Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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Link2Us Magazine: The Intersection Of Faith And Popular Culture: The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editor-in-Chief Judith Manigault.

January 12, 2022

“Although we have an online presence (and our culture does thrive on the immediacy of online engagement), there’s nothing like the print experience: sitting down with a great magazine and being transported via images, various stories, and content that teaches and inspires. Print is altogether a different thing – an actual real experience.” Judith Manigault, Editor-in-Chief, Link2Us.

Link2Us Premiere Issue Winter 2022

“At the intersection of faith and popular culture lies Link2Us, a new lifestyle publication providing readers with a blueprint for living their best and most authentic lives. The new magazine delivers fresh and engaging content, including health and wellness news, finance tips, style trends and more, with faith and inspiration at its core,” so says the press release for the last new magazine launch of 2021.  The first issue of the magazine arrived late in December at the nation’s bookstores featuring cover star and ABC’s The Bachelor alum, Madison Prewett. 

The digital entity was launched in 2019 and migrated from the womb of digital to the reality world of ink on paper.  I had the opportunity to chat with Editor-in-Chief, Judith Manigault “who birthed the magazine’s concept while on a quest to find faith-based content that spoke to the issues of everyday life in a contemporary and relevant way.”  Judith noticed a lack in print offerings that filled this faith-based contend, and decided to do something about it.

And thus, Link2Us was born. Please enjoy this conversation with Judith Manigault, founder and editor-in-chief, Link2Us.

Judith Manigault, founder and editor in chief, Link2Us magazine

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni:  Congratulations on the launch of Link2Us newsstands’ debut. Can you please tell me about the idea behind the magazine and why did you decide to launch it in print on the newsstands now?

Judith Manigault : As a new publication, we fill a most overlooked niche: a culture hub for the 70% of adult Americans who consider themselves Christians. Historically, faith-based publications have centered their reach on ALL things spiritual but overlook prominent themes covered in mainstream outlets: note-worthy inspirational personalities, entertainment, food, fashion, travel, and more.

A few years ago, I noticed this missing link as I combed through an airport newsstand. Not one magazine bridged the gap between a world of faith and inspiration (which we all need now more than ever) and the everyday lifestyle topics that make our world a more vibrant place. So, we went to work and created a beautiful hybrid we believe millions will enjoy.

Although we have an online presence (and our culture does thrive on the immediacy of online engagement), there’s nothing like the print experience: sitting down with a great magazine and being transported via images, various stories, and content that teaches and inspires. Print is altogether a different thing – an actual real experience. It has the power to slow us down, make us pause, pay attention—and so we thought, what better time to engage the culture with a physical magazine? 

S.H.: The brand was founded in 2019. How did it evolve and what was the most challenging aspect of creating this brand?

J.M.: Well, the evolution of the brand was relatively seamless. We listened to our readers, expanded on what worked, and took the limits off of what is generally considered faith-based content. We meet the reader where they are and bring a fresh perspective to the conversation. You’d be surprised at how many folks search for a better way of thinking, being, and doing life.

S.H.: What was the most pleasant moment during this experience?

J.M.: As a promotional tactic, we asked our readers around the country to find us at their local Barnes & Nobles, Books-A-Million, and airports. Their posts and videos have been fantastic. Knowing that we have made the leap, and they can now find us across the U.S. – from California to NYC (and now Canada) – is exhilarating!

S.H.: What is the role of print in a digital age, and where does the print edition of Link2Us fit in the brand formula?

J.M.: Print is a media format that will continue to thrive as long as people have stories to tell. Readers everywhere still love to curl up with their favorite book at home, or bring their daily newspaper to their local coffee shop for a skim. Turning the pages to see what’s next (in a story, or what’s next in fashion, for example) is still incredibly exciting. Learning about the next trend or finding inspiration for the weeks ahead, especially at this particular time in our lives, is a basic human need and Link2Us is here to meet it.

S.H.: Your tagline is Link2Us and be inspired… and your motto is Next Level Faith… Can you please expand?

J.M.: “Link2Us and be inspired” was simply a way to convey our mission to inspire the masses. “Next level faith” grapples with how we see ourselves as people of faith in the world, and challenges our readers to reach new heights and create a life of faith that is more dynamic, appealing, and compelling.

S.H.: Is there anything else you’d like to add.

J.M.: While we are living in times marked by cultural, political, and social divides, the reality is that we do need each other to survive. It is my hope that Link2Us will serve as a common ground, where conversations revolve around the things that connect us, and not what separates us.

S.H.: My typical last question is what keeps you up at night?

J.M.: Believe it or not, that would be expansion. For us, the ability to talk to and reach a broader audience is of utmost importance. Launching at retail is a major step in connecting with the masses, and we are thrilled. 

S.H.: Congratulations again and thank you.

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Grazia USA: The Most Notable Launch of 2021. The Mr. Magazine™ Conversation With Dylan Howard, Chairman, CEO & Publisher…

December 30, 2021

We live in a digital led environment so our company slogan is ‘stories matter, especially how they are told,’…” Dylan Howard, Chairman and CEO, Pantheon Media

That is the biggest challenge, to constantly bear the cutting edge of how best to tell stories whilst also remembering that there is something beautiful about print…” Dylan Howard

If you told me early in 2021 that someone would launch a print magazine with 400 pages and lots of advertising, I would have told you that you are out of your mind. Bringing Grazia to the U.S.A. is not only an act of faith and belief in the way print can be handled successfully, it is an experience unlike any on the market today combining both quality content, gorgeous photography, and above all a touch of class.

A much needed infusion to the world of magazines in general and the fashion magazine sector in particular. It was not a hard decision for me to choose Grazia USA as the most notable launch of 2021 because it rose to the top of the 122 titles launched that year exactly like the foam rises to the top of an excellent espresso.

To learn more about Grazia USA’s launch, I reached out to Dylan Howard, Chairman, CEO of Grazia USA’s parent company Pantheon Media Group and we engaged in a Mr. Magazine™ conversation about the story behind the launch of the magazine and his role in bringing it to the United States.

Mr. Howard was quick to point out that the launch of Grazia USA was a team effort led by media and business folks he assembled from leading media entities including The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, Tatler AsiaWWD, Reuters, Men’s Journal, Meredith, IAC, Cheddar, News Corp., Refinery29, and a360 Media.

Dylan Howard, Chairman& CEO, Pantheon Media Group

So, here’s my lightly edited casual conversation with Dylan Howard, Chairman & CEO, Pantheon Media Group publisher of Grazia USA:

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: As the publisher of Grazia USA, the most notable launch of 2021, can you please tell me how you were able to bring into the market in this day and age, an almost 400 page magazine, loaded with advertising among other things…

Dylan Howard: Samir, when COVID hit America, I had a lot to consider about what my next step was going to be, and I decided that I wanted to start another media company and I wasn’t content with it being an independent small player. I wanted to bring to America brands that have flourished internationally but have not reached these shores. And in putting together on the back of an envelope, some brands, one of the first brands that came to mind was Grazia, because close to 20 years ago, I actually wrote for Grazia when it was a weekly magazine in Australia, which is where I am from. So I opened discussions with Mondadori Media in Italy, and it had been Mondadori’s dream to launch a United States version of their flagship fashion and luxury property and just never found the right partner. In me fortuitously, they saw someone who was prepared to actually back it, someone who has an entrepreneurial flair, someone who has gladly no fashion sense, I leave that to the editors, and someone who was prepared to innovate on the brand. 

That innovation has meant more to digital covers, so we launched Kim Kardashian in October of 2020 as our first digital cover in the United States, then in February for New York Fashion Week we did three more digital covers which featured Elizabeth Olsen, Keke Palmer, and supermodel Kate Bosworth, and then in between that and the launch of our September issue, we published seven Grazia Gazettes, which is a first of its kind newspaper/luxury magazine-type publication- five here in the Hamptons, one in Art Basel in Miami, and one for New York Fashion Week, and that allowed us to create a sense of establishment in the industry. Next will be the Rodeo Drive edition in January. People immediately recognized the Grazia name, and they saw that we were doing things differently, and that led obviously up to our September issue, our fall issue, which as you said is almost 400 pages. I personally believe it is one of the best products in the marketplace, in the category. I believe that its editorial is stronger than its competitive set, and that is a tribute to the editor in chief David Thielebeule and Casey Brennan the executive editor, and many others (In fact Mr. Howard mentioned almost everyone who worked on the launch of the magazine), and I think that there is some hype around it. Again you mentioned almost 400 pages, loaded with advertising, content in my view, best in class, and three print runs. We had three separate covers. So this is a commitment to fashion, a commitment to luxury. This is not me saying I want to get back in the industry. This is charting a new course and establishing Grazia for the future because our audience is younger than everyone else. 50 percent of our readers are age 18-34 and you don’t find that anywhere in publishing today. 

SH: The publishing model, you are distributing some as a control circulation, you have the newsstand, you have subscriptions, Grazia is known as a weekly, tell me more about your business model.

D.H.: So Grazia is just one of the tenets in my business, we have near on twenty brands now. We have the digital version of OK magazine, Radar. We did three start up brands. Front Page Detectives which actually picks up on the 1920s pulp magazines- so we relaunched that as a digital website. We have a Royals website. We have a female inspiration website. This year we will announce, we have How it WorksHistory of WarAll About Space, and we are going to announce another 4 or 5 print productions that will launch in 2022. But for Grazia, it is our flagship, we will do four issues per year. We will continue with The Grazia Gazette newspaper which I refer to as the traveling newspaper. We go where people are, much attended events, is where you will find The Grazia Gazette like Art Basel in Miami. We will continue to do our digital covers, but we have a commitment to printGrazia worldwide is in various shapes and forms, as you pointed out, it is a weekly in some countries. In other countries, it is a monthly. In Australia and here in the United States, it is a quarterly, which allows us the time and resources required to put out a publication that is best in class. Instead of flooding the market with more of the same, we can take a considered approach to what it is we are publishing. Likewise, that enables us to work closely with our advertisers to ensure that we are capturing what it is that they want to market and when they want to market. I think we would all agree that the industry is flooded with product and it is not necessarily the highest quality product because of the frequency in which they print. 

S.H.: Did anyone tell you when you came up with the idea that you are going to launch Grazia in the U.S., are you losing it? Are you out of your mind?

D. H.: I’ll tell you about The Grazia Gazette, I mean, I’ve never published a newspaper. I’ve worked at newspapers before. I was sitting on a couch one night and I said what if we were to create a 56 page luxury newspaper and distribute it to 40k households in the Hamptons in 2021 and I called my Chief Operating Officer, Melissa Cronin, who joined me from A360 Media, and she said, this is a brilliant idea, and within days, we were in production. So, I’m sure people like to say behind my back, he’s crazy. They don’t necessarily say it to my face, but I tell you what there is a sense of pride and accomplishment when my editorial staff and my business staff are able to put together a publication like this and for me as a CEO to be able to see that my investment in hiring the best of the best has paid off. So for example, our Global Brands Officer is Brendan Monaghan, who has a strong lineage across the media industry from The New York Times to Vogueand GQ, Tanya Amini who comes from Conde Nast, W Magazine, our CFO Andrew Lee is a 22 year veteran of Conde Nast. Melissa Cronin who is the ying to my yang, a brilliant, insightful smart strategist, she is the COO and president of the company. Also, Casey Brennan who has worked with me for ten years and as I mentioned our editor in chief David Thielebeule who joined us from The Wall Street Journal, and many others. We also had Kevin Sessums as an editor at large. He was the former executive editor of Interview magazine and a host of other contributing editors. It’s interesting before I was a very hands-on content guy in my past role. With this I’m not, I’ve had to take a back seat which is a little different and a little discomforting at times, but when we put out the three issues and we see that a market is reacting the way it has, I could not be more proud of my staff.

S.H.: If you are going to look back at those one and a half years, what do you consider, the most pleasurable, the AHA moment, the I’ve made it…

D.H.: I don’t subscribe to the notion that you’ve ever made it. You are only as good as the last issue and the challenge is on us to produce an issue for March that will again set us apart from the competitive set. This is not a sprint, this is a marathon for our businessWhile those other publications will age out of the category in my opinion, I hope and I believe, and Mondadori also believes that Grazia will be the last one standing. In order for that to occur, we need to continue to invest in fashion and luxury and we need to continue to invest in the product. So whilst 2021 was great and we had enormous success and we are all very proud of what we are able to put out, 2022 is only a few days away and we are looking at a very strong line up already of products that we will distribute to the marketplace whether it be a quarterly, the newspaper, or other news formats to tell stories. We are just really excited about it. To be able to bring a brand that is 83 years young to the United States, with a legacy that it has from Italy to London to France to Germany and now in 21 other countries, is truly passing on the baton to us and we have to do our founding editors proud and I think we did with the launch of the first issue.

S.H.: I remember when Didier Guerin came from France trying to launch Elle magazine in the U.S., the naysayers said this will never work…

D.H.: I think it was the great Theodore Roosevelt who said something that has just sat with me about publishing. Theodore Roosevelt in his speech, The Man in the Arena, he said, “It is not the critique who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better, the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spins himself in a worthy cause, the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  And that hangs in my office here (in the Hamptons)  and hangs in my office in Manhattan as well.

S.H.: You are the man in the arena. What’s the biggest challenge that’s facing you? 

The biggest challenge is continually innovating. We live in a digital led environment so our company slogan is “stories matter, especially how they are told” It is constantly innovating, looking for the next method or model in which to be able to showcase content, be it through the intersection of QR codes in a magazine pointing back to video, creating premium podcasts that can traverse the United States into Europe and other areas. That is the biggest challenge, to constantly bear the cutting edge of how best to tell stories whilst also remembering that there is something beautiful about print. I think our model of doing a quarterly with a brand offshoot as The Grazia Gazette is not only industry leading, it’s a sign of what should happen moving forward for the industry to sustain itself. 

S.H.: I have to ask you since you were an editorial person, a reporter, a writer, you name it, is there part of your brain that misses that now that you are a CEO and you have to deal with the business side and ensure the business is working and the money is coming in…

D.H.: I am far too busy focused on what is next than I am meddling in what others are achieving with their work, and the premiere issue is tantamount to that. I wasn’t involved in the issue. Our COO and President Melissa Cronin, who I mentioned, was. From a business side, she and Brendan Monaghan lead it. I’m far too busy looking for what the next move for the company is and we have some big things lined up ready to announce in 2022.

S.H.: Before I ask my typical last question, is there anything else I failed to ask you, anything else you’d like to add?

D.H.: No, just that I’ve always viewed myself as a historian and I think I told you this previously of media, I always like to understand the masthead, its history, the people involved, and I think that those that believe the industry is at the crossroads need to sit back and analyze how to continue to operate in this climate. I believe the future lies in topic specific or knowledge based journalism. In order to do that, instead of cutting costs, maybe we need to be a little bit less frugal about that in order to create a product to introduce to customer so that we can convert them into ongoing customers and repeat customers. I would implore others in the industry to do that because the industry cannot survive with few, it has to survive with many. 

