Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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

September 8, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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

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

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

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

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

Indeed.

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

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

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

Until next time,

Mr. Magazine™

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Sherin Pierce, Publisher, The Old Farmer’s Almanac To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “The Almanac Deals With The Essentials Of Everyday Life, Whether There’s A Pandemic Or Not… And That Provides Comfort And Security. ” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

May 8, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic (30)

“And part of our mission is to give people our products in the way they want them. A lot of people still want the ink on paper product. They still want that. In fact, soon I’ll be meeting with Fry online to go through our whole publishing schedule because it’s coming up. This month we print the calendars. After all these years, people still want the paper calendars. Then in June, we print the different versions of The Almanac. That hasn’t changed. You can also provide extra information around The Almanac philosophy electronically.” … Sherin Pierce

“You still have to tend to your farms and grow your crops; you still need to know about the weather. So that’s what we try to do. We don’t ignore facts, but we try to give you a safe place.” … Sherin Pierce

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has seen more crises in its 228 years than many of us have even thought of. Yet, it has survived and not only that, but thrived over the years. Sherin Pierce is the publisher and has held that position for over 25 years. And over the years, The Almanac has not remained stagnant, it has expanded to include The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids, The Garden Guide, and a series of cookbooks with themes that resonate with Almanac readers, such as Comfort Food, Everyday Baking, and Cooking Fresh. The magazine knows how to survive and realizes we are all in this together, for sure.

I spoke with Sherin recently and we talked about the deep trust The Almanac’s audience has for its content and how even a pandemic can’t break that confidence or take away the safe place many people feel about the publication. Because it’s a given, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a special publication and one that has proven itself over the years, even during life changing events such as this pandemic we’re all experiencing. Just know The Almanac is with us through it all.

And now the 30th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Sherin Pierce, publisher, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

But first the sound-bites:

On the amount of crises The Old Farmer’s Almanac has already seen: Yes. It passed through the War of 1812, the Civil War, they went through both World Wars, I and II, The Korean War, the Vietnam War, they’ve been through the Flu pandemics, H1N1, so yes, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has survived quite a lot.

On how the publication is operating during this pandemic: The 228th edition, the 2020 issue came out in September, 2019, so we were through with the greatest sales months, between September and January, and by the time the pandemic hit the majority of the sales were complete. So, The Almanac has one print publishing event and that got us through that period of time.

On how The Almanac today, in the midst of this pandemic, is as relevant or even more relevant than ever before: First of all, because The Almanac deals with the essentials of everyday life. It tells you what time the sun is going to set; what time the sun is going to rise; what the phases of the moon are; what the rhythms of nature are. And whether there’s a pandemic or not, those things are going to happen in any event. And that, kind of, provides comfort and security. That no matter what’s going on, there are certain rhythms of nature that will always happen. And we’re there to guide you through that.

On how their work environment has changed with the pandemic: Working in Dublin, New Hampshire, we were already hyper-connected by technology. That’s the first thing, because you can’t publish from a remote region without having all that. As we could see what was starting to happen, we were able to move everyone back home remotely with VPN abilities, so that the editors could go into their servers and work.

On whether she thinks things will go back to the way they were once the pandemic is behind us: It will never be the same. However, we can take it and incorporate it into the future of our business. We live in area where the weather can be terrible. Huge snowstorms. So, yes, we can work from home those days. If there is a resurgence of the virus, we know we can go back, but what we’ve learned now and have responded to is the way we have been communicating with our people on a daily basis. That’s something that we’re going to keep moving forward with, we have to be aware of what’s happening on a daily basis.

On whether she had ever thought of working during something like a pandemic and if she thinks someone could prepare for something like it: Not a pandemic. I always thought that there would be an economic downturn. So, in the back of my mind I was always preparing for that and making sure that we had different channels of distribution, different ways of serving our customers. We’re not wedded to big advertising dollars, that’s not what we do in print.

On what keeps her up at night: Thoughts about people’s health, consumer confidence and what the state of affairs will be in the next six months as we move toward the fall and if there will be a resurgence of this.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sherin Pierce, publisher, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Samir Husni: You’re the publisher of the oldest continually published publication, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which is almost 228-years-old. So, this title has seen its fair share of crises, correct?

Sherin Pierce: Yes. It passed through the War of 1812, the Civil War, they went through both World Wars, I and II, The Korean War, the Vietnam War, they’ve been through the Flu pandemics, H1N1, so yes, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has survived quite a lot.

Samir Husni: Tell me how you’re operating during this pandemic?

Sherin Pierce: The 228th edition, the 2020 issue came out in September, 2019, so we were through with the greatest sales months, between September and January, and by the time the pandemic hit the majority of the sales were complete. So, The Almanac has one print publishing event and that got us through that period of time. What we do is be on a daily basis and daily contact, 24/7, with our readers. We have our online, almanac.com; we have our social media, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest; we have our newsletters, which have gone up from 339,000 to 550,000 subscribers, so with all these daily points of contact, we’re able to continue publishing on a daily basis to stay in touch with our customers until the next print event comes up on September 1, 2020.

However, even though one would think after January, once a year changes, people would lose interest, but because of the gardening information and the weather information, you see another resurgence of sales as people are planning their planting and want to do their research on frosts and things like that.  This year, because people are home, there’s such an extraordinary interest in gardening, and the sales of The Almanac, both online and the print version, most importantly the print version, have just continued going.

When I say the print version, because we’re in places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace and True Value, that are essential businesses and still open and keep the product until the next issue comes out, that’s where we’re seeing all the sales. For us, it’s always a balancing act, we want to make sure that we’re providing online information, but we drive people to buy the print edition as well. And that’s really important for us.

Samir Husni: How is The Almanac today, in the midst of this pandemic, as relevant or even more relevant than ever before?

Sherin Pierce: First of all, because The Almanac deals with the essentials of everyday life. It tells you what time the sun is going to set; what time the sun is going to rise; what the phases of the moon are; what the rhythms of nature are. And whether there’s a pandemic or not, those things are going to happen in any event. And that, kind of,  provides comfort and security. That no matter what’s going on, there are certain rhythms of nature that will always happen. And we’re there to guide you through that.

Also, with the areas of interest with The Almanac, like astronomy, of course gardening, food, the weather, and now with Kids, we’re providing that comfort and credibility. What The Almanac has is incredible trust from our readers and that is something that we have earned. You can’t buy that. You have to earn it day-by-day, year-by-year; you have to earn that trust. And in times when there are a lot of insecurities and stress, people want to come back to something that provides them that comfort and gives them information to help them through these periods.

For instance, in terms of food, we’ve gone back and curated recipes with fewer ingredients. Not recipes that require tons of esoteric ingredients, more like things that you have in your pantry, the basics. This is the reality; here are some of the recipes: five ingredients, eight ingredients, things you already have in your kitchen.  Even give people a list of substitutions or a list of what they should have in their pantries during this time. This is some of the levels of information and advice that we offer our readers.

In gardening, I think the main thing people are interested in is vegetable gardening, but maybe they don’t know how to do it. So taking them A through Z, whether it’s a small space, container gardening, because a lot of people live in apartments, they don’t have a lot of space to garden, so we’ve taken that back to wherever you live, here is a way you can grow something of your own. People want that self-reliance and sustainability.

We’ve started a gardening webinar and it’s on Hydroponics, how to grow indoors with lights and everything. We’re hoping people will enjoy attending it.

Samir Husni: How has your work environment changed with the pandemic?

Sherin Pierce: Working in Dublin, New Hampshire, we were already hyper-connected by technology. That’s the first thing, because you can’t publish from a remote region without having all that. As we could see what was starting to happen, we were able to move everyone back home remotely with VPN abilities, so that the editors could go into their servers and work. And they’ve been very innovative, the editors, because sometimes moving large files are difficult and they have evolved a way of fact-checking and passing things around electronically. And also using Dropbox more than depending on servers. Our OFA digital editor has worked remotely from both the U.K. and now Indiana for the past seven years as has the assistant digital editor who works remotely from  Boston.

Add to that our almanac.com programmer who has worked remotely for 24 years and our PR folks on Bainbridge Island Wash. who have worked with us since 1993. We have made these relationships work and now we are all doing it.

We have a lot of Zoom meetings as well. We have our editorial meeting, but we’ve also used Zoom and Teams to connect with one another. So, creatively, how we’ve responded besides just the mechanics of creating and moving files around and doing the work that needs to be done, we’ve also used that as a way to brainstorm about new products, about how we should update things online to reflect what’s happening. You have to evaluate what’s happening in the moment and speak to that right away. And we can do that every day with our online presence, so we’re not stuck in this old publishing model. Through social media and online we can talk to people each and every day.

And for people who want to buy our products, we’re able to sell to them through our ecommerce operation, especially the print product. You can buy all of our stuff online, digital and print versions. I think that ecommerce component has been really important for us.

Samir Husni; Do you think that once this pandemic is behind us, you’ll go back to the way you conducted business before? Or do you envision remote working replacing the office?

Sherin Pierce: It will never be the same. However, we can take it and incorporate it into the future of our business. We live in area where the weather can be terrible. Huge snowstorms. So, yes, we can work from home those days. If there is a resurgence of the virus, we know we can go back, but what we’ve learned now and have responded to is the way we have been communicating with our people on a daily basis. That’s something that we’re going to keep moving forward with, we have to be aware of what’s happening on a daily basis.

And part of our mission is to give people our products in the way they want them. A lot of people still want the ink on paper product. They still want that. In fact, soon I’ll be meeting with Fry online to go through our whole publishing schedule because it’s coming up. This month we print the calendars. After all these years, people still want the paper calendars. Then in June, we print the different versions of The Almanac. That hasn’t changed. You can also provide extra information around The Almanac philosophy electronically.

Samir Husni: Did you ever imagine that you would be working during a pandemic and can you prepare for something like that?

Sherin Pierce: Not a pandemic. I always thought that there would be an economic downturn. So, in the back of my mind I was always preparing for that and making sure that we had different channels of distribution, different ways of serving our customers. We’re not wedded to big advertising dollars, that’s not what we do in print.

The advertising actually comes from online now, we do far better than. But again it’s not a reliance on one single thing. You have to minimize your risk, that’s one thing we’ve learned. You can’t depend on newsstand or bookstore sales or your online, you have to develop a lot of different things and sometimes it’s hard to do that.

The Almanac for Kids, for instance, we had a lot of pushback about it and now here we are, 16 years later, and we’ve built a nice little publishing program. We print about 225,000 of those every two years and for a book that’s a pretty sizeable print order.

Things are not always going to go up, up, up. You’re going to have challenges and pushbacks. After 228 years, one thing you can be sure if is you’re going to have pushbacks. (Laughs) And maybe that’s just the cautiousness in me, I try to anticipate what will happen, but no way did I imagine a pandemic. But we always try to do what our founder told us in the first edition: We strive to always be useful with a pleasant degree of humor.

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

Sherin Pierce: Thoughts about people’s health, consumer confidence and what the state of affairs will be in the next six months as we move toward the fall and if there will be a resurgence of this. Our staff is so flexible and so innovative. For instance, with our newsletter we started a Sunday edition recently to calm things down. Instead of during the week, when it’s a certain format, a boom-boom-boom. But on Sunday, you can sit with your cup of coffee and read it. We don’t mention Coronavirus or anything. If you looked at The Almanac from 1860-1865, you wouldn’t have known there was a Civil War going on.

You still have to tend to your farms and grow your crops; you still need to know about the weather. So that’s what we try to do. We don’t ignore facts, but we try to give you a safe place.

Samir Husni: Thank you, and now for a little extra from the folks at The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

FROM THE MR. MAGAZINE™ VAULT

 

Thanks to Sherin Pierce for sending me replicas of the 1820 and 1920 editions of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.  What you will find below is the letter from the editor from 1920 and the two May sections from The Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar. Talk about timely yet timeless content.  Enjoy.

The Old Farmer’s Alamac 1920 Letter From The Editor

TO PATRONS AND CORRESPONDENTS.

We submit to you this our 128th successive annual number.

Since we last went to press the Armistice has been signed, the problems of war have passed and those of peace succeed. During the year business on the whole has been good, and the crops as well; but there is one crop that has been springing up amongst us in increasing volume of late, which can afford us but little good. It is that crop of work-shirkers and trouble-makers whose principal business seems to be the minding of other people’s business; who seek to stir up discontent, and who preach the strange doctrine that the road to prosperity lies in less work and less production. Yet we are firm in the belief that such teachings will not long prevail against our native common sense; — for still there stands an ancient law laid down for mankind that cannot be repealed by visionary legislators, nor nullified by radical agitators, one of the oldest laws in the Scriptures, — “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” So once again we say, “It is by our works and not by our words we would be judged: these we hope will sustain us in the humble though proud station we have so long held. . . .

The Old Farmer’s Almanac May section intro 1920

Farmer’s Calendar

Now this month your garden will be planted, or all laid out for planting, and when you come to that, try to leave a little for the women-folks. Some of them will say that they have enough housework to do without pottering around a garden, and so they have, but a little outdoor work will help them to do the indoor work all the better. The improvement in the health and strength of women resulting from outdoor work during the war has gained wide recognition. A good way to keep us their interest in such work, now that the war is over, is to give them full charge of some particular portion of the garden, however small.

We have observed that some of the early vegetables, like lettuce and radishes, seem to thrive under a woman’s care and tomatoes as well.

It may be that some few of the so called “farmerettes” were more picturesque than useful, but on the whole, the women achieved results which surprised themselves as well as the men.

While you are about it, leave the women-folks a place along the edge of one or two sides of the garden for flowers, such as Dalhias, Cosmos and the like. These, in addition to being a pleasure in themselves, will help to dress up your garden along towards the end of the season when the rest of it begins to look a little seedy.

 

The Old ‘Farmer’s Almanac May Section Intro 1820

FARMER’S CALENDAR

Let no one neglect his garden. “For gardening is the most productive and advantageous mode of occupying the soil. Gardens also employ the greatest number of laborers, and furnish the greatest quantity of useful produce from the smallest space of ground. The greater the extent of land therefore, thus cultivated, the more beneficial to community.” You may think that a garden is of little consequence to you, as your father before you never paid much attention to one. But, my friend, I tell you for a truth, that a good garden, well managed, is as valuable as a beef and pork barrel well filled. By making use of the product of your garden, less bread and animal food is rendered necessary; “and if taken in sufficient quantities,” says a well-experienced writer on agriculture, “the human frame can be supported by them alone, more especially in youth, or when severe labor is avoided.” You may say that you can live on meat alone, because you care nothing about sauce. But the fact is, that you would eat of the oyster were it not for the trouble of breaking the shell.

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Beach Happy Magazine: A New Title Bringing The Voice Of Hope & Optimism During A Pandemic – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mike Ragsdale, Founder Of 30A & Will Estell, Editor In Chief/ Director of Publishing, The 30A Company…

April 27, 2020

Photo by Lauren Athalia

Publishing During A Pandemic (24)

“We just launched this new endeavor, which again might seem like strange timing, but as Will said, this has been in the works for a very long time. We looked at it and we could have all walked away, but the reality is the world needs optimism. I’m not saying that in some philosophical, mumbo-jumbo kind of way, I’m saying just like fast-food found an anecdote by offering organic, free-range healthy alternatives, we’re going to be one of the first movers in providing a healthy information alternative to all of the toxic news and information that we consume every, single day.” … Mike Ragsdale 

“We’re thinking positive; the sky is the limit. We believe this publication can do better right now  than it would have done 10 years ago. And I think more people in our industry need to have that kind of mindset with what they’re doing.” … Will Estell

The 30A Company and the nationally distributed travel publication, Beaches, Resorts & Parks have merged and created a new title called Beach Happy. The moniker alone makes you smile. And we can all certainly use something to smile about in these uncertain times.

Mike Ragsdale by Peyton Hollis,
Good Grit magazine

Mike Ragsdale, founder of 30A and Will Estell, former founder & editor-in-chief of Beaches, Resorts & Parks and now editor in chief/ director of publishing, The 30A Company have joined forces, and between the two of them have big plans for their new magazine, even during a pandemic.

According to the Beach Happy brand and motto, “30A is the official and original BEACH HAPPY brand. Inspired by a two-lane road that meanders along Florida’s Gulf Coast, 30A shares eco-friendly products and stories that celebrate our small beach town way of life.” Mr. Magazine™ couldn’t have said it better himself.

