Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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The Magnolia Journal Celebrates One Year Of Publishing Success – Proving The Power Of Print Is No Longer Under Debate – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Christine Guilfoyle, Senior VP, Publisher, Meredith National Media Group…

October 19, 2017

“I have spent my entire career in the print brand space, and frankly, when you give consumers what it is that they want in a space where a specific niche is being filled, there is obviously success attached to that.” Christine Guilfoyle…

Almost one year to the date, I spoke with Christine Guilfoyle, senior VP, publisher, upon the launch of Meredith’s then brand new title, The Magnolia Journal. At that time, no one really knew the phenomenal success that the magazine would enjoy, in really less time than you could say, Chip and Joanna Gaines, but it did. The ink on paper magazine debuted in October 2016 as a newsstand-only title with an initial run of 400,000 copies and a cover price of $7.99. Within one week, it had sold out certain places across the United States, and was going back to press.

Not hard to see, when you have the right print product, consumers are as anxious to embrace ink on paper as they ever were. It’s as I’ve always said, publishers don’t have a print problem, they have a content problem. There is nothing wrong with the delivery of ink on paper, but instead, it’s what is being put on that paper.

But with The Magnolia Journal, there are definitely no problems with the content inside the very auspicious magazine, nor the Magnolia brand that Chip and Joanna Gaines brought to Meredith. And even though their very popular TV show, “Fixer Upper” is ending its run with this next season (by the Gaines’s choice), number Five, which airs in November, they are by no means slowing down with the Magnolia brand.

According to Christine Guilfoyle, it’s really quite the opposite. I spoke with Chris recently and we talked about the dynamic duo that make up the Magnolia brand, and the couple’s insatiable desire to connect with their audiences, across all platforms. She is convinced that the magazine, an integral part of the empire the Gaines’ have created, has only just begun and still has many plateaus to reach before it gets to the top of the mountain. And while the TV show may be a thing of the past for them, it only opens more doors for the time to do other projects, and move the magazine forward into its very bright future.

After one year, Chris is still as excited as when she spoke to me last October. When I asked her what she thought she would tell me a year from that first interview about whether she would be as positive and upbeat about print publishing as she is today, part of her answer then was: “I can’t imagine, honestly, that I will ever really run out of enthusiasm, even if you told me that I had to do it for 22 more years versus 11, because I think you create your own opportunity. You surround yourself with smart people of all ages and levels of experience.”

And one year later that enthusiasm and positivity is still just as strong as ever, especially when it comes to The Magnolia Journal. So, I hope that you enjoy this conversation I had with a very special and wise lover of print, Christine Guilfoyle, because it’s a given Mr. Magazine™ did.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she thinks The Magnolia Journal is surpassing everyone’s wildest print dreams in this digital age: As you know, I have spent my entire career in the print brand space, and frankly, when you give consumers what it is that they want in a space where a specific niche is being filled, there is obviously success attached to that.

On The Magnolia Journal being launched from Meredith’s Core Media, only to become part of the Mothership after the first two issues with Christine herself overseeing the sales: It was always me and it’s still part of our core business, so I would say that this is a bit of a hybrid. The management team, Scott Mortimer, from a lead publisher’s standpoint; he manages that group, but I was assigned the sales responsibility for The Magnolia Journal from the very first issue. And actually, for the first issue it was just me, so who knows how it became successful with just my one extra set of hands.

On the magic Meredith used to translate two human beings, Chip and Joanna Gaines, and their personalities, into an ink on paper magazine so successfully: Here’s the thing; it has nothing to do with what we were able to do, it really has to do with how incredibly involved the two of them are. And really, let’s face it, it’s Jo. Chip appears, he has a column, but the magazine is really her labor of love. It is her ability to translate all of her passion and enthusiasm around things that she loves: her family, the celebration of holidays, being grateful and hospitable; all of those types of things are translated into the magazine in her voice.

On whether she had to do any recalculating or rethinking when all of the celebrity editors came onboard at Meredith: I think the thing is with each of those celebrities they’re integrated into the family, but in the way that works the best for them. So, I think it’s more individualized versus democratized.

On the future of the magazine and whether she feels there’s still more climbing to do with the brand or they’ve reached the top of the mountain: For The Magnolia Journal, I feel like we’re just getting started. We haven’t even reached the base camp yet. We just closed the fifth issue, which is November. Chip and Joanna announced their Target partnership; they announced that Season five is the last of their TV show. But believe me, they’re nowhere near retirement. And I think it’ll be very interesting to watch them grow and develop new ways of connecting with their consumer constituents.

On whether they will increase the frequency of the magazine from a quarterly: At this point we are continuing with the quarterly frequency, so we’ll do four issues again next year: February, May, August and November. And each one of those issues has a theme, like we had this year. So, it’s intentionality, curiosity, generosity, and contentment. Every issue has a theme, and the content; when Jo sits with the editorial team, it brainstorms around that theme, and then that package is delivered to the consumer.

On whether she feels her job is different now than it was five or 10 years ago: Oh my, are you kidding me? Absolutely! There is hardly anything the same about my job. If you think back to 2005 when I was launching Everyday with Rachael Ray, which at the time was also only two people, Tracy Hadel and myself. I don’t think I can launch a magazine without a Tracy. (Laughs) How we launched Rachael Ray, and it was a different company then, Reader’s Digest, but similar family values under Mr. Ryder (Thomas Ryder, CEO, Reader’s Digest), as The Magnolia Journal is under Mr. Lacy (Steve Lacy, Chairman and CEO, Meredith), it was completely and utterly different.

On the launch of Everyday with Rachael Ray (Now Rachael Ray Every Day) at Reader’s Digest: When I think about the launch of Everyday with Rachael Ray at Reader’s Digest, we were a very small, but mighty team, and I think the company’s senior management took the launch very seriously, but it seemed the majority of the workforce that worked on Reader’s Digest did not really take it seriously.

On The Magnolia Journal’s current rate base: It’s currently 800,000 and that is our first claimed rate base, and we claimed that in August. And we’re holding that rate base for August and November. And then we’re increasing our rate base in February to 1.2 million.

On anything she’d like to add: I just think that you have to be open to the situation and the circumstance that you’ve been dealt, and use your past experience to help and guide you, but not specifically to set the rule book for you.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Don’t take anything for granted.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: It’s so interesting; my oldest daughter just went off to college, so I only have one teenaged daughter home, who is 16, and I have to tell you, I don’t know what to do with myself. I said to my husband recently, I can fill my Saturdays with normal things that women do when they’re not working: cooking, cleaning, friends, etc. But when I’ve done all of that on Saturday, for Sunday, I need to find a hobby. I’m tortured with not knowing exactly what to do with myself. (Laughs)

On what keeps her up at night: The disruption that is taking place in the media industry keeps me, and anybody who is employed in it, up at night for a variety of reasons. Are we challenging ourselves? Are we prioritizing our time and resources? Do we have the right talent? If we do, in fact, have the right talent, are we showing them that we appreciate them enough and giving them every opportunity? There are lots of things that keep me up at night, that’s for sure.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christine Guilfoyle, Senior VP, Publisher, Meredith National Media Group.

Samir Husni: I received a phone call recently from a friend of mine who owns a midsized magazine company and he was telling me that everyone working for him was declaring there was no future for print; he better sell the company because he isn’t going to make any more money in print ever again. And of course, the first thing that popped into my mind was The Magnolia Journal. So, what gives, Chris? Why is The Magnolia Journal, a print magazine, surpassing everyone’s wildest dreams in this digital age?

Christine Guilfoyle: First of all, I have 11 more years until I can retire, so I hope those people who told your friend all of that are completely and utterly wrong. And as you know, I have spent my entire career in the print brand space, and frankly, when you give consumers what it is that they want in a space where a specific niche is being filled, there is obviously success attached to that.

And you can look at that thinking with Martha Stewart; with Rachael Ray; with Oprah Winfrey. You can look at it in the continuing production of bookazines and specialty titles, such as WholeFoods Magazine or Kraft’s magazine. So, to the very broad or to the very niche, if you provide consumers with something useful and entertaining, I believe there’s a market for it.

Samir Husni: The Magnolia Journal was launched from Meredith’s Core Media and then after the first two issues, it immigrated to you and now it’s part of the Mothership. Is this the new business model today when launching a magazine?

Christine Guilfoyle: It was always me and it’s still part of our core business, so I would say that this is a bit of a hybrid. The management team, Scott Mortimer, from a lead publisher’s standpoint; he manages that group, but I was assigned the sales responsibility for The Magnolia Journal from the very first issue. And actually, for the first issue it was just me, so who knows how it became successful with just my one extra set of hands.

And at that point, I was overseeing Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart Living at the time. And you’re right, the first two issues were to see if there was going to be consumer want for the magazine. And I think when you and I spoke a year ago, ultimately, we weren’t sure that the consumer was going to respond to a paid product, and a premium paid product to that end; it’s $7.99 on the newsstand and the sub offer is four issues for $20. So, we wanted to make sure that the consumer, who received a lot of Chip and Jo and Magnolia content for free, was actually going to step up and pay for it. We had a pretty good hunch, just like with Allrecipes, which also if you’ll remember, was completely free content that we curated and charged the consumer for, and there has been a great success around that product as well.

So, the first two issues worked, and they worked incredibly well. And obviously, we renegotiated our contract and said yes, we’re in this now, and let’s move forward and build toward being a rate based model. It’s still managed out of the Core Media Group, as it relates to content and distribution and P&L oversight. But from a sales and marketing standpoint, I manage it here in New York, and the team is incredibly lean; incredibly. There are two dedicated sellers, myself and one other seller who is an ad director, Tracie Lichten. And then one marketer, Tricia Solimeno, who is dedicated 100 percent. And really, the rest of it is good Meredith family values; everybody helping out their sisters.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) No room for brothers?

Christine Guilfoyle: Oh, we’ll take brothers, not just sisters. It’s a non-sexual orientation world nowadays. (Laughs too) You are always welcomed.

Samir Husni: Chip and Joanna Gaines have departed from HGTV, yet they’re on the cover of People this week; they’re on the cover of HGTV Magazine this week; everybody talks about them, and every now and then they appear here in Oxford, Miss. on campus, in our Grove at Ole Miss, what’s the magic that you used to translate two human beings into an ink on paper magazine so successfully?

Christine Guilfoyle: Here’s the thing; it has nothing to do with what we were able to do, it really has to do with how incredibly involved the two of them are. And really, let’s face it, it’s Jo. Chip appears, he has a column, but the magazine is really her labor of love. It is her ability to translate all of her passion and enthusiasm around things that she loves: her family, the celebration of holidays, being grateful and hospitable; all of those types of things are translated into the magazine in her voice.

We were able to do that because, guess what, it’s her voice. She is incredibly hands-on, active, and involved in not only the planning stages, but all the way through until the magazine is sent to the printer.

Samir Husni: We read a lot today in the media about all of these celebrity editors, but for years, no one knew who the editor of Better Homes & Gardens was; it was more about the brand than the person at the helm. But now you’re dealing with quite a few, whether it’s Martha or Rachael or Jo; did you have to do some recalculating or rethinking when all of these celebrities came onboard, or everyone is still one big Meredith family?

Christine Guilfoyle: I think the thing is with each of those celebrities they’re integrated into the family, but in the way that works the best for them. So, I think it’s more individualized versus democratized.

I do agree with you that in the past all brands here at Meredith were about the brand and not necessarily the editorial voice that was behind it. But frankly, many of our brands are traditional media brands and that’s what the relationship was between the content and the consumer. And nowadays, just look at Liz Vaccariello at Parents, or Stephen Orr at Better Homes & Gardens, or Cheryl Brown at Family Circle; these are editors in chief that have their own social platform. And as a result, their voices are being heard as individuals to support the brands.

So, I think that we have shifted toward there being a better understanding of who the editors are, because of where the industry and the consumer has gone. That has happened naturally with our heritage brands. And in this instance, like the Rachael Ray and the Martha Stewart instances, those people had a relationship with consumers already, so we wanted to make sure that we were enhancing that experience, and have the experience be additive, and however that worked for them best personality-wise. Not necessarily what was our model.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you still have 11 years before you can retire.

Christine Guilfoyle: Yes, but my husband would argue with that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, for the future – do you think you’re at the top of the mountain now and you’re going to hope that it’s like a tabletop – flat and holding steady, or do you feel there’s still more climbing to go?

Christine Guilfoyle: For The Magnolia Journal, I feel like we’re just getting started. We haven’t even reached the base camp yet. We just closed the fifth issue, which is November. Chip and Joanna announced their Target partnership; they announced that Season five is the last of their TV show. But believe me, they’re nowhere near retirement. And I think it’ll be very interesting to watch them grow and develop new ways of connecting with their consumer constituents.

For example, recently was their “Silobration” at their Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas. And although I was not there, I watched the video and members of our management team were there, and there were double the number of consumers there this year versus last year. And I would almost suspect that will continue to evolve, and where it’s only a day and half event now, it will eventually become a complete weekend or even a full week of activities. I think it probably will. And then they’ll wake up and have a delicious Cinnamon Bun from their Magnolia Bakery, which are spectacular, and when the fog clears by that afternoon, they’ll be planning for next year’s event.

I think they are just getting started. And that’s exciting. They have books that are coming out; Chip is on a book tour for his book now, and I think their book deal was eight or ten hardcover books, something like that. So, that’s a whole other new area for them.

And you mentioned People magazine, they’ve been on the cover three times since we launched The Magnolia Journal and having worked at People magazine, I know very well that the only way you get to be on the cover is if you sell copies at the newsstand. And frankly, that continues to reinforce our position. And by the way, Jess Cagle (editorial director, People and Entertainment Weekly) is also from Texas, so I’m sure he is voting for the hometown heroes. Actually, Jess Cagle and Stephen Orr, the editor in chief of Better Homes & Gardens, are from the same small town, Abilene, Texas, and they went to rival high schools. So, it’s a small world.

Samir Husni: Are you going to increase the frequency of The Magnolia Journal or stick to the quarterly format; stay with that high cover price? What’s the future of the magazine?

