Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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Tail Flyfishing Magazine: When What The Doctor Orders Is A Magazine, Sometimes The Proverb “Physician Heal Thyself” Hits Very Close To Home – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Dr. Joseph Ballarini, Founder, Tail Flyfishing Magazine…

August 3, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“The digital publication grew; we were in over 100 countries. And people were screaming for a printed version of the book. Everyone was asking us to print it. So, initially, we made a PDF site where they could download it and print it out. And that was big for our European audience. Ultimately, after a barrage of emails, and then I started getting phone calls, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And we had a big enough following, so we knew the launch wouldn’t be a shot in the dark; we were already popular and people liked it.” Joseph Ballarini (on why he added a print component to his digital platform)

When passion guides you, anything is possible. Even if you’re a busy emergency room doctor. Just ask Dr. Joseph Ballarini. An avid saltwater fly fisherman, Joe is also an ardent conservationist. When his love of fishing and his respect for the environment joined forces, after taking note of many undesirable things that were happening in and around some of his favorite fishing spots, Joe decided that he needed to write his own prescription for the problem. He already had the placebo in place that brought awareness to the issue, an online presence where he could get information out there, but eventually the prescription was filled with just the right medicine: a printed magazine.

I spoke with Joe recently and we talked about the bumps in the road that can make starting a magazine a bit of a rocky journey, especially for someone who has never been in the publishing industry before, such as himself. But beating within every true entrepreneur’s heart is that firm belief and passion for their ideas, and a determination that no one can tamp down. Joe’s heart was and is filled to overflow with those attributes. So much so, that a second publication is in the works.

So, I hope that you enjoy this doctor’s tale; one that follows him into unfamiliar territory, but also leads him down possibly his true path, that of a storyteller, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dr. Joseph Ballarini, founder, Tail Flyfishing Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On why an emergency room doctor such as himself starts a magazine: I hate to admit this, but it really happened out of a little bit of anger. The blog and the digital magazine were meant to bring light to conservation efforts. As I would fish in the Florida Keys and in Southeast Florida, there was always trash and propeller scars destroying mangroves. And I saw this. I would go out fishing and come back in with my kayak loaded with garbage and debris that I had picked up floating around. And I think I launched the magazine to make people more aware of this. As a result, the full-blown publication grew out of it, and partly because of my passion for fishing and the outdoors.

On why he felt a magazine was the answer to the problem: Well, it actually wasn’t the answer right away. (Laughs) I’ve been fishing from the age of four, and I really didn’t know what to do. I started the blog, the website, and the magazine because I just wanted to put information out there. I wanted to create awareness. If you look at the early issues of Tail in the digital side, they’re not very good to be honest. (Laughs again) We did it all in-house; we didn’t have designers, and it kind of evolved over five years into what we believe is something really strong and great.

On why he decided to venture into print: The digital publication grew; we were in over 100 countries. And people were screaming for a printed version of the book. Everyone was asking us to print it. So, initially, we made a PDF site where they could download it and print it out. And that was big for our European audience. Ultimately, after a barrage of emails, and then I started getting phone calls, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And we had a big enough following, so we knew the launch wouldn’t be a shot in the dark; we were already popular and people liked it.

On the vastly different professions of being a doctor and a magazine founder and whether it causes any struggle between his left and right brain:
There’s always a disconnect between my left and right brain. (Laughs) My background is a little odd. I went to University of the Arts, and actually started there when I was 13 years old. I went there for Industrial Design, and had a Piano minor when I was there. So, I’m very artistic to begin with. And then in my late 20s, I had a big shift and decided that I wanted to be a physician. And that’s when I made the jump.

On whether his magazine journey has been a walk in a rose garden or he’s had stumbling blocks along the way: It was a lot like a walk in a rose garden except that the garden was all thorns. (Laughs) When we launched the magazine, we were novices in the print industry. So, it was very difficult for all of us, especially Shawn Abernathy, who is the creative director. Shawn had to redesign the magazine entirely, because the digital format was not amenable to a print style. So, we had to essentially redesign the magazine, and there were so many mistakes we made along the way. We learned quickly, because we were very motivated, and we’re all hands-on. But it was a very arduous process to get to the point where we are now.

On what he would say is hindering the growth of the magazine today: There’s such a huge expense involved with printing, especially when you decide to go to print with a quality book such as we have. It’s 100 lb. cover stock with a soft touch finish. And the inside pages are 80 lbs., so this is not an inexpensive magazine that we make. One of the big stumbling blocks that we have is capital. As quick as it comes in, it goes right back out.

On how he came up with the name for the magazine: It’s funny, because it took about 14 months to actually come up with the name. And it’s based on sight fishing. When you fly fish in saltwater, a lot of it is done on shallow water flats, and what you look for is a tailing fish. And that’s a fish in shallow water that’s nosing in to catch the prey. So, you’ll see its tail sticking out of the water and it’s iconic for fly fishing in salt water. The name is actually an abbreviation for tailing fish.

On what letter grade he would give the magazine and himself as he approaches the first anniversary of the printed edition of Tail: As you know, you’re always your own worst critic. And I’m very hard on myself. So, at this stage I would say this, we have improved with every issue. And we’ve corrected some little, minor things. So, I think I would probably give myself and our team a B at this point. Maybe a B+. Moving forward, starting with September, we have gone out of our way to reach out to some of the most notable figures in fly fishing, and we’re making it a point to get into that A category.

On when he thinks he might give up medicine and become a full-time magazine publisher: That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t dislike medicine; I don’t want to give that impression. I actually love helping people and love taking care of them. However, it would be really nice to be able to be at home more frequently and work less, and be with my family more. So, I would say after Tail becomes a little more established, maybe another year.

On the second magazine he plans to launch that will complement Tail:
We are going to launch a complement to Tail, which is of course focused on saltwater, but we are going to launch a freshwater book as well. This will be a book that focuses on the other side of the fishing spectrum. And I think it’s necessary to complete our portfolio of fly fishing in general.

On a name for the new magazine: We have a couple, and we’re going to hold off on sharing them until we actually hone in on one and decide.

On a launch date for magazine number two: We’re looking at the preview copy being ready in late 2018, with a full launch in the spring of 2019.

On anything he’d like to add:
The only thing that I would like to add is for the people who are reading this interview, we are very conservation-focused and if you page through our issues, you’ll see the Everglades Foundation and you’ll read the articles that are very concerned about our environment. And I would just ask people to support our cause and take the environment seriously, because we only have one planet and if we destroy it, it might not come back.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:
That’s a tough question. (Laughs) Being that the magazine is a saltwater publication and I love saltwater fly fishing, I wouldn’t mind being remembered as a very “salty” guy, similar to the way the Tail title has multiple connotations. (Laughs again)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: That’s an easy one to answer. Tail is a startup, and we are grossly understaffed. So, if I’m not taking care of my child or spending time with my wife, I am at my computer working on the magazine or I am packing and shipping products for the magazine. I’m kind of a one-man-show at the actual facility with designers that work there and remotely as well.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me staring at the ceiling until 3:00 a.m. many nights is that launching a magazine, having never been in the publishing industry, and trying to learn an industry that isn’t that easy to learn and trying to wrap my head around how to make this magazine successful, can be hard. But it’s working and it’s exceeding expectations.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Dr. Joseph Ballarini , founder, Tail Flyfishing Magazine.

Samir Husni: You started a blog four years ago and then last year in September, you launched the first issue of Tail Flyfishing Magazine. And you are an M.D., an emergency room doctor. How did the magazine happen?

Joseph Ballarini: Actually, we did launch the magazine almost five years ago as a digital magazine, but we just made the jump into print last September. And I hate to admit this, but it really happened out of a little bit of anger. The blog and the digital magazine were meant to bring light to conservation efforts. As I would fish in the Florida Keys and in Southeast Florida, there was always trash and propeller scars destroying mangroves. And I saw this. I would go out fishing and come back in with my kayak loaded with garbage and debris that I had picked up floating around. And I think I launched the magazine to make people more aware of this. As a result, the full-blown publication grew out of it, and partly because of my passion for fishing and the outdoors.

Samir Husni: But why did you, a doctor, think the answer to this problem was a magazine?

Joseph Ballarini: Well, it actually wasn’t the answer right away. (Laughs) I’ve been fishing from the age of four, and I really didn’t know what to do. I started the blog, the website, and the magazine because I just wanted to put information out there. I wanted to create awareness. If you look at the early issues of Tail in the digital side, they’re not very good to be honest. (Laughs again) We did it all in-house; we didn’t have designers, and it kind of evolved over five years into what we believe is something really strong and great.

Samir Husni: And last September you decided to venture into print. Why?

Joseph Ballarini: The digital publication grew; we were in over 100 countries. And people were screaming for a printed version of the book. Everyone was asking us to print it. So, initially, we made a PDF site where they could download it and print it out. And that was big for our European audience. Ultimately, after a barrage of emails, and then I started getting phone calls, we decided to give the people what they wanted. And we had a big enough following, so we knew the launch wouldn’t be a shot in the dark; we were already popular and people liked it.

So, we figured out how to do it and decided to launch it last September. We spent about eight months planning to go to print. We had to change the format of the magazine and bring in professional designers. We just did it out of wanting to give our audience what they wanted. And I’m glad we did because it’s actually working.

Samir Husni: To me, publishing the magazine and giving the audience what they want, seems a little bit different than being an emergency room doctor, where you hope that the patient wants the doctor to give them what they need. (Laughs) So, it’s like a reverse of what you otherwise do every day. How do you wrap your brain around the idea that during your regular job you’re in control, you’re the one that’s helping people, but with the magazine the people are in control and you’re just giving them what they want? Does that cause any struggle between your left brain and right brain?

Joseph Ballarini: (Laughs) There’s always a disconnect between my left and right brain. (Laughs) My background is a little odd. I went to University of the Arts, and actually started there when I was 13 years old. I went there for Industrial Design, and had a Piano minor when I was there. So, I’m very artistic to begin with.

And then in my late 20s, I had a big shift and decided that I wanted to be a physician. And that’s when I made the jump. Fortunately, I’m blessed that I was able to make that jump and do both, but in reality, emergency medicine is taking care of people and it’s customer service, because they’re coming to you with their needs, at all hours, and it’s never scheduled and it’s never planned. It’s not unlike publishing a magazine, because you never know what’s coming at you and you have to think on your feet, and do what’s best. So, they’re very similar in an abstract way.

Samir Husni: You’re coming up on your first anniversary this September. Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you, or have you had some stumbling blocks along the way?

Joseph Ballarini: It was a lot like a walk in a rose garden except that the garden was all thorns. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Joseph Ballarini: When we launched the magazine, we were novices in the print industry. So, it was very difficult for all of us, especially Shawn Abernathy, who is the creative director. Shawn had to redesign the magazine entirely, because the digital format was not amenable to a print style. So, we had to essentially redesign the magazine, and there were so many mistakes we made along the way. We learned quickly, because we were very motivated, and we’re all hands-on. But it was a very arduous process to get to the point where we are now.

I’m embarrassed to admit, but there were a few typos that slipped by us in the early print editions. And that was something that we nipped in the bud after about two issues. We had a couple of little faux pas’ on our part. But now it’s smooth sailing. I’d have to say that now it’s become pretty automated. And it’s much, much better, but there’s still room to grow and room to improve, which is what we try to do with each issue.

Samir Husni: And what would you say is hindering the growth of the magazine today?

Joseph Ballarini: There’s such a huge expense involved with printing, especially when you decide to go to print with a quality book such as we have. It’s 100 lb. cover stock with a soft touch finish. And the inside pages are 80 lbs., so this is not an inexpensive magazine that we make. One of the big stumbling blocks that we have is capital. As quick as it comes in, it goes right back out.

The other issue is distribution, since we are a new name and we are a new publisher, it’s very hard to get people to take a look at us, because there are so may established books and companies out there. I think the biggest difficulty has been having enough money and enough resources and enough contacts to get to the right places. We’ve employed a distribution company and a circulation company, so we have some really good professionals helping us out and getting us where we need to be.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name of the magazine? It’s such an obvious name, yet one would think it had been used before.

Joseph Ballarini: It’s funny, because it took about 14 months to actually come up with the name. And it’s based on sight fishing. When you fly fish in saltwater, a lot of it is done on shallow water flats, and what you look for is a tailing fish. And that’s a fish in shallow water that’s nosing in to catch the prey. So, you’ll see its tail sticking out of the water and it’s iconic for fly fishing in salt water. The name is actually an abbreviation for tailing fish.

Some people thought it was a bit risqué, because it kind of has some connotations. However, it seemed to work and people seemed to get it. One famous person, Lefty Kreh, and if you’re not familiar with him, he is probably the base of fly fishing and has been for at least 50 years; he’s a very nice man, who is probably in his 80s.

He still fishes and still teaches children how to fish. He is at all of the conventions and shows, so he is still very active. But he was one who said that he didn’t get the name. And it’s funny; about a year and a half ago I was talking with him and he told me that he loved the magazine, but that he didn’t understand the name. And it was quite funny. After I explained it to him, he told me that it finally made sense. But he asked me why I didn’t just call it “Tailing?” (Laughs)

Samir Husni: As you approach your first anniversary of the print magazine, what letter grade would you give yourself? Do you feel you’re at an A+, an A, or maybe a B level right now?

Joseph Ballarini: As you know, you’re always your own worst critic. And I’m very hard on myself. So, at this stage I would say this, we have improved with every issue. And we’ve corrected some little, minor things. So, I think I would probably give myself and our team a B at this point. Maybe a B+. Moving forward, starting with September, we have gone out of our way to reach out to some of the most notable figures in fly fishing, and we’re making it a point to get into that A category.

If all goes well with our September issue, with our five year anniversary launch; I think that will be the first A magazine that I have put out. And I think it’s going to happen. Everything is in place and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong, because as you know many things can go wrong between the time you plan it and the time you print it.

Samir Husni: When do you think that you’ll quit practicing medicine and become a full-time magazine publisher?

Joseph Ballarini: That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t dislike medicine; I don’t want to give that impression. I actually love helping people and love taking care of them. However, it would be really nice to be able to be at home more frequently and work less, and be with my family more. So, I would say after Tail becomes a little more established, maybe another year. We do have a second publication in the works, which will be a complement publication to Tail. So, I think when we get both of those launched and established, I’ll take a look at my medical career and make a decision at that point.

Samir Husni: Mr. Magazine™ can’t hear about a new launch without asking; can you tell me a little more about the second publication that’s in the works?

Joseph Ballarini: We are going to launch a complement to Tail, which is of course focused on saltwater, but we are going to launch a freshwater book as well. This will be a book that focuses on the other side of the fishing spectrum. And I think it’s necessary to complete our portfolio of fly fishing in general. We’ve recruited a couple of big names, a couple of established editors in the field, to go forward with this. And we’re also going to work with Rajat Sports and make their fishnique water initiative a priority to the magazine.

Samir Husni: Do we have a name for the new magazine yet?

Joseph Ballarini: We have a couple, and we’re going to hold off on sharing them until we actually hone in on one and decide.

Samir Husni: Do you have a target date for when the second magazine might be launched?

Joseph Ballarini: We’re looking at the preview copy being ready in late 2018, with a full launch in the spring of 2019.

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

Joseph Ballarini: The only thing that I would like to add is for the people who are reading this interview, we are very conservation-focused and if you page through our issues, you’ll see the Everglades Foundation and you’ll read the articles that are very concerned about our environment. And I would just ask people to support our cause and take the environment seriously, because we only have one planet and if we destroy it, it might not come back. And a lot of fisheries have been destroyed by gill netting and pollution. On the freshwater side, dams are destroying a lot of fisheries, and I’d like to see a lot of these things change and improve.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Joseph Ballarini: That’s a tough question. (Laughs) Being that the magazine is a saltwater publication and I love saltwater fly fishing, I wouldn’t mind being remembered as a very “salty” guy, similar to the way the Tail title has multiple connotations. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, after your emergency room duties are over, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Joseph Ballarini: That’s an easy one to answer. Tail is a startup, and we are grossly understaffed. So, if I’m not taking care of my child or spending time with my wife, I am at my computer working on the magazine or I am packing and shipping products for the magazine. I’m kind of a one-man-show at the actual facility with designers that work there and remotely as well. So, you would probably find me working.

