Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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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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Dan Fuchs, VP/Chief Revenue Officer, Delish Quarterly Magazine, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “What The Magazine Allows Us To Do Is Capture The Collectability Of Something.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

February 21, 2021

“This is where the partnership between myself and Joanna Saltz (editorial director) really comes into play because we worked on this together. Delish.com started 10 years ago, but it really was part of a joint venture that we had with MSN. The Delish as we know it now, under Joanna, really didn’t start until around six or seven years ago. And one of the first things she said we had to do as the brand started to grow was that we had to have a cookbook. We had to have a printed, physical, tangible manifestation of the brand. And that was the launch of the cookbook and it sold well, so we saw that our audience would respond to that.” Dan Fuchs…

A successful digital-first brand from Hearst that has seen immeasurable growth with not only its website, but its printed bookazines and cookbooks, Delish.com is launching a quarterly print magazine. Delish in print will be sold at the newsstands, but will also be an integral part of the subscription model the brand has in place for its online footprint. An all-access subscription of $20 annually will not only get you everything online, but also the 96 page (plus covers) printed magazine as part of the memebership.

Dan Fuchs, formerly of HGTV magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine, is the VP/Chief Revenue Officer of the new quarterly print publication. I spoke with Dan recently and we talked about this exciting new venture into the world of print for a digital-only entity. Dan said it’s an exhilarating time for a brand that has been successful online and in the world of print, with its special bookazines and cookbooks,  to have a quarterly magazine coming out in print. Opportunities and more growth will surely follow. And with Editorial Director, Joanna Saltz, as his partner, Dan is looking forward to the future of Delish in all its exciting extensions.

And now please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dan Fuchs, VP/Chief Revenue Officer, Delish quarterly magazine. 

But first the sound-bites:

On having no ads in the first edition of Delish quarterly: I’m very excited as a chief revenue officer to find ways that we can work with advertising partners on this brand, but the design behind it is not an advertising-driven model. It is a way for us to generate, from a purely financial standpoint more revenue from the consumer, but really to expand the brand into all places that we think the brand will be well-received. 

On getting much more value for your money with the $20 annually all-access model of Delish: It’s a better deal and it’s our way of really trying to encourage our readers to get the all-access. We’ve seen such loyalty from our fan base; we can see that on social media. So, it’s no surprise that here we are now two months in and we’re nearing 30,000 memberships sold and more than two-thirds of them are for the all-access model. And I think you’ll start to see, once the magazine is out, more people going that way. 

On the balance of the advertisers or the sponsors to the content of the magazine or to the revenue: We already have a few page commitments from some advertisers out there, but we’re interested in talking about some deeper integrations, maybe into native content. I think because the structure of the magazine is really bookazine quality, in terms of the paper stock and the photography; in terms of the oversize. We’re committed to a print run size and book size of 96 pages plus covers. So for this year at least, we’re capping the number of advertisers to eight per issue. And we start with advertising in the second issue.

On what role he feels print plays in today’s digital world: What the magazine allows us to do is capture the collectability of something. Delish started 10 years ago, but it really was part of a joint venture that we had with MSN. The Delish as we know it now, under Joanna, really didn’t start until around six or seven years ago. And one of the first things she said we had to do as the brand started to grow was that we had to have a cookbook. We had to have a printed, physical, tangible manifestation of the brand.

On why now seemed to be the perfect time to launch the print edition of Delish: We feel that our audience is telling us now is the right time. I think what we have seen in the data drives, a lot of that is the type of recipes that we’re seeing people really leaning into, the sourdough breads, the baked lasagnas; more of the comfort foods. And a real interest in videos on technique. And an interest in trying something new.

On his elevator pitch for advertisers: I have met with a bunch of prospective advertisers and some of our existing clients and I think the elevator pitch is that this is a natural extension of a brand that already has proven success. And this is a way for you as the marketer; you’ve been working with us on Delish.com and you’ve been working with us with branded content that’s digital; you’ve been working with us on customized social posts; we did a lot of live programming, so here’s a way to work with us on something that we know will resonate with our audience, your customer, but to do it in a different way.

On some  of the challenges he thinks he might face in launching the quarterly magazine and the membership model: You do get into the “why now” and “why print” and as we look at trends on newsstand, I think there is that unfortunate mythology about the print model that we have to address. A hurdle that we have to overcome is to prove to people that this digital-first brand might have a digital-first audience, but that audience is interested in print as well. How do we demonstrate that? Fortunately we have four or five years’ worth of data on our print products and granted it’s been a different model.

On diversity and inclusion in the magazine: I’m excited about this first issue because we feel that Delish has been a very inclusive brand all along, but particularly as we go through the magazine what has always been important to us is that our readers understand the story behind the food or the origins behind the food. And we know our audience is excited to try new and different things. I’ll give you an example. The first chapter is all about eggs, who doesn’t like a good egg to start off with breakfast. But it’s the variety of ways that we’re going to show you to make those eggs. Of course, there’s a frittata, and we have a recipe for Migas, also a Sabich sandwich, which is an Israeli sandwich, and we give you some background on that and the ingredients you need.

On what he hopes to achieve in the first year of the magazine: So the fast forward would be that we prove the naysayers wrong, that we expanded a brand, that while rooted in digital, could deliver on our promise to reach our audience in many different ways. But from an overall editorial perspective, I’d feel like we reached success if we could find our consumers saying this is such a great addition to their Delish experience; it doesn’t replace anything, it’s not redundant in any way.

On anything he’d like to add: We are really proud of this brand and I have to give a lot of kudos to Joanna Saltz and her editorial team who adapted so quickly to an extremely challenging situation. We have a test kitchen in the Hearst Tower that we could not get access to, so her editorial team was doing recipe videos out of their homes and what was really exciting and heartwarming was our audience loved it.

On what makes him tick and click: I have always felt so lucky to be a part of this business, this industry. It is the people that I get to work with. I’m coming up on my 18th year at Hearst and we have exciting things going on. It’s the colleagues that I work with, Joanna as my partner on the editorial side; it’s some of the team members who came with me from HGTV magazine and from Oprah. But it’s also our clients; it’s our advertisers, who are also open and excited about what’s going on.

On how he unwinds at the end of the day: If you dropped by, you might see the bar and the wine fridge, so there’s definitely enjoyment in that. And even though it’s been a full year of cooking for my family, we’ve been able to spend more time together, at the end of the day it’s hitting up Delish, listening to some good music and sitting down with a nice cocktail from one of my favorite new books.

On what keeps him up at night: Not necessarily things about work; I think our country has been through quite a lot, but I’m always a very hopeful and optimistic person. There’s a lot of indecision out there: when are we going back to the office, all the things that we talked about that I love about the business, when are we going back into ad agencies to talk to customers; when are we going to have another ACT Experience, so I think it’s just the waiting. And still accepting the realities.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dan Fuchs, VP/Chief Operating Officer, Delish quarterly magazine. 

Samir Husni: Previously you were the publisher of HGTV and today you’re the VP/Chief Revenue Officer of a new quarterly magazine, Delish. Typically, when I talk with publishers or CRO’s, they tell me how many ads they had in the first issue of the new magazine, but in Delish’s first edition there isn’t a single ad. Is this a new business model that you’re having to adjust to?

Dan Fuchs: Yes, there is definitely a need to adjust. And it’s a great question because it sort of leads into what this new job is for me. As you indicated, I’ve been at Hearst for a while and I’ve had the privilege of working on some of our bigger print brands, HGTV magazine; I worked at the Oprah magazine, and the origin of my new position at Delish is that Delish has been an important part of the overall Hearst digital portfolio. 

But we’ve seen such incredible growth from the brand through all of its digital extensions, obviously the site itself and huge growth across social media, and as we started doing more print products, and this is the beauty of Zoom, it’s the show and tell, whether it be a hardcover cookbook that we produced or a variety of our bookazines, Holiday Cookies from last year, we’ve seen the brand resonate at all touchpoints. 

We’re a digital-first brand; we’re a digital video-first brand, but as we adapt to our audience, and our audience has really shown us, particularly during the last 12 to 14 months, the passion that they have for cooking and the fun and enjoyment that goes around food. 

The new magazine that we’ll talk about today, Delish quarterly, really comes into play as a real enhancement for a new membership model that we’ve come up with. Starting about two months ago, we introduced Delish Unlimited. A lot of Hearst sites now are behind a pay meter. I think we’ve seen as an industry, whether it’s print or digital, people will pay for really good content. And they’ll pay for really good brands and they’ll pay for the authenticity and the integrity that goes behind those brands. 

So, the pay meter was launched in December. Our readers can get up to four free articles and then they’re told now for unlimited access we have two separate models. One is a digital-only, which is $3 per month or there is the all-access model. The all-access model for a $20 annual gets you unlimited content on Delish.com; it gets you access to some new editorial interactive technology that we’re introducing; it gets you a newsletter; and it gets you an annual subscription to the launch of the new Delish quarterly. 

I’m very excited as a chief revenue officer to find ways that we can work with advertising partners on this brand, but the design behind it is not an advertising-driven model. It is a way for us to generate, from a purely financial standpoint more revenue from the consumer, but really to expand the brand into all places that we think the brand will be well-received. 

Samir Husni: When I went to the site to check out this new membership model, one of the things I discovered is if I subscribe to the Delish $3 per month plan, I’ll be paying $36 per year and I won’t get the print product. But if I choose the all-access model for $20 annually, I’ll get much more for my money. 

Dan Fuchs: It’s a better deal and it’s our way of really trying to encourage our readers to get the all-access. We’ve seen such loyalty from our fan base; we can see that on social media. So, it’s no surprise that here we are now two months in and we’re nearing 30,000 memberships sold and more than two-thirds of them are for the all-access model. And I think you’ll start to see, once the magazine is out, more people going that way. 

The financials behind it are we’ve been doing some really great newsstand-only, one-off projects like the Holiday Cookies and we’ve done Soups and Stews; we’ve done a lot of work in the keto space, so the Delish quarterly magazine will be part of this new subscriber model, but of course, it will also be on newsstand as well. And we’ll be promoting in the issue itself; it’s the fourth cover ad, which I will likely sell to a partner for the next three issues, but here, we really want to encourage our audience to go ahead and sign up for a subscription. Potentially, by the end of 2021, it’ll be really interesting to see the balance of subscriber versus newsstand for the magazine. The magazine hits newsstands March 2, 2021, but subscribers might get it a week or so earlier. 

Samir Husni: What about the balance of the advertisers or the sponsors to the content of the magazine or to the revenue?

Dan Fuchs: We already have a few page commitments from some advertisers out there, but we’re interested in talking about some deeper integrations, maybe into native content. I think because the structure of the magazine is really bookazine quality, in terms of the paper stock and the photography; in terms of the oversize. We’re committed to a print run size and book size of 96 pages plus covers. So for this year at least, we’re capping the number of advertisers to eight per issue. And we start with advertising in the second issue. 

What you’ll see is a smaller ad presence than you’ll see in most consumer magazines, but in addition to some run-of-book-ads, you might see some new and exciting and interesting expressions of brands, whether that may be through native content, advertorial content; we’re open to doing a lot of cool things.

Samir Husni: Delish is a very well-known brand. As you said, it’s a digital-first brand and has been in existence for more than 10 years. What role do you think the print quarterly is going to play in this digital age? Your editor wrote in the first issue that here was something you could book-keep forever. Besides being able to keep it forever, what role do you feel print plays today?

Dan Fuchs: This is where the partnership between myself and Joanna Saltz really comes into play because we worked on this together. We both have extensive print backgrounds at Hearst. In addition to being the editorial director of Delish, Joanna is also the editor in chief of House Beautiful, so she knows a lot about brands and how to express them in print as well as in digital. 

I think for us, when we look at the way our audience interacts with food content, recipe content digitally, it’s certainly very active. We can look at Google Analytics and see transit traffic that happens around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., people are in that what’s-for-dinner type mode. 

What the magazine allows us to do is capture the collectability of something. Delish.com started 10 years ago, but it really was part of a joint venture that we had with MSN. The Delish as we know it now, under Joanna, really didn’t start until around six or seven years ago. And one of the first things she said we had to do as the brand started to grow was that we had to have a cookbook. We had to have a printed, physical, tangible manifestation of the brand. And that was the launch of the cookbook and it sold well, so we saw that our audience would respond to that.

But I always look at this as an extension of that idea. It’s a quarterly publication; it’s designed to be a collectible, and when you see it and go through some of the content, the focus that we’re doing is really big, lush, beautiful photography.

Delish is also very video-focused, so the hyper lapse, the hands and pans; it’s kind of interesting for us to take digital content and translate it into print. You could love pancakes and there’s an IHOP copycat recipe on Delish.com, but here we shoot it for print. And it has a different look and a different feel, that you could eat the food right off the pages, but the service is still there. 

What’s key is that they have to be complementary. And we want our audience to be interacting with the same sort of theme and the same fun that Delish provides, but that the content is not in any way redundant and that it is a different experience. 

