Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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Jo Packham: A Self-Proclaimed Woman Of Ideas With One Goal In Mind: Help and Create – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jo Packham, Creator/Editor In Chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create Magazines…

June 1, 2018

“I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.” Jo Packham (On why she chose print over digital for her brand)…

Jo Packham believes we all have a story to tell and she also believes it is her job to give a venue to those ideas; hence, the four titles that she created and formerly published (three of them anyway) with Stampington & Company by her side. But today is a new day, and a new title. No longer is she affiliated with the giant crafting publisher. Today, she is following through with her own vision, through her partnership with Disticor, and she has decided there is more to tell than just “where,” we also need to know “what.”

I spoke with Jo recently and I must say, it was one of the most delightful conversations I have ever had. Jo is as passionate about her magazines as she is her readers and contributors. We talked about that passion, which was something that ignited and brought forth her latest title “What Women Create.”

Jo believes that the stories within the pages of her magazines should all express individuality and the rawness that makes them unique. That’s the main reason there is no heavy editing with contributors’ offerings, just mainly spelling. And she likes it that way.

Since parting company with Stampington & Company, where she had had a long-running relationship, Jo is now feeling unencumbered by guidelines and predisposed aesthetics, and is enjoying spreading her wings a bit. And while she is grateful for everything she shared with Stampington, she is also excited by the future’s possibilities. Even though she says (her words, not mine) who knows what’s going to happen with a 70-year-old, self-proclaimed idea woman. If Mr. Magazine™ could offer his opinion here (and why not, it is my blog after all), I’d say 70 is the new 50 and that is just the right age for Jo Packham and her latest endeavors.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very lively conversation with a woman whose youth is apparently eternal, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jo Packham, creator and editor in chief of all the “Where Women Create,” “Where Women Cook,” “Where Women Create Work,” and her latest, “What Women Create.”

But first the sound-bites:

On how she got her start in magazines: I worked really, really hard and I have been very, very blessed. I think it happened because my entire career has been about surrounding myself with really creative, successful women. I always wanted to be an artist; I grew up wanting to be an artist, and I’m a horrible artist. My 7th grade art teacher told me I should do something else.

On combining food and crafts with her magazines: In the early days what I had to do was go to the crafters and the creative people, because they have fabulous kitchens and they like to cook, they don’t consider themselves foodies, but because they’re so creative they like to cook. So, we would feature five of them with really beautiful kitchens and then we would feature five of the top food bloggers and foodies in the country and focus on their food. And it kind of became more of a cooking magazine than a “where” magazine, it just morphed into that. But we still try to include some kitchens and other kinds of things, but that’s the way it started.

On how she would describe herself today: I think I’m creative in my own way in that I can bring people together, because there are a lot of publishers and a lot of agents who I think are driven by money, so I believe I am a creator and a gatherer; I think I inspire people. I don’t know, I work hard. (Laughs) I don’t know what I am. I’m just the person behind the scenes who wants you to have the opportunity that maybe I can help you get.

On how she says that she wants to be behind the scenes, yet her name is on the cover of all of her magazines: It’s on the covers of the old ones too. And the reason I did that is for the first time in my 40-year career when I went to work for Stampington, and when we launched Where Women Create at Stampington, it was an atmosphere of distrust for large corporations. And even I didn’t know in those days that Stampington was a big company; I had no idea how big they were. So, I felt if I put my name on the cover that the people who we featured and the people who were our readers would understand that it was a single woman doing the job and making it happen instead of a big corporation, so that they would trust me more and look at us through a different perspective.

On whether she’s had any stumbling blocks to face or it’s all been a walk in a rose garden: Oh, a million stumbling blocks. It’s so not easy. It’s always what you don’t expect. You’re sailing along and something happens that’s totally out of your control, and it’s that telephone call in the middle of the night that you dread your whole life. And I’ve gotten mine. I’ve lost everything. I completely lost everything and had to start from scratch, that was 10 years ago. I lost everything.

On whether she feels like she’s now in a safe end with her new deal with Disticor: I don’t believe in a safe end. I think the world is so fragile and everything we do is so fragile that I’ve got the best gig of all time. When people talk about living the dream, this is it. It’s not easy; I’m working myself to death, but it’s living the dream. But I also know that I could wake up in the morning and Barnes & Noble could go bankrupt and there could be no more distributor for the magazines and we would be done.

On whether anyone ever questions her sanity because she is publishing four print magazines with high cover prices in this digital age: Oh, yes. We just started the Disticor partnership last November and I had never met them and they flew out here to meet me. We had dinner in my studio and I had a chef here. We cooked a private dinner for them and they told me that they had just decided to do this. I told them that I didn’t believe in contracts, but my ex-husband said I had to have one and they said that was great. And I asked them how long the contract should be for, and Mike, who is the president of Disticor, said 10 years. And I just started laughing and he said, what the hell? And I said I am 70-years-old, you’ll have an 80-year-old editor in chief. No one wants an 80-year-old editor in chief. (Laughs) So, I told him that we’d start with three years.

On why she chose print and not a digital-only entity: I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.

On her new publication What Women Create: When I got the opportunity to work with Disticor, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted. And I said, really? And they said, sure. So, we started with the three that we knew, but then we were preparing the first issue of “Create” and “What” came up at the table and it’s brilliant. And it’s not a how-to magazine; it’s just a beautiful pictorial anthology of the passion and the inspiration. It’s meant to be the story of the women who create; it’s behind-the-scenes on how they do what they do. It’s not a step-by-step. And it’s such a great partner with “Create.”

On whether the magazines, in human form, are her: I hope so. I would hope so. I would hope that I embody the passion and inspiration of all of us, that I’m a good representative and I will be cognizant of who they are and what they do and never take advantage of them. And always represent them in the best way. So, I would hope so.

On anything that scares her with this new venture: (Laughs) Everything scares me. I have these constant panic attacks, because I feel responsible. People have trusted me with their stories. Once, somebody said to me, all we do is produce junk mail because they buy our magazines and then they throw them away. And I said that’s not what I do. I give these people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words, the way they want, without edits. We don’t change it; we don’t give any guidelines. It is their opportunity to have a magazine for just a minute to tell the world what they want the world to know.

On whether she feels she’s publishing inexpensive books, but expensive magazines: They are, and it’s because we don’t sell advertising. We’re a newsstand model, so we have to make our money somewhere and printing is more expensive, photographers are more expensive, and shipping them is crazy. When I ship one magazine to Europe it’s $27 and some cents. So, it’s not that we’re making more money on the backend on this end, it’s just that we’re producing a really beautiful, collectible piece. Because when they’re not done in seasons and they don’t do holidays, it’s not that you ever throw them away, unless you’re cleaning out your closet. You can save them as an inspiring piece of literature to go to just like a book.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: You would find me going through magazines. (Laughs) Right now on my dining room table I probably have 50 of the latest magazines from all over the world, trying to see who is doing what and what I love. So, you would definitely find me reading magazines.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: That I gave people the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Being 70. I have all of these thoughts: what if I can’t remember anymore, or what if I can’t go up the stairs anymore. That scares me to death.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jo Packham, creator/editor in chief, Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, Where Women Create Work, & What Women Create magazines.

Samir Husni: You’re the publisher and creator of not one, not two, not even three, but four magazines, all at the same time. Tell me how you got started.

Jo Packham: I worked really, really hard and I have been very, very blessed. I think it happened because my entire career has been about surrounding myself with really creative, successful women. I always wanted to be an artist; I grew up wanting to be an artist, and I’m a horrible artist. My 7th grade art teacher told me I should do something else.

And so I thought, you know what, I love it so much that early on, 40 years ago, I decided to publish cross-stitch books and I owned a small yarn and thread store. When cross-stitch was getting really popular, I decided to publish cross-stitch books, and I couldn’t do it myself, so I would just work with other women and surround myself with them and be the person who published them.