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

Joseph Ballarini: The long list or the short list?

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Either one I can handle.

Joseph Ballarini: What keeps me staring at the ceiling until 3:00 a.m. many nights is that launching a magazine, having never been in the publishing industry, and trying to learn an industry that isn’t that easy to learn and trying to wrap my head around how to make this magazine successful, can be hard. But it’s working and it’s exceeding expectations. However, being a perfectionist, I really don’t know if I can make it better, and that does keep me up at night. I’m always second-guessing my decisions and my actions. And I’m always making sure that I try to do the right thing.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Raddington Report: An Online Global Source That’s Coming Soon To Print And Promises To “Change The World Through Conversation. Not Censorship.” – The Mr. Magazine Interview With Yassin Fawaz, Publisher, Raddington Report & CEO, The Raddington Group…

July 31, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“As robust as online media is, I’m still an old-school guy in many ways. Nothing compares to having your hands on a physical, glossy copy of an engaging magazine or newspaper. And really spending time delving into it. Part of the biggest problem with online news media is that it lives in your browser or your phone. And you have so many other notifications and distractions that are always going to get in your way.” Yassin Fawaz…

“When you have a physical magazine or newspaper in your hand, two things happen. First is you have a unique connection to the medium; in fact, in some ways the content feel is right there in your hands. You’re forced to really sit down and think about it and just read. And you’re not distracted by so many other things. And I think that’s the primary reason that I believe print is important, because no matter how far technology goes, in my opinion, the only way that is conducive to reading and conducive to thinking and analyzing is by having it physically in your hand.” Yassin Fawaz…

According to The Raddington Report’s publisher, Yassin Fawaz, the online journal and soon-to-be print entity, takes on global issues by opening dialogues that are sometimes considered taboo and removes that censorship, seeking the truth above all else. The Raddington Report is published by the Raddington Group, of which Yassin is also the CEO. The new media brand is designed for leaders around the world who are shaping the future and want to know why a story is important for their security and their bottom-line. Yassin says the Raddington Report was developed to change the way important events are reported in the global marketplace.

And while the online/mobile version is strong, Yassin also added that a print component was something that he felt the brand needed. Something tangible and engaging. With experts ranging from a former president of Latvia to a former CIA deputy director, the Raddington Report seems to have its finger on the pulse of some of the most in-the-know and relevant people in the world of politics, government and many other world affair topics. With such a broad and diverse base of experts, the Raddington Report is poised to become a very powerful voice for all who have been inundated with mainstream media’s present-day trials and tribulations.

I spoke with Yassin recently and we talked about the Raddington Report and what he hopes it accomplishes, both online and with its upcoming print edition. For a man who says the three principals he was reared on: integrity, professionalism and diligence, are what he used to shape the person he is today, you would expect no less than a media brand that is dedicated to the truth. And Yassin says that’s the truth for everyone, from heads of state to the ordinary person who lives around the corner. Every voice should be heard and recognized, and the Raddington Report is here to make sure that happens.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who supports the truth, no matter the topic, believing that one can only change the world through conversation, not censorship, Yassin Fawaz, publisher, Raddington Report, & CEO, The Raddington Group.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the reasons behind the Raddington Report and why it’s important in the scheme of today’s media: The simple answer is that traditional media is broken. We can’t wait any longer for solutions. The Raddington Report isn’t the be all/end all of publications, but what we’re offering is unique and a breath of fresh air. And the reason why I believe that is because we give readers in depth articles, not simply about news, but more about what the news means. So, we go beyond just simply covering key events.

On what motivated him to become interested in this type of global media: To be quite honest with you, we obviously want to be an integral part of the conversation. Not by being loud, but by being thoughtful and offering concise and informative information. And being able to offer it from a global perspective, because I believe today that the biggest issue in a lot of reporting is that many people don’t actually have the ability to deliver on the ground information that’s unfiltered and coming from a strategic perspective that really tells people what they need to know.

On how he plans to reach an audience already saturated with an overabundance of information: We are intending to make the Raddington Report the go-to source for information, but most importantly, the go-to source for the truth.

On the possibility of some to say the truth is in the eye of the beholder: I think the truth is being able to report with objectivity. And unfortunately, this is the biggest problem with a lot of journalism today. If you allow your personal views and perspectives on issues to get in the way of your reporting, then obviously you’re not reporting on the truth.

On where the Raddington Report’s base of operations is:
Our base is in Washington D.C., but we have an extensive presence throughout the Middle East, Africa, and beyond Asia. So, we have a presence in a lot of key parts of the world. And when I say we have a presence; we have high-level contacts with heads of state and with decision-makers; so obviously that gives us the ability to deliver what others can’t.

On when the print edition will come out: The print edition is obviously something that we are planning to put out in the very near future. And to further answer your question regarding our objective, there is no reporting source, and please quote me on this; there is no reporting source like the Raddington Report on world affairs. Today any good reporter knows you have to go to the source to get the truth. We live in the source.

On why he felt the need for a print component:
I’ll say something to you to answer your question on the issue of print, which I think is obviously a very good question. I still believe that print is very important and there are a lot of reasons why that’s true. A lot of people would ask why go print when today you have so many media outlets that are obviously online. Why do you think they’re online? As robust as online media is, I’m still an old-school guy in many ways. Nothing compares to having your hands on a physical, glossy copy of an engaging magazine or newspaper.

On the plan to convert the Raddington Report’s online audience to a print audience:
I think our plan is mainly through detailing the content as far as how we’re going to be transferring things out.

On how the Raddington Report managed to put together such an illustrious mix of experts for its board:
To simply put it, the Raddington Group has a very extensive network and that very extensive network has given us the ability to obviously make the best use of that network for the benefit of readers all around the world.

On the genesis of the Raddington Report’s tagline, Change the World Through Conversation. Not Censorship: The genesis of that is there are so many people in so many different parts of the world that are voiceless and they have no one to speak for them. In many of these countries, in faraway places that is away from the United States, there is the law of the jungle. And many publications many times overlook reporting on topics, because they are so political and they feel the topics are just too dangerous to cover. But considering our resources and our capabilities, and who we are and who we represent, we believe that we are now ready to be a voice for anybody out there who needs to be heard.

On who Yassin Fawaz is: My family formed my character and shaped the values that guide me. The three things that guide me as a person are integrity, professionalism and diligence. I have a very good understanding of the world. I’ve become very successful in my business, and that’s mainly due to the support that I’ve gotten from the upbringing that my family provided me. And ultimately I’d say, to describe me in simple terms, my main focus is prosperity and peace. That’s the cycle I want to see, because I believe that it’s a cycle that basically opposes corruption breeding terrorism.

On his background: My background has really been focused on security, and I’ve done extensive research on a full range of issues. I’ve mainly used all of my expertise focusing on that to really make the Raddington Group a success.

On anything he’d like to add: I think the world has been waiting for an on-the-ground source of diverse expertise to provide reporting on highly valuable information. The Raddington Report fills that space and meets that need. And there is no publication out there that gives insight from a head of state or national security experts, that gives the reader insight from established authors, and at the same time gives the ordinary person the ability to be heard. And I think that’s one of the main pillars; we’re a voice for everybody up and down the ladder.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:
To be quite honest, I do a lot of reading. And a book that I continue to read over and over is “The Prince” by Machiavelli.

On what keeps him up at night: There’s not much that keeps me up at night, because considering the sensitivity of what I do and just the overall scope of work that we’re involved with, I think we keep a lot of people up at night waiting to see the next move from us and waiting to see what we’re going to put out. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Yassin Fawaz, publisher, Raddington Report, & CEO, The Raddington Group.

Samir Husni: I read the press release for the Raddington Report and I was definitely intrigued. Tell me, why are you doing this and why now?

Yassin Fawaz: The simple answer is that traditional media is broken. We can’t wait any longer for solutions. The Raddington Report isn’t the be all/end all of publications, but what we’re offering is unique and a breath of fresh air. And the reason why I believe that is because we give readers in depth articles, not simply about news, but more about what the news means. So, we go beyond just simply covering key events.

We often go a step further and try to give the reader tangible information to take away, whether that’s useful tidbits such as something that will help them make a better investment decision, or perhaps some kind of breakdown of a new development that will impact their marketing, or whether to explore operating in certain parts of the world; this is the sort of thing that they get. And I really don’t see that being offered in a lot of other places.

Samir Husni: You already have the Raddington Group and now you’ve launched the Raddington Report online and you also plan on launching a print edition; what motivated you to get interested in all of this? When was that defining moment when you said to yourself, ‘Somebody has to do it and I’m going to be the one?’

Yassin Fawaz: To be quite honest with you, we obviously want to be an integral part of the conversation. Not by being loud, but by being thoughtful and offering concise and informative information. And being able to offer it from a global perspective, because I believe today that the biggest issue in a lot of reporting is that many people don’t actually have the ability to deliver on-the-ground information that’s unfiltered and coming from a strategic perspective that really tells people what they need to know. Today, too much of what you’re seeing out there is being reported by people who don’t really have the detailed insight and knowledge of some of these places they’re reporting on.

Samir Husni: Are you going to take the media world by storm when the first issue of the print edition comes out? What’s your plan? How are you going to reach an audience that’s been so saturated with all kinds of media, left and right?

Yassin Fawaz: We are intending to make the Raddington Report the go-to source for information, but most importantly, the go-to source for the truth.

Samir Husni: What if someone tells you that the truth is in the eye of the beholder?

Yassin Fawaz: I think the truth is being able to report with objectivity. And unfortunately, this is the biggest problem with a lot of journalism today. If you allow your personal views and perspectives on issues to get in the way of your reporting, then obviously you’re not reporting on the truth.

Samir Husni: Where is your base of operations?

Yassin Fawaz: Our base is in Washington D.C., but we have an extensive presence throughout the Middle East, Africa, and beyond Asia. So, we have a presence in a lot of key parts of the world. And when I say we have a presence; we have high-level contacts with heads of state and with decision-makers; so obviously that gives us the ability to deliver what others can’t.

To answer your question on why we’re doing this now; we carefully looked at what’s going on today in the world. We have many of our experts and members of our team who are constantly being approached by media outlets all around the world that tell them that they’re writing this report on one thing or the other, and they need some expert insight in order to beef up their piece.

You look at what’s out there and you always see somewhere within the article expert X or foreign official A, current official B; it always comes down to being able to use someone who has access to information in order to make a piece complete. What we’re doing is using our own resources and by doing so, we have what it takes to put out a solid product.

Samir Husni: When do you plan to introduce the print edition of the Raddington Report?

Yassin Fawaz: The print edition is obviously something that we are planning to put out in the very near future. And to further answer your question regarding our objective, there is no reporting source, and please quote me on this; there is no reporting source like the Raddington Report on world affairs. Today any good reporter knows you have to go to the source to get the truth. We live in the source. My team, the people that make up what we are as an organization, those are the folks who know the generators of intel. Who know how to gain important information.

And most importantly, many of the folks associated with us are trained to tell the difference between false and the truth, because we live here and we know what is real. That is what we believe is part of our strategic advantage, because we have a very solid team of folks that have a background in information, and they’re able to verify and look at reports and automatically be able to say that’s the truth or not. Just by simply looking at it.

Samir Husni: Recently, I interviewed the founding editor of a new journal called American Affairs. And one of the things that he told me was that because of the status of the media today, they felt the need to add a printed magazine to what originally started as a blog. And the status of media today being called everything from fabricated news to alternative facts to fake news. So, there is a need and a necessity.

Yassin Fawaz: I’ll say something to you to answer your question on the issue of print, which I think is obviously a very good question. I still believe that print is very important and there are a lot of reasons why that’s true. A lot of people would ask why go print when today you have so many media outlets that are obviously online. Why do you think they’re online?

As robust as online media is, I’m still an old-school guy in many ways. Nothing compares to having your hands on a physical, glossy copy of an engaging magazine or newspaper. And really spending time delving into it. Part of the biggest problem with online news media is that it lives in your browser or your phone. And you have so many other notifications and distractions that are always going to get in your way.

But when you have a physical magazine or newspaper in your hand, two things happen. First is you have a unique connection to the medium; in fact, in some ways the content feel is right there in your hands. You’re forced to really sit down and think about it and just read. And you’re not distracted by so many other things. And I think that’s the primary reason that I believe print is important, because no matter how far technology goes, in my opinion, the only way that is conducive to reading and conducive to thinking and analyzing is by having it physically in your hand. And those are the two main activities that we want to encourage.

Samir Husni: With your online presence and the variety of content available; what’s the plan to convert that online audience to a print audience?

Yassin Fawaz: I think our plan is mainly through detailing the content as far as how we’re going to be transferring things out.

Samir Husni: As I look at the list for your board of experts, you have a variety of people who come from all over the world. From the former president of Latvia to the former vice president of Iraq, to the former private secretary and chief of staff to Princess Diana. How did you manage to put this mix together?

Yassin Fawaz: To simply put it, the Raddington Group has a very extensive network and that very extensive network has given us the ability to obviously make the best use of that network for the benefit of readers all around the world. And that has been key and has allowed the Raddington Report to be successful so far.

Samir Husni: Your tagline is “Change the World Through Conversation. Not Censorship.” What is the genesis of that?

Yassin Fawaz: The genesis of that is there are so many people in so many different parts of the world that are voiceless and they have no one to speak for them. In many of these countries, in faraway places that is away from the United States, there is the law of the jungle. And many publications many times overlook reporting on topics, because they are so political and they feel the topics are just too dangerous to cover. But considering our resources and our capabilities, and who we are and who we represent, we believe that we are now ready to be a voice for anybody out there who needs to be heard. We will stand up for them. We will support them and stand by their side.

Samir Husni: And if someone asks who is Yassin Fawaz, how would you answer?

Yassin Fawaz: My family formed my character and shaped the values that guide me. The three things that guide me as a person are integrity, professionalism and diligence. I have a very good understanding of the world. I’ve become very successful in my business, and that’s mainly due to the support that I’ve gotten from the upbringing that my family provided me. And ultimately I’d say, to describe me in simple terms, my main focus is prosperity and peace. That’s the cycle I want to see, because I believe that it’s a cycle that basically opposes corruption breeding terrorism.

Corruption breeding terrorism breeding corruption cycle, this is the biggest problem with the world today, and where too many regimes find themselves. And I’m a big global supporter and visionary that they must stand up and support the truth. That’s the whole motive and what I stand for as a person.

Samir Husni: What’s your background?

Yassin Fawaz: My background has really been focused on security, and I’ve done extensive research on a full range of issues. I’ve mainly used all of my expertise focusing on that to really make the Raddington Group a success. And that’s really been my background in simple terms.

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

Yassin Fawaz: I think the world has been waiting for an on-the-ground source of diverse expertise to provide reporting on highly valuable information. The Raddington Report fills that space and meets that need. And there is no publication out there that gives insight from a head of state or national security experts, that gives the reader insight from established authors, and at the same time gives the ordinary person the ability to be heard. And I think that’s one of the main pillars; we’re a voice for everybody up and down the ladder.

Today, too much of the world is built on connections and for the ordinary person out there, if they’re not connected, believe me, their voice goes unheard.

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; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Yassin Fawaz: To be quite honest, I do a lot of reading. And a book that I continue to read over and over is “The Prince” by Machiavelli.

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

Yassin Fawaz: There’s not much that keeps me up at night, because considering the sensitivity of what I do and just the overall scope of work that we’re involved with, I think we keep a lot of people up at night waiting to see the next move from us and waiting to see what we’re going to put out. (Laughs) I’m confident that within a few months we will have made a solid dent in addressing the problems of ridiculously high levels of partisan division.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

The Golfer’s Journal: A New Golf Magazine That Focuses On The Purity, Culture, History, And Places Of The Game – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brendon Thomas, Publisher, The Golfer’s Journal…

July 26, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“At the Journals we have a slightly different strategy, in that the digital exists to point people to our print products. And it’s a wonderful way to do that, because we can reach so many people and bring them into the fold. But we don’t have a digital version of the magazine. There is no place that you can get our content online, unless you are subscribing, in which case you have access to all of our archives digitally, so that you can download and read them. I found in my last position and here that it’s the same as if you were selling any other physical product; the website exists to sell that product.” Brendon Thomas…

A new title about golf in its purest form. September will bring us the latest “journal” from the makers of The Surfer’s Journal, and if its premier issue is any indication, the magazine should be a stunner. The Golfer’s Journal makes its debut with a boxed presentation for VIP subscribers that’s also filled with goodies and promises of more to come down the road. Brendon Thomas, the magazine’s publisher, brings us his latest offering and does not disappoint. From the unique first edition to the commercially uncluttered pages that he promises within the magazine, The Golfer’s Journal aims to become the defining rallying point for people who want more from their golfing magazine than mere tips and celebrity statistics.