Samir Husni: What about the timing for launching this quarterly print magazine? We are approaching one year living in this pandemic; why do you think now is the perfect time for Delish in print?

Dan Fuchs: We feel that our audience is telling us now is the right time. I think what we have seen in the data drives, a lot of that is the type of recipes that we’re seeing people really leaning into, the sourdough breads, the baked lasagnas; more of the comfort foods. And a real interest in videos on technique. And an interest in trying something new. We’re also watching social media and if you’re into TikTok, I’m sure you’ve seen the baked feta pasta craze that’s been going on. And that’s something pre-pandemic that people may have not been as excited and focused about doing. 

Print allows you to really take a recipe and make it more than just functional, really blow it out in terms of the photography and give an overall sense of the food that’s there. So, the audience has led us to that, the data of the type of content that we see doing well has also led us to that. And also, still the success in our print vehicles. We have another print business where we do spiral-bound books that are Amazon print-on-demand. So we take no inventory; we print a new copy every time someone wants one, and particularly during a pandemic those are doing really well. So, we will see.

Again, the success is not heavily reliant on newsstands, although I think we’ll do well there. But our fans who have really grown with us over this pandemic time, they’re the ones who have signed up for the Delish Unlimited membership and they will continue to do so and they’ll be really excited about the new magazine.

Samir Husni: What’s your elevator pitch for advertisers? There are a gazillion of food magazines out there, including your own Food Network among others, what’s your unique selling point for advertisers? 

Dan Fuchs: I have met with a bunch of prospective advertisers and some of our existing clients and I think the elevator pitch is that this is a natural extension of a brand that already has proven success. And this is a way for you as the marketer; you’ve been working with us on Delish.com and you’ve been working with us with branded content that’s digital; you’ve been working with us on customized social posts; we did a lot of live programming, so here’s a way to work with us on something that we know will resonate with our audience, your customer, but to do it in a different way. 

We have some advertisers who think only about print, that’s what they feel resonates with their audience, and we talk to them about how we can work together in the print environment. But if I’m limited in the amount of time I can talk to people, I’d tell them that it’s one of the larger food brands in America with probably the largest growth curve there, proven content that’s data driven, based on what we’ve seen this past year and based on newsstand sales from our other print products, and it’s something that we feel very confident will be successful. 

Samir Husni: What are some of the challenges that you feel you’re going to face in launching the quarterly magazine and this whole membership model and what’s your plans to overcome them?

Dan Fuchs: You do get into the “why now” and “why print” and as we look at trends on newsstand, I think there is that unfortunate mythology about the print model that we have to address. A hurdle that we have to overcome is to prove to people that this digital-first brand might have a digital-first audience, but that audience is interested in print as well. How do we demonstrate that? Fortunately we have four or five years’ worth of data on our print products and granted it’s been a different model. 

Also there was some skepticism from the start just about most of our competitors in the digital food space are free sites, the pay meter is new, but here we are two months in significantly exceeding all benchmarks at Hearst and not seeing any drop-off in traffic overall. 

There hasn’t been that much pushback; I think there has been a “why now,” but the launch of the membership program really seemed to be a perfect time for us to introduce this idea that Joanna and her team have had for a while.  

Samir Husni: Will there be any changes as far as diversity and inclusion in the magazine? 

Dan Fuchs: Absolutely and I’m glad you asked that. I’m excited about this first issue because we feel that Delish has been a very inclusive brand all along, but particularly as we go through the magazine what has always been important to us is that our readers understand the story behind the food or the origins behind the food. And we know our audience is excited to try new and different things. I’ll give you an example. The first chapter is all about eggs, who doesn’t like a good egg to start off with breakfast. But it’s the variety of ways that we’re going to show you to make those eggs. Of course, there’s a frittata, and we have a recipe for Migas, also a Sabich sandwich, which is an Israeli sandwich, and we give you some background on that and the ingredients you need.

I think this is a perfect example of what you’re talking about, this recipe for congee, which is written by June Xie, who runs our test kitchen at Delish. In addition to a really great recipe that our readers may not be familiar with and would want to try, we tell the story behind it. It’s a first-person account that June talks about, such as growing up in Beijing.

Food, as we’ve seen over the last year, food is closely linked with people’s identities and their cultural identities. So we’ve tried very hard in the magazine for people to really see the true story behind the food. And the true story behind the people who are writing about it. 

Samir Husni: What do you hope to achieve in the first year of Delish quarterly?

Dan Fuchs: I would say, and it feels a little déjà vu, with all the things we used to say when we launched HGTV magazine, is there ever a good time to launch a magazine? But the time is when your audience tells you they want it. 

So the fast forward would be that we prove the naysayers wrong, that we expanded a brand, that while rooted in digital, could deliver on our promise to reach our audience in many different ways. But from an overall editorial perspective, I’d feel like we reached success if we could find our consumers saying this is such a great addition to their Delish experience; it doesn’t replace anything, it’s not redundant in any way. 

From a sales perspective, it would be very exciting to see this drive even more memberships, that people are excited about a subscription model. And from an advertising perspective, it would be great to show some examples of really exciting native integrations that we’ve done, that go beyond just the printed ad page. I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself in the past and I’m excited to work together to deliver that this year.

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

Dan Fuchs: We are really proud of this brand and I have to give a lot of kudos to Joanna Saltz and her editorial team who adapted so quickly to an extremely challenging situation. We have a test kitchen in the Hearst Tower that we could not get access to, so her editorial team was doing recipe videos out of their homes and what was really exciting and heartwarming was our audience loved it. They loved seeing the imperfections along the way. They liked seeing what it was like inside someone’s apartment, with their kids running around. It made it more real to them.

So the editorial team, instead of being overwhelmed or intimidated by that, really rose to the challenge and at a time where people were holding back on certain things, they really pushed forward and we tried new things. That’s what Delish quarterly is about; it summarizes the spirit of Hearst and of this brand and our team. We’re always going to be innovative and we’re always going to put the brand and the audience first.

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

Dan Fuchs: I have always felt so lucky to be a part of this business, this industry. It is the people that I get to work with. I’m coming up on my 18th year at Hearst and we have exciting things going on. It’s the colleagues that I work with, Joanna as my partner on the editorial side; it’s some of the team members who came with me from HGTV magazine and from Oprah. But it’s also our clients; it’s our advertisers, who are also open and excited about what’s going on. 

I love that every day looks different. And granted, it might be in the kitchen versus the living room and that might be the biggest difference in change of location. I do miss getting on airplanes and seeing people in person, but the day is always different and I get to talk to a lot of fun and exciting people. So I consider myself very fortunate. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind after a hard day’s work?

Dan Fuchs: If you dropped by, you might see the bar and the wine fridge, so there’s definitely enjoyment in that. And even though it’s been a full year of cooking for my family, we’ve been able to spend more time together, at the end of the day it’s hitting up Delish, listening to some good music and sitting down with a nice cocktail from one of my favorite new books.

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

Dan Fuchs: Not necessarily things about work; I think our country has been through quite a lot, but I’m always a very hopeful and optimistic person. There’s a lot of indecision out there: when are we going back to the office, all the things that we talked about that I love about the business, when are we going back into ad agencies to talk to customers; when are we going to have another ACT Experience, so I think it’s just the waiting. And still accepting the realities. 

I’m looking forward to going back to the way things were in some ways, but also being excited about the stuff we’ve learned doing things differently. I’m excited about how we’ll conduct business in the future. It’s different every year. 

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

h1

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

February 8, 2021

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Santos: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: How have you operated during the pandemic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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Marvin Magazine: A New Upscale And Luxury Ink On Paper Music Magazine For 2020 And Beyond – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Marvin Scott Jarrett, Cofounder & Editor In Chief …

December 9, 2020

“When we were doing Ray Gun, Neville Brody (the famous British graphic designer and art director) came out with this quote, The End of Print, and I think he meant it in a derogatory manner. We ended up using that in places and then David (Carson), my first designer, ended up doing a book called The End of Print. To me, this is sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s really me getting back in print. It’s the rebirth of print.” Marvin Scott Jarrett (on the tagline of his new magazine The Rebirth of Print)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

From Ray Gun to Nylon and many titles in between, Marvin Scott Jarrett is no newcomer to magazines. And he is making his return to print in a big way: a big beautiful magazine with a very familiar and personal moniker, Marvin, a quarterly  music magazine that is very stylish and fashionable and is aimed at men as its main audience. Marvin has traveled all over the world and has called L.A. his home for most of his adult life except for the period he published Nylon magazine when he moved to New York City. 

Marvin magazine, Marvin told me that this may be his most exciting title yet, simply because it is centered on his passions, his vision, and his own personal headspace. And quite unique in that the advertising for the magazine is based on one partner/one sponsor per issue instead of the traditional way of selling and carrying advertising in magazines. For the first issue, the magazine has teamed up with Porsche, a company that saw a desire to partner and showcase its luxury brand with this new luxury magazine. A very intriguing concept that comes from a very intriguing man. While many might still argue that print isn’t what it used to be, Marvin believes print is still a viable and desirable investment. 

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Marvin Scott Jarrett, cofounder & editor in chief, Marvin magazine.

But first here are the sound-bites: 

On the tagline which reads The Rebirth of Print: When we were doing Ray Gun, Neville Brody came out with this quote, The End of Print, and I think he meant it in a derogatory manner. We ended up using that in places and then David Carson, my first designer, ended up doing a book called The End of Print. To me, this is sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s really me getting back in print. It’s the rebirth of print.

On how he visualized his ideas for the new magazine and then put them on ink on paper: I had been thinking about it for two years, from inception of idea to it coming out into the world. Basically, I knew that I wanted to start a new brand more on the male targeted side, although it’s really for any gender. And it was going to be very music-focused. I was in the desert, we were on vacation, and basically had the hotel stationery. I drew a picture of Marvin as the masthead and I drew a little person on the cover. I kept that and I started thinking about what I could do in this world; what would I do if I had a new print vehicle? 

On whether he was concerned about starting a new print magazine during a pandemic and an ever-changing world: I always saw us getting past the pandemic. And with the current world situation, I realized that I was able to do meetings all over the world through Zoom. We put this together in a pandemic and we didn’t make a big deal about that. It was a time for reflection, a new chapter for me. And it allowed me to really think about what I wanted to do.

On this being one of many magazines that he has launched: When I was doing Ray Gun, I had a bunch of magazines. I did a snowboard magazine called Stick; I did a magazine for MTV in Europe called Blah, Blah, Blah; we did a custom magazine for Warner Music Group. I was doing all those different magazines under the Ray Gun publishing company. And then with Nylon, my partner and wife Jaclynn really pushed me to just focus on one title, one title was vital. The closest thing we got to another title was the spinoff of Nylon Guys.

On how the birth of Marvin compares to the birth of Ray Gun or Nylon: It could be the most exciting launch for me ever. The fact that it’s called Marvin makes it more personal. It’s really exciting to do whatever I wanted in the print world and not think about making it for $2 because it’s going to sell for $4 or $5. Or it’s got to be this and we have to print hundreds of thousands of them. It wasn’t that. It was something born in a different space in my mind. It was really a creative project.

On the frequency of the magazine: It’s a quarterly.

On whether it’s offered in subscriptions: Not as of yet. There may be a time that I might want to do subscriptions, but for right now it’s just at these 15 or 20 cool bookstores around the world. 

On how he decided on the U.K.-born singer, songwriter and actor Yungblud for the cover of the first issue: I made a mood film before I started the all execution of the print. And Yungblud was one of the features in the film and somebody that I liked. I personally met him a few years ago. He came to my house and we chatted and I liked him before he really took off and I thought that I would be interested in doing something with this guy someday. It just kind of came full circle and I wanted him to be the launch cover.

On what he believes is the future of print: I think more specialized, personal magazines are going to be the ones that impact the most when it comes to print. Some of the big magazines, traditional print magazines that are owned by the three or four big publishing companies, the product is different than it was ten years ago. They have to make it for as little as possible, and the distribution system is crazy. The idea praying that 10 magazines sell three or four  and the rest get destroyed, that model didn’t really interest me. 

On anything he’d like to add: It’s exciting for me to do it again. I worked on that Ray Gun book with Rizzoli for two years. It came out last year. And I really started getting more into music again, not that I was ever not into music, it’s part of my life. I grew up as a musician and most of my friends are musicians. I’ve just wanted to do a new music magazine for 2020 and beyond.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I generally play some music. I’ll watch some form of TV or film to relax. I get up really early and I find that my best thinking time is in the morning. My first four or five hours are my best. 

On whether he feels more at home on the West Coast than the East Coast: Yes. Basically, I lived my whole adult life in Los Angeles, except for when I started Nylon. I moved there full time for five years. And then for the following 10 years we were bicoastal, so I always kept my house in L.A. There are so many creatives out here, more space, there’s sky and the weather. L.A. is my home.