In fact, I didn’t have to. I spoke with Mike and Will recently and we discussed this negativity and doom and gloom that seems to permeate our world today. From Mike’s observation, we’re getting too much toxic information, even during a pandemic, and our brains are in overload. Beach Happy magazine and the brand itself are here to uplift and give us hope and optimism with stories from beaches around the world, not just that two-lane road on the Florida Coast.

Will joins Mike’s sense of buoyancy and exuberates his own optimism by not allowing negativity to enter his thoughts very often. And while this may seem like an inopportune time to start a new print magazine, even one with an extensive digital reach,  Mike and Will suggest we all have faith and just “Be Happy.”

And now the 24th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Mike Ragsdale, founder Of 30A & Will Estell, editor in chief/ director of publishing, The 30A Company.

But first the sound-bites:

Will Estell

On launching a new magazine during a pandemic (Mike Ragsdale): I’ll be honest, I am an optimist and I believe and have believed for a long time now, more than a decade, that we are suffering a mental health crisis in our nation, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well. I’ve been trying to sound the alarm, at least among my peer groups and our audience, that we have a lot to be happy about and we have a lot to be optimistic about. So, we’re promoting the agenda that news isn’t always negative, it doesn’t have to be.

On how he went from selling Beaches, Resorts & Parks to 30A and then becoming editor in chief of the new magazine (Will Estell): I’m kind of married to this thing and I tell you, there have been times when it would have been a lot easier to jump ship, to sell it out. We had offers in the past to buy Beaches outright that I probably would have gone along with, but this just seemed like the perfect opportunity and I’ve always been a huge fan of the 30A Company, literally going back to Mike’s early days with the company some 10 years ago. I was donning the stickers on my car and wearing the first T-shirt and all that.

On when the first issue will be launched (Mike Ragsdale): We were planning to launch in mid-May and it will be a quarterly publication at first, and so the issue would have been on newsstands in June, July and August, with a follow-up issue in the fall. We’re not going to deviate from that path very far. We’re waiting really until May 1 to make the decision. We’re going to be prepared to go to print on May 1, but if circumstances call for us to wait a few more weeks so we’ll know a little more, then we may push it back.

On how they’re going to take the large social media base, the radio base, the merchandising, and curate all of that onto the pages of a printed magazine (Will Estell): That’s something that we’re still working through, but the positive aspect is that we do have to be concerned about that. In other words, those things exist, so this magazine is not in a startup phase, standing alone, and having to go out there and find Reader One from Day One. It will be more of a pairing of both sides, where the other side of the 30A Company, be it the apparel or the decals, or people following the website to find events; all of that will promote the magazine just as the magazine will promote all of that.

Photo by Lauren Athalia

On whether the creation of 30A was a walk in a rose garden for Mike or he had some challenges along the way (Mike Ragsdale): It’s interesting, I’ve had a couple of really amazing successes and I’ve absolutely buried those with the failures I’ve had in business. I received my master’s degree in advertising and public relations, but I couldn’t get a job, despite sending out all of the resumes I could send and doing a few interviews, but I just wasn’t able to secure anything. So, I became an entrepreneur by accident and out of necessity to pay the bills, scrounging to stay afloat.

On anything they would like to add (Will Estell): The only thing I would add is for all the negativity and all the doom and gloom that’s talked about in the industry, and I know you’re a huge advocate for the growth and continued success of magazines, what we’re doing with this and what a lot of the companies that have learned to survive are doing is we’re finding new ways to get our message out, still be a magazine, but do it in  different ways.

On what keeps them up at night (Mike Ragsdale): Right now, of course, I’m concerned during my waking hours about the fact that we have a business that’s struggling like everyone is. Our three stores are closed; our 380 wholesale partner stores are closed; our digital advertisers, from restaurants to rental companies are shut down. And so we’re not expecting to see them paying any bills.

Mike Ragsdale

On what keeps them up at night (Will Estell): I do not lay in bed and worry about things. I don’t lay in bed and worry about the fact that the world has stopped spinning for a period of time right now. I don’t worry about the fact that we’re not out selling advertisers left and right. Now that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about those things, but I have learned to be more solution-oriented in my thinking than problematic. It takes the same amount of energy to find a solution than worry about the problem.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mike Ragsdale, Founder Of 30A & Will Estell, Editor In Chief/ Director of Publishing, The 30A Company.

Samir Husni: You’re launching a new magazine during a pandemic, what are you thinking?

Mike Ragsdale: I’ll be honest, I am an optimist and I believe and have believed for a long time now, more than a decade, that we are suffering a mental health crisis in our nation, and perhaps in other parts of the world as well. Despite living in the greatest time in human history and despite the fact that so many amazingly good things are happening in the world despite the current circumstances, we’re seeing an alarming increase in depression and suicides.

I believe personally it’s because about 10 or 15 years ago, we began consuming information at a rate that our minds simply aren’t accustomed to. We are absorbing so much negativity and bad information and stressful, anxious information that, despite the fact that we live in the golden era of humankind, we’re increasingly depressed and increasingly suicidal and anxious. I believe that we’re going to find in the years ahead that consuming so much information, good, bad, indifferent, consuming so much information is skewing our worldview and it is causing a great deal of suffering.

Photo by Lauren Athalia

I believe it is going to be akin to the ‘70s and ‘80s when people began to come to the realization about the health risks of smoking and then later with fast food consumption or foods that haven’t been grown under the right circumstances which causes heart disease and other health issues. So, I think consuming so much information as we do today is like eating one Big Mac after another. And we’re going to realize that the mental toll it’s taking on us individually and collectively is immense.

I’ve been trying to sound the alarm, at least among my peer groups and our audience, that we have a lot to be happy about and we have a lot to be optimistic about. So, we’re promoting the agenda that news isn’t always negative, it doesn’t have to be. But unfortunately, and you know this as well as I do, no one writes about the millions of planes that land safely, they write about the one that had the issues. And that’s the nature of where we’ve come with news. And news has really stopped becoming news, it’s more entertainment. It’s no longer Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather talking for 22 minutes a night and that’s it.

When I was growing up the news that we were consuming had to be bundled within 22 minutes of time. And if it didn’t make that cut, then you never heard about it. But now we hear about every single awful thing because we’re in a 24/7 news cycle. And not just that, we have pushup notifications and breaking news alerts, so we hear every awful thing that happens.

So, Beach Happy the brand is something that we’ve been promoting internally. And then when Will comes along with this publication that has this great distribution and great reach, it just seemed like a perfect marriage for us and to say, let’s take what we’re already doing on the digital side, kind of a bastion for optimism and positivity, and let’s reach all new audiences across newsstands. We’re already doing the work of content writing; we’re already doing the work of photography and content creation, we might as well add an additional platform. And

Will has really been brilliant in the way he has architected his business, in that it doesn’t require as much overhead as the more traditional publications, so we don’t view it as a risky proposition at all. We view it perhaps as the perfect message at the perfect time. And we certainly wouldn’t wish ill on anyone else who is on the newsstands, but we also know the impact on those companies that have massive overheads, so we’re lean and mean and we’re looking at it as an opportunity to present a platform for happiness and positivity.

Will Estell

Samir Husni: Will, I read the press release and you sold your Beaches Resorts & Parks to 30A Company, which Mike heads, so people might think you’re jumping ship. But then when I finished reading the press release, you’re editor in chief of the new magazine. Can you explain what happened?

Will Estell: I have managed through four different iterations of Beaches Resorts & Parks and of course, you were familiar with the magazine when you tracked it that first year. In 2013, you named us the New Launch of 2012, with the highest newsstand sell-through at the time, and the magazine continued to do really well. There were four different iterations of ownership, including one period where I solely owned it on my own, which by the way, was not an easy thing and not the way I would ever want to go again.

You know though, I’m kind of married to this thing and I tell you, there have been times when it would have been a lot easier to jump ship, to sell it out. We had offers in the past to buy Beaches outright that I probably would have gone along with, but this just seemed like the perfect opportunity and I’ve always been a huge fan of the 30A Company, literally going back to Mike’s early days with the company some 10 years ago. I was donning the stickers on my car and wearing the first T-shirt and all that.

I’m a lot like Mike in that I’m an optimist too, so I saw this as a great pairing. Actually, we’d been talking about this, I guess our first conversation was about the potential of 30A doing the magazine, probably about six years ago. But then we really got serious about this around last June and again talked about it. I can’t think of a better entity to be able to acquire the Beaches Resorts & Parks magazine than 30A. I’ve worked for quite  a few publishing companies outside of partnerships of my own, some large companies and some small companies in the past, and I’ve never had the ability to work for a company that had a magazine that already had a brand and a consumer reach that 30A does already built around it. So, we’re super-stoked about what we think this can do and the people it can reach.

And that’s part of the opportunity. Will had newsstand reach; he obviously had decades of print experience that we did not have. But we did have 1.5 million social media followers; we’ve got a quarter-million newsletter subscribers; we have orders that are being shipped to all states every day out of our fulfilment warehouse. So, we have the ability to take Will’s newsstand reach and combine it with our digital audience.

Mike Ragsdale: As Will and I were working through this, we realized we have an audience size that very few people can touch. There are some companies out there that have big established, decades’ worth of audiences, but to be able to come in with Issue One and have a print reach that Will has and have a digital reach of 1.5 million fans is a great platform to build upon.

Photo By Lauren Athalia

Samir Husni: When will the first issue be released?

Mike Ragsdale: We were planning to launch in mid-May and it will be a quarterly publication at first, and so the issue would have been on newsstands in June, July and August, with a follow-up issue in the fall. We’re not going to deviate from that path very far. We’re waiting really until May 1 to make the decision. We’re going to be prepared to go to print on May 1, but if circumstances call for us to wait a few more weeks so we’ll know a little more, then we may push it back. But we’re not going to push it off more than a month. One way or another we’ll be in May or June and we’re just waiting to see what happens with COVID-19 and the travel restrictions.

To us, and this is why it’s important that the launch isn’t really predicated on the physical; in my mind, again, Will comes from a little bit of a different place with the prior magazine, it really was focused on a lot of destinations, and we’re certainly going to have destination information in the magazine, but it’s as much or more about lifestyle.

In a regular week, the 30A brand; we do not think of ourselves as a travel or tourism brand. We’re a lifestyle brand that keeps people in touch with the beach when they can’t be there. So, whether you want to talk about Margaritaville or Disney World, you can’t be at Disney World every week. Our target audience is not people who are here on this beach and it’s not people who are coming to this beach next week. Our target audience is the people who wish they could be on the beach, whether it’s this beach, Key West, or whether it’s a fantasy beach in their mind.

So, we’re all about reaching that person who’s landlocked, wherever they may be. We want to reach that person who is having a tough time, be it their mortgage, boss or because they’re freaking out about the pandemic, we’re about giving them a moment of vacation in their minds, even if they can’t be on vacation at the moment. And that’s really what we build our products around. We have 30A Radio, which plays uplifting beach music 24/7; we have recycled apparel, shirts, hats, drinkware; we have all these things that I liken to Corona or Red Stripe, no one drinks Red Stripe beer because it’s great beer, they drink it because it mentally transports them to an island, Jamaica typically. And never mind that it’s brewed in Pennsylvania. It’s a way for them to step away from the pressure of their jobs or anything that is stressful, it enables them to take a beach vacation.

And Beach Happy, the magazine is the same thing. It’s really not about booking immediate plans and coming down to spend a week with us in Florida, we want to bring stories to people that make them happy and make them smile, give them a little bit of relief during what can only be described as some of the most stressful times we’ve seen as a nation in recent memory.

Photo by Lauren Athalia

Samir Husni: How are you going to take this large social media base, the radio base, the merchandising, and curate all of that onto the pages of a printed magazine?

Will Estell: That’s something that we’re still working through, but the positive aspect is that we do have to be concerned about that. In other words, those things exist, so this magazine is not in a startup phase, standing alone, and having to go out there and find Reader One from Day One. It will be more of a pairing of both sides, where the other side of the 30A Company, be it the apparel or the decals, or people following the website to find events; all of that will promote the magazine just as the magazine will promote all of that.

So, we’re being careful within the magazine not to let it come off like a glorified marketing piece or a catalog, if you will, for the 30A Company, but instead to, obviously, show a lot of what we offer and to show what the 30A Company is about, while also integrating that with everything else that has to do with the beach too.

I think in a lot of ways the magazine will be a lot like any other travel magazine, except beach-oriented, it won’t be a heavy push on necessarily promoting only 30A,  just the beach in general. I don’t think we’ll have to do a whole lot different than if we were just launching any travel magazine. It just has the backing of the rest of the brand behind it.

I would also say that obviously, a lot of people who would know about this or hear about this might think that we’re ignoring the fact that we’re a publication that’s launching in what could be deemed a bad time, if nothing else than economically speaking, because it’s no secret that advertisers aren’t jumping through hoops with any publication right now to put ads out there. But we do believe that the lifestyle surrounding the beach will be something that comes back quicker than anything else in our current economic situation.

So, we made that commitment to go ahead and put that issue out like Mike told you, however, we think as soon as everything opens up, advertisers are going to want in the issue. We don’t have any doubts about people buying the issue, but back to Mike’s point about the timing being potentially better than ever, I think after all of us have been cooped up for 30 to 45 days, we haven’t left our homes and we haven’t taken vacations, we haven’t even been able to walk in a store and buy our favorite apparel or anything, everyone is going to be ready for some good news and nothing is better to some people than the whole lifestyle surrounding the beach.

Mike Ragsdale by Peyton Hollis,
Good Grit magazine

Samir Husni: Mike, was creating your company 30A just a walk in a rose garden for you or did you have some challenges along the way?

Mike Ragsdale: It’s interesting, I’ve had a couple of really amazing successes and I’ve absolutely buried those with the failures I’ve had in business. I received my master’s degree in advertising and public relations, but I couldn’t get a job, despite sending out all of the resumes I could send and doing a few interviews, but I just wasn’t able to secure anything. So, I became an entrepreneur by accident and out of necessity to pay the bills, scrounging to stay afloat.

The first business I started was a success, it still took seven or eight years to build it and to exit at the right time, but it was a trial by fire and a wonderful thing to experience as a young person, the ability to grow a company from a literal idea into 70-person operation, then to be able to sell it. It was awesome.

But it was also a curse, because as a young arrogant person who went through that process, you think that was easy, I’ll be able to do that easily enough again. But the reality is that’s not how entrepreneurship works, you can have the best business plan in the world, you can have the best minds and a great idea, but it just doesn’t always work.

I spent the next 10 years just absolutely striking out, having failure after failure. And although it was painful and demoralizing to go through, it also enabled me to understand what things I’m good at and what things I’m not. And to stay away from the things I’m not good at and recruit other people. A great example, there’s not a chance in the world that I would have gotten into the print business if Will was not staying on. This merger would not have happened if Will’s experience wasn’t part of the package, because I don’t want to go in and learn a business; I can’t learn his 20 years of expertise myself. I don’t have that kind of time or inclination.

I have learned some important things and what I have learned is to focus on what I do very well and what I don’t do well, either stay away form or partner with someone who does do it well. And Will certainly does print publications well.

In some ways we’re really looking at Beach Happy as a cooler, hipper version of some of the more traditional publications, such as Coastal Living. I’m not knocking Coastal Living, but one of the things that we’re doing is integrating our audiences. We’re making it more fun, some of the themes we might have are : Five  Beach Beers You Need In Your Cooler This Summer. Fan comments: If This Were Your Beach Ball, What Would You Name It? That way, we make our fans some of the stars in the new publication.

It’s not a catalog; it’s not a 30A mouthpiece, and it’s not even about the particular stretch of beach we live on. I tell our team all the time, we’re like Coastal Living, we just happened to headquartered on a beach as opposed to being headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. But being on our beach doesn’t mean we can’t share incredible stories from Bali or Turkey or Ecuador or other beaches around the world.

Will Estell

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

Will Estell: The only thing I would add is for all the negativity and all the doom and gloom that’s talked about in the industry, and I know you’re a huge advocate for the growth and continued success of magazines, what we’re doing with this and what a lot of the companies that have learned to survive are doing is we’re finding new ways to get our message out, still be a magazine, but do it in  different ways.