I would do the part of their creative life that they didn’t want to do, because they want to be creative, right? They didn’t want to deal with the publishing and write the stories, they didn’t want to get all the backend done, and things like that. I don’t really have very much of an ego and I was really happy to promote them and just be the person behind the scenes. I feel like a bus driver sometimes. I just get everybody on the bus and I get everybody where they need to go and then I get everybody off the bus and then I fill the bus up again.

It just led from one thing to another. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had some really dramatic failures in my career, but when you surround yourself with women who are so inspiring, they always have a new idea. And they always pick you back up and they always need someone like me behind the scenes. So, that’s the role that I love and that I took on, and that’s how I got where I am. It’s because of them, it really is.

Samir Husni: You combine both crafts and food; tell me about that mix. You have the food magazine, the craft magazine, and then you have the “What” magazine. (Laughs)

Jo Packham: (Laughs too). That’s really a funny story. When we started we had “Where Women Create” and it was all about the studios and everybody loved it and it’s really popular. I was not a foodie, but what happened was I was in the Texas Hill Country photographing Robin Brown and John Gray’s home, they own a company called Magnolia Pearl.

We were on a photo shoot and we got there one morning at around 6:00 a.m. and Robin’s guilty pleasure, and she lives way out in the country, her guilty pleasure was every morning a woman would come from Fredericksburg, Texas and bring in all fresh fruits and vegetables, and she was her cook for the day, her sous chef, if you will, and she would prepare all of these fresh fruits and vegetables. So Robin, because she’s a creative, had the most beautiful kitchen I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

So, when we walked in that morning and there was that entire array of fresh fruits and vegetables on the cabinet, I said we needed to publish where women cut. And when I first started it, I really thought it would be about the kitchen, just like it was about the studios. But I stayed an extra four days, photographed the kitchen, did all of the cooking, and I thought, I don’t know any foodies, so I should contact the top 10 food bloggers in the country.

I found out who they were, wrote them all a letter, said I would love to feature each of them in the magazine, they all said great, and I told them that we’d come and do a photo shoot in their kitchen, and they said yeah, no, that’s not going to happen because they were all about the food and not about the kitchen.

So, in the early days what I had to do was go to the crafters and the creative people, because they have fabulous kitchens and they like to cook, they don’t consider themselves foodies, but because they’re so creative they like to cook. So, we would feature five of them with really beautiful kitchens and then we would feature five of the top food bloggers and foodies in the country and focus on their food. And it kind of became more of a cooking magazine than a “where” magazine, it just morphed into that. But we still try to include some kitchens and other kinds of things, but that’s the way it started.

I had to go buy my first set of pots and pans. Since I was starting the magazine, I went into my kitchen, took all of my paintbrushes and all of my tools out of my silverware drawers, and all of my paintbrushes out of my cabinets and went and bought a complete set of silverware and a whole new set of pots and pans so that I would feel a little more like I could walk the walk and talk the talk.

Samir Husni: What do you consider yourself; a creator? I see “created by Jo” on each one of the four magazines. Or a curator? Someone who reaches out to all of these bloggers and creative people. If you had to describe Jo today, what would be some of the adjectives that come to mind?

Jo Packham: I think I’m creative in my own way in that I can bring people together, because there are a lot of publishers and a lot of agents who I think are driven by money, so I believe I am a creator and a gatherer; I think I inspire people. I don’t know, I work hard. (Laughs) I don’t know what I am. I’m just the person behind the scenes who wants you to have the opportunity that maybe I can help you get.

I’m a philanthropist, because I really want to sell a million magazines; I really do. But if I sell a million magazines; we always feature two really famous people in the magazine because they sell magazines, but then we feature 10 that no one has ever heard of, because if we can give them an opportunity to make their dreams come true sincerely, then that’s what sells more magazines that pays my bills and it’s a win/win situation for everyone.

Samir Husni: You say that you want to be behind the scenes, yet your name is on the cover of all four of the new magazines.

Jo Packham: It’s on the covers of the old ones too. And the reason I did that is for the first time in my 40-year career when I went to work for Stampington, and when we launched Where Women Create at Stampington, it was an atmosphere of distrust for large corporations. And even I didn’t know in those days that Stampington was a big company; I had no idea how big they were. So, I felt if I put my name on the cover that the people who we featured and the people who were our readers would understand that it was a single woman doing the job and making it happen instead of a big corporation, so that they would trust me more and look at us through a different perspective.

And the only reason I put my name on the second ones, with this new publisher, is because he absolutely insisted. And Barnes & Noble and Costco said Jo’s name has to be on the cover and I said that’s ridiculous. People don’t buy these magazines because of me, they buy these magazines because of the stories inside, but they felt like with my name on the cover that people would be assured that there was no advertising and that the stories would be sincere. And that it’s the same model. The first 30 years of my career, no one knew who I was; my name was never anywhere. Ever.

Samir Husni: Now your name is everywhere. Did it feel like a walk in a rose garden or were there some stumbling blocks you had to overcome?

Jo Packham: Oh, a million stumbling blocks. It’s so not easy. It’s always what you don’t expect. You’re sailing along and something happens that’s totally out of your control, and it’s that telephone call in the middle of the night that you dread your whole life. And I’ve gotten mine. I’ve lost everything. I completely lost everything and had to start from scratch, that was 10 years ago. I lost everything.

The story between Stampington and I is crazy and then the one between Disticor and I is even crazier. So, I’ve been at the top and I’ve been at the bottom. I’m great at cocktail parties; I have a lot of stories. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: So, today, do feel like you’re sailing smoothly, leaving what happened behind you? Does the new deal with Disticor make you feel as though you’re finally in a safe end?

Jo Packham: I don’t believe in a safe end. I think the world is so fragile and everything we do is so fragile that I’ve got the best gig of all time. When people talk about living the dream, this is it. It’s not easy; I’m working myself to death, but it’s living the dream. But I also know that I could wake up in the morning and Barnes & Noble could go bankrupt and there could be no more distributor for the magazines and we would be done.

So, I never plan on that kind of thing. I enjoy what I have. I used to plan on it in my younger days, but now I’m just very grateful and very thankful for what I have today and I work very hard for it. And if I wake up in the morning and it’s still there, I’m grateful tomorrow too. But I’m 70 years old, so who knows, right? Geez, I could fall down the stairs. (Laughs) It is what it is.

Samir Husni: At those cocktail parties, when you’re sharing your ups and downs, does anyone ever question your sanity because you’re publishing four print magazines with very high cover prices in this digital age?

Jo Packham: Oh, yes. We just started the Disticor partnership last November and I had never met them and they flew out here to meet me. We had dinner in my studio and I had a chef here. We cooked a private dinner for them and they told me that they had just decided to do this. I told them that I didn’t believe in contracts, but my ex-husband said I had to have one and they said that was great. And I asked them how long the contract should be for, and John Lafranier, who is the president of Disticor, said 10 years. And I just started laughing and he said, what the hell? And I said I am 70-years-old, you’ll have an 80-year-old editor in chief. No one wants an 80-year-old editor in chief. (Laughs) So, I told him that we’d start with three years.

But when I tell those stories and I’m at cocktail parties, people do look at me, because all of their lifetime friends in their communities are retired and traveling, doing all of those kinds of things, and I’m working 18 hours per day. And I ask myself whether I could retire and if that would be a good idea, but then I think, no, I’ll do this as long as I can. Just enjoy it. I love my job.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to publish print? Why not just a blog or a digital magazine?

Jo Packham: I’m a traditional print girl. I was in book publishing for 30 years. When that ended and I got the opportunity to do the magazines; I don’t even go on Instagram. I don’t answer my phone; I hate anything technological. I really love paper and print. I wouldn’t have even considered anything else.

When things got really bad and I lost the first company, I lost my house and everything, I got a job at Starbucks. I was going to work at Starbucks. (Laughs) I thought that was a good alternative; they had really good benefits. And they would send you to school. (Laughs again) But it never even occurred to me to do anything but print.