On what keeps him up at night: I’m not really in that headspace right now that I have those worries. I sleep well at night. I’m doing what I love and I’m building a new business, a new brand, a new platform and it’s really an exciting time for me. To me, this is Act Three and I want it to be the biggest and best Act yet.

And now, without any further delay, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ video cast with Marvin Scott Jarrett, cofounder and editor in chief, Marvin magazine.

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The Saturday Evening Post At 200: Yes, It Is Still Being Published And Still Celebrating America’s Past, Present, and Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Slon, Editorial Director and Associate Publisher & Jeff Nilsson, Director Of Archives…

December 2, 2020

“There has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America.” Steven Slon… 

“There are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.” Jeff Nilsson…

The Saturday Evening Post Then August 8, 1862
The Saturday Evening Post Now November/December 2020

In 2021 The Saturday Evening Post will celebrate 200 years of chronicling American history in the making. From Napoleon to Lincoln to The Civil Rights Movement, the magazine has been a staple and a part of our American culture for generations. 

With the upcoming celebratory milestone, I spoke recently to Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of The Post’s archives and we talked about what some have called the most significant of the early magazines. Its rich history and still-strong future gave us quite a lot to discuss and the conversation was as fascinating as the magazine itself.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve and Jeff as we take a look back, a present glimpse, and a glance into the future of The Saturday Evening Post.

The Jan. 1, 1921 cover

But first the sound-bites: 

On The Saturday Evening Post’s claim that it was founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin when it was really launched in 1821 (Steven Slon): The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on. 

On what role The Saturday Evening Post plays in today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

On whether he feels The Saturday Evening Post is swimming against the current in today’s magazine publishing world (Steven Slon): We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue.

Steven Slon

On why Beurt SerVaas thought the magazine was worth saving in the 1960s (Steven Slon): To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

On what the 200-year-old legacy of The Saturday Evening Post means in today’s world (Steven Slon): I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country.

Jeff Nilsson

On how The Saturday Evening Post has coped over the years with each facet of new media, from radio to the Internet (Jeff Nilsson): Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

On the future of The Saturday Evening Post as it enters its third century (Steven Slon): The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Steven Slon): We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Jeff Nilsson): I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country.  

On whether The Saturday Evening Post would be considered a history of American taste or just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history.

On what’s in store for the celebration year of 2021 (Steven Slon): The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

On why magazines of today are so different from the magazines of yesteryear (Steven Slon): There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Steven Slon): I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Jeff Nilsson): I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.

The Saturday Evening Post September 29, 1821

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of archives, The Saturday Evening Post.

Samir Husni: In 1821 The Saturday Evening Post was launched and it became the most important magazine in American history, according to many historians. Yet, some were confused when The Saturday Evening Post added the tagline “Founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin” before even Benjamin Franklin started his own magazine in 1741. Can you tell me about that story?

Steven Slon: The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on.

Now there’s a bit of a real connection in the sense that the founders of The Saturday Evening Post in 1821 were modeling on some of the work of Benjamin Franklin. And they also published it, printed it in the same printing shop in Philadelphia that Benjamin Franklin had used so that they could claim a little, let’s say paternity. (Laughs)

The Saturday Evening Post May 3, 1862

Samir Husni: But in 1821 Benjamin Franklin was dead. 

Steven Slon: And his publications, The Pennsylvania Gazette, whatever, had been gone for 15 to 20 years. The real start of the magazine, granted it owes a debt to the kind of thinking and the style and tone of Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette, the magazine was founded in 1821, the real publication. And it really had no direct link. We’re now counting it the real way and we feel that 200 years is a pretty long history. And it makes us the oldest magazine in America.

Samir Husni: And of course, the folks at the Old Farmer’s Almanac will say that they’re 225 years old, but the difference is they are an annual and you’re a periodical publication. 

Steven Slon: Yes. 

Samir Husni: What role is The Saturday Evening Post playing today? You have a 200-year-old history, but how is that past relevant in today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

We’re also in the tradition of, from the earliest platforms that were released in the early part of, certainly the 20th century, the idea that we want to be known for unbiased reporting, we don’t take sides. For example, in the recent, current election we’re not taking sides, we’re sending issues that relate to some of the big trends in the country, such as America’s divide and what can be done about it. We’re not saying that we support one candidate over the other. In addition, we’re a nonprofit, so we’re a 501(c)(3), we’re not really committed to advocate politically.

The Saturday Evening Post August 27, 1898

Samir Husni: As you look at the status of magazine publishing, and as you look at the extreme niche that we’re moving into, it seems many are calling print a luxury item now and believe you have to sell it with a cover price of $10 or $15 or even more, how does it feel to be swimming against the current? You have a magazine like The Saturday Evening Post, still with a cover price of $5.99 and still printing a quarter million copies or more every other month, do you feel you’re swimming against the current? And what do you hear from your audience?

Steven Slon: We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue. 

Our readers like it. Granted, we’re swimming against the tide, but we hear from our readers that they’re very satisfied. Our renewal rates are historically high for magazines.  And we’re happy. As an editor, certainly I’m happy to be producing a magazine where you get to talk about lots of different things. I have a short attention span, I want to hear about this and a little bit of that, and I think our readers do too.

Samir Husni: The Saturday Evening Post has died and come back several times over these 200 years of existence. And really, the major salvation for the magazine came in the 1960s when all three biggies, Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post were facing their demise, but someone came to the rescue and bought The Post along with its archives. Can you talk a little bit about why Beurt SerVaas thought it was worth saving?

Steven Slon: To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

The Saturday Evening Post December 30, 1899

The story of why it went into bankruptcy is rather involved, but I’ll just briefly say that in the early 1960s The Post actually hit its highest circulation numbers, it was over six million. And in some regards, it became top-heavy, and it was very expensive to produce that many copies. And when small details go wrong, the whole thing began to collapse. They started buying timberland to control the paper and the value of the land went down and then they tried cutting circulation, limiting it to the higher income zip codes. And that turned off a lot of readers because it’s a magazine for average folks, it was never a New Yorker, a high-brow magazine, it was a magazine for middle-grounders, regular people. There was an author in The Post who found out after receiving his check for his article that they were taking him off their subscription list. Sorry. (Laughs) 

In any case, Beurt SerVaas was brought in to help break up The Saturday Evening Post. And in doing so, he saw value, not so much in The Post, but in the children’s magazines, Jack and Jill and Child Life. And at the time these were circulated through schools and were very profitable. And he thought that would be of some value to him, so he wanted to preserve that. So in the process he shipped all of the equipment and materials, what was left of The Post, out to Indianapolis. 

But in doing so there were several Rockwell canvasses lying around the office. In those days, they were considered to have no value, even Rockwell didn’t value them. He had gotten paid for them and in some cases he gave them away like to the local Boy Scouts for an auction. One of his canvasses went at auction for 50 cents in the ‘50s or ‘60s. And he called SerVaas and said that he’d like to come down and pick up his paintings. 

So, he came down in his old station wagon, drove down by himself and threw his paintings in the back, just tossed them in. Rockwell told SerVaas that he was glad he was taking over the company and hoped he could revive the publication. SerVaas told him sure, he could maybe do that, but he said it sort of noncommittally. 

Then later, Norman Rockwell was on The Today Show and he was asked about what was going to happen to The Saturday Evening Post, because as you and I know this was such a big publication, it was as if a network TV station had gone out of business. Rockwell then said that he’d met the new owner of the company and that he was going to relaunch The Saturday Evening Post. He mentioned that they were in Indianapolis and they received bushels of mail from people across the country wanting to know when they could get the magazine. 

So Beurt SerVaas said to his wife Cory, I guess we’re launching this magazine. (Laughs) And you’re going to be the editor. So, his wife Cory, who was an M.D. and not someone in the publishing business became the facto editor of the magazine and it went on from there. And it was very heavily focused on health reporting in those years, but otherwise they kept a lot of the traditions alive. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 30, 1916 (First Norman Rockwell cover)

Samir Husni: You have a rich archive with 200 years of magazines, and the last time I visited The Post they were digitizing everything. What do you think the legacy of The Saturday Evening Post is today?

Steven Slon: I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country. 

At the turn of the century, America was not in any sense a “United” States. There were pockets of immigration all over, people speaking different languages, there were different cultures. And remember travel was difficult at the time, for the average person they may not have gone 20 miles from home, you traveled by horse and buggy, cars were just a new concept that very few people had. So, The Post gave this picture of America, partly through its covers, its portraits, its illustrations, a picture of America that people could relate to and say yes, that’s who we are, especially when you look at Rockwell and the sense of unity, the sense of children playing, the sense of adults working the commuter life in later years, were brought to life by The Post and it was a shared experience that helped create a part of that feeling of being united. 

We have this incredible archive in which we have completed our digitization and relaunched our website about a year ago with full access to all but a few issues of the magazine, all the way back to 1821. You need to be a subscriber to get full access, but if you go online a lot of the time we surface selections from our past, flipbooks, and tell a story about a particular story that ran and allow people to read it. But subscribers can go to any edition of the magazine and read through it at any time. So, all of this great history is there for the reader to have and it’s an American treasure. 

The Saturday Evening Post July 5, 1919

Samir Husni: With its history, you have a magazine that has witnessed the birth of radio, television, the Internet and digital. Do you have a sense of how the magazine coped with all of this new media, how it adjusted?

Steven Slon: I can talk about digital because that’s something that we’re involved in right now. It’s a good point, certainly, TV did not hurt The Post in the mid-century because – actually I can’t speak to that, I don’t know why. The publication is a different experience, reading a magazine and watching TV, those are two discrete things. 

I think that digital is hurting the basic news business because we learn things in minutes, in seconds. For example, Biden being declared the winner recently. Everybody was talking about that within seconds of its occurrence. In the early part of our existence, we reported on the death of Napoleon within two or three weeks, and that was fast then. (Laughs) So, it’s hurting that kind of reporting, but our well is featured stories that are timely, sensitive and relevant, but they’re not based on breaking news. As a bimonthly, one can’t be anyway. 

Jeff Nilsson: Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

And in the 1950s as television started up, they ran several articles to talk about how television was having trouble. It had trouble because the networks weren’t putting any money into television, they thought it would fail. But in the early reporting by The Post, they sort of stood back and considered it to be an unusual, two-headed dog of entertainment. They didn’t really take it seriously until the 1960s. 

The Saturday Evening Post responded to that by sort of giving television a bad edge and they talked about the cultural wasteland, which is what one of the famous critics of the 1960s called television. But by the mid-sixties, they realized that television was here to stay and that we would look stupid if we didn’t start covering television as part of our mix of editorial content. 

So, from that point on they did start taking it seriously, but I think that radio had started the drift away from print and even from what I’ve read the numbers of The Post had started to decline a little before the Second World War. With the Second World War though there was a paper shortage and the magazines were limited as to who could publish and who couldn’t. The Post had all the paper that it needed, though flimsy of stock, but they were able to enjoy a closed market and people were hungry for information during the war. So it boosted us up, but the plateau was not exactly level and it was declining somewhat. Even in the ‘50s when our numbers were still good, we got up to six and a half million in subscriptions in the early ‘60s, but even so they could realize that magazines weren’t growing at the same rate they used to. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 29, 1943

Samir Husni: As the magazine enters its third century, what’s the future for The Saturday Evening Post? 

Steven Slon: The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate. 

People read it, but that’s still a small percentage of the population. So, it’s somewhat hermetically sealed. Our readers love us and they enjoy it. It’s hard to get the word out to people beyond that. And we’re hoping in a way with our 200thanniversary we can get the word out. Hey, we’re still here and we’re incredibly vibrant and alive, interesting and diverse. 

Samir Husni: Do you have a story to tell that will shed this idea that the magazine is dead? 

Steven Slon: We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines. 

Why is that? As an editor I want to say that it’s about the quality. It’s about good reporting, tight editing, respect for the reader, and again to clarify, we’re not a nostalgia magazine, we’re a magazine that shares its past,  but we’re a magazine about what’s going on today and the trends. I just think it’s a great magazine and I think quality is what makes a magazine sell and grow. And people have to hear about it, of course to do that. 

I can share a story. I was giving a talk about the history of the magazine, showing slides of the new covers and so on that we’re doing, keeping up the tradition of the great art covers of the past. And somebody raised their hand in the audience and asked, you’re completely online, so how do I get the magazine? And I said I’ve just been telling you for an hour that we’re still in print. But people have it in their heads that we’re not, so it’s hard to break through that.

Jeff Nilsson: I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country. 

If you think about where the magazine is right now, we have at least 100 years, more than a hundred years, that we have really been reaching to American standard tastes. Now in an age of continual change, where there is so much that isn’t recognizable, The Post stands out as something that is more of a standard. This is how Americans have entertained and educated themselves for hundreds of years, and will keep going in that way. But now, in my mind, the phrase keeps coming back now more than ever when people are wondering what is it that defines being American, what is the American experience. We are probably as good a reflection as any magazine if not better. 