Christine Guilfoyle: At this point we are continuing with the quarterly frequency, so we’ll do four issues again next year: February, May, August and November. And each one of those issues has a theme, like we had this year. So, it’s intentionality, curiosity, generosity, and contentment. Every issue has a theme, and the content; when Jo sits with the editorial team, it brainstorms around that theme, and then that package is delivered to the consumer.

And again, I think the whole notion of more frequency, less frequency; at this point, the amount of frequency that we have, quarterly, is what Jo feels comfortable committing to, based upon her high level of involvement.

Samir Husni: I want you to put on your publisher’s hat, your chief revenue officer’s hat, for a moment; let’s say your dispensing advice to students who are future magazine industry leaders, would you tell them that your job now is any different that it was five or 10 years ago?

Christine Guilfoyle: Oh my, are you kidding me? Absolutely! There is hardly anything the same about my job. If you think back to 2005 when I was launching Everyday with Rachael Ray, which at the time was also only two people, Tracy Hadel and myself. I don’t think I can launch a magazine without a Tracy. (Laughs) How we launched Rachael Ray, and it was a different company then, Reader’s Digest, but similar family values under Mr. Ryder (Thomas Ryder, CEO, Reader’s Digest), as The Magnolia Journal is under Mr. Lacy (Steve Lacy, Chairman and CEO, Meredith), it was completely and utterly different.

Everything about the launch was different. I think the only two things they had in common were they both had a celebrity who appeared on the cover and they were both runaway consumer circulation successes. Outside of that, there wasn’t a single thing that I did the same.

Samir Husni: Could you expand a little bit on that?

Christine Guilfoyle: No one has really ever asked me the question like that before, but when I think about the launch of Everyday with Rachael Ray at Reader’s Digest, we were a very small, but mighty team, and I think the company’s senior management took the launch very seriously, but it seemed the majority of the workforce that worked on Reader’s Digest did not really take it seriously.

I think Rachael’s popularity at that particular moment in time, May 2005, if my memory serves me correctly, is when the article was published in The New York Times about Rachael launching a magazine. And there were many people, including all of my contacts at Unilever, remember I had come from Better Homes & Gardens, so I was calling on all of the major national advertisers, People at Unilever did not know who Rachael was. And she had three shows on the Food Network at the time; probably around 10 cookbooks out at the time, she was a celebrated cookbook author, and you couldn’t turn on the Food Network without seeing Rachael Ray.

The difference was that a celebrity at that particular time, and yes, there was Oprah and her show and O The Oprah Magazine, and yes, there was Martha and all of her great extensions, but celebrities on the Food Network or HGTV, they weren’t looked upon or even known to have extensions beyond just what that program was. I know it seems so completely hard to believe.

I knew Rachael before she had met Oprah, before she had her own talk show, just as she was launching her South by Southwest footprint, and we were all under 40. It was a pretty amazing time. In her particular lifecycle and development, at that time, she wasn’t married, and who she wanted to be as a brand was being defined, and the magazine really got to help shape that footprint of who Rachael was and what she was going to stand for. The consumer is who is important to her and that’s the charm of Rachael. If I can do it, you can too; it’s the whole collective girl-next-door thing.

And with The Magnolia Journal, it’s the same, we don’t need to teach Chip and Jo who it is that they are and what it is that they stand for, and how it is that they relate to their consumer constituency. Like Rachael, they are masterful in the dissemination of their own story, utilizing all forms of social and digital to make sure that who it is that they are, what they stand for, their values and business proposition; all of it is so incredibly crystal clear. So, none of the time that we spend with them is about that. We’re here to be a mentor and a guide on how to produce great consumer content in a magazine format. And that’s something that they haven’t done before.

Our go-to-market sale; at Reader’s Digest, there really weren’t corporate deals, there weren’t any sharing of proposals, the targeted audiences were completely different between the Reader’s Digest and Everyday with Rachael Ray. Here at the Meredith Corporation, we work completely in cooperation. Our book of business is quite similar, but our cost of entry, because of the limited inventory not only in the number of ads, but also in the frequency of publication, allows us to put together a very consumer-centric 85 percent editorial, 15 percent advertising, and that is completely and utterly by design.

Samir Husni: What is your rate base now?

Christine Guilfoyle: It’s currently 800,000 and that is our first claimed rate base, and we claimed that in August. And we’re holding that rate base for August and November. And then we’re increasing our rate base in February to 1.2 million.

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

Christine Guilfoyle: I just think that you have to be open to the situation and the circumstance that you’ve been dealt, and use your past experience to help and guide you, but not specifically to set the rule book for you.

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

Christine Guilfoyle: Don’t take anything for granted.

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?

Christine Guilfoyle: It’s so interesting; my oldest daughter just went off to college, so I only have one teenaged daughter home, who is 16, and I have to tell you, I don’t know what to do with myself. I said to my husband recently, I can fill my Saturdays with normal things that women do when they’re not working: cooking, cleaning, friends, etc. But when I’ve done all of that on Saturday, for Sunday, I need to find a hobby. I’m tortured with not knowing exactly what to do with myself. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You can always buy some magazines and sit down and read them. (Laughs)

Christine Guilfoyle: Are you kidding me? You know me, I don’t just read them, I sit down and tear sheet them. And that is a voracious hobby of mine. But I would actually say that falls into the work bucket, versus my leisure bucket. (Laughs)

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

Christine Guilfoyle: The disruption that is taking place in the media industry keeps me, and anybody who is employed in it, up at night for a variety of reasons. Are we challenging ourselves? Are we prioritizing our time and resources? Do we have the right talent? If we do, in fact, have the right talent, are we showing them that we appreciate them enough and giving them every opportunity? There are lots of things that keep me up at night, that’s for sure. But I also think it’s a very exciting time, and one that when we come out of it on the other side, which I hope is sooner rather than later, those of us that have persevered, people and companies, will be better for it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Journal Of Alta California: A Quarterly Magazine And A Website Launched To Celebrate California’s Culture, Issues & All-Important History – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Mark Potts, Managing Editor…

October 16, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

“I think we started somewhat print first, because that was Will’s (William R. Hearst III) interest, so the magazine was the bedrock and we built from there. The website was built alongside it. But we thought of it in terms of a print magazine, which is weird for me because I’m a digital guy, and I’ve spent most of the last 25 years in digital. So, going back to print was different, but fun and really interesting to create a product completely from scratch like this.” Mark Potts…

William R. Hearst III is certainly someone who knows about publishing and magazines, since his last name is Hearst and absolutely synonymous with anything at all that has to do with the industry. So, to hear that he has launched a new print magazine, along with a website to go with it, is not a surprise, but it is maybe long overdue, especially considering that the “Journal of Alta California” (Alta for short) has been on his mind for about 20 years, according to the magazine’s managing editor, Mark Potts.

Mark is an entrepreneur, executive and consultant who has long been on the cutting edge of the digital media revolution. He has been a leader in the development of innovative strategies and products in online media, created and worked for several startups, consulted to some of the nation’s leading digital and media companies, and has taught college classes in entrepreneurship. Mark also created one of the first electronic news prototypes in the early 1990s, and then co-founded The Washington Post Co.’s digital division and he was a member of the founding team of the @Home Network, where he led the creation of the first consumer broadband programming service.

So, with Mark’s digital background and Will’s legacy in media, the two together should definitely be print proud and digital smart. I spoke with Mark recently and we talked about the magazine and how it is something that Will Hearst is extremely proud of, and that it’s definitely a reflection of the man and not the company. It is his paean to California and provides a fresh, smart take on the issues, culture, personalities, politics, lifestyle, culture and history of California, featuring some of the state’s best writers, photographers and illustrators. The magazine’s website, altaonline.com, will be a daily guide to the best writing about the state from Alta and other sources.

Will Hearst will be actively involved in leading the magazine, and along with Mark and the magazine’s creative director, John Goecke, who has created designs for many newspapers, magazines and digital companies, the future for Alta looks bright indeed.

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mark Potts, managing editor, Alta magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how it’s different today launching a new magazine media brand than it was in the early days when all you had to worry about was the print magazine: That’s a really good question. You obviously have to think simultaneously, in terms of the website and social media, and to some extent video and audio. We’re pursuing all of those. And obviously the website is up and we’re active on social media. And we’re working on our plans for video, podcasts and audio, and multimedia. So, you have to work through the whole thing.

On his reaction when he received the first print issue: I come from a print background, so print still means something to me. It’s not my primary form of consumption anymore; I do just about everything digitally. But it’s still a nice talisman; it’s still a nice thing to have to put on the shelf or sit on the coffee table.

On why the masthead of the magazine reads like a who’s who list of many different people: That was really Will trying to pay tribute to a lot of people who are friends of his or who he admires. Some of those people have actually been involved in the planning of the magazine, but they’re not active, they’re honorary, especially the inspirations. But it’s just our way of paying tribute to the people who gave us good ideas, either directly or even indirectly, things that we saw them do and said, “Gee, this is somebody who we’d love to have or would enjoy what we’re doing and we want to pay tribute to them.”

On the thinking behind the physical attributes of the printed magazine, such as the oversized format and the comparisons to The New Yorker magazine: When we say The New Yorker for California, we’re talking more about sensibility and about literate, witty, and smart content. I would describe it as 70 percent New Yorker and 20 percent Vanity Fair and 10 percent Spy, trying to get the mix in there. But the oversize is another thing that Will wanted to do as sort of a tribute to the New York Review of Books, which he’s a big fan of, and some other magazines that are that size. He wanted to try something different, maybe get a little more attention on the newsstand with that size, but we could definitely do much better graphics and art, and that’s really important. And the first time that I saw it printed out, we did some dummy copies and I was blown away; it was incredible.

On how he decides what content goes on which platform, print or digital: I think we primarily think in terms of the quarterly magazine, because we can’t publish blank pages, so it’s good to keep things for the magazine. But there’s really a phenomenal story about that; the first story that we put up on the web was written for the web. There are a couple of things that were written for the magazine that didn’t make the magazine, so they went up, but there’s a story that went up, a piece on a mobility score; it’s a little calculator that you can use, you put in your address and it tells you how good mass transit is around your house. And that could never have worked in print; it had to be done online, and that’s why we chose to do it.

On where the name Journal of Alta California, Alta for short, came from: There was a newspaper after the Gold Rush called Alta California. It was one of the first and became very famous; Mark Twain wrote for it. And we have a collection of his letters to the original Alta in the first issue. It was something that Will always admired when he was doing some research in California history, he kept coming across the name and liked the idea of calling the magazine The Journal of Alta California, so the name has always been that, and Alta for short. But it’s a tribute to that pioneering journalistic enterprise of the 1860s.

On defining today’s Alta brand: The last page will always be something that looks forward with all prospects, and it’s always about some piece of technology or something. Every trend starts in California, so we want to identify the trends before they start on that last page. So, we always look forward. But we want to look back too. I think it’s to try and get at the richness of California. Someone sent something very interesting to us in a note recently that really encapsulates this. California is always covered as a place where everything is happening right now, and doesn’t often have a sense of its own history. And we’re trying to remedy that a little bit. We’re not going to overdo it, but there’ll be at least one historical piece in every issue, which is similar to what The New Yorker or The Atlantic does.

On whether the journey of Alta has been a walk in a Rose Garden or there have been challenges along the way: It’s been pretty easy. Will has been talking about this for around 20 years. There’s an amazing collection of memos from famous editors proposing versions of it. He and I started talking about it in 2010. I have notes from 2010 about this that aren’t real dissimilar from what we published. It was just a question of timing and when he wanted to commit the time and the funds to it.

On that definitive moment when they decided to just do it: Believe it or not, that was basically in June. We started talking really earnestly about it around a year ago. We did a prototype in February or March, just to see what it would look like. We had a budget, and the real go-ahead did not come until the first week in June, so we put this thing together very quickly. Once we knew it was there, and given how quickly we put it together, I’m happy with the way it came out. Now, we have a little more time to be thoughtful about it.

On whether he feels in today’s digital world, there is a need for both “slow journalism” and immediate journalism: I know that Will refers to this as slow journalism, and I think in print you definitely want to be more thoughtful and take more time. We do a lot of work with our writers in getting stories just right. You have the luxury of that in print; you don’t have that luxury online, where you have to move a lot more quickly. We’re not covering news, I want to underline that. We’re not about breaking news.

On anything else he’d like to add: One thing that’s important is this is a personal project of Will’s, not a Hearst company project. And this is something that he’s really wanted to do for a long time. It’s a chance for him to take advantage of his legacy on his own terms, and really show his chops as a thinker and a publisher. He’s obviously been involved as an editor and a publisher with Outside magazine, Rolling Stone, and the San Francisco Examiner, which is where he and I first met. But this is really something that’s his. And it very much reflects him; it’s his interests in California and being very literate, and sort of the journalism of the West.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m surfing the web. I’m on a digital device, reading everything in sight. Twitter, magazines, newspapers, websites, just whatever.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I’m really proud of the role I’ve had as a pioneer in digital media. I started the Washington Post electronic division 25 years ago, and got the Post going online when no one believed that any of this was going to happen. I like creating products that make a difference and that last. So, the legacy is that people look back and say, wow, that’s the product that he created and it’s still here.

On what keeps him up at night: Not a whole lot. It’s thinking of stories; trying to find some really interesting stories to tell people about California. But that’s never a huge problem. We have a lot of great freelancers who are pitching ideas and have become sort of an informal contributing staff to us. It’s been a fairly easy launch and a fairly easy existence so far. We’ll see what the second one is like; we’re in the middle of the second one. But so far, if anything, we’re getting better at it, because we’re starting to get some rhythms. It’s been a great experience. It’s been fascinating to create something this elaborate from scratch; to try and figure out what kind of sensibility it has and the kind of voice it has.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Mark Potts, managing editor, Alta.

Samir Husni: As the managing editor of the brand, the magazine and everything surrounding it, how is it different today launching a new magazine media brand than the early days when all you had to do was have that ink on paper component?