Samir Husni: You’ve redesigned all of the magazines, you gave them a new fresh look. And you’ve added one new title that you didn’t publish with Stampington before. Tell me about What Women Create.

Jo Packham: When I went to work with Stampington, Kellene (Giloff, founder and president) was extremely generous with me, but even though What Women Create was my brand and my concept, I was still part of the Stampington Group. So, I had to adhere to their guidelines and their aesthetics and what Kellene wanted. And she’s very secure in that and likes that. She would never let me branch out on my own. And I certainly appreciate that. It’s hard to have two brands under one umbrella.

But I’m an idea girl, right? I have a million ideas. And I would present them and Kellene is really conservative and she has 36 of her own magazines, so she didn’t need any more of mine. (Laughs) So, the reason the whole thing happened was because Where Women Cook was just out of her wheelhouse. She’s a craft person, and so she was going to cancel Cook. And even though I am not a foodie, Cook is one of my favorites.

When I got the opportunity to work with Disticor, they told me that I could do whatever I wanted. And I said, really? And they said, sure. So, we started with the three that we knew, but then we were preparing the first issue of “Create” and “What” came up at the table and it’s brilliant. And it’s not a how-to magazine; it’s just a beautiful pictorial anthology of the passion and the inspiration. It’s meant to be the story of the women who create; it’s behind-the-scenes on how they do what they do. It’s not a step-by-step. And it’s such a great partner with “Create.”

“Create” has been on the market for 10 years and I believe that everything has a shelf life. I’m not sure if we haven’t started the shelf life over with the new, reimagined “Create,” so maybe we can start counting again. But I felt like for security, for retirement, if I ever do (Laughs), that I needed something new and fresh, and a different take on it. And I thought “What” was the perfect partner. And I called Disticor on the phone and asked them what they thought about “What.” And they said that I should absolutely do it. So, I did.

Samir Husni: When I flip through the pages of the four titles, the relaunched and the new one, I can see you in the pages of the magazines. Your passion, your craft, your touch, is there. If I give you a magic wand that could make the pages come to life and you strike the magazines with it, and suddenly a human being appears. Will that be you?

Jo Packham: I hope so. I would hope so. I would hope that I embody the passion and inspiration of all of us, that I’m a good representative and I will be cognizant of who they are and what they do and never take advantage of them. And always represent them in the best way. So, I would hope so.

Samir Husni: Is there anything that scares you with this new venture?

Jo Packham: (Laughs) Everything scares me. I have these constant panic attacks, because I feel responsible. People have trusted me with their stories. Once, somebody said to me, all we do is produce junk mail because they buy our magazines and then they throw them away. And I said that’s not what I do. I give these people the opportunity to tell their stories in their own words, the way they want, without edits. We don’t change it; we don’t give any guidelines. It is their opportunity to have a magazine for just a minute to tell the world what they want the world to know.

So, I feel responsible for that. And that scares me because they’re trusting me with their dreams and their heartaches and their pasts. I think that’s why the magazines are so personal, because they write their own stories, I don’t have editors. We do correct spelling, because I think that’s important. People write the way they speak. I speak in long runoff sentences and that’s the way I write. And I don’t want some editor making it sound like copy that you can find in any issue of the magazine that’s edited. I want everyone to be totally different. It’s like you’re sitting at the kitchen table learning about somebody new. And if they speak in broken English, they should write in broken English. That way we really know who they are and they really have the opportunity to tell their story.

Samir Husni: Do you feel that you’re publishing inexpensive books, but expensive magazines? Your magazines look and feel like a book, but inexpensive compared to hardbacks, but expensive compared to magazines.

Jo Packham: They are, and it’s because we don’t sell advertising. We’re a newsstand model, so we have to make our money somewhere and printing is more expensive, photographers are more expensive, and shipping them is crazy. When I ship one magazine to Europe it’s $27 and some cents. So, it’s not that we’re making more money on the backend on this end, it’s just that we’re producing a really beautiful, collectible piece. Because when they’re not done in seasons and they don’t do holidays, it’s not that you ever throw them away, unless you’re cleaning out your closet. You can save them as an inspiring piece of literature to go to just like a book.

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

Jo Packham: You would find me going through magazines. (Laughs) Right now on my dining room table I probably have 50 of the latest magazines from all over the world, trying to see who is doing what and what I love. So, you would definitely find me reading magazines.

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

Jo Packham: That I gave people the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

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

Jo Packham: (Laughs) Being 70. I have all of these thoughts: what if I can’t remember anymore, or what if I can’t go up the stairs anymore. That scares me to death.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Bella Grace New Generation Magazine: Inspiring A “New Generation” Of Print With A Different Kind Of Teen Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Christen Hammons, Director of Publishing/Editor In Chief, Bella Grace New Generation…

April 5, 2018

“Based off of sales reports and things that we’ve been looking at in general about what teenagers are doing, they’re buying books at the bookstores. The Young Adult section has just exploded in the past few years. So, we think there are a large quantity of teenagers who do like print and do like having a physical copy of something.” Christen Hammons…

“I think there’s room for both. I’m an avid reader and I go back and forth between my Kindle and my paper books constantly. I have a huge paper book collection and love the feel of those. There are people who want to unplug from time to time and I think it’s nice to be able to have the feel of paper. But they can work alongside each other. I do believe some people get tired of technology occasionally and it’s a good break to be able to pick up a paper magazine. There are just certain things you can’t do digitally that you can with paper and that’s what we have really enjoyed. The act of going to the bookstore and picking up your magazine and flipping through it.” Christen Hammons (on print’s role in a digital age)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Stampington & Company have been producing niche, enthusiast magazines for almost a quarter of a century. When it comes to arts and crafts, no one knows the space better than Stampington. But almost four years ago, the company stepped out of its comfort zone and launched a beautiful lifestyle magazine for women called Bella Grace. The first issue was filled with photographs and beautifully-penned stories that touched the heart and soul of the reader.

And now Bella Grace has given birth to a daughter, New Generation, a new teen magazine from Stampington geared toward 12-19 year old girls. Christen Hammons is director of publishing and editor in chief at Stampington & Company and is excited to send out birth announcements for the latest infant of the Bella Grace brand, a teen magazine that is proud to be different and offers girls places within its pages to journal, doodle, or just be themselves. A unique magazine for the individual teen with a need to find and share her voice, something New Generation encourages as over half of the magazine’s content is teen-contributed, with an ultimate goal of much more to come.

I spoke with Christen recently and we talked about the firm print foothold that the company still believes in so strongly, something that is obvious with every new title launched. But she and the company also believe in the digital presence of a brand too and definitely feel there is room for both, as she mentions in our conversation. Print Proud is an obvious fact with Stampington, but Digital Smart is also a part of its DNA, however, never a follower, Stampington & Company does digital its own way.

So, I hope that you enjoy this fascinating conversation with a woman who isn’t afraid to step out of the box and explore new frontiers, just as the company she works for isn’t, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christen Hammons, director of publishing/editor in chief, Bella Grace New Generation.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether Stampington and Company is out of its mind for starting a print publication for teenagers in this digital age: I really don’t think so. Based off of sales reports and things that we’ve been looking at in general about what teenagers are doing, they’re buying books at the bookstores. The Young Adult section has just exploded in the past few years. So, we think there are a large quantity of teenagers who do like print and do like having a physical copy of something. It sounds a little scary, but we thought it was worth a shot. There’s really nothing out there for that age group, especially the type of magazine that we’ve put out, where it is not focused on beauty or celebrities or anything like that.

On New Generation being a spinoff of Bella Grace, only for the younger Bella’s: Exactly. That’s exactly what the hope was. We call it, not even a sister publication, we’re almost calling it the mother publication because we had quite a bit of teenagers, although they were in the upper age range of what we’re featuring in New Generation, but we were having 18 and 19 year olds writing in to Bella Grace, submitting some really amazing stories. And we realized that we had a market already there, so it just seemed logical to do this.