Steven Slon: And I’d like to add that there has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America. 

The Saturday Evening Post February 13, 1960

Samir Husni: With this rich history, how are you making use of it and how are you promoting it for a new generation? Is there a chance that The Saturday Evening Post will be considered a history of American taste or is it just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history. 

In 2008 to 2010, there was the economic crisis that we were facing and we could talk about the bank crisis of 1907 because we covered it. We did a story that showed the ups and downs of the banking system over the years and showed that these down moments were part of a cyclical trend rather than just a one-off event, which when in real life it appears we’re in the midst of a banking crisis and it seems to be a unique event, but in fact it has a history. 

In our current issue we have a small selection of some of the ads that ran in the 1950s that would be shocking if you saw them today. We actually say on our cover “Censored” 1950s ads. These are ads that portrayed women as domestic tools of the family whose only care and interest for Christmas gifts was to get a new vacuum or a new refrigerator, some tool of the trade. And men were juvenile, and not to mention we have pictures of cowboys and Indians, costumes for kids that were completely cultural appropriation and all that. 

And then of course, cigarette ads. There is this incredibly funny ad, a picture of Santa with a cigarette in his mouth, promoting the T-zone or whatever it was, what a good cigarette.

Samir Husni; And you can do that because you’re no longer on the newsstands. I remember when you did the Kennedy reprint, you could not put it on the newsstands because of the cigarette ads.

Steven Slon: I didn’t check into that, but you’re probably right. But I think because we’re showing it in a historical context, we’re not actually running an ad for cigarettes.  

Jeff Nilsson: You asked about the relevance of historical material. I have to keep reminding myself as a historian, I think this is all interesting. I always say that if you don’t know how you got here, you don’t know where you are. But when I think about the readers of The Post, I think about having visited some friends and they bring out their family album. Nothing is more boring than somebody’s family album. You don’t know any of these people. 

And American history is very much the same way. If you don’t know what’s going on it’s just a number of incoherent stories. Our job is to provide history that people can see a connection to, see how it affected their lives, see how it parallels with what is going on. And if we can’t do that then yes, we are a nostalgia magazine, but we’re making sure that this is relevant, that all the material in the vaults somehow touches on experiences and thoughts that people have today. And that’s our goal and that’s how we’re going to stay relevant.

The Saturday Evening Post August 8, 1964

Samir Husni: Can you see yourself as the bridge that connects yesterday with tomorrow?

Jeff Nilsson: Sure. I’ll take that exactly as it is. I’m going to copy that one. (Laughs) 

Samir Husni: Tell me about 2021, the celebrations. What’s in store? Will you be celebrating the entire year?

Steven Slon: The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

Jeff Nilsson: Yes, we got that to the newsstand within a week, which was very unusual.

Steven Slon: And then in future issues we’ll celebrate fiction. And I’ll read off a few names. This is the thing that people don’t realize, in the 19th century Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Washington Irving and Mark Twain were all published in the magazine. 

In the 20th century Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Call of the Wild was first published in The Saturday Evening Post before it was put out as a book, Ring Lardner, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story unto himself, 68 stories published in The Saturday Evening Post over the years. The first story he was paid $400 which in the ‘20s was huge money. By the end of his tenure with The Post, he was being paid $4,000 per story. That was what some people made in a year then. So, a well-paid job. He was able to travel the world, squire Zelda around to their European extravagance, was criticized by other writers like Hemingway for frittering away his talents on short stories when he could have been writing novels, but he was being paid so well he didn’t need to. 

And then of course later, Kurt Vonnegut. And we had great reporting. In the sixties with the “new” journalism. We had the writers associated with the new journalism who wrote for The Post. 

Jeff Nilsson: Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion.

Steven Slon: Yes. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that was published in its entirety, it was assigned and published by The Post. Eisenhower’s memoirs was published in The Post, his war memoirs before he became president.

Samir Husni: Why are today’s magazines nothing like what magazines used to be? Unless you disagree with me and then if you could tell me how they are the same.

Steven Slon: There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme. 

We can do it because we’re a nonprofit, we’re not just chasing the easiest dollar. Certainly with magazines today, many of them are purely a business operation, it’s let’s find interest groups and target them and it’s an easier sell. We’re targeting Americans in the broad sense. We could be a much bigger circulation .

The Saturday Evening Post Sept./October 2020

Samir Husni: We are seeing a huge increase in Black subjects on the covers and inside the pages of American magazines. We’ve seen more in the last 120 days than we have in probably the last 120 years. Any idea how The Saturday Evening Post dealt with diversity? Were minorities and people of color a part of the magazine?

Steven Slon: I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe. 

I would add that today we are making it a renewed commitment to diversity. We have a big article coming in the next issue about a school that has made an extraordinary drive to increase diversity and support low-income students whoever they are without any concern for their ability to pay. And how they have created extraordinary change in their culture. 

We covered Black Lives Matter in our kids magazines this year. Actually, one of our kids magazines had an article, first-person story about teenaged kids who attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration over the summer and how they were moved by it. So, I think that has to be part of the conversation going forward. 

Jeff Nilsson: I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery. 

In the 1900s they were reporting on how the Black vote was being suppressed in the South. In 1917 they were talking about Black troops and how they had acquitted themselves with such honor that they were showing up the white troops that they were serving alongside of. In the 1940s they were saying that this was their country too and Blacks should be able to serve in combat roles. Starting in the Civil Rights movement we had a number of pieces talking about the Freedom Riders in the South and the young people who were getting involved. We had a piece by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Steven Slon: There was a cover story on Malcolm X and we also did an in depth story about Jackie Robinson and the behind-the-scenes planning that led to his being placed in the Major Leagues. There was some subterfuge involved and they pretended he was being prepared for a Minor League team when in fact the plan was to put him in a Major League team. 

Samir Husni: Thank you both. 

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Playgirl Magazine Relaunches: A New Voice, A New Feminine Power Emerges From The Ashes & The “Skye” Is The Limit – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Skye Parrott, Editor In Chief, Playgirl…

November 8, 2020

“Going into Playgirl, it’s very intentionally diverse because I think as you approach the idea of what space a modern feminist publication could occupy, one of the things that I’ve thought a lot about, and I think this is what the tagline on the cover speaks to, is the idea that rather than offering the feminist point of view, what if we offer a feminine point of view?  And what does that look like? What are the ideals that are lifted up? What are we celebrating? What are we putting forward with this magazine?” Skye Parrott…

Skye Parrott, editor in chief of the newly relaunched Playgirl magazine. Photo by Kat Slootsky

From the ashes, Playgirl has been reborn with a new, more feminine viewpoint, but with its indelible history intact. The former Playgirl had its last issue in 2015 and the difference between that Playgirl and today’s Playgirl is palpable. With a new publisher/owner and a new editor in chief, the magazine is ready to tackle today’s issues, including injustices and the pandemic, with a steadfast head on its shoulders and a fresh new voice in women’s magazines. 

Skye Parrott is the new editor in chief, formerly cofounder and creative director of Dossier, an  arts and fashion magazine, known as a platform that championed young creatives and helped to launch the careers of many photographers, fashion designers, and artists. Today, Skye is bringing her talents and creative vision to Playgirl.

I spoke with Skye recently and we talked about this new, modern-day Playgirl magazine. She was excited about the new direction, yet recognized the value of the title’s history, knowing that nudity and sexuality had always been a part of the magazine, but according to Skye it’s all about the approach to those topics and the way you execute them. 

“I think we’ve looked at sex and sexuality and the body very differently in this magazine than how it was approached previously.”

The articles are there and very substantive, with the subject matter very topical for the world of today. The magazine has beautiful photography, yet stories that are compelling and on point with the issues we are facing currently. It’s a rebirth of a brand that many have been waiting for.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Skye Parrot, editor in chief, Playgirl Magazine (relaunched). It was a delightful conversation about a title that should open up many more dialogues.

And once again, in 2020 Playgirl magazine returned to the newsstands as an upscale coffee-table like magazine

But first the sound-bites:

On why she accepted the role of editor in chief to bring Playgirl back to print and where it fits in the marketplace today: I was introduced to the publisher, who is a young man from a publishing family. He’s the great-grandson of Eugene Meyer, who owned the Washington Post for many years. The opportunity to buy the magazine sort of fell into his lap. He didn’t have any personal experience in publishing, but he saw it as an interesting and incredible opportunity. From the beginning it seemed like an incredible opportunity to me as well. To take this iconic, feminist magazine and to reimagine it for today’s world seemed very exciting. The moment seemed really right to do something interesting with it that could be meaningful. And I think that’s what we achieved in terms of the marketplace.

On whether it was intentional that she created a magazine that is so diverse and seems to be a coffee table book for an adult female who can have both a feast for her eyes and a feast for her brain: I wish you could see that I’m really smiling right now because that’s exactly what I hoped to create with this. Dossier was an incredibly diverse publication as well. And it was quite a long time ago in terms of the life of a magazine. Dossier launched in 2007/2008 and so diversity has always been very central to the work that I look to do. I’m from New York originally and I see diversity as a very central piece of the conversation. For lack of a different way of saying it, I find it quite boring to see the same person repeated in various iterations again and again and to only share one point of view. I don’t find that to be very interesting personally and I’ve never looked to replicate that in the publications that I’ve done.

On whether she thinks the nudity in the magazine is a plus or a negative: I was thinking about this the other day. If I were starting the magazine from scratch, there are things that would have probably been a little bit different about it than Playgirl. But when you’re relaunching something and you have a title that has a history, I think you have to also look at the history of that title and think about how to include that history in what you’re making today. And Playgirl obviously has a history of being very much interwoven with sex and I think that is a conversation that you have to have in the magazine, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. It’s just the name Playgirl slapped onto a magazine that has no relationship to the history.

June 1973 saw the launch of Playgirl as The Magazine For Women and continued publishing until 2015

On the gorgeous photography and the meaty reading material in the magazine and whether the pictures are bait to get people to actually sit down and discover other things in the magazine: I’ve never really thought of it that way. For me the approach to the magazines that I have done has always been informed by what I want. When I founded Dossier, one of the big conversations that we had then was why did something have to be one or the other? Why does it have to be we have The New Yorker, but it’s all words or we have these beautiful fashion magazines, but there’s nothing of any substance in them. What if you had these things together because people are multidimensional, just because you like to look at beautiful pictures doesn’t mean you don’t want to read something as well.

On how she decided on a naked, pregnant Chloë Sevigny for the cover: A lot of making a good magazine is taking advantage of the luck of what is available at the time it’s available. So, it was quite lucky that Chloë Sevigny was pregnant and that she was quite open to doing this cover and when that became clear, that she was open to doing it, it seemed to me like a no-brainer that we would put her on the cover. That having been said, I think from the beginning it was very clear that what we wanted to do with the cover was to look at female power in a different way.

On one criticism and one positive piece of feedback she has gotten since the first issue has been out: I’d start first with the criticisms, because I would love it if we could get some, but unfortunately in the world right now, I feel like those criticisms, you get them in person from people, and right now there’s just no in person. So, the feedback I’ve gotten has been only positive about it. I would love to share the critiques because there’s always room to make something better and to do more, but the feedback I have gotten has been really enthusiastic.

On whether she thinks magazines as a whole play a role similar to a Paradise Island or an Island of Clarity as they used to refer to The Wall Street Journal since many other platforms bombard the audience with only bad news:That’s a very interesting question. I can only speak to the kinds of magazines that I’ve looked to make and the kinds of magazines that I’ve looked to make are not trying to provide a Paradise Island, they’re not trying to sugarcoat anything. But what I look to do with Playgirl and what I think that we accomplished pretty well is to address the world as it is in a way that’s honest and vulnerable, but also has humor and hope.

In January 1973 Playgirl returned as a magazine for Women’s Entertainment, but stopped publishing after one issue.

On what she would hope to tell someone Playgirl had achieved in one year: As far as the magazine goes, I don’t know what the future holds for it, to be frank. The pandemic has changed the calculus a little bit for the publisher and he hasn’t got our schedule yet for the second issue. Ideally, when you do a biannual magazine, you immediately start working on the next issue, but that’s not the case for Playgirl. So, I really don’t know. But what I hope is the experience of reading it will have given people stuff to think about, will have given people enjoyment and maybe will have added something to the conversation about life and the world and the human experience. 

On the magazine being more of a luxury item with its $20 cover price: Absolutely. It’s quite a niche product, but that’s also my background. With Dossier, we tried very hard to keep the cover price reasonable, we worked to do so, but ultimately a $20 magazine is a bit of an indulgence. The hope is with the magazine at that price, it is something you keep and look at it a little more like a book. So, when you said it looked like a coffee table book, I hope that’s what it is because at $20 it should be something that you want to hold onto.