Mark Potts: That’s a really good question. You obviously have to think simultaneously, in terms of the website and social media, and to some extent video and audio. We’re pursuing all of those. And obviously the website is up and we’re active on social media. And we’re working on our plans for video, podcasts and audio, and multimedia. So, you have to work through the whole thing.

I think we started somewhat print first, because that was Will’s (William R. Hearst III) interest, so the magazine was the bedrock and we built from there. The website was built alongside it. But we thought of it in terms of a print magazine, which is weird for me because I’m a digital guy, and I’ve spent most of the last 25 years in digital. So, going back to print was different, but fun and really interesting to create a product completely from scratch like this.

Another piece of it that I think is really significant, and I’m understanding this better every day, is the role of social media as a promotional device. And what we’re doing with Facebook and Twitter to push the brand out there. We get inundated with shares and likes and all of the other good things on those two platforms. We’ll also do something really interesting, and this is another piece of it; being a quarterly is a very interesting cadence for us, especially for me coming from digital and daily, quarterly seems very slow. How do you keep the brand in front of people in the three months between editions is a big issue and social media is just phenomenal for that, and the website is too, but social especially, because we can publish every day. We can push things out on Twitter and on Facebook daily; we’re putting magazine stories up, obviously; we’re putting some things that didn’t make the magazine and some fresh property up.

And another thing that we do that I think is really significant, and I’m not aware of any magazine ever having done this, is curating other good content; we’re trying to pull together stories from other sources, the kind of stories that we’d run in our magazine if we had access to them. So, if there’s a great investigative piece in the L.A. Times; a really good feature about California in The Atlantic, or a great profile on someone from California in The New Yorker, we’ll put up those as well. We put up about 10 of those per day on the website and promote those through social media. And that’s been fantastic because it allows us to promote this great content that other people are doing; it keeps us fresh; it gives people a reason to follow us, and it helps those brands. So, we don’t feel like a quarterly magazine; we feel like a daily publication.

Samir Husni: When you received that premier issue of the print quarterly, as a digital person, what was your reaction? Did you feel like “wow” or “OK, it’s another magazine?”

Mark Potts: I come from a print background, so print still means something to me. It’s not my primary form of consumption anymore; I do just about everything digitally. But it’s still a nice talisman; it’s still a nice thing to have to put on the shelf or sit on the coffee table. I had read every word of it 15 times before it went to print, so I’m not reading it as a reader, but it’s a cool souvenir.

Samir Husni: Tell me, with this cool souvenir, I look at the masthead and besides the normal suspects, the managing editor and the creative director, you have a who’s who list of contributors, a who’s who list for your editorial board, and a who’s who list for an inspirational board. Why did you and Will feel the need to populate the masthead in this way?

Mark Potts: That was really Will trying to pay tribute to a lot of people who are friends of his or who he admires. Some of those people have actually been involved in the planning of the magazine, but they’re not active, they’re honorary, especially the inspirations. But it’s just our way of paying tribute to the people who gave us good ideas, either directly or even indirectly, things that we saw them do and said, “Gee, this is somebody who we’d love to have or would enjoy what we’re doing and we want to pay tribute to them.”

Will has been talking about this project for 20 years, and he’s talked to a lot of people about it. So, a lot of those folks are people who have guided his thinking along the way as he’s been conceiving this.

Samir Husni: What’s the idea behind the print magazine being oversized? All the comparisons I’ve read and all of the comments in the media are saying that Will wanted to do something like The New Yorker for the West Coast. Yet, when I received the print edition of the magazine, it was oversized and looks nothing like The New Yorker. What’s the thinking behind the physical attributes of the magazine?

Mark Potts: When we say The New Yorker for California, we’re talking more about sensibility and about literate, witty, and smart content. I would describe it as 70 percent New Yorker and 20 percent Vanity Fair and 10 percent Spy, trying to get the mix in there.

But the oversize is another thing that Will wanted to do as sort of a tribute to the New York Review of Books, which he’s a big fan of, and some other magazines that are that size. He wanted to try something different, maybe get a little more attention on the newsstand with that size, but we could definitely do much better graphics and art, and that’s really important. And the first time that I saw it printed out, we did some dummy copies and I was blown away; it was incredible.

When you look at it in screen and PDF form as you’re laying it out, it looks like a regular magazine, but when you see it in 10×13, and in fact, it was going to be bigger; we had an issue and we had to size it down a little bit, but when you see it in 10×13, you realize that it has some heft to it. It really stands out.

Samir Husni: If someone was going to travel inside your mind as you’re putting the brand together, do you have definitive ideas about what content goes in print and what goes online? How do you process the art of curation? I know the articles from other publications are going directly to the web, that’s the easy one, because you can’t publish them, but what about the original content; do you ever feel an inner struggle about which platform would be best-suited for what?

Mark Potts: I think we primarily think in terms of the quarterly magazine, because we can’t publish blank pages, so it’s good to keep things for the magazine. But there’s really a phenomenal story about that; the first story that we put up on the web was written for the web. There are a couple of things that were written for the magazine that didn’t make the magazine, so they went up, but there’s a story that went up, a piece on a mobility score; it’s a little calculator that you can use, you put in your address and it tells you how good mass transit is around your house.

And that could never have worked in print; it had to be done online, and that’s why we chose to do it. We thought it would be a fun thing to put up there and call attention to. We wrote a very short story about it and put it up. And that will never appear in print, because it wouldn’t work. The point of the story is it’s a fun fact to know and tell, but it doesn’t have any real application. The fun is to keep punching in addresses to see what the different scores are.

Pretty much everything else though is fair game. There’s one story possibility that has a really heavy video package and that’s something that might appear mostly online, because of the video, but we might do something small in print before the online piece. But if it’s word-based, we’re going to start with print, that would probably be our first choice. But we’ll put a fresh story on the website probably every week, and some of those will find their way into the magazine. When we start putting together the magazine, we’ll ask what we put on the web that was really good that we can also put in print.

Samir Husni: For the non-California people, where did the magazine’s title come from? What does Alta, Journal of Alta California mean?

Mark Potts: That’s explained in the Editor’s Letter in the first issue. There was a newspaper after the Gold Rush called Alta California. It was one of the first and became very famous; Mark Twain wrote for it. And we have a collection of his letters to the original Alta in the first issue. It was something that Will always admired when he was doing some research in California history, he kept coming across the name and liked the idea of calling the magazine The Journal of Alta California, so the name has always been that, and Alta for short. But it’s a tribute to that pioneering journalistic enterprise of the 1860s.

Samir Husni: For people who don’t have a copy of the first issue; after reading through the pages, I felt there is a mixture between the old and the new, as if you’re taking your readers through a journey of the past and then suddenly, they’re on a rocket ship to the future. Can you define today’s Alta brand?

Mark Potts: It’s very deliberate. The last page will always be something that looks forward with all prospects, and it’s always about some piece of technology or something. Every trend starts in California, so we want to identify the trends before they start on that last page. So, we always look forward. But we want to look back too.

I think it’s to try and get at the richness of California. Someone sent something very interesting to us in a note recently that really encapsulates this. California is always covered as a place where everything is happening right now, and doesn’t often have a sense of its own history. And we’re trying to remedy that a little bit. We’re not going to overdo it, but there’ll be at least one historical piece in every issue, which is similar to what The New Yorker or The Atlantic does. But it’s something that tries to go back and look at some interesting slices of California’s past that is a great story. Something that gives people a sense of the roots of California, such as the Blimp story in our first issue, which people’s response was they didn’t know that. So, we want more of that surprise. It will be mostly current and looking forward, but we want that bit of anchor with the roots.

Samir Husni: Since you started working with Will and developing the brand, has it been a walk in a Rose Garden for you both, or you’ve been faced with some challenges and obstacles along the way?

Mark Potts: It’s been pretty easy. Will has been talking about this for around 20 years. There’s an amazing collection of memos from famous editors proposing versions of it. He and I started talking about it in 2010. I have notes from 2010 about this that aren’t real dissimilar from what we published. It was just a question of timing and when he wanted to commit the time and the funds to it.

In some ways it has been remarkably easy, because there’s a lot of infrastructure in place these days to publish a magazine that you can tap into. Our production is being done by, Pubworx , which is a Condé Nast/Hearst big venture that does magazine production , which is actually coincidental. There’s a third party distributor that takes care of it. If you plug into these mechanisms, then you can put a magazine out.

And despite the long masthead, the staff is literally like five or six people, and not even that full-time. Two full-timers and me and the art director, the amazing John Goecke, and everybody else is doing it part-time or as freelancers, which tells you a lot about the magazine business these days. You can do things with a network of people that used to be done with an office full of 100 people. It helps that it’s quarterly. Monthly or weekly, I couldn’t even imagine.

Samir Husni: Do you remember that definitive moment when the decision was made to just do it?

Mark Potts: Believe it or not, that was basically in June. We started talking really earnestly about it around a year ago. We did a prototype in February or March, just to see what it would look like. We had a budget, and the real go-ahead did not come until the first week in June, so we put this thing together very quickly. Once we knew it was there, and given how quickly we put it together, I’m happy with the way it came out. Now, we have a little more time to be thoughtful about it.

We have great freelancers, and we’re cultivating more all of the time. We now have another pipeline of stories, which is very exciting, because we started out without one. So, it came together very quickly. It had been talked about for a long time, but the final go decision came just two months before it went to press.

Samir Husni: There are some magazines in the U.K. that people refer to as slow journalism, that they take their time and digest the stories and investigate the stories. As an editor in today’s marketplace and in today’s digital world, do you feel there is a need for that mix of slow journalism and immediate journalism, or do you think that the balance that you have struck at Alta is the perfect recipe for others to follow?

Mark Potts: I don’t know if you ever catch that perfect balance. I know that Will refers to this as slow journalism, and I think in print you definitely want to be more thoughtful and take more time. We do a lot of work with our writers in getting stories just right. You have the luxury of that in print; you don’t have that luxury online, where you have to move a lot more quickly. We’re not covering news, I want to underline that. We’re not about breaking news.

One of the fascinating ongoing conversations that we’ve had is how to deal with Trump. We have had stories that have had things about Trump and I’ve edited them, and then taken that out, because we don’t know what is going to happen in three months. This is the slow news issue, when you have a three month lean-time on a story and the situation is as volatile as the Trump presidency, you really don’t want to be out there saying one thing when three weeks before your issue hits the stands something else happens. So, that’s interesting; slow news versus fast news.

Online we can be a lot more nimble. We’re talking now about what we want to do online with the Harvey Weinstein story. Do we want to chase that a little bit? But with news like that, other people can do that better than us. The Santa Rosa fires; I asked our web editor to look for a good feature about that. Obviously, it’s a news story and it’s being covered beautifully as a news story by other people and we can’t keep up with that. But if there’s something that we could link to that would give people a step back in a way that also works with the magazine and cover that story, then we would do that. But that’s sort of as newsy as we get. We still have this constant battle against being too newsy, that said, we’d love to break some news and we’ll do that as we go along. We hope to have good, investigative stories and interviews that people will love and say, wow, look at that. That’s something that Alta had first. And we’ll do that for sure.

It’s a real interesting balance, and because we’re in print and digital media we can’t ignore one in favor of the other. We’re constantly balancing it.

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

Mark Potts: One thing that’s important is this is a personal project of Will’s, not a Hearst company project. And this is something that he’s really wanted to do for a long time. It’s a chance for him to take advantage of his legacy on his own terms, and really show his chops as a thinker and a publisher. He’s obviously been involved as an editor and a publisher with Outside magazine, Rolling Stone, and the San Francisco Examiner, which is where he and I first met. But this is really something that’s his. And it very much reflects him; it’s his interests in California and being very literate, and sort of the journalism of the West. He’s very fascinated by that, so I think he has this idea of why aren’t we standing in California and looking out, just looking at everything as a surveyor of all things California. So, I believe that’s really his vision, and trying to turn that into a product. So, I think this has been real important to him.

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 digital devices; or something else?

Mark Potts: I’m surfing the web. I’m on a digital device, reading everything in sight. Twitter, magazines, newspapers, websites, just whatever.

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

Mark Potts: I’m really proud of the role I’ve had as a pioneer in digital media. I started the Washington Post electronic division 25 years ago, and got the Post going online when no one believed that any of this was going to happen. I like creating products that make a difference and that last. So, the legacy is that people look back and say, wow, that’s the product that he created and it’s still here.

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

Mark Potts: Not much – Donald Trump.

Samir Husni: (Laughs).

Mark Potts: But not a whole lot. It’s thinking of stories; trying to find some really interesting stories to tell people about California. But that’s never a huge problem. We have a lot of great freelancers who are pitching ideas and have become sort of an informal contributing staff to us. It’s been a fairly easy launch and a fairly easy existence so far. We’ll see what the second one is like; we’re in the middle of the second one.

But so far, if anything, we’re getting better at it, because we’re starting to get some rhythms. It’s been a great experience. It’s been fascinating to create something this elaborate from scratch; to try and figure out what kind of sensibility it has and the kind of voice it has. What interesting little features that we can put into it to tickle people. And we’ve done some of what we wanted, there are still things that we want to add as we go along, but it’s been fun to ask what would a really high-quality magazine about California be like? And then try to produce it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Out Magazine At 25: A Mr. Magazine™ Interview From The Vault With Founding Editor Sarah Pettit…

October 4, 2017

Aaron Hicklin, Editor in Chief, of Out magazine asks in his intro to the 25th Anniversary issue of the magazine, “How do you write an editor’s letter marking an anniversary?

Well rather than telling you how Aaron answered his question in this blog, (thus giving you the opportunity to go buy a copy of the magazine and find Aaron’s answer on your own), I opted to go into the Mr. Magazine™ vault and publish an interview I did with the founding editor of Out magazine, the late Sarah Pettit. Sarah, who died at the young age of 36 in 2003, was the founding editor and former editor in chief of Out magazine. The interview was published in my book Launch Your Own Magazine in 1998 and is reprinted below as it appeared in the book.

Sarah Pettit is the editor-in-chief of Out, a general interest magazine for gays and lesbians published by Out Publishing Inc. The first issue of Out appeared in 1992.
At what stage and in what capacity did you join Out?