On the non-political tone of the magazine: We’re trying to keep it a little bit on the lighter side. We are trying to keep it to where it will appeal to a variety of people. For example, I know Teen Vogue has taken a very strong political stance, but we want to make sure that there’s a place where they can take a break from all that’s going on in the world, because every day it’s something new for them to deal with, so it’s nice to have something that is all about them.

On the smaller size of New Generation: We’re trying to keep Bella Grace as the mother publication and the gold standard, where it has the book jacket cover, a very heavy cover and it’s a large magazine. This one is a little fun and whimsical and we made it a little bit smaller so you can throw it into your purse or in your bag or your backpack. We just think it’s fun to do things a little bit different and that not a lot of people do.

On what role she thinks print plays in a digital age: I think there’s room for both. I’m an avid reader and I go back and forth between my Kindle and my paper books constantly. I have a huge paper book collection and love the feel of those. There are people who want to unplug from time to time and I think it’s nice to be able to have the feel of paper. But they can work alongside each other. I do believe some people get tired of technology occasionally and it’s a good break to be able to pick up a paper magazine. There are just certain things you can’t do digitally that you can with paper and that’s what we have really enjoyed. The act of going to the bookstore and picking up your magazine and flipping through it.

On the high cover price: What we’re doing is creating an experience. We’ve always been known for having higher-end magazines. We use the best paper we can find; we use really thick paper. And on all of our magazines, we keep a limit on outside advertising that we include. We’re really committed to making sure our magazines across the board, even some of our art magazines, are more of an experience, not just stories and articles, but we’re trying to make them more interactive and things that you can’t find online or digitally.

On Facebook’s CEO buying ads in print newspapers to make his public apology about the recent data breach: We’ve been seeing an uptick in some of our advertising sales. I mean, we do limit that, we have a set number of pages that we allow, but we’re starting to see a little bit of a revitalization of some print advertising, which is hard to do because so much of advertising has changed now to product placement online or sponsorships and affiliate programs. But it’s been nice seeing a little bit of a revival of print advertising, because making magazines is very expensive, so it does help support the cost of producing them.

On how she plans on ensuring that the Stampington & Company brand grows and becomes even “brandier”: What we’re trying to do with our brand is stay true to just putting out what’s fresh and really trying to make sure that we aren’t holding onto titles that are maybe a little boring or dated, so we’re trying to stay with what we’ve become known for, which is putting out new stuff all of the time. And that’s hard to find at times too, because sometimes you think you can’t come up with a new idea, but we’ve managed to. We have some more titles coming out in the next year that will really show how we’re always trying to push the envelope when it comes to what a magazine can be.

On the lifecycle of a magazine and how nothing is supposed to live forever: That’s been hard for us. We just looked at some of the titles that we’ve had for a long time and realized they’re not selling as well anymore. What could we put out there that people will want to buy? It’s hard, but because we have worked on these magazines for a long time, they can get a little tedious, they’re fun, but over time, anything can get a little boring to work on, so it’s been fun to revitalize the company and everyone is excited about new stuff when we put it out. Then the readers also get excited, and you have to keep your readers interested in what you’re doing. And keep it fresh for the readers, because obviously, that’s who we make these for.

On the Bella Grace brand being such a shift in focus for the company and how that journey has been: It was very nerve-wracking. We’ve been known so long for just primarily being arts and crafts magazines, so to put something out there that’s more of a lifestyle was very scary, but it’s been so well-received. We’ve had so many people to thank us for launching it, because there’s nothing like it out there. So many women’s magazines seem to all focus on the same thing that we thought, we have amazing writers that we work with, we’re all about supporting women, so it’s just been so well-received.

On whether there might be a “son” of Bella Grace in the future instead of just being a women’s magazine: We’ve thought about that. We’re definitely always open to the idea of that. It’s just for now we feel like it’s such a good time to empower and support women. We have had occasional male contributors, but we haven’t really dove in to see if there’s an interest on the male side of things.

On the major stumbling block facing New Generation: I think it’s the matter of getting it into their hands. Whether it be a parent; our hope is that the original Bella Grace reader will see that we have something for the younger crowd and they get excited and pick it up. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, but we have ideas for reaching out to schools and English teachers to see if we can get them copies, maybe even wholesale copies, just to get it into their hands. That’s the first thing.

On the Audrey Hepburn quote in the first issue of New Generation and whether she thinks teens will relate: I think it’s just the message that it conveys and we know how popular beautifully-designed quotes are. If you spend any time on Pinterest, that’s what the majority of people are sharing on there, these types of quotes. And I think the one we used of Audrey Hepburn’s is a timeless quote.

On how she is integrating the print New Generation magazine with a digital presence: Our model has been, for the most part, to wait on producing anything digitally from our titles until the print version has sold out. So, once it has sold out we make it available digitally, so we do not have to do a reprint and a rerun of the magazines. What we’re trying to do is create a nice community online for the readers. With our Bella Grace Instagram, we really try to make an effort. We use Instagram quite a bit, as well as Facebook, of course, but it seems a lot of people are spending large amounts of time on Instagram now, and it’s really great to see the community that’s emerging from our readers. They’ll have conversations back and forth.

On what she would hope to tell someone about the magazine and its journey one year from now: I hope if we talk a year from now to tell you that the demand has been so great that we were able to increase the magazine’s frequency to as frequent as Bella Grace’s, which is quarterly. And we’re hoping by that time, I would love to have 90 percent of the contributors be within the age range that we’re reaching out to for New Generation. Right now, we have a little over half of the girls are within that age range. I would love to have almost the entire magazine made up of that, because we say on the back of the magazine that we believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell, and we really want to help them tell their stories.

On whether she feels they are more experience makers or journalists at Stampington & Company: I would say that we’re more makers than anything. We don’t report on news; I feel like we’re makers in this company and we’re trying to showcase the work of our peers at the end of the day, whether they’re writers, photographers. I think we’re makers because we’re putting out a product that we’re truly proud of, with a lot of content and a lot of just emotion.

On whether the last issue produced is always her favorite magazine: I’d like to think that each one is better and it’s my favorite, but it’s hard because I’m already looking at the next one. I finish one and my mind is already on the next one. It’s a good reminder to step back and look at what you’ve accomplished, because by the time we get our print copies back, I’m already knee-deep in the next issue and I have maybe a few minutes to flip through it and appreciate what we’ve done.

On anything she’d like to add: This is one of those magazines that we’re so passionate about and that’s not to say that we don’t connect with the artwork that we publish in our other magazines, but there’s really an emotional tie from myself, from our publisher, from our designers, when we work on Bella Grace, that it’s just something we’re so passionate about doing and we’re so proud of it. It’s a different kind of fulfillment that we get from working on these titles over our art magazines.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: I would hope that they would think of authenticity and honesty.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: At the end of the day you’ll likely find me watching hockey; I’m a huge hockey fan; I have season tickets, so my husband and I are huge hockey fans. We’re a little obsessive and it’s just a great way to unwind. If you’re watching a game, you have no choice but to focus on the game, your mind doesn’t wander whatsoever. But I am also a veracious reader, I think last year I read 55 books. I’m a little more than a book a week, so those are my two passions. Watching hockey, but also reading. I love reading and I like stepping away from the computer at the end of the day.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Just having so many ideas and not having the time to execute things. Sometimes I have these ideas that I’d love to do and I just look at my daily schedule and it’s sometimes not feasible.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Christen Hammons, director of publishing & editor in chief, Bella Grace’s New Generation magazine.

Samir Husni: Are you out of your mind starting a print publication for ages 12-19 in this digital age?