S.H.: My typical last question, what keeps you up at night these days?

D.H.: The next deal keeps me up at night.

S.H.: Thank you…

Editor’s Note: To read Tony Silber’s interview with me, for MediaPost’s Publishers Daily, about the magazine launches of 2021 including the launch of the year, the relaunch of the year, and the reinvention of the year please click here.

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Alan Katz Heads To The Mountains…Seven Questions With The Mountains’ Founder & CEO. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

December 21, 2021

With The Mountains, we’re bringing world-class photography and service journalism to an audience that has “decentralized luxury” and is tricky for advertisers to reach.” Alan Katz, Founder and CEO, The Mountains.

Then in my adult life, I gave the Hamptons a shot, but it wasn’t my vibe. Pun intended, I just thought it was so much cooler in the mountains!” Alan Katz

What can a “dynamic, highly connected sales and marketing executive with over 20 years experience driving growth and developing new businesses and brand extensions across diverse media platforms — from print to digital to e-commerce,” do next? Well, for the man who held top executive jobs in the magazine media world for almost a quarter century, there is nothing else to do but head to The Mountains, (pun intended). Alan Katz, the former publisher of Cargo, Vanity Fair, Interview, and New York magazines, and the former CEO of AKA Media and Chief Revenue Officer of DuJour Media, is ready to be his own boss and ready to launch a new venture called, you guessed it, The Mountains: the magazine that tags itself as the magazine “from to the Catskills to the Berkshires.”

I had the opportunity to ask Alan seven questions regarding his new venture, so without any further ado, here is the Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Alan Katz, Founder and CEO, The Mountains.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni:  The late Steve Florio once described entrepreneurs launching magazines as “terribly naive about what it takes to make a magazine successful,” yet he was kind enough to call this group of future publishers “the romantics.”  As a former Condé Nast executive and publisher, do you consider the entrepreneurial launch of your new magazine The Mountains a romantic affair or a genuine new media business?

Alan Katz, Founder and CEO, The Mountains

Alan Katz: Both. Steve hired me in 2003 to launch Cargo, a terrific men’s magazine. It was both a romantic notion and a genuine new media business–as is The Mountains.  

To me, the word “mountains” itself is romantic; it’s what my parents called the Catskills back in the day. A magical oasis from the big city, where you could find fantastical hotels and retreats.

I chose the name both for its nostalgia and because it’s so relevant to our mission: to be the exciting new resource for the residents, weekenders and visitors of the region from the Catskills to the Berkshires. What’s more romantic than that? We all LOVE this region. It’s gorgeous, bucolic, adventure-filled, rooted in community.

But make no mistake…this is a genuine business. The region is BOOMING—4 of the top 10 zip codes in the U.S. with the biggest growth in net migration 2019 to 2020 were in our geography. Real estate and new businesses are off the charts. The pandemic fueled a “rebalancing” between cities and more rural areas that was already underway. The result is a more sophisticated audience not being served by the existing media in the area. 

With The Mountains, we’re bringing world-class photography and service journalism to an audience that has “decentralized luxury” and is tricky for advertisers to reach. 

S.H.:  How do you approach the launch of The Mountains as opposed to the launch of Cargo?

A.K.: Back to Steve, he famously said at my first team meeting, “There’s nothing like a Condé Nast launch,” and in 2003 he was so right!

The main difference is fundraising. We’ve chosen to seek investment from strategic partners who care about the community and want to support fantastic writers and creative talent that will help bring this region to life, uncover hidden gems and inspire new discovery. 

S.H.:  What is the genesis of The Mountains?

A.K.: I’ve always loved the area. In my childhood, I experienced it all: a bungalow colony, sleepaway camp and fine hotels, all in the Catskills. I even had my prom at Grossinger’s. From “A Walk on the Moon” to “Dirty Dancing: to “Meatballs” (and these day, “The Marvelous Ms Maisel”), I’ve enjoyed it all!!

Then in my adult life, I gave the Hamptons a shot, but it wasn’t my vibe. Pun intended, I just thought it was so much cooler in the mountains! 

So after 25 years as a weekender and homeowner in Columbia County, traveling  around the Catskills and Berkshires and randomly seeing the various media, I was often left wanting more. More original photography. More insightful writing. More useful advice. I’d worked at New York MagazineCargoVanity FairAndy Warhol’s Interview and DuJour, to name a few. My standards were understandably high, but I believed someone should attempt to deliver the best for the market. Then one day, I finally realized that person should be me.

S.H.:  You are launching both in print and digital, what is the plan?

A.K.: Yes, the plan is to launch with both seasonal print and daily digital in Spring 2022. This is a market that doesn’t have the best digital or cable service. It’s a thing. Hopefully that will improve, but until then, a high-quality magazine is what business owners and consumers want and need. They like to lean back and enjoy great writing and cool finds. Print has a certain credibility and luxury, plus it’s power outage-proof!

Our readers come to the mountains to be disconnected, yet want to stay connected, so we’ll fill in the timely facts with daily digital, email newsletters, social media and future video series and podcasts.

S.H.:  Tell me about the team working with you and the goals you expect to achieve prior to the Spring 2022 launch.

A.K.: We’ve hit the ground running with super-talented and connected editors, writers, designers, sellers, marketers and financial folks. They have deep roots in the community and have worked at some of the best brand in the business such as; New York MagazineUS Weekly,Vanity Fair, Apple, AirbnbArchitectural Digest, 1stdibs, Complex, Travel & LeisureDepartures and The New Yorker.

Prior to 2022 we are building the team and the content strategy, uncovering the fun facts and relationships that will enhance our platforms. And seeking advertising support from local and national businesses, brands and service providers, as well as financial and strategic investment partners.

I’m thrilled to say, both are going exceedingly well!

S.H.:  Anything else you’d like to add…

A.K.: I can’t express how much fun this has been, and how welcoming and collaborative the community has been. Everyone says it’s a long time coming, and appreciates our bringing the counties together under The Mountains moniker. Some of our first advertisers are signing on for 2-year schedules!

S.H.:  My typical final question, what keeps you up at night these days?

A.K.: What keeps me up at night these days is two kids in college, one just starting her first great job and the uncertainty of this global pandemic.

As per The Mountains, every aspect of the business tends to keep me up–my mind is racing with new ideas and ways to improve the media landscape for our audience and marketing partners. I mean it. Let’s go!!

S.H.: Thank you and good luck.

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InPickleball Magazine: Celebrating & Enforcing The Joy Of the Game. A Q&A With, The Man Behind The Magazine, Richard Porter.

December 7, 2021

From the CEO of a media company who launched a new magazine with a 9.2 million circulation to president of media sales at a national media group of the largest magazine media company in the world, to the launch of an ultra-niche new magazine,  Richard Porter has done it all and he is not done yet.

From the CEO of the Publishing Group of America (PGA) to the President of media sales for the Meredith Corp., Mr. Porter’s new venture is In Pickleball, a lifestyle publication that reinforces the joy of the game.  A game that is seeing both an uptake in its practitioners and devotees.

I had the chance to ask him a few questions about this latest launch and he was gracious enough to answer them.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni:  In a nutshell, tell me what is In Pickleball ?  When was it started and how often it is going to be published? Why now and why it is necessary, sufficient and relevant in today’s marketplace?

Richard Porter:  InPickleball launched this summer.   Our third issue will be in market next week.  This is a “media brand” launch that includes a magazine, a website, social media, video, and ultimately ecommerce.  The magazine will be published 10x a year.  Subscription prices are being tested from $24.99 per year to $39.99 per year.  We are testing a variety of sources for circulation — we will be on newsstands in Barnes & Nobel, will test FSIs and Direct Mail, also Facebook ads and other sources/locations where active pickleball players congregate (local clubs, resorts, tournaments, etc).    InPickleball is designed as a lifestyle publication — it reinforces the joy of the game — attributes of pickleball include:

* Social —  usually four people play together.

* Accessible —  The game is easy for all generations to learn — and be pretty good! — quickly compared to other sports.  

* Inclusive not Exclusive — unlike tennis or golf, pickleball really allows all kinds of people from all socioecomic strata, to play together.

* High Engagement/High Passion — but NOT divisive.  Pickleball players are typically on a spectrum from AVID to OBSESSED….people love it! So engagement is high, but content is not divisive (so much of our media/social content today is “hot takes” or “left vs. right” stuff, we feel GREAT about how pickleball is happy for all! — if I was a preacher, I would say this game is good for America and the world!  Social, healthy, fun, accessible, inexpensive…. nice attributes to bring us all together.

Richard Porter

S.H.:  Your background is in big magazine media companies and launches in the millions, how is this launch different from your previous ventures?  

R.P.: I have led a media company with only 50 employees, and worked in executive positions in companies of thousands.  One difference in today’s market, sadly, is the amount of great magazine talent that can’t find a place in the diminished staffing of larger magazine companies.   That has been a wonderful opportunity for InPickleball to hire freelancers, contract workers…the gig economy.  So we were able to launch a beautiful products with a team of top-credentialed people — backgrounds from Entertainment Weekly, The NY Times, The New Yorker, and many other top brands are represented in our ranks.    My very first job was at Ziff-Davis Publishing — at special interest sports magazines like Fly Fisherman, Backpacker, Sport Diver, Adventure Travel, Ski X-C…..I also spent some time at Rodale (Runner’s World, Bicycling).   So while I am known in many quarters for working at some of the largest magazine brands — Reader’s Digest, TV Guide, Meredith Corp — my training was in titles that share some characteristics with InPickleballvertical, how-to, passionate, active participants for example.

S.H.:  Who is the audience of In Pickleball and how do you plan to reach them?

R.P.: The audience for InPickleball magazine is active pickleball enthusiasts.  It’s the fastest growing sport in the country, so finding pickleball players to become readers will get easier for us every day!  There are “hot beds” of pickleball — California, Texas, Utah, Florida, Minnesota to name a few states….and within those states, there are certain cities/towns that really over-index.  Resorts like Marriott is ripping out tennis courts that are not being used by their guests, and replacing them with pickleball.  Retirement communities are now often built with pickleball courts.  There are many local clubs of players who have organized themselves (in Connecticut, one group built courts on the train station parking lot, as the lot was empty due to the pandemic!   Today — about half of all pickleball players are over 50 years old, typically affluent, high HHI.   But the sport is growing fast with younger people —  at least 28 colleges have club teams; it’s becoming a varsity sport at high schools.  The game was originated by three dads in 1965 for their kids to play, the whole family can play.

S.H.:  What are some of the obstacles, if any,  facing you with this venture and how do you plan to overcome them?

R.P.: Obstacles are plenty for any start-up business.  And maybe more so for media businesses.  And even more so for a magazine in 2021.   It isn’t for the faint of heart.  In the case of our magazine, the approach is to rely on the reader, not so much the advertiser, for revenue — as you know “secular decline” has found its way to magazines.  The pickleball market today is fragmented when it comes to media voices, many small ones — nobody has yet become the “megaphone” for the marketThat’s our objective.  To earn robust subscription revenue, which is critical, from readers — we have bet on quality.  I mentioned the great credentials already.  Look at a copy and you will also see and feel the quality — 60 lb paper stock, very white (not gray or yellow) that really holds saturated inks to make the graphics and photos pop!  Cover stock is 100 lb matte UV — we think of the sport as a tactile experience, and an aspirational one (people want to improve of course) so the magazine resonates that too — it’s a great tactile experience.  

S.H.:  Some say we don’t have a print problem, we have a business model problem in the magazine media industry, what do you think?  What is the role of print in today’s media landscape?  What is the future of print?

R.P.: I think we do have a print problem, not just a business model problem.  The business model can be really attractive actually — recurring revenue, first party data, quality content, subscriptions….streaming services have this model, and it’s  a good one.   But lowering quality to lower price and hope you sell enough ad pages to cover it, well, that’s just not a good idea.  Part of the print problem is simple:  Today, many ad agencies have great expertise in digital, video, social, data, etc. — ten years ago the leaders at those agencies had great print experience and passion for the medium.  Finding those knowledgeable advocates …. well, there are fewer of them, so the advertising decline can be a spiral….fewer resources evaluating/recommending the medium will lead to fewer magazines, leading to fewer resources, and around we go….

S.H.:  Anything else you’d like to add before my typical last question?

R.P.:  Well … sure!   I am very proud to have led two teams that won Launch of the Year honors from you!  Relish and Spry.  My goal?  I want to win a third time, Samir!!   InPickleball has a chance to be a really magical ride….I liken myself to an old rocker who was sitting around with his acoustic guitar, quietly writing his own songs, not recording or performing….and then, got together with some other really strong players….put together a band…and…whoosh!  Maybe we have some great new tunes that people will love, and we do an album, hit the road supporting it.     It’s a fun vision!

S.H.:  What keeps Richard up at night?

R.P.: What keeps me up at night?  I am pretty reliant on “to do” lists …. I try to write my list before I hit the pillow, so I can rest at ease knowing my path is charted for the next day.   If I have a day where I forget to make that list, or just don’t do it, I often wake in the middle of the night thinking about something I need to do.   I often then text or email myself that reminder, and go back to sleep…or try to…..I am an advocate of the podcast — one earbud in, the other ear on the pillow.   If I really cannot sleep, I will learn about ecommerce, or sports, or history….or sometimes the droning voices will put me to sleep, so that’s great too!

Thank you so much for your interest.  Cannot wait for Issue 2 to be in your hands….as I said it’s a tactile experience that you will love.  And with a pickleball player already in your family, you have a new reader at the ready for us! Cheers…

S.H.: LOL and Thank you.

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RACEWKND magazine: Delivering the Culture & Lifestyle of Formula 1 to Your Home. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Magnus Greaves, Founder And Publisher.

November 18, 2021

“So a beautiful, oversized print product that is delivered to your home can have the effect of connecting you to the sport.” Magnus Greaves, Publisher, RACEWKND

Never give up trying new ideas. The aforementioned can easily describe Magnus Greaves, the man coming from the world of finance and an entire Wall Street driven media magazine venture, Double Down Media, that went belly up when the entire market, and the American magazine business model that was based on that market, went belly up too! Magnus, the ever-dreaming and planning financier, found yet another way in this digital age to enhance print and ensure its success in a completely different way than his previous ventures at Double Down Media, MyMag, and Rev.

In 2021 Magnus Greaves founded RACEWKND, a magazine that celebrates the culture and lifestyle of Formula 1 and delivers the racing experience right into your home.

I asked Magnus seven questions about his new venture. My questions and his answers are below. Enjoy…

Q1:  In a nutshell, tell me what is RACEWKND?  When was it started and how often it is going to be published?
RACEWKND celebrates the culture and lifestyle of Formula 1, the highest level of motorsport which is also seen as one of the world’s most glamorous sports. Back in 2015 I started a similar magazine called Rev Journal but was inspired during the pandemic to make significant changes to the branding, packaging, distribution and overall business model. This resulted in RACEWKND which has been extremely well received and we are now on a schedule to publish four issues per year. 

