Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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Coloring With Mommy: A New Magazine From Bauer Media That Offers Moms & Daughters A Return To That Special Bonding Time That In Today’s Busy World Is Often Hard To Come By – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brittany Galla, Editorial Director, Bauer Media Group’s Youth Division…

April 10, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Right now there isn’t a digital component for Coloring with Mommy, because it’s really print and paper-driven. It’s a book that digitally, even if you printed out a comic book page, it wouldn’t be the same quality and it wouldn’t have the heart that we put into the magazine, because it’s not just coloring book pages. It’s that bonding time and the extra stuff that makes the magazine feel more special.” Brittany Galla…

“… But of course with our other launches, such as Bake It Up! with our digital team, there have been things such as recipes that they’ve put on Facebook live, and there are things to promote the magazine and the content on there, but really we are looking at targeting the newsstand reader and the newsstand parent with these new launches.” Brittany Galla…

Bauer Media’s youth division has been offering up new print titles throughout the last few years as though digital was simply a extensional platform that could complement print or offer a different perspective than its ink on paper counterpart – and what do you know, I do believe they’re right. Brittany Galla, editorial director for the media group’s youth division, said their latest title “Coloring with Mommy” offers something that Bauer strongly believes in, a break from “screen time” and that bonding experience that many mothers and daughters find elusive in this fast-paced digital age.

I spoke with Brittany recently and we talked about Coloring with Mommy, and about the other titles that are growing up under her wing. With this latest launch, Bauer is targeting the loyal readers of Star-tastic Coloring Book, and Brittany said that the new magazine featured 28 beautiful side-by-side, outward facing images for mom to color along with her child, while bonding and spending quality time together, something she feels parents need today.

Brittany added that while Bauer is very excited about its digital division, these new launches are targeted strictly for newsstand and, as with Coloring with Mommy, offer something that both children and parents need in this busy time we live in, a moment to escape and exhale from the bombardment of information that we all receive second-by-second onscreen.

So, sit down, relax, and take a breath from your busy schedule and enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brittany Galla, editorial director, Bauer Media Group’s Youth Division.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Bauer is putting out more and more print magazines for teens and children in this digital age: What’s going on here is that we’re just bursting with creativity and ideas, and I think in a time when we do see a lot of digital growth, which we’re excited about for our digital sides of the brand, we also see a lot of opportunity to concentrate and focus on print and what’s on the newsstand and what’s not really being offered to readers right now.

On where the ideas for these new magazines come from: Honestly, it’s a mix of different things. An idea comes from a focus group or where we’re talking to 10 or 12 girls and Sebastian (Raatz, executive vice president of Bauer Media Group) and I are taking notes and they’ll say something about a hobby that they love and everyone talks about it and discusses what that could mean on the newsstand. Some ideas do come to me at night as well and some ideas come to my great staff and then they present it to me.

On how she brings the idea to life: Time-wise, it was probably over a span of three to four months, from beginning to end. First, we decide if it’s really a good idea, such as with Coloring with Mommy, which is a way to get a child and her mom to bond more. It’s something more than just a coloring book they’ll find on bookshelves. It’s different and it means more than that. And it has more reselling factors.

On whether there is a digital component for Coloring with Mommy: Right now there isn’t a digital component for Coloring with Mommy, because it’s really print and paper-driven. It’s a book that digitally, even if you printed out a comic book page, it wouldn’t be the same quality and it wouldn’t have the heart that we put into the magazine, because it’s not just coloring book pages. It’s that bonding time and the extra stuff that makes the magazine feel more special.

On what she feels the role of print is in today’s digital age: I feel like the role of print is to really give these young kids and tweens across America and the world something that they’re not getting digitally, and it’s a way to still connect and to bring families together, still speak and relate to their lives. And I think that it’s also just a chance to be creative and to challenge digital. There are many great things happening digitally and at Bauer XCEL, but I think that there is still a lot of growth and room to succeed on the newsstand and it’s time to challenge what we can do and what we can offer readers.

On whether as an editor she believes that there is a responsibility to help with the digital addiction that many children are reported to have: I do. Speaking from a personal sense, my mom is actually a teacher and a reading specialist, and has been for many years. It’s so important to read books. And it’s constantly encouraged by teachers in schools to read the sight words and practice index cards. And there’s something about reading a book together, with your parent, with your mom or dad, as opposed to just everybody being connected to their tablets or phones. It’s so important to have that communication and to have those times together to read.

On whether she feels that she has a social responsibility and a duty to push reading on paper: I feel like I do. I oversee J-14 Magazine and I feel that way when I think of the teenaged reader that I’m targeting. I do think a lot about the reader and a lot about the families that are buying the magazines and what they need and what’s going on. How stressed they could be and maybe they just need 10 minutes with their child to bond, and that’s what I think about every day. I think of the reader and how we can help them bond with their daughter, or their mom, to feel a bit more connected.

On what makes her tick and click and get out of bed each morning, looking forward to her day: It’s the reader. I have wanted to work in magazines since I was a young teenager growing up in Long Island. I read all of the magazines: YM, Cosmo Girl, and they weren’t just magazines to me, they were much more. I lived by every word. They really were my bible. They told me about myself and they empowered me. And that’s what drives me. When I think of the reader that I once was and what magazines were able to provide for me, escape, advice, just being a big sister; when I get out of bed every morning, I’m thinking about that same reader and how I can connect with them. And I think about what our reader needs. That really drives me every day.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly at her home one evening: I’m obsessed with my dog. My husband and I have a rescue dog named Bo and he’s a Black Lab/Rottweiler mix, and we are just completely obsessive. So, if you were to find me at our house, I would be playing with him or hiking with him or just walking him.

On what keeps her up at night: I usually just fall right asleep because I’m so tired from the day, but if I do toss and turn a little bit, it’s usually just thinking about all the new ideas we have and how to put them in motion.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brittany Galla, editorial director, Bauer Media Group’s Youth Division.

Samir Husni: What’s happening at Bauer; are you all crazy, putting more print magazines out there for teens and children when everybody is telling us the entire future is digital?

Brittany Galla: (Laughs) What’s going on here is that we’re just bursting with creativity and ideas, and I think in a time when we do see a lot of digital growth, which we’re excited about for our digital sides of the brand, we also see a lot of opportunity to concentrate and focus on print and what’s on the newsstand and what’s not really being offered to readers right now.

We do a lot of focus groups and we talk to a lot of moms and daughters; tween girls who are not on their phones just yet, they might have iPods, but it doesn’t always connect to Wi-Fi, of course, and they don’t have iPhones until fifth or sixth grade, or even later. Some parents are really insistent that they don’t have a cell phone before fifth grade, so we do see these ages who are younger who really do need magazines and are looking for something to read and to do during their free time.

And I think here, what’s been going on in the past year is we sat down and thought about how we could attract a reader who is not being targeted on the newsstand right now in different ways, just getting new readers. And we have a lot of conversations with girls and moms who are not really spending the time together that they used to, because things are so busy with sports and school. The moms are on their phones a lot too, and admit that.

So, we really wanted to create products where we are bonding the family together. We think that family time is really important and so we created products like “Bake It Up!” and even “Star-tastic” and now with “Coloring with Mommy,” you can really sit down with your mom. With “Bake It Up!” it was baking and making cute stuff in the kitchen together, and now with “Coloring with Mommy” it’s a different type of coloring book, where the left side of the page is more difficult and detailed, and the right side is an easier replica of the same image. So, it’s a coloring book that they can share and do together. They’re working on the same page, but the mom has a bit more of a detailed one and the daughter has a little easier one and they’re sharing and doing it together.

And then the mega poster that we have is an image that they can fill in together; it’s completely joined on one giant page, so they can do a beautiful mega image together. And we also added content in the book, and we call it “Bonus Bonding” time. There are 10 questions where both mom and daughter can interview each other, such as “What is your biggest fear?” “What was your favorite childhood toy?” Questions that someone may have never asked their mom. I’m 31 and there were questions that I didn’t even know about my mom that I asked her. Just little ways to spend time with your mom and have these special moments that you don’t always get because life is so crazy right now.

Also, in the mega we have a little list where they can write 10 reasons that they love their moms and then a place where the moms can write 10 reasons why they love their daughters. Then they can cut it out and color it. We really wanted it to be a magazine that makes them happy and makes them have that warm and fuzzy feeling inside that I think a lot of girls can identify with. In 2016, we launched five new titles, and this is our first for 2017, so really excited about it being on newsstand.

Samir Husni: Who comes up with these creative ideas for the new magazines? In the last two or three years, you have been putting out one new title after the other aimed at a segment of the population that almost everyone else has written off. As the editorial director, how do you come up with these new ideas? Is it a group effort or do you have this dream at night and wake up and say we need to do this Coloring with Mommy magazine?

Brittany Galla: Honestly, it’s a mix of different things. An idea comes from a focus group or where we’re talking to 10 or 12 girls and Sebastian (Raatz, executive vice president of Bauer Media Group) and I are taking notes and they’ll say something about a hobby that they love and everyone talks about it and discusses what that could mean on the newsstand. Some ideas do come to me at night as well and some ideas come to my great staff and then they present it to me.

Over the last year, Sebastian and I have really worked together quite a lot and we met on a weekly basis and we had a list of over 100 ideas. We would write everything down, from the simplest and most obvious ideas, to the craziest and most extreme ones. And we’d keep this running list that we would add to and then choose which to focus on. With the coloring, obviously, it’s no secret that coloring has been huge on the newsstands for magazine publishers in both 2015 and 2016. And so we thought about how we could make it different and that’s when Star-tastic Coloring Book came into play, so people could color their favorite celebrities.

And then we just thought about what we could do in the coloring section that was a little different from Star-tastic, such as going a bit younger like the Coloring with Mommy, and where it’s not just a coloring book. If you look at the adult coloring books, those could be way too complicated for a little girl with all of the fine detail. She may could do it, but it would be very time-consuming. And then the kid coloring books are very easy, almost too easy. So, this was a way to combine both, where it’s not just an adult coloring book or one for just the child, it’s a coloring book that you can enjoy together and that’s perfect for your age group. It’s perfect for the parent to do, and then the page right next to mom’s is perfect for the daughter to color. And it’s sometimes the same image, just easier, and takes the same amount of time to finish.

So, really, the ideas do come to us in a variety of different ways. I think being creative and thinking outside of the box is something that Bauer has always really encouraged since I’ve been here. And just talking with readers and understanding what’s going on in their lives and finding out what they need and talking to moms. Also, I have six nieces that are my go-to when I have a lot of questions about what kids like and want to see. And all of those things just help form an excellent idea.

Samir Husni: Can you take me through the process of actually bringing the idea to fruition, maybe relive that a-ha moment when you decided that you were definitely bringing Coloring with Mommy to life?

Brittany Galla: Time-wise, it was probably over a span of three to four months, from beginning to end. First, we decide if it’s really a good idea, such as with Coloring with Mommy, which is a way to get a child and her mom to bond more. It’s something more than just a coloring book they’ll find on bookshelves. It’s different and it means more than that. And it has more reselling factors.

So, once we’re a 100 percent go on that, I pitch a bunch of ideas for the title, Coloring with Mommy was one of a few. My team also pitched some and Sebastian picked maybe one or two favorites. Then we presented them to the focus group to make sure that they liked them and that they spoke to the reader. And then we check to make sure that the title we’ve chosen can be used. After that, our art director, who is excellent, and we have an art pool of designers that we use, and we start a style guide for the magazine. For this one, it was almost like a “Girls’ World” type category, we used a lot of the “Girls’ World” fonts and bright colors.

And really, in just a few hours we had the templates and the images ready. I thought about the “Bonus Bonding” content, and then really the magazine was designed pretty quickly, I would say. When we have an idea, there are little tweaks here and there, and then I show Sebastian and the team, make any other tweaks that are needed and we go through the magazine together, and then that’s it.

Samir Husni: You’re newsstand-driven, but is there a digital component, or do you think that print is enough?

Brittany Galla: Right now there isn’t a digital component for Coloring with Mommy, because it’s really print and paper-driven. It’s a book that digitally, even if you printed out a comic book page, it wouldn’t be the same quality and it wouldn’t have the heart that we put into the magazine, because it’s not just coloring book pages. It’s that bonding time and the extra stuff that makes the magazine feel more special.

So, with Coloring with Mommy there’s not a digital component, but of course with our other launches, such as Bake It Up! with our digital team, there have been things such as recipes that they’ve put on Facebook live, and there are things to promote the magazine and the content on there, but really we are looking at targeting the newsstand reader and the newsstand parent with these new launches.

Samir Husni: From an editor’s point of view, what do you feel the role of print is in today’s digital age?

Brittany Galla: I think that digital has obviously opened up many avenues of different creativity, but I think that there’s still a need for families and kids to unwind. We’ve read about kids literally being addicted to social media and all of these apps. In an article in the New York Post, it was basically called digital heroin by a psychologist.