I wasn’t the founder. The founder was Michael Goff, and the magazine was already established when I came into it. But I worked on the first issue. I helped to launch it. But I started work with the editorial. Everything else was already there.

What type of advice would you give someone who is launching a magazine?

I would probably tell them to walk to their nearest newsstand and take a look to see if what they want to do has already been done. And if it has been done, in what way has it been done, and how are their ideas different?

I think, especially in any major urban area, you can look at any newsstand of any size and find an enormous array of titles on pretty much everything from fly fishing to car mechanics to gay and lesbian lifestyles. For instance, the one I work on had pretty much been covered. But when we launched our magazine, what we noticed by looking at the newsstand was that there were no monthly feature magazines targeted to the gay and lesbian audience, nothing that addressed their issues in a full quality, industry standard way. So we said, “Well, there’s something that need to be done which hasn’t been done and that, obviously, people are going to be interested in.”

If you see that there are already five or six people doing it, and you are not going to bring anything particular new to the story, then you probably won’t have too much success. Unless, of course, you are a major magazine company and you can figure out how to squeeze out all of the little guys. But to the entrepreneur, it probably should be something with some necessity behind it.

How can an entrepreneur give the concept that special spin?

I think what we said was, you know there are probably a fair number of gays and lesbians in America. No one knows exactly how to count them, but even a rough estimate certainly puts them at the size of a magazine that is acceptable to launch. Most of the major companies want a magazine to hit about five hundred thousand at the get go, but it depends on how quickly you are going to increase your circulation. You have got to have a reasonable amount of circulation pretty soon after the launch to be able to warrant your expenses.

I think the way you put the twist on your idea is by finding something unique and special. I think what we found as this group of people who have a lot of common interests, whether that’s the more political aspects of what a gay issue is, or whether it’s the more cultural aspects of things, or if it’s simply the basic questions of how to organize your finances with your partner. Any of those things that are straightforward service questions, as they say in the magazine trade.

We knew that there was no real, centralized place they could go for that information in a consistent way. Doing a magazine such as ours would provide people with a unique publishing product that they probably couldn’t get anywhere else. As with any audience, what you want to do is look at your group and say, “What is it about these people that pulls them together?” What are their shared interests? And what is it about this product that you are giving them that no one else can?”

You know, obviously for gay men and lesbians, it’s even harder because in the past it’s been this community of people who are so dispersed. It was harder for them to identify themselves and speak of their common experiences. So, for a magazine, this is a very good thing because you want people who are hungry for information and for what you want to bring them.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

I honestly don’t know if I would have done too much differently. I know one thing that is very important is not to grow your magazine more quickly than it can handle. One of the classic ways you can go bust is to grow too fast and too furiously. Don’t start laying on a bunch of staff that you can’t afford to keep.

When we made our first magazine, we were in the offices of another company. Esquire actually offered us the space at Hearst Publications because the man who designed our first issue, Roger Black, had his design studio at Esquire. He worked on Esquire as their art guru, so we had the space and we had access to computers and it was all for very little money.

We had five or six people who worked on it, but now, five years later, we have a staff of thirty-two, including people from all over the magazine industry. Our publishers just spent eighteen years at the New York Times in the business department. Our president was at the Times for years, too, and at the Hartford Courant before that. We now have people from all over.

You can get competitive and start paying the good salaries later on, but don’t get too crazy. I think that is one of the problems that people have. They think that they can launch fancy offices with pretty desks and nice carpeting, but they don’t think about the fact that the magazine business is really expensive. Last year, for example, our paper costs went up 60%. That’s something that you can’t foresee, and if you have too much up front, costs can really kill you.

What advice would you give for recruiting staff?

I think one of the key things is to get people who really feel like they want to come to their jobs in the morning. I think you have to inspire them in whatever way. To our benefit, we were making a magazine that a lot of our staff felt was really important. They personally felt very compassionate about the idea of bringing information to a group of people who had not had that before.

So you have the professional motivation of mixing a good product with a lot of pride. If you can hit people at home and make them feel like they are really doing something important, you can come out with any magazine. You can make a magazine about golf and make people who work with you feel that it’s important. Often, I feel that people equate that with young, hungry talent. I don’t know if that has to do with age or point of view, but it’s best to not have people who feel like they’re doing you a favor just by coming to work.

And there is something to be said for people with magazine backgrounds. I think one of the things that created the biggest problem for the gay press is the thought that, “OH, anyone can make a magazine.” Well, no, not anyone can make a magazine. Part of what makes a good magazine is having people with magazine talent. It’s a unique skill, just like any skill.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from the Out launch?

Oh, I wish I had more money! Actually, it’s been very interesting. I think that I have learned that money isn’t everything, even though I just said it was.

You look at something like the report that when House and Garden relaunched this fall from Conde Nast, they spent forty-four million dollars over the course of a year or two. That was just to get to the point of relaunching the magazine, just to get to that one issue. Forty-four million dollars-all for prototypes and staff and shooting stories that they wouldn’t use.

There was this enormous kind of loading of that project, and then I look at what I have. Forty-four million dollars, based on how much money we spent in the first five years, we could be around for the next two thousand years. We’re talking about just enormous amounts of money. And then I look at how little I do with, and I say, “Gee.” It really kind of makes you appreciate the value of every dollar. Some of this stuff is just crazy. It doesn’t need to be this expensive, but money, unfortunately, is useful and you need a lot of it for magazines, for good writers anyway.

Do you do most of your work in-house?

Most of our writing is freelanced.

Is that something you’ve done from beginning?

Yes. We try to work with a pretty broad array of people and keep that mix up. The premise of the magazine has always been that we go to talent from all over the industry – whether people are working on TV Guide or Essence or Vanity Fair – and bring them to Out where they can do special stories that are especially relevant. Whether it is the arts writer who can write about books for us or the entertainment journalists who can’t do exactly that story where they are based. It’s kind of taking people’s real world specialties and bringing them to Out where they make sense for us.

You know, in some next world, it would be nice to have a broad base of people whom you could pay to keep on retainer. But I think people can be really wasteful with that, too. There are major magazines that can lock up millions of people. They want people to be dedicated just to them, and they pay them huge amounts of money so they don’t work for anyone else. That kind of stuff can be ego-driven. And ridiculous, too. Is it really worth it to spend a hundred thousand dollars just to keep someone from writing for anyone else?

What about the actual birth of Out? Who developed the concept and how did it grow?

The idea was essentially Roger Black’s, who was behind the first issues of the magazine. Michael Goff, the actual founder, worked for Roger and they were always working on this idea of what would it be like to start a gay magazine. They had started doing prototypes that were targeting only the male readers, and then they actually decided to expand it and make it for men and women.
After the initial investor was brought on board, that’s when I came on and started to open offices about six months later.

During those six months, what types of struggles did you face? Did any of them change your thinking?

I do think that their initial of audience focus was big because emphasis on demographics is really important. I don’t know I guess the cliché is that launches always lead to big fights, and people change and sort of drop off. We really didn’t have a whole lot of that.

I think that once we were committed, that first year we were in business, there really wasn’t time for anything else. I think that the good thing about Michael’s initial idea, once he had the germ of it, was that the message of the magazine and the focus of the magazine and the content have always been consistent. It’s not like it started one way and then it morphed and changed a million times. I think that is the way you lose readers. Michael was pretty clear that we were launching a general interest, national magazine for gay men and lesbians.

I think he knew it was going to be topical; it was going to have features and art coverage and fashion. It was going to be a monthly features magazine that a gay Vanity Fair would be. In fact, that was one of our buzz lines. He pretty much kept that vision and we have kept it to this day. I think that is really helpful because people aren’t trying to figure out what we are.

I also think it was really helpful that we were considered iconoclastic and weird because it was a gay magazine and the whole structure of how you make a magazine and the whole structure of how you make a magazine was in pretty classic terms. We were going to make a magazine and we were going to make it for audiences that hadn’t had that. So the buzz line that came out of that was a traditional magazine for a nontraditional audience. Now, we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. We were just trying to drive the wheel to a different place, as it were.

What about advertisers?

I think the main thing is that, in the last five years, we have brought on every major advertising category, from fashion to automotive to electronics. In the past, the gay press had never been supported by any mainstream advertisers, and it was considered to be something that was pretty much impossible.

The buzz word was kind of like, “You will get Absolut and you will get Benetton – and the rest of it, well you will have to make do with love.” And that did not prove to be the case at all. What we showed was that we made a quality magazine, and we had a lot of quality contributors, great articles, great photography. People like Roger Black were behind it, and the people in the industry recognized that, and it kind of trickled down.

I think media buyers and people in the industry had to look at that and recognize, “Here’s a great way to reach there people and to target these people in a place we haven’t been able to get to until now.” Ellen DeGeneres’ character coming out on TV aside, there really haven’t been that many gay media outlets.

So I think it coincided with a moment in the media when people were looking for a way to find new niche markets, and one of the hot, new niches in the early nineties was the gay and lesbian market. It still continues to be. Out majestically came at just about the right time for people. It did it in the same way that ten or twenty years previous, people tried to target the African American industry or the Latino industry.

In that respect, the advertising story became a much richer one than people thought it might because we had everyone from fashion retail to automotive to electronic to expensive liquor and tobacco and a lot of other industry that supports magazines. So, in that way, we were looked at as a test case, and a very successful test case.

How important is flexibility?

You have to have a good message, and you have to be convinced about it. If it’s like a square peg going into a round hole, and you are bringing people a message and a magazine that no one wants, and you stick to it, you are just going to go down in flames anyway.

But I do think that if you have a good idea, you’ve got to stick to it for a while because you won’t see much happening overnight. You know, it takes a while for small magazines launching on their own to grow like ours has. We are having our fifth anniversary this year, and I am only just now beginning to feel like our magazine is really taking off. It just takes so long.

When you take carrots and potatoes and chicken and you put it in a pot, it takes a while for the flavor to happen, and it does not happen overnight. If you get panicky, and you bail out before you give it a chance to get going, you are not going to have a very good stew. You just have to keep it going for a while. Obviously. Simmering that stew is expensive, and in the magazine world, not a lot of people can sit around and wait for that to happen.

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Venture South Magazine: Connecting The Dots Regionally For People Passionate About Hometown Destinations And All That Goes With It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jason Niblett, Co-Founder & Publisher…

September 21, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“There was such a desire for something like Venture South in Laurel (Miss.). There are so many dynamic things happening here right now. We have the HGTV series, “Home Town,” that’s filming its second season. And last year we had the Matthew McConaughey movie, “Free State of Jones,” which is about our county. Once we announced the magazine, it has just been insanely popular. It’s crazy.” Jason Niblett…

It’s always uplifting to Mr. Magazine™ to find that the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well in this country, especially when it comes to the magazine business. Venture South Magazine is a hometown publication, but with large regional possibilities. And one of its co-founders and publisher, is not oblivious to that fact. He sees the potential of this magazine reaching far beyond the city limits of Laurel, Miss.

Jason Niblett is a University of Mississippi graduate and a newspaper man that has stepped off the broadsheet and onto the slick and glossy pages of a monthly magazine. And he is ready to move it as far as possible into the marketplace.

I spoke with Jason recently and we talked about this hometown endeavor that has suddenly found itself with a noticeable popularity and readership. And no one could be happier about it than its publisher. Having planned to offer it free to the public, depending on advertisements for its survival, Jason and his two other partners in the magazine, were shocked when they found themselves with about 200 subscriptions before the first issue even came off the presses. But that kind of shock is a good thing to new magazine publishers and owners.

So, grab your glass of sweet tea and come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we “Venture South” and learn about the spirit of one entrepreneur that just won’t be denied, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jason Niblett, co-founder & publisher, Venture South Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Venture South: I’ve been working for newspapers for many years. And of course, with the newspapers we’ve always had the newspaper-style magazine that we were required to do. I’ve always done social and lifestyle magazines, and I’ve had this concept in the back of my mind for a long time; something for everyday, normal people, not all about the million dollar houses, the gardens, huge swimming pools, but a magazine that everyone could use. From girls’ night out, to family weekends; things like that.

On whether he believes people think he has lost his mind for starting a print magazine in a digital age: (Laughs) Probably so. But there was such a desire for something like Venture South in Laurel. There are so many dynamic things happening here right now. We have the HGTV series, “Home Town,” that’s filming its second season. And last year we had the Matthew McConaughey movie, “Free State of Jones,” which is about our county.

On how he is taking what he learned from his newspaper career and applying it to his new magazine business: Definitely market research and demographic information that I’ve learned over the years at the newspaper. We have beautiful lifestyle magazines already, and we did not want to be a lifestyle magazine. There’s a huge audience in Mississippi that’s just normal, everyday people; the nurses, teachers, office personnel; those are the normal people in Mississippi. Of course, there’s the upper class echelon, but that audience isn’t huge, especially in our area. And so, you definitely have to learn how to target your audience.

On whether he has any plans to “venture further south” than his own city limits: Absolutely. We had a name that I’d had in the back of my head for five or six years, and once the three of us starting meeting, we were all leaning toward that name and going in that direction. Then suddenly, we had an epiphany and decided that wasn’t what we needed to name the magazine. We knew that we needed to go in a different direction where we could expand into New Orleans, Mobile, or Pensacola, or wherever. There is potential to do just that, explore and expand more regionally.

On the first conversation he had right after the first issue came out: One of my former high school teachers emailed me and she was just telling me how wonderful the magazine was. She loved the content and the direction and ideas. And she lives in Mendenhall, Miss. She started sharing it around, and that’s why we see the potential for a more regional publication, because once she started pushing it toward the city she lives in, and her friends and family in surrounding areas, and even her hometown of Natchez, Miss., we began to receive requests for subscriptions and we had planned to be just a free distribution-type magazine.

On any advice he would offer students should he ever speak to a class: Keep an open mind. When I was at the University of Mississippi, I was majoring in broadcast journalism. I went to NewsWatch 12 and the SMC (Student Media Center). I didn’t pay too much attention to the Daily Mississippian or to the yearbook, because I wanted to be on TV. I did that for about six months after I left Ole Miss, and I hated it. I ended up in newspapers.