Q2:  How is this launch different from your previous venture MyMag?
MYMAG was a personal publishing platform for famous people but was sadly a bit ahead of it’s time (which I know sounds odd for a print product!) The innovation was in how we worked with the individual and I’m actually revisiting that concept again as I feel it ties in extremely well with social media. RACEWKND is much different as the original premise was more about filling a void in the market (this sexy global sport had no media product that celebrated its sexiness) and the innovation this time comes through the business model and distribution plan. 

Q3:  Who is the audience of RACEWKND and how to you plan to reach them?
Formula 1 has been extremely popular globally for decades but it’s never been able to crack the US market. In recent years the sport was also having a very hard time attracting new fans. That all changed quite dramatically with the Netflix show “Drive to Survive” which explores Formula 1 through the personalities, drama and locations. As a result, F1 is now exploding in the USA and is attracting a far more diverse audience. RACEWKND is created to appeal to this new audience as our editorial approach and design sensibility is a perfect next step for these new fans which, given the size of Netflix, now outnumber the size of the old-school F1 fan base. 

Q4:  What are some of the obstacles, if any,  facing you with this venture and how do you plan to overcome them?
The biggest obstacle we face is in connecting with the American F1 fan base in an efficient way. I will never, ever go down the newsstand route again and that simply wouldn’t be effective with this audience anyway, particularly in the USA. And unlike sports such as basketball, there are no stadiums that host multiple home games and no chains like Foot Locker that sell team merchandise, snaking it hard to find alternative channels to fans. So we had to come up with a completely new plan and that lead to a genuine breakthrough- RACEWKND has adopted the modern direct-to-consumer business/distribution model that’s been so successfully implemented for products such as eyeglasses, clothing, mattresses, etc. I figured if this approach works for mattresses, then certainly a light, flat product like a magazine should be perfect and the results have been amazing. We start the process with targeted advertising and affiliate partnerships which connect us to F1 fans. We then sell every subscription on our Shopify platform and send magazines out very efficiently using AmazonFBA. In fact, I’m thinking about working with other magazines to show them how to implement this great business model which brings so many benefits. 

Q5:  Some say we don’t have a print problem, we have a business model problem in the magazine media industry, what do you think?  What is the role of print in today’s media landscape?  What is the future of print?
Well I 100% agree with this statement!! Per my answer above, studying the direct-to-consumer business model (as well as the subscription box business model) completely changed how I perceive the magazine business, and it’s completely changed the economics of running a magazine company. As for the role of print, I feel it’s more relevant than ever for publishers that use it in a way that truly takes advantage of the medium, which unfortunately not many do. But the flip side of that is that many publishers have done an amazing job of adapting their offering to beautiful new tablets, so growth for magazine brands can come in many forms. As for RACEWKND, a tangible print product has enormous value as Formula 1 hosts 23 races in 23 different countries resulting in 95%+ of fans not attending a race during the season. So a beautiful, oversized print product that is delivered to your home can have the effect of connecting you to the sport. When there is only one shop in the USA that is dedicated to selling F1 merchandise, having a product like RACEWKND come to your house is a nice experience that is hard to replicate. 

Magnus Greaves, publisher, RACEWKND

Q6:  Anything else you’d like to add before my typical last question?
Operating in this new direct-to-consumer business environment has really highlighted to me the value of print as a product in a fresh way as well as the need to create a brand that reflects your overall goals rather than simply what you aim to achieve with a magazine. As a result, I feel less exposed to the various direct threats of the traditional publishing industry and more connected to the innovative companies that are being launched and celebrated in different arenas. And you will have noticed there is not one ad in our magazines- this new business approach eliminates that hassle!!

Q7:  What keeps Magnus up at night?
I go to sleep every night thinking of new ways to connect with the potential RACEWKND audience and making sure that we are doing a good job communicating the attributes of our great print product across digital channels. The tools are in place to achieve all of this but you have to continuously seek out best practices (from outside the publishing industry!) to stay on top of it all. 

Indeed, and thank you…

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Crankshaft: A New Automotive Magazine That Believes In The Art Of Storytelling & High-Quality Collector-Car Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Richard Lentinello, Owner, Publisher & Editor In Chief…

April 9, 2021

“Print is very welcoming. For a while, people were reading magazines online, but I have since heard a lot of people have gotten bored with that. A lot of people are working from home now and they’re on their computers all day. When they want to relax they don’t want to sit in front of a screen again and read. They want to go sit in their backyard in their favorite chair with a print copy, their favorite beverage alongside them, and enjoy a magazine, To have something tangible in their hands.” Richard Lentinello…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

With his 22-year history at Hemmings Motor News, Richard Lentinello has been living and working in the automotive media world robustly and then some. After leaving Hemmings, Richard decided he wasn’t exactly pleased with the way American car magazines were handling their content and missing some of the most engaging car stories out there by not writing about them, so he decided to launch his own high quality automotive print magazine.

And Crankshaft was born. Crankshaft is a quarterly with 144 pages of non-stop automotive collector-car history. It’s well-designed, well-written, and a really refreshing addition to the automotive club of magazines.

I spoke with Richard recently and we talked about this new venture of his and his goal for the magazine. According to Richard, Crankshaft offers engaging content, thoughtfully crafted by established writers and photographers, along with his own artful input. The magazine will inform, entertain and captivate readers in a way that he believes no other magazine has done before.

So I hope that you enjoy this delightful Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is a true car connoisseur, Richard Lentinello, owner, publisher, editor in chief, Crankshaft.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he chose to do an automotive magazine at this moment in time: I was at Hemmings Motor News for 22 years and I left there July 31. I was sitting in my backyard thinking about what I was going to do after that. I thought the time was right for me to try something new. I knew people were stuck at home with the pandemic and people want to read when they can’t go out, so I thought it could be a good time or it could be a bad time; let’s give it a shot. (Laughs) People were telling me, it’s a pandemic, what are you doing? And I said, well, they’re stuck at home, people want to read.  

On how he came up with the name Crankshaft: The magazine is about classic cars and I didn’t want to go down the same road as classic, vintage, antique, all those names, because I figured, how are we going to attract a younger audience with those old-fashioned type names? So, I wanted to come up with something different, something that had a ring to it. I sent some of the guys that I used to work with an email and asked them to put their thinking caps on and some of them came up with Crankshaft. And I thought it was a great name.

On whether any of his friends or colleagues thought he was out of his mind for starting a print magazine during this digital age: No, no one said that to my face. (Laughs) Only one person online, when I posted it on Facebook, said that I was crazy. But you can’t listen to people like that. When I explained what I wanted to do and the focus of the magazine to everyone, they all said yes, we need this.  

On the business model he’s implementing: The business model is gut instinct. (Laughs) It may not be the best business model, that remains to be seen. I spend a lot of time at newsstands, Barnes & Noble and such, and I see so many magazines that are $14, $15, up to $20, these limited-type magazines. But a lot of them are only 112 pages or 128 pages, so we went 144 pages of good quality stock, $12.95. If you look at some of the regular car magazines out there, they’re $7 or $8, 72 pages and half of it is advertising. So how much editorial are you really getting, 30 pages?

On his favorite role: author, editor, car owner: I think it’s a little bit of all of that. I didn’t go to school to write, I went to school for interior design, interior architecture. But that’s how I look at creating magazines. You start with a foundation, then you put the interior walls in, you decorate it with photographs; so I use that same concept that I learned to create a car magazine.

On what he thinks the role of the printed magazine is today: Print is very welcoming. For a while, people were reading magazines online, but I have since heard a lot of people have gotten bored with that. A lot of people are working from home now and they’re on their computers all day. When they want to relax they don’t want to sit in front of a screen again and read. They want to go sit in their backyard in their favorite chair with a print copy, their favorite beverage alongside them, and enjoy a magazine, To have something tangible in their hands.

On whether he thinks the type of quality content of Crankshaft will be the wave of the future for American car magazines: I think it is, I really do. And it’s true about the British magazines, the quality throughout is excellent. I’ve been reading British car magazines since 1975 when I used to go to the newsstand at the Pan Am building in Manhattan.

On his reaction when the first issue of Crankshaft rolled off the presses: It is nerve-wracking. When the truck pulled up to my house with three pallets of magazines that I stuck in my garage, for a while I didn’t want to open them. (Laughs) I told myself, okay, I’m going to find all the mistakes; I’m going to find something that I don’t like. So I stood there and I opened them and it was just like when I did one of my coffee table books, you want to look at it, but you also don’t, because you don’t want to see all the mistakes. (Laughs again) But once you go through it, it’s very satisfying and rewarding. But the best part is hearing other people tell you how much they love it.

On what he hopes to accomplish with Crankshaft in one year: I hope I’m still around a year from now and can keep this magazine going, because it is an expensive proposition. Hopefully by then we’ll have some advertisers onboard to help support and fund it. And by next year I hope to have a good amount of subscribers that will help us keep it going.

On anything he’d like to add: The magazine is a very serious type of publication. We don’t use any slang; we don’t go into politics or anything like that. We focus on automotive history. That’s what it’s all about. And we try and stay focused on quality photography. Some of the writers who write for Crankshaft are some of the best in the industry.

On what makes him tick and click: Besides my three rescue dogs? (Laughs) I’ve been creating magazines since 1987 and it’s what I love. To me, it’s not a job. I’m one of the fortunate people who turned his hobby into a career. I just love the whole process of going out there and interviewing people, photographing cars, writing stories, and putting it all together in a really interesting and engaging, well-designed package. And then hearing the reader say, wow, that’s a great magazine, I love it. That’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning.

On how he unwinds in the evening: What I do sometimes is I go into my garage and work on my cars; I’m restoring some old cars. I read other magazines, mostly the British car magazines. And sometimes I write at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. in the evening. But I really unwind by sitting down with a paper and pen and planning out the next two or three issues. I think of all the cars I’ve seen at the different shows and how I want to include them in the next issue or the issue after that.

On what keeps him up at night: All the things that float around in my head, such as is the magazine going to take off? Am I really going to be able to get advertisers to help pay the print bill? Can I keep it going? Those things keep me up at night.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Richard Lentinello, owner, publisher, editor in chief, Crankshaft magazine.

Samir Husni: Give me the genesis of Crankshaft and on what made you decide at this moment in time to be the owner, publisher, editor in chief of a new automotive magazine.

Richard Lentinello: I was at Hemmings Motor News for 22 years and I left there July 31. I was sitting in my backyard thinking about what I was going to do after that. I looked at all the magazines that we were doing under the new leadership, how the quality was going down and how they’re pandering to advertisers. Not just Hemmings, but a lot of publishers do that. They create content for the advertisers. And I feel that’s wrong. You should create content for the readers. Those are the ones who are buying the magazine. 

Between that and the lack of quality content in the automotive industry for American-made magazines, I thought the time was right for me to try something new. I knew people were stuck at home with the pandemic and people want to read when they can’t go out, so I thought it could be a good time or it could be a bad time; let’s give it a shot. (Laughs) People were telling me, it’s a pandemic, what are you doing? And I said, well, they’re stuck at home, people want to read. 

A lot of car magazines have gone out of business in the last 10 years. I think a lot of them went out of business not because of the lack of interest from the readers, but from poor quality content. Again, pandering to advertisers, creating content that is fluffy, not hardcore, not serious. And I just felt, being a hardcore car guy… I was looking around and thinking there was no magazine that I really wanted to read. There were British car magazines, and I get them all. And they’re so well done. The British put a lot of effort in their car magazines. Quality writing, quality photography. 

And I just asked myself why doesn’t someone here in America do a quality car magazine without treating the reader like an idiot? Because all too often people think if he’s a car guy there isn’t much intelligence there, he just likes cars. And that’s not true. Car guys run the whole gamut, from plumbers  to doctors, a brain surgeon in Philadelphia, anybody and everybody can be a car guy, it doesn’t matter who they are.

We treat the readers with respect. We give them hardcore information. And that’s why I decided to launch my own magazine. 

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name Crankshaft?

Richard Lentinello: The magazine is about classic cars and I didn’t want to go down the same road as classic, vintage, antique, all those names, because I figured, how are we going to attract a younger audience with those old-fashioned type names? So, I wanted to come up with something different, something that had a ring to it. I sent some of the guys that I used to work with an email and asked them to put their thinking caps on and some of them came up with Crankshaft. And I thought it was a great name.

The more I sat at my desk and thought about it, the more I liked it. And Joe Pep, who did the illustration for the first cover, worked in Manhattan for 22 years for DC Comics and he was a font expert. I told him that we were going to call it Crankshaft and asked him what he thought. And within one day he came up with the logo. And I think it’s attractive. A lot of young people that I showed it to love it. So we think it has legs.

Samir Husni: Besides starting a new magazine during a pandemic, did any of your friends or colleagues think you were out of your mind for launching a print publication in this digital age?

Richard Lentinello: No, no one said that to my face. (Laughs) Only one person online, when I posted it on Facebook, said that I was crazy. But you can’t listen to people like that. When I explained what I wanted to do and the focus of the magazine to everyone, they all said yes, we need this.  

Once the first issue came out and everybody started getting it, the reviews from all the readers were 100 percent positive. I didn’t receive one negative email or Facebook post at all. Everyone just absolutely loved the magazine. 

Samir Husni: You’re publishing the magazine as a quarterly with a very high cover price, $12.95, and a very high subscription price of almost $60. Since you’re targeting the magazine more toward the readers and the audience rather than the advertisers, what is the business model that you’re implementing?

Richard Lentinello: The business model is gut instinct. (Laughs) It may not be the best business model, that remains to be seen. I spend a lot of time at newsstands, Barnes & Noble and such, and I see so many magazines that are $14, $15, up to $20, these limited-type magazines. But a lot of them are only 112 pages or 128 pages, so we went 144 pages of good quality stock, $12.95. If you look at some of the regular car magazines out there, they’re $7 or $8, 72 pages and half of it is advertising. So how much editorial are you really getting, 30 pages?

In Crankshaft, you’re getting 144 pages of editorial. Once people saw the value and got the magazine in their hands, they felt it was worth the price and started subscribing or bought a single copy if they didn’t want to spend the $59.95 to subscribe. But I really think we’re on to something.

Samir Husni: You’re an author, an editor and a car lover, all combined; which role is your favorite?

Richard Lentinello: I think it’s a little bit of all of that. I didn’t go to school to write, I went to school for interior design, interior architecture. But that’s how I look at creating magazines. You start with a foundation, then you put the interior walls in, you decorate it with photographs; so I use that same concept that I learned to create a car magazine. 

But what I like best is creating content that people love to read. I go to a lot of car shows every year and I meet all these wonderful people and car owners and there are so many great stories out there that are so interesting and engaging. But they’re being lost because no one is writing about them. And I know if I find it interesting about this car owner whose 1914 Buick was bought by his great-grandfather brand new, how could you not want to read about that? How did the family keep for over 100 years? So that’s what I enjoy most, finding content, creating it, and watching readers enjoy it.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the role of the printed magazine today?