I spoke with Brendon recently and we talked about the business model that enables him to bring these amazing books to life. Half paid by the sponsors (not called advertisers by Brendon), and half paid by the consumers who support it, The Golfer’s Journal, not unlike its sister publication, The Surfer’s Journal, makes no apologies for its premium-priced content. Why? According to Brendon, because the magazine is worth it. By limiting the ads in the magazine, the pages are instead filled with insightful and creative content, pictures and artwork by some of the best in the business. It’s an escape that takes you into a world of golf unlike any you have known. The magazine strives for the true connoisseur of the sport and reaches a deeper level than most of its counterparts that are on the marketplace. And Brendon, an avid golfer himself, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Brendon shared that The Golfer’s Journal recently held its launch party and a great and successful time was had by all, with the energy and excitement of everyone fairly palpable.

So, I hope that you enjoy this most delightful and insightful interview with a man who loves golf and surfing and who shares those passions eloquently through his magazines, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brendon Thomas, publisher, The Golfer’s Journal.

But first, the sound-bites:

On his thinking behind bringing a specialty magazine that covers a broad topic into the marketplace despite the negative things said by many: You hear a lot of things about the marketplace, but on the ground, that’s not what I’m seeing. All I have to go on is my experience with The Surfer’s Journal and that’s going exceptionally well. Subscriber base is growing; we’ve increased interest from advertisers and have a waiting list of people trying to sponsor our Journal.

On the response he’s received already from the magazine: We had pretty modest goals, frankly, since we’re primarily in the surf space. I’m an avid golfer with a lot of connections in the golf industry, but that’s mostly due to my position at Surfer Magazine before. So, we didn’t expect to get the interest and traction that we’ve received so far. As far as quantifying it is concerned, we’re printing 30,000 for the first issue and half of that print-run is accounted for already.

On which he enjoys more, being an avid golfer or being the publisher of a golf magazine: (Laughs) Obviously, being a golfer. I absolutely love the game. I’m a low, single-digit handicap player, whose handicap has gone a bit higher since I’ve had children. And since I decided to start a golf publication; I’m not getting out as much. But there’s a lot of similarities between golfing and surfing. I love both of them. I’d rather be playing golf everyday if I had a choice. But we have to make a living.

On any major stumbling block he thinks he might face as he moves forward with the magazine and how he plans to overcome it:
Distribution will be difficult, and awareness. Obviously, with social media platforms, we can get a lot more awareness going quickly, but the selling point of these books, apart from the great editorial, is the physical product. To really understand how cool they are, you have to hold one. In The Golfer’s Journal, there are far more solutions to that problem than there are in The Surfer’s Journal. There are existing clubs and charity golf tournaments; lists of people who are avid golfers and who are members of country clubs and golfing communities. So, our plan to overcome that problem is to form a coalition with these clubs and communities to share our interests and our golf and enlighten them to our rare product.

On the magazine’s business model (the very high cover price) and his practice of calling advertisers sponsors: As you and I know as magazine geeks, there’s obviously ways to cover the costs of your production through selling physical copies. We have found a balance between having our sponsors underwrite a lot of the costs of production, not all of it. We call them sponsors because they don’t just appear in print, they appear on every, single thing we do. They’ve got a logo on every page of our website; they’re at the events we hold; they’re on the bumpers of our videos online. They have the call-out on the cover flap; they’re listed on the masthead as sponsors. The reason why the price is so high is that we’ve found that there are a lot of readers who are tired of the commercialism in magazines and who are tired of how many ads they have to sift through to find the editorial.

On being Print Proud, but Digital Smart at the same time: I come from a digital background. I was a computer programmer before I got into editing and publishing, so I’m very intensely aware of the pitfalls and the benefits of digital media. My previous position at Surfer Magazine; we took a more traditional approach to kind of blending the two and monetizing each vertical and treating them both almost as separate entities under the same brand umbrella. At the Journals we have a slightly different strategy, in that the digital exists to point people to our print products. And it’s a wonderful way to do that, because we can reach so many people and bring them into the fold.

On the premier boxed issue of The Golfer’s Journal, which costs $150:
Essentially, the way we’ve framed it is the same as in public radio or something. You become a benefactor of this reader-supportive project. It’s like a Kickstarter campaign, people are pledging money and in return they’re going to get some benefits by doing so. What we’ve done for the premier issue is we’ve created a really beautiful box that the issue will come in. We have one of our sponsors, G/Fore, has done a Golfer’s Journal glove with our logo on it. We have a hand-forged ball marker that will come inside the box. And they’re all presented beautifully inside the premier issue.

On whether he’s trying to form a community where, other than the game of golf itself, the magazine will be a magnet for them: Yes, I think so. We’ve found the same thing with The Surfer’s Journal; we have this inner circle of people who love the sport so much and the magazine is kind of the rallying point for them to coalesce around. In golf, there are a lot of those types of things. There are clubs and societies; book clubs and those sorts of things that really exist around the game. We want to create one that’s similar to that.

On whether he thinks of The Golfer’s Journal as being more a cause than a business: Yes, absolutely. We’re doing our best here to kind of stop the scourge of anti-intellectualism. We’ve been making a surf magazine for 26 years and when you think of surf magazines, you don’t think of great literature, but that’s what The Surfer’s Journal has really set itself apart with. It’s this fantastic writing, interesting characters, and highlighting people who are doing terrific art and really elevating the conversation.

On whether the VIP subscription to receive the boxed first edition has a deadline:
No, what will happen is it will morph into a premium subscription after the founding, so the founding subscribers will remain the founding subscribers, they are the people who came in on the ground floor and contributed and helped get the thing off the ground. But as we come out with the second and third issue, that will change into a premium subscription and the offering will essentially be the same.

On anything he’d like to add:
The first issue will be shipping out the first of August; it will be in our hands the first or second week of August, and then we will be shipping it out to subscribers. Also, one of the interesting things about this process, and it’s been going on for 18 months now to make this first issue, has been the willingness of really topnotch writers, photographers and artists to take part. We haven’t had one person that we’ve approached to say no, and say that this is not something they want to be a part of. They have all leapt at the opportunity to contribute and become part of the family.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:
My number one thing is I want to deal honestly with everyone I work with, and to deliver on what I promise. That’s basically my number one goal.

On what keeps him up at night: Everything. Starting a new title is scary and there’s so much that goes into it. We’re not just a print publication, obviously. We have social arms and digital arms and the mechanism that runs the business has to constantly be refined and upgraded. So, it’s not a simple thing. There are moments where I’m wildly optimistic about what we’re putting together and how well our titles are doing. And then there are other moments where there is always uncertainty.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brendon Thomas, publisher, The Golfer’s Journal.

Samir Husni: Some people today, when they hear about a new magazine coming, especially in print, they are quick to qualify it as very niche or some sort of limited edition. They say the future for big print that deals with big subjects is really non-existent anymore. Yet, you’re coming out with; yes, a specialty magazine, The Golfer’s Journal, but by the same token, it’s not a tiny topic. What was your thinking behind bringing The Golfer’s Journal into the marketplace?

Brendon Thomas: You hear a lot of things about the marketplace, but on the ground, that’s not what I’m seeing. All I have to go on is my experience with The Surfer’s Journal and that’s going exceptionally well. Subscriber base is growing; we’ve increased interest from advertisers and have a waiting list of people trying to sponsor our Journal.

And I have been working on this idea for five or six years now. Seeing all of the stars align by being at The Surfer’s Journal and seeing its continued success, and seeing what appears to be a giant gap in the market in golf, which is to say, there aren’t any magazines like The Surfer’s Journal in the golf space. There are one or two premium publications, but they’re littered with advertising. And they cater to a really elite, affluent audience exclusively.

So, we wanted to create something that is The Surfer’s Journal for golf, which is to say that it’s a beautiful publication that is half book, half magazine. The subject matter appeals to a broad readership, but it’s also very focused on the purity of the game. We don’t deal with offering swing tips and game improvement tips and celebrity profiles, and those sorts of things; golf is a lot more than that.

All the major publications seem to copy each other and do the same thing over and over again. So, we wanted to create something that celebrates the game for all of its diversity. And celebrate the photography, which is gorgeous and often underrepresented in other publications. As well as celebrate the culture around the game; the art that’s inspired from the game, and the people. There are so many interesting people who play golf and who are in the game neck-deep. So, we’re trying to provide avenues to tell those stories. And so far, the response has been fantastic.

Samir Husni: And since you announced the launch of The Golfer’s Journal, you just mentioned that the response has been fantastic, could you quantify that statement a bit more?

TGJ Launch Party

Brendon Thomas: Sure. We had pretty modest goals, frankly, since we’re primarily in the surf space. I’m an avid golfer with a lot of connections in the golf industry, but that’s mostly due to my position at Surfer Magazine before. So, we didn’t expect to get the interest and traction that we’ve received so far. As far as quantifying it is concerned, we’re printing 30,000 for the first issue and half of that print-run is accounted for already.

Samir Husni: You said that you’re an avid golfer, and I saw your title on The Golfer’s Journal as the publisher; which of the two hats do you enjoy more, being a publisher of a golf magazine or being a golfer?

Brendon Thomas: (Laughs) Obviously, being a golfer. I absolutely love the game. I’m a low, single-digit handicap player, whose handicap has gone a bit higher since I’ve had children. And since I decided to start a golf publication; I’m not getting out as much. But there’s a lot of similarities between golfing and surfing. I love both of them. I’d rather be playing golf everyday if I had a choice. But we have to make a living.

And I also want to create something about the game that preserves its history and celebrates the gifts of golf that never see the light of day. The game is ancient and people have been writing about it for hundreds of years. So, there’s a lot of ground to cover and that sort of thing isn’t presented in a way that can be kept; in a tone that will last as it’s presented in some publications. Those publications are generally monthlies that are discarded when they’re finished being read. And as we’ve found with The Surfer’s Journal, our journals don’t get thrown away; they are kept on bookshelves and on coffee tables for years.

Samir Husni: What do you envision as the major stumbling block that’s going to face you as the magazine moves forward and how do you plan to overcome it?

Brendon Thomas: Distribution will be difficult, and awareness. Obviously, with social media platforms, we can get a lot more awareness going quickly, but the selling point of these books, apart from the great editorial, is the physical product. To really understand how cool they are, you have to hold one. And the same is true for The Surfer’s Journal. That’s a challenge, because these books are costly to produce and we don’t give discounts or give them away for free.

So, we have to find clever ways to get them into people’s hands so they can experience it. And really understand the quality of the paper; the quality of the photography; the quality of the writing; and the exceptional layout and design. It’s getting copies into people’s hands.

In The Golfer’s Journal, there are far more solutions to that problem than there are in The Surfer’s Journal. There are existing clubs and charity golf tournaments; lists of people who are avid golfers and who are members of country clubs and golfing communities. So, our plan to overcome that problem is to form a coalition with these clubs and communities to share our interests and our golf and enlighten them to our rare product.

Samir Husni: As you mentioned, the magazine is not cheap; you’re charging a premium price and you’re doing a unique presentation of the premier issue that comes out in September. Can you tell me a bit more about your pricing strategy, which is also a part of the business model of The Surfer’s Journal? And tell my readers how you refer to the advertisers as sponsors instead of advertisers.

Brendon Thomas: As you and I know as magazine geeks, there’s obviously ways to cover the costs of your production through selling physical copies. We have found a balance between having our sponsors underwrite a lot of the costs of production, not all of it. We call them sponsors because they don’t just appear in print, they appear on every, single thing we do. They’ve got a logo on every page of our website; they’re at the events we hold; they’re on the bumpers of our videos online. They have the call-out on the cover flap; they’re listed on the masthead as sponsors. So really, it’s an all-encompassing sponsorship of a brand. Everything we do, we’re out there representing those brands and delivering their message.

The reason why the price is so high is that we’ve found that there are a lot of readers who are tired of the commercialism in magazines and who are tired of how many ads they have to sift through to find the editorial. And they’re willing to pay for their commercially-quiet experience. And simply put, that’s what it’ll cost us to provide that for them. With our sponsors paying a part of it and our readers paying the rest to cover the cost of the publication of these books.

Samir Husni: The theme of my 2018 ACT Experience is Print Proud, Digital Smart. And if I could think of one entity that actually manifests itself in that way, it would be The Surfer’s Journal and soon The Golfer’s Journal. You don’t shy away from being proud of your print product, but you also have a very smart digital strategy.

Brendon Thomas: I come from a digital background. I was a computer programmer before I got into editing and publishing, so I’m very intensely aware of the pitfalls and the benefits of digital media. My previous position at Surfer Magazine; we took a more traditional approach to kind of blending the two and monetizing each vertical and treating them both almost as separate entities under the same brand umbrella.

At the Journals we have a slightly different strategy, in that the digital exists to point people to our print products. And it’s a wonderful way to do that, because we can reach so many people and bring them into the fold. But we don’t have a digital version of the magazine. There is no place that you can get our content online, unless you are subscribing, in which case you have access to all of our archives digitally, so that you can download and read them. I found in my last position and here that it’s the same as if you were selling any other physical product; the website exists to sell that product. That’s the strategy we’re taking with the Journals.

And the best way to advertise that product is to put out good content on the websites and make sure that it’s showing what’s unique about our offering, but not showing all of it. To get the entire story, you have to be a subscriber.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about the premier issue due out in September. It’s in a box and for people to get it they will have to pay $150.

Brendon Thomas: Essentially, the way we’ve framed it is the same as in public radio or something. You become a benefactor of this reader-supportive project. It’s like a Kickstarter campaign, people are pledging money and in return they’re going to get some benefits by doing so.

What we’ve done for the premier issue is we’ve created a really beautiful box that the issue will come in. We have one of our sponsors, G/Fore, has done a Golfer’s Journal glove with our logo on it. We have a hand-forged ball marker that will come inside the box. And they’re all presented beautifully inside the premier issue.

Afterward, our premier subscribers will be basically on our VIP list, so when we hold an event in your city in September, all of our premier subscribers will be invited. We will be surprising some subscribers with tickets to other events. There’s no competition, they’ll just get surprised with tickets to another premier event.

Also, we know that those premier subscribers are the most avid golf supporters and fans, so they are going to become benefactors of some of our sponsors’ products, such as Targus when they send out golf balls to test, and other different items. So, they really are being brought into this elevated little club, that is similar in some ways to luxury magazines that will send you out of the blue a little gift from one of their advertisers. One of our sponsors may be sending some subscribers a gift throughout the year. So, we really want to treat those people well and say thank you for their belief and support in us and they do get benefits in return.

Samir Husni: In addition to creating the magazine, I have a feeling from just hearing you talk, that you’re also trying to form a community group where, besides the game itself, The Golfer’s Journal will be the magnet for them?

Brendon Thomas: Yes, I think so. We’ve found the same thing with The Surfer’s Journal; we have this inner circle of people who love the sport so much and the magazine is kind of the rallying point for them to coalesce around.

In golf, there are a lot of those types of things. There are clubs and societies; book clubs and those sorts of things that really exist around the game. We want to create one that’s similar to that. And that’s why I’ve been so surprised by the response, because really that community has taken shape pretty quickly. Surprisingly. There wasn’t a lot put out into the world, and suddenly all of these very interesting characters starting coalescing around our cause, which reinforces my belief that this thing was missing from the game. And that people were searching for this type of thing. So, that’s very encouraging.

Samir Husni: As a publisher, you’re talking about a cause much more than you’re talking about a business plan.

Brendon Thomas: Yes, absolutely. We’re doing our best here to kind of stop the scourge of anti-intellectualism. We’ve been making a surf magazine for 26 years and when you think of surf magazines, you don’t think of great literature, but that’s what The Surfer’s Journal has really set itself apart with. It’s this fantastic writing, interesting characters, and highlighting people who are doing terrific art and really elevating the conversation.