On the advice he would give his newspaper colleagues about their own magazines: A problem that we had at our operation was not to make it a glorified people section of the newspaper. You have your daily, weekly, or biweekly newspaper, or whatever frequency you have, for that people section. Your magazine needs to be something nicer, with exceptional features, photography, and design. Don’t skimp on your freelancers, and if you don’t have the skills to design it yourself, hire a good graphic artist, because there are so many magazines in Mississippi that look like nothing but glossy, people sections.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: That I always tried to be a big community proponent; family first, work second, but if you enjoy your job, you don’t really have to work. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Definitely playing with the dogs. And I do love to cook; I joined one of those meal delivery services to try different things, and we’ve been doing that for about a year now. We get this cardboard box every week and sometimes the food is great and sometimes it’s not, but we’re always trying it. We love to travel to the Coast a lot, even if it’s just to walk on the beach or grab something good to eat. Here lately, we’ve been reading a lot of magazines and reading industry publications.

On what keeps him up at night: It’s definitely advertising, even though we broke even. It’s one of those things that you have to trust in God, because yesterday was a horrible advertising day and we’re going to press very soon. And then that afternoon late, bam, bam, bam; we booked several ads. So, I try to just have faith, because this is definitely a God-thing when I talk about divine intervention for the timing and everything. It’s all going to be okay. Even when I get stressed out, I know that it’s going to be okay. So, I try not to let that keep me up at night. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jason Niblett, co-founder & publisher, Venture South Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the genesis of Venture South magazine.

Jason Niblett: I’ve been working for newspapers for many years. And of course, with the newspapers we’ve always had the newspaper-style magazine that we were required to do. I’ve always done social and lifestyle magazines, and I’ve had this concept in the back of my mind for a long time; something for everyday, normal people, not all about the million dollar houses, the gardens, huge swimming pools, but a magazine that everyone could use. From girls’ night out, to family weekends; things like that.

That was in the spring. I was working for a newspaper corporation in Laurel, Miss. And in Laurel, there were two newspapers, which it was a struggle for both newspapers to make it. And I knew that our newspaper was probably in trouble, but I thought that they would get rid of me and put the newspaper operation under a neighboring operation in Hattiesburg. So, we were all surprised when the paper closed completely in June.

In the spring, we had moved our office across town to a place that was a little bit cheaper, and about a week later, I got an email that my salary had been cut drastically. So, I knew that it was time for me to figure out what I was going to do next. I had been laid off from three different newspapers throughout my career and I’m only 38 years old. That’s a lot of layoffs for someone my age.

So basically, me and two of my friends decided that it was time to pull the trigger and do our own thing. So we started meeting that spring, after I received that email about the salary cut, and I had planned on sometime this fall, maybe winter, quitting my job to do this magazine. Then I find out my last day to work would be July 14, because we were being laid off and the paper closed.

So, everything accelerated, but honestly it was perfect timing, and definitely some divine intervention, because right after we started selling advertising, we had our media kits ready, but we didn’t have our premier edition to show everybody, we started hearing that there were two other groups, one an individual and one a corporation, looking at Laurel for starting a magazine. And so we knew we had to get ours out. Thankfully, we were able to break even for the first one, which was wonderful. But we had to get it out to stave off any victims of the competition.

Samir Husni: After seeing what’s happening with newspapers, and after being laid off three different times, do you still believe in ink on paper? Why are you starting a print magazine in this digital age; do people think you have you lost your mind?

Jason Niblett: (Laughs) Probably so. But there was such a desire for something like Venture South in Laurel. There are so many dynamic things happening here right now. We have the HGTV series, “Home Town,” that’s filming its second season. And last year we had the Matthew McConaughey movie, “Free State of Jones,” which is about our county.

And once it was announced that the paper was closing, my own phone and the office phone rang constantly for the next few weeks with people telling me that I had to do something. And of course, while I was still at the office, I was very professional in closing down that operation the way that it needed to be. Once we announced the magazine, it has just been insanely popular. It’s crazy. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: We’re seeing a lot of new magazines appearing, and as you mentioned earlier, almost every newspaper in Mississippi has its own magazine, or two or three. I remember in one of my seminars at the Mississippi Press Association, I challenged the newspaper people to follow more of a magazine style on a daily or weekly basis, because the problem is not with the ink on paper, it’s with what you put on that ink on paper. How are you taking what you learned from your newspaper career and offering it now on a monthly platform to your audience?

Jason Niblett: Definitely market research and demographic information that I’ve learned over the years at the newspaper. We have beautiful lifestyle magazines already, and we did not want to be a lifestyle magazine. There’s a huge audience in Mississippi that’s just normal, everyday people; the nurses, teachers, office personnel; those are the normal people in Mississippi. Of course, there’s the upper class echelon, but that audience isn’t huge, especially in our area. And so, you definitely have to learn how to target your audience.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you broke even with the first issue, which is rare in our business. If you wanted to use your crystal ball for a minute; what does the future hold for Venture South? And also, with a name like Venture South, do you plan on going beyond the city limits, maybe down toward the Gulf Coast?

Jason Niblett: Absolutely. We had a name that I’d had in the back of my head for five or six years, and once the three of us starting meeting, we were all leaning toward that name and going in that direction. Then suddenly, we had an epiphany and decided that wasn’t what we needed to name the magazine. We knew that we needed to go in a different direction where we could expand into New Orleans, Mobile, or Pensacola, or wherever. There is potential to do just that, explore and expand more regionally.

Samir Husni: When you mention the “three” of you, who are you referring to?

Jason Niblett: Lacey Slay, our editor and designer, and Kevin Dearmon, who handles advertising, are the other two owners. And Lacey and Kevin both hold down full-time jobs in addition to the magazine. I’m the only full-time person.

Samir Husni: What was the first phone call or conversation you had after the magazine was distributed?

Jason Niblett: One of my former high school teachers emailed me and she was just telling me how wonderful the magazine was. She loved the content and the direction and ideas. And she lives in Mendenhall, Miss. She started sharing it around, and that’s why we see the potential for a more regional publication, because once she started pushing it toward the city she lives in, and her friends and family in surrounding areas, and even her hometown of Natchez, Miss., we began to receive requests for subscriptions and we had planned to be just a free distribution-type magazine. And we ended up with 200 subscriptions before the magazine even launched.

Samir Husni: If you were to come and speak to journalism students here at the University of Mississippi, what advice would you give them?

Jason Niblett: Keep an open mind. When I was at the University of Mississippi, I was majoring in broadcast journalism. I went to NewsWatch 12 and the SMC (Student Media Center). I didn’t pay too much attention to the Daily Mississippian or to the yearbook, because I wanted to be on TV. I did that for about six months after I left Ole Miss, and I hated it. I ended up in newspapers.

So, keep an open mind and definitely learn the different concepts and multimedia, and always have integrity and do what’s right, and you will be blessed.

Samir Husni: What advice would you give your colleagues at other newspapers about their own magazines?

Jason Niblett: A problem that we had at our operation was not to make it a glorified people section of the newspaper. You have your daily, weekly, or biweekly newspaper, or whatever frequency you have, for that people section. Your magazine needs to be something nicer, with exceptional features, photography, and design. Don’t skimp on your freelancers, and if you don’t have the skills to design it yourself, hire a good graphic artist, because there are so many magazines in Mississippi that look like nothing but glossy, people sections.

And we want to be debt-free, because we know in the publishing industry that debt can weigh you down, or put you out of business. We’re actually working out of my house, we turned a third bedroom into an office. We close the door when we’re done for the day and we stay out of that room, but you also have to be disciplined enough to get up in the morning, get a shower and get dressed, and act like you’re going to work. If you don’t, the day gets away from you.

Samir Husni: Who’s going to be on the cover of issue two?

Jason Niblett: Actually, we’re doing a story on “Phantom of the Opera” at the University of Southern Mississippi. So, that’s probably going to be our cover story.

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

Jason Niblett: That I always tried to be a big community proponent; family first, work second, but if you enjoy your job, you don’t really have to work. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, after you had closed that office door, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; playing with your dogs; watching TV; or something else?

Jason Niblett: Definitely playing with the dogs. And I do love to cook; I joined one of those meal delivery services to try different things, and we’ve been doing that for about a year now. We get this cardboard box every week and sometimes the food is great and sometimes it’s not, but we’re always trying it. We love to travel to the Coast a lot, even if it’s just to walk on the beach or grab something good to eat. Here lately, we’ve been reading a lot of magazines and reading industry publications.

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

Jason Niblett: It’s definitely advertising, even though we broke even. It’s one of those things that you have to trust in God, because yesterday was a horrible advertising day and we’re going to press very soon. And then that afternoon late, bam, bam, bam; we booked several ads. So, I try to just have faith, because this is definitely a God-thing when I talk about divine intervention for the timing and everything. It’s all going to be okay. Even when I get stressed out, I know that it’s going to be okay. So, I try not to let that keep me up at night. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Take Magazine 2.0: Publisher And Founder, Michael Kusek & Its Editor In Chief, Stacey Kors, Reveal To Mr. Magazine™ Why The Second Time Around Is The Real Charm…

September 18, 2017

“We can demonstrate that people who read Take in print really consume the print product and hang onto it. We just did a subscriber survey over the summer and we asked people how long they hung onto their copy of Take, and well over 55 percent of the people in that survey said they never throw their copies away. We’re reaching people who really, not only love our content, but love the magazine as an object that they want to hang onto. And I think that also from a business perspective, translating that and bringing that before advertisers is a really attractive prospect.” Michael Kusek…

“For me, yes, we’re in a digital world. We have access to new information every second and it’s also customized to our tastes. And we get this information, but there’s no real absorption of it because we’re immediately on to the next thing. For me, looking at a magazine is such a different experience, because it’s an active experience. There’s an intentionality to sitting down and reading it. There is an engagement of more than just sight; we hold it; we feel it as we turn the pages; we smell the paper. You’re obviously reading it.” Stacey Kors…

Relaunching a magazine takes real vision and commitment and a significant, underlying reason to do so. Take Magazine has all of that. It has dedication and a strong perception of its future in its publisher and founder, Michael Kusek, and a powerful affection and belief in its existence from its relatively new editor in chief, Stacey Kors. And a valid reason for being: its ever-growing audience.

Stacey Kors came onboard Take about nine months ago and hasn’t looked back since. She is a dynamic force for the magazine and brand with her sheer will and determination that the print component should and would be born back into the marketplace. As a new partner in Take Industries, Stacey, whose publishing career began in Western Massachusetts when she worked as a college intern for the region’s first high-end culture magazine, New England Monthly, has joined efforts with Michael, the magazine’s founder and publisher, to bring the print product back to its loyal readership better and stronger.

I spoke with Michael and Stacey recently and we talked about this Take-2 go-round for the printed magazine. The decision to go digital-only about a year ago was not one that Michael made lightly. His love for the Take brand was strong, but the reality of finances had to be considered. And as with any small, independent title, money is always a behemoth. But with Stacey climbing aboard and offering not only financial support and strength, but a passion for Take as strong as Michael’s, it would appear that the second time around will be the charm for this new duo, who also give much credit to the team behind them that makes everything more stalwartly creative.

So, I hope that you enjoy this interview with two people who share much more than the bottom line, but also a zeal and excitement for all things “Take”-able, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Kusek, founder & publisher, and Stacey Kors, editor in chief, Take Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the resurrection of Take Magazine (Michael Kusek): We ran out of money. By the end of last July, we had had a fair amount of success at selling advertising for that fall, but came up short in terms of the capital we needed to get ourselves there. We needed a bridge to get from June to the fall when we’d sold some revenue. And I had to make the really tough decision about stopping the print edition and staying digital-only. The switch to just digital-only was really made possible because somebody lent us the money to refurbish our website. In late August, Stacey emailed me out of the blue, expressing interest in helping Take come back into print, and I was pretty surprised about getting that kind of email. (Laughs) We met and had coffee, and the conversation started there, and it lasted a few months, while we envisioned what we would need to be a bit more stable.

On the resurrection of Take Magazine (Stacey Kors): I’m an old print junkie. I cut my teeth in this business; I was actually an intern at New England Monthly, our first successful regional magazine. I have been involved with covering arts and culture for a couple of decades now, and have been previously writing for the Boston Globe. In the spring of last year, they started very heavily cutting their arts coverage and their arts staff, like so many other places, unfortunately. I had an opportunity to be able to participate, and see if I could help Michael return the magazine to print. And as he said, we started talking and we were able to make that happen. It’s been a long road, but a wonderful one.

On why they brought Take Magazine back into print in this digital age (Stacey Kors): I can answer from the editorial side. For me, yes, we’re in a digital world. We have access to new information every second and it’s also customized to our tastes. And we get this information, but there’s no real absorption of it because we’re immediately on to the next thing. For me, looking at a magazine is such a different experience, because it’s an active experience. There’s an intentionality to sitting down and reading it. There is an engagement of more than just sight; we hold it; we feel it as we turn the pages; we smell the paper. You’re obviously reading it.

On why they brought Take Magazine back into print in this digital age (Michael Kusek): When we stopped the print issue, we got a lot of emails from readers who were upset to see it go, and then we announced that we were coming back and we received a lot of response from readers who were very excited to be able to add to their stack of Take Magazine’s on their coffee tables. I think that the loyalty that we’re building with our readers is something that, by being local people producing a local magazine, is something that we can demonstrate to advertisers. And because we do have at least a glowing, robust presence online and a real building loyal readership in print, I think that bodes really well for relationships with advertisers down the road.

On any challenges that they had to overcome when they relaunched in print (Michael Kusek): I think one of our challenges, at least on the business side, has been the idea that we went away once, so are we going to be here this go-round. So, it’s that convincing people, particularly advertisers, that if we’re going to build a relationship with them we are going to be here. We’re working our hardest to stay here. We’re definitely having a better response from advertisers than we did the first time around. And I think that’s one of the challenges, certainly from a business perspective.