Richard Lentinello: Print is very welcoming. For a while, people were reading magazines online, but I have since heard a lot of people have gotten bored with that. A lot of people are working from home now and they’re on their computers all day. When they want to relax they don’t want to sit in front of a screen again and read. They want to go sit in their backyard in their favorite chair with a print copy, their favorite beverage alongside them, and enjoy a magazine, To have something tangible in their hands. 

I think print may make a resurgence. I think a lot of younger readers are starting to come around to the benefits of having a tangible product in their hands as opposed to just reading it from a screen. Where that will go, no one really knows, but until then we want to keep publishing and see what happens. 

Samir Husni: Do you think that Crankshaft is the way of the future for automotive magazines here in America? You mentioned earlier the quality of the British car magazines and how you see Crankshaft as along those lines and geared more toward the reader and quality content; is this a glimpse into the future?

Richard Lentinello: I think it is, I really do. And it’s true about the British magazines, the quality throughout is excellent. I’ve been reading British car magazines since 1975 when I used to go to the newsstand at the Pan Am building in Manhattan. 

I saw this British magazine called “Thoroughbred & Classic Cars” and I took it home on the subway back to Brooklyn and I couldn’t believe the quality. I wondered why American magazines weren’t like that. And they’ve just been getting better and better while the American magazines have been going downhill for a long time. 

I think it’s the way they treat people, but I do think that more magazines will come out. I hear of others in the process of being created now, along the same lines as Crankshaft. Bimonthly or quarterly, higher quality, higher-priced; it remains to be seen where that goes.

Samir Husni: What was your reaction when that first issue of Crankshaft rolled off the presses?

Richard Lentinello: It is nerve-wracking. When the truck pulled up to my house with three pallets of magazines that I stuck in my garage, for a while I didn’t want to open them. (Laughs) I told myself, okay, I’m going to find all the mistakes; I’m going to find something that I don’t like. So I stood there and I opened them and it was just like when I did one of my coffee table books, you want to look at it, but you also don’t, because you don’t want to see all the mistakes. (Laughs again)

But once you go through it, it’s very satisfying and rewarding. But the best part is hearing other people tell you how much they love it. That’s what I really like about it. Every time I open it, I see something I don’t like or I should have changed, maybe a font here or there should have been a little larger, this picture should have been a little bigger, little things that no one else would notice. It’s like the artist who sees a mistake in his painting. Only he or she sees it. But the satisfaction I get is from readers enjoying it. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you’ve accomplished with Crankshaft?

Richard Lentinello: I hope I’m still around a year from now and can keep this magazine going, because it is an expensive proposition. Hopefully by then we’ll have some advertisers onboard to help support and fund it. And by next year I hope to have a good amount of subscribers that will help us keep it going. 

There is interest from some other people who want to invest in it. I’m holding off for now; I want them to see two or three issues to show them what we can do. I’m not interested in taking money from investors unless I know I have an honest, viable product that has the beginnings of a solid foundation. We’ll see what happens next year, but that’s what my goal is. To make sure that we’re still in business and subscriptions are still coming in and advertising dollars are starting to come in. 

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

Richard Lentinello: The magazine is a very serious type of publication. We don’t use any slang; we don’t go into politics or anything like that. We focus on automotive history. That’s what it’s all about. And we try and stay focused on quality photography. Some of the writers who write for Crankshaft are some of the best in the industry. And we’re very careful about what words are chosen; we never write down to the readers or over their heads or anything like that. We try and write as though it were a friendly conversation we’re having with the reader. And that’s where we want to stay. A magazine that everybody likes. 

Whether you like American or foreign cars, pre-war or post-war, whatever you like, you’ll find something in every issue of Crankshaft that you will enjoy. 

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

Richard Lentinello: Besides my three rescue dogs? (Laughs) I’ve been creating magazines since 1987 and it’s what I love. To me, it’s not a job. I’m one of the fortunate people who turned his hobby into a career. I just love the whole process of going out there and interviewing people, photographing cars, writing stories, and putting it all together in a really interesting and engaging, well-designed package. And then hearing the reader say, wow, that’s a great magazine, I love it. That’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evening?

Richard Lentinello: What I do sometimes is I go into my garage and work on my cars; I’m restoring some old cars. I read other magazines, mostly the British car magazines. And sometimes I write at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. in the evening. But I really unwind by sitting down with a paper and pen and planning out the next two or three issues. I think of all the cars I’ve seen at the different shows and how I want to include them in the next issue or the issue after that. 

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

Richard Lentinello: All the things that float around in my head, such as is the magazine going to take off? Am I really going to be able to get advertisers to help pay the print bill? Can I keep it going? Those things keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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FabUplus: After An 18-Month Hiatus, The Lifestyle Magazine Advocating Body Positive Health & Fitness For Women With Curves Relaunches – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Patricia DeLuca, Editorial Director… 

March 22, 2021

“As great as social media is and as great as having a digital magazine is, it still doesn’t feel like a total representation until you have something in print. Something you can have on your kitchen table or your coffee table and say this is what I read. And that’s missing when you have it only in digital.” Patricia DeLuca…

Body positivity for all sizes, that is the mission for FabUplus magazine. FabUplus is a health, fitness and lifestyle magazine dedicated to women with curves. The brand went on an 18-month hiatus and is now back in print with a fresh new relaunch. According to editorial director, Patricia DeLuca, the brand’s goal is to empower, encourage and inspire women to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter what their size. 

I spoke with Patricia recently and we talked about the brand’s strong belief that size does not define one’s health and fitness level. Patricia stressed that FabUplus celebrates a woman’s inner curves and the unique editorial content relates to the plus-sized community, engaging and informing women to be fit, healthy and curvy at the same time. Patricia said watch for the Spring 2021 issue, which is scheduled to hit newsstands this week.

Mr. Magazine™ will definitely be watching for it.

And now please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Patricia DeLuca, editorial director, FabUplus.

But first the sound-bites:

On publishing during a pandemic: I’m still asking myself that question. How did we get through this? The decision to relaunch FabUplus happened sometime in early 2020. And it was the publisher, Christopher Salute, who really persevered. He felt there was a need for FabUplus to return to print, and I agreed with him. It was doing okay digitally, but there was a need there. There are plenty of publications that are doing well digitally, but there’s still something about grabbing a magazine and feeling it in your hands.

On the magazine’s competitive set today: There are other magazines out there; Maddie Jones with Plus magazine, she’s been doing this for a really long time and she brings fashion and glamour, all that to the shoot, and we want that as well, but we also want to represent different types of beauty. There’s beauty in strength and we want to focus on wellness and fitness. There are women who go to the gym for their mental health, not just to fit into a size smaller. 

On challenges she might face with FabUplus: I see two challenges. One is with advertisers. I don’t know how comfortable some advertisers will feel about working with a company that’s very body positive. We do represent women of all shapes. There are some companies that like the idea of body positivity, but then if someone is above a size 24, they may say whoa, we don’t know about that. So, I’m hoping we can work with companies and advertisers that walk the walk and will support  a brand that supports body positivity in every size.

On relaunching with a print component: As great as social media is and as great as having a digital magazine is, it still doesn’t feel like a total representation until you have something in print. Something you can have on your kitchen table or your coffee table and say this is what I read. And that’s missing when you have it only in digital.

On any chance they’ll increase the frequency from just quarterly: For right now, it’s quarterly. We’ll see how it goes. We still need to build our following. We had a strong following back when FabUplus was still in print, and when they took the hiatus, the brand definitely felt it. But when we returned, we got a welcoming return, people were glad to see us back on the newsstands. But I also think we need to re-earn our followers’ trust again, to show them we’re not going away again, that we’re here to stay.

On anything she’d like to add: I would like to thank our supporters for making FabUplus a part of their everyday lives. We hear them online and we definitely heard them when we were in print. We’ll keep championing body positivity as long as people want to see it. And we feel like this is something that is here to stay.

On what makes her tick and click: I feel like I always have to search for the new thing; what’s going on. Part of my every day checklist is going onto social media and seeing what’s new and in the news, which may not be the healthiest thing, but it’s something I’ve always done, whether it’s been a newspaper, magazine, or online. It’s what is happening and how can my experience help my community.

On whether she enjoys the business side or the editorial side better: I knew editorial was a part of the pie chart, but placement was very valuable too. And I learned so much about publishing as a whole by doing the field rep job. I knew when we had great issues and people were really proud of it, but sometimes they didn’t sell. And maybe it just wasn’t a strong cover or something. You could have all of this great content inside, but if the cover wasn’t compelling, it wouldn’t sell.

On how she unwinds at the end of the day: I have a dog, so I make sure he’s taken care of. Since I’ve been working from home, he’s been by my side and I think there will be real separation anxiety if we ever do return to the office. (Laughs) I spend time with my dog and our gym just reopened in our local neighborhood, so I go there, but there’s only five people or so there and we’re all spread out.

On what keeps her up at night: It’s always going to be deadlines. Even with my day job at License Global. We recently had a relatively smooth deadline and then I thought instantly about the next one. Once the deadline is done, then there is that in-between time, leaving the printer and going to the printer, and once it’s on stands, there’s that space or that timing where I’m thinking, did we get it right; did it look good; are we going to hear back from this person; is it going to sell.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Patricia DeLuca, editorial director, FabUplus.

Samir Husni: You’ve been in publishing for quite some time now, from your days at Time Out New York to today and FabUplus. How have you handled publishing during a pandemic? 

Patricia DeLuca: I’m still asking myself that question. How did we get through this? The decision to relaunch FabUplus happened sometime in early 2020. And it was the publisher, Christopher Salute, who really persevered. He felt there was a need for FabUplus to return to print, and I agreed with him. It was doing okay digitally, but there was a need there. There are plenty of publications that are doing well digitally, but there’s still something about grabbing a magazine and feeling it in your hands. 

With the relaunch, Christopher also wanted to make sure that it came back very strong and to do that we needed some help. So we relied on other people who were in print publishing as well. We had a guest editor for the relaunch, Renee Cafaro, who is the U.S. editor of a plus size magazine called Slink. She was very generous with her time and her connections as well to help us relaunch with the Winter issue. 

And we did shoots during a pandemic. One shoot was a classic shoot; it wasn’t through an iPad or an iPhone; we had people onset. Everyone that was there complied with the CDC guidelines, so it was a very closed set.

Despite all that, I don’t think anyone would have known we were at limited resources because of COVID, but I thought it was a very successful issue. The cover looked great. And this was something that everyone truly believed needed to be done in the market. 

Samir Husni: You’ve been involved with other launches, such as King and Rides Magazines for Harris Publications, who at one time also published a plus size magazine called Mode. Who would you consider your competitive set today?

Patricia DeLuca: I think Mode was very ahead of its time. The photo shoots were gorgeous; the clothing was all high-end at a time when most women were still trying to find where to buy clothing for themselves. One of the articles I wrote for Time Out New York was about where to find plus size fashion in New York City because people who visit are from everywhere but New York and chances are they’re not a size six, so where do you go if you need something? 

And King magazine was really championing a beauty that wasn’t recognized as well with Black women. And the body types that weren’t being represented in other men’s magazines like Maxim and FHM. And it was great to work on the magazine.

There’s a real need. There’s a lot of talk about body positivity and how everybody should be addressing it, but there isn’t really one particular brand that’s going to represent it and represent it well. And not do it for lip service or maybe they’re feeling pressure from advertisers or somewhere else higher up. This is something we’ve all lived with. There are different levels of privilege; there’s body privilege. There are people who have had doors opened for them because of how their body looks. And I can speak from experience about that. I’ve been fatter; I’ve been thinner and I’ve seen those differences.  

I think with FabUplus coming back to the market, it’s a return to that representation. That yes, there’s all this glad talk about body positivity and about having representation; other magazines get big pops when they feature somebody not classically suited for their magazine. But there isn’t one magazine that shows different body types on the regular and I think FabUplus fits in. 

There are other magazines out there; Maddie Jones with Plus magazine, she’s been doing this for a really long time and she brings fashion and glamour, all that to the shoot, and we want that as well, but we also want to represent different types of beauty. There’s beauty in strength and we want to focus on wellness and fitness. There are women who go to the gym for their mental health, not just to fit into a size smaller. So, we want to focus on that. And we really want to be inclusive and we’re hoping down the line that FabUplus becomes more and more inclusive. 

Samir Husni: What do you think will be your biggest challenge with FabUplus?

Patricia DeLuca: I see two challenges. One is with advertisers. I don’t know how comfortable some advertisers will feel about working with a company that’s very body positive. We do represent women of all shapes. There are some companies that like the idea of body positivity, but then if someone is above a size 24, they may say whoa, we don’t know about that. So, I’m hoping we can work with companies and advertisers that walk the walk and will support  a brand that supports body positivity in every size. 

And then also the plus sized community. It’s been very supportive, but like every community there is always gatekeepers, and whenever we do something wrong we will hear about it through social media. We’re under the umbrella of Bold Holdings, so there’s FabUplus, Bold Magazine, which is more of a literary publication, and then Strutter, which is a little more pop culture. So we’re three brands that really don’t fit into what the plus sized community is right now, which is very strong on influencers and very strong on fashion. We want to bring in all the other things that encompass plus size life and culture. 

And I’m editorial director for all three, but I’ve been working with FabUplus more as editor in chief because there was more of a need, since we’re in print and I have print experience. We were trying to not only relaunch, but also slowly rebrand the issue because we need to freshen up the layouts and that’s not an overnight thing. It’s going to take some time. We’re currently working on our summer issue and there will be some tweaks to that as well. Hopefully by year’s end we’ll have a solid look that’s true to our brand.

Samir Husni: Why did the brand feel it was important to come back in print?

Patricia DeLuca: As great as social media is and as great as having a digital magazine is, it still doesn’t feel like a total representation until you have something in print. Something you can have on your kitchen table or your coffee table and say this is what I read. And that’s missing when you have it only in digital.

And there’s something very private about digital as well, everything is on your phone or on your laptop, so you have this community that’s very small. But with print, it feels more stable. There’s this feeling of realness when you get a print edition of something. It feels very official. And to invest in printing and design, all these elements that come together to make a print magazine, it feels like that movement is very real. And it’s not just a hashtag. Hashtags do have power, we’ve seen it, but this leap from the screen onto the page is not a backward move at all. There will be a digital and social presence, but we felt it was really important to have that print aspect too. We want to be more than something that just lives on your screen, we want to be part of your everyday life in real life. We’re a quarterly magazine and we want to be on your tables for a long while. 

Samir Husni: Any chance you’ll increase the frequency?

Patricia DeLuca: For right now, it’s quarterly. We’ll see how it goes. We still need to build our following. We had a strong following back when FabUplus was still in print, and when they took the hiatus, the brand definitely felt it. But when we returned, we got a welcoming return, people were glad to see us back on the newsstands. But I also think we need to re-earn our followers’ trust again, to show them we’re not going away again, that we’re here to stay. 