We don’t believe we have to play to the lowest common denominator, and get thousands or millions of subscribers. That’s not what we’re after. We want to get the people who are looking for an elevated experience, and for people who want to read great writing, and be enlightened and learn something, and to find a new way to appreciate the game of golf.

Samir Husni: Will the VIP subscription close? Is there a deadline for receiving the boxed, first edition?

Brendon Thomas: No, what will happen is it will morph into a premium subscription after the founding, so the founding subscribers will remain the founding subscribers, they are the people who came in on the ground floor and contributed and helped get the thing off the ground. But as we come out with the second and third issue, that will change into a premium subscription and the offering will essentially be the same.

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

Brandon Thomas: The first issue will be shipping out the first of August; it will be in our hands the first or second week of August, and then we will be shipping it out to subscribers.

Also, one of the interesting things about this process, and it’s been going on for 18 months now to make this first issue, has been the willingness of really topnotch writers, photographers and artists to take part. We haven’t had one person that we’ve approached to say no, and say that this is not something they want to be a part of. They have all leapt at the opportunity to contribute and become part of the family. The incredible talent that we’ve brought in has been mind-blowing. We’ve got authors of books and famous photographers, notorious editors and writers. And also great artists; all who have contributed in the first and second issue. That’s been great, and it’s been really fun to work with all of those people from what to me is an entirely different industry, having spent the last 12 to 15 years in Surf.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Brendon Thomas: My number one thing is I want to deal honestly with everyone I work with, and to deliver on what I promise. That’s basically my number one goal.

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

Brendon Thomas: Everything. Starting a new title is scary and there’s so much that goes into it. We’re not just a print publication, obviously. We have social arms and digital arms and the mechanism that runs the business has to constantly be refined and upgraded. So, it’s not a simple thing. There are moments where I’m wildly optimistic about what we’re putting together and how well our titles are doing. And then there are other moments where there is always uncertainty. The world is a pretty uncertain place at the moment. And we’re just not sure what’s going to happen next.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Meredith Core Media: A Strong Belief In Print As Its “Core” Business With Several New Titles To Prove It, And More On The Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Doug Kouma – Editorial Content Director, Meredith Core Media. A Mr. Magazine™ Exclusive…

July 5, 2017

Two New Magazines, Hungry Girl, Waste Less, Save More, To Join Eat This, Not That, The Magnolia Journal, And Forks Over Knives, In Meredith Core Media’s Stable Of New Shining Print Stars…

“I actually think the tangible magazine you can hold in your hands is a feather in the cap for a digital-first brand. It’s what says, “We’ve made it. We’re here to stay. We’re legitimate.” And, almost counterintuitively, I suspect a lot of that is being driven by millennials. For as digitally savvy, and as digital-first a generation as millennials and Gen Z’s are, there’s also this yearning for authenticity and for something real. Again, I think it’s based on the type of content. I think with that generation in particular. It’s not fair at all to say millennials aren’t magazine readers. They’re magazine readers, but they want different types of magazines and want to consume information in different ways.” Doug Kouma…

When a company puts print first, or at least at its core, no matter what the negatively-slanted pundits might say, in Mr. Magazine’s™ humble opinion, the future will be rosy indeed. Last week I wrote about Hearst Magazines and their print proud philosophy, today I am proud to highlight Meredith Corporation’s Meredith Core Media group. The group helped launch The Magnolia Journal, and with its recent phenomenal success the magazine is now been brought into the bigger fold of the Meredith Corporation. Meredith Core Media is enjoying a definite print prosperity.

From the early beginnings of the successful Eat This, Not That brand, where Meredith partnered with David Zinczenko’s Galvanized Media Group, to their extremely beneficial Chip and Joanna Gaines association, Meredith Core Media has proven that affiliations with other successful brands can certainly be major opportunities for the realms of print. And the company’s editorial content director, Doug Kouma, believes that wholeheartedly.

I spoke with Doug recently and we talked about Meredith Core Media’s success with The Magnolia Journal and its past accomplishments with Eat This, Not That, and also about the Beekman 1802 Almanac, which was a beautiful attempt to bring the unique brand to the mass market audience. From successes to even the shorter-lived achievements, Meredith Core Media has always put print at the helm of its ship and never strayed off course.

And the mission continues, as in January, 2018, the company will partner with former Food Network channel star, Hungry Girl (Lisa Lillien) to bring Hungry Girl Magazine’s premier issue to the marketplace.

And they will be partnering with the CropLife Foundation on a new magazine that will bring attention to the issue of food waste, a hot topic in sustainability circles today. Tentatively titled “Waste Less, Save More,” this annual bookazine will provide real-world strategies for planning, shopping, and cooking, as well as 50+ recipes, to help consumers use more of the food they bring into their homes and cut back significantly on what goes into to the landfill.

It doesn’t sound like print is declining in Meredith’s world at all. And according to Doug, it’s more relevant than ever, even with millennials. So, enjoy this informative interview with a man who believes the tangible nature and power of print is still a legitimizing factor in the world of media, across all platforms; the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Doug Kouma, editorial content director, Meredith Core Media.

But first, the sound-bites:

On defining Meredith Core Media: It’s something that’s evolved over the last couple of years out of Meredith Special Interest Media. I think it was three years ago that we first entered into a partnership with the Eat This, Not That brand; that’s David Zinczenko’s brand through his Galvanized Media Group. We launched a bookazine with them. At the time, the bookazine format was for—and I don’t want to use the phrase “lookbook,” but that’s kind of where we were using it—a high end décor and building side. This was a new opportunity to try something in a high quality format that was really mass market-driven and really service-driven.

On why many publishers have lost faith in print, while companies like Meredith and Hearst have never given up on their “core” product: I think it requires a change of mindset in many cases. We’re not out there trying to launch a $3.99 general interest magazine with anyone. In a lot of cases, these products are pretty niche, they already have a pretty loyal brand following, and they’re premium products. I don’t always think of them as magazines in the traditional sense of the word “magazine,” something you have sent to your home or you purchase, you sit down with it for half an hour or an hour, and then you’re pretty much done; you move on. That’s not what these are.

On how The Magnolia Journal came into being: The idea started as a seed with Joanna herself, with both Chip and Jo believing that they had a concept here that their consumers would respond positively to, and that would be unique in the marketplace. But, they didn’t have anyone on staff who had really worked in the publishing industry, or really knew anything about it.

On any conflicts that may have arisen between the Gaines, “Fixer Upper” and Meredith: As we were conceptualizing the magazine with her, we had to get our heads around what the Magnolia brand meant versus what the “Fixer Upper” brand was, and how we knew them from that show. Magnolia is far broader and encompasses far more aspects of the lifestyle, from food and gardening, to family relationships, to travel. Because of their relationship then with Scripps we were restricted in some ways, in terms of how much home and remodeling content could be a part of the magazine. I can’t say that really tied our hands, because Joanna’s vision was for something broader than that.

On whether he has a favorite “baby” or is he proud of all of the magazine children under his care at Meredith: I would say that, obviously, everybody here is really proud of the success of The Magnolia Journal, it was—I don’t like to use the cliché phrase labor of love—but I think that’s what it was for a lot of that team. I guess if I had to identify one that kind of holds a special place for me, it would probably be the Forks Over Knives launch. It was a content area where we saw a need in the marketplace. One of the leading—if not the leading—brand in the plant-based eating lifestyle, and to see how that came together and to see how successful it was on newsstand, and how it did it quietly, as some higher profile projects were hitting the marketplace around it…it’s just pretty cool to see something like that.

On whether any of his “children” have disappointed him: Yes, I would say the Beekman 1802 Almanac, mostly because I love that product. I loved working on it—Josh (Kilmer-Purcell) and Brent (Ridge) are fantastic guys to work with. We had a great time putting it together, and there’s still a little bit of sadness there that we couldn’t figure out, in the limited time we had available to us, how to make that product work in the mass market.

On any new projects in Meredith’s future: We’ve got a couple of irons in the fire that are pretty hot. Hungry Girl, who is a former Food Network personality, a cookbook author; she’s got a really good digital and social presence; we are launching a new magazine with her. It’ll be Hungry Girl magazine, coming out in January, 2018. That’s the newest launch that we’re really in the thick of right now.

On why he thinks media reporting is always so negative about the magazine industry: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I would say it probably requires a shift in mindset. You can’t even say that the big brands, the Better Homes & Gardens of the world, are necessarily struggling from a consumer standpoint. I think they’re just as relevant as ever. The rate base is just as strong as it’s ever been. When I’m cooking, I’ve learned that I don’t like to cook by trying to read a recipe on my phone or my computer, because I have to scroll back and forth and my fingers are dirty and it’s messy and it’s not convenient and I spill something. I’d rather have a magazine or a cookbook in those cases.

On whether he believes print legitimizes online media and that’s why many blogs and websites are adding a print product to their portfolios: Yes, I think actually the tangible magazine you can hold in your hands is a feather in the cap for a digital-first brand. It’s what says, “We’ve made it. We’re here to stay. We’re legitimate.”

On anything else he’d like to add: Just that we’re seeking out ideas on our own, but we’re always happy to have inbounds as well. If somebody out there has got a great concept and wants to float it our way, we’re happy to have those conversations. And, if it’s not right for us, maybe help identify who it is right for. That’s part of all of this; we’re really passionate about this. A good idea is a good idea, and I always like to see that come to fruition—whether it’s with us or someone else.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly at his home one evening after work: You will catch me cooking dinner—that’s kind of my unwind. I specifically cook something several days a week, usually with a glass of wine. I’m pretty passionate about my California Sonoma County wines. You’ll see me taking my dog out for a walk. You probably won’t see me reading magazines at home.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I would like to believe that people view me as honest, kind and authentic.

On what keeps him up at night: I think the future; the future of the industry; my own personal future. I think we’re doing a little bit of reinvention here, and that doesn’t mean everything’s a success. It’s human nature, and it’s my nature especially, to want to succeed at what we’re doing. And that just doesn’t always happen. So, I think it’s worry about whether we can really make some of these things work.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Doug Kouma, editorial content director, Meredith Core Media.

Samir Husni: Tell me, what is Meredith Core Media?

Doug Kouma speaking at the ACT 7 Experience, April 2017.

Doug Kouma: It’s something that’s evolved over the last couple of years out of Meredith Special Interest Media. I think it was three years ago that we first entered into a partnership with the Eat This, Not That brand; that’s David Zinczenko’s brand through his Galvanized Media Group. We launched a bookazine with them. At the time, the bookazine format was for—and I don’t want to use the phrase “lookbook,” but that’s kind of where we were using it—a high end décor and building side. This was a new opportunity to try something in a high quality format that was really mass market-driven and really service-driven.

That magazine, Eat This, Not That, has books publishing around that, and David Zinczenko has a pretty robust digital program around that; but the magazine is what fleshed that out and allowed it to be a true 360 brand. That was successful from issue one. It’s been solid on newsstand over the years. The product has continued to evolve as they, and we, figured out what that mass market consumer is looking for in that type of product at that price point.

That relationship began to show the possibilities of working with other brands, working with third parties who had great ideas or had great existing products in other spaces, and who sought to move into the print magazine space.

What Meredith brings to the table is huge scale on the backend, and some significant cost efficiencies, in terms of the printing production and distribution. Then, of course, by working through the special interest media group, we have traditionally had a team of scrappy editors who work on a wide variety of projects—who are pretty nimble, who are able to pivot from one to another across a variety of content areas.

So, we began to look at other opportunities and others began to look at us as a potential publishing partner. I would say over the course of a year / year and a half, that grew to the point that we identified the need to create a group within Meredith that would specifically take on or manage some of these projects. That’s where Meredith Core Media was born.

At the time, it also included some other Meredith brands that were unique properties unto their own; I’m talking about our diabetes publications, our quilting publications, things that didn’t necessarily align nicely with Better Homes & Gardens, which is where most of the special interest portfolio was.

At the time that Meredith Core Media was born, those were part of our group as well. I’d say it was about half managing our own brands, and half managing or working with outside partner brands. And, again, that continues to evolve over the next year / year and a half to where we are today. Those Meredith brands have realigned with other properties within the Meredith infrastructure that makes sense for them. What Meredith Core Media is today is a business entity specifically designed to work without side-brands on print magazine products.

Samir Husni: I’ve tried to think who, besides Meredith and Hearst, are actually bringing those print magazines to the marketplace and going into second printings. Forks Over Knives, a Meredith Core Media brand, had a second printing on the newsstands. Also, who hasn’t heard about The Magnolia Journal and the rapid move the magazine had from zero to one million in a very few months? The same thing is happening with Hearst’s Pioneer Woman. Why do you think, as an industry, that a lot of publishers have lost faith in print?

Doug Kouma: I think it requires a change of mindset in many cases. We’re not out there trying to launch a $3.99 general interest magazine with anyone. In a lot of cases, these products are pretty niche, they already have a pretty loyal brand following, and they’re premium products. I don’t always think of them as magazines in the traditional sense of the word “magazine,” something you have sent to your home or you purchase, you sit down with it for half an hour or an hour, and then you’re pretty much done; you move on. That’s not what these are.

So, in the case of a magazine like Magnolia, which is not quite to the full premium bookazine end of the spectrum, but it’s definitely a premium product; it has that limited frequency—it comes out quarterly—and it’s a high quality product, but it has recipes that you’re going to want to go back to on a regular basis. It has the beautiful lifestyle photography and the beautiful home décor photography.

It’s really meant to be a coffee table magazine, something that you are going to want to hang onto for a while. What we have seen with that brand in particular is those consumers, who are very passionate about the Magnolia brand and what Joanna (Gaines) does, they want to build a collection of those magazines. Even subscribers who got into the system on issue two—in pretty decent numbers—started contacting Magnolia, wanting to get their hands on issue one. They wanted to build that library for themselves at home.

I don’t know if that’s quite answering your question, but when I look at some of these brands, what they want to do, and what we’re doing with them…you’re really creating an experience for, largely, the brand loyalists, while you do look to expand the reach of the brand a bit in the newsstand space. It’s a focused, curated experience, and it’s meant to be something that the consumer is going to hang onto for a while.

Samir Husni: I understand that The Magnolia Journal has now immigrated to the “main ship” at Meredith, but you were there at the beginning. Can you describe for me that moment of conception? How did the idea of The Magnolia Journal come to fruition, and how did you team with the Gaines to make it happen?

Doug Kouma: The idea started as a seed with Joanna herself, with both Chip and Jo believing that they had a concept here that their consumers would respond positively to, and that would be unique in the marketplace. But, they didn’t have anyone on staff who had really worked in the publishing industry, or really knew anything about it.

As I understand it, because I wasn’t involved in those very early conversations, they sought out a couple of publishers to begin to pitch the idea to. At the point when they got more serious, they began discussing it with Meredith, which is the point when the conversations moved from our business development group to begin to include the editorial teams.

That’s what those early conversations were; they were sitting down with Chip and Jo and a couple of members of their staff and listening to what they wanted to do, listening to what they thought would work. Then, once we had a deal, taking ourselves down to Waco and immersing ourselves in their brand and in the Magnolia world so that we could really understand what it is that they wanted to convey to consumers.

They’re building a brand that’s separate and apart from “Fixer Upper” as a broadcast property, and that was something that we had to get our heads around very early in the conversations. I think it’s something that consumers had to begin to see differently with that first issue.

Samir Husni: At present, and I don’t know the latest status with the Gaines and HGTV, but does their relationship with HGTV change anything in the game? Have there been any conflicts with any of the brand’s established platforms?

Doug Kouma: Well, there’s a lot of stories out there and rumors out there that aren’t based in fact, and what Joanna has said is if you don’t see it come from Magnolia themselves, through their own properties, then view it with a skeptical eye. I can’t comment on the status of any of that.

What I can say is, as we were conceptualizing the magazine with her, we had to get our heads around what the Magnolia brand meant versus what the “Fixer Upper” brand was, and how we knew them from that show. Magnolia is far broader and encompasses far more aspects of the lifestyle, from food and gardening, to family relationships, to travel. Because of their relationship then with Scripps we were restricted in some ways, in terms of how much home and remodeling content could be a part of the magazine. I can’t say that really tied our hands, because Joanna’s vision was for something broader than that. We’ve been able to include the team and been able to include the right amount of home content for that brand, but there were some considerations there with some places we weren’t able to go because of that relationship.