Christen Hammons: I really don’t think so. Based off of sales reports and things that we’ve been looking at in general about what teenagers are doing, they’re buying books at the bookstores. The Young Adult section has just exploded in the past few years. So, we think there are a large quantity of teenagers who do like print and do like having a physical copy of something. It sounds a little scary, but we thought it was worth a shot. There’s really nothing out there for that age group, especially the type of magazine that we’ve put out, where it is not focused on beauty or celebrities or anything like that.

It’s hard for teenagers sometimes, going through life, and we wanted to put something out there that really helped reaffirm who they are. And we think by combining it with the worksheet style, it provides something that was definitely worth picking up in print, because no other magazine has the worksheets and prompts for the kids to write in their book. So, we thought that was a key component for making sure that the print edition was worthwhile.

Samir Husni: Stampington, as a company, has been grounded in publishing all kinds of journals, from crafts to your latest, Bella Grace. And New Generation is a spinoff of Bella Grace, for the younger Bella’s.

Christen Hammons: Exactly. That’s exactly what the hope was. We call it, not even a sister publication, we’re almost calling it the mother publication because we had quite a bit of teenagers, although they were in the upper age range of what we’re featuring in New Generation, but we were having 18 and 19 year olds writing in to Bella Grace, submitting some really amazing stories. And we realized that we had a market already there, so it just seemed logical to do this.

Our hope is that the mothers will pick up this book for their daughters. Or grandmothers or aunts will pick this up for the younger girls in their lives and show them that there is something completely different out there for them. And hopefully it will reaffirm who they are during this really tough transition in their lives.

Growing up is not the same as it used to be. (Laughs) At least, when I did it. I just can’t imagine being a teenager these days. I think back to when I was a teenager and at the core, I think everyone struggles with the same issues and is looking for the same sort of validation in their lives. I would have loved something like this when I was growing up.

I was the girl who stayed home and wanted to read Jane Austen, instead of going out with friends. I was a homebody; I was a reader. I was a little bookish, so we’ve tried to open this up to all types of teenagers who have a wide variety of interests. I think sometimes that generation is underestimated, they get a lot of unfair criticism at times. They are a generation of substance and they’re smart. And we’re just hoping that by having their moms pick it up and putting it in their hands, that they’ll fall in love with it the way we have as we worked on it.

What’s really interesting too is that we’ve seen a couple of teen magazines launch recently, but this is one where at least half of the content is written by girls that are ages 12-19, which is really unique. There are some really incredible, talented children out there, teenagers out there, and I think that really sets it apart. They’re writing these stories for their classmates and their friends, and their own generation, so that’s what’s been fun, getting these incredible stories from these girls. I think our youngest contributor is 12 in this issue and it just gives them a voice. I think all anyone really wants is to be heard. So, we’ve been really proud to be able to provide them with their own voice.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed that you have avoided any political aspects in the magazine?

Christen Hammons: We’re trying to keep it a little bit on the lighter side. We are trying to keep it to where it will appeal to a variety of people. For example, I know Teen Vogue has taken a very strong political stance, but we want to make sure that there’s a place where they can take a break from all that’s going on in the world, because every day it’s something new for them to deal with, so it’s nice to have something that is all about them. And something that just supports who they are and hopefully helps to give them a little more confidence, or lets them know that there’s other girls out there just like them that are committed to the same things in life.

Samir Husni: You’ve also managed to create a new size for the magazine, different than the rest of your titles. Tell me more about the idea of having a compact size print magazine.

Christen Hammons: In August 2017, we actually launched the first spinoff of Bella Grace, and that was our Field Guide, which is a whole workbook, full of prompts to write in and all of that. And we thought it would be fun to set it apart by making it a smaller size. So, it’s even smaller than New Generation, but we just thought it was a good size to tuck into your bag. It’s a nice distinction from Bella Grace.

We’re trying to keep Bella Grace as the mother publication and the gold standard, where it has the book jacket cover, a very heavy cover and it’s a large magazine. This one is a little fun and whimsical and we made it a little bit smaller so you can throw it into your purse or in your bag or your backpack. We just think it’s fun to do things a little bit different and that not a lot of people do.

Samir Husni: In your opinion, what role does print play in a digital age?

Christen Hammons: I think there’s room for both. I’m an avid reader and I go back and forth between my Kindle and my paper books constantly. I have a huge paper book collection and love the feel of those. There are people who want to unplug from time to time and I think it’s nice to be able to have the feel of paper. But they can work alongside each other. I do believe some people get tired of technology occasionally and it’s a good break to be able to pick up a paper magazine. There are just certain things you can’t do digitally that you can with paper and that’s what we have really enjoyed. The act of going to the bookstore and picking up your magazine and flipping through it.

We have a couple of coloring pages in New Generation. We’ve got over 16 worksheets that give girls a little fun prompt to write, and it encourages them to either write or doodle, things like that. And you can’t do that with digital. And we think that’s what’s really fun about it. But I do think there’s a place for both.

Samir Husni: For the price of one issue of New Generation, you can subscribe to an entire year of some other magazines.

Christen Hammons: What we’re doing is creating an experience. We’ve always been known for having higher-end magazines. We use the best paper we can find; we use really thick paper. And on all of our magazines, we keep a limit on outside advertising that we include. We’re really committed to making sure our magazines across the board, even some of our art magazines, are more of an experience, not just stories and articles, but we’re trying to make them more interactive and things that you can’t find online or digitally.

Samir Husni: Recently, a friend of mine reminded me that when Facebook’s CEO apologized for the data breach, he didn’t use Facebook or any digital device, he actually bought ads in print newspapers.

Christen Hammons: We’ve been seeing an uptick in some of our advertising sales. I mean, we do limit that, we have a set number of pages that we allow, but we’re starting to see a little bit of a revitalization of some print advertising, which is hard to do because so much of advertising has changed now to product placement online or sponsorships and affiliate programs. But it’s been nice seeing a little bit of a revival of print advertising, because making magazines is very expensive, so it does help support the cost of producing them.

Samir Husni: You’ve been making magazines for some time now and you’ve created your own niche in the marketplace, where even if your name is not on the magazine as Stampington & Company, people directly know that it’s a Stampington & Company magazine. How are you ensuring that your brand will continue to grow and that it becomes actually “brandier” as print has become “printier?”

Christen Hammons: What we’re trying to do with our brand is stay true to just putting out what’s fresh and really trying to make sure that we aren’t holding onto titles that are maybe a little boring or dated, so we’re trying to stay with what we’ve become known for, which is putting out new stuff all of the time. And that’s hard to find at times too, because sometimes you think you can’t come up with a new idea, but we’ve managed to. We have some more titles coming out in the next year that will really show how we’re always trying to push the envelope when it comes to what a magazine can be.

And what’s been fun with Bella Grace is that we’ve really embraced that as a brand. We’ve embraced it as a lifestyle, by having Bella Grace and then having the sister publications coming off of that and the daughter publications, it’s really strengthening our brand and becoming really well known. We’re hoping to maybe look into maybe product lines that support it, that really fit within the Bella Grace feel.

We’ve really just become committed to keeping our brand fresh and exciting and launching things off of that to really enforce what our brand is, because we have a couple of other special publications that will be coming from the Bella Grace name. So, we’ll keep playing with ways to keep that brand exciting, but at the same time we still have our Stampington brand as well, which we have another handful of stuff coming out in the next year in place of titles that aren’t working so well anymore. Sometimes people have seen enough copies of something and it’s time to maybe either reduce the frequency or just to shift focus onto something else that maybe people haven’t seen so much of.

Samir Husni: You’re actually living the lifecycle of magazines. This is one of the things that I tell people; when a magazine dies or a magazine is born, that’s the natural lifecycle. Nobody is supposed to live forever.

Christen Hammons: Right, and that’s been hard for us. We just looked at some of the titles that we’ve had for a long time and realized they’re not selling as well anymore. What could we put out there that people will want to buy? It’s hard, but because we have worked on these magazines for a long time, they can get a little tedious, they’re fun, but over time, anything can get a little boring to work on, so it’s been fun to revitalize the company and everyone is excited about new stuff when we put it out. Then the readers also get excited, and you have to keep your readers interested in what you’re doing. And keep it fresh for the readers, because obviously, that’s who we make these for. But it has been hard to say goodbye to a few titles though.