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

Patricia DeLuca: I would like to thank our supporters for making FabUplus a part of their everyday lives. We hear them online and we definitely heard them when we were in print. We’ll keep championing body positivity as long as people want to see it. And we feel like this is something that is here to stay. 

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

Patricia DeLuca: I feel like I always have to search for the new thing; what’s going on. Part of my every day checklist is going onto social media and seeing what’s new and in the news, which may not be the healthiest thing, but it’s something I’ve always done, whether it’s been a newspaper, magazine, or online. It’s what is happening and how can my experience help my community. Whether my community is within my household or a circle of friends or my work team. So I guess it’s service, in one way or another. What’s happening and how can I help.

Samir Husni: You’ve been on both sides, business and editorial. Which side do you enjoy more?

Patricia DeLuca: If you would have asked me that when I first started out, I would have said editorial. When I was a field rep at Time Out New York, I had a lot of outdoor time; I was outdoors for half the day, making sure the magazine had great positioning, the posters we used to print had prime placement. 

And talk about a gradual change, I would go to newsstand reps and at first no one wanted anything to do with Time Out, I was a pest asking how many copies they sold. And then weeks later, they would ask me if I had another poster, and in a weird way, working in circulation, I knew when a magazine was going to do well because I knew when the newsstand owners would ask me for more posters to get more copies, I would be the liaison between our circulation team and them But when random people would ask me about the magazine, I knew it was popular.

I knew editorial was a part of the pie chart, but placement was very valuable too. And I learned so much about publishing as a whole by doing the field rep job. I knew when we had great issues and people were really proud of it, but sometimes they didn’t sell. And maybe it just wasn’t a strong cover or something. You could have all of this great content inside, but if the cover wasn’t compelling, it wouldn’t sell. I will always champion the editorial, but I learned a lot working in circulation. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind at the end of the day?

Patricia DeLuca: I have a dog, so I make sure he’s taken care of. Since I’ve been working from home, he’s been by my side and I think there will be real separation anxiety if we ever do return to the office. (Laughs) I spend time with my dog and our gym just reopened in our local neighborhood, so I go there, but there’s only five people or so there and we’re all spread out. 

Going back to what I said about the community of FabUplus readers who go to the gym for mental health and clarity, that’s why I go too, because at the end of the day I just need an hour to not think about deadlines and layouts, all the things that tend to take up space in my mind. 

And then just catching up with friends and family. I’m on my phone constantly, because if it’s not through social media, I’m on the phone. Once I get away from my screen, I try to have some Facetime with real people. 

And I’m here with my parents as well, so I’m checking in with them constantly to make sure they’re okay. Some of my spare time recently, between my day job, which is with License Global, when I had down time, it was looking for a place for my parents to be vaccinated. It’s tough to get appointments. 

And I do enjoy picking out magazines; I pick up a magazine to read it because I enjoy it. I truly love magazines. There is something about magazines that has always intrigued me. And I try to hold off on the glass of wine until the weekend.(Laughs)

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

Patricia DeLuca: It’s always going to be deadlines. Even with my day job at License Global. We recently had a relatively smooth deadline and then I thought instantly about the next one. Once the deadline is done, then there is that in-between time, leaving the printer and going to the printer, and once it’s on stands, there’s that space or that timing where I’m thinking, did we get it right; did it look good; are we going to hear back from this person; is it going to sell.

I’m thinking about that right now with FabUplus because it’s being shipped to Barnes & Noble and my thing is will it have good placement. I know the last issue did. But will we continue to have that? And how do we keep this going? And while it may keep me up at night, it is something that I’m enjoying. 

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Andrea Barbalich, Editor In Chief, The Week Junior US, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “There Is Something Special And Magical About Turning The Pages Of A Magazine.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

March 15, 2021

“The children save them, they’re proud of their collection. They save them in special folders. They send us pictures of themselves reading the magazine in all kinds of places. They’re on a walk or they’re reading with their dog or they’re hanging upside down on the monkey bars. They show us through these pictures and their words how much they love the physical aspect of reading the magazine.” Andrea Barbalich on the printed edition of The Week Junior… 

With eye-catching photos and engaging articles, The Week Junior US brings everything from current events to interviews with inspiring people to puzzles and activities for the child between the ages of 8 and 14 to the pages between its covers. Celebrating one year in print, the brand launched precisely at the moment the world was shutting down due to the pandemic.

Andrea Barbalich is the editor in chief of The Week Junior. I spoke with Andrea recently and we talked about the particular challenges that launching a brand new newsmagazine at the onset of a pandemic presented, especially one for children. About how the brand has to present its stories clearly and concisely for kids, bringing in that divine element that the adult version of The Week has always been known for: truth and an unbiased reporting that is both refreshing and desperately needed in today’s time of opinion journalism.

The Week Junior is subscription-based and promises to speak directly to kids ages 8-14 in a way that is truthful, clear, and age-appropriate. And if its first year of success is any indication, Andrea said the brand has approximately 80,000 subscribers, the brand is keeping that promise.

So now please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Andrea Barbalich, editor in chief, The Week Junior US.

On publishing a weekly print and digital brand during a pandemic: It’s a challenge to launch a magazine anytime and to be launching a weekly newsmagazine is another level of difficulty, and doing it during a pandemic added another layer of complexity. We launched the magazine at the precise moment that the world was shutting down due to the Coronavirus. In fact, it was declared a pandemic the week prior to our first deadline. It was definitely challenging, but the way it turned out the timing actually couldn’t have been better, because at that moment when children’s lives were changing dramatically, they needed a guide to understand what was going on around them. 

On the challenges she faced and how she overcame them: We’ve never had a slow news week at The Week Junior. We launched during the pandemic and this was a difficult story for adults to understand, so explaining it to children was a challenge. Shortly after that George Floyd was killed and the protests for racial justice began around the country. That was very difficult to explain as well. Right after that we moved into a very divisive political campaign, followed by a chaotic aftermath of the election. Then there was the riot at the capitol and there was an impeachment. So there has been no shortage of difficult stories to explain to children. I think that the way that we’ve been able to handle them is a big part of the success and a big part of the reason that we were able to gain the trust of children and their parents so quickly. 

On the role she thinks print has played in the success story of The Week Junior: Children are looking for something interesting and wonderful to read. They are not as focused on the platform as adults are. It’s our mission to engage children and we’re fulfilling that mission. But I do think there’s something very special about receiving the magazine in the mailbox every week. It is a treat for the child; it’s something special that comes to their home with their name on it. And it’s just for them.

On whether the magazine has exceeded expectations: We have exceeded expectations for the brand. We are at about 80,000 subscribers now, so we’re ahead of projection. The price as you mentioned may be considered high for a magazine, but we believe that we have quality content and command that kind of price. So far parents are willing and eager to pay for it, the pay up rate and the renewal rate. They think that it is a significant benefit to their children and that it is a value.

On what she would hope to tell someone that the brand had accomplished one year from now: 2020 was our year to launch and establish the brand. We’re looking at 2021 as a year to grow and amplify the brand. With the vaccines happening now and more people getting vaccinated and children being able to return to school, their lives are going to change again. We hope that as we look toward the end of this year that things will be going somewhat back to normal for children, even if they’re not able to be vaccinated until early next year. Teachers are being vaccinated and schools will hopefully return to something closer to what they were.

On some people wondering how a children’s magazine can make sense of the world when many adult magazines fail to do so: We actually hear from many parents. In our reader survey we found that 67 percent of parents are reading The Week Junior along with their children. They send us letters about how much they love the magazine. The Week Junior is unbiased, that’s one of our core values and pillars. We don’t take sides. We report the news, but we don’t take sides. And a lot of parents appreciate that because it’s difficult. Many other media outlets are perceived as having some kind of bias and so parents really enjoy reading The Week Junior and having their children read it for this reason.

On anything she’d like to add: I would just like to say thank you for your interest in our brand. And thank you to every child, parent and teacher in the United States who has told us how much they love this magazine. We’re very excited about what the future holds and looking forward to continuing to be the experts on this incredible generation of children.

On what makes her tick and click: I would say my passion for this brand and my responsibility to my team and to Dennis Publishing and everyone who has supported us so incredibly during the first year. And our readers. The children and their parents who make this job so rewarding. I love hearing from them. I love reading what they love about the magazine. There could be no better motivation than knowing that you’re making a difference in the life of a child.

On how she unwinds in the evenings: I love to cook a great meal while listening to music and sipping a glass of wine. I’ve also found that during the pandemic when in-person contact has been so limited, conversations have become incredibly meaningful. So a chat with my son or a friend makes my night. And now that the days are getting longer I’m looking forward to getting outside for a walk or a bike ride in the evenings too.

On what keeps her up at night: Thoughts about what more I could bring to assure that kids feel informed and appreciated and empowered. And that this magazine is something special for them during a difficult time in their lives and in history. We’ve played an important role in children’s lives. We launched at the precise moment that their lives changed.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Andrea Barbalich, editor in chief, The Week Junior US.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the approaching first anniversary of The Week Junior US. Tell me about publishing a weekly print and digital brand during a pandemic. 

Andrea Barbalich: It’s a challenge to launch a magazine anytime and to be launching a weekly newsmagazine is another level of difficulty, and doing it during a pandemic added another layer of complexity. We launched the magazine at the precise moment that the world was shutting down due to the Coronavirus. In fact, it was declared a pandemic the week prior to our first deadline. And one day before that first deadline our office went 100 percent remote. So we have never shipped an issue of this magazine from the office. Many of our staff have never met each other in person. 

Many of our plans for the magazine had to be ripped up a few days beforehand. We had been planning a very celebratory cover and we realized that we would need to change the cover to address the Coronavirus head on in order to keep our promise to children, that we would bring them the news of the world and help them make sense of it. So we created a new cover three days before deadline. And that turned out to be an iconic cover with a red heart and the cover line “Acts of Kindness.” 

Some other things that we were planning for the magazine we also had to change. For example, we were planning on a sports section and sports were shut down. We couldn’t cover movie openings and museum exhibit openings because they were all cancelled. Some of the activities that we had planned to write about for children, even something like hosting a sleepover, they couldn’t do that anymore. 

We had to change our plans for the magazine at the same time that our readers’ lives were changing. They suddenly couldn’t go to school in person; their activities were cancelled and they couldn’t see their extended families and their friends. 

It was definitely challenging, but the way it turned out the timing actually couldn’t have been better, because at that moment when children’s lives were changing dramatically, they needed a guide to understand what was going on around them. And we were able to deliver on that promise at a time when they needed something like that more than they ever had before. 

Samir Husni: Part of what you wrote in welcoming readers to the magazine was that you wanted to keep kids turning the pages. With everything that was going on in the country in 2020, from the pandemic to the social unrest to the elections, as an editor and a curator for children, what were some of the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?

Andrea Barbalich: It’s our mission to deliver the news to children no matter what that news is. And we have a very specific way that we do that. We are always truthful; we are direct; we don’t talk down to children, we respect their intelligence; and we’re very sensitive and kind in how we approach our content. And you’re exactly right, we do want to keep them turning the pages. So we want to inform, entertain and delight them. And when there are difficult things to be discussed, we want to do that in a way that benefits them. 

We’ve never had a slow news week at The Week Junior. We launched during the pandemic and this was a difficult story for adults to understand, so explaining it to children was a challenge. Shortly after that George Floyd was killed and the protests for racial justice began around the country. That was very difficult to explain as well. Right after that we moved into a very divisive political campaign, followed by a chaotic aftermath of the election. Then there was the riot at the capitol and there was an impeachment. So there has been no shortage of difficult stories to explain to children. 

I think that the way that we’ve been able to handle them is a big part of the success and a big part of the reason that we were able to gain the trust of children and their parents so quickly. We’re asking a lot of parents. We’re asking them to allow us as a newsmagazine to come into their home every week. And right away they could see for themselves how honestly and sensitively we discussed difficult topics. And also that we were about  more than breaking news and politics. We were also bringing the delight and the wonder and the joy of the world to children. And we were giving them something wonderful to read. Every parent wants their child to love reading, and to be engaged and involved and knowledgeable about the world. And to learn critical thinking skills and to be able to have their own opinions. 

So we quickly became a partner to the parents in explaining difficult topics because we were able to help parents foster discussions in the home. We became a guide to the parents in talking to their children about things that have never really happened before in the world. We quickly became a companion to the children and the parents and something that they loved having in their home.

Samir Husni: What role do you think print has played in the success story of The Week Junior?

Andrea Barbalich: Children are looking for something interesting and wonderful to read. They are not as focused on the platform as adults are. It’s our mission to engage children and we’re fulfilling that mission. But I do think there’s something very special about receiving the magazine in the mailbox every week. It is a treat for the child; it’s something special that comes to their home with their name on it. And it’s just for them. 

We have heard from them and their parents that they race to the mailbox every week to get it. They can’t wait to get their hands on it. The fact that it’s print adds to the feeling that it’s something special. And there is something special and magical about turning the pages of a magazine. And the children save them, they’re proud of their collection. They save them in special folders. They send us pictures of themselves reading the magazine in all kinds of places. They’re on a walk or they’re reading with their dog or they’re hanging upside down on the monkey bars. They show us through these pictures and their words how much they love the physical aspect of reading the magazine.  

Samir Husni: The subscription price is not cheap, and I know you were forced to go subscription only because of most of the stores closing during the pandemic. Are there any plans to go to newsstands or are you happy with the subscription only level? Do you feel you have exceeded the expectations for the brand?

Andrea Barbalich: We have exceeded expectations for the brand. We are at about 80,000 subscribers now, so we’re ahead of projection. The price as you mentioned may be considered high for a magazine, but we believe that we have quality content and command that kind of price. So far parents are willing and eager to pay for it, the pay up rate and the renewal rate. They think that it is a significant benefit to their children and that it is a value. 

We do not have any plans right now to be on the newsstand. We’re happy with our subscription model. When we launched we were not counting on newsstand revenue, so we didn’t lose anything. We were always going to be primarily a subscription model. 

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, celebrating the brand’s second anniversary, what would you hope to tell me?

Andrea Barbalich: 2020 was our year to launch and establish the brand. We’re looking at 2021 as a year to grow and amplify the brand. With the vaccines happening now and more people getting vaccinated and children being able to return to school, their lives are going to change again. We hope that as we look toward the end of this year that things will be going somewhat back to normal for children, even if they’re not able to be vaccinated until early next year. Teachers are being vaccinated and schools will hopefully return to something closer to what they were. 

What we plan to do is continue bringing the news of the world to children every week as we have been, no matter what happens. We don’t know what will happen, but that’s one of our great strengths, our agility. And our ability to move quickly, make decisions quickly, and meet the needs of children  and parents and teachers no matter what those needs are. So, we’ll continue to grow and evolve in everything we do, in both editorial and marketing, to be a companion and a resource and a valued part of children’s lives. 