The original Playgirl magazine circ. 1955 was a men’s magazine

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I’ll mention it again, I have three young children, so my evenings end quite early. In a world where there isn’t COVID-19, I’m not sure what it would be, but with the pandemic right now what I’ve been watching is The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. (Laughs) It’s very soothing, there’s no drama. The drama comes from the cooking. Everyone is very kind to one another and it’s very British. There are lots of good manners and that’s how I’ve been unwinding right now. And cooking, I’ve done a little cooking. My husband has been doing a lot of cooking.

On shuttling between New York and Mexico: I’ve been living for the last two years in a tiny little town in Mexico called Sayulita. I’ve been going back and forth. I actually produced the entire magazine remotely. I built the team remotely, led the team remotely; I was in New York for some meetings, but almost the entire magazine was produced remotely, which was actually true for Dossier as well. It was a remote team then also.

On what keeps her up at night: I don’t know if you want to know the answer to that right now. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Skye Parrott, editor in chief, Playgirl. 

Samir Husni: When you bring a print magazine back to print in this day and age, everybody takes notice. But why specifically did you accept the job as editor in chief to bring Playgirl back and how do you place it in today’s marketplace among all the other magazines out there? 

Skye Parrott: Those are excellent questions. I was introduced to the publisher, who is a young man from a publishing family. He’s the great-grandson of Eugene Meyer, who owned the Washington Post for many years. The opportunity to buy the magazine sort of fell into his lap. He didn’t have any personal experience in publishing, but he saw it as an interesting and incredible opportunity. We were introduced about two years ago by mutual friends. He was familiar with Dossier and that’s how I came into the picture. 

From the beginning it seemed like an incredible opportunity to me as well. To take this iconic, feminist magazine and to reimagine it for today’s world seemed very exciting. The moment seemed really right to do something interesting with it that could be meaningful. And I think that’s what we achieved in terms of the marketplace.

I wasn’t concerned about the readership for it. To me the readership seemed quite clear. A lot of my work has been questions of gender and more and more as my work has gone on I feel like a female audience has been who I’ve been interested in communicating to and about. So, Playgirl seemed like a real opportunity to do that in terms of the actual economics of magazines. As we both know, those can be really trickier. I think magazines on their own are not a very good stand-alone business, that’s quite clear, but they’re quite an effective marketing tool for another business. 

Samir Husni: Was it intentional that diversity is all over the magazine, gender is all over the magazine, size is all over the magazine? Even before magazines were celebrating Blackness and after the murder of George Floyd, and I know the magazine was in the making even before the pandemic, was it intentional that you created a magazine that seems to me to be a coffee table book for an adult female who can have a feast for her eyes but at the same time have a feast for her brain?

Skye Parrott: I wish you could see that I’m really smiling right now because that’s exactly what I hoped to create with this. Dossier was an incredibly diverse publication as well. And it was quite a long time ago in terms of the life of a magazine. Dossier launched in 2007/2008 and so diversity has always been very central to the work that I look to do. I’m from New York originally and I see diversity as a very central piece of the conversation. For lack of a different way of saying it, I find it quite boring to see the same person repeated in various iterations again and again and to only share one point of view. I don’t find that to be very interesting personally and I’ve never looked to replicate that in the publications that I’ve done. 

Going into Playgirl, it’s very intentionally diverse because I think as you approach the idea of what space a modern feminist publication could occupy, one of the things that I’ve thought a lot about, and I think this is what the tagline on the cover speaks to, is the idea that rather than offering the feminist point of view, what if we offer a feminine point of view?  And what does that look like? What are the ideals that are lifted up? What are we celebrating? What are we putting forward with this magazine?

The idea, as I spoke a little about in the editor’s letter, is that there have been a lot of magazines made for women that still goes through this kind of male gaze. So, what if we make a magazine for women that’s really about the female gaze in a much broader sense? And for me, diversity, community, celebrating different kinds of bodies, looking at the experience of being female in different ways, for me those are hyper-feminine. And those are things that I look to do with the magazine. 

Samir Husni: Do you think you would have been able to do that without the nudity? I mean, do you think the nudity in the magazine is a plus or a negative?

Skye Parrott: I was thinking about this the other day. If I were starting the magazine from scratch, there are things that would have probably been a little bit different about it than Playgirl. But when you’re relaunching something and you have a title that has a history, I think you have to also look at the history of that title and think about how to include that history in what you’re making today. And Playgirl obviously has a history of being very much interwoven with sex and I think that is a conversation that you have to have in the magazine, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. It’s just the name Playgirl slapped onto a magazine that has no relationship to the history.

But I think the way that we approach sex, I hope, is from a very different point of view than how the magazine approached it when it first launched in the ‘70s, and certainly in later iterations when it was called Playgirl but it was basically a magazine for gay men. I think we’ve looked at sex and sexuality and the body very differently in this magazine than how it was approached previously. 

Samir Husni: As I flip through the pages, yes, you gave me some gorgeous photography and you name the age and I found it there, but there is also some heavy-duty reading material. There is solid-type pages. What are you trying to achieve? Are you using the images as bait to get people to the magazine and once there, they sit down and discover there is a lot of different things in there?

Skye Parrott: I’ve never really thought of it that way. For me the approach to the magazines that I have done has always been informed by what I want. When I founded Dossier, one of the big conversations that we had then was why did something have to be one or the other? Why does it have to be we have The New Yorker, but it’s all words or we have these beautiful fashion magazines, but there’s nothing of any substance in them. What if you had these things together because people are multidimensional, just because you like to look at beautiful pictures doesn’t mean you don’t want to read something as well. 

And I think having done that for so many years at Dossier, I never considered a different approach. I’m a huge reader myself and I have been my entire life. So, even though I come out of a visual background, reading is a massive part of my life. So the idea of creating something that didn’t have a high level of literary content never crossed my mind. 

Samir Husni: You’re a mom and you combined the image of motherhood with Playgirl’s first cover. How did the idea of that first cover for the relaunch, having a pregnant, naked woman on the cover, how did that come about? It’s a bit of a throwback to the Vanity Fair cover with Demi Moore. What was your thinking behind that? Did you want to send a shockwave to the audience? I’m intrigued to know how you decided on that cover.

Skye Parrott: A lot of making a good magazine is taking advantage of the luck of what is available at the time it’s available. So, it was quite lucky that Chloë Sevigny was pregnant and that she was quite open to doing this cover and when that became clear, that she was open to doing it, it seemed to me like a no-brainer that we would put her on the cover.

That having been said, I think from the beginning it was very clear that what we wanted to do with the cover was to look at female power in a different way. And I think the reason this cover became something that we absolutely wanted to do was because putting a naked woman on the cover who is pregnant is really a strong statement about the basis of female power. 

I think putting a naked woman on the cover in a sort of sexual pose is one thing, putting a naked man on the cover is something else, but putting a naked woman who is pregnant on the cover is saying that this power in women is somewhat very different than where we’re used to seeing it as a society. And for me, that was a statement that really lined up with what we were doing with the magazine. 

Samir Husni: I know the first issue of the magazine has very limited availability, but what has been the feedback you’ve received? I saw your interview with Monocle and the WWD review, but besides the media people, what has been one criticism your circle has given you and what was one positive about the relaunch?

Skye Parrott: I’d start first with the criticisms, because I would love it if we could get some, but unfortunately in the world right now, I feel like those criticisms, you get them in person from people, and right now there’s just no in person. So, the feedback I’ve gotten has been only positive about it. I would love to share the critiques because there’s always room to make something better and to do more, but the feedback I have gotten has been really enthusiastic.

I’ve heard a lot that it was like a breath of fresh air at this moment, that it made people feel joy and hope when they saw it and consumed it. I’ve heard that from a number of women, that it felt very fresh and very “right now” in a positive way. I love to hear that. Obviously, you make magazines hoping that you’re going to give people a certain experience and that you’re bringing something good into the world. And so to hear that has been the case is beyond satisfying. 

I’ve gotten just a lot of very positive feedback. I haven’t heard a lot of critique yet, but I expect I will. Certainly, there’s always room to make things better. 

Samir Husni: As a magazine editor, with almost all the other platforms bombarding the audience with bad news, murders, demonstrations, social injustices, you name it, do you think the magazine as a whole plays a role similar to a Paradise Island or an Island of Clarity as they used to refer to The Wall Street Journal? 

Skye Parrott: That’s a very interesting question. I can only speak to the kinds of magazines that I’ve looked to make and the kinds of magazines that I’ve looked to make are not trying to provide a Paradise Island, they’re not trying to sugarcoat anything. But what I look to do with Playgirl and what I think that we accomplished pretty well is to address the world as it is in a way that’s honest and vulnerable, but also has humor and hope. 

And I think the magazine does that very well. There’s a lot to talk about and I hope this opens up discussions, but not in a way that’s so heavy people feel more hopeless, because I don’t believe the world needs more of that right now.  

And as you noted, the magazine was finished in March and we were supposed to come out in April, but the publisher decided to hold it. We finally started to work on it again for two weeks in September and then it came out in October. So, when I went back to work on it in September I hadn’t looked at in six months and I had the sense that we were going to have to make big changes to it for the magazine to be appropriate in the world at that time. But much to my pleasant surprise, after I went through it, it didn’t need big changes. There were only very small changes. 

There was this portfolio at the core of it, which is about these feminist activists; we had already done that. We’d already talked about these women who are doing these really important things and how they’re doing them. We already had all of these first-person essays. I added only two first-person essays that I thought specifically looked at some aspects of what had been going on in the last six months in a very beautiful and thoughtful way. 

One of those was from a woman named Ivy Elrod who is quite a good friend of mine. She lives in Nashville and she wrote an essay called “We Need To Talk About The Bird.” And it’s wonderful. First of all, it’s incredibly funny and I think that’s really important. She’s also smart and she talks in it about the experience of parenting during the pandemic and the experience of being a biracial person and the experience of sort of reckoning with identity. And all of that is woven through the story. These are serious subjects to talk about, but to do so with humor and depth is really the trick. 

That piece is really the tone that I hope is woven through the whole magazine. To talk about things that are important, but to find a way to do it that balances the heaviness and the lightness of life. 

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

Skye Parrott: I wish I knew. I can maybe imagine my life about a week from now, (Laughs) if I’m lucky. One year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined anything going on, so I wish I had the crystal ball to say that I could plan for anything a year from now, but I have no sense of what my life will look like. Or the world, for that matter. As you noted, I have three children and they’re in school. One of my younger children goes to school in a park, outside. 

As far as the magazine goes, I don’t know what the future holds for it, to be frank. The pandemic has changed the calculus a little bit for the publisher and he hasn’t got our schedule yet for the second issue. Ideally, when you do a biannual magazine, you immediately start working on the next issue, but that’s not the case for Playgirl. So, I really don’t know. But what I hope is the experience of reading it will have given people stuff to think about, will have given people enjoyment and maybe will have added something to the conversation about life and the world and the human experience. 

Samir Husni: You’ve made the magazine more like a luxury item with the $20 cover price.

Skye Parrott: Absolutely. It’s quite a niche product, but that’s also my background. With Dossier, we tried very hard to keep the cover price reasonable, we worked to do so, but ultimately a $20 magazine is a bit of an indulgence. The hope is with the magazine at that price, it is something you keep and look at it a little more like a book. So, when you said it looked like a coffee table book, I hope that’s what it is because at $20 it should be something that you want to hold onto. 

Samir Husni: Let’s assume there’s no COVID-19 and I show up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Skye Parrott: I’ll mention it again, I have three young children, so my evenings end quite early. In a world where there isn’t COVID-19, I’m not sure what it would be, but with the pandemic right now what I’ve been watching is The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. (Laughs) It’s very soothing, there’s no drama. The drama comes from the cooking. Everyone is very kind to one another and it’s very British. There are lots of good manners and that’s how I’ve been unwinding right now. And cooking, I’ve done a little cooking. My husband has been doing a lot of cooking.

Samir Husni: I read that you shuttle between New York and Mexico?

Skye Parrott: Yes. I’ve been living for the last two years in a tiny little town in Mexico called Sayulita. I’ve been going back and forth. I actually produced the entire magazine remotely. I built the team remotely, led the team remotely; I was in New York for some meetings, but almost the entire magazine was produced remotely, which was actually true for Dossier as well. It was a remote team then also. 

I’ve been doing that for two years. We’re back in New York right now, but we may go back to Mexico for some time this winter. My kids are in school remotely, so it’s open.

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

Skye Parrott: I don’t know if you want to know the answer to that right now. (Laughs) 

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Magma: An Innovative & Simple Tool For Everyone To Create Content That Matters – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jake Warner, CEO & Cofounder, Magma…

November 6, 2020

“I think the beauty of Magma is that the only brand that needs to be worried about is that of the person writing. So, even if you’re a columnist within a magazine, you still need to write in regards to the publication you’re writing for. With Magma, if your culture is you and you’re sharing a story that comes from you, that piece of media is going to be as authentic as possible. What Magma is doing is opening the ability to have that occur for those who want to share a story.” Jake Warner… 

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Imagine you’re a photographer, on deadline for an assignment overseas. You get through the shoot, but another hurdle is somehow getting the stills/videos over to your team in Los Angeles within the next hour, using only your smartphone and the slowest Wi-Fi you’ve ever seen.