And one of those is all the ways we have of reaching people through digital means. It’s no secret that Beach Happy magazine will reach a lot more readers digitally than in print. Although we hope to grow the print way beyond what I ever had with Beaches Resorts & Parks. I’m saying all this because everyone in the industry, no matter what point they’re at, whether they’re an editor in chief or writer coming right out of school or a publisher in the business for 20 years, everyone has to rethink how we’re doing things. I would love to hear an end to the doom and gloom and just have more people think about new ways to do stuff. And that’s with every industry, not just  magazines.

We’re thinking positive; the sky is the limit. We believe this publication can do better right now  than it would have done 10 years ago. And I think more people in our industry need to have that kind of mindset with what they’re doing.

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

Mike Ragsdale: Right now, of course, I’m concerned during my waking hours about the fact that we have a business that’s struggling like everyone is. Our three stores are closed; our 380 wholesale partner stores are closed; our digital advertisers, from restaurants to rental companies are shut down. And so we’re not expecting to see them paying any bills.

We just launched this new endeavor, which again might seem like strange timing, but as Will said, this has been in the works for a very long time. We looked at it and we could have all walked away, but the reality is the world needs optimism. I’m not saying that in some philosophical, mumbo-jumbo kind of way, I’m saying just like fast-food found an anecdote by offering organic, free-range healthy alternatives, we’re going to be one of the first movers in providing a healthy information alternative to all of the toxic news and information that we consume every, single day.

This is an immense business opportunity. We’re going to start to see that information is causing slowly and in small bites, in fact, so slowly we don’t even realize it, to affect our minds. Once those studies start to come out, once we realize the suicides and depression are related to the ingestion of information, people are going to be unplugging. We’re already seeing that happen on our own, but they will be seeking healthy sources of information. And positive sources of information.

So, we view Beach Happy as being right in that first mover just as if someone was coming out with the first free-range organic product on the grocery aisle. We’re going to be one of those first movers to give people a sense of hope and optimism and a sense of escapism on a crowded shelf, competing with people who are peddling in scandal, sensationalism and division.

Will Estell: I go to bed at night and many times lay there for about two hours. The last time, for example, that I looked at my phone this morning was about 2:00 a.m. and I fell asleep right after that.

But all that to say, I do not lay in bed and worry about things. I don’t lay in bed and worry about the fact that the world has stopped spinning for a period of time right now. I don’t worry about the fact that we’re not out selling advertisers left and right. Now that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about those things, but I have learned to be more solution-oriented in my thinking than problematic. It takes the same amount of energy to find a solution than worry about the problem.

So, I stay up at night, but I am brainstorming mostly. I’m thinking of a new article to write or a new way to reach people or how to do something no one else has done, even within our industry. Coming up with something that hasn’t been done does occupy my thoughts.

You will never find a piece of negative information within the pages of Beach Happy. There will not be an interview where we put someone down.  And I think people are ready for that. And that’s what keeps me up at night.

If there’s any negativity in my world right now, even with what we’re going through with this pandemic, it would be that I have three children, one in Atlanta, Georgia, one in Birmingham, Ala. and one that lives with his mom in Oxford, Ala. And the only thing that does keep me up at night from a negative standpoint is the fact that I haven’t been able to see them through this for about six weeks now. Other than that, nothing negative on my part.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.  

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Bauer Media Group’s President & CEO, Steven Kotok, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni On Publishing During A Pandemic: “It’s Just About Keeping That Human Connection.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

April 2, 2020

“Publishing During A Pandemic” Part 4

“So far so good, but it’s still pretty early. But it’s still the same going forward. The weeklies are weekly; the 17 times per year are still 17 times per year; the SIPs are on sale for three months, so there’s ample opportunity for shoppers, even if they’re in the stores less or more to run across them. And if they fit their needs, they will still fit. The topics we cover: inspiration, health, food, are just as relevant now. Other areas, like news, there’s more interest in maybe other things, where there’s less interest in some, but I think for us our core pillars are just as relevant.” … Steven Kotok (On changing any of Bauer’s publishing schedules at the moment)

Bauer Media publishes two of the largest selling magazines on the newsstands: Woman’s World and First for Women. One is published weekly and the other 17 times a year, so publishing schedules are tight, even when the world isn’t the uncertain place it is today.

Steven Kotok is president and CEO of Bauer Media Group USA. Bauer’s focus through this whole tragic pandemic has been the safety of its employees and staying engaged with its audiences. According to Steven the transition to working from home was a lot of work, but went surprisingly well and now they’re just concentrating on producing the same quality content and connecting with their readers. As far as changing anything about their publishing schedules right now, he said everything was, “So far so good, but it’s still pretty early.”

Steven also adds that Bauer is a family company in every sense of the word, with a fifth generation of ownership, and taking care of its employees and readers is paramount during this precarious time in everyone’s life. Be it business or personal, the company cares about what’s going on in everyone’s lives. He believes that keeping that human connection will see them through, after all, that has been Bauer’s core since the beginning.

So, please enjoy this fourth in a series of  Mr. Magazine™ interviews on Publishing During A Pandemic with Steven Kotok, president and CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

But first the sound-bites:

On the status of Bauer Media during this pandemic: It certainly took a lot of work, but it was surprisingly smooth migrating to 100 percent working from home. Things happened a lot faster than we expected. I think it’s been about three weeks ago that we set a week where every department was going to have a practice day from home. We planned this in advance, but that practice day actually became everyone’s first day working from home. No one came back after that. Things definitely overtook us in a rapid way, but we’d done enough planning that in a sense it was, I don’t want to say seamless because everyone put so much hard work into it, but it wasn’t very disruptive because of the level of planning that we’d done.

On any change in Bauer’s publishing schedules or frequencies: So far so good, but it’s still pretty early. But it’s still the same going forward. The weeklies are weekly; the 17 times per year are still 17 times per year; the SIPs are on sale for three months, so there’s ample opportunity for shoppers, even if they’re in the stores less or more to run across them. And if they fit their needs, they will still fit. The topics we cover: inspiration, health, food, are just as relevant now. Other areas, like news, there’s more interest in maybe other things, where there’s less interest in some, but I think for us our core pillars are just as relevant.

On whether having titles on newsstands in supermarkets is a blessing in disguise for Bauer since grocery stores are remaining open: It’s definitely not a blessing in any way, because of how negative it is, but I would say that it has changed patterns. And as far as newsstand, a lot of the disruption is definitely in travel and terminals, that sort of thing. But we’re still pretty early into this thing right now. We’re not seeing a lot of ups or downs. In Europe they’re seeing some lifts in their television magazines and puzzle magazines. Here, it may just be too early.

 On what message he would send out to his staff, readers and advertisers during this pandemic: Number one is that Bauer is a family company in every sense of the word. We’re fifth generation ownership, but we’re also a company that’s had some of the same people who have worked for us since the ‘80s. First and foremost, it’s family first and people have to take care of their families and make sure that their families are safe. That’s always been a part of who we are; we’re very serious about business, but we want to do it in a way that the families can be taken care of. And that’s number one.

On whether he had ever imagined anything like the pandemic happening in all his years of publishing: Certainly not something like this, but I think in publishing these muscles are pretty well developed for people in all types of media. It’s an industry that has seen a lot of rapid change and a lot of challenges, so whether it was 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis or just the structural changes that have been going on, this is an industry that’s really built up those muscles of adaptation. I believe we’re well able to adapt to this new business reality. There are only so many times you can be shocked at a sudden change.

On whether he thinks once the pandemic is over, it will force the industry to change, such as in the logistics of publishing: That’s a good question. I think there’s certainly a lot of things, such as if we were going to all move to work from home on purpose, we probably would have planned it after a year. Then here we are doing it basically in one week’s notice. I do think a lot of rapid changes that seemed large can really happen swiftly, but I believe it all depends on the consumer. We’re in the business of reaching and engaging with the consumer, so if consumer behavior changes in some material way, that would change the industry.

On anything he’d like to add: Just on the working from home front, the last company I worked with, we were 100 percent from home and I learned a lot from that. For our business at least, we ask the managers that the first thing they do each day is spend 15 minutes with their team in a little group, and I think that human connection is important. We’re not together physically, but we can still start the day with a check-in, whether it’s on business or just personal stuff, just getting that point of contact.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Kotok, president and CEO, Bauer Media Group USA.

Samir Husni: What is the status of Bauer Media during this pandemic?

Steven Kotok: It certainly took a lot of work, but it was surprisingly smooth migrating to 100 percent working from home. Things happened a lot faster than we expected. I think it’s been about three weeks ago that we set a week where every department was going to have a practice day from home. We planned this in advance, but that practice day actually became everyone’s first day working from home. No one came back after that. Things definitely overtook us in a rapid way, but we’d done enough planning that in a sense it was, I don’t want to say seamless because everyone put so much hard work into it, but it wasn’t very disruptive because of the level of planning that we’d done.

Samir Husni: Any change in plans in terms of your publishing schedules; any change in frequency or so far so good?

Steven Kotok:  So far so good, but it’s still pretty early. But it’s still the same going forward. The weeklies are weekly; the 17 times per year are still 17 times per year; the SIPs are on sale for three months, so there’s ample opportunity for shoppers, even if they’re in the stores less or more to run across them. And if they fit their needs, they will still fit. The topics we cover: inspiration, health, food, are just as relevant now. Other areas, like news, there’s more interest in maybe other things, where there’s less interest in some, but I think for us our core pillars are just as relevant.

Samir Husni: Is this a sword with two edges for you? Most of your sales are on newsstands in supermarkets, which are still open. Is it a blessing in disguise that you have titles in grocery stores?

Steven Kotok: It’s definitely not a blessing in any way, because of how negative it is, but I would say that it has changed patterns. And as far as newsstand, a lot of the disruption is definitely in travel and terminals, that sort of thing. But we’re still pretty early into this thing right now. We’re not seeing a lot of ups or downs. In Europe they’re seeing some lifts in their television magazines and puzzle magazines. Here, it may just be too early.

We have a travel page and obviously we’re treating that a little less actionable and more aspirational, something you might want to dream about, rather than like you’re going to take a trip next month. It’s not a blessing in disguise, certainly, but it may just be too early to see the effect.

Samir Husni: What message would you send out to your staff, readers and advertisers during this pandemic?

Steven Kotok:  Number one is that Bauer is a family company in every sense of the word. We’re fifth generation ownership, but we’re also a company that’s had some of the same people who have worked for us since the ‘80s. First and foremost, it’s family first and people have to take care of their families and make sure that their families are safe. That’s always been a part of who we are; we’re very serious about business, but we want to do it in a way that the families can be taken care of. And that’s number one.

Number two comes out of that. Part of being a family company and having five generations of ownership is, we’re not a public company; we’re debt free and owned by the family, so we think in terms of decades and generations. Our strategy hasn’t changed and that’s not by default, that’s by an act of decision from the top that has been discussed. As unfortunate as this is, this strategy of our business and our ability to reach people and to be paid for the content that we produce, and to connect with our audience, all of that remains. If ad budgets are different in Q2 or Q3; if store traffic is up or down, we don’t see anything changing about the long-term trend.

It really is being a family company that permeates everything, in our concerns for the employees and their families and in how we approach this, as a generational project more than a quarter to quarter project.

Samir Husni: In all your years in publishing, did you ever imagine anything like this would happen?

Steven Kotok: Certainly not something like this, but I think in publishing these muscles are pretty well developed for people in all types of media. It’s an industry that has seen a lot of rapid change and a lot of challenges, so whether it was 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis or just the structural changes that have been going on, this is an industry that’s really built up those muscles of adaptation. I believe we’re well able to adapt to this new business reality. There are only so many times you can be shocked at a sudden change.

The human cost and the human factors are very shocking when you hear some of the numbers of the potential toll, but from a business perspective, as much as this is something that we never certainly foresaw, it’s not out of the range of types of challenges that we’ve faced at a business level. I certainly wish it was more of a financial crisis than a health crisis, in terms of the human toll of the people in this country, but from a pure business perspective, I think all of us in this industry have become accustomed to facing unexpected challenges.

It’s not  that we’re frozen and don’t know what to do, we all know what to do, the specifics of how we execute. The tactics we’ll have to figure out as we go. I don’t think anyone expected that we’d all be working from home, but that  level of change is something that as an industry we’re at least, emotionally prepared for.

Samir Husni: Once this pandemic is behind us, do you think it will force the industry to change, as far as maybe the new logistics of publishing?

Steven Kotok: That’s a good question. I think there’s certainly a lot of things, such as if we were going to all move to work from home on purpose, we probably would have planned it after a year. Then here we are doing it basically in one week’s notice. I do think a lot of rapid changes that seemed large can really happen swiftly, but I believe it all depends on the consumer. We’re in the business of reaching and engaging with the consumer, so if consumer behavior changes in some material way, that would change the industry.

I don’t think our production processes and so forth would necessarily change. Because even though we were working in our offices, things had become so electronic that moving files from editor to an art director, even if those people are sitting farther away, those processes were already in place and completely digitized.

So, I think the big question that, whether it’s Coca-Cola or a magazine company, how will this impact consumer behavior. That remains to be seen. I don’t think any of  us know the answer to that, but in terms of how we operate, I don’t think that’s going to change drastically. We need to adapt to whatever consumer behavioral changes are coming, but I don’t know that anyone knows what those are going to be.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add? Any words of wisdom?

Steven Kotok: Just on the working from home front, the last company I worked with, we were 100 percent from home and I learned a lot from that. For our business at least, we ask the managers that the first thing they do each day is spend 15 minutes with their team in a little group, and I think that human connection is important. We’re not together physically, but we can still start the day with a check-in, whether it’s on business or just personal stuff, just getting that point of contact.

As far as words of wisdom, we have to keep that human connection with our employees and our readers. In our case, with our ownership, Mrs. Bauer has really spoken from the heart about what this business means to her and how much she appreciates what everyone has done to adapt. If there are any words of wisdom, it’s just about keeping that human connection, whether it’s with the people you work with or whether it’s with the readers who really keep the whole thing running.  That’s been our focus, even though it’s how we operated already, and in a time of crisis you reach for your core. And our core is human connection and audience engagement. And it’s more important now than ever, throughout the organization.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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January & February Welcomes 15 New Titles… The Mr. Magazine™ Launch Monitor

March 2, 2020

We celebrated a New Year and a New decade in January and now February has come and gone and we have 15 wonderful new titles to also celebrate!

Easyriders has been around since 1970 and documents the stories of riders, their machines, and the places they take us. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the newly, relaunched magazine is expanding the brand to include exclusive product collaborations and new insider events. The magazine (now printed in a larger size and with more editorial pages), has changed from monthly to quarterly, but will excite and tantalize the bike lover even more with all those extra editorial pages! Remember the tagline? It’s more than a magazine, it’s a lifestyle!

Founder and Editor in Chief, Chris Walsh, describes Fifty Grande as a biannual that explores the U.S. and does good along the way. The first issue features seasoned writers and new ones alike exploring the main theme of hometowns. This new magazine’s mission is to inspire more people to take advantage of all the incredible places and experiences across the country, connect with its communities and do good along the way. This is a magazine for the fun and adventurous—those who aspire to a life well-lived and see traveling, open-mindedness and new experiences central to that pursuit. Welcome to the world of magazines, Fifty Grande!

 

From Meredith another successful partnership seems to have been born! The largest and leading media and marketing company, reaching 185 million American consumers every month and nearly 90 percent of U.S. millennial women—and globally recognized lifestyle tastemakers Drew and Jonathan Scott have joined forces to create a new quarterly magazine called Reveal. With its tagline —”It all starts at home”— Reveal will share the twin brothers’ “dream big” philosophy on life, and will infuse ideas and storytelling that inspire personal growth and happiness into every issue with home at the core. Welcome to the fold, Reveal!

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands!!

***And please remember, if Mr. Magazine™ can’t physically hold, touch and purchase the magazine, it does not enter the monthly counts. And counts now include only the titles with a regular frequency that are either new, first-seen on Mr. Magazine’s™ radar, or arriving to the national newsstands for the first time. 

 

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Fifty Grande: A Unique Travel Magazine With A New Outlook On Exploring The Fifty States – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Chris Walsh, Founder & Editor In Chief…

February 12, 2020

“I definitely wanted something that was kind of an offline, unplugged experience. We have that visceral reaction. I love magazines and we have that visceral reaction when we touch something; when we touch a magazine. And I definitely wanted to try and capture that. That’s part of the reason for the special box it comes in; it should feel like an event when something shows up at your door. It’s kind of all of these things in one, but ultimately I love magazines and that’s why I started it.”… Chris Walsh

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Combining food, music and travel, Fifty Grande has got you covered if you’re interested in a different kind of travel magazine, one that concentrates solely on the U.S. and offers a unique take on the look, feel and content of a magazine.