Samir Husni: To specifically talk about you and your role as editorial director; is there one of the many babies you take care of that has a special place in your heart? Or do you try and treat all of your children the same? Do you think, “Wow, look at the success of the Magnolia Journal, or Eat This, Not That, or Forks Over Knives or the Beekman 1802 Almanac; I’m so proud of one of them or all of them? How do you handle being the editorial director for all of these magazines?

Doug Kouma: Well, it’s a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand, I get to work with a really diverse group of brands and outside contributors and get to see things from different points of view, and I really enjoy that. On the other hand, I really don’t get to dive in as deeply or work as closely with some of the content on most of these as you might assume, or as might be interesting or fun.

I would say that, obviously, everybody here is really proud of the success of The Magnolia Journal, it was—I don’t like to use the cliché phrase labor of love—but I think that’s what it was for a lot of that team. It was a small group of us who all had—I’m not saying this isn’t our job—but we all had full time jobs when that came into our world. It was “hey, let’s all put in some extra effort here and some extra hours, and see if we can turn this thing into something. So, we’re all really proud of that.

I guess if I had to identify one that kind of holds a special place for me, it would probably be the Forks Over Knives launch. It was a content area where we saw a need in the marketplace. One of the leading—if not the leading—brand in the plant-based eating lifestyle, and to see how that came together and to see how successful it was on newsstand, and how it did it quietly, as some higher profile projects were hitting the marketplace around it…it’s just pretty cool to see something like that.

Samir Husni: Is there a child that disappointed you?

Doug Kouma: Yes, I would say the Beekman 1802 Almanac, mostly because I love that product. I loved working on it—Josh (Kilmer-Purcell) and Brent (Ridge) are fantastic guys to work with. We had a great time putting it together, and there’s still a little bit of sadness there that we couldn’t figure out, in the limited time we had available to us, how to make that product work in the mass market.

That’s the challenge here. Ultimately, the delivery vehicle we have available to us through Meredith is mass. Over the course of the last year, in particular the last six months since the success of Magnolia, we’ve had a few ideas. And there’s really good ideas out there that are not necessarily right for Meredith as a publisher, because, although we can go focused and direct, we can’t go too niche in many cases. That’s not who we are.

So, that one was hard. I think it was a gorgeous product, but we’re just not in an environment—I mean, it’s a creative lab, I’ll say that—but it’s not a creative lab that allows us to spend a lot of money or, frankly, lose money in any case. We want to know if we can break even out of the gate and build something from there; maybe we can get some longevity with something. But, unfortunately, on that one we just weren’t able to scale it. I’m really pleased that they’ve been able to continue publishing it on a smaller scale, but that one will always have a special place for me as well.

Samir Husni: What does the future hold for Meredith Core Media? Any major things in the making?

Doug Kouma: We’ve got a couple of irons in the fire that are pretty hot. Hungry Girl, who is a former Food Network personality, a cookbook author; she’s got a really good digital and social presence; we are launching a new magazine with her. It’ll be Hungry Girl magazine, coming out in January, 2018. That’s the newest launch that we’re really in the thick of right now. And I think you are already aware that Forks Over Knives is going into two more regular productions in 2018, so we’re in the thick of that as well.

Also, we recently announced another project. We’re partnering with the CropLife Foundation on a new magazine that will bring attention to the issue of food waste, a hot topic in sustainability circles today. Tentatively titled, “Waste Less, Save More,” this annual bookazine will provide real-world strategies for planning, shopping, and cooking, as well as 50+ recipes, to help consumers use more of the food they bring into their homes and cut back significantly on what goes into to the landfill. We haven’t announced a publication date yet.

Samir Husni: I feel as though you might agree with me when I say, “We don’t have a print problem and we don’t have a magazine problem; we have a magazine business model and content problem.” If you look at all the media reporting, you would think print died in 2009. And then you hear that Rodale is putting their magazines up for sale. Then the media reporters tell you, “Oh, because print is in decline; everybody is selling.” Why don’t we see more stories about what Meredith Core Media is doing and what Hearst Magazines are doing? From a journalistic point of view and being an editorial director, why do you think people have that mentality?

Doug Kouma: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I would say it probably requires a shift in mindset. You can’t even say that the big brands, the Better Homes & Gardens of the world, are necessarily struggling from a consumer standpoint. I think they’re just as relevant as ever. The rate base is just as strong as it’s ever been.

I have my own theories on that. I think consumers over the course of the last decade, particularly in the last five years, have begun to—consciously or not—digest different types of information in different ways, and I’m the same. There’s the stuff that I want to see through my social media feeds, there’s the regular websites and blogs that I go to where I’m happy to get that information, but when I want to really enjoy big, beautiful photography, I don’t want to look at that on my phone. I want to look at that on a beautiful printed magazine page.

When I’m cooking, I’ve learned that I don’t like to cook by trying to read a recipe on my phone or my computer, because I have to scroll back and forth and my fingers are dirty and it’s messy and it’s not convenient and I spill something. I’d rather have a magazine or a cookbook in those cases.

When I’m dreaming a little bit, when I’m wanting to feel inspired a little bit, again, it depends on what it is. If I don’t really know what I’m looking for, but it’s the end of January and spring is right around the corner and you can smell it in the air, I love to get my hands on a gardening magazine and begin to get inspired. If I want to find 10 ideas on how to style my porch, then maybe I’m going to get online and look for those, because there’s immediate gratification and I’m looking for something very specific. Whether we, as consumers, have really begun to think about it in that way, I do think you’re seeing a resurgence in consumer recognition of the value of the printed product in parts of their life.

I think it’s evolving, just like every introduction of a new form of media. When television came along it didn’t kill radio. When the ability to record to VHS tape and then to record to DVR came along, it didn’t kill live TV. But everything’s evolving, and it’s therefore informing the content decisions that are being made across those different platforms. So, I suspect that’s what’s happening in the magazine space.

It’s probably also not quite fair to say that today; you know, maybe these partnerships, maybe building around these dynamic brands that were not print-first brands, that might be the future of magazine publishing—it’s certainly not what’s ultimately paying the bills and keeping the lights on today; those are the big boys, like Better Homes & Gardens. There’s definitely opportunity here, it’s definitely growing.

Samir Husni: Do you think that’s the main reason we’re seeing a lot of blogs coming to print and publishing magazines, that there is something missing in that 360 brand if you don’t have a print product?

Doug Kouma: Yes, I think actually the tangible magazine you can hold in your hands is a feather in the cap for a digital-first brand. It’s what says, “We’ve made it. We’re here to stay. We’re legitimate.”

And, almost counterintuitively, I suspect a lot of that is being driven by millennials. For as digitally savvy, and as digital-first a generation as millennials and Gen Z’s are, there’s also this yearning for authenticity and for something real. Again, I think it’s based on the type of content. I think with that generation in particular. It’s not fair at all to say millennials aren’t magazine readers. They’re magazine readers, but they want different types of magazines and want to consume information in different ways.

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

Doug Kouma: Just that we’re seeking out ideas on our own, but we’re always happy to have inbounds as well. If somebody out there has got a great concept and wants to float it our way, we’re happy to have those conversations. And, if it’s not right for us, maybe help identify who it is right for. That’s part of all of this; we’re really passionate about this. A good idea is a good idea, and I always like to see that come to fruition—whether it’s with us or someone else.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly to your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Are you on an iPad; cooking; sitting and reading a magazine with a glass of wine? What’s your end-of-day “me” time?

Doug Kouma: You will catch me cooking dinner—that’s kind of my unwind. I specifically cook something several days a week, usually with a glass of wine. I’m pretty passionate about my California Sonoma County wines. You’ll see me taking my dog out for a walk. You probably won’t see me reading magazines at home.

Samir Husni: If you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Doug Kouma: I would like to believe that people view me as honest, kind and authentic.

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

Doug Kouma: I think the future; the future of the industry; my own personal future. I think we’re doing a little bit of reinvention here, and that doesn’t mean everything’s a success. It’s human nature, and it’s my nature especially, to want to succeed at what we’re doing. And that just doesn’t always happen. So, I think it’s worry about whether we can really make some of these things work.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Pioneer Woman Magazine: Pioneering Its Way To A Phenomenal Debut And Proving That The Power Of Print Is Stronger Than Ever – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Vicki Wellington, Vice President, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer And Maile Carpenter, Editor In Chief, The Pioneer Woman Magazine…

June 28, 2017

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 06: (L-R) Vicki Wellington, Ree Drummond, and Maile Carpenter attend The Pioneer Woman Magazine Celebration with Ree Drummond at The Mason Jar on June 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Pioneer Woman Magazine)

“We’re never done climbing the mountain, Samir, you know that. (Laughs) Ever. And I’ll tell you what I love, and I feel this maybe more than I did back when we launched Food Network, everybody is rooting for us. Everyone is so excited that we have this great news. And Ree (Drummond) as well. I just feel there is a lot of positive energy around us, wherever we are. Whether we’re inside Hearst; Michael (Clinton) said it better than anybody, this company is very much print-proud.” Vicki Wellington…

“We talked about this in the past; a magazine is such an intimate experience. It is so perfect for her brand. As I said, she has such a great connection with her fans, and the idea of spending this precious “me” time with Ree really happens in the magazine. It’s different from the other platforms. Her blog is amazing, and you get all of these personal details, so that’s incredibly successful in its own right. But a magazine is something that you can sit back and really fall into.” Maile Carpenter…

The Pioneer Woman Magazine: A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

At the beginning of June, The Pioneer Woman Magazine debuted at Wal-Mart, the retailer where Ree Drummond, who is the “Pioneer Woman” has her line of cookware, dinnerware and home products sold. Initial distribution of the Hearst Magazines’ premiere issue was 150,000 copies. Mere weeks later, the magazine was nearly sold out and went back to press for another 100,000 copies. Can we say – wow! The power of print brings another facet to an already successful brand.

Vicki Wellington is publisher of the new magazine and Maile Carpenter is editor in chief. These two ladies are a proven team, having launched the Food Network Magazine with amazing success. Now, at the helm of this latest Hearst print endeavor, an immediate grand slam is no surprise to anyone, especially Mr. Magazine™.

I spoke recently with Vicki and Maile, and we talked about The Pioneer Woman, both the magazine and the living, breathing human being. Although, in all honesty, Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t tell the difference between the two, as the ink on paper reflects the person so beautifully.

It’s an intimately personal and connected look at Ree Drummond and her family, but more importantly at her lifestyle. And according to Vicki and Maile, it’s something her fans have readily accepted and that was long overdue for the woman who has shown many people a unique and exciting way of life.

As for Hearst’s involvement, it has been my experience in watching the company and in how they handle new launches, and their portfolio in general; the folks absolutely know what they’re doing. They’ve been bullish about print forever, even when most everyone else was buying headstones in the ink on paper cemetery. But Hearst never gave up on the power of the printed word, and to this day still proclaims it the core of their business. As does Vicki and Maile. So, who better to head up The Pioneer Woman than two ladies who “put the wagons in a circle” and headed out on their own print journey a few years back, when most everyone else was boarding the cyberspace connection?

So, without further ado, here is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington and Maile Carpenter as they share their excitement about Hearst’s latest print success story: The Pioneer Woman Magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On how the magazine came into being (Maile Carpenter): We’ve been working with Ree (Drummond) for years through the Food Network. Ellen Levine gets credit here, because she noticed a couple of years ago that Ree just had such huge appeal with people, and Ellen said then that we should keep an eye on her. And sure enough, Ellen did, and had some conversations with Ree, and now here we are.

On how Maile’s editing approach differed from the Food Network Magazine to The Pioneer Woman (Maile Carpenter): It’s always different when something is based on a person than when it’s based on a brand. It presents different possibilities. What’s great about Ree is she has such a clear vision and such a clear brand. Her following is there and it’s strong. So, we really had a very good sense of who she is when we started.

On whether Vicki has any preference or inner struggle when it comes to selling ads for the Food Network Magazine versus The Pioneer Woman (Vicki Wellington): As you know, I have two girls in real life, and I love them both equally, but they’re both very different girls. And Maile actually has two girls as well. So, when it comes to the two magazines, I really feel exactly that. I literally call them the big girl and the baby; that’s actually what I say here at work. So, you know what? No, they’re totally different girls; they have different needs, and we love them both, but they’re two, completely different kids. That may sound funny, but it’s actually true.

On the advertisers reaction when Vicki first starting meeting with them about the first issue of The Pioneer Woman and whether it was different than when she first started selling the Food Network Magazine (Vicki Wellington): It was different. When we started with Food Network, the world was a mess and people sort of questioned whether the Food Network Magazine would really be a success. Now, I think we walk in with great credibility and they know that our editors have created this fantastic magazine, right on brand, that continues to sell amazingly well on newsstand and to subscribers with renewals. So, now I think we walk in as really credible, experienced people, where there’s very little risk, to be honest. And what was neat about this, which I’d never done before and is kind of interesting, we limited the number of ads that we took, because it was all about the edit and the content and how consumers would react to the content. So, we brought in a limited number and we couldn’t fit everybody in. It was a nice strategy and people were really dying to get in the magazine.

On the ad focus for the second issue (Vicki Wellington): With our second issue, we will be accepting more advertisements, but we’ll be limiting them as well. When we were out selling the first issue, we sold them both at the same time, which is really an advantage for the advertisers. So, a lot of it was presold in the very beginning. What’s neat is now you see it’s a huge success, as you said we went back to press for another 100,000, the feedback and the early research has been phenomenal.

On the role the printed magazine plays within The Pioneer Woman’s already successful brand (Maile Carpenter): We talked about this in the past; a magazine is such an intimate experience. It is so perfect for her brand. As I said, she has such a great connection with her fans, and the idea of spending this precious “me” time with Ree really happens in the magazine. It’s different from the other platforms. Her blog is amazing, and you get all of these personal details, so that’s incredibly successful in its own right. But a magazine is something that you can sit back and really fall into.

On the fact that Hearst still holds that print is the core foundation of its business, while others continue to doubt the power of print (Vicki Wellington): Let me just say, and you know how I feel about this, and I feel like this is true of the press in many ways; it’s always so much more exciting to jump on the negative, and to jump on the things that are going badly. And I’ve always thought this. We’ve had this amazing story from the very second that we started, yet it’s not always interesting to the press. And I don’t know why, because it really should be.

On whether Maile feels as though she’s reached the top of the mountain with The Pioneer Woman (Maile Carpenter): I will say that creatively it’s been like, as we all said, adding a new baby to the family, but for all of us it’s been so fun and exciting to work on another brand. It’s helped both. It’s helped us define ourselves at Food Network, and know who we are, and when funny story ideas come up, we know that they’re exactly right for Food Network.

On whether Vicki feels as though she’s reached the top of the mountain with The Pioneer Woman (Vicki Wellington): We’re never done climbing the mountain, Samir, you know that. (Laughs) Ever. And I’ll tell you what I love, and I feel this maybe more than I did back when we launched Food Network, everybody is rooting for us. Everyone is so excited that we have this great news. And Ree as well. I just feel there is a lot of positive energy around us, wherever we are. Whether we’re inside Hearst; Michael said it better than anybody, this company is very much print-proud. But we’re out in the community. Clients, everybody is excited for Ree.

On what’s next for The Pioneer Woman (Vicki Wellington): Well, we have a second issue to put out, which obviously, everyone will do a beautiful job on. And we’re doing a lot of research; we’re checking consumer feedback, which again, just the first 20 days are crazy off the charts. Obviously, Michael (Clinton), David (Carey), and ourselves, will make a decision about our next steps. Again, we’re feeling bullish, but you know how the company is; they’re smart, and slow and steady wins the race; we’ll check all of the consumer research make sure that this is something that people really want, and we’ll take it from there.

On why they think more publishers aren’t doing what Hearst does when it comes to new print publications (Vicki Wellington): I honestly don’t know that answer, it’s hard to know what goes on in other families, it really is. I really don’t know the answer. I’m just glad we’re here.

On why they think more publishers aren’t doing what Hearst does when it comes to new print publications (Maile Carpenter): I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Hearst knows how to launch magazines and puts the support behind them in the right places.