On whether that first issue made all of the nine months’ of work and worry worth it (Stacey Kors): The two experiences that I’ve had that made it all seem worth it was going to the printer with the team, our amazing printer, Cummings in New Hampshire, watching the process and seeing that all of those ideas we’d had for so long were made real for everyone; it was just amazing. And the other experience happened recently, where our writers and our subjects started to receive the magazine. And everybody was so excited; everybody talked about how gorgeous it was. They were all so pleased and that we did something right and that was definitely worth it.

On what’s next for Take Magazine (Stacey Kors): From an editorial point of view, we have the train on the track and moving, and we’re working on three issues at a time. And we’re trying to create beautiful, timeless copy, with wonderful profiles of artists and culture-makers here.

On what’s next for Take Magazine (Michael Kusek): One of our challenges is figuring out the best way to do distribution. I have to credit ACT 7 this past spring, in particular, for getting good contacts with specifically independent magazines. Lukas Volger and Steve Viksjo from Jarry magazine have become good friends in the months that followed, because both as small, independent titles, we’re trying to figure out newsstand. And we’re trying to figure out the best way to convert digital followers into print subscribers.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Michael Kusek): I think work hard and have fun doing it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Stacey Kors): Live in the present and be mindful.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Stacey Kors): For me, unwinding is sitting with a glass of wine or a drink and reading the magazine or looking at some magazines and books, taking my eyes off of screens for a while. If the weather is conducive and it’s the right season, I might be in my garden, picking things to cook for dinner, making a beautiful meal ad savoring it fully.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Michael Kusek): For me, probably scrolling social media and watching the Rachel Maddow Show. (Laughs)

What keeps her up at night (Stacey Kors): The state of the world concerns me greatly on a macro level. Otherwise, honestly? Just thinking about the magazine a lot, there are a lot of balls in the air all at once and I’m always thinking about how to not drop one. How to make things better and stronger and successful.

What keep him up at night (Michael Kusek): The amount of unanswered emails that I have. (Laughs) And trying to remember to get back to people on the 10 different platforms that they message me on. That keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Michael Kusek, publisher, and Stacey Kors, editor in chief, Take Magazine.

Samir Husni: It’s always a sad day when a print magazine goes out of business, but it’s also a joyful day when that magazine comes back. Tell me a little about the story of Take 2.0. (Laughs)

Michael Kusek: (Laughs too) We ran out of money. By the end of last July, we had had a fair amount of success at selling advertising for that fall, but came up short in terms of the capital we needed to get ourselves there. We needed a bridge to get from June to the fall when we’d sold some revenue. And I had to make the really tough decision about stopping the print edition and staying digital-only. And that was about the end of June.

The switch to just digital-only was really made possible because somebody lent us the money to refurbish our website. We spent the better part of July working on the website, and then getting that launched in early August. In late August, Stacey emailed me out of the blue, expressing interest in helping Take come back into print, and I was pretty surprised about getting that kind of email. (Laughs)

We met and had coffee, and the conversation started there, and it lasted a few months, while we envisioned what we would need to be a bit more stable. And what resources we needed that we lacked in our first go-round. And we worked on that through December.

Stacey Kors: I’m an old print junkie. I cut my teeth in this business; I was actually an intern at New England Monthly, our first successful regional magazine. I have been involved with covering arts and culture for a couple of decades now, and have been previously writing for the Boston Globe. In the spring of last year, they started very heavily cutting their arts coverage and their arts staff, like so many other places, unfortunately.

It was a combination of my lamenting that and trying to figure out personally what I was going to do next. And also lamenting the state of the print industry as a whole, just seeing it shrink more and more. I had known about Take from the beginning and had seen many copies of it and really liked it. I happened to come across the last issue, was reminded of it again, and thought that it would be a wonderful place to write and engage, and I was so glad that it existed. And then I looked at the website and I read Michael’s post, that unfortunately they weren’t going to continue. And I was heartbroken. It was such a wonderful and important resource. It was so beautifully put together; the stories were so interesting and timeless.

I had an opportunity to be able to participate, and see if I could help Michael return the magazine to print. And as he said, we started talking and we were able to make that happen. It’s been a long road, but a wonderful one.

Samir Husni: My question for the both of you is why print in this digital age? Besides being romantics about print, including myself, if we talk from the business side, why print? What’s the fascination you and Michael have with print that brought Take Magazine back to life?

Stacey Kors: I can answer from the editorial side. For me, yes, we’re in a digital world. We have access to new information every second and it’s also customized to our tastes. And we get this information, but there’s no real absorption of it because we’re immediately on to the next thing. For me, looking at a magazine is such a different experience, because it’s an active experience. There’s an intentionality to sitting down and reading it. There is an engagement of more than just sight; we hold it; we feel it as we turn the pages; we smell the paper. You’re obviously reading it.

And it’s not about disseminating information the way that we get it now; it’s really about the art of storytelling that involves thoughtfully written articles and gorgeous images. And specifically, for us, I love that across the board and I think it’s important that there’s a place for us to all stop and take the time to read a long-form article and engage in that way.

But for what we do, we cover artists and culture-makers in the region, and they’re all people who take their time to make something special, meaningful and beautiful, be it visual art or a well-crafted cocktail. And I think they deserve to have their stories told with that same intentionality.

Michael Kusek: It’s interesting, our period of time where we were digital-only put us in this position where we really had to think about what we were doing digitally for those six months. Beginning last September, we really put more focus on it and have seen some great results in the last year. We’ve gone from just over 3,000 readers per month on our website to being in the mid-thirties now every month in the last year. And that’s like 20 percent growth per month, which as one of my friends would say, is Facebook numbers. (Laughs) And I’m very happy with that, because we’re reaching an audience.

And it’s very interesting on the digital front to see who reads us. In August, our number two city that reads Take online was New York. And it’s not even in New England. (Laughs) So, the digital side of it certainly allows us to reach readers that aren’t part of our geographic focus for the physical distribution of the magazine.

I still think that print, particularly because we’re tightly, regionally focused, it’s easier for us, certainly not easy, but it’s easier for us to make a real connection with our readers, and it’s through our editorial, but also through who’s working for us. We have freelancers who are located all over the region, who help us create our content. So, as a print piece, people are picking it up and we’re not landing in New England from some far off place. We are a publication that is made by New Englanders for New Englanders. And I think that has been the basis of the success that we’ve had so far in reaching readers.

When we stopped the print issue, we got a lot of emails from readers who were upset to see it go, and then we announced that we were coming back and we received a lot of response from readers who were very excited to be able to add to their stack of Take Magazine’s on their coffee tables. I think that the loyalty that we’re building with our readers is something that, by being local people producing a local magazine, is something that we can demonstrate to advertisers. And because we do have at least a glowing, robust presence online and a real building loyal readership in print, I think that bodes really well for relationships with advertisers down the road.

We can demonstrate that people who read Take in print really consume the print product and hang onto it. We just did a subscriber survey over the summer and we asked people how long they hung onto their copy of Take, and well over 55 percent of the people in that survey said they never throw their copies away. We’re reaching people who really, not only love our content, but love the magazine as an object that they want to hang onto. And I think that also from a business perspective, translating that and bringing that before advertisers is a really attractive prospect.

Samir Husni: Since December, when the partnership took place between you and Stacey and the decision was made to relaunch the print magazine, has it been an easy walk in a rose garden, or were there any stumbling blocks that you both had to overcome? And if there were, how did you overcome them?

Michael Kusek: I think one of our challenges, at least on the business side, has been the idea that we went away once, so are we going to be here this go-round. So, it’s that convincing people, particularly advertisers, that if we’re going to build a relationship with them we are going to be here. We’re working our hardest to stay here. We’re definitely having a better response from advertisers than we did the first time around. And I think that’s one of the challenges, certainly from a business perspective.

Another thing, in terms of how we were moving forward from Take-version 1 to Take-version 2, was repairing our relationship with freelancers, who had waited a long time to get paid. And part of this deal was making sure that we made everyone whole that we owed money to. And we were very fortunate that we were in a position that when we restarted the magazine that we were able to start with a clean slate. And the challenge there is that for people who are content creators, they’re happy to work for us, but they also need to know that they’re going to get paid.

And reassuring them of that is a challenge, and certainly in that process, everybody wants to get paid for the work that they do, and some people were very vocally upset about that, some people offered to forego payment, and some folks were just very patient and didn’t say anything one way or another. But that was a really important thing that we needed to do.

Samir Husni: And Stacey, now that the first issue is done and the magazine is back, what was your reaction? Was it worth all of that worry and work for almost nine months, the time is equivalent to an actual birth. (Laughs)

Stacey Kors: (Laughs too) And that’s what it felt like.

Samir Husni: Were the labor pains worth it when the magazine came out? (Laughs)

Stacey Kors: Oh yes, but to continue in that vein, it was a laborious process. We did have some staff who had moved on to other positions. We hired a new art director and a managing editor. So, part of the process was getting our small team together and running smoothly, but of course, the first issue is going to be the most difficult time. To the regrouping and figuring out how we wanted to change things; how we wanted to keep things the same for the magazine, there was a lot of back and forth, we’re a team who shares visions, and there was and is a lot of serious discussion, and certainly a lot of very hard work, assigning and editing and going back and forth on art, and coming up with something that really felt like Take. And even better.

The two experiences that I’ve had that made it all seem worth it was going to the printer with the team, our amazing printer, Cummings in New Hampshire, watching the process and seeing that all of those ideas we’d had for so long were made real for everyone; it was just amazing. And the other experience happened recently, where our writers and our subjects started to receive the magazine. And everybody was so excited; everybody talked about how gorgeous it was. They were all so pleased and that we did something right and that was definitely worth it.

Samir Husni: Now, you’re on top of the mountain, what’s next?

Stacey Kors: (Laughs) The December/January issue.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Stacey Kors: From an editorial point of view, we have the train on the track and moving, and we’re working on three issues at a time. And we’re trying to create beautiful, timeless copy, with wonderful profiles of artists and culture-makers here. From the business point of view, Michael…

Michael Kusek: One of our challenges is figuring out the best way to do distribution. I have to credit ACT 7 this past spring, in particular, for getting good contacts with specifically independent magazines. Lukas Volger and Steve Viksjo from Jarry magazine have become good friends in the months that followed, because both as small, independent titles, we’re trying to figure out newsstand. And we’re trying to figure out the best way to convert digital followers into print subscribers.

And there are no simple answers for that path forward, because even as a small title we get some of the difficulties that larger legacy titles have at the newsstand. But we don’t have the budget to sort of pay to be there. So, we have to get innovative and creative about our distribution efforts. We’re relying on partnering with cultural organizations around the region, where we can distribute copies of Take so that people get it in their hands and get a sense and a feel for it. So, that’s one of our big challenges. And we have really great help from the folks from Tyson Associates in Connecticut, getting around that. So, that’s a piece of the puzzle that we’re working on, figuring out what’s best for a small magazine.

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

Michael Kusek: I think work hard and have fun doing it.

Stacey Kors: Live in the present and be mindful.

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

Stacey Kors: Yes. (Laughs) All of those, though not at the same time. For me, unwinding is sitting with a glass of wine or a drink and reading the magazine or looking at some magazines and books, taking my eyes off of screens for a while. If the weather is conducive and it’s the right season, I might be in my garden, picking things to cook for dinner, making a beautiful meal ad savoring it fully.

Michael Kusek: For me, probably scrolling social media and watching the Rachel Maddow Show. (Laughs)

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

Stacey Kors: The state of the world concerns me greatly on a macro level. Otherwise, honestly? Just thinking about the magazine a lot, there are a lot of balls in the air all at once and I’m always thinking about how to not drop one. How to make things better and stronger and successful.

Michael Kusek: The amount of unanswered emails that I have. (Laughs) And trying to remember to get back to people on the 10 different platforms that they message me on. That keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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Salty At Heart: A New Magazine That Connects Women, Adventure & The Sea Through A Kindred Spirit Of Empowerment And Good That’s As Undeniable As The Ocean – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Kirstin Thompson, Founder & Editor In Chief, Salty At Heart…

August 31, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“It goes back to being a print publication and really embracing that organic feel of human interaction, holding something in your hand, and not being on a screen. It feels more real and feels heavier and more involved with the words on the page. And that’s what this journal is. It’s really about connecting the dots; connecting the dots of what it means to be human and to exist in this world. And what it means to be a community and how we can all come together and see what our similarities are; and find out that we’re all pretty much the same. And we’re all connected in this beautiful way. So, yes, I do believe if people happen to pick up this journal, that maybe it was meant to be in their hands.” Kirstin Thompson…

Salty at Heart – a journal that’s inspired by women, adventure and the sea. And the first woman to be inspired is the magazine/journal’s founder and editor in chief, Kirstin Thompson. With sections of the publication dedicated to: surf, sustainability, art, empowerment, balance, and travel; the journal is an embodiment of many things positive in our world, when oftentimes all we hear about is the negative.

I spoke with Kirstin recently and we talked about the passion that it took to get this publication off the ground and onto bookshelves. As the phrase goes, the struggle was real, and according to Kirstin, not an easy feat. But with perseverance and determination, she can now walk into most Books-A-Million’s and Barnes & Nobles’ and see Salty at Heart on the shelves. In fact, look for the next issue there soon.

When Kirstin saw a void in the women’s space that spoke about the good things that women did within the world and the powerful impacts that they made, after careful thought and consideration, and much research, she decided to bring Salty at Heart to life. And she’s awfully glad she did.

And so is Mr. Magazine™. The magazine is filled with beautiful photography and uplifting and vibrant content that won’t be denied. Much like Kirstin’s call to action to get the publication off the ground wouldn’t be denied, proving that those who listen to their heart’s passions are often rewarded with their dreams.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kirstin Thompson, founder and editor in chief, Salty at Heart.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the story behind Salty at Heart: It really starts with what inspired the magazine, which we now call a journal. It goes back to when I was feeling this void in the media, especially in the magazine world. I felt like the voices of women were not being heard, and I felt there was no space where I could enter and learn about the inspiring things that women were doing that had nothing to do with what they were wearing and how they looked. I just felt there was this overwhelming focus on women more as objects, especially because they tend to be very commercialized, and I needed to read something that was inspiring. Something that could empower women.