Founder and Editor in Chief, Chris Walsh, says that Fifty Grande is a biannual that explores the U.S. and does good along the way. The first issue features seasoned writers and new ones alike exploring the main theme of hometowns. Chris adds that the magazine’s mission is to inspire more people to take advantage of all the incredible places and experiences across the country, connect with its communities and do good along the way. This is a magazine for the fun and adventurous—those who aspire to a life well-lived and see traveling, open-mindedness and new experiences central to that pursuit.

I spoke with Chris recently and we talked about this new title that arrives to its readers in a box, which Chris hopes will present to people the unique experience he is trying to achieve with each issue, which explores the country through one theme, offering immersive stories from a variety of voices and perspectives. You can expect in-depth articles, essays, oral histories, roundtables, Q&As, photo essays, travelogues and more, about every phase of traveling: planning, getting there, staying, doing, and recovering. Chris adds that since food and music are integral to traveling, and community and good citizenship are both important when viewing the world, the magazine uses all four as cornerstones for its coverage in each issue.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chris Walsh, founder and editor in chief, Fifty Grande magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the idea behind Fifty Grande magazine: The idea came about in a definite slow-build. I had been thinking about it for a couple of years. And as odd as it might sound, I think the travel market is actually underserved. You know there are many travel brands out there; there are many that are focused on the one percent, the ultra-luxury market and then there are a bunch of others that really focus on kind of niche parts, but I really felt there was an opportunity because there isn’t a travel magazine out there that really spoke to me, something that incorporated travel, music and food. And something that regular people can afford, a middle of the market type travel experience.

On the special box that the magazine comes in and how it feels like an event: That’s exactly what I was hoping for, that it becomes an event when people get it and they really enjoy the experience. It is meant to be an event on someone’s calendar. I hope to grow it to be a quarterly, and I really want people to be excited about it when they know that it’s coming.

On the fresh design: Design is as important an anything else. I’m an editorial guy, so I went to journalism graduate school at Columbia. I worked at magazines and online editorial teams, so I love the storytelling part of all of this, but design is so important. When you look at the newsstand, one of the things that I felt was lacking in the travel category was a travel magazine that had a travel feel. Traveling is fun and exciting. Sometimes when you look at what’s out there, the aesthetics are aspirational, but also sometimes very cold, just in scenery, such as just one person laying in a pool. Since travel is fun, the design of the magazine needs to be fun.

On his targeted audience: It’s for anyone who feels like they’re still trying to connect to an adventurous spirit. The magazine is really aimed at millennials, people in their 20s and 30s, who enjoy traveling. Those people will find something in here that they will like. Some of the reactions that I’ve gotten so far have also been from couples who have now moved out of their urban areas and are still trying to connect to their prior lives, either traveling or listening to music, so there’s a little bit of that and that doesn’t really surprise me. It’s really aimed at travelers in their 20s and 30s who are just trying to find places that might be fun to see and to visit.

On implementing the idea of Fifty Grande: I did a lot of research and I kept coming back to two ideas which were a travel magazine, which actually came to life, and then some sort of either online magazine or a magazine focused on New England; I’m from New England. And the more I focused on that second idea, the more I realized either I thought the market was covered or just the economics really didn’t work. And then I gradually started to come back to the idea of the travel magazine more and more.

On the biggest challenge he was able to overcome: To be honest with you, it was on the design side. For me, putting together a magazine is fun, coming up with the concepts, talking to the writers and working on those stories, that’s the fun part, but the design side – I had a very specific look and feel in my mind and what I was hoping would come to life. And this is what was in my head. This is what I wanted. So, finding someone who understood that was really the tough part. And it was just me talking to a lot of people. I worked on this idea for more than a year before I even began to plan the first issue. So, I talked to a lot of creative people and it just took me a long time to figure that piece out, because that wasn’t something that I had done before or was comfortable doing on my own.

On his happiest moment during the creation of the first issue: When the pallets showed up at my apartment. The first run was 5,000 magazines and of that 5,000, I had 500 shipped to my apartment in New York. So, I was just waiting around for a truck one morning and when the truck rolled down my street and these guys popped off the back of it and took a pallet and put it on the sidewalk in front of my building, that was kind of the most surreal and happiest moment for me. Again, going back to this physical thing we all love, the magazine, opening the boxes and pulling it out. It probably sounds very cliché, but it was a really happy and nice moment.

On his $28 per year subscription price and the fact that he is looking for an engaged audience not just skimmers: Yes, absolutely. And that’s what the whole idea is behind the editorial. You have to enjoy reading and you have to enjoy magazines to really like Fifty Grande. A lot of people keep asking me am I going to put it online and change the edit to make it shorter, but I’m not interested in doing that. The stories in the magazine aren’t even that long. I think the longest story was maybe 2,300 words. And maybe the shortest was around 500. But the average is somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 words, but it is considered long-form when it comes to the online media out there. So, I do think you have to enjoy reading stories in order to enjoy Fifty Grande and get the most out of it.

On where the name Fifty Grande came from: Fifty, in reference to the states, obviously, and Grande, just trying to come up with something that was quasi-inspirational, and Grande just speaks to the vastness of the country, which I think gets lost in the conversation a lot when you talk about traveling in America, there’s just so much here. I keep saying there’s a whole world to see in the country. And of course, there was the very pragmatic issues of could I get the web domain and the trademark and all of that.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I think I’m much more reserved than I think I am, that’s some of the feedback that I get about myself. More reserved, quiet and laid-back when I actually think I’m being quite high-strung. So, people thinking that I’m not engaged when I’m really engaged might be something, but other than that I don’t have anything too top of mind.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m definitely with my daughter; I have a two-½-year-old and I actually have another one on the way. I’m an older dad, I’m 48, and I have a very young daughter, obviously, so I’m sort of playing catch-up with being a dad, but I love it so much. So, I spend tons of time with my daughter, both on the weekends and right after work. I tend to work on this magazine after she goes to bed, from around 8:00 p.m. until midnight. And I typically work on it early in the morning before I leave for work; I have a regular full-time job as well.

On what keeps him up at night: The magazine and just trying to get the word out, really. And I think I underestimated how difficult marketing a magazine really is; I mean, I knew it was difficult, I never had any misconceptions that it would be easy, but the retail aspect… for one, I don’t know a lot about it, so I’m learning, which is nice. I could have 10 people working on retail full-time and I don’t think it would be enough. So, thinking about how to get the magazine out into the world and how to get people to really understand what I’m trying to do is what keeps me up all the time.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Chris Walsh, founder and editor in chief, Fifty Grande magazine.

Samir Husni: What’s the idea behind your new magazine, Fifty Grande?

Chris Walsh: The idea came about in a definite slow-build. I had been thinking about it for a couple of years. And as odd as it might sound, I think the travel market is actually underserved. You know there are many travel brands out there; there are many that are focused on the one percent, the ultra-luxury market and then there are a bunch of others that really focus on kind of niche parts, but I really felt there was an opportunity because there isn’t a travel magazine out there that really spoke to me, something that incorporated travel, music and food. And something that regular people can afford, a middle of the market type travel experience.

I also felt that there wasn’t a huge focus on the U.S. There are many parts of the U.S. that are vastly under the radar for a lot of people. That was what was top of mind for this, and the other part of it was kind of a reaction to how web content has developed over the past 10 years. And what I mean by that is, I feel like there are a lot of great travel online media companies out there, but there’s also an onslaught of online lists and Top Tens, so I felt there was another opportunity there to offer a different editorial, deeper stories and different stories.

And I definitely wanted something that was kind of an offline, unplugged experience. We have that visceral reaction. I love magazines and we have that visceral reaction when we touch something; when we touch a magazine. And I definitely wanted to try and capture that. That’s part of the reason for the special box it comes in; it should feel like an event when something shows up at your door. It’s kind of all of these things in one, but ultimately I love magazines and that’s why I started it.

Samir Husni: You mentioned the packaging; when my copy arrived, it felt more like that special event that you just spoke about. Like I needed to sit down and read it cover to cover, and even enjoy the box itself.

Chris Walsh: Thanks so much. That’s exactly what I was hoping for, that it becomes an event when people get it and they really enjoy the experience. It is meant to be an event on someone’s calendar. I hope to grow it to be a quarterly, and I really want people to be excited about it when they know that it’s coming.

Samir Husni: The design is very fresh…with a few Easter Eggs scattered throughout, such as a plug page in the magazine with the good old-fashioned ads that you put on billboards.

Chris Walsh: To me, design is as important as anything else. I’m an editorial guy, I went to journalism graduate school at Columbia. I worked at magazines and with online editorial teams, so I love the storytelling part of all of this, but design is also very important. When I looked at the newsstand, one of the things that I felt was lacking in the travel category was a travel magazine that had a travel feel. Traveling is fun and exciting. Sometimes when you look at what’s out there, the aesthetics are aspirational, but also sometimes very cold, just in scenery, such as one person lying in a pool. Since travel is fun, the design of the magazine needs to be fun. And hopefully a little bit reverent. I don’t know if we’ve gotten there yet, but we’re certainly aiming for that. We were definitely trying to put a few Easter Eggs in there too and we’ll be doing more of that going forward.

Samir Husni: With the content, who is your targeted audience for the magazine?

Chris Walsh: It’s for anyone who feels like they’re still trying to connect to an adventurous spirit. The magazine is really aimed at millennials, people in their 20s and 30s, who enjoy traveling. Those people will find something in here that they will like. Some of the reactions that I’ve gotten so far have also been from couples who have now moved out of their urban areas and are still trying to connect to their prior lives, either traveling or listening to music, so there’s a little bit of that and that doesn’t really surprise me. It’s really aimed at travelers in their 20s and 30s who are just trying to find places that might be fun to see and to visit.

I think there is a natural crossover with music, food and travel. And you don’t often see that coverage in travel media. So, I think anyone with those interests, especially the three of them combined, would be very interested in this magazine.

The idea with the hometowns issue was I was trying to take this very big topic, the United States, and then somehow try to make it smaller for the first issue so that people could get their heads around it and also for the people writing the stories to get their heads around it too. That was the most insightful, yet personal, theme that I could come up with. So I used the Hometowns issue as a starting point and I hope each issue gets better from here on out with different themes and topics.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the actual implementation of the magazine.

Chris Walsh: I did a lot of research and I kept coming back to two ideas which were a travel magazine, which actually came to life, and then some sort of either online magazine or a magazine focused on New England; I’m from New England. And the more I focused on that second idea, the more I realized either I thought the market was covered or just the economics really didn’t work. And then I gradually started to come back to the idea of the travel magazine more and more.

And I just started talking to people. I partnered with research teams in my past jobs, so I started doing research with a friend and then on my own, just talking with people about travel magazines and what they want from them. And like I said earlier, I honestly feel, as odd as it sounds, because there are so many travel magazines out there and so many travel properties, I think the market is underserved in this area. I think there is the opportunity to focus on the mid-market, the upper mid-market of hotels and experiences and do it in a fun way. I’m not saying that we’re the best travel magazine out there, but we certainly can be different and that’s what I’m shooting for. A different look and feel and a different editorial. Something that stands out and is fun.

Samir Husni: What was the biggest challenge that you’ve been able to overcome?

Chris Walsh: To be honest with you, it was on the design side. For me, putting together a magazine is fun, coming up with the concepts, talking to the writers and working on those stories, that’s the fun part, but the design side – I had a very specific look and feel in my mind and what I was hoping would come to life. And this is what was in my head. This is what I wanted. So, finding someone who understood that was really the tough part. And it was just me talking to a lot of people. I worked on this idea for more than a year before I even began to plan the first issue. So, I talked to a lot of creative people and it just took me a long time to figure that piece out, because that wasn’t something that I had done before or was comfortable doing on my own.

So someone coming in and being able to articulate what was needed for stories and to just understand and get in sync with me was probably the most challenging part, finding the right person, but once we began talking, we moved very quickly.

Samir Husni: What was your happiest moment during the creation of this first issue?

Chris Walsh: When the pallets showed up at my apartment. The first run was 5,000 magazines and of that 5,000, I had 500 shipped to my apartment in New York. So, I was just waiting around for a truck one morning and when the truck rolled down my street and these guys popped off the back of it and took a pallet and put it on the sidewalk in front of my building, that was kind of the most surreal and happiest moment for me. Again, going back to this physical thing we all love, the magazine, opening the boxes and pulling it out. It probably sounds very cliché, but it was a really happy and nice moment.

Samir Husni: I see your subscription price is $28 per year, which shows that it’s not a magazine for skimmers, you’re looking for an engaged audience.

Chris Walsh: Yes, absolutely. And that’s what the whole idea is behind the editorial. You have to enjoy reading and you have to enjoy magazines to really like Fifty Grande. A lot of people keep asking me am I going to put it online and change the edit to make it shorter, but I’m not interested in doing that. The stories in the magazine aren’t even that long. I think the longest story was maybe 2,300 words. And maybe the shortest was around 500. But the average is somewhere between 1,100 and 1,500 words, but it is considered long-form when it comes to the online media out there. So, I do think you have to enjoy reading stories in order to enjoy Fifty Grande and get the most out of it.

I’m hoping that I engage a certain type of reader who is looking to approach travel in a different way. And someone who enjoys reading and who enjoys fun design.

Samir Husni: Where did the name “Fifty Grande” come from?

Chris Walsh: Fifty, in reference to the states, obviously, and Grande, just trying to come up with something that was quasi-inspirational, and Grande just speaks to the vastness of the country, which I think gets lost in the conversation a lot when you talk about traveling in America, there’s just so much here. I keep saying there’s a whole world to see in the country. And of course, there was the very pragmatic issues of could I get the web domain and the trademark and all of that.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Chris Walsh: I think I’m much more reserved than I think I am, that’s some of the feedback that I get about myself. More reserved, quiet and laid-back when I actually think I’m being quite high-strung. So, people thinking that I’m not engaged when I’m really engaged might be something, but other than that I don’t have anything too top of mind.

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; or something else? How do you unwind?

Chris Walsh: I’m definitely with my daughter; I have a two-½-year-old and I actually have another one on the way. I’m an older dad, I’m 48, and I have a very young daughter, obviously, so I’m sort of playing catch-up with being a dad, but I love it so much. So, I spend tons of time with my daughter, both on the weekends and right after work. I tend to work on this magazine after she goes to bed, from around 8:00 p.m. until midnight. And I typically work on it early in the morning before I leave for work; I have a regular full-time job as well.

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

Chris Walsh: The magazine and just trying to get the word out, really. And I think I underestimated how difficult marketing a magazine really is; I mean, I knew it was difficult, I never had any misconceptions that it would be easy, but the retail aspect… for one, I don’t know a lot about it, so I’m learning, which is nice. I could have 10 people working on retail full-time and I don’t think it would be enough. So, thinking about how to get the magazine out into the world and how to get people to really understand what I’m trying to do is what keeps me up all the time.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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HempGrower Magazine: A New Title From GIE Media, A Company That Strongly Believes Print Is Still A Very Engaging Platform – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jim Gilbride, Publisher & Noelle Skodzinski, Editorial Director, HempGrower Magazine…

January 20, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“When we launched our online products only, while it’s a nice introduction to the marketplace, your engagement online skyrockets when you launch your print magazine. It is one cohesive brand that touches all of these different areas of the marketplace. You can’t build a digital product without a print product. It’s a fully integrated approach of delivering content in as many ways that we can to our audience to grow our brand. I don’t believe the digital businesses will be as successful in the B to B space without a print magazine.” …Jim Gilbride

“If the content is good and it’s what people need, they will read it, regardless of the format. So, we’re providing in print, content that we know people need and will want. Whether it’s online or in print or at our conference, it’s all content that will help these people and their businesses. So, I agree with Jim, I don’t think print is dead. There are challenges with newsstand publications, but that’s a different model than we have. We are going to these people; we’re sending it directly to them and if the content resonates, they’re going to read it and be engaged with it.” …Noelle Skodzinski

A new title from GIE Media, HempGrower magazine’s mission is to support legal hemp cultivators by providing actionable intelligence in all aspects of the business—from regulatory news to analysis of industry trends and business strategy, as well as expert advice on cultivation, extraction, marketing, financial topics, legal issues and more. And while many companies are shying away from print, GIE is in the business of investing in quality content and new print titles, such as their latest, HempGrower.

