lot of the agencies and companies nowadays have younger people doing marketing for them, millennials, and a lot of millennials don’t believe in print. They just say no, we can do that on social media.

On cover prices and the business model: Our cover price is $9.99 and you can subscribe for $40 per year. But we have lots of people reselling copies on Amazon and stuff for much more than that. Back issue sales is one of our business models that we make quite a bit of money on, because we have 177 issues now. And we have some that sell for a lot of money. So we warehouse them and they ship them out when people order them because we have a lot of people who collect every issue. That’s one of our business models and where we make money, back issue sales.

On what he hopes to achieve with the magazine in another three years: What I want to do by then is be at a place where I don’t need any advertising dollars. Where I have such a strong subscription base and such solid distribution and sell-thru at the newsstands that any advertising that I need is just gravy. That’s where I want to be in three to five years.

On which hat that he wears: publisher, editor, photographer, he enjoys the most: That’s a tough question. I like publishing and editing the magazine, that’s probably my favorite thing to do. Selling ads is probably my least favorite thing to do, but I wear that hat because I have to. I don’t have a problem doing it, but I really like just sitting at my computer and bringing the whole thing together.

On how he has operated during the pandemic: It really didn’t affect us that much. The models, I still kept shooting, I didn’t really change that. I shot all year. We’re quarantined as it is. Basically, my wife and myself do most of the work on the magazine. Everything else we pretty much outsource. We have a staff but they work from home anyhow. So it didn’t affect us so much that way. There were some models that were uncomfortable shooting, so I didn’t shoot as much. But I have such a backlog of photography from years ago, that it didn’t really affect me. I probably shot once or twice a month during the pandemic.

On how he decided on the pictures for his limited edition print book of photography: I started with the models that I had a relationship with as far as liking them as people. I’ve been shooting for the magazine for about 17 years, because I started shooting before we started printing, so I just wanted to show the diversity in my work. My work has a look, but I also wanted it to show that I do have quite a diverse style.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the morning: I love getting out of bed and doing the magazine. I’m so lucky to be a photographer and to do what I’m doing. I can work for myself and it’s wonderful. I get out of bed every day, go for  a nice four or five mile walk. My wife and I have four beautiful children and so it’s easy to get out of bed. I’m very blessed to be doing what I’m doing.

On how he unwinds in the evening: My wife and I will maybe put on a TV show or a movie and have a drink. And then just wind down, because it’s easy. This is not stressful; what we do is not stressful. I’m blessed.

On what keeps him up at night: Nothing much, I sleep pretty good. (Laughs)

And now for the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Santos, CEO & publisher, StripLV Magazine.

Samir Husni: First, let me congratulate you on celebrating 15 years of publishing StripLV in print.  

Scott Santos: Thank you.

Samir Husni: Let’s go back to 2006 when you decided to launch the magazine. It was before the dawn of the digital age as we know it; the iPhone came one year later, then the iPad two years later. What was your thinking behind creating a magazine with erotic photography and famous people and their lifestyles? It was an era where everything was moving toward digital, yet you launched a print magazine.

Scott Santos: Growing up, I was always a big fan of Playboy and Penthouse and those types of magazines. And when I moved out here to Las Vegas I was in the real estate business at the time; I was buying and selling homes. There was no magazine in town here that spoke to the adult side of Las Vegas, but there was a lot of adult things going on. 

There was a magazine over in Phoenix, Arizona that was distributed free in the gentleman’s clubs. And I thought we should do something similar to that here. We really didn’t think of doing it on a national scale. Basically, I was doing a free distribution magazine for adult businesses that would have a men’s interest and we would distribute it free at the locations here in Las Vegas. So, it started like that. I thought let’s speak to the adult side of Las Vegas, nobody was doing it and I thought I could carve a niche out doing that.

What it became was something quite different. From the beginning, I embraced the digital side of it; we always had a digital version on the Internet from day one. So we had free print distribution and we had free digital distribution as well.

The truth of the matter is, at the time I didn’t know much about publishing at all; really nothing. I was a photographer, but I came from the music business. And I used to photograph my bands on my label. So I really didn’t know much about it, other than I was a creative guy. And honestly, knowing what I know now, I maybe wouldn’t have done that back then, but I was that kind of person, someone who would just jump into things.

Samir Husni: As you look back at 2020, which was a very unusual year in terms of the pandemic and the social unrest. What were some of the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them? 