Samir Husni: The last time we spoke, it was when you launched Bella Grace and it was a major shift from the titles that you had. When we spoke then, you were testing the waters with something very different. How has that journey been for the company?

Christen Hammons: It was very nerve-wracking. We’ve been known so long for just primarily being arts and crafts magazines, so to put something out there that’s more of a lifestyle was very scary, but it’s been so well-received. We’ve had so many people to thank us for launching it, because there’s nothing like it out there. So many women’s magazines seem to all focus on the same thing that we thought, we have amazing writers that we work with, we’re all about supporting women, so it’s just been so well-received. I’m glad we were nervous, because it made it exciting. Being that excited should make you nervous, but it really has been well-received.

Samir Husni: Any thoughts about having any “sons” of Bella Grace instead of daughters, or you’re going to just be a women’s lifestyle magazine?

Christen Hammons: We’ve thought about that. We’re definitely always open to the idea of that. It’s just for now we feel like it’s such a good time to empower and support women. We have had occasional male contributors, but we haven’t really dove in to see if there’s an interest on the male side of things.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the major stumbling block facing New Generation?

Christen Hammons: I think it’s the matter of getting it into their hands. Whether it be a parent; our hope is that the original Bella Grace reader will see that we have something for the younger crowd and they get excited and pick it up. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, but we have ideas for reaching out to schools and English teachers to see if we can get them copies, maybe even wholesale copies, just to get it into their hands. That’s the first thing.

Samir Husni: On the last page of the magazine, there’s a quote from Audrey Hepburn. One of my students, who is a senior and graduating this May, her magazine idea is a magazine called Hepburn, after Audrey Hepburn. And she is a reader of Bella Grace. And she knew that New Generation was coming out before I did, I guess. Do you think this generation will relate or why Audrey Hepburn for these 12-19 year olds?

Christen Hammons: I think it’s just the message that it conveys and we know how popular beautifully-designed quotes are. If you spend any time on Pinterest, that’s what the majority of people are sharing on there, these types of quotes. And I think the one we used of Audrey Hepburn’s is a timeless quote. I thought it would be a challenge coming up with quotes.

A large part of Bella Grace and New Generation are these quotes that are laid out on photography. And I thought it would be challenging to find quotes that would relate to the age group for New Generation. But it was actually really easy, because the themes are universal, I think, for the most part. And so we really tried to keep in mind that having these quotes in there; maybe the girls would rip them out of the magazine and put them on their walls.

We were just looking for something that would appeal to the wide range of girls that are in this. And that’s a very well-known quote from Audrey Hepburn. And at the end of the day, these girls may not know who Audrey Hepburn is, but they’ll like the message she’s sharing.

Samir Husni: As we look at this “New Generation” of print, and recently my new book came out, Print Proud Digital Smart, you said earlier that we have to have both today, print and digital. How are you integrating this proud print product with the digital presence?

Christen Hammons: Our model has been, for the most part, to wait on producing anything digitally from our titles until the print version has sold out. So, once it has sold out we make it available digitally, so we do not have to do a reprint and a rerun of the magazines. What we’re trying to do is create a nice community online for the readers. With our Bella Grace Instagram, we really try to make an effort. We use Instagram quite a bit, as well as Facebook, of course, but it seems a lot of people are spending large amounts of time on Instagram now, and it’s really great to see the community that’s emerging from our readers. They’ll have conversations back and forth.

And we’ve heard from people that they’ve made friends with the people that they have interacted with on Instagram, just through our account. So, we’re just trying to build an online community that’s apart from the magazine, but is still a digital presence online.

Samir Husni: As you look toward the future, if you and I are chatting a year from now, what would you hope to tell me about New Generation?

Christen Hammons: I hope if we talk a year from now to tell you that the demand has been so great that we were able to increase the magazine’s frequency to as frequent as Bella Grace’s, which is quarterly. And we’re hoping by that time, I would love to have 90 percent of the contributors be within the age range that we’re reaching out to for New Generation. Right now, we have a little over half of the girls are within that age range. I would love to have almost the entire magazine made up of that, because we say on the back of the magazine that we believe everyone has a voice and a story to tell, and we really want to help them tell their stories.

Samir Husni: Do you consider yourself more of an experience maker or a journalist?

Christen Hammons: I would say that we’re more makers than anything. We don’t report on news; I feel like we’re makers in this company and we’re trying to showcase the work of our peers at the end of the day, whether they’re writers, photographers. I think we’re makers because we’re putting out a product that we’re truly proud of, with a lot of content and a lot of just emotion.

Samir Husni: And is the last issue always your favorite magazine you produce from any magazine?

Christen Hammons: I have favorites. That’s funny because when you work on a magazine, each one has its backstory, and maybe this one was more difficult for whatever reason. We’ve had some things just happen within the company that has almost been laughable, where we’re right on track and then something happens and we’re totally thrown off and then we’re behind. So, sometimes you have those personal ties to the magazines that you’ll associate with that particular magazine.

I’d like to think that each one is better and it’s my favorite, but it’s hard because I’m already looking at the next one. I finish one and my mind is already on the next one. It’s a good reminder to step back and look at what you’ve accomplished, because by the time we get our print copies back, I’m already knee-deep in the next issue and I have maybe a few minutes to flip through it and appreciate what we’ve done.

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

Christen Hammons: This is one of those magazines that we’re so passionate about and that’s not to say that we don’t connect with the artwork that we publish in our other magazines, but there’s really an emotional tie from myself, from our publisher, from our designers, when we work on Bella Grace, that it’s just something we’re so passionate about doing and we’re so proud of it. It’s a different kind of fulfillment that we get from working on these titles over our art magazines.

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

Christen Hammons: I would hope that they would think of authenticity and honesty.

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?

Christen Hammons: At the end of the day you’ll likely find me watching hockey; I’m a huge hockey fan; I have season tickets, so my husband and I are huge hockey fans. We’re a little obsessive and it’s just a great way to unwind. If you’re watching a game, you have no choice but to focus on the game, your mind doesn’t wander whatsoever. But I am also a veracious reader, I think last year I read 55 books. I’m a little more than a book a week, so those are my two passions. Watching hockey, but also reading. I love reading and I like stepping away from the computer at the end of the day.

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

Christen Hammons: (Laughs) Just having so many ideas and not having the time to execute things. Sometimes I have these ideas that I’d love to do and I just look at my daily schedule and it’s sometimes not feasible.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Jez Magazine: Fashion, Beauty, Culture & Entertainment, With A Special Focus On Philanthropy – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Ezequiel De La Rosa, Founder & Editor In Chief…

February 28, 2018

“I think it’s still the romance of it; the romance of holding something. And seeing it, as opposed to just looking at your computer. I work at the computer 24/7 when I’m not shooting, things like that, and I don’t want to sit down and look at a magazine on the computer.” Ezequiel De La Rosa (On why he thinks print is still important in this digital age)…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

From photographer to editor in chief, philanthropist to entrepreneur, Ezequiel De La Rosa is a man with a passion and its name is Jez. The new quarterly magazine, which highlights what’s new and best in fashion, beauty, culture and entertainment and has a special focus on philanthropy, is Ezequiel’s labor of love, something his editor’s letter in the premier issue states comes from his heart and reflects who he truly is.

Recently, I spoke to Ezequiel, or EZ as he is known to some, and we talked about his latest endeavor, Jez. About its title, which he said comes from his faith and simply means “Christ before me,” and about his life and the many hats he’s worn throughout and continuing forward. He’s been a designer, store owner, makeup artist, photographer (which he still is, photographing many of the images between the covers of the magazine) and now magazine creator. The man is a talent unto himself and one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with.