Jim Gilbride is group publisher and Noelle Skodzinski is editorial director, and both have long-standing experience with the B to B marketplace and the world of cannabis, in general, having Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary magazines under their belts, as well as an annual conference that they’re both anticipating with a brimming excitement. I spoke with Jim and Noelle recently, and while the world of hemp growing has now become a legal enterprise, both realize the challenge of this type of product and the importance of accuracy and absolute adherence to federal regulations when it comes to publishing. But they also thrive on those challenges and the excitement of quality content with the magazine.

The  next huge conference is coming up in April and Jim and Noelle are doubly excited by the opportunities that are on the horizon. Offering their loyal readership another revenue source with HempGrower is definitely a check-yes box for them.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview about a new B to B magazine that is determined to bring correct and factual content to the world of hemp growers and all that are interested in this new, now legal, market.

But first the sound-bites:

On what he attributes the growth of his company to and the ability to add magazines, rather than losing them (Jim Gilbride): What separates us from the pack is, one, investment. We make sure that we spend a lot of money investing in quality content and editorial; quality graphic design; quality tools to build online and engage our readership. So, continuing to not cut any of those areas when a lot of publishing businesses cut back in graphics and editorial, things like that, we redoubled our efforts back in 2009 when the economy crashed to continue to invest in quality. Our number one job in any market that we serve is to educate our reader and help their businesses thrive. So, I would say that is one of the attributions.

On whether he believes it makes a difference in today’s world between being family-owned or owned by a group of investors or venture capitalists (Jim Gilbride): Yes. I believe that when we get into a marketplace, we embed ourselves and become part of that marketplace. And our family-owned business supports us and gives us good careers in being embedded in that marketplace. In the pest control marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 40 years. In the recycling marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 25 years. I’ve been here for 15 years. So, that longevity and being able to intimately be a part of a marketplace and to learn the ins and outs of that market; GIE Media over our 40-year history has never sold anything. When we decide to get into a marketplace, we’re in it for the long haul. And we’re going to make the long-term investments to make sure that we’re successful. We don’t want to be number two in any market that we’re in.

On whether moving from the cannabis business to the hemp business offers her a different high, pun intended (Noelle Skodzinski): (Laughs) There are a lot of similarities. Hemp has been experiencing prohibition for 82 years, so it’s the same kind of situation that all cannabis has been in. This market is newly legal in the United States. And there is an extreme mood right now for information, for all of the hemp farmers. And it doesn’t matter what they’re growing, whether it be CBD or seeds, grain or fiber, they need information now. They need to navigate the regulations; they need to navigate the marketplace; the supply and demand issues. We also kind of planned things in a timely fashion so that we’re reaching people when they need information the most. And then we evolve with the industry.

On the logic behind starting HempGrower online first and then getting into print (Jim Gilbride): The reason we did it is because, one, it’s pretty simple to get an online product up and running. So, we’re able to move a lot faster. And then once you have that up and running, you start to drive awareness and engagement for the print product that’s coming. I think they actually launched at the same time, you could say, but the reason that we launched online first is to market the product and create some demand before the print product hits the marketplace.

On many people saying that in the B to B category print is no longer needed (Jim Gilbride): I think it’s just not true because just look at the success we’ve had. When we launched our online products only, while it’s a nice introduction to the marketplace, your engagement online skyrockets when you launch your print magazine. It is one cohesive brand that touches all of these different areas of the marketplace. You can’t build a digital product without a print product. It’s a fully integrated approach of delivering content in as many ways that we can to our audience to grow our brand. I don’t believe the digital businesses will be as successful in the B to B space without a print magazine.

On why he thinks their business model is thriving, while magazines such as High Times are considering filing for bankruptcy (Jim Gilbride): I see High Times as more of a consumer magazine and I think it’s somewhere around $100 million in debt, so they’re trying to figure out their business model. We’re a vertical market, business to business publisher, and so that’s two very different businesses. We’re not going after the consumer market, we’re going after the legal businesses in those states that are operating legally, so we have a very engaged audience. We’ve had growers and dispensaries to say when they got their license, the first piece of mail they received was Cannabis Business Times and that they had been loyal readers since day one. So, we’re not trying to fight that consumer push, we’re all about B to B. I can’t speak to why they are thinking about folding or why they’re unsuccessful; all I can say is we’re two different things, consumer versus B to B media.

On what’s next for the company(Jim Gilbride): What’s next? Well, we have a large conference where we bring our engaged readership from all three brands together, which also brings all of our contributors and a lot of our board members and some really high quality speakers together at the Paris Las Vegas in April, which is another touchpoint for all of our brands. So our really engaged readership that likes to read the quality content in our magazine can meet all these folks and sit in a session for 45 minutes and learn about how to make their business more profitable. And learn about how to get into the business and when to license and how to invest in the business. So, gearing up for that will probably take up a lot of the first part of our year. And after that, we’ll see.

On whether dealing with cannabis and hemp as subject matter makes their jobs easier or harder (Noelle Skodzinski): I would say this is the most challenging position I’ve held, largely because of federal regulations. Editorially speaking, we have to make sure that every single thing that we publish is accurate. And I know that’s the goal of any editor, but with businesses that are in a regulatory gray area, where it may be legal in your state, but not legal federally, there are still towns that have moratoriums or bans on cannabis businesses, so we have to make sure that the information that we publish is up-to-date, that it’s accurate.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Jim Gilbride): I’m not a wind down kind of guy. I kind of love chaos. I have three little kids, so last night I fell asleep on my daughter’s floor (Laughs), because I was so burned out from the last two weeks. If I wind down I have to get away with my wife, otherwise it’s complete chaos and I’m always moving, but that’s how I prefer it, so you would probably catch me running around my house chasing my toddlers.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Noelle Skodzinski): I don’t wind down much either. Typically, I’m working even when I’m not working. I may be on my phone on the couch, checking emails, answering emails, looking things up. I’m constantly thinking of things that I have to do next, making lists of what I have to do. I’m working very hard on a better work/life balance, and Jim is helping me with that. But yes, I do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and I’m trying to get back into a fitness routine. I’m trying to scale back on the work, but launching three brands and a conference in five years has been a go-go-go environment, which I absolutely thrive in and love. But everyone needs to really try and balance their work and life so that you can continue to do more and be even stronger for next year.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her (Noelle Skodzinski): I think that when I tell people what I do, people instantly will say things like, oh, you get to sit around and smoke pot all day. Many think it’s a very relaxed, cushy job, and while it is my absolute favorite job I’ve ever had, I love the company and the subject matter and I’m very passionate about the industry, it is not sitting back and smoking pot all day.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him (Jim Gilbride): I think just that this is easy. We’re in the fastest-growing marketplace in the country, so it must be easy to walk into it and launch a magazine and take advantage of that. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a challenge every step of the way. From hiring employees to the editorial challenges that Noelle talked about, to the sales challenges I mentioned. And the hiring pains – I don’t think that we’ve ever had enough people, because once we are fully staffed, we grow again. And those are all challenges that weigh on your mind every day. It’s rewarding, but it isn’t easy.

On what keeps her up at night (Noelle Skodzinski): A lot of things. (Laughs) Mainly just working on our conference keeps me up. People are paying a lot of money, it’s reasonably affordable compared to other conferences, but they’re paying money to come to an event and I want to ensure that they are happy and get value out of what we’re providing. And that’s not an easy task. Running a conference is very similar in certain ways; it’s content in a different format. But it’s also people are there, you’re engaging in person with your audience and if they’re not getting value out of what you’re providing, they’re not happy. And that puts a lot of pressure, it’s self-imposed pressure, but I want to make sure that people are benefiting from what we’re providing them and that they’re paying for.

On what keeps him up at night (Jim Gilbride): Honestly, no matter how stressed I am, I don’t have trouble sleeping. I’m usually whipped at the end of the day. If there’s anything that stresses me out, it’s just a lot of business management responsibility. I manage the P & L, so driving our business to a place where we need it to be for the good of the industry, as well as the good of the employees that work for us so hard day in and day out is important and so is just making sure that we hit our growth projections. We plan a budget every year and in that budget we plan our employment growth, benefits growth rate, and all of that. And making sure that we hit those projections from a financial standpoint so that we can be so good to the people who work so hard for us. So, if it’s anything, it’s being focused on that.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jim Gilbride, Group Publisher and Noelle Skodzinski, Editorial Director, HempGrower magazine.

Samir Husni: Jim, reading your editorial in the first issue of HempGrower, this company started almost 40 years ago with one magazine and now you have all these magazines serving all kinds of “growing” industries; what do you attribute this kind of growth to in a digital age, where other people are leaving the business, you’re adding to the business?

Jim Gilbride: What separates us from the pack is, one, investment. We make sure that we spend a lot of money investing in quality content and editorial; quality graphic design; quality tools to build online and engage our readership. So, continuing to not cut any of those areas when a lot of publishing businesses cut back in graphics and editorial, things like that, we redoubled our efforts back in 2009 when the economy crashed to continue to invest in quality. Our number one job in any market that we serve is to educate our reader and help their businesses thrive. So, I would say that is one of the attributions.

And then continuing to look at each marketplace and see where they’re going to engage. Print is a very engaging platform still, so we continue to make that important investment in print, because we know that it’s a very engaging platform for readers. You also have to have digital, we know that. That is only an extension and a growth or redoubling our audience, so trying to engage with our audience as much as they will engage with us. And to deliver on all of those multiple platforms that has continued to make us successful.

And too, the other thing that I mentioned, quality editorial, quality graphics, as well as building the right vertical audience and spending the money in investment to make sure that you’re driving the right audience.

Samir Husni: Do you think there’s a difference in being family-owned as opposed to a group of venture capitalists or a group of investors owning the company? Does that make a difference in this day and age?

Jim Gilbride:  Yes. I believe that when we get into a marketplace, we embed ourselves and become part of that marketplace. And our family-owned business supports us and gives us good careers in being embedded in that marketplace. In the pest control marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 40 years. In the recycling marketplace, our group publisher has been there for 25 years. I’ve been here for 15 years. So, that longevity and being able to intimately be a part of a marketplace and to learn the ins and outs of that market; GIE Media over our 40-year history has never sold anything. When we decide to get into a marketplace, we’re in it for the long haul. And we’re going to make the long-term investments to make sure that we’re successful. We don’t want to be number two in any market that we’re in.

Samir Husni: Noelle, you started with the cannabis business and now you’ve moved to hemp. With this new HempGrower magazine, are you on a different high, pun intended?

Noelle Skodzinski: (Laughs) There are a lot of similarities. Hemp has been experiencing prohibition for 82 years, so it’s the same kind of situation that all cannabis has been in. This market is newly legal in the United States. And there is an extreme mood right now for information, for all of the hemp farmers. And it doesn’t matter what they’re growing, whether it be CBD or seeds, grain or fiber, they need information now. They need to navigate the regulations; they need to navigate the marketplace; the supply and demand issues. We also kind of planned things in a timely fashion so that we’re reaching people when they need information the most. And then we evolve with the industry.

Jim Gilbride: Noelle is not only over hemp, but she still oversees the cannabis business as well. I just wanted to make that clear.

Samir Husni: You launched the website for HempGrower first, last August. And then six months later, the print magazine came along. Is there a logic that you used? Start the online first and then go to print? Is this a new model for launching publications?

Jim Gilbride: The reason we did it is because, one, it’s pretty simple to get an online product up and running. So, we’re able to move a lot faster. And then once you have that up and running, you start to drive awareness and engagement for the print product that’s coming. I think they actually launched at the same time, you could say, but the reason that we launched online first is to market the product and create some demand before the print product hits the marketplace.

Noelle Skodzinski: It’s a similar model to what we did with Cannabis Business Times, in that the digital product came first. And then when GIE bought Cannabis Business Times we were able to launch the print publication. But like Jim said, the audience starts to engage with the brand online very quickly and frequently. We are then able to start learning more about the audience and start working with people who are in the industry to build that print publication. And we already have a brand out there that people have begun to trust and they understand our approach to the editorial and what we’re providing.  So, that has them looking forward to the print publication and they’re already engaged with that brand.

Samir Husni: There are some people who say in the B to B segment of magazines that print is no longer needed and there’s no place for it anymore. That everyone is moving to digital and social media. You’re proof that’s not true. Why is that?

Jim Gilbride: I couldn’t disagree with that at all. I think it’s just not true because just look at the success we’ve had. When we launched our online products only, while it’s a nice introduction to the marketplace, your engagement online skyrockets when you launch your print magazine. It is one cohesive brand that touches all of these different areas of the marketplace. You can’t build a digital product without a print product. It’s a fully integrated approach of delivering content in as many ways that we can to our audience to grow our brand. I don’t believe the digital businesses will be as successful in the B to B space without a print magazine.

Noelle Skodzinski: If I could add to that. Samir, I think you’ve been a kind of proponent of this concept. If the content is good and it’s what people need, they will read it, regardless of the format. So, we’re providing in print, content that we know people need and will want. Whether it’s online or in print or at our conference, it’s all content that will help these people and their businesses. So, I agree with Jim, I don’t think print is dead. There are challenges with newsstand publications, but that’s a different model than we have. We are going to these people; we’re sending it directly to them and if the content resonates, they’re going to read it and be engaged with it.

Jim Gilbride: I couldn’t agree more. It’s about quality content and it’s not about how you deliver it. If you don’t have quality content, of course print is going to die, because there’s not enough value there for people to buy into it to reach your audience. It’s all about quality content. If you have that you can build a print magazine. If you don’t, you can’t.

Samir Husni: As you reflect on 2019 and you look forward to 2020, what are your expectations for the future?

Noelle Skodzinski: I would love to have more time, more hours in the day.

Jim Gilbride: More cannabis legalization.

Samir Husni: What’s the trajectory, in terms of legalization? I know that CBD is now legal in all 50 states and hemp is legal in…?

Jim Gilbride: All but three.

Samir Husni: All but three. And cannabis is legal in what 23 states now, for one reason or another?

Noelle Skodzinski: I think it’s 33 medical and then 11 now for adult use.

Samir Husni: Why do you think the model that you’re using, between the Cannabis Business Times and HempGrower, is thriving now, while we hear about established magazines like High Times, for example, is thinking about filing for bankruptcy?

Noelle Skodzinski: We also publish Cannabis Dispensary, which we launched in 2017.

Jim Gilbride: I see High Times as more of a consumer magazine and I think it’s somewhere around $100 million in debt, so they’re trying to figure out their business model. We’re a vertical market, business to business publisher, and so that’s two very different businesses. We’re not going after the consumer market, we’re going after the legal businesses in those states that are operating legally, so we have a very engaged audience. We’ve had growers and dispensaries to say when they got their license, the first piece of mail they received was Cannabis Business Times and that they had been loyal readers since day one. So, we’re not trying to fight that consumer push, we’re all about B to B. I can’t speak to why they are thinking about folding or why they’re unsuccessful; all I can say is we’re two different things, consumer versus B to B media.

Samir Husni: You now have three titles, the two cannabis magazines and HempGrower. What’s next?

Jim Gilbride: What’s next? Well, we have a large conference where we bring our engaged readership from all three brands together, which also brings all of our contributors and a lot of our board members and some really high quality speakers together at the Paris Las Vegas in April, which is another touchpoint for all of our brands. So our really engaged readership that likes to read the quality content in our magazine can meet all these folks and sit in a session for 45 minutes and learn about how to make their business more profitable. And learn about how to get into the business and when to license and how to invest in the business. So, gearing up for that will probably take up a lot of the first part of our year. And after that, we’ll see.

Noelle Skodzinski: Our cannabis conference is now in its fourth year, but 2020 will be the first year that we are incorporating an educational tract for hemp. It will be largely focused on hemp for CBD, but in all of our publications we focus on the business, but in the grower publications, Cannabis Business Times and HempGrower, we also focus very heavily on the cultivation aspect; the farming. So, in 2020, the conference will have two professors and researchers from Purdue University who are giving sessions on hemp cultivation; results from research. And that’s something that we’re really looking forward to, bringing in the hemp component to the industry, because there’s a lot of crossover, a lot of marijuana growers who are looking into expanding into hemp now that it’s legal.