Scott Santos: To tell you the truth, we’ve seen a surge in business from 2020. People want to get something every month in their mailboxes, so our subscription business and our distribution has actually increased dramatically since 2020. I think things are going to be good and people are going to go back to wanting something printed; I’m seeing that. It’s like vinyl; vinyl has had a surge in records. Our digital distribution as well, through Zinio.com, has been very strong. So, honestly, it’s been good for us. 

Samir Husni: You’re published now on a monthly basis. I discovered the magazines on the newsstand in Mississippi, so you’re no longer limited to Las Vegas. When did you make the decision to move from just Las Vegas to a more national magazine?

Scott Santos: At the end of 2007 we struck a deal with a major distributor. And in 2008 we launched nationally with that distributor. It was Curtis Distribution at the time, they’re no longer in business. We spent a lot of money and we bought into all the airport Hudson News locations. My attitude back then was “go big or go home.” Then at the end of 2008 when the recession hit we had to rethink the whole business, because we were staffed up. I had offices with a big staff. I had to rethink how we did everything. 

We learned how to do things smaller. We pulled back on our national distribution a little bit because it was costing us a lot of money. But originally, even way back then, I figured, I’m not going to give this magazine away anymore, we’re more of a national magazine; we’re called StripLV, or Strip Las Vegas, but I saw what was happening with Penthouse and Playboy. I saw they were going to fail and not do good, and I thought there could be a niche for us, but I needed to learn how to do it smaller and more economically. 

So we pulled back and kind of reined everything in and we survived the recession. We kept growing stronger by a little bit at a time, but only slow. And now we’re in all the Barnes & Nobles and Books-A-Million; we’re a pretty strong national presence as far as distribution because Playboy isn’t printing, so there was room on the newsstand for us suddenly. And Penthouse isn’t printing that much. So, we’ve actually opened up our print distribution quite a bit. 

Samir Husni: I’ve seen several copies of the magazine and there seems to be a sharp line drawn in the sand when it comes to the magazine’s differentiation between erotic and pornographic photography. How do you achieve that, if that’s your goal or purpose? 

Scott Santos: It’s completely my goal and purpose. I love women and I think women are beautiful creatures. And I want the women to feel empowered in the pages of our magazine. So I approach it like I really want it to be artful and beautiful, but I don’t want to be doing stuff that you might see in Hustler magazine. I mean, there’s a place for that, but not in our magazine. I want our magazine to be more like an art book, that’s how I want it to come across. 

Though it is erotic and there is vagina in our magazine. Some people, like Playboy, they shied away from that and I think the vagina is beautiful. I don’t want to shy away from it, I think you can show it in a beautiful manner. I want it to be like a beautiful picture that I would buy and put in my house. 

Samir Husni: Do you think that you can achieve that concept, that goal, only in print, that there is a big difference between seeing an erotic picture in a digital edition versus print? What role does print play in the eroticism and in how you present your pictures?

Scott Santos: Well, even online I want it to be beautiful and I think you can present it that way. But there’s something about touching a magazine. I’m an older guy, but I believe there’s a lot of people out there, we have a nice subscriber base that still wants to get that magazine in the mail every month and touch it and feel it in the form of a nicely printed magazine, where it’s heavy print and done beautifully. But I want the digital to be beautiful too, so I work hard to make sure our digital presentation is beautiful as well. Our website and our digital magazine. But to me there’s something about print that still speaks. 

Samir Husni: Many of the magazine publishers and editors that I interview tell me that the celebrities or people they feature are more concerned with being on the cover of the printed magazine instead of on their websites. Do you find that to be true as well, that the models that you photograph are more interested in being on the cover of the magazine rather than on the website?  

Scott Santos: Of course. All my models want to be on the cover, that’s the most important thing. Obviously, we only have 12 covers a year, so not everybody can be there, but  it’s a big thing that the models really want. And you have to have a good one, that is very important. Once I get the cover, everything else seems to come together. 

Samir Husni: With a magazine like StripLV, how far can you push the cover to the limit? I saw some of the covers where they weren’t really censored. Have you received any pushback from the newsstand or the distributors or any of the bookstores about any of your covers?

Scott Santos: It’s a fine line. We have had pushback from an issue maybe five years ago where we had to actually put a sticker on it. It was her butt. And the distributors made us put a sticker on it and that cost money, so you don’t really want that situation. Honestly, I try to push it as far as I can push it, but not too far where I’m going to have problems with it being on the newsstand. I want it to be erotic and if we do push it, we will sell more magazines sometimes. 

Samir Husni: Have you done any split covers? I have a magazine from 1978 called At Home, which was also a magazine of sexual fulfillment, but their subscriber’s cover was much more explicit than the newsstand cover. Have you considered having split covers, one for subscribers and one for newsstands?