On the part of her letter from the editor that speaks to the fact that maybe this unique publication chose the reader rather than the other way around: I like to think that things happen for a reason. Maybe someone stumbled upon this journal for a reason; a friend shows it to them; someone sees it in a coffee shop. I think the reason this journal even exists is all because of those kinds of things. Just random people that I met or I bumped into, connections that I made helped to create this thing into what it is. I think the more we connect and the more that we’re open to connecting, we can really tap into more as a society.

On whether anyone told her she was out of her mind for launching a print magazine in this digital age: Oh yes, all of the time. (Laughs) Maybe not my close friends, they were very supportive, but some people would comment things like: had I thought about digital, or ask me, what are you doing? (Laughs again) Who knows, maybe the magazines won’t sell; maybe no one goes to the bookstores anymore, but I really hope not, and I couldn’t resist thinking that we might be at a turning point, where people start rejecting this digital age a little bit and start really embracing that sense of community.

On whether creating the magazine has been like riding a one big wave smoothly or she’s had some bigger waves to deal with along the way: Yes, we’ve had some bigger waves, definitely. (Laughs) It’s been a struggle, for sure. I wouldn’t say that it came easy. I was thinking about this the other day, about how much I’ve been through to get this onto the shelves and to get this out there in the world. And how it’s really very difficult in this country to really get anywhere if you don’t come from money. The process was all from the heart and all from hard work and late nights on my computer; lots of emails and phone calls and research. I have a lot of grit, so I pushed though. And I think that it’s a beautiful thing and it was worth it.

On her reaction when she saw the first issue of Salty at Heart printed: It was so exciting. It was beautiful and honestly, it was a very fulfilling feeling to see it and hold it in my hands. I think I was jumping up and down. And it was funny, once you get something like that in your hands, you only allow yourself to be excited for a little bit, and then you move on to the next step and decide what you’re going to do afterward.

On why it took her three years to publish the first issue after she had done the test issue in 2014: To be honest, it had to do with money. (Laughs) It costs a lot to print. We printed the test issue and then just kind of let it fly to see what would happen. It wasn’t something that we were sure we were going to be able to keep doing, so we just wanted to see what would happen. It was a matter of trying to raise the money to print again.

On anything she’d like to add: It’s really exciting to see something that you’ve created out there in the world. And I really want to encourage people to embrace their creativity and listen to what calls to them and tune into what matters to them. I listen to NPR every day and read The New York Times every day, and I think it’s very easy for us to get overwhelmed by the chaos that seems to ensue in this world. But the thing is, we have to tune into as well the positive things that are happening.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: It would probably be the thing that I have been drawing on my wrist for so long. Ever since I was very young I’ve been drawing on my wrist a wave that kind of turned into cursive. And it always said: live free. If people wanted to remember me by something it would be that she lived free, because I think that’s something that I’ve tried to embrace over the years.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: More likely than not, you’ll find me working on my computer late at night. But I also tend to find myself catching up on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, I love him and he really helps me deal with everything going on in the world and he brings humor to it. I think that’s important. His book is actually on my bedside table, but I have yet to read it.

On what keeps her up at night: I could give you a whole list. I could be planning where I want to travel to in my head. I could be thinking about what I need to be doing for the journal; thinking about the issues of the world. I could be thinking about something I read earlier. It depends on which side of my brain is really activated that day. I could be analyzing everything, or I could be hopping out of bed and writing down ideas or something. An article idea or some sort of string of words that has appeared to me in my head. When you’re a writer, that happens often.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Kirstin Thompson, founder and editor in chief, Salty at Heart.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of Salty at Heart. The idea behind the magazine; the name; the tagline “A Journal Inspired by Women, Adventure, and the Sea.”

Kirstin Thompson: It really starts with what inspired the magazine, which we now call a journal. It goes back to when I was feeling this void in the media, especially in the magazine world. I felt like the voices of women were not being heard, and I felt there was no space where I could enter and learn about the inspiring things that women were doing that had nothing to do with what they were wearing and how they looked. I just felt there was this overwhelming focus on women more as objects, especially because they tend to be very commercialized, and I needed to read something that was inspiring. Something that could empower women. To read about the wittiness and the gracefulness and the strength of women out there in the world, who were really making an impact.

And that’s really where it started, especially the surfing. I would get surfing magazines and flip through them and the only women that I would see in there were these women in bikinis, and the only time they spoke about women in surfing magazines, it wasn’t necessarily inspiring. So, I felt this void in that sense, and it’s definitely changed since then, but at the time there was no content that was really pulling me to it.

I was backpacking through Central America, and surfing and traveling with my friends for four months. I ended up meeting this woman while I was there who was a yoga instructor and whale activist. And she actually wrote for a magazine in the U.K. that was called SurfGirl. I was telling her that I really wished there was somewhere I could write, because I had been a writer since the beginning of time, but there was nothing out there that I felt like I could contribute to in a way that would inspire people and in a way that I could share.

She said something crazy to me after that, which was why didn’t I start my own magazine. At the time, I just dismissed her suggestion. But then fast forward a year or so and there I was researching how to start a zine. The original idea was to just have a very simple zine to hand out to friends and family, but it turned into something more. It really evolved into this very beautiful publication, which I am very glad that it did, because now it can impact more people.

But the idea behind it has really evolved into this notion that we’re all “Salty at Heart.” The name Salty at Heart really embodies the idea behind it; we’re all connected to the ocean. We all rely on it for food and our weather patterns; the planet is mostly covered in water and all of us, whether we realize it or not, are very connected to this part of our planet and to deny that kind of denies our connection to nature and to the world. We use it to travel and just for everything. And that’s where the name came from. We are all Salty at Heart.

So, the magazine isn’t necessarily just for people who surf or sail, or who really enjoy spending time in the water, it may pull those people in more, but it’s really for everyone because we have a wide variety of content. We feature environmentalists and adventurers, travelers and writers. I want to include some politicians, and feature artists and all kinds of people who are out there in the world making an impact.

The other void that I noticed in the media was this lack of focus on the good things that are happening in the world, so this sort of fills that space as well. From my experience, there’s nothing really good that comes out of pressing these issues and giving out negative feelings all of the time. It can be very defeating if all you ever hear about is the inequalities and how we’re always degrading ourselves. It can be taxing. People either want to shut that out or they get angry.

And so, it’s been my personal experience that doesn’t do any good at all; it doesn’t empower people, it deflates them. To really come together as a community, we have to focus on these areas of light that are popping up. And they’ve been there for a long time, these people who are doing good, and I especially focus on those women because there is just not enough mention on how women can impact society and bring out these positive changes.

So, it’s a lot going on and the magazine has a lot of potential for really digging deep into issues, while focusing on the beautiful and chaotic part of this world.

Samir Husni: You mention in your letter from the editor, after thanking the readers for choosing to read this unique publication, you write: actually, it might have chosen you. Is that part of the cosmic network of energy, matter and space?

Kirstin Thompson: Yes, I like to think that things happen for a reason. Maybe someone stumbled upon this journal for a reason; a friend shows it to them; someone sees it in a coffee shop. I think the reason this journal even exists is all because of those kinds of things. Just random people that I met or I bumped into, connections that I made helped to create this thing into what it is. I think the more we connect and the more that we’re open to connecting, we can really tap into more as a society.

And that goes back to being a print publication and really embracing that organic feel of human interaction, holding something in your hand, and not being on a screen. It feels more real and feels heavier and more involved with the words on the page. And that’s what this journal is. It’s really about connecting the dots; connecting the dots of what it means to be human and to exist in this world. And what it means to be a community and how we can all come together and see what our similarities are; and find out that we’re all pretty much the same. And we’re all connected in this beautiful way. So, yes, I do believe if people happen to pick up this journal, that maybe it was meant to be in their hands.

Samir Husni: Did anyone tell you that you were out of your mind for launching a print magazine in this digital age?

Kirstin Thompson: Oh yes, all of the time. (Laughs) Maybe not my close friends, they were very supportive, but some people would comment things like: had I thought about digital, or ask me, what are you doing? (Laughs again) Who knows, maybe the magazines won’t sell; maybe no one goes to the bookstores anymore, but I really hope not, and I couldn’t resist thinking that we might be at a turning point, where people start rejecting this digital age a little bit and start really embracing that sense of community. I think people will miss going into bookstores, or going to a coffee shop and chatting with people. People are so involved in their phones and involved with technology these days. We’ve all heard how these things are impacting society and how people are not engaging with each other personally anymore.

Of course, print isn’t as big as it was before technology came onto the scene, but I think it could come back and it could be something that people are craving. But they may not realize they’re craving it until they hold something like this in their hands and they say, wow, this is really different from flipping through my phone or reading something on Kindle.

So, people definitely asked what I was thinking, but despite what you see in the world, I always believe that you should create your own reality; what you think you should see out there in the world. And that’s how change happens, people think outside the box. They see their reality and they don’t like it, and they want to see it change. So, they push through the obstacles and create anyway. Even if what you’re doing fails, you tried and you have grown from it and because of it.

Samir Husni: I coined a phrase that I use in my teaching: isolated connectivity. That we feel we are so connected with our phones, the Internet, and everything else digital, yet we’re more isolated than ever before.

Kirstin Thompson: Yes, definitely. Isolated connectivity; yes, I like that phrase a lot.

Samir Husni: Has creating the magazine been like riding one big wave smoothly and successfully, or have you had to deal with some bigger waves along the way?

Kirstin Thompson: Yes, we’ve had some bigger waves, definitely. (Laughs) It’s been a struggle, for sure. I wouldn’t say that it came easy. I was thinking about this the other day, about how much I’ve been through to get this onto the shelves and to get this out there in the world. And how it’s really very difficult in this country to really get anywhere if you don’t come from money. I feel like this country is privileged and either you get where you want to go and succeed based on luck, sometimes hard work can get you there, but also there is some privilege that really drives a lot of success in this country.

The process was all from the heart and all from hard work and late nights on my computer; lots of emails and phone calls and research. I have a lot of grit, so I pushed though. And I think that it’s a beautiful thing and it was worth it. Through it all, I’ve learned so much about myself and the publishing industry. Not smooth sailing at all, but I think what I would tell people is that if you believe in something enough, it’s going to pull at you day and night. You’re not going to be able to rest until you’ve accomplished it, so you have to listen to that. You have to listen to that in your soul and really answer to it, otherwise it’s going to keep eating at you.

One of the reasons this journal was created was to dive into issues of inequalities and bring more awareness to them. And to bring awareness to the reality of life, which is sometimes chaotic, sometimes hard, and sometimes not so easy, but we’re all in this together. We’re all a community and we need to fight for each other.

Samir Husni: What was your reaction when you saw the first printed issue of Salty at Heart?

Kirstin Thompson: It was so exciting. It was beautiful and honestly, it was a very fulfilling feeling to see it and hold it in my hands. I think I was jumping up and down. And it was funny, once you get something like that in your hands, you only allow yourself to be excited for a little bit, and then you move on to the next step and decide what you’re going to do afterward. We were in that excitement mode for a little bit, and then we geared up for the next step.

Samir Husni: Why did it take you three years to publish the first issue after the test issue in 2014?

Kirstin Thompson: To be honest, it had to do with money. (Laughs) It costs a lot to print. We printed the test issue and then just kind of let it fly to see what would happen. It wasn’t something that we were sure we were going to be able to keep doing, so we just wanted to see what would happen. It was a matter of trying to raise the money to print again.

When you’re just getting started, printing in small quantities is very expensive. The more you print, obviously, the less it will cost per copy, and the more money you make off of each magazine. So, at the beginning it’s really hard, because you’re not really making much money off of the ones that you sell. It was really hard to raise the funds to get going, and really gear ourselves up for being able to consistently print twice a year. But now that we’re distributed in Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million , we have our foot in the door and we can now be more consistent.

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

Kirstin Thompson: It’s really exciting to see something that you’ve created out there in the world. And I really want to encourage people to embrace their creativity and listen to what calls to them and tune into what matters to them. I listen to NPR every day and read The New York Times every day, and I think it’s very easy for us to get overwhelmed by the chaos that seems to ensue in this world.

But the thing is, we have to tune into as well the positive things that are happening. I’ve gotten better over the years at separating myself from the sadness that can overwhelm us. And that’s what this journal is about; it’s enlightening and witty; it’s fun and has beautiful photography. It’s really designed to kind of let you dive in and embrace yourself and the world in a more positive light.

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

Kirstin Thompson: It would probably be the thing that I have been drawing on my wrist for so long. Ever since I was very young I’ve been drawing on my wrist a wave that kind of turned into cursive. And it always said: live free. If people wanted to remember me by something it would be that she lived free, because I think that’s something that I’ve tried to embrace over the years.

I don’t want to ever feel like I’m not in control of my own life. And not in control of who I am and I don’t want to be defined by anybody else. I tend to wander a lot; I’m a wanderer and that’s important to me. But also that she’s free, but she’s not alone. It’s kind of perfectly embodied in the poem I wrote in this latest issue, called The Wandering She:

She roams sometimes a lone wolf howling to the moon, the heavens, the towering night sky. But the wandering she is not alone – others band with her, dancing, laughing, roaming free. Their thunder is loud, hugging cliffs they climb, above the earth their dreams unfold and stories told of hurt and loss and tears of the sea, of love and strength and dignity, for the wandering she must always embrace the free spirit that belongs to no one but she.

That kind of defines it all, I think. That would be tattooed on my brain. (Laughs)

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

Kirstin Thompson: Any manner of those things, actually. More likely than not, you’ll find me working on my computer late at night. But I also tend to find myself catching up on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, I love him and he really helps me deal with everything going on in the world and he brings humor to it. I think that’s important. His book is actually on my bedside table, but I have yet to read it.

You can also find me cooking, for sure. I tend to snack all of the time. I like to swim, do some laps at the gym, and probably just doing something; I feel like there’s always something going through my head. I could also be studying; I’m taking classes at the moment. My life is pretty full.