I feel like the role of print is to really give these young kids and tweens across America and the world something that they’re not getting digitally, and it’s a way to still connect and to bring families together, still speak and relate to their lives. And I think that it’s also just a chance to be creative and to challenge digital. There are many great things happening digitally and at Bauer XCEL, but I think that there is still a lot of growth and room to succeed on the newsstand and it’s time to challenge what we can do and what we can offer readers.

Samir Husni: Based on the research you’ve done, and all the studies we’re beginning to see, we’re starting to learn that millennials do read, and yes, while they do spend a lot of time on their digital devices, they’re also engaged in reading ink on paper. As an editor do you believe that there is an obligation to help remove the addiction or help with it a little bit?

Brittany Galla: I do. Speaking from a personal sense, my mom is actually a teacher and a reading specialist, and has been for many years. It’s so important to read books. And it’s constantly encouraged by teachers in schools to read the sight words and practice index cards. And there’s something about reading a book together, with your parent, with your mom or dad, as opposed to just everybody being connected to their tablets or phones. It’s so important to have that communication and to have those times together to read.

I do think that we can play a role in encouraging the reading. In our magazines we have fiction stories in Girls’ World and little starred facts and even puzzle fun targets the sight words. Puzzle fun is for kindergartners and it’s great as a kindergarten prep. So, there really is a call for us to be able to offer this educational content. And with Coloring with Mommy we’re helping with that bonding time and helping them to connect more than they would be if they were just sitting there with tablets looking at screen time. It’s a way to give a screen time break, which I think is something that many families are craving right now.

Samir Husni: Do you feel then that in addition to being an editorial director in charge of the magazines that you also have a social responsibility and a duty?

Brittany Galla: I feel like I do. I oversee J-14 Magazine and I feel that way when I think of the teenaged reader that I’m targeting. I do think a lot about the reader and a lot about the families that are buying the magazines and what they need and what’s going on. How stressed they could be and maybe they just need 10 minutes with their child to bond, and that’s what I think about every day. I think of the reader and how we can help them bond with their daughter, or their mom, to feel a bit more connected.

In terms of my other magazines, there are so many topics that we cover in J-14 and in Girls’ World, and it’s always about the reader and purpose and how we can make their lives better. And that’s always what I’ve seen my job as.

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and get out of bed each morning, looking forward to your day?

Brittany Galla: It’s the reader. I have wanted to work in magazines since I was a young teenager growing up in Long Island. I read all of the magazines: YM, Cosmo Girl, and they weren’t just magazines to me, they were much more. I lived by every word. They really were my bible. They told me about myself and they empowered me. And that’s what drives me. When I think of the reader that I once was and what magazines were able to provide for me, escape, advice, just being a big sister; when I get out of bed every morning, I’m thinking about that same reader and how I can connect with them. And I think about what our reader needs. That really drives me every day.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your house unexpectedly one evening after work, what would I find you doing; reading on your iPad; watching TV; cooking; reading a book; or something else?

Brittany Galla: I’m obsessed with my dog. My husband and I have a rescue dog named Bo and he’s a Black Lab/Rottweiler mix, and we are just completely obsessive. So, if you were to find me at our house, I would be playing with him or hiking with him or just walking him. I go home and it’s all about Bo. (Laughs) I do some work, but in the mornings I hike with him and as soon as I get home, he just has so much energy, I become completely obsessed and that’s what I’m usually doing after work.

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

Brittany Galla: I usually just fall right asleep because I’m so tired from the day, but if I do toss and turn a little bit, it’s usually just thinking about all the new ideas we have and how to put them in motion.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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ChicagoMod Magazine: A New Luxury Title That Promises To Deliver On Its Tagline By Showing Us How To Have A “Life Well Lived” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Shannon Steitz, President & Publisher, ChicagoMod Magazine…

April 5, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“The first five years of any business is never a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) I knew that when I set out to do this, so I was never expecting a walk in a rose garden. Also, this industry is a challenge. As you mentioned earlier, there is a lot of competition out there, and there will continue to be, regardless of the misconceptions about print. And certainly, around niche publications, I feel there is a heavy misconception.” Shannon Steitz (On whether launching two print magazines has been an easy endeavor)…

A luxury magazine geared toward the ultra-affluent market, ChicagoMod joins its sister publication, HudsonMod, and gives us a glimpse of modern-day luxury for the Chicago metropolitan area, while also offering international perspectives for its very niche audience.

Shannon Steitz is president and group publisher of MOD Media, the company that produces both ChicagoMod and HudsonMod and said that their newest publication presents a fresh and different look at all the things that pique the interests of individuals who have a minimum annual income of $500,000, which she is the first to admit, is a very niche audience indeed, but one that isn’t being served in the way that ChicagoMod delivers.

I spoke with Shannon recently and we talked about this latest endeavor and how her company, which includes a custom publishing division, focuses on partnering with its clients to meet key marketing objectives, something that Shannon said is a must in the luxury magazine business. She hopes ChicagoMod will create opportunities for its brand partners to connect with Chicago’s most discerning audience and present the “Windy City” as a sought-after worldwide market for them.

The magazine will be distributed six times a year through exclusive in-home delivery to Chicago’s most affluent residents between the ages of 35 and 55, at high-profile events in the Chicago area, and through placement in-room at hotels and resorts and in high-end establishments, such as luxury retailers, spas and private jet terminals. It’s a beautiful, glossy publication that promises to deliver on its tagline of showing its readership how to have a “Life Well Lived.”

So, I hope that you enjoy this up close look into a luxury market magazine and the woman behind it – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Shannon Steitz, president & publisher, ChicagoMod Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether people have asked her if she’s out of her mind for producing another luxury title for an already crowded Chicago market: I’ve heard that Chicago is a crowded luxury market before, but I don’t really view it that way. Greenspun and Modern Luxury are there, that’s two publications, and there are some others that we’re certainly aware of as well. But I think that’s just an indication that it’s a viable market, really. Competition is good; I’ve always viewed it that way.

On how her luxury titles differ from the others already in the marketplace: From a content standpoint, people will see a distinction there, in that while it is a Chicago magazine, and we certainly have a lot of Chicago content, there is also international content to serve the discerning appetites of our ultra-affluent readership.

On whether she thinks print is still the best way to reach that readership: I think a customized, multimedia solution is the best way to reach any audience, including the ultra-affluent. Print is one of many pieces of the puzzle, and that’s how we approach all of our client relationships.

On what she offers in that multimedia approach: We approach each relationship with a comprehensive needs analysis, really trying to understand our clients’ objectives and coming up with custom-tailored solutions to meet them. And that’s different for every client.

On what some of those solutions are: It really ranges, but at the end of the day, it’s really about tapping into their perspective buyer who has the ability based on demographics, and we’re able to deliver that more effectively, I feel, than most other media companies.

On the magazine’s tagline “Life Well Lived” and what it means: As far as the meaning of a “Life Well Lived,” we’ve learned over the years by interviewing many, many people and asking them what luxury means to them, it’s so subjective and it means very different things to various people.

On who would be standing in front of her if she could strike the magazine with a magic wand and turn it into a living, breathing human being, and would it be her: It wouldn’t be any one person. I think, certainly, my opinions weigh heavily, in terms of our publications, but at the same time, I look toward others on my team to collaborate and ensure that we’re putting out the very best quality product that we can possibly produce. I’m the type of person that sits in meetings and encourages feedback from my staff, realizing at the end of the day that I don’t know everything, and it’s impossible to stay on top of everything that we have to cover.

On whether her last five years in the publishing business with HudsonMod and now with ChicagoMod has been a walk in a rose garden, or she’s had to face challenges along the way: The first five years of any business is never a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) I knew that when I set out to do this, so I was never expecting a walk in a rose garden. Also, this industry is a challenge. As you mentioned earlier, there is a lot of competition out there, and there will continue to be, regardless of the misconceptions about print, certainly around niche publications. I feel there is a heavy misconception.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the mornings: What makes me most satisfied is when I see that our services and our products are working on behalf of our clients, and that we’re having a positive impact on their business. As a former CFO, there’s nothing better than that.

On what’s next for her company: That remains to be seen, but there will certainly be another market next year, and we’ll continue to also grow the custom publishing division of MOD Media as well.

On anything else she’d like to add: I think Chicago is a great city and I’m so thrilled that we chose it for this magazine. I’ve spent a lot of time there. Aside from all of the statistics that support us moving into that territory, it’s just a place that I now consider home myself.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: I’m rarely at home, you’d be lucky to catch me there, but you would certainly find me with my dog, Missy. I have a rescue that is half Shar-Pei and half Yellow Labrador. Her pen name is Hudson Maddie, as she grew up in the office of HudsonMod. So, I’m certainly with my dog and my children, when they’re not off playing sports and doing their thing, because they take a lot after their mother, so they’re rarely home as well.

On what keeps her up at night: Just thinking about the things that I wasn’t able to get to during any given day. It’s never fast enough; it’s never good enough; it could always be done better, quicker and differently. So, I’m always looking to, basically, enhance and elevate all that we do as a company, in each and every publication.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Shannon Steitz, president and publisher, ChicagoMod magazine.

Samir Husni: Do people ask are you out your mind because you published a print magazine five years ago, and now you’re doing another one in a very crowded luxury market; what gives?

Shannon Steitz: I’ve heard that Chicago is a crowded luxury market before, but I don’t really view it that way. Greenspun and Modern Luxury are there, that’s two publications, and there are some others that we’re certainly aware of as well. But I think that’s just an indication that it’s a viable market, really. Competition is good; I’ve always viewed it that way.

And we do offer key points of distinction and unique offerings to our clients, so I think there’s room for another publication, and there is certainly room for ChicagoMod.

Samir Husni: When you say there’s room for other publications and other points of differentiation; tell me the DNA of ChicagoMod, and HudsonMod, since you’ve been doing that title for five years now, and how are your titles different from the other luxury titles in the marketplace?

Shannon Steitz: From a content standpoint, people will see a distinction there, in that while it is a Chicago magazine, and we certainly have a lot of Chicago content, there is also international content to serve the discerning appetites of our ultra-affluent readership. In order to receive ChicagoMod, one has to earn a minimum of $500,000 annually, so we want to ensure that we’re serving those appetites with insider perspective and content written by industry experts.

Samir Husni: Do you think print is still the best way to each that audience?

Shannon Steitz: I think a customized, multimedia solution is the best way to reach any audience, including the ultra-affluent. Print is one of many pieces of the puzzle, and that’s how we approach all of our client relationships.

Samir Husni: Can you describe that multimedia approach in your client relationships; what are you offering besides the content of the magazine that is a different experience than they can get with Modern Luxury or Greenspun?

Shannon Steitz: We approach each relationship with a comprehensive needs analysis, really trying to understand our clients’ objectives and coming up with custom-tailored solutions to meet them. And that’s different for every client. More times than not, given our track record on the events side, our clients do want us to host events. So, we typically produce events on their behalf, in addition to digital and other strategic marketing offerings.

Samir Husni: Can you name a few of those solutions?

Shannon Steitz: It really ranges, but at the end of the day, it’s really about tapping into their perspective buyer who has the ability based on demographics, and we’re able to deliver that more effectively, I feel, than most other media companies.

Samir Husni: You’re tagline is “Life Well Lived.” And your Letters from the Publisher are so personalized, they actually reflect your life well lived. Do you see yourself as the persona of the magazine and it’s a reflection of you?

Shannon Steitz: As far as the meaning of a “Life Well Lived,” we’ve learned over the years by interviewing many, many people and asking them what luxury means to them, it’s so subjective and it means very different things to various people.

As far as what I view myself as, that’s an interesting question because I’ve never thought of it. What is top of mind is, I view myself as a businesswoman and an entrepreneur; I love what I do and I think that represents a piece of that “Life Well Lived,” loving what you do every day.

Samir Husni: If you could strike the magazine with a magic wand and turn it into a living, breathing human being, who would be standing before you afterwards? Would it be Shannon Steitz?

Shannon Steitz: It wouldn’t be any one person. I think, certainly, my opinions weigh heavily, in terms of our publications, but at the same time, I look toward others on my team to collaborate and ensure that we’re putting out the very best quality product that we can possibly produce. I’m the type of person that sits in meetings and encourages feedback from my staff, realizing at the end of the day that I don’t know everything, and it’s impossible to stay on top of everything that we have to cover. So, at the end of the day, yes, I think the magazine, of course, represents a fair amount of me personally, but also my staff.

And on our staff we have experts. If there’s an auto feature, it’s written by Ferrari magazine’s former editor in chief, Dom Miliano. He’s an expert and has driven every make and model car prior to writing about it. So, I really look toward my staff quite a bit to ensure that the quality level is there in this publication.

Samir Husni: Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you these last five years with HudsonMod and now with launching ChicagoMod, or have you had some challenges along the way?

Shannon Steitz: The first five years of any business is never a walk in a rose garden. (Laughs) I knew that when I set out to do this, so I was never expecting a walk in a rose garden. Also, this industry is a challenge. As you mentioned earlier, there is a lot of competition out there, and there will continue to be, regardless of the misconceptions about print. And certainly, around niche publications, I feel there is a heavy misconception.