On anything else they’d like to add (Vicki Wellington): I will just say that with The Pioneer Woman, the feedback that we got was great. But not only on the food front, which we would expect, of course, but also the feedback that readers seemed to love when we showed pieces about the ranch and her family, and her life beyond. Right now the magazine has about 33 percent food, so it’s much more of a lifestyle, plus everything else. And we’re excited that the feedback came back so positively on these other fronts.

On anything else they’d like to add (Maile Carpenter): We’ve just been so happy with how closely we’re working with Ree. Like I said, you never know when you start something, but she’s been so great to work with, and she has such clear vision. It’s been really fun and exciting to work with her, and see her creativity at work. She really touches every page.

On breaking new ground with non-endemic ads or new advertisers in The Pioneer Woman (Vicki Wellington): I think the L’Oréal piece was good. They came in very early on, an exclusive beauty advertiser, actually in both of our issues. They’re running many different kinds of ads, and I think they got it. They got it early on, they were excited about it. So, I think that might have been a surprise for people.

On whether either of them are a “pioneer woman” themselves (Maile Carpenter): Well, Ree gave me a pair of cowboy boots, so now I am, I guess. (Laughs) I’m pioneering my way through the city. (Laughs again).

On whether either of them are a “pioneer woman” themselves (Vicki Wellington): You know what, I’m not. I’m definitely not a pioneer woman, but here’s the neat thing, and this is why I get it. I see how great it is to lift the veil and see what a life would be like that’s so completely different from my own. And I love that.

On what they would have tattooed upon their brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about them (Vicki Wellington): For me, it would be “fight on.” Keep on moving; keep on climbing the mountain. Keep moving ahead; keep the positivity moving forward. I try not to involve my brain with all the craziness of our world and our country, and life in general. I just come in everyday to this amazingly beautiful Tower and I’m excited to be here and to see my team. And I’m excited to work with Maile and her team. So, fight on and keep it going.

On what they would have tattooed upon their brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about them (Maile Carpenter): Mine would be “to always be authentic.” That’s the magic of Ree and we’re all learning that from her and reminding ourselves when we work with her of how important it is to be authentic and true to yourself.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, vice president, publisher & chief revenue officer and Maile Carpenter, editor in chief, The Pioneer Woman Magazine.

Samir Husni: I understand The Pioneer Woman is going for a second printing, so let’s begin with our last conversation. The last time we talked, both you and Maile hinted that something was brewing. At that time, you couldn’t really tell me anything except that something was going to happen. And lo and behold, The Pioneer Woman Magazine was born. And I read the letter that both of you wrote that basically said: here’s a woman who had everything but a magazine. And now, we all have the magazine.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, we do have the magazine. I can let Maile tell you about how we got it up and running, and I can certainly talk a little about the feedback and success.

Maile Carpenter: We’ve been working with Ree (Drummond) for years through the Food Network. Ellen Levine gets credit here, because she noticed a couple of years ago that Ree just had such huge appeal with people, and Ellen said then that we should keep an eye on her. And sure enough, Ellen did, and had some conversations with Ree, and now here we are.

What’s interesting about Ree, and I think what makes her so successful, is that she really built her following from the ground up, one person at a time. She was one of the original mom-bloggers, and she cares deeply about every single person who follows her. She really does reach out to them and has conversations with them, so this isn’t the same as having someone who launches a television celebrity, who then begins talking to people on social media. Ree really knows the people intimately and they know her, and they feel a very personal connection to her. And we’re seeing what that does. They just love everything that she does; they want to be a part of her life and they could not be more excited to have a magazine based on her. We’re getting such a great response from people. They’re going to multiple stores to find a copy.

Vicki Wellington: We saw a first issue selling on eBay for $40. We had a few others, but how funny is that?

Samir Husni: Maile, as you put the first issue together, and you’ve been editing the Food Network Magazine for some time now; how did your approach to The Pioneer Woman differ from your approach to the Food Network brand?

Maile Carpenter: It’s always different when something is based on a person than when it’s based on a brand. It presents different possibilities. What’s great about Ree is she has such a clear vision and such a clear brand. Her following is there and it’s strong. So, we really had a very good sense of who she is when we started.

The other great thing is she is super-involved. You never know when you go into something like this, how much time a person is going to have to put into it, but she’s been amazing. With every, single page she’s been involved. Picking out every item, the headlines and the decks and the stories. She’s writing for the magazine and providing images; this is truly hers. And people will accept that because they know her so well and have a very personal connection to her. They would know if it wasn’t hers. (Laughs) It has to be authentic. She is truly authentic, and people know that about her.

Samir Husni: Vicki, this is the new baby, but do you have any preference? When you’re selling the Food Network Magazine versus when you’re selling The Pioneer Woman; is there any inner struggle when it comes to getting ads for the magazines, in choosing one over the other?

Vicki Wellington: As you know, I have two girls in real life, and I love them both equally, but they’re both very different girls. And Maile actually has two girls as well. So, when it comes to the two magazines, I really feel exactly that. I literally call them the big girl and the baby; that’s actually what I say here at work. So, you know what? No, they’re totally different girls; they have different needs, and we love them both, but they’re two, completely different kids. That may sound funny, but it’s actually true.

Samir Husni: Can you relive that moment when you first started meeting with advertisers and talking about the magazine; did you get the same reaction from them as when you introduced the Food Network Magazine or was it different?

Vicki Wellington: It was different. When we started with Food Network, the world was a mess and people sort of questioned whether the Food Network Magazine would really be a success. Now, I think we walk in with great credibility and they know that our editors have created this fantastic magazine, right on brand, that continues to sell amazingly well on newsstand and to subscribers with renewals. So, now I think we walk in as really credible, experienced people, where there’s very little risk, to be honest.

And of course, as Maile said, interestingly, Ree started from this social platform when nobody was on social. So, if they needed to know who she was and what she was doing, they could go right on her blog and find out. You could see her taking her kid and looking for colleges, like we all do. You could see her bringing out sandwiches to her son and the whole baseball team. You can see all of these things and you also see her fans responding back and forth with her. So, I believe people get the relationship right away. That, combined with the credibility of what we’ve already done; I think this was easier, much easier. It really was.

And what was neat about this, which I’d never done before and is kind of interesting, we limited the number of ads that we took, because it was all about the edit and the content and how consumers would react to the content. So, we brought in a limited number and we couldn’t fit everybody in. It was a nice strategy and people were really dying to get in the magazine. We didn’t do that with Food Network; we didn’t do that with Domino, but we did it here and it was really nice and encouraging to see the great interest from advertisers to get in on the action.

Samir Husni: What’s the focus for the second issue?

Vicki Wellington: With our second issue, we will be accepting more advertisements, but we’ll be limiting them as well. When we were out selling the first issue, we sold them both at the same time, which is really an advantage for the advertisers. So, a lot of it was presold in the very beginning. What’s neat is now you see it’s a huge success, as you said we went back to press for another 100,000, the feedback and the early research has been phenomenal. So, anybody coming into the second issue should run and sprint to get in, honestly. Seriously, because they’re getting such a sure thing.

Samir Husni: Maile, you write in the introductory letter that you felt it was high time that Ree had a magazine too. From an editor’s point of view, what role does the printed magazine play within The Pioneer Woman’s already successful brand?

Maile Carpenter: We talked about this in the past; a magazine is such an intimate experience. It is so perfect for her brand. As I said, she has such a great connection with her fans, and the idea of spending this precious “me” time with Ree really happens in the magazine. It’s different from the other platforms. Her blog is amazing, and you get all of these personal details, so that’s incredibly successful in its own right. But a magazine is something that you can sit back and really fall into.

And her images, she photographs her ranch in the most beautiful ways. People have been seeing these images on her blog, and we’re able to really fall into them in print and tell stories from her ranch. I think the magazine is such a nice format for her. And as I said, her fans want so much to be a part of her life, and they want her in every possible form. And it’s not like they’re choosing a medium; they want her on TV; they want her blog; they want everything they can get. And the magazine was just the right piece. We’re already seeing the results.

Vicki Wellington: The results are just phenomenal. I can’t share them just yet, because they’re so early, but from what I understand, this company has not seen results like this in a long time. So, we’re very bullish.

Samir Husni: Vicki, tell me, when I interviewed Michael Clinton recently, he said that print is still the core business at Hearst. Yet, we see so many other companies and so many articles out there still doubting the power of print. From a publisher’s point of view, what’s your secret sauce? What are you doing differently at Hearst?

Vicki Wellington: Before the secret sauce, let me just say, and you know how I feel about this, and I feel like this is true of the press in many ways; it’s always so much more exciting to jump on the negative, and to jump on the things that are going badly. And I’ve always thought this. We’ve had this amazing story from the very second that we started, yet it’s not always interesting to the press. And I don’t know why, because it really should be.

And honestly, it’s Maile and her team. From the minute I met Maile, her only care has been about the reader. What does the reader want? What is the reader looking for? And she asks this in every meeting we have; how about the reader? And I think, because she’s executed it so perfectly, it’s easy and a pleasure to market and sell something like that. She makes our job easy. So, I think it’s about her getting the product right.

You look at this magazine, our baby, and you look at our big girl, and they look nothing alike. But the same team, the same small team, put both of these products together and they’re right on brand, and they look nothing alike. So, I think that says a lot.

Maile Carpenter: Our creative director, Deirdre Koribanick, is amazing. Her secret; she always talks about this, she has since we launched, is about being able to open a magazine to any page and know what magazine you’re in. And if you can open to different sections and they look entirely different, then you haven’t successfully created a single design method. And I think that she’s been so great in both magazines in unifying the look.

Samir Husni: Maile, have you reached the top of the mountain?

Maile Carpenter: I will say that creatively it’s been like, as we all said, adding a new baby to the family, but for all of us it’s been so fun and exciting to work on another brand. It’s helped both. It’s helped us define ourselves at Food Network, and know who we are, and when funny story ideas come up, we know that they’re exactly right for Food Network.

Vicki Wellington: We’re never done climbing the mountain, Samir, you know that. (Laughs) Ever. And I’ll tell you what I love, and I feel this maybe more than I did back when we launched Food Network, everybody is rooting for us. Everyone is so excited that we have this great news. And Ree as well. I just feel there is a lot of positive energy around us, wherever we are. Whether we’re inside Hearst; Michael said it better than anybody, this company is very much print-proud. But we’re out in the community. Clients, everybody is excited for Ree.

We had a party for her to celebrate the premier issue, and we had people come from hours away. We had a client who took their private jet and flew in for this party. Ree was there, her family, which was actually really neat. And you’ll see her daughter in the magazine, and her handsome, cowboy husband is so excited about the magazine. But I just think everybody is rooting for it, so it feels good. It feels good to have a new baby that everybody wants to see succeed.

Samir Husni: So, what’s next?

Vicki Wellington: Well, we have a second issue to put out, which obviously, everyone will do a beautiful job on. And we’re doing a lot of research; we’re checking consumer feedback, which again, just the first 20 days are crazy off the charts. Obviously, Michael (Clinton), David (Carey), and ourselves, will make a decision about our next steps. Again, we’re feeling bullish, but you know how the company is; they’re smart, and slow and steady wins the race; we’ll check all of the consumer research make sure that this is something that people really want, and we’ll take it from there.

That said, we’re proud of everything we’ve done, as we always are, of the product we represent and the new baby. And we’re proud of our big girl. We don’t talk about our big girl, but we’re turning 10. We have a birthday next year in 2018, which it went by like a minute, but it’s a big birthday for us.

Samir Husni: Every time I speak with David or Michael, there’s something new brewing. It seems like you’re always having a baby right after the new baby has been born, especially this year as you had almost twins with The Pioneer Woman and Airbnbmag.

Vicki Wellington: But they’re very different kids, as you know. They’re in our family, so think of them as cousins. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Vicki Wellington: Born around the same time; they hang out a little bit, but born to different families.

Samir Husni: With the true “Rose Garden” picture that you’ve painted, why do you think that only a few other publishers are doing what Hearst is doing?

Vicki Wellington: I honestly don’t know that answer, it’s hard to know what goes on in other families, it really is. I really don’t know the answer. I’m just glad we’re here.

Maile Carpenter: Yes, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Hearst knows how to launch magazines and puts the support behind them in the right places.

Vicki Wellington: And we love the joint venture teams. Again, we have our family and we have their family; combined, we have so many more assets together. I don’t see anybody else doing that, but it’s a wonderful thing that we’ve got this extended group of knowledgeable, smart people, with again, a very positive culture, able to help.

For example, when we put out the premiere issue, we supported it at Hearst, obviously, and across Hearst Digital in many ways, but of course, Scripps supported it in a huge way. So, again, I feel like everybody doesn’t get that kind of advantage.

Samir Husni: Any stumbling blocks that you’ve ran into?

Vicki Wellington: Not right now, Sir.

Maile Carpenter: We need more hours in the day. (Laughs)

Vicki Wellington: We’re busy, that’s for sure. But we can’t complain about that; we really can’t.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else that either of you would like to add?

Vicki Wellington: I will just say that with The Pioneer Woman, the feedback that we got was great. But not only on the food front, which we would expect, of course, but also the feedback that readers seemed to love when we showed pieces about the ranch and her family, and her life beyond. Right now the magazine has about 33 percent food, so it’s much more of a lifestyle, plus everything else. And we’re excited that the feedback came back so positively on these other fronts.

Maile Carpenter: We’ve just been so happy with how closely we’re working with Ree. Like I said, you never know when you start something, but she’s been so great to work with, and she has such clear vision. It’s been really fun and exciting to work with her, and see her creativity at work. She really touches every page.

Samir Husni: As I look at the ads in the first issue, did you feel that you broke any new ground? I remember in the past, you and I had talked about getting new advertisers, non-endemic advertisers in the Food Network Magazine. How about in The Pioneer Woman?

Vicki Wellington: I think the L’Oréal piece was good. They came in very early on, an exclusive beauty advertiser, actually in both of our issues. They’re running many different kinds of ads, and I think they got it. They got it early on, they were excited about it. So, I think that might have been a surprise for people.

Samir Husni: If someone asked either of you if you were a “pioneer woman,” what would you say?

Maile Carpenter: Well, Ree gave me a pair of cowboy boots, so now I am, I guess. (Laughs) I’m pioneering my way through the city. (Laughs again).

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Vicki Wellington: You know what, I’m not. I’m definitely not a pioneer woman, but here’s the neat thing, and this is why I get it. I see how great it is to lift the veil and see what a life would be like that’s so completely different from my own. And I love that.

Maile Carpenter: No, but you are, Vicki. This is the thing; I love Ree’s editor’s letter, and did not change a single word of it, she turned it in exactly as it appears in the magazine, word for word. And it was about how we’re all pioneer women, no matter where we happen to live or what we’re going through in life. I thought it was a nice way to see things. And I think Vicki is a pioneer woman.

(Everyone Laughs).

Samir Husni: I always thought Vicki was a pioneer woman.

Vicki Wellington: I’m an urban pioneer woman, perhaps. Again, I think it’s like a kind of fantasy. It’s an opposite life from mine, but it would be so cool for me to pop on a neat pair of blue cowboy boots and go out on the ranch. I don’t know how long I could live; I might die within 48 hours. (Laughs) But I think it would be exciting to try. For me, that’s how I look at it.

Samir Husni: I’ll give you eight hours, Vicki. (Laughs)

Vicki Wellington: My husband might give me four hours. (Laughs too)

Maile Carpenter: It’s really an incredible experience to go out to Oklahoma. Everyone is trying to sign up for the next trip when we shoot out there. It’s breathtaking. It’s just so beautiful.

Samir Husni: My new last question to you both; if you could have one thing tattooed upon your brain that no one would ever forget about you, what would it be?

Vicki Wellington: For me, it would be “fight on.” Keep on moving; keep on climbing the mountain. Keep moving ahead; keep the positivity moving forward. I try not to involve my brain with all the craziness of our world and our country, and life in general. I just come in everyday to this amazingly beautiful Tower and I’m excited to be here and to see my team. And I’m excited to work with Maile and her team. So, fight on and keep it going.

Maile Carpenter: Mine would be “to always be authentic.” That’s the magic of Ree and we’re all learning that from her and reminding ourselves when we work with her of how important it is to be authentic and true to yourself.