Samir Husni: People may wonder how a children’s magazine can make sense of the world when many adult magazines fail to do so.

Andrea Barbalich: We actually hear from many parents. In our reader survey we found that 67 percent of parents are reading The Week Junior along with their children. They send us letters about how much they love the magazine. The Week Junior is unbiased, that’s one of our core values and pillars. We don’t take sides. We report the news, but we don’t take sides. And a lot of parents appreciate that because it’s difficult. Many other media outlets are perceived as having some kind of bias and so parents really enjoy reading The Week Junior and having their children read it for this reason. 

A lot of people tell us we’d have a more informed population if everyone read The Week Junior. (Laughs) We do have a way of distilling events down to their essence and explaining things, and because it’s for an audience of children between the ages of 8 and 14, we have to explain things very clearly and very concisely. And there’s a real art to it. When a child finishes reading one of our articles, we want them to feel informed; we don’t want them to feel nuanced. We want them to feel that something they may have been confused about is now clear to them. We are able to articulate things and bring them down to their essence in a way that is extremely helpful to the child.

We have certainly been challenged on that over the past year. If you look back at the news cycle and how relentless it was and how difficult many of the things that happened were, difficult enough for even adults to understand. 

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

Andrea Barbalich: I would just like to say thank you for your interest in our brand. And thank you to every child, parent and teacher in the United States who has told us how much they love this magazine. We’re very excited about what the future holds and looking forward to continuing to be the experts on this incredible generation of children. 

I’d also like to thank my very talented creative editorial team and my colleagues throughout Dennis Publishing who have been so incredibly supportive in the past year.

And I have to mention the tradition of trusted news with The Week magazine. It has been a trusted source for news in the United States for 20 years and we want to bring that same trusted news to children in a way that’s appropriate for them. 

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

Andrea Barbalich: I would say my passion for this brand and my responsibility to my team and to Dennis Publishing and everyone who has supported us so incredibly during the first year. And our readers. The children and their parents who make this job so rewarding. I love hearing from them. I love reading what they love about the magazine. There could be no better motivation than knowing that you’re making a difference in the life of a child.

Samir Husni: How do unwind in the evenings?

Andrea Barbalich: I love to cook a great meal while listening to music and sipping a glass of wine. I’ve also found that during the pandemic when in-person contact has been so limited, conversations have become incredibly meaningful. So a chat with my son or a friend makes my night. And now that the days are getting longer I’m looking forward to getting outside for a walk or a bike ride in the evenings too.

And then, because I can’t help it, I’m always keeping an eye on the news and what’s happening in the world and thinking about what we’ll cover in that issue of The Week Junior. Working on a weekly, there’s really no time that I’m not doing that. I’m very fortunate to love what I do, so there’s a lot of joy and satisfaction in even the longest days. 

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

Andrea Barbalich: Thoughts about what more I could bring to assure that kids feel informed and appreciated and empowered. And that this magazine is something special for them during a difficult time in their lives and in history. We’ve played an important role in children’s lives. We launched at the precise moment that their lives changed. 

The magazine and our staff and our readers have been following this unforeseen path together for a year now. So I’m always thinking about what more could I do to make this magazine as great as it can be. To make it a treasured part of a child’s life.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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Brian Braiker, President & Editor In Chief, Brooklyn Magazine To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “There’s Something Almost Premium About A Print Product That Outlasts Even Its Own Digital Counterparts.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 26, 2021

“I think print means different things for different people. We are going to try to do a print product. There’s something wonderful about the tactile, something more permanent about print than digital. It’s harder to do, so you have to give it more thought. And it’s less disposable.” Brian Braiker…

A Mr. Magazine™ Re-Launch Story…

“A new Brooklyn Magazine, under new ownership and new management, with a new sensibility–and during a pandemic.” The opening paragraph of the editorial for the new Brooklyn Magazine says it all. Written by one of its new owners, Brain Braiker, the magazine has been revived and revamped and is almost ready to hit the marketplace.

I spoke with Brian, who many of you will remember is the former editor in chief of Ad Age, and we talked about this purchase he and his business partner, digital media executive Michael Bassik, have made. And during a pandemic no less. Starting out as digital, Brian said he and Michael were basically waiting for the right time to bring the brand back to print. And it looks like September 2021 is the right time. Brian promised that Brooklyn Magazine relaunches with a modern look and feel and will celebrate the communities, culture and commerce of Brooklyn.

It sounds exciting and long overdue. Mr. Magazine™ says welcome to the brand new Brooklyn Magazine. And now, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Braiker, President & Editor In Chief.

But first the sound-bites:

On what made him decide to buy and revive the print magazine Brooklyn: This was sort of a serendipitous occasion. I teamed up with a partner who really approached me with this idea after I had left Ad Age. I was thinking about what to do next; I had been at various publications, as you pointed out, all up and down the masthead. I didn’t know that I wanted to go back and be a beat reporter somewhere, covering the industry for someone else.

On launching as digital first and now bringing a print quarterly into the mix: We’re looking to do a print run in September as sort of a proof of concept. If it does work, we’ll take it quarterly or semi-annually. We haven’t decided yet; we’re going to see how the first one goes.

On his mission and vision for the new Brooklyn Magazine: The mandate now is, as we’re relaunching during a pandemic, New York’s small businesses are hobbled. There were accounts early on that people were leaving New York and New York was dead and all that. Of course, we don’t buy that for a second. Brooklyn is scrappy; Brooklyn is a city of strivers and creators. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see who stays and how they rebuild. We’re going to be feeling the economic impacts of this pandemic for years. And we want to be there to watch that, chronicle it, and participate in this rebirth and rebuilding of Brooklyn.

On what he thinks the role of print is in today’s digital age: I think print means different things for different people. We are going to try to do a print product. There’s something wonderful about the tactile, something more permanent about print than digital. It’s harder to do, so you have to give it more thought. And it’s less disposable.

On changing his plans for launching the print magazine from Spring to September: We’re totally improvising as we go along here. We’re trying to figure out the economics of it; we’re trying to crack the business model. What’s the expression? We’re trying to put fuel in the plane as it’s flying. (Laughs) Change the tires on the bus as it’s rolling.

On the biggest unexpected challenge he’s had to face: We’re in the middle of it right now. We’re still trying to figure out how to build a model that generates enough revenue and that’s very difficult. So we’re working on that. I think we’re leaning into various potential revenue streams and building that up. One of the things that we’ve struggled with a little bit is getting our tech stack together and the email service provider and the membership technology; we’re going to launch a membership program, cracking that code and figuring out what the right offerings for a membership would be. It’s all of that. So, we’re in the middle of it now.

On what makes him tick and click: My favorite part is being finished. (Laughs) I love having the thing. At Ad Age, we put out a magazine every two weeks, before that I was at Digiday for a number of years, those are more on the B to B side of the business. I’ve been in mainstream media as well. One of my favorite things to do is interview people; I love doing the podcast a lot. And having a platform gives you access to people that are engaging and interesting  and doing amazing things. So, that’s a highlight, just meeting people and talking to them and interviewing them.

On the biggest positive surprise he’s had: There’s a lot of love for the brand. A lot of people remember Brooklyn Magazine; a lot of people are excited to have it back and that obviously puts a bit of pressure on us to do it right. But there’s so much love for not just the borough and the brand that’s Brooklyn itself, but Brooklyn Magazine has a lot of goodwill toward it. And it’s been really positive and uplifting to see people not only rooting for us, but rooting for our neighbors and the city at large. That’s been lovely.

On what motivates him to get out of bed in the mornings: I do have a passion for Brooklyn, and I have a passion for creating and telling stories and telling people’s stories, and arts and culture and the way cultures are expressed through a diversity of voices and lenses. What gets me going is living in a community where I’m also working, in a sense, for the community and becoming more deeply ingrained in that community.

On how he unwinds in the evening: We just binge-watched “Call My Agent,” which is a French show on Netflix, which was really just amazing and I’m sad that I’m done with it. During the pandemic it’s been hard to really get out and do anything. Now that it’s cold and snowy all the time, then end of the day is usually a glass of something and a screen of a different size with something streaming on it. When it’s warmer I do love riding my bike around the city. 

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) Money. Securing a future for my kids that is meaningful to them and they feel safe and provided for. And I’m not working until my very last day because I’m trying to make ends meet. And fear of death, just like everything else. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Braiker, president, editor in chief, Brooklyn Magazine. 

Samir Husni: For someone who was an observer of the industry, editor in chief of Ad Age, working with the industry on several different publications; what made you decide to buy and revive a print magazine, Brooklyn, in this day and age?

Brian Braiker: (Laughs) Have I learned nothing? This was sort of a serendipitous occasion. I teamed up with a partner who really approached me with this idea after I had left Ad Age. I was thinking about what to do next; I had been at various publications, as you pointed out, all up and down the masthead. I didn’t know that I wanted to go back and be a beat reporter somewhere, covering the industry for someone else. 

I started consulting a little bit; I was working with some big tech platforms, helping them with understanding the marketing community a little bit and also writing for them. They don’t really have great writers in the tech platforms. (Laughs) I was working on white papers for them and stuff. 

Michael Bassik approached me with this idea of acquiring and reviving Brooklyn Magazine. And it was really exciting to me. The idea of being an entrepreneur and having an ownership stake in something for the first time really appealed to me. And I do understand the business and I understand how hard the business is, so I wasn’t naïve about going into it. I’m certainly not going into it with any blinders on. 

It was a weird time with the pandemic; it was in full effect. We were in lockdown. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for 20 years now and I love the borough and there’s nothing really here that does what we’re trying to do. It was a combination of factors. It was the right time; the right place; the right partner; the right subject matter; and the right position, so far as having an ownership stake.

Samir Husni: Take me through your roadmap. You launched as digital first; you had the website; you had the podcast. And now you’re bringing a print quarterly magazine into the mix. 

Brian Braiker: We’re looking to do a print run in September as sort of a proof of concept. If it does work, we’ll take it quarterly or semi-annually. We haven’t decided yet; we’re going to see how the first one goes. 

To rewind a bit, Brooklyn Magazine had about a 10 year run under a previous ownership. It was a glossy quarterly. I think it had a monthly run for a little bit. It spun out this whole events business and that’s where there business model ended up being. They went dormant for various reasons, more or less defunct about a year and a half ago. So it existed already. It’s not like we started something from scratch. When we acquired it, we acquired the archives, the URL, the social footprint, and most valuably the email distribution list that they had built up overtime. 

We didn’t acquire any of the debt; we didn’t acquire the events business, so it really was almost starting on third base. We didn’t have to build it from nothing. When Michael approached me last May, it seemed like a really interesting opportunity. And no time like a pandemic to take a risk. 

And that was it. We acquired it in May and I decided, at least initially, that it would be all-digital, not revive print at first, just sort of get the brand back up on its feet. We worked with a design agency that has a small stake in the company as well. They did a total rebrand and they did a beautiful job on the logo and on the website. I launched the podcast, which is weekly, and I really enjoy doing that. It’s one of my favorite parts of it. 

So we have took something that had existed and had brand recognition and had advertisers and had had an audience, and we’re bringing it into 2021, in terms of Brooklyn is not really what it was 10 years ago. And none of us are who we were 10 years ago. There’s a lot of ways we can update the brand and the message.

Samir Husni: You wrote in your first editorial that Brooklyn is going to become, if not already, the third largest city in the United States. What’s your mission and vision for this new Brooklyn Magazine?

Brian Braiker: Brooklyn Magazine in its heyday was really good at tapping into what was just under the surface culturally that was about to blow up. Brooklyn, New York really became this global brand around the early 2000’s or so, they really started blowing up. And Brooklyn Magazine was there to chronicle it as it was peaking as this global brand, this hipster enclave. And I think the magazine did a really good job of tapping into that energy and that vibe.

But Brooklyn is more than that, because it is the 4th largest city and we were watching to see when and if it surpasses Chicago. Brooklyn is tremendously diverse; it’s a collection of lots of different neighborhoods, not just really the Williamsburg cultural elites and Dumbo and Park Slope. It’s Bensonhurst; it’s Bedford-Stuyvesant; it’s Dyker Heights; it’s Canarsie. So we’re trying to go deeper into the borough, into more areas, into more neighborhoods, and addressing more cultural expressions. It is still a lifestyle publication, but we’re looking at where lifestyle intersects with more than just what’s cool, but also politics and commerce, small business. 

The mandate now is, as we’re relaunching during a pandemic, New York’s small businesses are hobbled. There were accounts early on that people were leaving New York and New York was dead and all that. Of course, we don’t buy that for a second. Brooklyn is scrappy; Brooklyn is a city of strivers and creators. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see who stays and how they rebuild. We’re going to be feeling the economic impacts of this pandemic for years. And we want to be there to watch that, chronicle it, and participate in this rebirth and rebuilding of Brooklyn. 

The last incarnation of Brooklyn was really the glory days of the city and everything was great and cool and exciting. Now it’s a slightly scary time, businesses are closing and people are struggling, but there are lots of really small stories of hope and inspiration that will hopefully ultimately prevail. So it’s a new orientation, because it is a new time. 

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print is in this digital age?

Brian Braiker: I think print means different things for different people. We are going to try to do a print product. There’s something wonderful about the tactile, something more permanent about print than digital. It’s harder to do, so you have to give it more thought. And it’s less disposable. 

So in that regard, when you talk about independent bookstores; we’ve all been locked up at home for a year and Amazon has really used that to its advantage. But the bookstores are still here and they’re still trying to make it and we want to highlight that, that the little guys are still here too. 

There’s something almost premium about a print product that outlasts even its own digital counterparts. I have old issues of Brooklyn Magazine and it’s a delight to flip through them and touch them and feel them. I’m also not overly nostalgic for print, it’s a binary. They both feed into each other and inform each other and make each other better, both print and digital. 

Samir Husni: Your original plan was to launch the print product in the Spring, but now you’re telling me September.

Brian Braiker: We’re totally improvising as we go along here. We’re trying to figure out the economics of it; we’re trying to crack the business model. What’s the expression? We’re trying to put fuel in the plane as it’s flying. (Laughs) Change the tires on the bus as it’s rolling. 

Fortunately, it’s me and Michael and we’ve hired a publisher, Tom, and we get to decide when we do things. (Laughs) And right now it makes sense to wait until September. It seems like a logical time to do it. Hopefully, the vaccine will have had its time to shine and people will be able to go out a little more at least. And now that we know who we are and what we’re doing better, we’re having those conversations with advertisers and figuring out what timeframe makes sense. And it does feel like September makes sense. 

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

Brian Braiker: We’re in the middle of it right now. We’re still trying to figure out how to build a model that generates enough revenue and that’s very difficult. So we’re working on that. I think we’re leaning into various potential revenue streams and building that up. One of the things that we’ve struggled with a little bit is getting our tech stack together and the email service provider and the membership technology; we’re going to launch a membership program, cracking that code and figuring out what the right offerings for a membership would be. It’s all of that. So, we’re in the middle of it now.