I think we’ve been very fortunate, and we’ve been very blessed at the same time to have had the five years that we’ve had. Part of that is probably luck, and the other part is our hard work. We live this. There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears in every client relationship; in every publication that we produce, especially on our custom publishing side. So, nothing is a walk in the park. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: What makes Shannon click and tick; what motivates you to get out of bed every morning and look forward to another day in a life well lived?

Shannon Steitz: What makes me most satisfied is when I see that our services and our products are working on behalf of our clients, and that we’re having a positive impact on their business. As a former CFO, there’s nothing better than that.

Samir Husni: You began with New Jersey/New York, now Chicago; what’s next?

Shannon Steitz: (Laughs) That remains to be seen, but there will certainly be another market next year, and we’ll continue to also grow the custom publishing division of MOD Media as well.

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

Shannon Steitz: I think Chicago is a great city and I’m so thrilled that we chose it for this magazine. I’ve spent a lot of time there. Aside from all of the statistics that support us moving into that territory, it’s just a place that I now consider home myself. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

In fact, we’re premiering the magazine in Chicago very soon and Taylor Kinney and the cast of “Chicago Fire,” a number of athletes and other celebs will all be lining the red carpet.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what do I find you doing; reading a book; watching TV; having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; or just playing with your dog?

Shannon Steitz: I’m rarely at home, you’d be lucky to catch me there, but you would certainly find me with my dog, Missy. I have a rescue that is half Shar-Pei and half Yellow Labrador. Her pen name is Hudson Maddie, as she grew up in the office of HudsonMod. So, I’m certainly with my dog and my children, when they’re not off playing sports and doing their thing, because they take a lot after their mother, so they’re rarely home as well.

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

Shannon Steitz: Just thinking about the things that I wasn’t able to get to during any given day. It’s never fast enough; it’s never good enough; it could always be done better, quicker and differently. So, I’m always looking to, basically, enhance and elevate all that we do as a company, in each and every publication. Occasionally, does that keep me up at night? Absolutely. But not often, because typically when my head hits the pillow, I’m out, preparing to go onto the next day and the next adventure, which I love.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Good Day! Magazine: The National Grange’s New Magazine That Offers A Positive Message To People Who Desire The Grass Roots Beneath Their Feet – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Amanda Brozana, Editor, Good Day! Magazine…

March 25, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Getting that first printed copy. I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.” Amanda Brozana…

The National Grange was founded as a fraternal organization for farm families in 1867 and today is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The icing on the cake for this milestone occurrence for the Grange is the organization’s latest endeavor, the launch of a new print magazine called Good Day! Amanda Brozana is editor of this new publication and is a staunch advocate for all things sustainable and community-oriented, a mindset that aligns perfectly with the 150-year-old, member-based organization. And while the National Grange may be member-based, the magazine is not.

I spoke with Amanda on a recent trip to Washington D.C. and we talked about the fact that the print magazine is geared toward anyone who believes in a grass roots effort of sustainability when it comes to their food and their lives and community caring for all, not just Grange members alone, but the public in general. With its positive title that beckons all of us to have a “good day” and its contents that are written in a wider, more enveloping context, where everyone is included, not just Grange members, the magazine is a breath of fresh air on the newsstand shelves. In a world of chaos, confusion and, oftentimes, a frigidity toward our neighbors, Good Day! Magazine actually succeeds in its encouragement of all to have a “good day.”

And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! Magazine.

*Truth in reporting: Proud to report that Amanda Brozana is a former student of mine…

But first a Mr. Magazine™ minute with Amanda Brozana followed by the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Good Day! Magazine: Good Day! is actually a magazine under the umbrella of the National Grange, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year of being a fraternal family organization. And the concept was that we would introduce the Grange to people who may or may not have heard of it, but also to make our members more aware of what was going on in Granges throughout the country and reconnect them in a way that they haven’t been in several decades.

On the folding of the Grange’s monthly publication and the relaunch of the publication Good Day!: We had the other publication for more than 50 years and it had kind of cleaved itself from the organization as a whole and became almost an entity unto itself. And like many publications, it had its own financial troubles. And so, that was resolved in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I can’t remember exactly when. Introducing the publication again allowed us to bring back a little bit of that heyday and that nostalgia, but also allowed us to connect the primary membership that would be really interested in what was going on nationally with the Grange.

On who came up with the name Good Day! for the magazine: We talked quite a bit here in the office about what the name should be, there’s only a small staff of us, about six, and we had gone through the iterations of Grange News and Grange Monthly, and all of the Grange-oriented ones, but since we wanted to be more of a general interest publication, I had pitched Good Day! along with a couple of others. And we came down to that because it wasn’t used here in the states, and it was available. But also it gives a very positive vibe and right now, the way that our society currently is, we’re not happy; we’re pretty negative. So, I think all of us are looking for that positive news, those positive connectors and connecting moments.

On all of the different movements that are going on across the country today and how she plans on addressing those types of issues and whether just Grange members will be able to access that information: Obviously, our core audience right now are Grange members, just by virtue of who found out that we were going to be publishing, but this magazine really is oriented towards anybody who is interested in both the new food movements that you referred to, or sustainability. As well as issues in their own communities, that idea of volunteerism and being a little bit more than just yourself.

On her most challenging moment: We are a staff of six full-time here in the national office and we have an intern who has been here since February who has really helped us put this publication together entirely from the concept, Kim Stefanick from New Jersey. And I think the biggest challenge is the fact that this publication is just one part of an already full platter, a job that used to be three or four people’s jobs here even ten years ago. Juggling your normal day-to-day and adding this brand new thing, in addition to the other elements of our 150th birthday celebration, it was really a challenge when it came to time management, which I always felt that I was pretty good at, but it was stressful.

On her most pleasant moment: Getting that first printed copy; I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.

On anything else she’d like to add: I think that we play a really unique role and I hope that Good Day! helps reflect that. I hope that the magazine is something that can go way beyond our membership, because there is a need for people to look and think about what they’re doing to improve the lives that they’re living. Many of us talk about whether or not we want bigger government or other organizations involved in making decisions for us or doing things in our lives, and the only way that we get away from that is doing for ourselves and doing for others.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Probably cooking for the household; I have a couple of roommates. I am also playing with my dog or at the dog park with the dog, you never know. Hopefully, as soon as the weather breaks, we’ll have a garden in the back and I think that’s very reflective of what people my age and my generation are doing.

On what keeps her up at night: Besides the fact that I work directly next to the White House and I realize that I have to drive an hour in everyday? No, honestly, what keeps me up at night is that I’m part of a 150-year-old legacy here, and I worry about having 150,000 members, instead of the one million members that we used to have. I worry about what that means for the Grange and what it means in general.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Amanda Brozana, editor, Good Day! Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Good Day! Magazine.

Amanda Brozana: Good Day! is actually a magazine under the umbrella of the National Grange, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year of being a fraternal family organization. And the concept was that we would introduce the Grange to people who may or may not have heard of it, but also to make our members more aware of what was going on in Granges throughout the country and reconnect them in a way that they haven’t been in several decades.

Samir Husni: There used to be a monthly publication for the National Grange Society, why did that magazine fold and why did you decide to bring back another publication?

Amanda Brozana: We had the other publication for more than 50 years and it had kind of cleaved itself from the organization as a whole and became almost an entity unto itself. And like many publications, it had its own financial troubles. And so, that was resolved in the ‘50s or ‘60s, I can’t remember exactly when.

From then on, you could notice in trend on all of these organizations like us, where there was a peak of membership in the ‘50s, and that meant that many people were entering the Grange and other organizations like us at 20 and 30 years of age. Those people have stayed with the organization and have aged, so we’re now talking about people who are in their 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, who are a part of the organization. So, their primary mode of connection and communication is still print, yet we were servicing them mostly through digital means, which didn’t make a lot of sense.

So, introducing the publication again allowed us to bring back a little bit of that heyday and that nostalgia, but also allowed us to connect the primary membership that would be really interested in what was going on nationally with the Grange.

Samir Husni: Who came up with the name Good Day!?

Amanda Brozana: We talked quite a bit here in the office about what the name should be, there’s only a small staff of us, about six, and we had gone through the iterations of Grange News and Grange Monthly, and all of the Grange-oriented ones, but since we wanted to be more of a general interest publication, I had pitched Good Day! along with a couple of others. And we came down to that because it wasn’t used here in the states, and it was available.

But also it gives a very positive vibe and right now, the way that our society currently is, we’re not happy; we’re pretty negative. (Laughs) So, I think all of us are looking for that positive news, those positive connectors and connecting moments. And that was the one chosen in the end.

Samir Husni: There are all kinds of movements taking place in the country right now, in terms of things like, returning to the good old days, raising chickens on your balcony, putting a beehive on your roof, all those good things. How are you going to address these issues and do you have to be a Grange member to access the magazine or get that information?

Amanda Brozana: Obviously, our core audience right now are Grange members, just by virtue of who found out that we were going to be publishing, but this magazine really is oriented towards anybody who is interested in both the new food movements that you referred to, or sustainability. As well as issues in their own communities, that idea of volunteerism and being a little bit more than just yourself.

Maybe, it’s because I’m about to turn 35 and I think when you get to your mid-thirties you start having a legacy complex. I don’t have kids, so I have to figure out how to leave my mark, but I think that organizations like the Grange allow you to have those outlets, and so the magazine is allowing us to focus on people who are doing things for others. And also who are having some of the similar values that we have, which is figuring out how to be back to nature a little bit; back to being rooted in community and in your home and sustaining yourself, those types of things.

Certainly, you don’t have to be a member, we hope that everyone gets introduced to what the Grange’s values are what the organization is all about, but that doesn’t mean you have to become a member either. We hope that people enjoy the publication and that we’re a little bit more of a hometown and an in-home used name again.

Samir Husni: In the process of launching the magazine and getting the first issue out, what was the most challenging moment and how did you overcome it?

Amanda Brozana: We are a staff of six full-time here in the national office and we have an intern who has been here since February who has really helped us put this publication together entirely from the concept, Kim Stefanick from New Jersey. And I think the biggest challenge is the fact that this publication is just one part of an already full platter, a job that used to be three or four people’s jobs here even ten years ago. Juggling your normal day-to-day and adding this brand new thing, in addition to the other elements of our 150th birthday celebration, it was really a challenge when it came to time management, which I always felt that I was pretty good at, but it was stressful.

And the way that we overcame it was really compartmentalizing what needed to be done, by whom, and at what point in time. And where could we get assistance? So, we actually reached out to some freelance writers, something that I wasn’t expecting to have to do. I was thinking that we could do all of it in-house, but it just wasn’t going to happen, if we were going to be sure that we had the publication coming together with the quality content that we wanted.

But, I would also add that I think having those outside people writing gave it the shape and perspective that we wanted, of it being not just Grange. So, when we talk about family traditions in this first issue, we talked about the idea that the story would be about more than just Grange members’ experiences with this, but the fact that we had a non-member writing the story allowed them to pull in other resources and other contacts to put into it, that we wouldn’t have probably thought about or had otherwise. And that makes the story more appealing for somebody who doesn’t know a lot about the National Grange.

Samir Husni: What was the most pleasant moment throughout this first issue journey?

Amanda Brozana: Getting that first printed copy. I think that has to be the most pleasant moment for anybody who has done a magazine. I loved when I opened the box, and it was in Connecticut at our president’s conference. And I got to see the first one and put it into my hands and smell it. Maybe that makes me a print geek, and I’m okay with that. That was definitely the most satisfying moment, even more satisfying than when our president said, wow, this is a real magazine. And I think we’ve really received a lot of that initial shock reaction. And I get really excited when I hear people say that we really can do this.

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

Amanda Brozana: I think that we play a really unique role and I hope that Good Day! helps reflect that. I hope that the magazine is something that can go way beyond our membership, because there is a need for people to look and think about what they’re doing to improve the lives that they’re living. Many of us talk about whether or not we want bigger government or other organizations involved in making decisions for us or doing things in our lives, and the only way that we get away from that is doing for ourselves and doing for others.

And people don’t seem to see that. So, I think the Grange and organizations like us have a real place and we just need to refocus in on that. If we had magazines like Good Day! and other ones that tell people how to be more engaged in their communities and show them what it means to really be a good neighbor and a good citizen again. It’s stressful. I drive an hour to go 14 miles every day. It’s hard to go home and think about what I can do to help my own community. Do I really have the time or the patience to do that today? But it’s important. And so I’m hoping that this magazine is part of that revolution to get people to say what do they need to do to make sure that they have the life and the community that they want to live in.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing?

Amanda Brozana: Probably cooking for the household; I have a couple of roommates. I am also playing with my dog or at the dog park with the dog, you never know. Hopefully, as soon as the weather breaks, we’ll have a garden in the back and I think that’s very reflective of what people my age and my generation are doing. We have roommates maybe, instead of large families or small children, and we have pets. We have gardens and we have ways that we are kind of reengaging, getting involved in little things in our communities.