His idea to honor and showcase the “Supermodel” is obvious as the beautiful Carol Alt graces one side of the first issue’s cover, while the handsome actor and activist, Ian Bohen, is on the second cover. It’s a beautifully done premier and one that Mr. Magazine™ is looking forward to seeing again.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who made the conversation “EZ” and entertaining, Ezequiel De La Rosa, founder and editor in chief, Jez magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether he thinks it’s crazy that he started a print magazine in this day and age: It’s been a passion of love and I’m trying to create a sort of different magazine, because I want a magazine that will do things. And I started it in reverse, because everybody starts somewhere like Instagram and on social media. And I did not. I am starting in reverse now. So, I have to step it up and I’m learning every day. My thing is I also wanted to bring back the supermodels because right now we have so many Instant-Famous, which is fine, it’s the new way of the world and we all have to basically adapt and change our model. But there’s something about experience that is amazing. I find nowadays that we have interchangeable models and things like that. Before we had models that commanded the stage. So, of course, I glorify that. And then also put the new models in as well.

On his premier issue being devoted to “Good People”: It’s always going to be devoted to good people, because I believe in philanthropy. And I’m trying to create, now that I’m working on the web, I’m trying to create a way of awareness and also of revenue, of creating revenue to different organizations that are doing good. Right now my focus is on Together1heart and they are going to be doing an event on May 7. And I’m working on creating things that will generate money for the event and also for the future. And from there, I will pick another foundation that are doing good and that I can associate myself with, so that I’m always highlighting a good organization that’s doing something.

On whether he considers himself a photographer, an editor, a publisher, or all of the above: Right now I have to consider myself everything. (Laughs) Creating a magazine in this day and age is not the easiest thing. I’m trying to create a magazine in a world where magazines are closing right now. So, I have to be very wise on how I create everything and how I do it. And it’s a lot of hard work, because it’s not like you can create and have 20 million in staff nowadays. I don’t think that’s the way that things are going now. I don’t think there’s enough revenue to go around at the moment.

On what he thinks is the number one ingredient for his magazine’s success: I think by the grace of God. I can’t guarantee anything. I am trying to do my best to create something that people will love, sales will tell. I am happy that in my first edition that I was able to cover everything through ads. I think that itself is an achievement. So now, I have to start meeting with ad sales people, because basically I did everything myself.

On where he came up with the name Jez for the magazine: Jez is because of my faith. I’m not a religious person, but I am a believer. I’m a Christian, non-denominational, and basically Jez means “Christ before me.” And it’s as simple as that. I was trying to come up with a name and that came to mind with a friend of mine, and I said well, that’s what I’m going to call it. And it’s also sort of like saying “yes” in a different way, with an accent, you know? Hopefully, it’ll open up doors. I’m very happy that I’m in Barnes & Noble, and I’m hoping that it sells out. That would be amazing. We’ll see. But it’s also about learning and seeing what works and what doesn’t work.

On what he thinks will be his biggest stumbling block in getting the magazine to succeed: I’ve gotten some great feedback, people really love it. So, it’s about trying to get people to invest, to do advertising in the magazine, because there are a lot of magazines and they all want money. And then also getting people involved with a good cause. This was a real stumbling block, as far as me getting pneumonia. (Laughs) I have never had pneumonia before and then being put in the hospital, but I guess it was God’s way of telling me I needed to take things a little bit slower, and really plan and organize.

On the days when the same models would appear over and over again on the covers of magazines: Well, because at that time there was a different way of measuring the success of a girl. At that time, whether it was an editorial or catalogs, they had a system, they would do it on sales. For example, like a Niki Taylor, who’s modeling again, if she wears something, she’ll sell it out. And it’s a proven fact. Like Carol Alt, who I have on the cover of my first edition. Also, it’s such a pleasure when you work with them because they know what they’re doing. I’m not saying that the girls today don’t, because there are a lot of amazing models.

On the magazine not being limited to female models: No, not at all. It’s all genres. I live my life as a very open person, and I love people. And I love featuring people. I always say it’s 80 percent women and 20 percent men. And I also like the celebrity aspect, which I think will help sell the magazine. And I’m working that angle quite well.

On if there is one article or picture in the first issue that he is most proud of and would like readers to go to first: I’m very proud of the magazine. Is it perfect? No. But I would love them to see everything, and I would love them to give me comments. One thing that I would ask a reader is what are their favorites, because the only way that you learn and can fix something is if you listen to people and ask them what was appealing to them, because I’ve already put out what I like. So, now it’s about listening so that I can better myself and better the magazine.

On the plan of being a quarterly magazine and currently working on the website: Yes, we’re working on the website and the app right now. And quite honestly, they told me that I have to take it easy for six weeks. So, I’m trying to figure out how much work that I’m going to be able to do.

On if he thinks it’s still important to have a printed publication in this digital age: I think it’s still the romance of it; the romance of holding something. And seeing it, as opposed to just looking at your computer. I work at the computer 24/7 when I’m not shooting, things like that, and I don’t want to sit down and look at a magazine on the computer. It’s nice to have. Does everybody feel that way? No. Now listen, am I going to be printing hundreds of thousands of copies of the magazine? I don’t think so. I think I’ll get it to a certain number and then the rest will be online, because I know the power that the online has. But there’s a romance about having a printed issue.

On being a photographer for the magazine and whether he prints out the images or simply uses the digital ones: I love seeing them printed. It’s funny, because what I do is I print two or three full copies in New York before I send them out because I want to double and triple check everything. And it is such a feeling when you get it back and you see it, and it looks really good. When the colors match, it’s just something that’s incredible.

On anything he’d like to add: The important thing is it’s a magazine that wants to reach a multitude of people and wants to help put. I think that’s the most important thing, but I don’t want to have a magazine just to have a magazine. I want to have a magazine that’s going to do something that helps new designers and have them help different organizations.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: That I’m a good person.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: It depends on the day, but I would say you would find me cooking and having people over for dinner. I love to cook and I have a great kitchen. And that’s something I like doing.

On what keeps him up at night: I would say, making sure that I do right.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Ezequiel De La Rosa, founder & editor in chief, Jez magazine.

Samir Husni: As I understand it, you were in the hospital, you came out, and as an epiphany of sorts, you decided to launch a magazine.

Ezequiel De La Rosa: (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Are you out of your mind starting a print magazine in this day and age?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I actually went into the hospital after the magazine was already published. (Laughs) I missed my own launch party. I ended up getting pneumonia, which is rather crazy, and had surgery. But it’s been a passion of love and I’m trying to create a sort of different magazine, because I want a magazine that will do things. And I started it in reverse, because everybody starts somewhere like Instagram and on social media. And I did not. I am starting in reverse now. So, I have to step it up and I’m learning every day.

My thing is I also wanted to bring back the supermodels because right now we have so many Instant-Famous, which is fine, it’s the new way of the world and we all have to basically adapt and change our model. But there’s something about experience that is amazing. I find nowadays that we have interchangeable models and things like that. Before we had models that commanded the stage. So, of course, I glorify that. And then also put the new models in as well.

My logic is mending the two together, because I was very surprised to learn that before, the fashion business was very private; it was very elitist and things like that. You didn’t see people posting things because they wanted to keep everything hush-hush. And now it’s like your posting 24/7, because the more followers you have, the bigger it is. And I was shocked at seeing some of the supermodels that I know have followers that amounted to nothing compared to a little girl who’s posting at home that hasn’t done anything, yet has millions of followers.

Samir Husni: You decided to start with print and your first issue is devoted to “Good People.”