Vicki Wellington: And that’s the secret of Maile’s editing success, it really is. For both magazines. Her honest, authentic genuineness.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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American Affairs: A New Print Journal, Born From The Web, That Provides A Forum For A Much Needed Public Policy Debate– The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Julius Krein, Editor, American Affairs…

June 26, 2017

“The surprising popularity is what lead us to conclude that we should do something more and move from an anonymous blog to a signed, fully out-there larger publication—with a print edition as well as an online presence—and try to build on the success of the online blog. Make the content a little more formal, a little more far reaching, and hopefully offer something unique intellectually.” Julius Krein…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch story…

When a relatively unknown blog that began during the last presidential campaign begins to take off with viewers by providing a forum that takes exception to the more conventional partisan platforms, what could the powers-that-be at this new player in the political media game do next to top that surprising coup? Why, bring a print component into the game, of course.

Julius Krein is the editor of American Affairs, a quarterly journal of public policy and political thought. According to part of the magazine’s mission statement: We (American Affairs) seek to provide a forum for the discussion of new policies that are outside of the conventional dogmas, and a platform for new voices distinguished by originality, experience, and achievement rather than the compromised credentials of careerist institutions.

I spoke with Julius recently and we discussed this new policy journal called American Affairs. Along with being a (now) magazine editor, Julius is also an investment analyst and said that the differences between journalism and investment analysis aren’t as many as some might think. Uncovering facts and discovering unique and new views on the world is a must for either profession.

Photo by N.Y. Times

And with American Affairs, and Julius’s own background in finance, they’re hoping to bring many new voices and perspectives to the journal, giving the magazine a much-needed contrast from some of the other, more traditional political media outlets.

So, I hope that you enjoy this intellectually stimulating and informative discussion with a young man who has a definitive idea about what a journal on public policy should be, and it’s called American Affairs.

But first, the sound-bites:

On why he decided to publish American Affairs, with all the journal-type magazines already out there: The magazine basically arose as a response to the 2016 campaigns, the issues that came about during them, and the surprising results revealed to everyone. There had been a lot of issues that hadn’t really been addressed in conventional, elite political discourse. We wanted to do that.

On the public’s reaction to the magazine’s first issue: So far, the reaction has been very positive. There has been a lot of media attention, both from conservative media as well as from liberal media, including places like The New York Times, The Nation, etcetera. Most of it has been pretty positive and pretty open-minded. Inevitably, you get some very critical and hostile pieces as well, but that’s all part of the game.

On that moment of conception for the magazine: This journal really arose out of a blog that we did. It started in 2015 and then went on in early 2016 through the primary campaign, and this was just a little anonymous blog on a blogspot.com address, absolutely nothing fancy. We didn’t really think anyone would read it, but it ended up getting in the low hundreds of thousands of views per day.

On why in this digital age they decided on a print edition too: I can’t really explain why this is the case, but it seems like having a print edition does add a certain level of prestige, cachet, and seriousness to it. It also imposes a little bit of editorial discipline as well. With online, there’s really no limit to the content, but with print you have to lay it out; you have to decide which articles are going to go into the print edition.

On any stumbling blocks they’ve had to face since starting the magazine: Actually, in some ways the biggest stumbling block maybe, was the surprise of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, which we didn’t expect. That ended up being a bit of a challenge for us because some of the people that were involved in the blog ended up going into the administration, and therefore obviously wouldn’t be participating in the journal. It also created a weird situation where, you know, on the one hand it’s harder for people to see this project as independent from some of the day-to-day political events or the administration itself, even though it is independent. But at the same time, it’s created an opportunity in that I think it’s gotten a lot more attention than it would have otherwise.

On his being an investment analyst and whether that brings a different perspective to the role of magazine editor: A lot of people might be surprised, but much of investment analysis is very similar to journalism and sort of analysis anyway. It typically commands higher salaries, but fundamentally, all you’re doing is either trying to uncover facts or sort of develop a unique view on the world that is different from what everyone else has, but at the same time, hopefully, a more accurate description of reality and prediction of future events.

On whether he feels the mass audience is lost today between two extreme political points of view: That seems to be increasingly the case. I think it’s a very troubling phenomenon. In many ways, I would like to see this project as an attempt to counteract that. And as I said, we bring in interesting voices from both the right and the left, to actually try and have a dialogue and a substantive discussion, rather than the sort of increasingly vicious—and not particularly serious—Twitter wars or television sound bites. Increasingly, as you mentioned, there’s this sort of complete separation of the country, where people are just reading completely different things and have sort of two sets of “facts” and two viewpoints that never interact or overlap.

On what he hopes to have accomplished a year from now with American Affairs: I’d like to think that it will shed some light on the major issues in our economic and political life that we don’t’ really think about much, and that have been obscured by the conventional, ideological molds of “Big Government” or “Small Government” or “Internationalism” or whatever the opposite of that is. And show what’s happening in the finance industry, and in tech. And answer the questions, “How does our economy actually work?” and “How does that influence our politics in ways that the typical slogan doesn’t really capture?”

On anything he’d like to add: One thing I want to be able to do, and we’ve done a little bit of it so far, but one thing I’d like to be able to do is actually get people from the investment world, from the tech world—you know, professionals working in this industry—to write a little bit more. And, given my relationships from finance, I think I can.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I generally do enjoy reading these articles and editing them, so there’s a very fine line between work and leisure for me. Reading this stuff is what I would be doing anyway, so typically you’ll find me trying to read more articles, especially things that I haven’t read—maybe I didn’t have the time or incentive to read—before starting the magazine. I’m just trying to, again, find a larger group of writers, new people, new audience to include in the magazine.

On what keeps him up at night: Not to be too dramatic or sanctimonious or anything, but I am genuinely worried about the state of the country and what, to me, seems like the deeper fraying of the social and intellectual fabric that I’ve seen in my comparatively brief lifetime.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Julius Krein, editor, American Affairs magazine.

Samir Husni: In the midst of all the journals that are out there, why did you decide to publish American Affairs today, in this marketplace?

Julius Krein: The magazine basically arose as a response to the 2016 campaigns, the issues that came about during them, and the surprising results revealed to everyone. There had been a lot of issues that hadn’t really been addressed in conventional, elite political discourse. We wanted to do that.

Photo by N.Y. Times

The other opportunity of doing a new publication is that we didn’t bring any ideological—or other—baggage that inevitably arises from existing publications, and therefore we can bring together interesting voices, hopefully from the right and the left, to address these issues that perhaps both sides have ignored.

Samir Husni: What was the reaction to the launch of the first issue of American Affairs?

Julius Krein: So far, the reaction has been very positive. There has been a lot of media attention, both from conservative media as well as from liberal media, including places like The New York Times, The Nation, etcetera. Most of it has been pretty positive and pretty open minded. Inevitably, you get some very critical and hostile pieces as well, but that’s all part of the game. So far, it’s been okay. David Brooks wrote a column about it recently, other fairly prominent people have been reading it and talking about it. I’ve been very happy with the reaction so far and the reception and so forth.

Samir Husni: Can you go back with me to that moment of conception, when the idea hit you or hit the team, and you said, “You know, this is a completely different election year. We’ve never seen anything like this. Maybe we need a journal.” How did it actually happen?

Julius Krein: This journal really arose out of a blog that we did. It started in 2015 and then went on in early 2016 through the primary campaign, and this was just a little anonymous blog on a blogspot.com address, absolutely nothing fancy. We didn’t really think anyone would read it, but it ended up getting in the low hundreds of thousands of views per day. Everybody was talking about it; it became surprisingly popular. I think it was evidence of the fact that we had hit upon some things that other people weren’t talking about or maybe just approaching things from a new perspective, in a new way.

Anyway, the surprising popularity is what lead us to conclude that we should do something more and move from an anonymous blog to a signed, fully out-there larger publication—with a print edition as well as an online presence—and try to build on the success of the online blog. Make the content a little more formal, a little more far reaching, and hopefully offer something unique intellectually.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to have the print edition? People say we live in a digital age, so why do we need print?

Julius Krein: I can’t really explain why this is the case, but it seems like having a print edition does add a certain level of prestige, cachet, and seriousness to it. It also imposes a little bit of editorial discipline as well. With online, there’s really no limit to the content, but with print you have to lay it out; you have to decide which articles are going to go into the print edition.

Those constraints, I think, add some level of rigor and discipline and, for some reason, still command a little more prestige in the wider public. That was basically why we decided to do it, and really in my experience adding the print edition really didn’t add any more work. It’s not particularly expensive, so it really wasn’t all that difficult. I think it was a good decision, and it probably gained us a little more attention than we probably would receive. And I’m glad to see that the print edition is now out there in stores across the country.

Samir Husni: After the blog and since the first issue came out, has it been a walk in a rose garden, or has there been some stumbling blocks that impacted the launch? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Julius Krein: Actually, in some ways the biggest stumbling block maybe, was the surprise of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, which we didn’t expect. That ended up being a bit of a challenge for us because some of the people that were involved in the blog ended up going into the administration, and therefore obviously wouldn’t be participating in the journal. It also created a weird situation where, you know, on the one hand it’s harder for people to see this project as independent from some of the day-to-day political events or the administration itself, even though it is independent. But at the same time, it’s created an opportunity in that I think it’s gotten a lot more attention than it would have otherwise.

I honestly have to say, since the actual launch in February… nothing’s ever quite the walk in a rose garden, but it’s been as close to that as I could really imagine. I think we’ve been very fortunate. So far, things have fallen into place really well, with a lot of new authors coming out of the woodwork. I think the media attention has taken care of itself, so we don’t have to worry about that too much. Really, it’s just trying to find good articles and make the magazine as good as possible, which of course is a problem we want to have.

Samir Husni: I see you wear two hats. You are the editor of the magazine, but you are also an investment analyst. Which one of the two do you enjoy more? Or, does the investment analyst bring a different view to editing a magazine than just a journalist editing a magazine might?

Julius Krein: A lot of people might be surprised, but much of investment analysis is very similar to journalism and sort of analysis anyway. It typically commands higher salaries, but fundamentally, all you’re doing is either trying to uncover facts or sort of develop a unique view on the world that is different from what everyone else has, but at the same time, hopefully, a more accurate description of reality and prediction of future events.

So, it’s not actually as different as you might think. I would say the one bigger difference is just the kind of people you end up meeting and talking to. Having moved over to work on the magazine, it has been a lot more travel than I’m used to, and—in a good way—a lot of meeting new people, scholars, academics, other people in the industry, and journalists. That’s been very interesting, but like I said, it’s actually not as different as you might think.

Samir Husni: As both an analyst and a journalist, what advice would you give the masses today that are bombarded by two extreme points of views. Whether you watch CNN or whether you watch Fox, whether you read this paper or that… Do you feel the mass audience is lost in the middle? That there’s no intersection between the two?

Julius Krein: That seems to be increasingly the case. I think it’s a very troubling phenomenon. In many ways, I would like to see this project as an attempt to counteract that. And as I said, we bring in interesting voices from both the right and the left, to actually try and have a dialogue and a substantive discussion, rather than the sort of increasingly vicious—and not particularly serious—Twitter wars or television sound bites. Increasingly, as you mentioned, there’s this sort of complete separation of the country, where people are just reading completely different things and have sort of two sets of “facts” and two viewpoints that never interact or overlap.

I don’t know that I have any advice; it seems to be that if you don’t have time to read everything, then you should almost not bother reading anything, because most of it, in my opinion, is pretty terrible, not true, and a waste of time. If you don’t have time to read and sift through everything, then it’s probably not good to sort of selectively just pick the things that you agree with. I’ve always felt that if I read something and agree with it one hundred percent, then I probably didn’t learn anything. I wish more people would take that view. But, this is just the climate we live in.

I don’t think there’s any real solutions to it. In a way, I think it’s one thing that makes us unique. It’s an advantage for us at American Affairs, and I hope that we can actually succeed in bringing more people from different sides and with different perspectives in dialogue around, maybe, some surprisingly common issues that have been overlooked and that certain people have an incentive to overlook.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you have accomplished in this first year of the print version of American Affairs journal?

Julius Krein: It won’t be for me to judge what it actually accomplished, but what I hope it will accomplish is to have brought together, like I said, interesting voices—new voices—from both the right and left to really address the questions of, “What actually holds us together as a nation?” “What are the common themes of our politics that might actually move us forward toward more positive politics all around?”

And also, I’d like to think that it will shed some light on the major issues in our economic and political life that we don’t’ really think about much, and that have been obscured by the conventional, ideological molds of “Big Government” or “Small Government” or “Internationalism” or whatever the opposite of that is. And show what’s happening in the finance industry, and in tech. And answer the questions, “How does our economy actually work?” and “How does that influence our politics in ways that the typical slogan doesn’t really capture?”

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

Julius Krein: One thing I want to be able to do, and we’ve done a little bit of it so far, but one thing I’d like to be able to do is actually get people from the investment world, from the tech world—you know, professionals working in this industry—to write a little bit more. And, given my relationships from finance, I think I can.

It seems to me that a lot of what’s written out there, and not that it’s bad, but it’s always written a lot by scholars, think tank people, who typically have not really done anything in the real world. I think that inevitably misses some things, and I’d like to think that maybe we could bring in some more voices from the actual business community to comment on their industries. I hope that will provide some unique perspectives as well.

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 book; on your iPad; watching TV; or something else?

Julius Krein: I generally do enjoy reading these articles and editing them, so there’s a very fine line between work and leisure for me. Reading this stuff is what I would be doing anyway, so typically you’ll find me trying to read more articles, especially things that I haven’t read—maybe I didn’t have the time or incentive to read—before starting the magazine. I’m just trying to, again, find a larger group of writers, new people, new audience to include in the magazine.

In a good way, it’s taken up a lot more of my time editing this than I ever anticipated, but, as I said, it’s been a very positive experience so far and I have really enjoyed spending more time on these issues.

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

Julius Krein: Not to be too dramatic or sanctimonious or anything, but I am genuinely worried about the state of the country and what, to me, seems like the deeper fraying of the social and intellectual fabric that I’ve seen in my comparatively brief lifetime.

But, it just really worries me. These items every day, such as the recent shooting (GOP Baseball practice); I think we’re going through a potentially very frightening and troubling stage in our politics, and I really do worry about that. I hope we at American Affairs can offer something useful towards fixing it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Cuisine Noir: From A Website To A Printed Magazine, And A Brand Where African American Culinary Talents Shine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sheree Williams, Publisher & Editor In Chief, Cuisine Noir Magazine…

June 23, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“Also, I love, but just can’t compete with, in some instances, Essence and Black Enterprise and Ebony. They all have forty plus years on me. I’m a newbie in the game. So, there are some challenges there in terms of the advertising dollars and things like that. But, we continue to move forward. I have a wonderful staff of different people around the world, and we continue to believe in the project, what we’re doing and telling the stories that we tell; the stories of some of the heroes that are in these industries that are not necessarily featured in some other publications. That really keeps us going. Unfortunately, there is no walk in a rose garden, but we’re just excited to be able to be in the space and tell the stories that we are able to tell.” Sheree Williams…

Cuisine Noir debuted in the world of cyberspace in 2007, setting a precedent by featuring the talents of African American culinary and wine professionals. The online entity tapped into the world of African American foodies and became a vehicle for showcasing these great chefs from the industry.

In 2009, Sheree Williams took the lead with the website and began to show that not only did African Americans like to experiment with different flavors and food cultures, they also loved traveling, wine and the entire scope of the foodie lifestyle. Sheree raised the bar even more when she took the pixels from the screen and transposed them to the printed page with vibrant life and amazing vision.

I spoke with Sheree recently and we talked about Cuisine Noir and the multicultural message the magazine strives to convey with every page. Showcasing what African Americans are doing around the globe is a cultural movement and Sheree is determined to passionately continue the magazines mission.

From celebrities who are just as at home in the kitchen as they are onscreen or onstage, to unsung heroes who know more about mixing ingredients and producing amazing flavors than they do holding a mike or reading a movie line, Cuisine Noir is the platform that encourages both factions. And shows that African Americans have influence throughout the worlds of food and travel around the globe.

I hope that you enjoy this very “tasty” Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who knows a thing or two about food, wine and travel, but more importantly, about the passion it takes to put that knowledge to the test, inside the pages of a magazine, Sheree Williams, publisher, editor in chief, Cuisine Noir magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Cuisine Noir: I always tell everyone that I didn’t start the magazine. A different chef who is in California started it in the late ‘90s. He’s a chef down in L.A. and just wanted to get more exposure to black chefs. I connected with him in 2007 and, at that time, he had introduced the concept to me. So, we worked together to launch it [the Cuisine Noir site]. Then in 2008, I took it over because he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with it.