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

Amanda Brozana: Besides the fact that I work directly next to the White House and I realize that I have to drive an hour in everyday? No, honestly, what keeps me up at night is that I’m part of a 150-year-old legacy here, and I worry about having 150,000 members, instead of the one million members that we used to have. I worry about what that means for the Grange and what it means in general.

I don’t know if any of your readers have ever read “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam, it’s a 15 or 16-year-old book now, but he documented the disengagement basically of people from civic and social life and from civic organizations. And we’re still there. We’re still on that downward trend and I don’t know what we will look like if we don’t have organizations figuring out how to get prescription eyeglasses to kids who are in need or socks to the homeless, or anything like that. I don’t know what the country will look like if we don’t have people engaged with our communities. It really disturbs me to think that the Grange and any other organization like us would struggle to survive, and what we would look like without these organizations.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Afropolitain Magazine: A New Afro Lifestyle Magazine That Inspires To Bring All Africans & People Of Color Together Under “One United States Of Africa” – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, Founder & Creative Director, Afropolitain Magazine…

March 20, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“We want to do both, (print and digital) because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

“Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou…

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou (Keziah) had a dream: launching her own magazine. Keziah comes from a magazine background, working for publications such as Popular Mechanics, UPTOWN Magazine and Vibe. But when the entrepreneurial bug bit, she literally stopped everything she was doing to focus on this project, Afropolitain Magazine.

I spoke with Keziah recently and she told me that what motivated her the most was that she realized there was a lack of a good Afro lifestyle magazine – especially in France, and in a lot of countries in Europe, hence the bilingual aspect of the publication, every issue is half English and half French. So, ignoring the naysayers and the fact that her creative side was much, much stronger than her business side, Keziah took a risk and launched Afropolitain’s first issue. And soon, Issue #3 will hit newsstands.

If passion and belief in your product makes a success, then look out world, Afropolitain is on its way, because Keziah has an ample amount of both. And her entrepreneurial spirit is no more pronounced than her philanthropic one, as she wants the magazine to be a tool that unites all Africans and people of color together to see what a difference they can make in business, fashion, and any other interest that grabs them, by amplifying each of their strengths. It’s a beautifully done magazine and one that Mr. Magazine™ is very excited to see on the newsstand.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who believes, as the magazine’s tagline reads, that her magazine provides “The Afro of Today For Tomorrow,” Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Afropolitain Magazine: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

On how she actually created the magazine: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

On the DNA of the magazine: Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

On whether launching the magazine has been simple and easy for her: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

On the most challenging moment for her throughout this journey: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

On why she decided to make the magazine bilingual by creating half in English and half in French: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

On any conflict she finds between her creative side and her newly acquired business side: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise.

On launching with print first, and then considering digital: We want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

On whether anyone asked her had she lost her mind for launching a big, thick print magazine in this digital age: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

On anything she’d like to add: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up at her home unexpectedly one evening: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

On what keeps her up at night: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Nsayi Keziah Makoundou, founder and creative director, Afropolitain magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Afropolitain.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I worked in the magazine business and I had always wanted to do a magazine that spoke to me and to African people. And with me being in the industry and working for all kinds of different magazines, I just decided to jump in the pool and start my own magazine.

Samir Husni: So, was it as easy as just deciding it? One day out of the blue, you created your own magazine, just like that?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It was probably 2010 when the idea took hold in my mind, and I realized I needed to create a prototype, so I talked about it with some of my friends. It had been in the back of my mind for quite some time. And I worked a little bit on it, stopped, and then a couple of years ago I actually did a different prototype for someone who wanted to start a magazine for black women. And I think doing that prototype gave me a wakeup call, where I asked myself, instead of doing prototypes for other people, why don’t you just finish your own project? Who don’t you just push it until this project becomes a reality?

That’s when I decided to quit my job and focus on Afropolitain and do the prototype. And from the prototype we did Issue #1 and now the second issue just hit the market and we’re working on the third one. So, it was that wakeup call that motivated me to stop wasting time and to just do it.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name and what is the DNA of the magazine?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: I was looking for a unique and different name and a friend of mine, who is an artist, were having the conversation about what the name should be. I wanted something modern and that spoke to young Africans, young black people, and we were exchanging ideas when my friend suggested “Afropolitain” and I thought it was perfect.

Basically, Afropolitain represents the young, modern African that’s competitive, travels, has a good job, whether they’re in Africa, Europe or America. To me, Afropolitain is for people like us who are educated and who change the game in what we do. It’s to show the younger generation, and really, everybody, that you can be black, African, and be great at everything that you do. We just need to let people know that in every industry, there’s a black or of color person who is on a higher level.

And that’s what we hope to do with Afropolitain, I want the magazine to become a tool for people, so that they can grab the magazine and get advice for business, beauty, travel, recipes; learn things about African tradition, modern traditions, just a mix of lots of things. We’re in those Western countries too, so we need to bring everything together to make a great product.

Samir Husni: You’re working on Issue #3 now, so was it a walk through a rose garden for you with the first two issues? I mean, was it that easy?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Oh, no, no, definitely not easy. The team is very, very small and we just started, so right now we’re just trying to put our name out there. We’re growing carefully, but we really need to be out there everywhere, on social media, but make sure that we’re consistent with the magazine. And we’re actually looking at a digital version of it, which will come out soon.

It’s an everyday challenge, but it’s worth it. We get a positive reaction from people and we’ve received positive critiques, so it’s good to know that we’re getting somewhere. We just have to keep pushing.

Samir Husni: What has been the most challenging moment for you throughout this journey?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everything is challenging. I’m a woman and African, and trying to be a businesswoman. I’m an artist more than anything else, so being a businessperson is very new to me. It’s a big challenge to focus on the business side of the magazine, but it’s a learning process and I am learning it. It’s also challenging to be an African woman and to try and launch a business; is everyone taking me seriously, especially when you deal with African men.

So, every step of the business is challenging. There are mistakes that we did with the first issue that we corrected with the second issue. And we’re working very hard on the third issue now. Every issue is a challenge for us to make sure we do better each time.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose for the magazine to be bilingual? You have half in English and half in French.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: There is a big break between Africans who speak English and Africans who speak French, in general. I feel like there is a lot about the English-speaking part of Africa that people in the French-speaking part don’t know about, and vice versa. For me, it was about trying to unite the continent.

It was really important to me to have French and English, because I wanted to be able and touch the whole continent, not just the French-speaking countries or the English-speaking countries. Or people just in America or Europe. That’s why it was very important to do both French and English, and to really include everybody from the continent.

Samir Husni: Where are you originally from?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: My origins are Congo Brazzaville (my dad’s side) and Côte d’Ivoire (my mother’s side).

Samir Husni: Being a creative person; being an artist, and being a creative person myself, I know that we think more with passion and our hearts than anything else, yet we have to apply a business type of thinking to most things. Do you feel a conflict between the two when it comes to Afropolitain?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: So far, the only conflict that I have is in doing the business part of it. Sometimes it can take away from me being creative, and that’s why in the context of growing, I want people who know how to handle the business side of the magazine better, so that I can focus on the product that we have and in making sure it’s always excellent. There are some problems with any beginning enterprise

But for me, I will say that there can be a little havoc that can take away from me wanting to be creative, such as doing a photo shoot. But, as I said, it’s a learning process, and the longer we go, the better I will learn how to balance the business side without taking away from the other.

Samir Husni: You’ve managed to create almost two magazines in one; it has that flip quality, where on one side it’s geared more toward men and the other side is geared more toward women. And you started with print first, and now you’re considering digital.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Yes, we want to do both, because a lot of people were asking us where they could find our print magazine. And every time I would tell them to just pull up the website, they were insistent that they would rather have the print version. So, we’re definitely going to do both. But just to make sure that we reach as many people as possible, we’re going to pursue digital more, because there are a lot of countries right now where people do not have access to the print, so if we’re digital they can just grab their phones and access the content.

So, it’s very important to have a digital presence, but we’re going to continue to do both. We’re going to continue making sure that our print magazine is great, but also that people have access to the content wherever they want it.

And the fact that we do men and women, I think with my research into ethnic magazines, I felt like I never really saw a lifestyle magazine just for men, something where men can go and read about business, fashion, traveling, and relationships. Most of the magazines that are geared toward African men are more about politics and the economy. I’m not going to say they’re boring, but I felt like in today’s world African men travel, they go shopping , they like fashion, and they enjoy good restaurants. So, it was important for me to include men too, and that’s why I sort of divided the magazine into two parts, one for men and one for women.

Samir Husni: And when you talked to people about your idea of launching this print magazine, and a hefty-sized one too, we’re not talking about a 96-page publication; Afropolitain is a substantially thick, big magazine, did anybody ask you had you lost your mind for what you were about to do? You were launching a print magazine in this digital age.

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Everybody was telling me not to do print. I heard that at least 2,000 times, maybe more. But there is something inside of me that has always said that somehow, print is not dead. Obviously, I’m a big fan of magazines and books because of my background, but I feel like the people that I’m trying to reach, they’ve never really had a product like this. So, I won’t say that print is dead, because a lot of people have been asking for the printed magazine. If we’d listened to what everyone had said, we would have never moved forward. I usually go with my gut feeling, and my gut was telling me that I should definitely do the print magazine.

The print product is a great-looking one and we’re going to progress and do better and better, and keep pushing forward. The people that were telling me that print was dead weren’t even in the magazine industry, they were just going by what they had heard or the little bit they did know about the industry. It is more expensive to do print, but it costs money for digital too. To have an app up and running; to make sure the product is good, that’s expensive too. Right now, I want to keep doing both, and in the next year or two, we’ll see if doing print was a good idea or not. But so far, people are reacting very positively to it.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Just that with Afropolitain, I want to unite people because I feel like being African, we don’t come together enough and in doing this product it brings us together. Everything you see in the magazine is done by Africans or black people: the photographers, the writers; my editor in chief is from Congo, my art director is from the Caribbean, so it’s really a black-made, African-made product. And I really want people to know that and to understand how we can come together and do something great. And I think that’s what we need in our communities. To come together and do something, instead of always trying to outshine or hate on the next black or African next to you.

If we understand that teamwork is important. I’m a creative person, but I can’t write. I have an editor in chief who can write and writers that are terrific, so they make the product look good. That’s another message that I want people to understand, working together is the future. If we want Africa to do better, we have to combine our strengths and create a unit that’s going to move forward together, not just country by country or tribe by tribe. It’s a group effort.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else?

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: It’s really very simple, you’d find me sitting on my couch, on my computer, doing something for the magazine or emailing people or looking for different things to do. But most likely you would catch me working.

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

Nsayi Keziah Makoundou: Being successful. Making sure that our magazine will always move forward and that people find out about us. Thinking about the next plan and the next move. My main focus right now is to be out there and reach the max number of people. My ultimate goal is that I want this magazine to become the top magazine for our community, so that’s what keeps me up at night. What is the next move for us to get there?

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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ROVA Magazine: A New Magazine For Millennials Who Love Their RV’s & Hitting The Open Road For Epic Adventures – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Gemma Peckham, Publisher & Editor, ROVA Magazine…

March 3, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

ROVA Issue 1“Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.” Gemma Peckham (On whether she’s out of her mind for launching a print magazine for millennials)…

RV’s and millennials, the two haven’t necessarily gone together in the past, but a new title called ROVA thinks that they certainly do conjoin on today’s modern roadmaps. Gemma Peckham is a publisher and editor who works for an Australian company that has decided the United States has the right canvas to paint this particular portrait of millennials and RV’s on. And from the feedback she said she is receiving from the magazine’s premiere issue, they seem to be right.

I spoke with Gemma recently and we talked about the uniqueness of the concept. The premise is many millennials and Gen Xer’s are taking to the open road to work, explore and experience authentic, retro life. It’s a niche area usually reserved for retirees, but Gemma said that is no longer the case. From research she conducted herself; she discovered that RV buyers in the U.S. were getting younger by the mile and were off to find epic adventure in their homes on wheels.

Gemma herself is a digital nomad, as she describes younger people who like to jump in an RV and go, she loves road travel and she loves print magazines. And she believes that many millennials are a bit Internet fatigued, as she puts it, and Mr. Magazine™ would have to agree with her. There is nothing like the tangible print experience.

So, grab your paper map and your homey RV and let’s hit the road with Gemma Peckham, publisher and editor, ROVA magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

Gemma PeckhamOn whether she thinks she’s out of her mind for launching a print magazine for millennials: (Laughs) That is a very good question, and one that I’ve been asked numerous times. Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.

On what her thinking was behind the premise of RV traveling for millennials: I’m from Australia and it came about because I work at a publishing company there, which I’ve brought here to New York, and we had a magazine there for RV traveling and it was called “Caravanning Australia” and it was very targeted toward the retired market, the audience had an average age of about 60 or so. When I decided to come here and bring the company over to the states, I looked at RVing here, because obviously we have experience in that area. And I did a bit of research and one of the things that I discovered was that the largest group of people buying RV’s currently is between the ages of 35-44. So, the demographic is slowly, but surely getting younger.