And a lot of companies that weren’t necessarily willing to get into marijuana growing because of the additional risk involved, because it’s still federally illegal, are interested in growing hemp. So, that’s really expanding our audience and as Jim said, bringing all of those people together so that they can learn from one another. So, that’s something we’re really excited about for 2020.

Samir Husni: Both of you had careers before the cannabis and the hemp publications, as publishers and as editors. Did cannabis and hemp make your career easier or harder when it comes to dealing with that particular subject matter?

Jim Gilbride: Both.

Noelle Skodzinski: I would say this is the most challenging position I’ve held, largely because of federal regulations. Editorially speaking, we have to make sure that every single thing that we publish is accurate. And I know that’s the goal of any editor, but with businesses that are in a regulatory gray area, where it may be legal in your state, but not legal federally, there are still towns that have moratoriums or bans on cannabis businesses, so we have to make sure that the information that we publish is up-to-date, that it’s accurate.

And we also have an obligation to our readers to feature businesses that are adhering to all the regulations that are out there. It’s very challenging for those businesses to do that, but they absolutely have to do it. So, part of our mission with these publications is to help advance the industry by advancing the businesses in them and the people involved in those businesses. And in order to do that, we have to make sure that we’re not featuring businesses that are not playing by the rules.

And that’s kind of a simple way to put it. There are many complications to that, but it’s extremely challenging editorially. We have a lot of vetting that we have to do for businesses that we never had to do before. When I was an editor in other positions, I didn’t have to dig around on publishing companies to make sure everything they did was legal. Typically, it was a very rare case that someone was doing something illegal. In the cannabis industry, I would say it’s also rare, but it can happen accidentally and it can happen intentionally. So, we just have to guarantee that what we’re publishing is accurate.

And the other challenging thing, especially with cannabis, is that cannabis did not have the luxury of all the other agricultural crops, in that they have had centuries of research behind them, University research that backed up all the science about cultivating this plant, so we’ve had to build very slowly a network of researchers, of experts that were cultivating underground for decades. And trying to get to the most accurate, the most proven methods of growing that are available, because that wasn’t available to cultivators.

 Samir Husni: And Jim, you said both?

Jim Gilbride: Now that I’ve had a couple of seconds to think about it, I wouldn’t say easier is the right word, exciting is certainly the right word. It’s really exciting to be a part of this industry and to see how things unfold. And how the industry continues to grow and states come online and as other folks get into the market, but it is certainly not easy. It is a challenge.

I remember, we were in New York City at a conference and we were going to get our first advertising client. After that meeting I found myself thinking that this was going to be a lot harder than I thought. There were just media companies and conference companies coming out of the woodwork. How do you differentiate yourself? How do you build a brand and quality when there has been a lot of mistrust and misguidance in the marketplace? We could get a big support advertising program in the next day, corporate over in Europe or somewhere else just says nope, we’re not doing this anymore and then it’s gone.

So, being federally illegal, there are people who kind of dip their toes in and then go away. It is certainly very challenging to be part of a federally illegal market and something that’s just so new. But it has certainly been probably the most exciting time I’ve had in my career.

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; or something else? How do you unwind?

Jim Gilbride: I’m not a wind down kind of guy. I kind of love chaos. I have three little kids, so last night I fell asleep on my daughter’s floor (Laughs), because I was so burned out from the last two weeks. If I wind down I have to get away with my wife, otherwise it’s complete chaos and I’m always moving, but that’s how I prefer it, so you would probably catch me running around my house chasing my toddlers.

Noelle Skodzinski: I don’t wind down much either. Typically, I’m working even when I’m not working. I may be on my phone on the couch, checking emails, answering emails, looking things up. I’m constantly thinking of things that I have to do next, making lists of what I have to do. I’m working very hard on a better work/life balance, and Jim is helping me with that. But yes, I do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, and I’m trying to get back into a fitness routine. I’m trying to scale back on the work, but launching three brands and a conference in five years has been a go-go-go environment, which I absolutely thrive in and love. But everyone needs to really try and balance their work and life so that you can continue to do more and be even stronger for next year.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Noelle Skodzinski: I think that when I tell people what I do, people instantly will say things like, oh, you get to sit around and smoke pot all day. Many think it’s a very relaxed, cushy job, and while it is my absolute favorite job I’ve ever had, I love the company and the subject matter and I’m very passionate about the industry, it is not sitting back and smoking pot all day.

Jim Gilbride: I think just that this is easy. We’re in the fastest-growing marketplace in the country, so it must be easy to walk into it and launch a magazine and take advantage of that. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a challenge every step of the way. From hiring employees to the editorial challenges that Noelle talked about, to the sales challenges I mentioned. And the hiring pains – I don’t think that we’ve ever had enough people, because once we are fully staffed, we grow again. And those are all challenges that weigh on your mind every day. It’s rewarding, but it isn’t easy.

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

 Noelle Skodzinski: A lot of things. (Laughs) Mainly just working on our conference keeps me up. People are paying a lot of money, it’s reasonably affordable compared to other conferences, but they’re paying money to come to an event and I want to ensure that they are happy and get value out of what we’re providing. And that’s not an easy task. Running a conference is very similar in certain ways; it’s content in a different format. But it’s also people are there, you’re engaging in person with your audience and if they’re not getting value out of what you’re providing, they’re not happy. And that puts a lot of pressure, it’s self-imposed pressure, but I want to make sure that people are benefiting from what we’re providing them and that they’re paying for.

And it’s the same thing with the content in the magazine. People’s businesses rely on this information that we’re providing and I don’t take that lightly. I may take to too seriously sometimes, so that I’m not sleeping as well as other people might, but I also think that it takes that type of person who worries about everything to make sure all of these moving parts, especially in this type of industry, are going to work.

Jim Gilbride: Honestly, no matter how stressed I am, I don’t have trouble sleeping. I’m usually whipped at the end of the day. If there’s anything that stresses me out, it’s just a lot of business management responsibility. I manage the P & L, so driving our business to a place where we need it to be for the good of the industry, as well as the good of the employees that work for us so hard day in and day out is important and so is just making sure that we hit our growth projections. We plan a budget every year and in that budget we plan our employment growth, benefits growth rate, and all of that. And making sure that we hit those projections from a financial standpoint so that we can be so good to the people who work so hard for us. So, if it’s anything, it’s being focused on that.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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The Definitive Guide On How To Launch Your Own Magazine In This Digital Age… A Mr. Magazine™ New Ink On Paper Book.

November 8, 2019

This last summer I spent quite a bit of time traveling and working on two new books: The Magazines And I which is in progress and The Definitive Guide on How To Launch Your Own Magazine + Lessons Learned From Those Who Have, which is out now and can be ordered by sending a check or money order for $80 to the Magazine Innovation Center, 114 Farley Hall, 555 Grove Loop, University, MS 38677.

Below is the Introduction to the book to give you an idea of how unique, applicable and spot on the advice is; advice from both me (Mr. Magazine™) and the 17 industry leaders and magazine entrepreneurs who were interviewed during 2018/2019 on Mr. Magazine’s™ blog. It’s a defining moment for all dreamers out there who want to start their own magazine, but just don’t know where to begin.

So, enjoy the Introduction and order your copy of the book today! The sooner you have it, the closer you are to fulfilling your magazine dreams!

The Never-Ending Power of Print in A Digital Age.

One word sums up the power of print in a digital age for me: magazines. That’s what this book is all about: magazines and how to launch them in this digital age.

It won’t be the first time or the last that someone will accuse me of losing my mind for advocating launching a print magazine today. In 2009 when I started the Magazine Innovation Center at The University of Mississippi with the tag line “Amplifying the Future of Print in A Digital Age,” colleagues, friends and foes alike thought that I had lost it. They all believed that I was so in love with print and magazines that I wasn’t thinking clearly. The future is digital and there is no room for magazines, they told me. But is it?

We have more magazines today on the marketplace than ever. More than 260 new magazines were published in the last 18 months, and more than 1,000 bookazines arrived on the nation’s newsstands. Both major publishers, Meredith and Hearst have published new magazines in the last six months, and so did hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Columbia Journalism Review wrote an article at the end of 2015 titled “Print Is The New New Media.” My reaction to the naysayers was very simple: I told you so. Every time someone starts a new magazine, or pub- lishes a new issue, it is new media. Magazines are ever changing and each issue is a continuation of what was published before.

Magazines, like the rest of humans and products, have a life cycle. A time to be born and a time to die. Today’s magazines, both new and old, are not like yesterday’s magazines and will not be like tomorrow’s magazines. However, they all have one thing in common. They are all much more than just content providers. They are experience makers that will take you into a “me time” journey like no other medium or platform can, engaging, appealing, pleasing, rewarding and above all satisfying to all your senses.

You are here for a reason. You are ready to take on one of the biggest undertakings of your lifetime. Without any delay, dive into this book that is the culmination of 40 years of studying, teaching, and consulting about the only subject I know, magazines. Allow me to present to you the definitive guide on how to launch your own magazine in this digital age.

Enjoy and let the fun begin.

And check out the Mr. Magazine™ interviews at the end of each chapter to read how 17 different people launched 17 new titles into the marketplace. Their stories are definitely worth the read. The interviews are:

  • Tom Tom magazine
  • MJ Lifestyle
  • Luckbox
  • The Magnolia Journal
  • The Pioneer Woman
  • Jugular
  • Sesi
  • Chill
  • Culturs
  • Jez
  • What Women Create
  • Sports History Magazine
  • Happy Paws
  • The Golfer’s Journal
  • Showstopper
  • Weekend Escapes
  • Oh-So

Millions of thanks to Canon Solutions America, Inc. and Domtar Paper for making this book possible.

Don’t forget, in order to get a copy send a check or money order for $80 to the Magazine Innovation Center, 114 Farley Hall, 555 Grove Loop, University, MS 38677.

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Kill Pretty Magazine: For The “Freaks” Out There Who Thrive On Being The Outcasts & Who Revel In Each Other’s Differences – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Tyler Nacho, Trash Editor Supreme, Kill Pretty…

October 29, 2019

“With my magazine, I like the fact that it can sit around your house and you can pick it up two years later and find an article that maybe you never read. It can keep giving you more different kinds of entertainment. There’s also a real tactile feeling when you’re holding a magazine. I love the concept of a Kindle, but I would never own a Kindle because I really enjoy the feeling of holding a book and turning the pages. I also like the idea of knowing how many pages are left in the book, how far I have to go. It might just be an old school way of thinking, but I’m a really tactile person and I just love everything about print. There’s also the visceral experience of turning the pages and showing your friends the pages and flipping through it that you just can’t get with the Internet.”… Tyler Nacho

A Mr. Magazine Launch Story…

A magazine for the societal outcasts, the uniquely different and the ones who run from normal;  Kill Pretty is a big, bold, splashy publication filled with defiant, unapologetic, raunchy content that dares to stand out and be wildly and honestly different. In short, Kill Pretty has given its self-proclaimed “Freaks” a call-to-arms. The magazine is a finger gesture to the world that in the vintage words of a Quiet Riot song says: “we’re not gonna’ take it anymore.” We are proud of who we are and we welcome our outcast natures.

Tyler Nacho is, in the words of his own masthead, the Trash Editor Supreme of the magazine, along with being the founder and creative mind behind it. He is also a long-time freak and outcast himself, at least according to him. He knew from the young age of 13 that he didn’t fit into the surroundings that he called home. He heard a different drummer, one that didn’t find the beat of what many called “normal” seductive. So, he began to seek out the weird, the different, the unique; the outcasts.

I spoke with Tyler recently and we talked about Kill Pretty and its place in the world of magazines. Passion and love for his product is something that Tyler has an abundance of. And with a strong ardor for the avant-garde, whether it’s art or the people who create it, Tyler is a master of the unorthodox and an honest storyteller with a vivid style.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tyler Nacho, the trash editor supreme, Kill Pretty magazine. It’s a conversation as open and honest as the man himself is.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he was and is so fascinated with print: I grew up in a suburb in the Bay area and everyone around was rich, old white people. And my town just had nothing in it. There was nothing interesting or fun to do, and all the people in my school were these rich, snobby kids that I just couldn’t relate to. And I didn’t know why I didn’t fit in, but I didn’t. I knew that they just weren’t my people, but I’d never been exposed to anything but that. It was really frustrating, I had a really hard time growing up. I was like an outcast. Then one day I was walking down the street and I looked in a head shop, a bong shop, and they were selling this really weird magazine called “While You Were Sleeping” and it had articles about serial killers and interviews with porn stars, basically everything a 13-year-old boy would be really into. (Laughs)

On how he turned his upbringing into making his own magazine: I’ve always been a workaholic my entire life. There’s something in me that drives me to just work and work. I am always making things and as soon as I saw that magazine, I knew that I had to do it too. I immediately went home and started interviewing my friends. I was 13 years old and I thought of myself as a philosopher. I was having all of these deep thoughts at 13-years-old. (Laughs) And they were ridiculous now if you look at the early stuff that I put out, it’s pretty embarrassing. Even my first zine, a little black and white zine, I had a table of contents, articles and interviews, it was like a full-on magazine from the very start.

On how the magazine evolved into the Kill Pretty of today: As I said the vision hasn’t really changed. If you looked at one of the earlier magazines and then the new one, there are a lot of similar themes, but it’s just better. I’ve been doing this over 20 years now and I’ve put out somewhere between 30 and 40 specific publications, and each one has just gotten a little better and a little better. That’s how you get better art, by creating something and putting it out into the world, having everyone hate it, not like it, (Laughs) and then asking yourself why no one likes it. (Laughs again) I have to make it better.

On whether he is now living his dream: I’m definitely living part of the dream. I’m living the dream where I’m making a magazine that I actually like. The last few issues of Kill Pretty, I didn’t have any problems with and that’s really weird for an artist, to like their own art. I’ve hated every magazine that I’ve ever made. (Laughs) But the last two issues I still look at and tell myself they’re good. I wouldn’t change a thing with them and that itself is an incredible dream. That’s 20 years in the making to get to a point where I actually like what I’m making. But the dream would be a little better if I could sell some magazines. (Laughs) If people liked it enough to buy it, that would really complete my dream. My biggest dream is to have the magazine pay for itself.

On what he thinks differentiates a printed product today in this digital age: The problem with websites is that anyone can make a website, it doesn’t take a lot of work. I’ve made websites in a day and filled it with content. I’m a hard worker, but anyone can do that if they really want to. To make a magazine takes a tremendous amount of effort. Websites feel a little disposable. For example, I can go to a website that I really like and forget about it. If I get distracted by something I might never go back to that website again. I’m a collector and I’m also a materialist in a lot of ways. I’m not a materialist that buys fancy clothes, or a materialist in the traditional sense, I’m more of a collector. I’m into vintage antiques and weird things. I just love collecting stuff.

On the phrase “Twerk It. Work It!” being hidden in the UPC code on the cover: (Laughs) As a kid I used to buy all of these music albums and in the liner notes there would be descriptions of the producers and everyone that made the album. And sometimes, if you were lucky, at the end of the liner notes there would be a sentence or two for the people who were nerdy enough to read the liner notes. And sometimes it was a joke, sometimes it was a personal note to a friend; it was always something different, but I valued finding those things and I like creating things in my magazine for the people who are going to take the time and scour it.

On choosing the name “Kill Pretty” for the magazine: There are a few reasons why. One is I’m always trying to find ways to feel a little edgy and stand out. The word “Kill” is definitely a harsh word that stands out. Kill Pretty is a juxtaposition where I find a lot of beauty in destruction, beauty in things that aren’t typically beautiful. I also like the idea of more of a feminist nature of killing what we see as pretty in this world. Killing the idea of what’s typically pretty. Originally, when I came up with the name, it was about the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the ugly, because that’s what my magazine is. I cherish beautiful things, but I often find my inspiration in the ugly stuff. And I think they’re both worth looking at.

On the magazine having “Freaks Only” on the cover: (Laughs) Freaks only…well, I’ve been thinking a lot in my life about what the magazine means and why I’m putting it out and who it’s for. All of those questions are constantly going on in my mind and the reality is that I think everyone is realizing that a lot of us don’t fit into the normal ways of society. As in what people expect from us,. And everyone is kind of realizing they’re a little freaky in different ways. The idea behind it really is to cherish and respect the part of you that is different from everyone else and who doesn’t fit in completely.