The honeymoon is a little bit over, but these are all fun things to think about and we have a pretty good runway where we can try things and experiment. 

Samir Husni: Looking at your role now as editorial director, editor in chief, podcaster, and comparing that to your previous role as editor in chief of Ad Age; which part of you do you enjoy most, the creative part, the editing part, the idea; what makes you tick and click?

Brian Braiker: My favorite part is being finished. (Laughs) I love having the thing. At Ad Age, we put out a magazine every two weeks, before that I was at Digiday for a number of years, those are more on the B to B side of the business. I’ve been in mainstream media as well. One of my favorite things to do is interview people; I love doing the podcast a lot. And having a platform gives you access to people that are engaging and interesting  and doing amazing things. So, that’s a highlight, just meeting people and talking to them and interviewing them. 

Making things. Having a thing, whether it’s a story that I’ve written or a package that I’ve edited or just the whole Brooklyn Magazine and website as a complete product; having made a thing, the creative effort that goes into it, that’s really satisfying. I am not a business person; that’s not my forte and that’s why I have a partner. 

I’ve been in this industry for about two decades now and it’s always exciting to put a thing out in the world and have people react to it, have it touch people’s lives. Or if you’re really lucky, influence people for the positive, whether it’s helping small businesses or shining the light on someone who deserves recognition, or whatever. So it’s really tapping into a platform to use creativity, hopefully, in a positive way.

Samir Husni: What has been the biggest positive surprise you’ve had?

Brian Braiker: There’s a lot of love for the brand. A lot of people remember Brooklyn Magazine; a lot of people are excited to have it back and that obviously puts a bit of pressure on us to do it right. But there’s so much love for not just the borough and the brand that’s Brooklyn itself, but Brooklyn Magazine has a lot of goodwill toward it. And it’s been really positive and uplifting to see people not only rooting for us, but rooting for our neighbors and the city at large. That’s been lovely. 

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the mornings?

Brian Braiker: My dog who needs a walk. (Laughs) I have two kids, they’re 15 and 12, but what gets me out of bed in the morning is doing something creative for and about a place that I really love and love living in. When I was at Ad Age, you’d meet CMO’s, you’d meet marketers; you would become part of that community. And it’s interesting, but it’s not a passion, for me anyway. I’m always impressed by people who are passionate about marketing. (Laughs)

I do have a passion for Brooklyn, and I have a passion for creating and telling stories and telling people’s stories, and arts and culture and the way cultures are expressed through a diversity of voices and lenses. What gets me going is living in a community where I’m also working, in a sense, for the community and becoming more deeply ingrained in that community. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evenings?

Brian Braiker: We just binge-watched “Call My Agent,” which is a French show on Netflix, which was really just amazing and I’m sad that I’m done with it. During the pandemic it’s been hard to really get out and do anything. Now that it’s cold and snowy all the time, then end of the day is usually a glass of something and a screen of a different size with something streaming on it. When it’s warmer I do love riding my bike around the city. 

And having the dog is fantastic. It opens up the city in ways that you don’t expect. You see different rhythms of the city and meet different people.  

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

Brian Braiker: (Laughs) Money. Securing a future for my kids that is meaningful to them and they feel safe and provided for. And I’m not working until my very last day because I’m trying to make ends meet. And fear of death, just like everything else. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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World War 3 Illustrated: A Comics & Graphics Publication Celebrating 41 Years In Print – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Peter Kuper And Seth Tobocman, Co-Founders & Editors, And Ethan Heitner, Editor…

February 24, 2021

“The other answer is we’re dinosaurs to some extent and we love print and we’re drawn to that form ourselves. It’s one that we’ve been familiar with. We used to go to the printers and stand by the presses while it came off the web press. And it was really exciting. I still have that coursing through my veins and the idea of having something arrive that’s not digital.” Peter Kuper…

“From what I can see from the sales of my books and the sales from World War 3, a lot more people want to buy a print book than an e-book.” Seth Tobocman…

“I was discovered via ink on paper. And I value that enormously. As a millennial, I absolutely appreciate and value and love print. I worked on the college newspaper when I was in college and I remember picking up from the print shop, the smell of the fresh ink, and seeing my own work in print; I don’t think of my work as real until I see it in print.” Ethan Heitner…

World War 3 Illustrated is North America’s longest-running anthology of political comics. Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman are the founders of the magazine, which they started in 1979. It was among the first American magazines to treat comics as a medium for serious social commentary and journalism. WW3 isn’t about a war that might happen. It’s about wars ongoing – wars across the globe and in our own neighborhood, the wars we wage against each other and with ourselves.

The magazine was started and driven by passion, a labor of love for cartoonists and artists who were committed, and still are, to the political angst that seethes and thrives in our society. I spoke to Peter and Seth recently, along with Editor Ethan Heitner, about this 41-year-old go-to for lovers of all things cartoon-ly political. It was a fascinating discussion with all three. 

Seth told me that today World War 3 Illustrated is an imprint of AK Press, where they’re now selling it as an annual book. He remarked that it’s thicker and also comes out once a year and it has a square binding. Issue #51 is titled “The World We Are Fighting For” and is a beautifully-done book that is both captivating and relevant. 

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, founders and editors, and Ethan Heitner, editor, World War 3 Illustrated. 

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of the magazine (Peter Kuper): I’d say two words: Ronald Reagan. He was heading toward the presidency. He hadn’t been elected yet, but we were seeing the writing on the wall with great terror. And what was also on the wall was a lot of our work that was responding to what was going on in the United States at that time. A general warlike direction, with the Cold War going on, the hostage crisis in Iran; there was just this general vibe of Ronald Reagan is going to be our president with his bad acting, itchy finger on the button, and so the title World War 3 Illustrated seemed appropriate.  

Peter Kuper (Photo by Holly Kuper)

On the motivational thinking behind the magazine (Seth Tobocman): I remember Peter saying to me , I think there’s going to be a war; we should do an anti-war magazine. That was what I remember him saying.

On the business plan for World War 3 Illustrated (Peter Kuper): We have a very firm business model, which has kept us around for the last 41 years, which is nobody gets paid and there’s no money really generated besides enough to produce the magazine. I joke about this point, but there’s a real strong truth to it, because if you’re an editor on the magazine that just means you get to work more and maybe hated a bit more by the people who don’t get published, but it creates an equality in the process. It’s understood that we’re doing this for the passion and the love of the form. And the desire to communicate these ideas. 

On the role print plays for them in today’s digital age (Seth Tobocman): From what I can see from the sales of my books and the sales from World War 3, a lot more people want to buy a print book than an e-book. I don’t know if it’s true for the mainstream comics, I know they make some pretty fancy e-books for Marvel and DC Comics, it’s almost like you’re watching a movie, so it might very well be that their e-books sell better, but it seems to us that there is a market for print books. 

Seth Tobocman

On Editor Ethan Heitner, who is a millennial, being discovered via ink on paper (Ethan Heitner): I was discovered via ink on paper. And I value that enormously. As a millennial, I absolutely appreciate and value and love print.

On what role Ethan plays at the magazine (Ethan Heitner): There’s not really clearly defined roles beyond editing individually. The structure is very loose. Part of the way Seth and Peter set it up and the way it has continued, things are dealt with on an issue by issue basis. There isn’t really a lot of stepping back and trying to tackle more long-term structural issues for the magazine. There’s this loose collective that theoretically we all need to contribute, but as far as who actually makes what decision and what people’s roles are is fluid.

On Ethan’s opinion of what the role of print is in a digital age (Ethan Heitner): I think what Seth was saying earlier, people have a hunger for print. People my age and younger are exhausted by digital, especially during this age of the pandemic. There’s a desire to have something physical to hold in your hands. It’s really coming back and it’s something that people are missing. I think they’re realizing they maybe went too far in the other direction. 

Ethan Heitner

On the future of World War 3 Illustrated (Peter Kuper): We’re already plotting for another issue and the fact is, what we have been doing the whole time is not World War 3 in the traditional apocalyptic sense, it’s more like our daily lives, the things that we’re encountering all the time. And there are a lot of first-person accounts. With what’s going on right now, all of us have direct contact with the pandemic. The graphic novel revolution has exploded and people have stopped having that question about it. As a form, it’s only gotten stronger and that’s one more good reason we’ll keep going on. 

On what makes him tick and click (Peter Kuper): Doing something that you love, drawing cartoons, definitely gets me out of bed in the mornings. And it tends to relate very often to the news. I’m looking to see what’s going on and it’s a form of therapy in addressing it. But I’m still so utterly excited about doing the drawing on a piece of paper that it gets me out of bed every morning.

On what keeps them up at night (Seth Tobocman): Arguments that I get into with people keep me up at night. The fact that all my friends who used to be radicals in the ‘80s are kind of Trump supporters which totally freaks me out. I’m like, what do I say to them? That’s what keeps me up at night, how do I convince people that they’re being completely ridiculous. Usually there’s not a way.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, founders and editors, and Ethan Heitner, editor, World War 3 Illustrated.

A blast from the past, the very first editorial written at age 11 by Seth and Peter for their first “Phanzine”

Samir Husni: World War 3 Illustrated is a comics and graphics publication that was founded over 40 years ago, in 1979. That’s quite a milestone. What was the genesis of the magazine?

Peter Kuper: I’d say two words: Ronald Reagan. He was heading toward the presidency. He hadn’t been elected yet, but we were seeing the writing on the wall with great terror. And what was also on the wall was a lot of our work that was responding to what was going on in the United States at that time. A general warlike direction, with the Cold War going on, the hostage crisis in Iran; there was just this general vibe of Ronald Reagan is going to be our president with his bad acting, itchy finger on the button, and so the title World War 3 Illustrated seemed appropriate.  

Seth and I were both in art school at the time in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute. We were doing political comics, but there was really no outlets for the kind of things we were doing. And we were interested in getting published, but not like vanity publishing alone because there was other work that we saw on the streets, things that would be on a wall and then with the first rain would disappear, things that were really striking graphics and great commentary, but it wasn’t showing up in the mainstream and we wanted to make sure we could codify that. 

Seth Tobocman: For me, there were a couple of things. One of the things was definitely the Iran hostage crisis. I kind of bumped in and out of college and never finished. I had been at school at NYU for a few years for film and dropped out, then went to Pratt part-time to get my drawing skills together because I figured that was what I was going to do in life. 

When I was in school at NYU, there were a lot of students from Iraq there. I met a lot of foreign students. There were Socialists and Monarchists, and one guy who supported the Ayatollah Khomeini, all in my dorm. They would sit in the lounge at the dorm and no one would sit next to the Monarchists. So I was very aware that there was a real issue in Iran. And my Socialist Iranian friends were worried about the Savaq tracking them down in the United States. I was aware that these people had an issue.

Then suddenly around 1979, everybody in the U.S. could say Iran. In the grocery store where I’d gone every week with my mother they were selling these big buttons that read “Fuck Iran.” And it was interesting because they were selling them to all the people who would have slapped you in the face as a kid for saying the word fuck. And suddenly, they were wearing that word in big letters on their chests. And they were selling dart board of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and it was very clear to me that these people didn’t know anything about this country. They had been told this country had attacked Americans for no reason and that they hated Americans.

Looking at the papers at the time, including the New York Post and the Daily News, I just kind of looked at them and said, if these people are allowed to comment, then I think I have a right to comment because I’m not the most educated or sophisticated person in the world on this subject, but these people clearly aren’t either and they’re allowed to have a voice. 

So, I thought putting out a comic book about that would make some kind of sense. And another thing was we had this Three Mile Island meltdown, which made everybody in New York very aware of nuclear energy. And a couple of years before that there had also been the White Nights in San Francisco, which were the riots that followed the assassination of Harvey Milk. And a lot of my friends in high school were gay kids, and they were the most political kids in my high school. A lot more sophisticated than the hippies in my school actually. 

So, I was very aware of the issues around Harvey Milk. And the fact that there had been this riot. So, all of those things were kind of in the air at the time we decided to do World War 3 Illustrated. 

That said, I don’t think we were very sophisticated about politics. I had read “One-Dimensional Man” by Herbert Marcuse and there’s a quote from that book on the back cover, but I’m not sure I really knew what it meant. (Laughs) 

Peter Kuper: Just in the brass tacks of doing it; Seth and I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and had both moved to New York. Our interest in comics also extended to doing a fanzines, so we had actually had experience starting our first fanzine when we were 11. And we did subsequent issues. So when it rolled around, we said we’re interested in comics, but there’s not really an outlet for it. The leap to doing a magazine wasn’t completely out of the blue; we actually had a pretty fair amount of experience with printing. Even dealing with the distribution in small aspects. 

Seth Tobocman: We had one issue of our fanzine that sold 1,000 copies through the mail, because it had a lot of interviews with professional cartoonists. We dealt with printers and the mysteries of finding out what actually appears in print and what doesn’t appear in print. And those questions were answered in middle school actually. I lost interest in comics in high school, but gained interest in comics at the point when I was dropping out of college. 

But we were very active comics fans in middle school. And we put out four magazines, and actually Pete put out a fifth, Between the two of us we put out five different issues at that time. 

Peter Kuper: We love the smell of printer’s ink and going to the printer, and learned something about the process too. So it was in our DNA already. 

Seth Tobocman: We arrived at 1979 with a knowledge of how to do that. We applied that to our own work and we were in a publishing environment that was still pretty hostile to everything we wanted to do, that is, I would say that there were four comic books published in the U.S. aimed at adults at that time, including ours. There really was no adult comics market in 1979 in the U.S. There were things we saw from Europe; there were the old underground comics, but the old underground comics had really become a genre fiction by 1979. They only had certain types of stories; they knew what they could sell and what they couldn’t sell, so they weren’t really this freeform thing that maybe they had seemed to be earlier. So, there was no place to print this type of work. 

Also, the left in the U.S. in the beginning of the 1980s was almost non-existent. I was in a peace organization in college consisting of five people. It was seen as very uncool to be involved in politics or socially critical at that time. There was a big reaction against the movements of the sixties. It was very hard to find someone our age who was politically active. I found more older people who were politically active. 

So we really felt that we had to create this thing ourselves, so that we could put out what we thought. And even though we were somewhat naïve and simplistic in our approach to a lot of things and a lot of our early comics looked like science fiction comics than they do political cartooning, the fact that we had done this attracted all kinds of people. That a couple of young people were putting out a political comic book. And those people came to the magazine and we learned from each person who came in and we developed our thinking through them. 

Samir Husni: Most magazines are published as a reflection of society, yours was more of an initiator. You took a tiny seed and watched it grow. Did you see that with nourishment this would happen or were you two just young and threw caution to the wind and said what the heck, let’s do it?

Seth Tobocman: I remember Peter saying to me , I think there’s going to be a war; we should do an anti-war magazine. That was what I remember him saying. We’d grown up through a period of the 1960s and we lived in Cleveland Heights, which was the neighborhood my father decided to live in because it was close to his job at the university. 