On the biggest challenge she faced in launching this first issue: Number one for us is this is the very first magazine that we’ve made in the United States. So, in terms of just making people aware of who we are and what we do, and then also trying to communicate the idea for this magazine to them was a bit of a challenge. And I guess that relates to advertising as well, as you said, some people asked were we crazy for doing a print magazine for millennials who are RV enthusiasts. They thought it was a very strange concept.

On how she is combining her passion for the magazine with business: In ROVA’s case, this is both. The stories that we have here and the kind of content that I’m curating for the magazine is really what I would like to read and other travelers that I know would like to read. We’ve created the design so that it appeals to people in my age group. But by the same token, I’m fully aware of the fact that we really need to make sure that what we’re putting into the magazine is really appealing to advertisers, because without them it’s not going to work.

On the future and other plans in the works: We definitely have more plans. ROVA is obviously our flagship publication at the moment, it’s the one we’ve been able to promote and it’s doing quite well. We think it’s doing quite well from the feedback we’re getting. The plan for ROVA is just to grow it, make it bigger and get it out there, and build on that. But Executive Media Global is a publishing company that’s based on a model in Australia where we have 50 or 60 different titles that we produce every year.

On her plan for connecting ROVA with its audience: Digital is a big part of it for us, simply because that’s where millennials and Gen Xer’s go to get their information. Other than that, we’re going toward a number of RV shows. For example, Escapees, which is a big RV club and they have a big yearly event. So, we have a booth and we’re going out there, where we’ll actually be talking to people and connecting with them, and showing them the magazine. We have plans to do a few of those over the next few months to get this first edition out there.

On whether she found any differences in traveling with an RV in the United States versus Australia and New Zealand: It’s very similar in one way, which is the size of the country. The size of the U.S. is very similar to the size of Australia. Road trips are a really big part of the way people explore their own countries. So, that’s very similar, both here and in Australia.

On any plans to take the magazine to Australia: I don’t know. I believe Australia is moving in a similar direction with the age of the people who are taking up the RV way of traveling. It could work. I think probably what we would do, because this is a very U.S.-centric publication, we could potentially make an Australian focus, and I think that’s definitely something that isn’t out of the question. It’s something that we have the resources to do.

On anything she’d like to add: The main thing that I’m experiencing is I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the feedback that we’ve gotten and the way that people receive new magazines here. It’s very different than t is in Australia; people really give you kudos if you have an idea and you take it to the market and if you have passion behind the product, I think that people react in a really positive way. And that’s something that I’ve been really surprised by; the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten for this magazine. And that’s one of the things that make me happiest and most satisfied doing this, just seeing the reaction from people. And feeling like that we’re on the right track.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: It will depend upon how hard the day was. After a very hard day, yes, it will be binge-watching TV and having a glass of wine. Otherwise, I know it’s very strange, since I work in publishing, but I like to read when I go home. I’ll read the latest book that has caught my attention, or just having dinner with my husband and chatting, just catching up on the day.

On what keeps her up at night: Usually I go to sleep pretty quickly, but the status of politics in this country probably keeps everyone up. (Laughs) But usually I’m just daydreaming about different things, whether it’s personal or something to do with the magazine. And new ideas, imaginations, travel destinations, things like that. I’m always thinking of what’s next in my life, so that takes up a lot of my headspace when I have free time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gemma Peckham, publisher and editor, ROVA magazine.

Samir Husni: You’re embarking on this new venture, a print magazine, for millennials. Are you out of your mind?

ROVA Issue 1Gemma Peckham: (Laughs) That is a very good question, and one that I’ve been asked numerous times. Sometimes I stop and wonder if I’ve gone a bit crazy, but I think those segments of millennials and younger people who are really into things that are a little bit retro, and who want authenticity and something that they can actually touch and hold; perhaps they even have a little bit of Internet fatigue, you know? There is a lot of scope for a magazine like ROVA, which is a niche area for these millennials who are out there on the road traveling. What I’m hoping is that it sticks to them and they enjoy reading it every few months.

Samir Husni: Not only is there a tendency for people to think you might be crazy because this magazine is targeted toward millennials and it’s in print, but you might be considered double-crazy because it’s for millennials who also like to travel in RV’s, rather than retirees. When most people think about RV travelers, retirees come to mind. What was your thinking on this?

Gemma Peckham: I’m from Australia and it came about because I work at a publishing company there, which I’ve brought here to New York, and we had a magazine there for RV traveling and it was called “Caravanning Australia” and it was very targeted toward the retired market, the audience had an average age of about 60 or so.

When I decided to come here and bring the company over to the states, I looked at RVing here, because obviously we have experience in that area. And I did a bit of research and one of the things that I discovered was that the largest group of people buying RV’s currently is between the ages of 35-44. So, the demographic is slowly, but surely getting younger.

And that seemed very positive to me, because I’ve been all over RVing myself, and I’m just a millennial, right on the cusp between a millennial and Gen X, and I’ve driven an RV across the states, around New Zealand, and in Europe. And to me there is a culture there that is really growing that isn’t necessarily catered to by any of the publications out there at the moment. The main RV magazines in America are “MotorHome” and “Trailer Life” and they do incredibly well. They’re geared toward the older, retired RV users, but there is this whole contingent of people who are missing out on a quality, print product that speaks to them and shows the kind of experiences that they want.

So, we set up shop and we’ll see how it goes. There’s obviously a bit of a lack in the market. We thought that we could reach a younger audience and appeal to millennials. And we’re giving it a shot. We’ll see how it goes. So far, the feedback has been great. We’ve managed to sell some advertising, and obviously that was a very important thing. I’m hoping that it will keep growing.

Samir Husni: As I look at the first issue, which recently hit newsstands, what was the biggest challenge that you had to face in launching it and how did you overcome that challenge?

Gemma Peckham: Number one for us is this is the very first magazine that we’ve made in the United States. So, in terms of just making people aware of who we are and what we do, and then also trying to communicate the idea for this magazine to them was a bit of a challenge. And I guess that relates to advertising as well, as you said, some people asked were we crazy for doing a print magazine for millennials who are RV enthusiasts. They thought it was a very strange concept.

Being able to communicate this vision that was something a bit different and probably unexpected was a bit of a challenge. But when you have something that you really believe in as we do, it’s easier. I have a vested interest in it just because this is the kind of stuff that I love. Our sales team is really excited about the product, so all of that has really helped to communicate to people what we’re doing. And it’s turned out well. In the first edition we have something like 15-16 advertisers, and in the next edition, which we’re working on now, we have a similar amount already, so it looks like it’s going to be a little bit bigger.

In terms of challenges, just really making ourselves known and getting the word out about what we’re doing would be the number one challenge.

Samir Husni: You wrote in the first issue that you started ROVA because you love road travel and you love print magazines. So, is it a magazine based on passion? How are you combining the passion part with the business part?

Gemma PeckhamGemma Peckham: It’s definitely a bit of both. When I was in Australia I tried to start a similar magazine, but it was more global travel than RV travel. And that was something that was definitely a passion for me, because I have traveled a lot and it was something that I felt really strongly about. And I think we did have a really strong niche for that magazine, but it was competing with a lot of other travel magazines and it just wasn’t getting the advertising that it needed to. From that experience I learned that it doesn’t really matter how much passion you have for something, if it doesn’t fit into a market in some way, it may not work.

But in ROVA’s case, this is both. The stories that we have here and the kind of content that I’m curating for the magazine is really what I would like to read and other travelers that I know would like to read. We’ve created the design so that it appeals to people in my age group. But by the same token, I’m fully aware of the fact that we really need to make sure that what we’re putting into the magazine is really appealing to advertisers, because without them it’s not going to work.

We’ve put a lot of effort into marketing; we had a 1,000 followers on Instagram before the magazine was even launched, which was great. It’s really a matter of balancing the two. I’ve been working in magazine publishing for 10 years and over that time I’ve learned that no matter how much you want something to work, it’s not going to unless you have a business plan in place as well.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about your future plans. You’ve established a magazine and yourselves in the United States; what’s next? Is ROVA going to be the entire ball of wax or you have other things in the works?

Gemma Peckham: We definitely have more plans. ROVA is obviously our flagship publication at the moment, it’s the one we’ve been able to promote and it’s doing quite well. We think it’s doing quite well from the feedback we’re getting. The plan for ROVA is just to grow it, make it bigger and get it out there, and build on that. But Executive Media Global is a publishing company that’s based on a model in Australia where we have 50 or 60 different titles that we produce every year.

So, what we’re trying to do here is build a publishing company in a similar way and it will take a while. We already have another magazine that we’re working on, which is a custom publication for a private club in New York City, in Manhattan. What we do for them is produce a magazine for their membership and the magazine is sent to every member of this club, as well as targeted to essential members. So, that’s another aspect of the business that we established in Australia and we’re trying to establish here, custom publishing on behalf of organizations, clubs and those sorts of things. And that’s what we’re looking at for the moment, just trying to get some partnerships happening and build a stable of publications.

Samir Husni: What is your mechanism for connecting ROVA, the printed magazine, with its audience?

Gemma Peckham: Digital is a big part of it for us, simply because that’s where millennials and Gen Xer’s go to get their information. Other than that, we’re going toward a number of RV shows. For example, Escapees, which is a big RV club and they have a big yearly event. So, we have a booth and we’re going out there, where we’ll actually be talking to people and connecting with them, and showing them the magazine. We have plans to do a few of those over the next few months to get this first edition out there.

Other than that, just reaching out to PR companies; sending out press releases. We’ve been interviewed by a couple of the online RV news sources, industry people, manufacturers and dealers. So, it’s really just a matter of finding the kinds of people that we think would disseminate this kind of information, putting ourselves in front of them and hoping they see enough value in our product to tell their audiences about it.

Samir Husni: Content-wise, you mentioned that you’ve taken a few trips in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Did you find any differences between traveling with RV’s here, in the United States, versus other countries?

Gemma Peckham: It’s very similar in one way, which is the size of the country. The size of the U.S. is very similar to the size of Australia. Road trips are a really big part of the way people explore their own countries. So, that’s very similar, both here and in Australia.

But I do think that in the United States there’s a bigger group of younger people who are doing this. What they’re trying to do is get out and see their country, have these really authentic experiences. They’re all about living life on their own terms, so they’re trying to make a life for themselves that they enjoy. A lot of them work through this too; they call themselves digital nomads. So, they might be graphic designers or writers or photographers. There’s a lot of that happening here; instead of people doing a normal 9 to 5 job, they decide to get out and work from there. And I think that’s something that’s a lot bigger here than it is in Australia. In general though, the cultures are pretty similar. Hit the road, drive to the place that you’ve always wanted to see, interact with people along the way, and just enjoy yourselves.

Samir Husni: I noticed that the company that’s publishing the magazine, Executive Media Global, lists not only New York, but Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Any plans to take the magazine to Australia?

Gemma Peckham: I don’t know. I believe Australia is moving in a similar direction with the age of the people who are taking up the RV way of traveling. It could work. I think probably what we would do, because this is a very U.S.-centric publication, we could potentially make an Australian focus, and I think that’s definitely something that isn’t out of the question. It’s something that we have the resources to do.

The thing with launching a magazine here as opposed to in Australia, we just have such a huge audience as a population; I can’t remember what exactly the difference in population is, but it’s quite substantial. Australia only has 20-25 million people, where the U.S. is around 370 million. I think ROVA is working because we really do have a large audience, but in Australia, we did very well with “Caravanning Australia” magazine, so it’s definitely something we’ll look at down the road.

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

Gemma Peckham: The main thing that I’m experiencing is I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the feedback that we’ve gotten and the way that people receive new magazines here. It’s very different than t is in Australia; people really give you kudos if you have an idea and you take it to the market and if you have passion behind the product, I think that people react in a really positive way. And that’s something that I’ve been really surprised by; the support and encouragement that we’ve gotten for this magazine. And that’s one of the things that make me happiest and most satisfied doing this, just seeing the reaction from people. And feeling like that we’re on the right track.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening, what would I find you doing; watching TV with a glass of wine; flipping through a magazine; or on the road in an RV?

Gemma Peckham: (Laughs) It will depend upon how hard the day was. After a very hard day, yes, it will be binge-watching TV and having a glass of wine. Otherwise, I know it’s very strange, since I work in publishing, but I like to read when I go home. I’ll read the latest book that has caught my attention, or just having dinner with my husband and chatting, just catching up on the day. Or I’ll go to the gym, if I’m feeling really energetic.

Samir Husni: Are those books you read ink on paper or e-books?

Gemma Peckham: Right now, I’m reading a paper book. But generally, I read on my Kindle, because it’s so much easier to store, because I travel with it. I just love being able to carry a 1,000 books with me if I want to.