This is exactly what happened to Jake Warner, CEO and cofounder of Magma, a content creation platform born out of his desire for on-the-go publishing software that was free, fast, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use.

Magma’s co-foundeder Joey Chowaiki, a design professional and photographer for brands like Red Bull and GoPro, as well as the founder of the one of the first influencer marketing agencies, Open Influence, Magma is led by a team of digital natives and it combines the most trusted tools and systems from the industry’s top publishing experts into one simple, free mobile app.

I spoke with Jake recently and we talked about the different aspects of Magma and the desire he has for the brand to be thought of as a content creation tool that allows anyone to create the authentic content that matters to them. In this day and age of creating content in innovative and different ways, Magma offers an easy and strong way to get your content out there into the world. 

According to Jake, Magma is a place where first-time bloggers and 30-year publishing vets can all feel satisfied. Everything from short stories, breaking news, guides, and even pro-level media galleries can be created, consumed, and shared in minutes using Magma’s evolutionary design suite and complimentary social hub. Jake’s take on his company is: whether your goal is to grow your platform engagement, build a professional portfolio, or simply hone your creativity skills during the lockdown, you can create your own digital magazine all from the palm of your hand.

And now without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jake Warner, CEO & cofounder, Magma. 

But first the sound bites: 

On the genesis of Magma: You could just have these templates, people could put whatever media they wanted for resolution and they could write whatever they wanted, they could link it and quote it, they could source it. And the sharing and consumption part was as easy as picking up a magazine. That would be something that could be a game changer. It was about two and a half years of severe development, A/B testing, reiterating our mantra to ourselves and then seeing if the product really stood up to that.

On whether the content creator has the possibility of making money or just Magma: 100 percent. So, to segue into that, the biggest complaint that we had for our feedback, and we talk to bloggers who had multimillion dollar businesses solely from them blogging on free platforms; we spoke to journalists from some of the largest publishing houses in the world, and it was the same thing, the big digital options that were out there were too interested in reaping the financial benefits for themselves and the business model revolved around the company gaining the benefit rather than the creator.

On what he would hope to tell someone Magma had achieved in one year: I think what Magma had achieved would be from a business aspect, startups do not need to have a massive evaluation and insane resources to get creative with their business and their business model to be able to keep the lights on and still scale. That’s a side note.

On whether it’s going to be a free-for-all, where anyone can publish anything they want or Magma is going to have some curation and editing: There are three different points that we’ve been looking at if we were going to censor for the greater good of both legal and what’s right or wrong. One was based on there would be some sort of age scanner and that would be in the settings of our app, so you could actually censor or not censor and what that does is if it’s 18+ content, you wouldn’t see it. And that would be done by actually scanning an ID. As far as technology goes that’s as far as people can take it at this point and we’re looking at using technology right now that allows us to censor that.

On whether he has any plans with Magma to encourage or enhance minorities: Absolutely. I think in regards to these publications finally opening their eyes to different areas where they can be pulling content from other than just the mainstream, often Caucasian viewpoint, it all comes down to culture. When culture is involved in its rawest form, people drive culture and people who are culture-shifters are allowed to share in their rawest form and that’s when you’re going to get content that’s authentic from that point.

On promoting content creator’s work on Magma: It comes in stages. The first thing is we need to get as much exposure to the platform as possible. That’s first and foremost. It’s unfortunately a very dumb-downed, simple marketing strategy of we need exposure and we need users. Once that occurs what we’re going to do is actually utilize the content within Magma that we deem important. So, it might not be the one that has the most views, or the most engaging likes or whatever might be the coolest content, the sexiest content; it’s going to be the content that we believe deserves to have a voice and be on center stage.

On anything he’d like to add: I want Magma to be perceived as a tool more than anything. We’re using things that are native and familiar to a mass market to allow them to comfortably come to Magma and learn it, such as the fact that there are social aspects to the platform. And it is an app. But at the end of the day we want to be known as a tool to create and share and consume, and we want that more than anything. I think that’s the hardest part of our storytelling of the brand: this is not an app; it’s not a social platform; this is a tool to be able to create media that matters.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: As cliché as this sounds, either editing photos that I’ve taken along with having a cup of coffee or looking at magazines and photo books. I’m a photographer and a designer at heart and I’m truly obsessed with photos to the point where any chance I get to take photos that I think would be interesting, I do so. And I have photo books from every genre and I love reading them and interacting with them. I don’t have the attention span to read an actual piece of literature more than 30 minutes, but when I can look at photos, it allows me to actually sit there and interact for a while.

On what keeps him up at night: Magma. (Laughs) During the day it’s operations, so even with the developers and designers and marketing PR, it’s what’s best for the company. My mind starts shifting back to the designer part of me, which is not always a good thing to have in a CEO or an executive. Us designers can be too much of a perfectionist. And I stay up sometimes thinking about how I can make certain things that I okayed during the day even better without driving my team crazy.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jake Warner, CEO & cofounder, Magma. 

Samir Husni: I downloaded the Magma app, it is now on my phone. And I did some research about you and about the app and what Magma can do for people who want to create their own platforms using nothing but their iPhones. Tell me about the genesis of Magma. 

Jake Warner: I worked in content creation and design for years. I worked for companies like Red Bull and in media management. And as anyone who uses any of these professional tools knows the hardest thing is sending and sharing content among your team members. 

I was on a trip for Red Bull and I needed to send a bunch of photos at high resolution with a bunch of verbiage and a couple of videos to a team. And I didn’t have great service. I said this is insane, there has to be a better way to send content and on the other end, the receiving end, it should be very easy to consume it. And I thought, it should be almost like a digital magazine. 

And a light bulb went off. Everyone could have their own digital magazine and that would solve this issue. That would be the medium to share this kind of content with everyone, whether publicly or privately, that’s where this should start. 

So, I designed the platform and ended up leaving that position, teaming up with my business partner who had started one of the first social media and marketing firms in the world. And he saw the same gap, but for professional content sharing. 

It was like the perfect storm of too many people saying the same thing: there’s nothing out there that I feel comfortable sharing while having fun. There were some certain blogging platforms, but they just didn’t do it. Next thing you know, we’re really diving deep into publishing culture; the habits of publishing; reading more data about publishing and magazines and newspapers than I ever even knew existed. And then interviewing creators and publishers themselves and asking them what they would want in a futuristic, one-stop shop platform. 

It came down to simplicity very, very fast. When it came to the process of designing it – I’m fluent in Adobe Creative Suites, I played with InDesign for hundreds if not thousands of hours trying to figure out where the shortcuts were, what was really necessary and what wasn’t, what’s something that professionals like to say that they use because they know how to use it but others don’t.

You could just have these templates, people could put whatever media they wanted for resolution and they could write whatever they wanted, they could link it and quote it, they could source it. And the sharing and consumption part was as easy as picking up a magazine. That would be something that could be a game changer. It was about two and a half years of severe development, A/B testing, reiterating our mantra to ourselves and then seeing if the product really stood up to that.

Now we’re at a point where I think the only way for us to move forward is to actually launch it. We’ve done some beta testing where it’s been about eight months of no marketing and no PR, just word of mouth. If you find it great; if we happen to give it to you as a friend, great. And we’ve seen about 1,200 magazines published. Some are great, some are mediocre, some you can tell people don’t know what they’re doing, but at the end of the day every single mag published has been something new and refreshing. And we’ve learned a lot from everything on that platform.

We’re excited now to start gathering data on more of a market approach to it. There are a lot of publications that are shutting down and not only is that kind of forcing professionals to look for different avenues to expose their content, but it’s sparking light bulbs within consumers and creators; if they’re not doing it anymore this is now an opening for me to share my experience and my aspect on whatever industry or genre I’m interested in. That’s where we’re going to push it.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that a lot of publications are folding; really, the whole business model is changing. My mantra has always been that publications don’t have a problem with ink on paper, they have a problem with the business model. Magazines have always depended on advertisers to foot the bill and we give the information free. If I create this content and float it through Magma, will I make money or will you be the only one making money?

Jake Warner: 100 percent. So, to segue into that, the biggest complaint that we had for our feedback, and we talk to bloggers who had multimillion dollar businesses solely from them blogging on free platforms; we spoke to journalists from some of the largest publishing houses in the world, and it was the same thing, the big digital options that were out there were too interested in reaping the financial benefits for themselves and the business model revolved around the company gaining the benefit rather than the creator. 

So, we went to the drawing board and we said that if we were going to do a model with a paywall, it has to benefit the writer, the journalist, the creator of the magazine first, because there will never be an incentive for them to keep sharing more and they’re the ones who will be building our business model, it’s not us. 

Coming in probably the next three to six months, it’s in testing right now, it is a paywall that can be created at the creator’s discretion. So, based on the amount of content, we have AI that is going to scan the magazine you’re about to publish, tell us how much content is there, how long the read of that content is on an average; is there video content, are there shopping links? And it puts the content into a paid structure. So, this is only two pages, there’s one photo, written word, this person only has 100 subscribers, they get about 20 views per mag, this will fall into the $1 category per mag.

If someone has three and half million views per mag across the platform as well as web, they have 10 pages, it’s a seven minute read only on wordage, it’s 20 minutes on video, there’ shopping, this is a $7 mag. 

We’re going to build a structure based on actual performance and we think this will benefit you as a publisher, not just what you want to make, but what we think is it will allow you to have the best performance of your business model. It’s going to give you a price and you’re going to be able to charge for it. We take such a small fee of that in comparison to what everyone else does. 

The biggest hurdle with that is – you’ve probably heard this with the gaming company, Epic Games and Fortnight, Apple takes a percentage of every in app purchase. We’re diligently working with Apple, we’re working with payment processing companies like Stripe to figure out the best model where no matter what happens the creator actually ends up with the biggest cut of the profits and our cut, although small, is enough for us to still keep building that scale of the app.

Samir Husni: If everything falls into place and you and I are having this discussion one year from now, what would you hope to tell me Magma had achieved during that year?

Jake Warner: I think what Magma had achieved would be from a business aspect, startups do not need to have a massive evaluation and insane resources to get creative with their business and their business model to be able to keep the lights on and still scale. That’s a side note.

What we are bringing, freedom, to the journalist world through a platform that could ultimately be the go-to source for crowdsourcing news. And that’s my personal end-goal with this company is being able to have publications, have mags submitted or find mags and to say this would be great for us and pay that creator to actually put that mag in their publication house, their media house.

And I think what’s going to end up happening with this roll out that’s occurring right now, it started this week, so over the next month you will really start seeing a lot of advertisement in regards to Magma and exposure, I think I’m going to be able to sit back and say my company was able to bring a healthy, powerful tool to a world that is now consuming our everyday lives as far as digital and global, bring a healthy tool that allows more by taking less from us. We’re not requiring anything of the creator other than just to share their moments, thoughts and stories. 

Samir Husni: With the things that we’re seeing currently, the Section 230, the issues with Twitter and Facebook; how much control do you think you’re going to have as the app creator, founder, owner? Is it going to be a free-for-all, anyone can publish anything they want or you’re going to have curation and editing?

Jake Warner: There are three different points that we’ve been looking at if we were going to censor for the greater good of both legal and what’s right or wrong. One was based on there would be some sort of age scanner and that would be in the settings of our app, so you could actually censor or not censor and what that does is if it’s 18+ content, you wouldn’t see it. And that would be done by actually scanning an ID. As far as technology goes that’s as far as people can take it at this point and we’re looking at using technology right now that allows us to censor that. 

But we do want it to be a platform where if you have a compelling story or you have something that you want to share that could ultimately benefit someone’s life or change someone’s life or add to data and science, whatever it might be, you shouldn’t be blocked by random walls and barriers. 

The biggest thing is nudity, it’s probably one of the more aggressive topics. We spoke with a journalist who worked for years with National Geographic and he said they would do these amazing stories and oftentimes they would be in very remote locations and nudity would be a way of life there. And that content needs to be shared and those stories need to be told but you can’t do it on the modern day stage because these platforms won’t allow it. These platforms are so into collecting data that we wouldn’t even be able to post this as a free story essentially, to think what you want without it being subcategorized into some sort of a backend system and it being associated with other things. 

So, I think Magma, as far as comparing us to those, we’re definitely doing more of a free-for-all, but we’re still going to have to abide by certain barriers that are out of our control to intercept. 

Samir Husni: One of the things happening in the magazine industry as a whole, and I wrote an article for the Poynter Institute about it and I’m working on another one, is that mainstream magazines suddenly have discovered minorities, Black people, gays, transsexuals, and people of color. There has been more covers and more coverage of them, especially Black people, in the last four months than we have seen in the last 90 years or so. Do you have any plans with Magma to encourage or enhance minorities?