And we knew when we were kids that all kinds of crazy things were going on. And then we knew when we were teenagers that all kinds of crazy things were no longer going on, which was an odd perspective that we had. We saw these things come in and then we saw them go out as sort of passive observers from the security of Cleveland Heights, which wasn’t always secure. I remember one time my father brought all his research home because he was afraid his offices would be burned down. 

Peter Kuper: There was a time period during the sixties where there was a lot of marching and people’s lives were on the line going to Vietnam and so it made people very proactive. And then post-Vietnam and post-Nixon, there was a cooling off period and a lot of the steam went out of the engine in that respect. 

We grew up reading underground comics and I thought I was going to be an underground comic artist. I remember being frustrated by the fact that every time our generation arrived somewhere, things were just closing. There was a beat generation and a Summer of Love and then the underground comic scene. And we arrived just in time for them to tell us sorry, that door is now shut. 

To zoom forward, I think what we’ve found with World War 3 is that those groups weren’t there for those people either, they had to form them. So, creating World War 3 was kind of like producing an environment where we would have an interaction with other artists; where we would create a community and we’d be able to have that thing that we felt was missing. But it was not going to spontaneously appear. 

Samir Husni: It seems to me that World War 3 Illustrated was driven by passion. What about the business plan? Did you ever think we have to make money to continue doing this?

Peter Kuper: We have a very firm business model, which has kept us around for the last 41 years, which is nobody gets paid and there’s no money really generated besides enough to produce the magazine. I joke about this point, but there’s a real strong truth to it, because if you’re an editor on the magazine that just means you get to work more and are maybe hated a bit more by the people who don’t get published, but it creates an equality in the process. It’s understood that we’re doing this for the passion and the love of the form. And the desire to communicate these ideas. 

It’s not like there’s a golden ticket involved in it. The only frustration is the extent to which that holds us back from doing more, because finances have to be dealt with. We’re not business people. Having said that, we’ve managed to pull off a number of things, surviving for all of these years being number one, without having money involved. What we do make gets turned back into producing the next issue. 

Seth Tobocman: When we started out, maybe there were times we thought that someday we’d get paid and be able to pay everyone involved in this, but we really didn’t know. We had to feel our way around it. Very early on we got some distribution from some local distributors. There was a company called Trojan that mostly distributing porn, but they distributed us and they distributed Raw in the New York area. There was a guy named Joe Massey who was our distributor for many years, but those were very small quantities. 

What was really the breakthrough for us was around the 4th issue we connected with Mordam Records, which was a distribution company set up to distribute the records of the Dead Kennedys and set up to distribute the magazine Maximum Rocknroll, which was a punk rock fanzine, with a somewhat left orientation coming out of the West Coast. West Coast punk was really political; East Coast punk was not. 

Peter Kuper: What’s really important here is that was at a time when there were comic shops, but we very strongly believed that there was an audience like ourselves who were really interested in adult material in the comic form. But a lot of those people didn’t want to walk into a shop that had a giant Superman cutout when they walked through the door. And they were really put off by that. 

By getting a record distributor, we reached into this area that was a very solid base and we ended up in Tower Records back when they had record stores. People would stumble upon us, and then you didn’t find comics on the shelves in record stores for the most part. They started to carry alternative comics that were developed from publishers like Fantagraphics, but that was a huge breakthrough because we were constantly saying there was an audience for this, but we’re not reaching them in the comic shops. When we got through that door to this alternative area, it made a lot of things possible.

Seth Tobocman: We would get letters from all kinds of small towns where somebody would say they just discovered our magazine at the place where they bought punk records. And they would say they had never seen anything like it and it had changed their life to find it. We got a lot of those types of letters in the ‘80s. 

One of the good things that the punk rock people did, the West Coast people did, was they developed a lot of small business reps in various towns who only sold alternative records. They might be making money or they might not, but they were passionate about it. My general sense is, the Dead Kennedys records sold well enough to underwrite all the other things distributed by Mordam Records.  

Samir Husni: Why do you think you’re still doing print and publishing a printed magazine in this digital age? What role does print play today?

Seth Tobocman: From what I can see from the sales of my books and the sales from World War 3, a lot more people want to buy a print book than an e-book. I don’t know if it’s true for the mainstream comics, I know they make some pretty fancy e-books for Marvel and DC Comics, it’s almost like you’re watching a movie, so it might very well be that their e-books sell better, but it seems to us that there is a market for print books. 

What we’ve had to do in recent years is, first of all, Mordam Records, the whole record industry disappeared. Just vanished. When Tower Records closed we lost about 500 copy sales per issue. And the magazine distributors that we dealt with became smaller and smaller, asked for fewer and fewer copies. And I don’t think that had any relation to us, it had relation to the amount of business they were doing. 

Most recently, we have become an imprint of AK Press where we’re now selling it as an annual book. So, we’re calling it a book. It’s thicker and it’s once a year; it has a square binding; it’s 7×9, and it’s a book. Our distribution has gone back up a little since we became a book and an imprint of AK Press. So it seems like the bookstores have recovered somewhat from the loss they suffered because people still prefer a print book to an e-book, unless it’s a classic and they can download it for free. 

Peter Kuper: The other answer is we’re dinosaurs to some extent and we love print and we’re drawn to that form ourselves. It’s one that we’ve been familiar with. We used to go to the printers and stand by the presses while it came off the web press. And it was really exciting. I still have that coursing through my veins and the idea of having something arrive that’s not digital. 

Ethan Heitner: When people ask us why we haven’t moved to digital, I just want to crack up, because we wouldn’t know how. (Laughs) That’s why we’re still in print, because that’s what we know how to do. In 1979, I hadn’t been born yet. In 1980, I wasn’t born yet. In 1983, when I showed up on the scene, World War 3 was already an established fact of life, but I joined the audience of the magazine in the Tower Records days of the ‘90s. That’s how I got World War 3. 

When I first wanted to join World War 3 as a cartoonist in 2007/2008, the Internet started in 1994, the digital revolution began in 2007/2008; in 2007/2008 I moved to New York with the desire to become a cartoonist and join World War 3. And I found out that the issues that were being printed then did not have an email address, they did not have a website; they listed a P.O. Box on the inside cover for a contact. I was like, this is ridiculous. No way was I writing to a P.O. Box. (Laughs)

I’m making jokes, but actually I’m much less insistent on these things now because I don’t want to spend any more time in front of a computer than I have to either. And the way I did finally meet Seth was in a great, non-digital way. I was making comics that were being distributed at protests in New York City; printed flyers that were being passed out on the street and Seth found one of my flyers and wrote his phone number on the back of it and said give my phone number to whomever drew this comment and that’s how I finally got involved. 

One of the first things I did do when I became involved with the magazine was set up a Gmail account for the magazine, so people did not have to write to a P.O. Box to contact us. I eventually set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account and other social media. 

Samir Husni: So, Ethan you were discovered via ink on paper?

Ethan Heitner: Exactly. I was discovered via ink on paper. And I value that enormously. As a millennial, I absolutely appreciate and value and love print. I worked on the college newspaper when I was in college and I remember picking it up from the print shop, the smell of the fresh ink, and seeing my own work in print; I don’t think of my work as real until I see it in print. 

Samir Husni: Besides being a co-editor, what role do you play today with World War 3 Illustrated?

Ethan Heitner: There’s not really clearly defined roles beyond editing individually. The structure is very loose. Part of the way Seth and Peter set it up and the way it has continued, things are dealt with on an issue by issue basis. There isn’t really a lot of stepping back and trying to tackle more long-term structural issues for the magazine. There’s this loose collective that theoretically we all need to contribute, but as far as who actually makes what decision and what people’s roles are is fluid. 

In 2011-2013, I sort of tried to get us a little bit more coherent internally, just to get us a more consistent web presence, to think about questions of distribution, to think about questions of digital distribution, and I didn’t make a lot of progress, that’s when I set up our Tumblr account and our Gmail account, and I set up other social media accounts. 

In 2013, I got a little burned out, so I took a break. It was difficult. There’s this generational divide, in terms of technology. And it’s such a loose structure, that’s it’s hard to make change happen. Recently, Seth asked me to get more involved again and that’s why I helped with #51. That’s the first issue I’ve been directly involved with for a while. We started that process in 2016/2017. After Trump got elected, I got a little bit more involved again. In 2017, I actually rejoined the editorial board.

Samir Husni: As a millennial, what do you think the role of print is in this digital age?

Ethan Heitner: I think what Seth was saying earlier, people have a hunger for print. People my age and younger are exhausted by digital, especially during this age of the pandemic. There’s a desire to have something physical to hold in your hands. It’s really coming back and it’s something that people are missing. I think they’re realizing they maybe went too far in the other direction.

Peter Kuper: It’s like vinyl as well. There’s a younger generation that doesn’t want everything to be in zeros and ones. 

Ethan Heitner: It’s shifted from a more mass production model to more of a curated production model. But World War 3 was always sort of a curated audience anyway. World War 3’s audience is also not necessarily a mass audience. It would be great if it were, but we’re not kidding ourselves. We know that it’s not. It’s always going to be something that reaches that subsect of the population and that population is also maybe more appreciative of print. If the goal was to reach as many people as possible, then it would absolutely make sense to push more of a digital platform. 

Seth Tobocman: One of the things, and Ethan is aware of this, the advent of digital media changes the purpose of a magazine like World War 3. During the first 20 or 30 years of production of the magazine, if I saw a point of view that was interesting, but wasn’t getting out there; even if I disagreed with it, I would feel I had some obligation to help this poor soul reach an audience because no one would ever listen to them. 

Whereas with the advent of the Internet, everybody can get into the public in some form, no matter how weird they are or how unqualified. The first time a computer geek friend of mine showed me the Internet, one of the first sites he showed me was a site that told you Hitler was still alive and lived on the dark side of the moon and visited the Earth in a flying saucer. And that guy had one of the first websites. 

And the idea of getting something out right away is much better served by the Internet than served by print. And I think that really hurt the newspapers. Facebook is all about speed, not about quality. People put things out on social media before they even think about what they’re writing. That’s one of the problems with it.

So what we’re doing now has a different role, it’s like is this good enough to spend some money on printing so that somebody can spend some money on buying it? And will it have value in a year? Will it still mean something in a year? I think one of the really nice things about drawing comics is it takes so much time. If I’m writing something on Facebook, I might write something really stupid because it only takes me a minute, I don’t have time to think about it. If I write a stupid comic strip it’s going to take a lot longer to draw than to write it and if it’s a dumb idea, I’m going to change it before it comes out. 

Samir Husni: What do you think is the future of World War 3 Illustrated? Are we still at war after those 41 years?

Peter Kuper: Hopefully, because we’ve been publishing, we’ve kept the war from happening. That’s one of the great things that we’ve done. I have to say that I’m very happy about that success. As long as we’re publishing, there won’t be a World War 4. But we’re already plotting for another issue and the fact is, what we have been doing the whole time is not World War 3 in the traditional apocalyptic sense, it’s more like our daily lives, the things that we’re encountering all the time. And there are a lot of first-person accounts. With what’s going on right now, all of us have direct contact with the pandemic. 

So, the stories we have to tell are pretty bottomless. I don’t see any end to it. Only when we have passed as humans will there be a necessary end to producing this kind of material, whether it will be in the form of the magazine or not is impossible to say, but we certainly didn’t look in 1979 ahead and say yep, in 2021 we’re going to be doing a new issue. That did come as a surprise. 

So now, having witnessed our longevity I feel like yes, this could go on for years and years more because there’s a lot of people that really want to express themselves and need a form for it. And in mainstream publishing it’s very limited to do an 11-page comic strip about something personal, say? There are more outlets with graphic novels, for example, in the process of doing the magazine, we’ve witnessed a change from comics as a low art form, or not even an art form, to being one of the most powerful sections of a bookstore and online. The graphic novel revolution has exploded and people have stopped having that question about it. As a form, it’s only gotten stronger and that’s one more good reason we’ll keep going on.

Seth Tobocman: I think the definition of comics and who makes comics has really expanded. Pete and I both teach and our classes are mostly young women, which when we started the magazine there was a real push to say there should be more women working on the magazine. We generally had to find people who had never drawn a comic strip before and teach them to draw comics, so that we would have women working on the magazine. Comics in the U.S. was a very male genre. 

Ethan has done a lot of work with us to bring in cartoonists from Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon that we hadn’t known about. And I’ve become aware that there are a lot of comics being done around the world that are in a lot of ways very much influenced by the ‘80s alternative comics from the U.S. and Europe, but have a subject material on a notion of who the protagonist is; it’s much broader. I think there are a lot of new voices starting to use this medium. 

One of the good things about World War 3 and a good reason to keep it going is we have dinosaurs like me and Peter Kuper and Sue Coe on this magazine, and then we have someone like Colleen Tighe who is completely new and represents a different generation of people. So there’s a way of creating a continuity, saying this idea has been around, this idea has developed, and this idea has retained its integrity for this amount of time. And I think there’s a reason to go forward and continue it. 

Ethan Heitner: I actually do try to push Seth and Peter to say why are we doing this? What is the reason? It’s not the situation when they started, just getting a form or getting a point of view out there, because now anybody can get their point of view out there. And there’s also a lot more forms for graphic journalism comics that deal with politics. There are all sorts of websites and magazines that actually will publish a 16-page story. And they might actually pay you for it. 

So one question I always try to bring is what is the unique thing that WW3 does; it’s not a question that has an answer, but I think we keep trying to look for it. One of the many great advantages of the digital age is we now can get comics directly from Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon; from anywhere in the world. And finding that work is very valuable. So as long as we keep finding that work that is valuable, that’s the fun part of putting together the magazine. It’s very exciting.

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

Peter Kuper: Doing something that you love, drawing cartoons, definitely gets me out of bed in the mornings. And it tends to relate very often to the news. I’m looking to see what’s going on and it’s a form of therapy in addressing it. But I’m still so utterly excited about doing the drawing on a piece of paper that it gets me out of bed every morning. 

Seth Tobocman: This is absolutely the right question because drawing comics get me out of bed in the mornings. I’m an old guy and I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll think about everything that went wrong in my life and then I have a comic strip to draw. So I get up and start drawing it. And comic strips take a long time to draw, you have page after page and then a deadline. So you always have some work to do, which is really helpful. 

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

Peter Kuper: Doom scrolling, especially in the last four years, though it’s run longer than that. Seeing what madness has occurred, even in some final hour of the day. And on the pleasure side, there are so many things that I want to read and it’s just impossible to keep up with all of that.

Seth Tobocman: Arguments that I get into with people keep me up at night. The fact that all my friends who used to be radicals in the ‘80s are kind of Trump supporters which totally freaks me out. I’m like, what do I say to them? That’s what keeps me up at night, how do I convince people that they’re being completely ridiculous. Usually there’s not a way. 

Ethan Heitner: My three-year-old gets me up in the morning and he’s the one who usually wakes me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you all. 

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