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

Gemma Peckham: Good question. Usually I go to sleep pretty quickly, but the status of politics in this country probably keeps everyone up. (Laughs) But usually I’m just daydreaming about different things, whether it’s personal or something to do with the magazine. And new ideas, imaginations, travel destinations, things like that. I’m always thinking of what’s next in my life, so that takes up a lot of my headspace when I have free time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Curious Jane Magazine: Empowering Young Girls To “Think With Their Hands” Through Innovative Summer Programs & A Quarterly Print Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Samantha Razook Murphy, Founder, Curious Jane…

February 24, 2017

Curious Jane Super Silly issue

“A few other people have said that I was crazy to launch a print magazine and that I really needed to be in the digital space, but part of it is a personal passion, having a background in design and loving objects and paper and magazines. So, the print part was very important to me. But also our audience is 6 to 11-year-old girls, so they’re not really consuming online media in a way that say, a 12 to 13-year-old girl would, so the in-print aspect of it was important to us. But plenty of people asked and still ask what in the world was I thinking.” Samantha Razook Murphy…

A community of confident, inquisitive girls between the ages of six and 11, who like to make things, is the heart of Curious Jane magazine. And the woman who pumps that heart with her passion and dedication is its founder, Samantha Razook Murphy.

I spoke with Samantha recently and we talked about the genesis of Curious Jane, the projects and the summer programs, and we talked about Curious Jane, the magazine. All of which fall under one brand that has become quite popular with its audience and with those readers’ parents. Samantha actually gave birth to the idea for a great summer camp when her own two daughters were small and has worked hard to grow the business since then. The magazine was launched two years ago and has become an incredible tool to promote the brand and engage with readers. Today, you don’t have to live in the NYC area (which is where Curious Jane originates from, Brooklyn to be exact) to have a Curious Jane experience. It’s happening for girls all across America with the magazine.

So, I hope that you enjoy this interview with a woman who believes empowering young girls to “think with their hands” and be curious, while learning to create at the same time, is done best through an environment of projects, programs and print, Samantha Razook Murphy, founder, Curious Jane.

But first the sound-bites:

Samantha Razook MurphyOn the genesis of Curious Jane: When I started Curious Jane, I literally opened up a bank account with $500, so there wasn’t a business plan, it wasn’t funded, anything like that. It was just its own truck, sort of motoring down the road. And when we received this grant we were able to use some of that to work with a group, focus on how we might grow Curious Jane and the business. And one of the ideas that came out of it was taking all of these projects and activities that we had developed over the years with the summer camps and repackaging it into an in-print magazine for girls that was ad-free, subscription-based, so that girls in different parts of the country who certainly couldn’t actually attend the camp due to geography could be a part of the Curious Jane experience. And girls who were a part of our programs could continue to have those projects during the schoolyear, instead of just during the summers.

On whether anyone told her she was crazy to start a print magazine in this digital age: This man I was chatting with said to me that just because I was getting bored with the camps didn’t mean that I should start a magazine. And that was a pretty eye-opening statement, but it did help me to reframe. We continued with the magazine though, and I actually had lunch with him recently and told him that we had continued, but that his statement was very helpful in reframing my thoughts about it and about how the numbers work around the magazine.

On how she chose the name Curious Jane: The fact that there is a Curious George and that people know it and it sort of rolls off the tongue has certainly worked in our favor. Honestly, I think it was right before the first summer of camp and I was thinking about what to name this little thing that I was doing for my young daughters in order for me to be able to work, and I truly think it was one day when I was walking back from the laundromat and thinking what was the most important attribute that I wanted to instill in my girls? And it was curiosity. And something that I say even now when I work with girls is, think with your hands. Take the thinking out of your head and think with your hands.

Curious Jane Kitchen ChemistryOn the biggest challenge that she’s had to face: I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had and continue to have is how to make it a financially positive aspect of what we do. When we started we had a very small subscriber base, a lot of them were our campers and people who knew us. And then about a year and a half into it, a mother of one of our camper’s works with a group called Sterling Publishing. She came to me and asked whether I had ever thought about doing a book of our projects. And I told her that in my mind a book meant taking a lot of time and resources and not making any money. We’re such a small business, wearing a million different hats; I can’t devote the resources to that. And she said that they wanted to make it really easy on me by taking all of the content that we’ve produced for the magazine so far and repackage it for the book.

On her most pleasant moment: Every time we work on the magazine is the most pleasant moment. We have a great time working on the projects and the fun little tidbits that have come up into it. A lot of things have changed from the first issue, in both the trim size and the layout. With my background in industrial design, something that I think has benefitted me is the comfort level I have of getting something to prototype stage and then getting it into people’s hands, and seeing the feedback we get and how we feel about it.

On how she met Jack Kliger and John Griffin: I met someone who knew Jack, and when I was telling this woman that we had just printed the first pre-issue of the magazine, she said she knew a few people who might be of help. I wrote down their names and she asked if I would like her to connect me with them. And one of them was Jack. And at that time we were looking for funding, we’re always open to it. But I specifically wanted to pick his brain and get as much advice as I could, so I met him for coffee. And at that point I understood what his very large and successful background in publishing and magazines was, and something that I really appreciated was he was willing to talk to someone who had only printed the second issue of a magazine. It was ad-free, we had 250 subscribers and he was able to give me very specific and useful suggestions for the magazine. About a week later, he called me and asked me was I interested in a little bit of funding and taking on an advisory board. He had another friend, John Griffin, who he wanted me to meet. So, that’s how I met them. And then they did ultimately become investors, but really advisors, and not just in the magazine, but in Curious Jane as a company.

On anything that she would like to add: Via the magazine, which has been a great tool for us, when I think of Curious Jane, it started as a camp, now we have a magazine; I really think of it as a community. I want it to feel like a community for girls, where they make things and feel empowered and self-confident. And to remove fear of failure is really at the core of that as well. In the past couple of years we have been able to work with a few organizations that have a national audience, Amy Poehler, Smart Girls, Parents Magazine, Family Fun, and we have our book coming out, so these types of collaborations with other groups, and likeminded organizations are something that we really enjoy and that we want to encourage and continue to grow.

The Curious Jane team: Melisa Coburn (L) – editorial, Samantha Razook Murphy (M) brainstorming, projects and layout, and Elissa Josse (R) –  artwork, doodles, layout and project creation.

The Curious Jane team: Melisa Coburn (L) – editorial, Samantha Razook Murphy (M) brainstorming, projects and layout, and
Elissa Josse (R) – artwork, doodles, layout and project creation.

On what drives her and makes her get out of bed every morning: All of the things that drive me are getting to work with the amazing people that I work with; we’re a small office year round. There are three to four of us; a tremendous, awesome, fun group. And then during the summer we hire about 100 to 120 young women to work with us, and the type of people that Curious Jane attracts to work with the girls over the summer is outstanding. So, getting to work with them is a complete honor.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: I really value the evening time. You would find me cooking; I find that to be really enjoyable and relaxing. I put a lot of value on the family meal in the evenings. My older daughter is quite musical, and what you will find in my small, cozy, warm apartment is cooking and music and candles, things like that. I don’t have a television and I don’t really consume digital media, but I guess a lot of people don’t have a television anymore; they use their computers for that sort of thing.

On what keeps her up at night: That’s a good question and I have a very specific answer, which is that I constantly run numbers in my head. I’m very fortunate that I have two girls, sort of a reconstructed family, and none of these things keep me up at night. Everyone is doing great, knock wood. As far as enjoyment of my workday, all of that is wonderful. It’s the numbers and how to keep the business moving forward.

And now the lightly edited transcription of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Samantha Razook Murphy, founder, Curious Jane.

Samir Husni: There seems to be a movement when it comes to launching new magazines for girls. In the last two or three years, I’ve seen at least five or six magazines that have come to the marketplace and each one of them are one-of-a-kind. Tell me about the genesis of Curious Jane.

Curious Jane Spa ScienceSamantha Razook Murphy: I have two daughters; they’re now 13 and 15. And I started Curious Jane nine years ago. It really started as a summer camp and continues as a summer camp. I did my undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Yale, and then I moved to Brooklyn and did my master’s in Industrial Design at Pratt. And both of my girls were born by that time. They were young during the summers when I was pursuing my master’s at Pratt, and I directed all-girls residential programs on college campuses, so that’s how I go into the all-girls summer camp environment.

And then 2008/2009 rolled around and the economy took a nosedive and at that time my husband and I had to get a bit creative with what we did and how we stayed in Brooklyn, so I started an overnight camp program because that’s what I was familiar with and used to. But I needed something for my own girls to do; they were early elementary school aged, so I started Curious Jane. And it began truly as something for them and their friends to do during the summer months while I tried to get this overnight camp for girls off the ground.

That was the summer of 2009 and I hired a couple of instructors; I rented a van from a rental place in the city, we were living in Brooklyn and still do, and literally drove the camp van, picked up their friends, dropped them off at a school where we had rented some classrooms and the teachers were the instructors who taught the programs.

So, from that first summer of Curious Jane, the way the camp worked was girls could sign up for a week or two or three weeks, and then they would choose their favorite theme for the week. And all of the themes revolved around science, engineering and design. And that’s still what we do. That first summer we had just a handful of girls, but they could take a week-long class called “Why Buildings Stand Up,” which was architecture and engineering combined. They could take a week of “Toy Design.” So, these were the types of things that were the foundation of Curious Jane.

Then over the years Curious Jane really grew. People were really receptive to it; the girls loved it; the parents loved the idea of it, and in the end the residential programs certainly didn’t grow at the same pace and ultimately shrank. So, we stopped running the overnight program and only focused on Curious Jane. We added things like after-school programs, and we did run it in a few other states, but now we just focus on the New York City area.

In 2014, we applied for and did receive a small business grant; we are for-profit, so the word “grant” is a little bit misleading, but we applied via Chase through a program they had at the time called “Mission Small Business” and it was an unrestricted quarter of a million dollars. It was pretty competitive, I think there were around 35,000 applicants, and we were one of 12 recipients. And that helped us continue doing what we were doing and it also gave us the opportunity to work with, for the first time, a business development group and they were wonderful.

When I started Curious Jane, I literally opened up a bank account with $500, so there wasn’t a business plan, it wasn’t funded, anything like that. It was just its own truck, sort of motoring down the road. And when we received this grant we were able to use some of that to work with a group, focus on how we might grow Curious Jane and the business. And one of the ideas that came out of it was taking all of these projects and activities that we had developed over the years with the summer camps and repackaging it into an in-print magazine for girls that was ad-free, subscription-based, so that girls in different parts of the country who certainly couldn’t actually attend the camp due to geography could be a part of the Curious Jane experience. And girls who were a part of our programs could continue to have those projects during the schoolyear, instead of just during the summers.

We have been printing the magazine itself for two years now and it comes out quarterly. I think the issue you have is the “Super Silly” issue, and most of our issues revolve around our popular camp themes and we have used those projects to repackage into a magazine. The “Super Silly” issue was kind of a fun departure from that. It was a little bit more lighthearted and filled with different craft projects. But for example, some of the others were a “Spa Science” issue, girls could make anything to do with bath products and spas, and also learn about science in the process. We had a “Spy Science” one, which is very popular at classic camp, which is learning about detective work and things like that.

Samir Husni: You took your passion and your necessity and created Curious Jane, both the summer programs and the magazine. Did anybody tell you that you were out of your mind to start a print magazine for girls in this digital age?

Curious Jane Pre Launch IssueSamantha Razook Murphy: Actually, there was a conversation that I had a couple of years ago, because when we started the magazine it wasn’t as though we were receiving additional funding, the camp business was what was funding and continues to fund the magazine, so a couple of years ago before I met Jack (Kliger) and John (Griffin), I had lunch with a brother of a friend of mine and he has a private equity group, and his group particularly focuses on grants, so it’s sort of a niche area for private equity. And I think at that time we had printed the first, very slim pre-issue of the magazine at great expense, and when I say “we” I mean our small office of two to three people, where most of what we do is other business and then we have a sunny space in the office where we do all of the photography and layout, because my background is in graphic design; all of that is done in-house.

So, this man I was chatting with said to me that just because I was getting bored with the camps didn’t mean that I should start a magazine. And that was a pretty eye-opening statement, but it did help me to reframe. We continued with the magazine though, and I actually had lunch with him recently and told him that we had continued, but that his statement was very helpful in reframing my thoughts about it and about how the numbers work around the magazine.

And then a few other people have said that I was crazy to launch a print magazine and that I really needed to be in the digital space, but part of it is a personal passion, having a background in design and loving objects and paper and magazines. So, the print part was very important to me. But also our audience is 6 to 11-year-old girls, so they’re not really consuming online media in a way that say, a 12 to 13-year-old girl would, so the in-print aspect of it was important to us. But plenty of people asked and still ask what in the world was I thinking.

Samir Husni: I know the name Curious Jane is obvious, but tell me how you chose that name. Everybody knows Curious George. Is it the fact that you have two girls and you didn’t want them reading Curious George, you wanted them to have their own magazine?

Samantha Razook Murphy: The fact that there is a Curious George and that people know it and it sort of rolls off the tongue has certainly worked in our favor. Honestly, I think it was right before the first summer of camp and I was thinking about what to name this little thing that I was doing for my young daughters in order for me to be able to work, and I truly think it was one day when I was walking back from the laundromat and thinking what was the most important attribute that I wanted to instill in my girls? And it was curiosity. And something that I say even now when I work with girls is, think with your hands. Take the thinking out of your head and think with your hands.