On anything he’d like to add: It’s hard to say where the future of print is going. We’re seeing things like vinyl records coming back, but also I’ve met two people this year that didn’t even know what the word magazine meant. They said, oh, it’s a book, right? That was just so weird to me. I don’t know where magazines are going. It’s a really strange world, but I will definitely never stop making them for the rest of my life, even if it kills me. (Laughs) It’s too late for me to turn back now.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: That’s tough, because I’m a really open, honest person. And I’m trying to think of something… maybe just that I’m more judgmental than I am, because I have a lot of opinions. And oftentimes I have thoroughly thought out my opinions. And when people come into contact with someone who has a lot of opinions or really jumps on things, they kind of think that maybe I’m really judgmental. And I think I am judgmental, but not exceptionally that way.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: After hard work, probably more work. (Laughs) Often, I find myself working all night long. But if it was like Labor Day and I needed to just relax, then definitely watching movies. I’m a huge movie buff; I own over 1,000 VHS tapes. I collect VHS and I watch a lot of very obscure movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s. So, I will probably be smoking pot and watching some really weird movie. (Laughs) Or making a puppet. If I didn’t make puppets all day long for work, then that’s probably what I’ll be doing.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: (Laughs) Wow, that’s a huge question. How about just a really big smiley face?

On what keeps him up at night: I’m in a place right now where everything in my life is really coming together and I’m getting a lot  of the things that I’ve dreamed of. I have a lot of big dreams and a lot of big projects coming up. My dreams are keeping me up. I’m imagining the world I’m living in now and my future. And it’s really exciting. I’m in a really good place right now. If anything is keeping me up, it’s just imagining what is to come.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Tyler Nacho, trash editor supreme, Kill Pretty magazine. 

Samir Husni: Why are you so fascinated with print and why have you launched all these magazines and continue to launch magazines in print in this digital age?

Tyler Nacho: I grew up in a suburb in the Bay area and everyone around was rich, old white people. And my town just had nothing in it. There was nothing interesting or fun to do, and all the people in my school were these rich, snobby kids that I just couldn’t relate to. And I didn’t know why I didn’t fit in, but I didn’t. I knew that they just weren’t my people, but I’d never been exposed to anything but that. It was really frustrating, I had a really hard time growing up. I was like an outcast.

Then one day I was walking down the street and I looked in a head shop, a bong shop, and they were selling this really weird magazine called “While You Were Sleeping” and it had articles about serial killers and interviews with porn stars, basically everything a 13-year-old boy would be really into. (Laughs) It had very childish, silly articles, comedy articles, stuff like that. And it was this beacon of culture and a way of learning about things that I was interested in. I was obsessed with the library; I would read tons of books all the time, but I wanted new information. The Internet has kind of taken the place of that, but when you didn’t have the Internet in the ‘90s, all you had really were magazines and the backs of albums to read. It was really hard to get that kind of information.

So, when I found a magazine and it had all of that information collected and curated just for me, it was like this incredible piece of knowledge in a world that was completely devoid of anything like that. I just loved the idea that a magazine could be curated by someone and then travel to a place that they didn’t go and be this little nuclear bomb of comedy, inspiration and art. That it could be all of those different things for someone that really needed it and maybe didn’t know how to find it.

Samir Husni: How did you take that upbringing and turn it into a decision to make your own magazine someday?

Tyler Nacho: I’ve always been a workaholic my entire life. There’s something in me that drives me to just work and work. I am always making things and as soon as I saw that magazine, I knew that I had to do it too. I immediately went home and started interviewing my friends. I was 13 years old and I thought of myself as a philosopher. I was having all of these deep thoughts at 13-years-old. (Laughs) And they were ridiculous now if you look at the early stuff that I put out, it’s pretty embarrassing. Even my first zine, a little black and white zine, I had a table of contents, articles and interviews, it was like a full-on magazine from the very start.

I saw the vision and I knew immediately what a magazine was and I knew exactly why I wanted to do it. I kind of saw the whole thing from day one and it has evolved, but hasn’t changed a lot from that.

Samir Husni: The latest issue of Kill Pretty is a beautifully printed magazine, but bears no resemblance to any zine you’ve ever produced. How did you evolve into the Kill Pretty of today?

Tyler Nacho: Well, as I said the vision hasn’t really changed. If you looked at one of the earlier magazines and then the new one, there are a lot of similar themes, but it’s just better. I’ve been doing this over 20 years now and I’ve put out somewhere between 30 and 40 specific publications, and each one has just gotten a little better and a little better. That’s how you get better art, by creating something and putting it out into the world, having everyone hate it, not like it, (Laughs) and then asking yourself why no one likes it. (Laughs again) I have to make it better.

I’ve never had people like my magazine, but I always kept making it. And at first, early-on, it was a way to get attention, to get girls; to show people that I had all of these interesting thoughts and I had a well-curated brain. And I had proof, the magazine that I made.

Now I question myself every single time I make my magazine. I ask myself why I’m doing this; should I stop; it’s really hard. With the new issue I had to move out of my house and sleep on couches to print this magazine. It’s like my entire life is dedicated to putting this out and I lose a lot of money with every issue.

But there are two specific reasons I do it. The first is I just love doing it; it’s my number one passion and I love having a magazine finished. It feels so good. The second one is that I can walk into a room, into an interview, and I can hand anyone my magazine and it’s this immediate resume, where people can look at it. And they can judge  a lot about me knowing that I created every single page of the magazine, it shows how much I can do and how hard I work. All of my biggest jobs that I’ve gotten, most of them have come because I make this magazine. So, even though the magazine itself doesn’t make me money, I’ve made a lot of money because I make the magazine. It’s an amazing way to get my foot in the door.

Also, I get to interview my heroes. My list of people that I worship and want to interview is getting smaller and smaller, because every issue I get a few more of those people and that’s an incredible opportunity. To be able to sit down with someone that I’m really obsessed with and have an hour or two hour, sometimes three hour, conversation with them is priceless.

Samir Husni: In doing the magazine, are you living your dream now?

Tyler Nacho: I’m definitely living part of the dream. I’m living the dream where I’m making a magazine that I actually like. The last few issues of Kill Pretty, I didn’t have any problems with and that’s really weird for an artist, to like their own art. I’ve hated every magazine that I’ve ever made. (Laughs) But the last two issues I still look at and tell myself they’re good. I wouldn’t change a thing with them and that itself is an incredible dream. That’s 20 years in the making to get to a point where I actually like what I’m making.

But the dream would be a little better if I could sell some magazines. (Laughs) If people liked it enough to buy it, that would really complete my dream. My biggest dream is to have the magazine pay for itself. I would love to survive off of it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen in the form it is right now. For it to just pay for itself is the ultimate dream.

Samir Husni: What do you think differentiates a printed product today in this digital age and why you chose a printed magazine to showcase your work?

Tyler Nacho: The problem with websites is that anyone can make a website, it doesn’t take a lot of work. I’ve made websites in a day and filled it with content. I’m a hard worker, but anyone can do that if they really want to. To make a magazine takes a tremendous amount of effort. Websites feel a little disposable. For example, I can go to a website that I really like and forget about it. If I get distracted by something I might never go back to that website again. I’m a collector and I’m also a materialist in a lot of ways. I’m not a materialist that buys fancy clothes, or a materialist in the traditional sense, I’m more of a collector. I’m into vintage antiques and weird things. I just love collecting stuff.

With my magazine, I like the fact that it can sit around your house and you can pick it up two years later and find an article that maybe you never read. It can keep giving you more different kinds of entertainment. There’s also a real tactile feeling when you’re holding a magazine. I love the concept of a Kindle, but I would never own a Kindle because I really enjoy the feeling of holding a book and turning the pages. I also like the idea of knowing how many pages are left in the book, how far I have to go. It might just be an old school way of thinking, but I’m a really tactile person and I just love everything about print.

I love the fact that it’s on newsstands and it just shows up in all of these weird places. I like the fact that when one person gets a magazine, they share it with their friends. And I think there is some statistical average that 16 people see one magazine every issue, something like that. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure, but it’s cool how you can give someone a magazine and they’re going to pass it around.

There’s also the visceral experience of turning the pages and showing your friends the pages and flipping through it that you just can’t get with the Internet. The great thing about the Internet is it’s free. (Laughs) Besides that, it comes with a disposable nature.

It’s hard to do, but I’m trying to create articles where people have to be interactive with the magazine, such as an article where someone has to cut something out of the magazine or draw on the magazine or turn it upside-down.

We’ve been talking a lot about how do we get people to actually destroy their copy of the magazine for some reason. (Laughs)  I just think that’s really funny, because everyone sees everything as a valued collector’s item, it’s funny to challenge people’s ideas of collector’s items. Collector’s items are kind of silly anyway because most of the time people never actually sell these things they see as valuable, so whether it’s worth 100 grand or $2, it doesn’t really matter if you’re never going to sell it. It’s a little funny to me to say, well, if you want to play this game we put in the magazine, you have to ruin it, make it unsellable. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You make me pay a $10 cover price for the magazine and hidden in the UPC code is: Twerk It. Work It! (Laughs) Tell me about that.

Tyler Nacho: (Laughs) As a kid I used to buy all of these music albums and in the liner notes there would be descriptions of the producers and everyone that made the album. And sometimes, if you were lucky, at the end of the liner notes there would be a sentence or two for the people who were nerdy enough to read the liner notes. And sometimes it was a joke, sometimes it was a personal note to a friend; it was always something different, but I valued finding those things and I like creating things in my magazine for the people who are going to take the time and scour it.

In the third issue of the magazine I hid a couple of things. And the one that was my favorite was a bunch of text in the spine of the book. So you could stretch the magazine open and read it, but if you wanted to read everything you had to actually pull the magazine apart to read all of the text there.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose the name “Kill Pretty” for the magazine?

Tyler Nacho: There are a few reasons why. One is I’m always trying to find ways to feel a little edgy and stand out. The word “Kill” is definitely a harsh word that stands out. Kill Pretty is a juxtaposition where I find a lot of beauty in destruction, beauty in things that aren’t typically beautiful. I also like the idea of more of a feminist nature of killing what we see as pretty in this world. Killing the idea of what’s typically pretty. Originally, when I came up with the name, it was about the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the ugly, because that’s what my magazine is. I cherish beautiful things, but I often find my inspiration in the ugly stuff. And I think they’re both worth looking at.

Samir Husni: Do I have to consider myself a “freak” for buying it, because the cover reads that it’s for “freaks” only?

Tyler Nacho: (Laughs) Freaks only…well, I’ve been thinking a lot in my life about what the magazine means and why I’m putting it out and who it’s for. All of those questions are constantly going on in my mind and the reality is that I think everyone is realizing that a lot of us don’t fit into the normal ways of society. As in what people expect from us,. And everyone is kind of realizing they’re a little freaky in different ways. The idea behind it really is to cherish and respect the part of you that is different from everyone else and who doesn’t fit in completely.

If you’re someone who really just wants to fit in and who really loves the social norms of the world, then I’m not sure you’d really care for my magazine. It’s probably not made for you. This is a magazine to learn about the strange, weird subcultures of the world and artists that are doing things outside the norm. It’s kind of like a warning sign to the squares, to the people who aren’t interested in being creepy – hey, don’t pick this magazine up. Go get “Martha Stewart Living” if you need a magazine to read. (Laughs)

But for the people who want to explore the sides of themselves that aren’t as easily digestible, that’s who Kill Pretty is for.

 Samir Husni: Even if they pick it up by mistake, you tell them in your editorial that if they don’t have an inner freak, put down the magazine. So, they’re warned from the cover to the editorial page. (Laughs)

Tyler Nacho: (Laughs too) Yep.

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

Tyler Nacho: It’s hard to say where the future of print is going. We’re seeing things like vinyl records coming back, but also I’ve met two people this year that didn’t even know what the word magazine meant. They said, oh, it’s a book, right? That was just so weird to me. I don’t know where magazines are going. It’s a really strange world, but I will definitely never stop making them for the rest of my life, even if it kills me. (Laughs) It’s too late for me to turn back now.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Tyler Nacho: That’s tough, because I’m a really open, honest person. And I’m trying to think of something… maybe just that I’m more judgmental than I am, because I have a lot of opinions. And oftentimes I have thoroughly thought out my opinions. And when people come into contact with someone who has a lot of opinions or really jumps on things, they kind of think that maybe I’m really judgmental. And I think I am judgmental, but not exceptionally that way.

I’m also very open to people proving me wrong. I love being wrong about people. If I see someone and I think certain things and then they prove that they’re not that way, it’s thrilling to me. It gives me a sense of hope in the world. So, I’m very open to people being different. There really aren’t a lot of misconceptions about me. If you talk to me, I’m really open, honest and truthful. I’ll give you my two cents. There used to be a lot of misconceptions, but over the past five to ten years, I think I am becoming more and more just an honest person.

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

Tyler Nacho: After hard work, probably more work. (Laughs) Often, I find myself working all night long. But if it was like Labor Day and I needed to just relax, then definitely watching movies. I’m a huge movie buff; I own over 1,000 VHS tapes. I collect VHS and I watch a lot of very obscure movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s. So, I will probably be smoking pot and watching some really weird movie. (Laughs) Or making a puppet. If I didn’t make puppets all day long for work, then that’s probably what I’ll be doing.

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

Tyler Nacho: (Laughs) Wow, that’s a huge question. How about just a really big smiley face?

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

Tyler Nacho: I’m in a place right now where everything in my life is really coming together and I’m getting a lot  of the things that I’ve dreamed of. I have a lot of big dreams and a lot of big projects coming up. My dreams are keeping me up. I’m imagining the world I’m living in now and my future. And it’s really exciting. I’m in a really good place right now. If anything is keeping me up, it’s just imagining what is to come.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Technoskeptic Magazine: Leading A Revolution In Framing Today’s Role Of Technology In Our Life & Society – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mo Lotman, Founder, The Technoskeptic Magazine…

October 18, 2019

“I always felt print was important; it’s always been important to me. I don’t read the same way online as I do in print; I much prefer reading in print. In fact, I often don’t even bother reading things online, because I’m just too frustrated and annoyed with the whole process. I feel it’s very difficult to even grasp things. There is that physicality of print that helps to establish some kind of tactile permanence to the material you’re reading.”… Mo Lotman

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

The mission of The Technoskeptic is to promote awareness, critical thinking, and social change around the use and impact of technology on society and the environment. In short, the magazine’s founder, Mo Lotman, thinks it’s time we all reflect on what the Internet, social media and the many devices and platforms this media offers is doing to us, the human race, and our planet.

The Technoskeptic, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporation which produces a magazine, podcast, and events exploring the intersection of technology and society from a humanistic perspective. In pursuing its mission, the magazine and the movement aspire to serve as a resource, build community, and change culture.

Mo Lotman, its founder, is an author, public speaker, voice-talent, and radio personality. He wrote the pop-culture retrospective Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950 and he was the host and originator of Nerd Nite in Northampton, Massachusetts. I spoke with Mo recently and we talked about this very dynamic attempt to make people more aware of what technology has implemented into our society and everyday lives. From social media to screens in front of our faces almost 24/7, Mo seeks to share his belief that we don’t need technologies to survive in our world today. We have them, yes, and we all use them, but we don’t have to give our souls to them in the process.

According to Mo, The Technoskeptic was first imagined in 2013, partially in response to the Edward Snowden revelations of that year. Mo became disillusioned and somewhat angry at what he deemed was a serious problem with how people felt and thought about technology. It’s a fascinating discussion with a man who asks us to rethink what we may be allowing technology to do to ourselves and our environment.

So, without further ado, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mo Lotman, founder, The Technoskeptic.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of The Technoskeptic magazine: It was really born out of a lot of frustration, sadness, heartbreak and anger that came out of a number of things, but I think the precipitating factor was the Snowden revelations in 2013. That’s what really moved me from just sort of raging, with my fists shaking toward the sky, to wanting to be more active and trying to do something to address what I saw as some serious problems with how we were thinking about technology and how we were using it. I don’t want to overstate that, because it wasn’t just that, but that was the precipitating moment. I think with Dolly the Sheep, there had been a kind of skepticism growing in my mind for 15 years or longer, by that point, so it was more like the culmination.