On whether everything went as she expected, or there were some bumps along the way: I’m sure you know how tough the magazine industry is. We still face that challenge, you know, being a multicultural publication, in terms of dollar allocation. Before, a lot of advertising agencies would have pockets of money just for multicultural initiatives, whether it was black, Latino, Asian, etcetera. Now we’re finding a lot of the agencies are rolling those dollars into the general market and not having that pot anymore, so it is tough.

On whether Cuisine Noir’s platform is about promoting famous chefs or discovering hidden talents: Well, we go in and out. I’ve personally had the honor of speaking to Dr. Maya Angelou; that was an awesome interview that I was able to do. With her two books that she had out, she was all about cooking and entertaining. We’ve interviewed Russell Simmons and Wendy Williams, so we do try and capture the celebrity foodies. We don’t make it just about celebrity foodies, because again there is so much talent among people who are not celebrities. But, we do want to capture what the celebrities are doing.

On how she convinces advertisers that Cuisine Noir is deserving of their dollars: We’ve really tried to present my analytics; we’ve got a great customer base. Unfortunately, there are some stereotypes and there are some perceptions about black consumers, about black travelers, etcetera, that we try to make sure we, in terms of where we’re spending, especially, our disposable income.

On getting traction in the multicultural publications with ad dollars: I have found, not naming any particular brands or companies, but I’ve worked with some in the past and had a good relationship. But then people are always changing in agencies. People are always leaving, and sometimes it’s like a revolving door. You have to ask, “Okay, who is the new person overseeing this account?” and you have to start building that relationship all over again. I think it’s important to have people in these roles that are making the decisions of where these multicultural dollars are going, to understand publications such as ours. Again, you want the quality of trying to reach the consumer—in terms of the quality of the consumer and not necessarily the quantity.

On whether she feels being based on the West coast is helping or hindering her success with the magazine: For me, I think it helps—especially when it comes to the food [industry]. I feel California is a leader when it comes to the food movement, especially around sustainable eating and things like that, and especially when it comes to the wine industry. I feel that I either need to be here or in New York, and luckily I’ve got correspondents in New York that help me make sure that if there’s anything in New York that we’re invited to, then we’re there. I definitely think that we’re in a good place, being here in Oakland and San Francisco that allows us to keep a good pulse on the industry and what’s going on.

On if she had the opportunity to present her sales pitch about Cuisine Noir to a big ad agency CEO, what she would say: I would definitely try to talk about, one: working with someone who is truly about getting their brand in front of consumers and making a difference. For me, it’s not about just taking someone’s money. I understand that there’s a return on investment that needs to come back and that they’re looking for certain things. For me [though], it’s about relationship-building. So, if they [the advertising CEOs] are looking for someone who is going to partner with them to help meet their goals, plus build a really good relationship, that’s who Cuisine Noir is.

On the most pleasant moment so far during her Cuisine Noir experience: It was one of those days where I was thinking, “Oh, you know, nothing is clicking today.” It was just one of those off days. I remember receiving an e-mail from the Smithsonian Channel, and it was one of the producers that was putting together a video for the African American Museum of History and Culture in D.C. They wanted to secure one of our covers to be placed in a video that can still be seen today when you go to the fourth floor of the museum. There is a video that talks about African American cuisine, and the cover of Cuisine Noir comes up on the video.

On the biggest stumbling block she’s had to face: I think one of the biggest ones unfortunately, is around engaging advertisers. When there’s an advertiser that you’re trying to engage and, for whatever reason—it could be something that we did, but I try to make sure to fulfill our agreements—but when they decide to go in a different direction, those are advertising dollars that are taken away from you. Those are planned, and so the only thing that I can do is just work harder. It shows you that you really still have to work harder because nothing is guaranteed. No one is guaranteed to stay. That was sort of, I think, an eye-opener.

On anything she’d like to add: I would just say that we really love the people we are able to showcase and the stories. It’s really great. I love getting emails from people who have discovered us. For instance, we just got an email from the comedian Bernie Mac’s ex-wife’s publicist, about doing something with her.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly to her home one evening: You would probably, if I’m not on a deadline, find me with a glass of wine, just watching my TV or something. I think sometimes I just try and turn my brain off. I read so much; I’ve got a whole table full of magazines. But, you know, I definitely just like to relax.

On the one thing she would have tattooed on her brain to be remembered about her forever: That I never gave up.

On what keeps her up at night: Trying to figure out how to get my advertisers and my sponsors engaged. That keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sheree Williams, publisher, editor in chief, Cuisine Noir magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Cuisine Noir. How did you come up with the name, and then how did you get from the blog all the way to the magazine?

Sheree Williams: I always tell everyone that I didn’t start the magazine. A different chef who is in California started it in the late ‘90s. He’s a chef down in L.A. and just wanted to get more exposure to black chefs. I connected with him in 2007 and, at that time, he had introduced the concept to me. I was doing my backgrounds in PR advertising and PR, and thought it was a very interesting idea, because I also was writing as well.

So, we connected in 2007 and I told him, because at the time I was in grad school, that the web was about to really blow up and a lot of media properties were going to be on the web. I worked with him to launch a Cuisine Noir site online in 2007. It was really exciting, because that’s when Tre Wilcox was on Top Chef and Aaron McCargo, Jr. had just won Food Network Star and the Neely’s (Gina and Pat) were just coming out. That’s when we were really starting to see diversity in Food Network and things like that.

So, we worked together to launch it [the Cuisine Noir site]. Then in 2008, I took it over because he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with it. From there, I said, “You know what, I want to do food, wine, and travel.” I was an avid reader of Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines, and I just saw that there was a big opportunity to really showcase black food, wine, and travel.

In 2009, as I started to lead the magazine and take it over, that’s when I started to rebrand it. I relaunched it, and relaunched a website online with Carla Hall, so that was exciting. Then, in 2011 is when I said, “You know what? I think we’ve got a good following and a good market, let’s take it into print.” I took it into print then, with Tre Wilcox being our first cover story. We’ve been going ever since then.

Samir Husni: Has it been like a walk in a rose garden for you—everything went exactly like as you expected—or have you hit some bumps along the way?

Sheree Williams: I’m sure you know how tough the magazine industry is. We still face that challenge, you know, being a multicultural publication, in terms of dollar allocation. Before, a lot of advertising agencies would have pockets of money just for multicultural initiatives, whether it was black, Latino, Asian, etcetera. Now we’re finding a lot of the agencies are rolling those dollars into the general market and not having that pot anymore, so it is tough.

Also, I love, but just can’t compete with, in some instances, Essence and Black Enterprise and Ebony. They all have forty plus years on me. I’m a newbie in the game. So, there are some challenges there in terms of the advertising dollars and things like that.

But, we continue to move forward. I have a wonderful staff of different people around the world, and we continue to believe in the project, what we’re doing and telling the stories that we tell; the stories of some of the heroes that are in these industries that are not necessarily featured in some other publications. That really keeps us going. Unfortunately, there is no walk in a rose garden, but we’re just excited to be able to be in the space and tell the stories that we are able to tell.

Samir Husni: It has been said that when it comes to the multicultural—to African Americans, to Latinos, to folks from Middle Eastern descent, like me—that you have a certain color until you become rich and famous. Then, everybody’s color is green. How do you deal with that? Are you featuring the famous? Or, are you working more as the talent discoverer and that’s what the Cusine Noir platform is all about?

Sheree Williams: Well, we go in and out. I’ve personally had the honor of speaking to Dr. Maya Angelou; that was an awesome interview that I was able to do. With her two books that she had out, she was all about cooking and entertaining. We’ve interviewed Russell Simmons and Wendy Williams, so we do try and capture the celebrity foodies. We don’t make it just about celebrity foodies, because again there is so much talent among people who are not celebrities. But, we do want to capture what the celebrities are doing.

We just talked about—we had her on the cover before—Laila Ali. She was on one of my fall covers and just announced that she’s coming out with a cookbook to honor her father that’s due to come out in January, 2018. We talk about Patti LaBelle’s cookbook that just came out. So, we do celebrities, and I think if we can do more, get the brand out there more… I don’t know if the celebrities are going to help us blow up a little bit more? But definitely just more of them communicating to their audiences who will probably help bring more awareness to what we’re doing.

We definitely find as we’re growing, when it comes to the dollars, it seems to be a numbers game. They [the advertisers] want the millions of viewers. Essence has a circulation of over 800,000, and I’m not there yet. When it comes to those dollars, if they’re looking at eyeballs and things like that, then they [Essence] are going to be the obvious choice, and deservingly so. I get it; it’s just a numbers game.

Samir Husni: So, how do you then convince those advertisers and ad agencies that you’re more about the customers who count, rather than counting customers?

Sheree Williams: We’ve really tried to present my analytics; we’ve got a great customer base. Unfortunately, there are some stereotypes and there are some perceptions about black consumers, about black travelers, etcetera, that we try to make sure we , in terms of where we’re spending, especially, our disposable income.

Looking at a snapshot of our reader [base], I try and tell them that our readers are very sophisticated. They love to try different cuisines. They love to travel internationally—and this next print issue that we’re working on is all about travel. We’re all about that, so we talk about that. We talk about the spending power of African Americans, and how it’s in the trillions, and a lot of that is being spent in the food and beverage categories. We really just try to look at our customers, where they shop and what they like to do. I try to make sure, as much as possible, that I can say, “You know what? Here is a customer that is all about trying new products and getting out and trying new experiences,” saying, “This is someone that you definitely want to market to. This is someone that we’re talking to directly.”

We’ve got a very active group on Facebook. We’re sharing recipes all of the time. We’re sharing stories all of the time. Really, we’re just trying to let the advertisers know that the readers are engaged and they’re all about food, so if you’re coming out with a food product or you’re talking about this, then we’re the right people to talk to. That’s what the readers are coming to us for.

Samir Husni: Why do you think this is falling on deaf ears? Why do you think, after all these years, we keep celebrating diversity and yet—when the rubber hits the road—we feel as though we are not getting any traction?

Sheree Williams: I have found, not naming any particular brands or companies, but I’ve worked with some in the past and had a good relationship. But then people are always changing in agencies. People are always leaving, and sometimes it’s like a revolving door. You have to ask, “Okay, who is the new person overseeing this account?” and you have to start building that relationship all over again. I think it’s important to have people in these roles that are making the decisions of where these multicultural dollars are going, to understand publications such as ours. Again, you want the quality of trying to reach the consumer—in terms of the quality of the consumer and not necessarily the quantity.

Sometimes, I have to admit, and I can’t say it for sure, but sometimes I have to wonder are the people making the decisions in some of these agencies, do they truly understand our publications, the influences that we can have in these markets and in these communities? And, if they did, would that change things? Would they say, “You know what? I’m not going to spend a $100,000 here, or $50,000—or whatever they’re spending on some of the more seasoned publications—but I am going to take a risk with you.” Again, sometimes I think it comes down to who is making the decisions and [whether or not] they truly understand what we do and who we reach in order to give us a chance to really knock it out of the park.

Samir Husni: Do you think that being based on the west coast is helping or hindering you when it comes to the magazine’s success?

Sheree Williams: For me, I think it helps—especially when it comes to the food [industry]. I feel California is a leader when it comes to the food movement, especially around sustainable eating and things like that, and especially when it comes to the wine industry. I feel that I either need to be here or in New York, and luckily I’ve got correspondents in New York that help me make sure that if there’s anything in New York that we’re invited to, then we’re there. I definitely think that we’re in a good place, being here in Oakland and San Francisco that allows us to keep a good pulse on the industry and what’s going on.

Samir Husni: If you had the opportunity to meet a CEO of one of those big ad agencies, say, you’re alone with him or her in an elevator and you have 18 seconds to give your sales pitch about Cuisine Noir, what would you tell them?

Sheree Williams: I would definitely try to talk about, one: working with someone who is truly about getting their brand in front of consumers and making a difference. For me, it’s not about just taking someone’s money. I understand that there’s a return on investment that needs to come back and that they’re looking for certain things. For me [though], it’s about relationship-building. So, if they [the advertising CEOs] are looking for someone who is going to partner with them to help meet their goals, plus build a really good relationship, that’s who Cuisine Noir is.

We’re really about those relationship buildings, and we’re really about getting their products in front of our consumers—and I also love getting new things in front of my readers; that’s what it’s all about too. I think it’s a win-win situation. That’s what we’re all about: that relationship-building, trying to be an influencer for them, and then also engaging our readers and letting them know this is what’s new, this is what’s great, and this is what’s out there.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment in the history of you and Cuisine Noir. Is there one specific moment you reflect back on and say, “Wow?”

Sheree Williams: It was one of those days where I was thinking, “Oh, you know, nothing is clicking today.” It was just one of those off days. I remember receiving an e-mail from the Smithsonian Channel, and it was one of the producers that was putting together a video for the African American Museum of History and Culture in D.C. They wanted to secure one of our covers to be placed in a video that can still be seen today when you go to the fourth floor of the museum. There is a video that talks about African American cuisine, and the cover of Cuisine Noir comes up on the video.

And that just made me cry. We celebrated that with the opening of the museum last September. My family and I went to the museum a couple of days later to see the cover just flash up on the screen in the museum. That was ad still is definitely a very proud moment for me.

Samir Husni: And what has been the biggest stumbling block you’ve had to face, and how did you overcome it?

Sheree Williams: I think one of the biggest ones unfortunately, is around engaging advertisers. When there’s an advertiser that you’re trying to engage and, for whatever reason—it could be something that we did, but I try to make sure to fulfill our agreements—but when they decide to go in a different direction, those are advertising dollars that are taken away from you. Those are planned, and so the only thing that I can do is just work harder. It shows you that you really still have to work harder because nothing is guaranteed. No one is guaranteed to stay. That was sort of, I think, an eye-opener.

But I also have to admit, too: I have a bachelors in advertising, and I did an advertising internship here in California before I actually moved from Chicago to California. I’m glad that I had that background. I think this whole thing with trying to solve the advertising puzzle and what is really going to get our foot in the door comfortably, is softened because of my background, knowing the lingo, what they’re looking for, and things like that.

I’m constantly having to overcome objections of “You’re too small. You’re great! But you’re too small.” So that’s still a stumbling block that I’m still overcoming right now. I’m actually constantly working on what is a good strategy, and I actually have a meeting with someone who I’m throwing out some strategy ideas to continue to overcome that stumbling block. I would say that’s one of the things I am constantly trying to overcome.

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

Sheree Williams: I would just say that we really love the people we are able to showcase and the stories. It’s really great. I love getting emails from people who have discovered us. For instance, we just got an email from the comedian Bernie Mac’s ex-wife’s publicist, about doing something with her.

We just contributed to something with Steve Harvey’s producer who is a baker. I love being able to tell those stories, when it comes to the community heroes. And also to share the stories of the celebrity foodies who are known for singing or doing something else, but also just awesome in the kitchen. I really am excited about that and just excited to see where we can go. I definitely hope people continue to follow us and join us for the journey and the ride.

Samir Husni: If I showed up at your home unexpectedly one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Would you be drinking a glass of wine, eating some Southern cuisine, reading a book, watching TV, on your iPad, or something else?

Sheree Williams: You would probably, if I’m not on a deadline, find me with a glass of wine, just watching my TV or something. I think sometimes I just try and turn my brain off. I read so much; I’ve got a whole table full of magazines. But, you know, I definitely just like to relax.

You’d probably find me, if I’m not out eating with someone, just sitting here on different things. I’ve been trying to catch up on what’s going on, watching some of the culinary competitions on TV to see who’s doing what. Or I’m just organizing. We get so busy sometimes. I’ve got a bookshelf I need to put up, so one evening I’m going to get to the bookshelf that I need to do. It really just varies, but one thing is sure, I’m relaxing. I definitely need to relax.

Samir Husni: If there was one thing you would want engraved or tattooed on your brain, that would be remembered about you forever, what would it be?

Sheree Williams: That I never gave up.

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

Sheree Williams: Trying to figure out how to get my advertisers and my sponsors engaged. That keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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