Having spent eight years in an educational environment, graphic and industrial design, we’re basically studio classes. I mean, everyday you’re putting your work in front of someone and having it critiqued and talked about and given feedback on. So this idea of continuing to be curious and collaborative, and to feel comfortable putting yourself and your work out into the world in order to learn and grow from it, rather than to feel defensive about it, private about it, or shutdown about it; the idea of curiosity is very important to me for myself, my girls and what we do as a business. So, that word was set. And Jane is just the idea that I wanted it to reference every girl, Jane being a sort of “every girl” theme.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face and how have you overcome it?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had and continue to have is how to make it a financially positive aspect of what we do. When we started we had a very small subscriber base, a lot of them were our campers and people who knew us. And then about a year and a half into it, a mother of one of our camper’s works with a group called Sterling Publishing. She came to me and asked whether I had ever thought about doing a book of our projects. And I told her that in my mind a book meant taking a lot of time and resources and not making any money. We’re such a small business, wearing a million different hats; I can’t devote the resources to that. And she said that they wanted to make it really easy on me by taking all of the content that we’ve produced for the magazine so far and repackage it for the book.

That helped us continue the magazine and it sort of balanced out the cost that we were using to get the magazine off the ground. In order to produce this book, she made it very easy on us. Sterling happens to be owned by Barnes & Noble and so via that she asked why I didn’t send some magazines over to the woman who runs newsstand for Barnes & Noble. And we did that, and she has been incredibly supportive. So, the issue that you picked up at Barnes & Noble is actually only the second issue that has been on newsstand.

The obstacle has been how do we continue to print this, grow the word, get it into girls’ hands, and thrive as a business.

Samir Husni: And what has been the most pleasant moment?

Samantha Razook Murphy: Every time we work on the magazine is the most pleasant moment. We have a great time working on the projects and the fun little tidbits that have come up into it. A lot of things have changed from the first issue, in both the trim size and the layout. With my background in industrial design, something that I think has benefitted me is the comfort level I have of getting something to prototype stage and then getting it into people’s hands, and seeing the feedback we get and how we feel about it.

So, the most pleasurable moments of all have been seeing the magazine itself. And I continue to look forward to working on it. Even for the next issue, which we’re working on now; we have new ideas for how we want to change a few things, really include more girls, that sort of thing. This growing organic product has been a huge amount of pleasure to me, and then also just the chance to actually work on the magazine is great fun.

Samir Husni: How did you meet Jack Kliger and John Griffin? These are giant names in the industry.

Samantha Razook Murphy: I really enjoy talking to people, learning about business, growing a business, and Curious Jane itself is a female-started and female-run business that, like I said, was started with $500 in the bank. A few years ago, we did cross the one million in revenue mark, which is somewhat of an indicator. So, we started connecting to other people in the business world. I like to meet other people. And they would tell me that more female business representatives were needed at such and such dinner and if I could please come.

So, through those channels I met someone who knew Jack, and when I was telling this woman that we had just printed the first pre-issue of the magazine, she said she knew a few people who might be of help. I wrote down their names and she asked if I would like her to connect me with them. And one of them was Jack. And at that time we were looking for funding, we’re always open to it. But I specifically wanted to pick his brain and get as much advice as I could, so I met him for coffee.

And at that point I understood what his very large and successful background in publishing and magazines was, and something that I really appreciated was he was willing to talk to someone who had only printed the second issue of a magazine. It was ad-free, we had 250 subscribers and he was able to give me very specific and useful suggestions for the magazine. About a week later, he called me and asked me was I interested in a little bit of funding and taking on an advisory board. He had another friend, John Griffin, who he wanted me to meet. So, that’s how I met them. And then they did ultimately become investors, but really advisors, and not just in the magazine, but in Curious Jane as a company.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: What I would add is that we’re a small business, but we are completely committed to getting this off the ground and growing it. What I’m doing now is reaching out to as many people as possible to continue to spread the word, to grow subscriber base; and what I’m looking for is, in general, feedback and thoughts. I’m very open in that way in connecting and working with people.

Via the magazine, which has been a great tool for us, when I think of Curious Jane, it started as a camp, now we have a magazine; I really think of it as a community. I want it to feel like a community for girls, where they make things and feel empowered and self-confident. And to remove fear of failure is really at the core of that as well. In the past couple of years we have been able to work with a few organizations that have a national audience, Amy Poehler, Smart Girls, Parents Magazine, Family Fun, and we have our book coming out, so these types of collaborations with other groups, and likeminded organizations are something that we really enjoy and that we want to encourage and continue to grow.

Samir Husni: If someone were to stop you on the street and tell you that they had seen your brochure and that they knew you were the founder of Curious Jane. And they knew what all you did, summer programs, workshops, events and a magazine. And they asked you, with all of that, what drives you? What makes you get out of bed in the morning; everything or one thing in particular?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I do love getting out of bed every morning and coming to Curious Jane. That is something that I value so highly and have a great appreciation for. I actually had this conversation with my 15-year-old daughter the other night and we were talking about if you’re with a new social group, especially for adults, and they ask the common question: what do you do? And I said to her sometimes Eleanor, I’ll say to the person that I’m happy to tell you what I do, but something that’s even more relevant to me is “what do I enjoy about what I do?”

So, all of the things that drive me are getting to work with the amazing people that I work with; we’re a small office year round. There are three to four of us; a tremendous, awesome, fun group. And then during the summer we hire about 100 to 120 young women to work with us, and the type of people that Curious Jane attracts to work with the girls over the summer is outstanding. So, getting to work with them is a complete honor.

Getting to have a balance to my day; you know, sometimes it’s admin and paperwork, sometimes it’s getting to do photos for the magazine, sometimes it’s trying out a new project; there is so much variety. And then also there is challenge and that’s a complete pleasure. So, I would say that these things that create a work environment or a professional environment are what I enjoy so much. And then also I get to do something that has such a strong, positive social mission, and that’s a real treat.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening, what would I find you doing; reading a magazine; doing some designing; having a glass of wine; or something else?

Samantha Razook Murphy: I really value the evening time. You would find me cooking; I find that to be really enjoyable and relaxing. I put a lot of value on the family meal in the evenings. My older daughter is quite musical, and what you will find in my small, cozy, warm apartment is cooking and music and candles, things like that. I don’t have a television and I don’t really consume digital media, but I guess a lot of people don’t have a television anymore; they use their computers for that sort of thing. What you’ll see when you walk in is a guitar, a keyboard, a bass, a kitchen, a dining table, which is where we eat and do homework. It’s where we do crafts, when the opportunity arises I like to make things. But really the office is a great place to make things. And that’s what you would find me doing in the evening.

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

Samantha Razook Murphy: That’s a good question and I have a very specific answer, which is that I constantly run numbers in my head. I’m very fortunate that I have two girls, sort of a reconstructed family, and none of these things keep me up at night. Everyone is doing great, knock wood. As far as enjoyment of my workday, all of that is wonderful. It’s the numbers and how to keep the business moving forward.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

_________________________________________________________________________________
act7Magazines Matter. Print Matters. That is the theme for the Magazine Innovation Center’s ACT (Amplify, Clarify, Testify) 7 Experience that will take place April 25 to 27. Space is limited, so check the agenda and register to join us for an experience of a life-time.

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Long Live Vinyl Magazine: Some Things Are Meant To Be Connected Forever, Like Magazines & Music. The Print & Vinyl Love Affair Continues – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ian Peel, Founder & Editor At Large, Long Live Vinyl Magazine…

February 16, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

long-live-vinyl597

“How valuable is print? Well, it’s incredibly valuable within the context of coexisting with online, because if I think of all of those people at BMG Records working away, they all look at email newsfeeds every morning. Then when you walk into their reception area, there are print magazines everywhere. And both have to exist, they each have their role.” Ian Peel…

Ink on Paper and vinyl records have always had an easy courtship. From Rolling Stone to Spin, these music magazine couplings usually turned into magic. That is, until the world decided both genres were dead or dying a slow, digital death. Of course, those with their fingers on the pulse of both industries knew that evolution did not necessarily mean extinction. In the 21st century our airspace is large enough for turntables and iPods; tablets and print magazines; and just about anything else the innovatively, creative human mind can come up with. No reason to fret.

And that’s exactly what the founder and editor at large of Long Live Vinyl magazine knew when he thought about the many ways you could make a print publication about vinyl records interesting in this day and age. As simple as “American Pie” really.

Ian Peel is a freelance journalist, marketing consultant, and magazine thinker and maker. He has contributed his fresh and innovative ideas to Anthem Publishing in the U.K., and so far, together, the two have created Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl magazines, which are both increasing their frequency from bimonthlies to monthlies. Not bad for two industries that are on the verge of extinction, hmm?

ian-peel-long-live-vinyl-classic-popI spoke with Ian recently and we talked about the newest edition to the fold, Long Live Vinyl, and about the creative design, a 12-inch format that, as Ian put it, lacks only the hole in the middle to actually fit on a turntable. Ian is a man with two obvious passions: music and magazines. And his adoration for both runs deep, as I soon learned early in our conversation when I asked him what he’d say to people who would accuse him of using two dying or vanishing industries to create this magazine. His answer: I’d say to them they’re not dying, they’re changing. And his success is proof of that belief.

So, I hope that you enjoy this look into the relationship between magazines and music, because just like Diana Ross & Lionel Richie sang: it’s an “Endless Love.” OK – music puns are over – enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ian Peel, Founder and Editor At Large, Long Live Vinyl magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On that moment of conception for the magazine and how he brought it to fruition: I started to talk to the team at Anthem Publishing about my ideas; how you could do a really interesting magazine about vinyl records. And of course this happened at the exact same time that the vinyl revival began. So, they thought about it for about two years, and then eventually we decided to give it a go.

On what he would say to those who would criticize him about combining two supposedly vanishing industries (print & vinyl) to create a new magazine: What would I say to them? Well, I’d say that these industries aren’t really dying, they’re changing. And with the changing times too, you have to be really, really bold, and try and strike out and do something new. When vinyl and magazines were both flourishing, it was probably harder to take risks, so it might have been harder to have done this 10 years ago, because there was far too much in the publishing world and the music world, so it was easy for people to just sit back and carry on with what they were doing and had always done. But when people’s backs are against the wall they have to be a bit more creative and daring. So, that’s what we did.

On why he thinks it took the magazine industry so long to realize that print and digital must co-exist with each other: Sometimes it’s just easier, isn’t it; to keep doing the same thing all of the time. And this is why maybe it was quite an interesting role for me, because I’ve never launched a magazine before Classic Pop. What I had been doing was working in the music business creating CD compilations and album reissues, and then trying to sell them into the media to get press coverage. So, I was coming from a slightly removed standpoint, and I was finding it very difficult in the case of classic pop music to get the page space in the traditional music magazines and newspapers.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face: I don’t know if it was a challenge, but there was always a concern that I was just in a bubble and no one else would agree or see the value in it. That was a concern. There’s always this challenge that you have to create the magazine, or at least the structure and the style, before the publisher can start selling ad space, so there is a challenge, which is to get over that initial hump of going from concept to actually being able to gauge the revenue that the publication can generate.

On his most pleasant moment: When Anthem said yes, it was a surprise, because don’t forget, I had pitched Long Live Vinyl about two years ago to them, so they had sat very quietly and watched the vinyl revival grow for two years and remembered the proposal. So, it was a nice surprise when they phoned and said we will do this. We will make it happen.

On whether he thinks he could have achieved what he’s achieved with just a digital platform and no print component: We could have, but there are lots of vinyl blogs out there already, and I really like them. In fact, it’s interesting, because when I was devising Long Live Vinyl, there were some really great websites about vinyl, in terms of how they looked and what they said and their viewpoint. And I thought, none of that exists in print. There wasn’t a cool, contemporary vinyl print magazine. So, there was another reason, to replicate how far forward with vinyl journalism the Internet had moved.

On what role he will play at Long Live Vinyl now that he’s there full-time: On the masthead I’m founder plus editor at large. And in fact, that’s the title for both Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl. So, that involves something that Anthem is quite keen on, and that is monitoring and developing what they call the DNA of the magazine. And I think they know from experience that it’s possible for the DNA to drift if it’s not sat up on a regular basis. And that could be anything from a font that someone has used temporarily for one issue that still accidentally in place 10 issues later, because no one has sat down and had a proper font discussion. Or it could be about the tone of voice that’s used.

On anything new he’s working on now: Yes. (Laughs) The third one is going to be brilliant. (Laughs again) Classic Pop was great and exists in its own way; Long Live Vinyl is kind of broader and a slightly wider platform, then the third idea is broader and wider still, but with a quite unique sense of purpose.

issue-01On whether he believes we’re seeing a return to a broader-topic type magazine with a niche audience, rather than a niche magazine itself: That’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think that one of the reasons that Classic Pop magazine did very well is that the four or five music magazines in the U.K. are all general list. They’ll have a Rock front cover, then they’ll have an Electronic front cover, and that was fine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the only way that you could get music content was to buy a magazine. They were duty-bound to cover all of the genres. But now that I can’t avoid music content, it’s coming out of my phone, computer, TV and everywhere, I think the job of the magazine is to be specialists, to celebrate more specialist areas.