Jake Warner: Absolutely. I think in regards to these publications finally opening their eyes to different areas where they can be pulling content from other than just the mainstream, often Caucasian viewpoint, it all comes down to culture. When culture is involved in its rawest form, people drive culture and people who are culture-shifters are allowed to share in their rawest form and that’s when you’re going to get content that’s authentic from that point. 

And although these publications are shifting now and allowing new concepts to come in, they still need to keep it on-brand. I think the beauty of Magma is that the only brand that needs to be worried about is that of the person writing. So, even if you’re a columnist within a magazine, you still need to write in regards to the publication you’re writing for. With Magma, if your culture is you and you’re sharing a story that comes from you, that piece of media is going to be as authentic as possible. What Magma is doing is opening the ability to have that occur for those who want to share a story. 

I’m as California as it gets, I’ve been surfing my whole life. One of the publications that has always been at my house from the time I was born and before is Surfer Magazine. It’s one of the longest running publications, but unfortunately they just ended their 60 year run abruptly this month. 

And one of the beautiful things about it is the cover is a photo from a gathering that occurred in regards to Black Lives Matter and surfing. And it was put on by a gentleman named Sal Masekela who you should look at as someone who is definitely going to lead a movement in the future. He’s the only Black action sports personality. He was the host of X Games and he assembled this rally that stood for Black Lives Matter, but it was all surfers. When you think of a surfer you usually think of a blonde, white guy on the beach. It was the furthest thing from that guy. It was thousands of people from all different races and colors, surfing together for one day in regards to Black Lives Matter. 

And a photo of that rally ended up being the final cover for Surfer Magazine. And I have the magazine right here and it ended up being such a monumental situation in regards to publishing. The only thing on it is Surfer Magazine and “We’re In This Together.” That’s all it said. And it ended after they’d made that, so they didn’t know it was ending. And I talked to Sal who assembled the rally and I asked him what he thought about him doing this and it ending up being the last issue of the magazine? And he said he couldn’t of dreamed of a better thing because what’s now happening is a lot of people that saw it have reached out to him to do different things in media. 

And I think you’re going to start seeing an unfortunate downfall of some of these larger publications; you’re going to see the same content from there start spreading itself in different directions, being spearheaded by different individuals. I think Magma will be a great tool for those individuals to be able to start sharing authentic.

Personally, I didn’t want a mag from Magma to ultimately replace a magazine. That’s something that I want to make clear. It wasn’t ‘I’m going to come out with this new product, this new platform that will ultimately be a younger, faster, stronger version of yesterday’s publications.’ It’s using that format of laying out a story as a new tool because we think that’s the best way to actually get this content across in the best quality and the best fashion and the best speak.

But I think that this could also be a steppingstone for a lot of people who once they get into sharing and creating and publishing on Magma, it might open a door where they want to take it to another level and print an actual magazine in the same way Instagram did for photography. There are a lot of people taking photos on Instagram using filters who are now world-renowned actual photographers who are shooting on film now. And are shooting for magazine covers, having the film developed and having it turn into a cover. 

So, everything goes full circle in that regard, and I think Magma could definitely be something that introduces an era of individuals who don’t read magazines, don’t read newspapers, that are actually understanding the power of having something in depth and it could lead them into getting into it. 

Samir Husni: What’s your plan to promote their work? You mentioned you were going to start a marketing campaign; will that be to promote Magma or everything that comes into the app?

Jake Warner: It comes in stages. The first thing is we need to get as much exposure to the platform as possible. That’s first and foremost. It’s unfortunately a very dumb-downed, simple marketing strategy of we need exposure and we need users. Once that occurs what we’re going to do is actually utilize the content within Magma that we deem important. So, it might not be the one that has the most views, or the most engaging likes or whatever might be the coolest content, the sexiest content; it’s going to be the content that we believe deserves to have a voice and be on center stage. 

And we’re looking and developing different forms of AI that would allow us to easily scrape what we’re looking for as the platform grows. That marketing at first is just going to be very intense, social marketing, word of mouth, a lot of press, but it’s going to transition heavily into you may see a mag being promoted on other platforms. And you’re not going to see the creator first; you’re not going to see Magma in any form, you’re just going to see a mag promoted.      

Could it be promoted by us? Most likely. It’s going to be our way of being able to take mags and move them into other atmospheres and environments. We’ve made it very clear; we’d rather a mag get created on Magma and shared to Twitter from a publisher or a journalist and have a million views occur on the web, the new version of that mag appearing on Twitter, rather than on our platform because if someone is taking a mag from us and sharing it to where their people are, that is what we imagine being the ultimate form of actually publishing a mag in this new age. 

We’re going to do everything that we can as we start marketing and creating different tactics to give a microphone and a spotlight to as much content as we can as the driving force of our brand, rather than just our brand.

Something I’ve made clear to everyone and I don’t think a lot of founders do it in this stage of their company, is we have a lot to learn. And I don’t think it’s based off of more investments or more resources, I think it’s solely just watching people use the platform in the wild. We can do A/B testing all day long and have groups of individuals say yes or no to design, to flow and creation flow, to publishing flow and reading, but at the end of the day the only people who really matter are those that are not being asked to do testing, are not being asked to take a look, but the ones who are actually going to use it. 

I think in the next six months we’re going to learn so much from individuals, people who may not have any design background and how they use it. I always say that an 11-year-old from the middle of nowhere is going to end up being the person who teaches us the most about our platform. It’s going to be interesting. 

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

Jake Warner: I want Magma to be perceived as a tool more than anything. We’re using things that are native and familiar to a mass market to allow them to comfortably come to Magma and learn it, such as the fact that there are social aspects to the platform. And it is an app. But at the end of the day we want to be known as a tool to create and share and consume, and we want that more than anything. I think that’s the hardest part of our storytelling of the brand: this is not an app; it’s not a social platform; this is a tool to be able to create media that matters.

It is the easiest and strongest way to publish anything. We’ve seen people create look books, publish them privately and use it to actually get their purchase orders of their company through. We’ve seen people create mags and publish them privately every single day as their memos for their morning meetings and sharing it on Slack during the pandemic. Why? It’s a lot easier than creating something and having to upload it to Dropbox.

We want people to use this as they feel comfortable in doing so rather than trying to follow trends on how to get popular and grow. Use it how you feel you should and that’s the best. We see too many people on Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat and Pinterest; if I don’t use these filters and structure my content this way or that way I’m not going to get the likes or the followers. If you have 100 subscribers on Magma, you read every single thing and share everything you do, that is way stronger and way more meaningful than a million followers on Instagram just scrolling and interacting with your content for 12 seconds. And that’s what we want to get across. 

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Jake Warner: As cliché as this sounds, either editing photos that I’ve taken along with having a cup of coffee or looking at magazines and photo books. I’m a photographer and a designer at heart and I’m truly obsessed with photos to the point where any chance I get to take photos that I think would be interesting, I do so. And I have photo books from every genre and I love reading them and interacting with them. I don’t have the attention span to read an actual piece of literature more than 30 minutes, but when I can look at photos, it allows me to actually sit there and interact for a while. 

Samir Husni: Do you print your pictures and look at them ink on paper?

Jake Warner: Not as much as I’d like to. Every once and a while I take a photo and as soon as I click the shutter, even if it’s on digital, I say that was the shot. That was it. Recently, I actually drove late at night to this area called One More in the middle of central California. Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer has a wave pool there and I went up and took photos of the wave pool for a night session. They had just put these lights in, so it’s the world’s most perfect wave and it’s in a pool in the middle of nowhere. 

I took photos of someone surfing this at night under stadium lighting. I haven’t looked at the photos yet because I got back in the middle of the night, but there are a few in there that are definitely going to make it to print soon. 

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

Jake Warner: Magma. (Laughs) During the day it’s operations, so even with the developers and designers and marketing PR, it’s what’s best for the company. My mind starts shifting back to the designer part of me, which is not always a good thing to have in a CEO or an executive. Us designers can be too much of a perfectionist. And I stay up sometimes thinking about how I can make certain things that I okayed during the day even better without driving my team crazy. 

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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L’Officiel’s First-Ever Global Issue Launches To Focus Not On What Divides Us, But What Unites Us – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Contributing Global Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi…

October 6, 2020

“I think that change has been in the making for a long time. The fact that now we are also very connected to our local communities, but at the same time very open to the world, thanks to the digital revolution and the Internet; I think the change is here to stay. I don’t think anybody can think about going back to the magazines that preexisted before. I’m lucky in that I have always worked in very open-minded and inclusive environments, thinking about The New York Times Magazine and W. And now I want to bring that message into L’Officiel, without losing the Frenchness of the brand.” Stefano Tonchi…

For a century now, L’Officiel has served as an official voice of fashion, beginning as an elegant base for French Couture in Paris and evolving into a collection of international publications. The very first issue, in Fall 1921, was already in 3 languages—French, English, and Spanish, and today L’Officiel publishes 31 editions with distribution in 80 countries. L’Officiel’s social media footprint is 21 million followers, including new growth across Italy, France, and China, among other markets and on digital L’Officiel has 40 million total page views across its global network in 2020 (up 12% vs 2019). Fashion, both past and present has always been the deciding voice for the brand.

With the launch of its very first global issue, L’Officiel seeks to foster a constructive, respectful dialogue across cultures and continents, races and genders. And no one better to lead that dialogue that the brand’s Chief Creative Officer, Stefano Tonchi. As the former editor of W, Stefano forged ahead with diversity and inclusivity as staunchly as he did with good fashion. And he is the epitome of fashion, on both sides of the Atlantic.

I spoke with Stefano recently and we talked about this great new journey before him with L’Officiel and how he wants to create “a unique and global voice” that emphasizes its Eurocentric and French sensibility and point of view, but bring new audiences into the fold too. Such as Americans who want to find that global voice to speak to their communities. It’s an intriguing challenge that Stefano is more than up for.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who knows good fashion and knows his way around that world, Stefano Tonchi, contributing global chief creative officer, L’Officiel.

But first the sound-bites:

On how he approached launching the very first global issue of L’Officiel, a brand that is known worldwide and that is 100 years old: First of all I did a little bit of research and tried to understand what the DNA of this brand is. How it was started and how it had been run by almost the same family for the last century. It has really always been a magazine focused on the industry of fashion and that was something that was very small and insular in the 1920s and the 1930s. It became a part of popular culture by the 1980s and the 1990s. And today it’s a very powerful part of the media, I would say, within communications. It’s a place that so many people are using to send political and social messages. So fashion is much more than just clothes, for sure. It’s always been, but today more than ever.

On his decision to have one black and one white on the cover of the first global issue of L’Officiel: I work with a creative director that has been in the communications and advertising industries; he is a very talented Brand-man, as I would call it. We also talked about a brand that doesn’t speak only to the U.S. market; it talks to many different markets. Places where the ratio issue is lived a different way. So, I wanted to bring a message of inclusivity and a message of elegance and calm. That’s why I thought to have two young talents, racially different, was the right message for this cover.

On the biggest challenge he’s had to face since coming to L’Officiel: When you start working with a brand that has a long history, somehow that history is very pleasant, but can be a real problem as well, because the past brings a lot of memories and a lot of stories, so you have to be considerate. It’s like when I went to work for Esquire, so many times I would think, when you have a brand with so much history, the past can become your enemy, because you can never be at that same level of that past.

On whether they will continue to publish L’Officiel in English: Yes. We are going to have the U.S. edition as a print product eight times per year, focusing on different themes. But it is a brand that believes in digital for every day too, so we have a website that is in the process of being redesigned and relaunched with a new digital director, Josh Glass. So that will be what we have in the U.S. And the same kind of structure will be in France and in Italy, where they will also have eight print issues per year. And most of the content of these issues is created in communion together. We have a lot of editorial meetings with the people in France and Italy.

On which role he thinks L’Officiel will play globally, an initiator or a reflector of culture and people: Probably in the U.S. more of an initiator, in terms of the American audience not being really used to consuming global content, especially when it doesn’t come from Los Angeles or New York. It doesn’t have the same resonance in their lives. Our audience is an audience that loves Paris, is interested in a certain kind of European lifestyle and point of view. So that’s what makes L’Officiel’s audience to begin with. But at the same time, we want to also tell stories that are relevant to people in the U.S., so you always have this balance between some continents that are more global and some that are more national.

On what he thinks the future holds for L’Officiel: I think the production of digital content will be increasing, geared toward digital communication. People are going to use and get more and more of their media information from their phones and from other digital outlets. So we will create more content with an integration also of product and messages from the advertisers in different ways. The relationship between editorial and advertisers is changing, that’s for sure.

On why he thinks a reader would pick up L’Officiel over another fashion brand: I think the reason to go to L’Officiel is because the audience wants to have a more global point of view, a more international point of view. For sure someone who is attracted by L’Officiel is already somebody who is looking at Europe, thinks about Paris and a very bordered cultural experience. Someone who thinks about Europe as a reference point and wants to incorporate that knowledge and news into their feeds.