Scott Santos: No, because it’s a cost issue. I’ve done a couple of issues before throughout the years where we’ve had multiple covers, but it’s a cost issue and being a publisher and a businessman and staying in business for 15 years, I have to think about those things. You don’t want to spend money where you don’t need to spend money. 

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest business challenge you’ve had to face?

Scott Santos: The biggest challenge is securing advertisers. That’s the tough thing because a lot of the agencies and companies nowadays have younger people doing marketing for them, millennials, and a lot of millennials don’t believe in print. They just say no, we can do that on social media. 

We’ve spoken to that and I sell video ads and we do social media marketing and content sales, things like that. But getting people to just take a print ad nowadays has become more and more challenging, even though I wholly believe that print ads work as I believe outdoor media works. But that’s me. A lot of the people that I’m dealing with, who sell these ads are much younger than me and they just don’t see it or believe in it. So that’s probably the biggest challenge. 

Samir Husni: It seems like with all  magazines, there isn’t a problem with ink on paper, it’s more about the business model, that dependence for years on advertising to make money. Now it seems the industry is more in the business of customers who count, that if you want to get StripLV, you have to pay $12 for a cover price or $20, which in the old days you could get a year’s subscription for that. 

Scott Santos: Our cover price is $9.99 and you can subscribe for $40 per year. But we have lots of people reselling copies on Amazon and stuff for much more than that. Back issue sales is one of our business models that we make quite a bit of money on, because we have 177 issues now. And we have some that sell for a lot of money. So we warehouse them and they ship them out when people order them because we have a lot of people who collect every issue. That’s one of our business models and where we make money, back issue sales. 

That being said, we still want to have advertising revenue, and that’s why I said that’s probably our biggest challenge, converting the younger people to understanding that print with a digital ad with some social media, we throw it in with the package. It’s a whole package when we sell an advertising client.

Samir Husni: You and I are having this discussion three years from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had achieved with StripLV and you are approaching your 20th anniversary?

Scott Santos: What I want to do by then is be at a place where I don’t need any advertising dollars. Where I have such a strong subscription base and such solid distribution and sell-thru at the newsstands that any advertising that I need is just gravy. That’s where I want to be in three to five years. 

Samir Husni: You wear so many different hats in your company. You’re the businessman, the publisher, the editor and you’re the photographer. Which one of these hats do you enjoy the most and why?

Scott Santos: That’s a tough question. I like publishing and editing the magazine, that’s probably my favorite thing to do. Selling ads is probably my least favorite thing to do, but I wear that hat because I have to. I don’t have a problem doing it, but I really like just sitting at my computer and bringing the whole thing together. We print everything out and make a book here every month, so I can look at it before I go to print. And that’s probably the thing I have the most fun doing. 

Samir Husni: How have you operated during the pandemic?

Scott Santos: It really didn’t affect us that much. The models, I still kept shooting, I didn’t really change that. I shot all year. We’re quarantined as it is. Basically, my wife and myself do most of the work on the magazine. Everything else we pretty much outsource. We have a staff but they work from home anyhow. So it didn’t affect us so much that way. There were some models that were uncomfortable shooting, so I didn’t shoot as much. But I have such a backlog of photography from years ago, that it didn’t really affect me. I probably shot once or twice a month during the pandemic. 

Samir Husni: You’ve also created a limited edition print book of your photography. How did you decide on the pictures for the book?

Scott Santos: I started with the models that I had a relationship with as far as liking them as people. I’ve been shooting for the magazine for about 17 years, because I started shooting before we started printing, so I just wanted to show the diversity in my work. My work has a look, but I also wanted it to show that I do have quite a diverse style. I have studio stuff with flash and then I’ve got outdoor stuff that’s really softer and more artsy. So I wanted it to be diverse. 

Then just thinking about the ladies who had touched me in some way. They moved me in my heart and soul.

Samir Husni:  What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Scott Santos: I love getting out of bed and doing the magazine. I’m so lucky to be a photographer and to do what I’m doing. I can work for myself and it’s wonderful. I get out of bed every day, go for  a nice four or five mile walk. My wife and I have four beautiful children and so it’s easy to get out of bed. I’m very blessed to be doing what I’m doing. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evening after a long day at work?

Scott Santos: My wife and I will maybe put on a TV show or a movie and have a drink. And then just wind down, because it’s easy. This is not stressful; what we do is not stressful. I’m blessed. 

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

Scott Santos: Nothing much, I sleep pretty good. (Laughs) 

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

One comment

  1. […] Scott Santos, CEO & Publisher, StripLV Magazine To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “I Want … […]



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