On what advice he would offer to someone who came to him with an idea for starting a new magazine: If someone has a great idea for a print magazine, then I would encourage them to go and see a print publisher, because you’re taking them a revenue stream. And it would be great if that idea for a print magazine had really good unique content. And maybe you do start to blog, but I think if what we’re asking is, would it be best to do it online for a year and see how it goes, the answer is no, because you’re creating a totally different product than the one that you wanted to create in the first place. The best case scenario is they coexist together, straight on.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening: There’s quite an easy answer to that, which is, as soon as the magazine goes to bed, I go straight on to the next one. And it’s because it’s like this weird zone that you get into, when you’re finishing an issue, you just can’t stop. You’re on a roll.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) I think the easy answer to that is the idea for magazine number three. It does keep me up at night, because when I look at this proposal, I’m excited. I’m excited and happy to read the proposal through.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ian Peel, founder and editor at large, Long Live Vinyl magazine.

Samir Husni: Can you relive that moment of conception, that moment when you came up with the idea for Long Live Vinyl, and how did you bring it to fruition?

Ian Peel: It’s quite a long story, so I’ll try and give you the abridged version. There’s a magazine in the U.K. called “Record Collector” and I started writing for them when I left school in 1988. And I had lots of fun, really, writing for them. But I always had strong views as to how you could do a magazine for people who loved vinyl and loved records. And I would pitch these ideas to Record Collector over the years at different times and in the intervening 25 years. And some of those ideas they listened to and took onboard and some of them they didn’t.

Then flash forward to 2011when I had a great idea for a magazine about Pop music that I called “Classic Pop.” I went to Anthem Publishing and they really jumped onboard; they loved the idea. They set the magazine up and we made it a great success, so Classic Pop has been running for three years as a bimonthly.

And once that was doing really well and it was in supermarkets in the U.K., I started to talk to the team at Anthem Publishing about my ideas; how you could do a really interesting magazine about vinyl records. And of course this happened at the exact same time that the vinyl revival began. So, they thought about it for about two years, and then eventually we decided to give it a go.

long-live-vinyl-2598We did a test issue for Long Live Vinyl in November, 2016. I wasn’t hugely involved in anything other than conception with that, because I was doing a long consultancy with a record label called BMG, so I was working in-house with them on lots of vinyl releases as it happens. Aside from kind of setting Anthem Publishing up with the idea for Long Live Vinyl, and some very strict notes initially about pitching and selling in stage around two or three years ago, I left them to go ahead and put the magazine together.

One of the most exciting things was seeing Issue One on the shelves in November and it being pretty much exactly what I’d hoped for and exactly what I had dreamt we could do. All that time ago during the pitching process, I’d written really detailed notes about the style, tone and how the pages should be laid out; the type of fonts that should be used and the writers that should be in the magazine, and they worked through all of those notes and it came out really well. So, it was a good team effort, albeit quite remotely for me during Issue One.

So, then we sat back and looked at how Issue One had sold in November, and it sold very well and advertisers had picked up on it, so it was enough for me to leave BMG, and as of this month, turn Long Live Vinyl into a monthly magazine. We go monthly in April, and at the same time, we’re going to expand the remit of Classic Pop magazine, which is really the forerunner of Long Live Vinyl, and that will switch from bimonthly into a monthly in May.

Samir Husni: What would you tell the naysayers who might come to you saying that you are taking two supposedly dying or vanishing industries and combining them to create a very well-crafted, beautiful, album-sized magazine?

Ian Peel: What would I say to them? Well, I’d say that these industries aren’t really dying, they’re changing. And with the changing times too, you have to be really, really bold, and try and strike out and do something new. When vinyl and magazines were both flourishing, it was probably harder to take risks, so it might have been harder to have done this 10 years ago, because there was far too much in the publishing world and the music world, so it was easy for people to just sit back and carry on with what they were doing and had always done. But when people’s backs are against the wall they have to be a bit more creative and daring. So, that’s what we did.

And it was quite daring to do the magazine in 12-inch form, which was one of the initial ideas that we came up with. I wanted to go one step further and that was put a hole through the middle. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Ian Peel: But I couldn’t get approval on that. We’re still going to drill some holes though, for promotional type things.

Samir Husni: If we consider magazine makers the most creative people around, why do you think it took the magazine industry so long, almost a decade, to recognize that print isn’t going anywhere; digital isn’t going anywhere, and we have to live in an environment where all forms of media exist?

CP23.Cover.FINAL.inddIan Peel: Sometimes it’s just easier, isn’t it; to keep doing the same thing all of the time. And this is why maybe it was quite an interesting role for me, because I’ve never launched a magazine before Classic Pop. What I had been doing was working in the music business creating CD compilations and album reissues, and then trying to sell them into the media to get press coverage. So, I was coming from a slightly removed standpoint, and I was finding it very difficult in the case of classic pop music to get the page space in the traditional music magazines and newspapers.

But I knew there was a market for it, because there were festivals and they were booming and the CD and music business was booming with classic pop music, and there were television stations launching. It became quite clear that it should be very straightforward for a magazine to work in tandem with all of those other areas of media. So, why do we find it difficult? I don’t know, maybe a lack of objectivity.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Ian Peel: I don’t know if it was a challenge, but there was always a concern that I was just in a bubble and no one else would agree or see the value in it. That was a concern. There’s always this challenge that you have to create the magazine, or at least the structure and the style, before the publisher can start selling ad space, so there is a challenge, which is to get over that initial hump of going from concept to actually being able to gauge the revenue that the publication can generate.

With Classic Pop magazine, it was a challenge to get certain businesses onboard, in terms of seeing its value, but not so with Long Live Vinyl. Every record label is producing vinyl editions, and when I went out to them; it was like a one-word pitch. What’s the magazine? Vinyl. And then they were straight onboard. So, it wasn’t too much of a tough sell in that respect.

There is this other magazine that has existed in the U.K. for a long time called “Record Collector” that I’ve written for and that gave me my first job in journalism. And I love that magazine; I have a lot of respect for it. And long may it continue. But I set myself the challenge of looking and feeling completely different that the Record Collector, in terms of tone of voice, type of photography used, because I wanted them to carry on being successful in their world, and I wanted us to be successful in ours. And I also wanted to avoid any confusion between potential readers as to what to buy.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment? Was it when Anthem said yes?

Ian Peel: Well, when Anthem said yes, it was a surprise, because don’t forget, I had pitched Long Live Vinyl about two years ago to them, so they had sat very quietly and watched the vinyl revival grow for two years and remembered the proposal. So, it was a nice surprise when they phoned and said we will do this. We will make it happen.

I think the nicest part of it was as I described earlier when I saw the first issue. Once I’d gone off into the corporate world and seen that we’re all on the same page, it was great; all of my notes and ideas really gelled with theirs. That’s always a worry, especially if people work remotely, in different offices, emailing, rather than sitting at the same desk. To realize that everyone is thinking along the same lines is great. On which note I should mention Andy Jones, the editor of Issue One, who did a great job, and Jon Bickley, who is the CEO of Anthem Publishing and a big vinyl lover. And a big music fan. The two of them especially, and then Simon Lewis, who is our commercial and advertising man It didn’t take too much description on my part, we could see what it could be quite quickly.

Samir Husni: You combine your passion, music/journalism, and you’re in the music industry, you’ve worked with the labels; what value do you think print, as opposed to digital, brings to this genre? Could you have done what you’ve done with just a digital platform?

Ian Peel: We could have, but there are lots of vinyl blogs out there already, and I really like them. In fact, it’s interesting, because when I was devising Long Live Vinyl, there were some really great websites about vinyl, in terms of how they looked and what they said and their viewpoint. And I thought, none of that exists in print. There wasn’t a cool, contemporary vinyl print magazine. So, there was another reason, to replicate how far forward with vinyl journalism the Internet had moved.

How valuable is print? Well, it’s incredibly valuable within the context of coexisting with online, because if I think of all of those people at BMG Records working away, they all look at email newsfeeds every morning. Then when you walk into their reception area, there are print magazines everywhere. And both have to exist, they each have their role.

Samir Husni: Now that you’re at the magazine full-time, what role will you play at Long Live Vinyl? Are you going to be the editor in chief or the editorial director?

Ian Peel: On the masthead I’m founder plus editor at large. And in fact, that’s the title for both Classic Pop and Long Live Vinyl. So, that involves something that Anthem is quite keen on, and that is monitoring and developing what they call the DNA of the magazine. And I think they know from experience that it’s possible for the DNA to drift if it’s not sat up on a regular basis. And that could be anything from a font that someone has used temporarily for one issue that still accidentally in place 10 issues later, because no one has sat down and had a proper font discussion. Or it could be about the tone of voice that’s used.

So, really I will be monitoring and measuring the DNA of both publications, while at the same time I’m doing lots and lots of writing. For issue two of Long Live Vinyl, I will be news editor and reviews editor. With Classic Pop, I think I wrote 80 percent of the first issue, partly to build structures and templates for the different sections so everyone could just go off and replicate.

Samir Husni: After Long Live Vinyl, is there anything else in the hopper; something new that you’re working on now?

Ian Peel: Yes. (Laughs) The third one is going to be brilliant. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Ian Peel: Classic Pop was great and exists in its own way; Long Live Vinyl is kind of broader and a slightly wider platform, then the third idea is broader and wider still, but with a quite unique sense of purpose.

Samir Husni: Are we seeing a return from the ultra-niche magazines, or what you refer to in the U.K. as the “Patchwork” magazines, to a broader topic type magazine with a very niche audience, rather than a niche magazine?

Ian Peel: That’s a very interesting question, actually, because I think that one of the reasons that Classic Pop magazine did very well is that the four or five music magazines in the U.K. are all general list. They’ll have a Rock front cover, then they’ll have an Electronic front cover, and that was fine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when the only way that you could get music content was to buy a magazine. They were duty-bound to cover all of the genres. But now that I can’t avoid music content, it’s coming out of my phone, computer, TV and everywhere, I think the job of the magazine is to be specialists, to celebrate more specialist areas.

So, Pop is a specialist area; vinyl is a specialist area, because people are in love and they want to read about vinyl for one, number two, is what’s on it, the actual music that’s on it. But the number one reason is the love of vinyl.

With my third project, it’s broader, but you’re right, it has to have an absolute purpose and that purpose might actually be quite niche, and that audience might actually be quite niche. Even if it’s maybe covering, without giving too much away, various area of entertainment, there has to be a twist or a particular unifying factor.

Samir Husni: You’re a believer in print and bringing new ideas to the forefront, and you’re also, it would seem, more of a believer in protecting that DNA. So, if somebody comes to you and tells you that they have an idea for a new magazine, a new print entity; what do you tell them? You’re out of your mind, go start a blog, or you offer them different advice?

Ian Peel: If someone has a great idea for a print magazine, then I would encourage them to go and see a print publisher, because you’re taking them a revenue stream. And it would be great if that idea for a print magazine had really good unique content. And maybe you do start to blog, but I think if what we’re asking is, would it be best to do it online for a year and see how it goes, the answer is no, because you’re creating a totally different product than the one that you wanted to create in the first place. The best case scenario is they coexist together, straight on.

Even with Long Live Vinyl, two or three years ago when I first pitched it, Anthem did say why don’t you start it as a section within Classic Pop magazine, and as a section within Vintage Rock, which is another of their print music listing magazines. But from the start we created it asking the question: how would it look in print? As opposed to let’s start a Twitter page and see how many people we can amass.

So, I think if someone came up with a great print idea, they have to absolutely work hard to get it into print. And then bring everything else along with it. I would encourage someone, instead of starting a blog; I’d encourage them to mock up the first issue, to lay out the pages and think about the type of paper or the page size, and what other print magazines that it would sit alongside.

Samir Husni: If I show up at your house unexpectedly one evening, what do I find you doing; reading a magazine; playing your vinyl; watching television; having a glass of wine; or something else?

Ian Peel: There’s quite an easy answer to that, which is, as soon as the magazine goes to bed, I go straight on to the next one. And it’s because it’s like this weird zone that you get into, when you’re finishing an issue, you just can’t stop. You’re on a roll.

And that’s why I think that bimonthly magazines are quite hard, because there’s that dip for readers and potential purchasers, of two months, where they might forget about you in the middle of those two months. But there’s also this kind of dip in energy between the two months, which is why a monthly is great. It keeps the energy levels up all of the time. With Classic Pop, when it was bimonthly, I would literally finish one article and start making the next one, because I couldn’t get out of the zone.

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

Ian Peel: (Laughs) I think the easy answer to that is the idea for magazine number three. It does keep me up at night, because when I look at this proposal, I’m excited. I’m excited and happy to read the proposal through.

Also, whether these ideas work or not, it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to put them together and to try them.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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