On anything he’d like to add: Visually, I’ve tried to bring a certain kind of elegance and quietness to the design. I didn’t want to surprise too much. I really wanted to establish again this idea of something elegant, clean, understandable, common ground, and from there maybe start an innovation and a revolution.

On what keeps him up at night: These days I have a lot of problems sleeping, because I have to talk so much with Europe and China. China keeps me up because usually my meeting with the Chinese partners are at 4:00 a.m. because of the 12 or 13 hour time difference. It’s a time schedule problem.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Stefano Tonchi, chief creative officer, L’Officiel.

Samir Husni: As a content creator and curator, you’re now at a magazine that has a century under its belt. Next year L’Officiel will celebrate 100 years. How did you approach launching the very first global issue for this brand that’s known worldwide?

Joshua Glass, Stefano Tonchi, Anthony Cenname, photo by  Emily Soto

Stefano Tonchi: First of all I did a little bit of research and tried to understand what the DNA of this brand is. How it was started and how it had been run by almost the same family for the last century. It has really always been a magazine focused on the industry of fashion and that was something that was very small and insular in the 1920s and the 1930s. It became a part of popular culture by the 1980s and the 1990s. And today it’s a very powerful part of the media, I would say, within communications. It’s a place that so many people are using to send political and social messages. So fashion is much more than just clothes, for sure. It’s always been, but today more than ever.

I looked at that history and looked at how this brand, this publication, always wanted to be international. The first issue in 1921 was already in French, English and Spanish. So they always had the idea of talking with the world from Paris.

Now the magazine, especially in the last 20 years, has been expanding and opening outposts all over the world. Some are owned by the company and some are licenses. They are in Ukraine, in Turkey, China, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. I think it will be in Chile very soon. So, they kept that kind of international vision.

I came in and I was asked to handle all of these different identities together that the magazine has developed over all of these years, especially internationally. And I’m trying to create for them a common ground and a common language, especially visually. But not colonizing from Paris or from New York, but really involving all the editors in this process. At least right now, the ones who are closer to me and that I can work with daily for the magazines that are totally owned by the holding. That means France, Italy, Brazil, the U.S. and a few others. And then talking to the other companies and the editors in chief in those countries.

So, for me, it’s very important to define global as almost a collaboration, as a common space to work in and not as creating content in Paris or New York, then distributing it on a global scale.

Samir Husni: We know that things are changing in the magazine world, and for the first time, in at least my history of tracking magazines, there is so much diversity in magazine covers. You name the magazine, from fashion to Bible study magazines, to sports; all of them have this amazing cover diversity. You had been doing a lot of that in W. In fact, W was probably one of the most diverse magazines when it was under your tenure. Why do you think the time is now for such diversity? Or do you think this is just a blip on the radar and everything will revert back once this pivotal moment in time ends?

Stefano Tonchi: I think that change has been in the making for a long time. The fact that now we are also very connected to our local communities, but at the same time very open to the world, thanks to the digital revolution and the Internet; I think the change is here to stay. I don’t think anybody can think about going back to the magazines that preexisted before. I’m lucky in that I have always worked in very open-minded and inclusive environments, thinking about The New York Times Magazine and W. And now I want to bring that message into L’Officiel, without losing the Frenchness of the brand.

It’s very easy sometimes to think about global as being something that is very bland with no identity. So, it’s like how can you create an identity that has a relevance in the local community as much as it has a global appeal? And that’s really the challenge.

Samir Husni: I see that for your first cover you went with two people, one black and one white. Can your share your thinking behind that decision for this first global issue?

Stefano Tonchi: I work with a creative director that has been in the communications and advertising industries; he is a very talented Brand-man, as I would call it. We also talked about a brand that doesn’t speak only to the U.S. market; it talks to many different markets. Places where the ratio issue is lived a different way. So, I wanted to bring a message of inclusivity and a message of elegance and calm. That’s why I thought to have two young talents, racially different, was the right message for this cover.

Samir Husni:  Since you took this position at L’Officiel, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it? Or has it been a walk in a rose garden for you?

Stefano Tonchi: When you start working with a brand that has a long history, somehow that history is very pleasant, but can be a real problem as well, because the past brings a lot of memories and a lot of stories, so you have to be considerate. It’s like when I went to work for Esquire, so many times I would think, when you have a brand with so much history, the past can become your enemy, because you can never be at that same level of that past.

So, a brand with 100 years of history, you have to kind of restart. It’s almost like you have to find a common ground from where you can erect a new building. So, the challenge has been to put together a new team. And I had really just started to think about what to do when we went into lockdown in most of the west. And it was really difficult to communicate and to try and hire people to do projects, talk to photographers remotely.

But we did it and I was surprised in a good way that we were able to put together this magazine totally remotely. I still have not seen a print issue. That is the first time in my life. I’ve seen only the digital reproduction. All the decisions were made onscreen. All the assignments were made onscreen and all the editing and all the photography. So, it was a very interesting process, because mentally we are used to first putting together the print issue and then distributing it digitally. This was like reverse print. We created something that was totally digital with a digital strategy behind it and then we will see the print version as almost like an added value. Something very special. Something that was the final result and came after.

The old idea of how to rethink a magazine has to do with having a digital strategy. We need to think in a way that isn’t about a monthly. I said that a long time ago at W. about how you have to move away from a monthly or weekly kind of publishing schedule.  We have to focus more on larger themes and create almost like platforms where you put together your content and you distribute it in different ways. L’Officiel has a platform for women’s wear, one for men, art, and one for entertainment. And they all live at the same time. They find moments when some of this content is published into an actual print product, but they all live more as platforms focused on specific thematics.

Samir Husni: Are you going to continue publishing L’Officiel in English?

Stefano Tonchi: Yes. We are going to have the U.S. edition as a print product eight times per year, focusing on different themes. But it is a brand that believes in digital for every day too, so we have a website that is in the process of being redesigned and relaunched with a new digital director, Josh Glass. So that will be what we have in the U.S.

And the same kind of structure will be in France and in Italy, where they will also have eight print issues per year. And most of the content of these issues is created in communion together. We have a lot of editorial meetings with the people in France and Italy. We put together a schedule of the stories we want in the issue and we use the resources where they are, so if we’re doing a story about a French designer, the French team will take care of it. If we’re doing a story about someone in the U.S., the American team will handle it. So we use our contributors all around the world.

It’s also a financial solution, in terms of one of the biggest problems for magazines that operate on a global scale is the duplicating of the resources, such as having two fashion directors, three editors in chief, two IT directors and so on. We are trying to use the best resources where they are. For L’Officiel, we have very strong digital and technical teams that are based in Italy. We have a very strong fashion and visual team based in Paris, casting director, fashion production. We have journalistic and pop culture features that are based in New York. So, we take the best from the company and try not to duplicate the jobs.

Samir Husni: You’ve always been a force for inclusion and glo-local, bringing the global to the local communities. Do you think the magazine audience at large, regardless of the platform, is going to find more of that mentality, that they are going to engage more with magazines like L’Officiel because it will reflect their own personalities or do you feel you will be more of an initiator than a reflector?

Stefano Tonchi: Probably in the U.S. more of an initiator, in terms of the American audience not being really used to consuming global content, especially when it doesn’t come from Los Angeles or New York. It doesn’t have the same resonance in their lives. Our audience is an audience that loves Paris, is interested in a certain kind of European lifestyle and point of view. So that’s what makes L’Officiel’s audience to begin with. But at the same time, we want to also tell stories that are relevant to people in the U.S., so you always have this balance between some continents that are more global and some that are more national.

In Europe, especially between France and Italy, there is much more of a community of cultural references, so there is a lot of content that they share. But they still have very specific features that are of that market. And don’t forget, everybody has a different language too.

Samir Husni: As you move forward and settle into this position, and hopefully the pandemic will be behind us, along with the elections, and as we move toward a new spring, what do you think the future holds for L’Officiel?

Stefano Tonchi: I think the production of digital content will be increasing, geared toward digital communication. People are going to use and get more and more of their media information from their phones and from other digital outlets. So we will create more content with an integration also of product and messages from the advertisers in different ways. The relationship between editorial and advertisers is changing, that’s for sure.

I think what is very interesting and what will be driving the future is how much can we know about our readers. Data managing is really one of the big issues here. We did a little bit of an  experiment in our own small world, our L’Officiel world. We created a portfolio with the most wanted accessories from the fashion season. We asked readers on Instagram 300 questions and we got 600,000 responses. The questions were like what kind of product do you like; what do you like from one brand and what do you not like from another brand. And we collected a lot of information that we read and analyzed. We put together a feature with the 12 greatest accessories for the season chosen by our readers.

So, it’s a combination of data, editorial choices, because don’t forget, the first selection is by the editors. I’m going to create a series of questions and that is already an editorial decision, what kind of questions. So, it’s not really user-generated content, it is editorial-generated content. But the users, the audience, have the opportunity to express their opinions. And then you have again the editors who are going to look through this material and analyze it, and then bring out things from the analytics, but also from the feelings behind it. So, it’s a combination of data and editorial knowledge. That’s what is interesting. How will we combine it? And that’s something that only a magazine brand can do.

Samir Husni: If you could give me only one reason a reader might pick up the print magazine, L’Officiel, or go to the website or the social media outlets you have out there, from an array of other fashion magazines and digital sites, what would that reason be? Why will they choose L’Officiel instead of another fashion brand?

Stefano Tonchi: I think the reason to go to L’Officiel is because the audience wants to have a more global point of view, a more international point of view. For sure someone who is attracted by L’Officiel is already somebody who is looking at Europe, thinks about Paris and a very bordered cultural experience. Someone who thinks about Europe as a reference point and wants to incorporate that knowledge and news into their feeds.

So, in a sense it’s a little less U.S. centric and more globally centric, but it’s also the new position that we have to take as Americans. I’m American and I think if America wants to play the game on a global scale, they have to start to listen to global voices. They can’t just dictate the conversation, that was the past. The future is going to be a dialogue with the rest of the world if America wants to talk about the global field in the future.

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

Stefano Tonchi: Visually, I’ve tried to bring a certain kind of elegance and quietness to the design. I didn’t want to surprise too much. I really wanted to establish again this idea of something elegant, clean, understandable, common ground, and from there maybe start an innovation and a revolution. But I think it’s nice when we can find that kind of visual common ground with understandable typography and images in  a language that explains what you’re looking at. We have sometimes been taking too much for granted. And I think it’s nice to step back before going too far, so we know where we are.

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

Stefano Tonchi: These days I have a lot of problems sleeping, because I have to talk so much with Europe and China. China keeps me up because usually my meeting with the Chinese partners are at 4:00 a.m. because of the 12 or 13 hour time difference. It’s a time schedule problem.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Anxiety Empire – A New British Title That Shines A Light On Mental Health As Sometimes Only A Magazine Can…

September 8, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Magazines  have always been reflectors of society. Their role as mediator and advocate for important issues of the day is evident by many of the tried and true brands that have been around for decades and by many of  the new titles that are being brought into the world today. Such as a new British title called Anxiety Empire.

Anxiety Empire was birthed into existence using Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to publish the magazine, and in unheard approach to a business model is offered to the public free of charge, although there is no advertising in the magazine to foot the bill. It explores mental health as not just an individual issue, but as an issue of society and how we live our lives, and thus believes that the magazine should be available to its audience free of charge.

The founder, creative director and editor in chief, Zoë Hough, writes in the inaugural edition of the new print magazine:

“When I started the Instagram account @anxietyempire in late 2017, I did so because – after working in a job which felt pretty damaging to my own mental health – I felt there was a need for more discussion around mental health in the workplace. But work is of course only one system of society which has a big impact on our mental health, and I found myself wanting to explore these systems in depth, which is how the idea for this print magazine came about; to look at macro systems of society and explore the impact they have on the mental health of us as individuals.”

Anxiety Empire is more of a project for its creator and was made free to the public – because the powers-that-be at the magazine believe that mental health resources should be accessible for all. As Hough added in the introduction to the first issue: “We all have mental health.”

Indeed.

The inaugural issue examines the world of media and its effect on mental health. Issue 02 will explore the ways in which the education system impacts our mental health. Exploring the many facets of society in regards to the impact each macro system has on our psyches and emotional reactions  is an avenue well worth exploring.

Anxiety Empire  truly offers what a magazine does best: informs, educates and inspires. This new magazine is something that will provide all of those things to people about a subject that has been taboo for generations, but is finally beginning to come to light using reason, education and compassion. Anxiety Empire deserves a special mention as it strives to provide a connection that sometimes only a magazine can: a deep, personal curiosity and caring that brings people together.  And remember if it is not ink on paper it is not a magazine.

And in today’s uncertain world that is something worth noting.

Until next time,

Mr. Magazine™

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