Samir Husni: By the way, where are you based?

Kirstin Thompson: At the moment, I’m in Atlantic Beach, Fla.

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

Kirstin Thompson: I could give you a whole list. I could be planning where I want to travel to in my head. I could be thinking about what I need to be doing for the journal; thinking about the issues of the world. I could be thinking about something I read earlier. It depends on which side of my brain is really activated that day. I could be analyzing everything, or I could be hopping out of bed and writing down ideas or something. An article idea or some sort of string of words that has appeared to me in my head. When you’re a writer, that happens often. You never know when it’s going to hit you. Creativity just kind of pops in when you’re trying to sleep or something. (Laughs)

And I’m usually just thinking about all of the things that I still want to do in my life. I want to get my private pilot’s license; I want to fly. I want to learn at least five languages; I’m going to grad school this year. So, my mind is always going and I’m always thinking about anything and everything. (Laughs again)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Nail Magazine: A New Magazine That Hits The “Nail” On The Head When It Comes To Celebrating Creative Professionals In Today’s World – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ted Leonhardt, Publisher, Nail Magazine…

August 23, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“When I first saw the printed copy, I felt like I had come back to my roots of producing print, and what a pleasure that was. And just holding it and feeling the weight of it was amazing. And Ross’s absolutely extravagant design; basically, it’s over the top.” Ted Leonhardt…

Ted Leonhardt is a seasoned design professional whose mission in life is to help creatives fulfill their full potential. With that goal in mind, he created and launched a new magazine called Nail. The tagline reads: “Being A Creative Person In Today’s World.” Ted has a background rich in creative design and also in creative consulting. With his new magazine, Ted sees a way to look at the lives of creatives across the world and see how they are faring and thriving, and then share that through the pages of the magazine. It’s an intriguing concept and one that, with the reality of the first issue, shares analysis, career tips, and profiles of creatives.

I spoke with Ted recently and we talked about his idea of Nail and how it came about. We touched on his own background and on what he sees for the future of Nail. It was an easy conversation with a man who has strong opinions and beliefs, as the magazine shows, but also has a sincere and genuine humor that lives in his tone, making him very comfortable and open about his life, work, and his passion: the magazine.

When you’re a creative and you need some oomph and motivation to keep going in today’s chaotic environment, Ted said that Nail offers that support and looks beyond to greater ambitions and desires. So, whether you’re a designer, writer, creative director, musician, or anything that requires those skillsets one would define as “creative,” Nail is the magazine for you.

So, I hope that you enjoy this open and intriguing interview with a man who has lived creatively for most of his life, and now has a new magazine to help others who want to do the same, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ted Leonhardt, publisher, Nail magazine.

But first, the sound-bites:

On the origin of the name Nail: Well, nails have a very sharp point. They are very powerful instruments. They put things together. They’re strong and have an aggressive nature just because of the way they’re used. And I felt like a short, very strong name that represented physical action was appropriate for a magazine that was representing creatives in a difficult world.

On what it means to be a creative in today’s world: I think it means all people who make their way in the world through their creative skills. So, you could be in the advertising and design industry, and people are actually referred to as creatives. It’s a professional category: writers, designers, art directors, creative directors and others, are defined in their roles as creatives. And that’s my background.

On that “Aha” moment for him when he decided to create Nail: It was last fall. I was thinking about writing another book and I had a good team of people working for me already, helping me to promote my consulting practice, and I thought that a magazine would be a lot more fun. (Laughs) A magazine is visual and we could use those skills that we already had, and it can represent my point of view and points of view of lots of other people. And that way I could include others, whereas with a book, it would be typically just me. So, I thought a magazine would be a lot more fun to do than another book.

On how easy it was for him to take on the role of publisher since he is a creative designer himself: It was easy, because basically later in my career I didn’t do any design work myself, I just helped other people reach their conclusions. So, my job was really as a creative manager for 20 years, where I wasn’t designing anything myself.

On his reaction when the first issue was delivered to him: I’m over the moon with it. When I first saw the printed copy, I felt like I had come back to my roots of producing print, and what a pleasure that was. And just holding it and feeling the weight of it was amazing. And Ross’s absolutely extravagant design; basically, it’s over the top. Some of my more linear friends tell me it’s actually unreadable. (Laughs) One of my mentors that I bounce ideas off of made a living, and actually became quite rich, in the direct marketing business, and he is very linear person. And he thinks I’m insane. (Laughs again)

On whether there are any changes he might want to make in the next issue after seeing the first one: No, I’m still over the moon about it. In fact, my biggest worry is what we can do for the cover of the second issue. (Laughs) How do we match the first cover? The concepts or the cover article is the “other.” Creatives throughout history have often been marginalized, burned at the stake; their work destroyed; scientific people, artistic people, thrown in jail, etc. And of course, there’s our current political climate. So, I want the cover article to be about the “other.” And how that affects creatives over time.

On the future of creativity in this day and age: I think it’s extremely bright, because I think that the advance of the computer to do repetitive tasks is going to change the face of who’s in charge. And I think we’re going to find way more creativity celebrated within human activities than we have in the past, and less spreadsheets, headcounts and pennies that are profit for items sold, being the driver.

On whether magazines can live on creativity alone or they’ll still need business models: My guess is that we will continue to evolve how our economy works. I’m not an expert in government or economics, but I suspect that some creatives will find more and more opportunity to sell their skills and work directly to others through this marvelous invention called the Internet, so that there will be a much larger cottage industry than ever, because of the ability to communicate with people all over the world. Maybe someone will design a coffee cup that only appeals to 1,000 people, but they’re all over the world.

On anything he’d like to add: I’m just finding my way with this project. I’m having a great time. I’m loving looking at it. I’m thrilled with what we’ve done together. I want to get more people writing in the magazine beyond me, and yet, I love to write. So, just balancing those things is a goal.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Let’s replace hate with love.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Talking with Robin, my significant other, about what she did that day and what I did during the day, comparing notes, and trying to understand more about the world and the people that we work with.

On what keeps him up at night: I’m moving my office to a big boat, so finishing the damned boat so that I can actually get on with my consulting practice. (Laughs) I actually have my first client meeting on the boat today, so I’m terrified that nothing will go well. I’m not qualified to run the boat yet, it’s too big. I have a captain engaged and we’re taking the client out on a little boat ride, so we’ll see how it goes.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ted Leonhardt, publisher, Nail magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me why you chose the name Nail for the magazine?

Ted Leonhardt: Why the name Nail? Well, nails have a very sharp point. They are very powerful instruments. They put things together. They’re strong and have an aggressive nature just because of the way they’re used. And I felt like a short, very strong name that represented physical action was appropriate for a magazine that was representing creatives in a difficult world.

Samir Husni: With your background as a creative person yourself; how do you define the mission of Nail? The tagline reads “Being A Creative Person In Today’s World,” and as you and I know, most creative people think with their creative side rather than any practical side, which is something that you mention in your editorial. What does it mean to be a creative in today’s world?

Ted Leonhardt: I think it means all people who make their way in the world through their creative skills. So, you could be in the advertising and design industry, and there, people are actually referred to as creatives. It’s a professional category: writers, designers, art directors, creative directors and others, are defined in their roles as creatives. And that’s my background.

But actually, creatives are in every possible professional career, and in every other way one makes it through life, from musicians to poets to writers to even lawyers. I’ve had lawyers attend my creative sessions, so I’m not limiting it to any one particular category in my mind.

And in fact, the next issue has an article about the use of comic books in medical schools to train doctors into how their patients feel and react to their advice.

Samir Husni: What was that “Aha” moment for you, when you decided the world needed Nail and you were going to creatively bring it to life?

Ted Leonhardt: It was last fall. I was thinking about writing another book and I had a good team of people working for me already, helping me to promote my consulting practice, and I thought that a magazine would be a lot more fun. (Laughs) A magazine is visual and we could use those skills that we already had, and it can represent my point of view and points of view of lots of other people. And that way I could include others, whereas with a book, it would be typically just me. So, I thought a magazine would be a lot more fun to do than another book.

It is a way more complicated endeavor, and whether I can ever sell enough to pay for it is another question. But I was just drawn to the idea as a great thing to do. And of course, early on in my career I was an actual designer myself. I designed magazines for corporations that were clients of ours. And I also designed quite a number of annual reports for public companies.

Samir Husni: That leads me to my next question; you being a designer and a creative director, how easy was it for you to take a step back and have someone else design the magazine and you take the role of the publisher?

Ted Leonhardt: It was easy, because basically later in my career I didn’t do any design work myself, I just helped other people reach their conclusions. So, my job was really as a creative manager for 20 years, where I wasn’t designing anything myself.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant surprise for you since starting this magazine journey? When the first issue was delivered to you, what was your reaction? Was it “How Do We Survive This Bully” as the cover story on the first issue asks? Or was it “How do We Survive This Magazine?” (Laughs)

Ted Leonhardt: (Laughs too) I was thrilled and I’m still thrilled. The concept for that article was mine, but the way Ross (Hogin – Creative Director) depicted it was totally his idea. And I think I said this in my editorial, the cover line originally had the word “asshole” in it, but we decided that was inappropriate .

I’m over the moon with it. When I first saw the printed copy, I felt like I had come back to my roots of producing print, and what a pleasure that was. And just holding it and feeling the weight of it was amazing. And Ross’s absolutely extravagant design; basically, it’s over the top. Some of my more linear friends tell me it’s actually unreadable. (Laughs) One of my mentors that I bounce ideas off of made a living, and actually became quite rich, in the direct marketing business, and he is very linear person. And he thinks I’m insane. (Laughs again)

Yet, the way creative people respond to it is totally different. When we were at an AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) event in Seattle, creative people were diving into it like it was a swimming pool or something. They literally immersed themselves in it and found things and discovered things, which is exactly what our intent was. It’s not for everybody. I sold a handful to an acquaintance of mine and he actually asked me for his money back, because it’s so aggressive. (Laughs) I told him all sales were final though.

Samir Husni: Once you came down from Cloud Nine, and you took a real, in depth look at the first issue, anything come to mind that triggered any critiques or changes that you might want to make?

Ted Leonhardt: No, I’m still over the moon about it. In fact, my biggest worry is what we can do for the cover of the second issue. (Laughs) How do we match the first cover? The concepts or the cover article is the “other.” Creatives throughout history have often been marginalized, burned at the stake; their work destroyed; scientific people, artistic people, thrown in jail, etc. And of course, there’s our current political climate. So, I want the cover article to be about the “other.” And how that affects creatives over time.

In fact, we’ve already done a timeline of historical events of work being destroyed by the bureaucratic powers-that-be over history, works that they didn’t like. And people killed and burned at the stake. So, how do we depict that? I’ll leave it up to Ross, but I’d like it to be pretty dramatic. The feelings about the “other.” The whole idea of how someone would feel if they were singled out as the other. Depicting that on the cover is sort of what I would like to do.

Samir Husni: You have years of experience; you’ve worked with the bigger companies and you’ve worked with the smaller companies; you’ve worked overseas and you’ve worked here. With all of your knowledge and experience; what do you think the future of creativity is in this day and age?

Ted Leonhardt: I think it’s extremely bright, because I think that the advance of the computer to do repetitive tasks is going to change the face of who’s in charge. And I think we’re going to find way more creativity celebrated within human activities than we have in the past, and less spreadsheets, headcounts and pennies that are profit for items sold, being the driver.

My guess is that the future will be owned by people who do think out of the box, if we can get past these horrible needs that society seems to have to reach back to the past and generate hate and fear, and those kinds of things, to be the driving forces in the world. But I’m extremely optimistic that our technological advances will allow creative people to play a more significant role in the world, rather than less. And that tasks that formerly put people in charge who were less creative will be falling away.

Samir Husni: But how would you put food on the table? You mention in your editorial that if enough people buy this magazine, you can do a second issue. So, can we survive on creativity alone, or will we still need some kind of a business model to help us survive?

Ted Leonhardt: My guess is that we will continue to evolve how our economy works. I’m not an expert in government or economics, but I suspect that some creatives will find more and more opportunity to sell their skills and work directly to others through this marvelous invention called the Internet, so that there will be a much larger cottage industry than ever, because of the ability to communicate with people all over the world. Maybe someone will design a coffee cup that only appeals to 1,000 people, but they’re all over the world.

So, I suspect that small entrepreneurial efforts will be vastly helped to move forward with the Internet. The whole app craze that made it possible for people to offer specific services to people all over the world is an example of that. My guess is we’re going to see more and more of that.

But yes, we will always need big corporations, because big corporations are very efficient at supplying us, hence the low cost of goods and services that we enjoy. Things that formerly only rich people could have. However, I just spent a weekend down in South Africa, where I went to an union conference, and there’s over 24 percent unemployment there. The divide between rich and poor is right in your face. You see rich people living in houses with barbed wire all around them and signs that read “Armed Response.” And then you have grown men begging in the streets very aggressively. It was pretty clear to me that I had lived a very sheltered life.

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

Ted Leonhardt: I’m just finding my way with this project. I’m having a great time. I’m loving looking at it. I’m thrilled with what we’ve done together. I want to get more people writing in the magazine beyond me, and yet, I love to write. So, just balancing those things is a goal.

I just did a seminar for a group pf women on dealing with male privilege when they’re negotiating. You know, I want to talk about that. This magazine has opened up a creative opportunity for me personally that I have never had before. So, I’m totally over the top with it.

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

Ted Leonhardt: Let’s replace hate with love.

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

Ted Leonhardt: Talking with Robin, my significant other, about what she did that day and what I did during the day, comparing notes, and trying to understand more about the world and the people that we work with.

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

Ted Leonhardt: I’m moving my office to a big boat, so finishing the damned boat so that I can actually get on with my consulting practice. (Laughs) I actually have my first client meeting on the boat today, so I’m terrified that nothing will go well. I’m not qualified to run the boat yet, it’s too big. I have a captain engaged and we’re taking the client out on a little boat ride, so we’ll see how it goes.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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