On why he felt creating a print product was the answer to all of his skepticism: It wasn’t a print publication at first. Although, I will say it was always my intention that it would be a print publication, because I feel like, among the many other problems that some of our technologies has caused, the Internet culture has really lowered people’s attention spans, comprehension and their retention of information. I always felt print was important; it’s always been important to me. I don’t read the same way online as I do in print; I much prefer reading in print. In fact, I often don’t even bother reading things online, because I’m just too frustrated and annoyed with the whole process. I feel it’s very difficult to even grasp things. There is that physicality of print that helps to establish some kind of tactile permanence to the material you’re reading.

On how he would define the magazine: The magazine was born out of the mission, which is to foster awareness, critical thinking and behavioral change around the use and impact of technology, society and the environment. That’s what I’m trying to do. I guess you could say, we need a revolution. (Laughs) I think a lot of people think that same thing, just in different spheres. Some people think we need a political revolution; some people think we need an economical revolution; I think we need a revolution, and we may need all of these things, but we need a revolution in the framing of technology. And in order to have a revolution of the way we use technology, you first have to have a revolution in thought. Any revolution of any kind has to have a framework or a basis in some kind of theory or thought or… I hesitate to say manifesto, but there has to be some kind of change in the way people think about things or relate to things.

On whether he views the magazine as a serialized manifesto: That’s interesting, no one has asked me that in quite that way. Actually, I would like it to be, because I believe a lot of the problems that we’re facing, societally and culturally, do relate back to technology, even when it’s unconscious. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of superficial examination of different technologies, and I think what we’ve seen recently is encouraging, in the sense that there has been a pushback against some of the excesses of what, I guess you could call, some of the platform, monopolistic capitalism of the 21st century: the Facebooks and the Googles, and the surveillance model.

On whether it has been a challenge for him since launching the magazine in the fall of 2018 or a walk in a rose garden: No, I can’t imagine launching anything that would be a walk in a rose garden. It’s incredibly challenging, and you’re fighting against huge currents of culture. What we’re trying to do is countercultural. It may be less countercultural now than it was when we started, which is great, but it’s still countercultural. And anytime you’re doing something like that, you’re going to struggle and I knew that going in, so that was the bargain I made.

On whether he feels like the lone wolf in the wilderness when it comes to his views about technology: I don’t think it’s a complete wilderness, I believe there are other people out there, which is why I wanted to do this. And I feel like those people are probably feeling incredibly isolated, frustrated and helpless, because that’s how I feel often. So, I do want to reach out to those people and I want there to be a sense of solidarity among a group of people that could lead to a movement and a change in thought. Anything like this has to start small because, again, you’re kind of fighting against prevailing culture, but as we’ve seen time and time again through history, all of these great social movements started small and had to gradually build up recognition and steam.

On the next step for the magazine: I guess the next step is to hopefully be able to reach more people, to gradually grow the circle. There are things that I would love to be able to do that we can’t quite do right now for lack of resources. I would love to have a more proactive investigatory arm of The Technoskeptic, because I think there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be looked into, that requires more intensive journalistic effort, and unfortunately, that is expensive and takes a lot of time. So, I wish we could do a bit of that.

On whether he feels the media industry left its “spouse” print too soon for its “mistress” digital: (Laughs) Maybe you’re leading the witness here, but yes, I do feel they lost their way, not just about print versus digital, but also the model through which they’re attempting to bring the news to us, if we’re talking about the news specifically. Journalism has been decimated by the digital era, there has been a lot written about this. I think it’s either a 50 or 60 percent loss in the ranks of journalists over the last, however many years, since the Web exploded, which is an extraordinary loss because that’s the gatekeeper or the watchdog of democracy. And if people don’t know what’s going on in their towns, especially with local journalism, it’s impossible to have a democracy when you’re in complete darkness about what’s happening.

On anything he’d like to add: Just that we need help. If people are resonating with this message and are interested and want to get involved, we absolutely need help. And that means any kind of help; we certainly need financial help and any other kind of help, such as any writers out there, editors or marketers; people who want to volunteer to work, they should feel free to get in touch.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer, but if I had to guess I would say that the misconception is I’m against technology just because I hate technology, or something of that nature. But there’s actually a perfectly good reason for the way I feel and it has to do with thinking of a sort of balance. The universe has worked, certainly on earth anyway; we think of natural systems as reaching an equilibrium and being in balance.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Just that I care. I’m trying to make the world a better place.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Well, I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t have a cell phone at all, for one thing, but I love to play music: I play games; sometimes I sing; I like to go dancing. But I’m probably just spending time with friends, that’s very important to me. And that usually means in conversation, more so than going to a movie, for example. Not that I’m against movies. Being in communion with others is really the best thing and I think that’s what all of us want.

On what keeps him up at night: Honestly, if anything would keep me up, it would be just trying to keep this organization going, because it is very challenging.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mo Lotman, founder, The Technoskeptic magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of The Technoskeptic magazine.

Mo Lotman: It was really born out of a lot of frustration, sadness, heartbreak and anger that came out of a number of things, but I think the precipitating factor was the Snowden revelations in 2013. That’s what really moved me from just sort of raging, with my fists shaking toward the sky, to wanting to be more active and trying to do something to address what I saw as some serious problems with how we were thinking about technology and how we were using it. I don’t want to overstate that, because it wasn’t just that, but that was the precipitating moment. I think with Dolly the Sheep, there had been a kind of skepticism growing in my mind for 15 years or longer, by that point, so it was more like the culmination.

And then I had a friend at the time, we were both talking about this same sort of feeling. Initially, she was involved and we started working on the idea together, but she ended up going off and doing other projects, so she didn’t stay around for long, but we’re still very good friends. But that was enough to get the momentum building to the point where I got the site up and running and started to really work on it in earnest.

Samir Husni: Why did you think creating a print publication was the answer to all of this skepticism?

Mo Lotman: It wasn’t a print publication at first. Although, I will say it was always my intention that it would be a print publication, because I feel like, among the many other problems that some of our technologies has caused, the Internet culture has really lowered people’s attention spans, comprehension and their retention of information. And I think that’s been borne out by the work of various people that have studied it, like Maryanne Wolf. And the work of Nicholas Carr, he gets into the way we differ in our comprehension and retention reading online versus reading in print.

I always felt print was important; it’s always been important to me. I don’t read the same way online as I do in print; I much prefer reading in print. In fact, I often don’t even bother reading things online, because I’m just too frustrated and annoyed with the whole process. I feel it’s very difficult to even grasp things. There is that physicality of print that helps to establish some kind of tactile permanence to the material you’re reading.

And it is a cultural change in the sense that how is it competing for information in your brain and when you’re online you’re really always just constantly searching around for more information, clicking links and going down endless rabbit holes. Whereas in print, you’re really focused on whatever it is you’re reading. Your attention is not constantly being tugged away. For all of these reasons I thought print was important. And I still do.

Samir Husni: How would you define the magazine? What’s your elevator pitch for The Technoskeptic?

Mo Lotman: The magazine was born out of the mission, which is to foster awareness, critical thinking and behavioral change around the use and impact of technology, society and the environment. That’s what I’m trying to do. I guess you could say, we need a revolution. (Laughs) I think a lot of people think that same thing, just in different spheres. Some people think we need a political revolution; some people think we need an economical revolution; I think we need a revolution, and we may need all of these things, but we need a revolution in the framing of technology.

And in order to have a revolution of the way we use technology, you first have to have a revolution in thought. Any revolution of any kind has to have a framework or a basis in some kind of theory or thought or… I hesitate to say manifesto, but there has to be some kind of change in the way people think about things or relate to things. I believe everyone has a unique set of gifts that they can offer to the world in whatever way they that they’re able to offer them and in the services of whatever they find meaningful and important.

For me, this seemed to be where my skills lie. I would not preclude doing other activism and I do sometimes, but I seem to be pretty good at this type of thing – communications. And so this is the way that I believed I could hopefully make some kind of small impact.

Samir Husni: Do you view the magazine as a serialized manifesto?

Mo Lotman: That’s interesting, no one has asked me that in quite that way. Actually, I would like it to be, because I believe a lot of the problems that we’re facing, societally and culturally, do relate back to technology, even when it’s unconscious. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of superficial examination of different technologies, and I think what we’ve seen recently is encouraging, in the sense that there has been a pushback against some of the excesses of what, I guess you could call, some of the platform, monopolistic capitalism of the 21st century: the Facebooks and the Googles, and the surveillance model.

That’s finally come out into the open more and people are finally starting to acknowledge that there’s something really screwed up about it. And that’s incredibly gratifying and hopeful. But at the same time I don’t think people are really questioning the underlying premises of some of these things, it’s more as though: well, there’s this problem with social media because the companies that are running social media aren’t doing it right. Or we’re having this climate crisis because we’re just not consuming the right types of things, instead of saying that perhaps social media as a concept is just not beneficial for human flourishment because of the ways that it encourages people to interact with each other. No matter how you do it.

And maybe the goal of this intense consumption is causing problems of global warming, regardless of how green the products you’re using are. So, I think there has to be a more fundamental reimagining of how we are using technologies, and how they change us, and what the ultimate aims of the technologies are, because at the moment everyone is trying to get the most efficient… everything is about efficiency or speed or money, but those are not really the highest goals of human flourishing.

Samir Husni: Since you launched the magazine in the fall of 2018, and with the website and everything you’ve been doing, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or have you had some challenges along the way?

Mo Lotman: No, I can’t imagine launching anything that would be a walk in a rose garden. It’s incredibly challenging, and you’re fighting against huge currents of culture. What we’re trying to do is countercultural. It may be less countercultural now than it was when we started, which is great, but it’s still countercultural. And anytime you’re doing something like that, you’re going to struggle and I knew that going in, so that was the bargain I made.

And my guess is, it would continue to be that way; it’s going to be hard to have people reimagine things that they’ve pretty much taken for granted for decades or even centuries. It’s a difficult thing to root up these deeply-held convictions, and I don’t really want to call them that, because it’s more like the air you breathe. It’s not even something you consciously think about. The goldfish doesn’t know what water is. It’s just there surrounding us all the time and people don’t think about it all. So, it’s difficult. It’s a challenge to get people to think about it. I certainly run into people who vehemently disagree with what we’re doing and that’s par for the course.

We also see a lot of people who are very encouraging and are extremely happy that we’re doing what we’re doing, and are grateful to just find out there’s something else and some other people who get it, so that they’re not feeling so alone. And I do think a lot of people do feel kind of like lonely voices in the wilderness if they have the temerity to say that they’re disturbed by our relationship with technology.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like the lone wolf in that wilderness when it comes to your views about technology?

Mo Lotman: I don’t think it’s a complete wilderness, I believe there are other people out there, which is why I wanted to do this. And I feel like those people are probably feeling incredibly isolated, frustrated and helpless, because that’s how I feel often. So, I do want to reach out to those people and I want there to be a sense of solidarity among a group of people that could lead to a movement and a change in thought. Anything like this has to start small because, again, you’re kind of fighting against prevailing culture, but as we’ve seen time and time again through history, all of these great social movements started small and had to gradually build up recognition and steam.

Sometimes it takes decades or even centuries. I hope it doesn’t take that long in this case. But there are obvious cases with civil rights and the feminist movement, anti-slavery and many more; it took tremendous lengths of time and dedication. But even smaller things like the relationship of smokers; I do think that there is a lot of analogs there, the way smoking was so prevalent in this country and at some point people just said, enough. this is killing people. There’s an entire industry devoted to addicting people, including children. It’s killing them and it’s also ruining the quality of life for everyone around them.

When that recognition started; when the surgeon general came out with that first warning in the ‘60s, it was 30 or 40 years before there were real cultural changes in this country regarding smoking, but now there is such a difference. I grew up when you could smoke on airplanes and I’m sure you did too, so it’s a tremendous cultural difference. With something that was incredibly addictive, with maybe not the majority, but at least half the country doing it, the change we have seen is pretty remarkable. I do think things like that are possible. Unfortunately, sometimes they take longer than you’d like.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, what’s the next step for the magazine, the movement, everything?

Mo Lotman: I guess the next step is to hopefully be able to reach more people, to gradually grow the circle. There are things that I would love to be able to do that we can’t quite do right now for lack of resources. I would love to have a more proactive investigatory arm of The Technoskeptic, because I think there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be looked into, that requires more intensive journalistic effort, and unfortunately, that is expensive and takes a lot of time. So, I wish we could do a bit of that.

I would also love to do some more community-level outreach. We’re actually about to start something here in Boston, I think we’re going to call it “Analog Sundays.” We’re going to have an event at a bar where everyone is not allowed to use their cell phones, they have to actually talk to each other. So, ways to get people to interact without technology, and that can remind them of what is great about the things we have already.

Obviously, there’s much to criticize, but you also want to be able to bring something positive to the table. I think the flip side of whatever criticism we get is that there’s so much that we’re capable of without technologies. And we’ve forgotten that. I think we’ve lost faith in our own abilities, which is very depressing to see. People have forgotten that we have these capabilities; we can find our way in the world, both literally and metaphysically without an app.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that the media industry has failed to recognize what you’re describing and fell in love with this new mistress called “digital” too quickly and left its spouse “print” high and dry?

Mo Lotman: (Laughs) Maybe you’re leading the witness here, but yes, I do feel they lost their way, not just about print versus digital, but also the model through which they’re attempting to bring the news to us, if we’re talking about the news specifically. Journalism has been decimated by the digital era, there has been a lot written about this. I think it’s either a 50 or 60 percent loss in the ranks of journalists over the last, however many years, since the Web exploded, which is an extraordinary loss because that’s the gatekeeper or the watchdog of democracy. And if people don’t know what’s going on in their towns, especially with local journalism, it’s impossible to have a democracy when you’re in complete darkness about what’s happening.

I have a friend who works in city government and she tells me that she can’t believe the stuff that the administration is doing, but there’s no one to report it. There’s just no one there. So, it’s like the stuff we don’t know that’s probably going to get us more than the stuff we do know that’s horrible. (Laughs)

So, I think the media was just completely infatuated by the Internet, and in a way it’s hard to blame them, because we all were that way. No one knew what was going to happen; no one knew what it meant; no one knew how to monetize it. The result was they just fell behind and they sold out. They sold their souls to the aggregators, mostly because I don’t think they knew what else to do. But what they probably should have done was create the paywalls initially that they tried to scramble and put up 10 or 15 years later. Had they done that, maybe we’d be in a different place right now.

If there’s anything positive from it, it’s that you are now beginning to see the makings of a new model for journalism, which is the nonprofit model and that’s what we are. And I do hope that works, but of course, nonprofits are constantly scrambling for money, so I do wonder if that’s the real solution.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add about the magazine or being a nonprofit?

Mo Lotman: Just that we need help. If people are resonating with this message and are interested and want to get involved, we absolutely need help. And that means any kind of help; we certainly need financial help and any other kind of help, such as any writers out there, editors or marketers; people who want to volunteer to work, they should feel free to get in touch.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest misconception you think people have about you?

Mo Lotman: To be honest with you, I don’t know the answer, but if I had to guess I would say that the misconception is I’m against technology just because I hate technology, or something of that nature. But there’s actually a perfectly good reason for the way I feel and it has to do with thinking of a sort of balance. The universe has worked, certainly on earth anyway; we think of natural systems as reaching an equilibrium and being in balance.

Of course, there’s change all the time and these changes, over great periods of time, can transform things. But within those grand time scales there’s a lot of homeostasis, there’s equilibrium, and there’s a natural balance to the world, and that is what keeps the natural world healthy. And I think we’ve really upset that balance. We’ve really blown through all the boundaries and we think that we can control everything and force the world to bend to our will. And we can’t. When we do it, we create a lot of sickness. And I think the sickness is in ourselves and it’s a sickness that’s obviously effecting the environment right now, which almost everyone should be able to acknowledge at this point.

And so, that’s the problem and I don’t think that adding new technology is going to help us because it is that technological mindset that has really caused the problems to begin with.

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

Mo Lotman: Just that I care. I’m trying to make the world a better place.

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 iPhone; or something else? How do you unwind?

Mo Lotman: (Laughs) Well, I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t have a cell phone at all, for one thing, but I love to play music: I play games; sometimes I sing; I like to go dancing. But I’m probably just spending time with friends, that’s very important to me. And that usually means in conversation, more so than going to a movie, for example. Not that I’m against movies. Being in communion with others is really the best thing and I think that’s what all of us want.

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

Mo Lotman: Honestly, if anything would keep me up, it would be just trying to keep this organization going, because it is very challenging.

Samir Husni: Thank you.  

For more information about The Technoskeptic and its mission, click here.

     

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