Ezequiel De La Rosa: Yes, and it’s always going to be devoted to good people, because I believe in philanthropy. And I’m trying to create, now that I’m working on the web, I’m trying to create a way of awareness and also of revenue, of creating revenue to different organizations that are doing good. Right now my focus is on Together1heart and they are going to be doing an event on May 7. And I’m working on creating things that will generate money for the event and also for the future. And from there, I will pick another foundation that are doing good and that I can associate myself with, so that I’m always highlighting a good organization that’s doing something.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit about you. Do you consider yourself a photographer, an editor, a publisher, or all of the above?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: Right now I have to consider myself everything. (Laughs) Creating a magazine in this day and age is not the easiest thing. I’m trying to create a magazine in a world where magazines are closing right now. So, I have to be very wise on how I create everything and how I do it. And it’s a lot of hard work, because it’s not like you can create and have 20 million in staff nowadays. I don’t think that’s the way that things are going now. I don’t think there’s enough revenue to go around at the moment.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be the number one ingredient that will ensure that your magazine will succeed?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I think by the grace of God. I can’t guarantee anything. I am trying to do my best to create something that people will love, sales will tell. I am happy that in my first edition that I was able to cover everything through ads. I think that itself is an achievement. So now, I have to start meeting with ad sales people, because basically I did everything myself.

Samir Husni: Tell me about the name of the magazine. Does Jez stand for the “Journal of Ezequiel” or what does Jez mean?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: Jez is because of my faith. I’m not a religious person, but I am a believer. I’m a Christian, non-denominational, and basically Jez means “Christ before me.” And it’s as simple as that. I was trying to come up with a name and that came to mind with a friend of mine, and I said well, that’s what I’m going to call it. And it’s also sort of like saying “yes” in a different way, with an accent, you know? Hopefully, it’ll open up doors. I’m very happy that I’m in Barnes & Noble, and I’m hoping that it sells out. That would be amazing. We’ll see. But it’s also about learning and seeing what works and what doesn’t work.

Samir Husni: What do you think will be your biggest stumbling block and how will you overcome it?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I’ve gotten some great feedback, people really love it. So, it’s about trying to get people to invest, to do advertising in the magazine, because there are a lot of magazines and they all want money. And then also getting people involved with a good cause. This was a real stumbling block, as far as me getting pneumonia. (Laughs) I have never had pneumonia before and then being put in the hospital, but I guess it was God’s way of telling me I needed to take things a little bit slower, and really plan and organize.

And that’s what I’m actually doing, organizing and planning and taking some time to listen. And really getting the web component working, working on the Instagram, and trying to get all of these pieces together.

Samir Husni: You mentioned how everybody can be a model now. And you and I probably both remember the days where you could count the models out there on one or two hands, and it was guaranteed that those would be the models appearing on this magazine or that one, over and over again, from Gisele to Cindy Crawford. People used to count how many times they would appear on the cover of magazines.

Ezequiel De La Rosa: Well, because at that time there was a different way of measuring the success of a girl. At that time, whether it was an editorial or catalogs, they had a system, they would do it on sales. For example, like a Niki Taylor, who’s modeling again, if she wears something, she’ll sell it out. And it’s a proven fact. Like Carol Alt, who I have on the cover of my first edition. Also, it’s such a pleasure when you work with them because they know what they’re doing. I’m not saying that the girls today don’t, because there are a lot of amazing models.

But the fact of Instagram, they’re people who are commanding more money than a gorgeous girl, a girl who is simply striking. But they’re more interested in the followers. It’s hard today. Girls have to have a following. And some may have to do sexier pictures to get more followers. It’s sort of working in that manner.

Samir Husni: I see the magazine isn’t limited to female models.

Ezequiel De La Rosa: No, not at all. It’s all genres. I live my life as a very open person, and I love people. And I love featuring people. I always say it’s 80 percent women and 20 percent men. And I also like the celebrity aspect, which I think will help sell the magazine. And I’m working that angle quite well. And it’s really a pity, because when I was sick I missed several shows that I could have gone to and taken pictures with celebrities. Recently, was the first time that I could go to some shows and mingle. Although I’m still not myself. I still have to give myself time to mend.

Samir Husni: Is there one article or picture in the first issue that you are most proud of and would love for the reader to start with?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I’m very proud of the magazine. Is it perfect? No. But I would love them to see everything, and I would love them to give me comments. One thing that I would ask a reader is what are their favorites, because the only way that you learn and can fix something is if you listen to people and ask them what was appealing to them, because I’ve already put out what I like. So, now it’s about listening so that I can better myself and better the magazine.

Samir Husni: The plan now is that you’re publishing the magazine quarterly, four times per year and you’re working on the website.

Ezequiel De La Rosa: Yes, we’re working on the website and the app right now. And quite honestly, they told me that I have to take it easy for six weeks. So, I’m trying to figure out how much work that I’m going to be able to do. I can’t fly for about five more weeks now, so I have to wait on all of that before I can really start.

Samir Husni: With everything that’s happening today in magazines and magazine media, do you think it’s still important to have a printed publication in this digital age?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I think it’s still the romance of it; the romance of holding something. And seeing it, as opposed to just looking at your computer. I work at the computer 24/7 when I’m not shooting, things like that, and I don’t want to sit down and look at a magazine on the computer. It’s nice to have. Does everybody feel that way? No. Now listen, am I going to be printing hundreds of thousands of copies of the magazine? I don’t think so. I think I’ll get it to a certain number and then the rest will be online, because I know the power that the online has. But there’s a romance about having a printed issue.

Even though the magazine is in Barnes & Noble, I have had people to email me and ask for a couple of copies. So, people still care about the printed magazine.

Samir Husni: As a photographer, and I’ve noticed your byline in a lot of the images in the magazine, do you still print the pictures out and hold them in your hand and think, wow? Or do you simply use the digital images?

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I love seeing them printed. It’s funny, because what I do is I print two or three full copies in New York before I send them out because I want to double and triple check everything. And it is such a feeling when you get it back and you see it, and it looks really good. When the colors match, it’s just something that’s incredible.

In my background, I’ve worn many hats throughout my career. From the early ages, I used to design womenswear. And when I’m talking early ages, I’m talking from 14-years-old and on. Then I had a store at an early age; I did some modeling and someone asked me could I apply makeup to men and women and I asked how much did it pay, and that’s how I became a hair and makeup guy. And I did that for many years and worked and traveled all over the world. I got covers of Vogue, Harper’s, Cosmo, you name it.

And then I became a photographer and I didn’t even want to be a photographer, then I ended up falling in love with it. And one of the biggest thrills was going to the lab and of course, you’re going to do a test clip and then you say, just run it normal. And people would ask me why I was doing a test clip, because I was just going to run it normal. I just always had to. I went into digital later and the reason I went into digital was because of my rental studios. A company was doing an event and they rented one of my spaces and they sent some equipment over and I started using it. Then suddenly, a digital photography magazine wanted to run it on the cover and then I found myself in the digital world. And that’s how I basically got into digital.

And I got into late, but if you know the fundamentals, and the fundamentals are so important to know how film and lighting works, the it doesn’t matter. It’s awful nowadays that you have some people who don’t know much and they ruin the business because they’re more of a painter than they are a photographer. The photo is retouched more than anything, it’s like a painting. And that’s something I don’t agree on.

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

Ezequiel De La Rosa: The important thing is it’s a magazine that wants to reach a multitude of people and wants to help put. I think that’s the most important thing, but I don’t want to have a magazine just to have a magazine. I want to have a magazine that’s going to do something that helps new designers and have them help different organizations.

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

Ezequiel De La Rosa: That I’m a good person.

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

Ezequiel De La Rosa: It depends on the day, but I would say you would find me cooking and having people over for dinner. I love to cook and I have a great kitchen. And that’s something I like doing.

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

Ezequiel De La Rosa: I would say, making sure that I do right.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

DUN Magazine: A “DUN” Deal When It Comes To Fly Fishing Content Created For Women By Women – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder & Editor In Chief, Jen Ripple…

February 5, 2018

“I watched my children when they were younger have to do everything online, and they grew up in the digital age. And I watched my kids, specifically my two younger children, and they just loved to pick up a book. They preferred a book in their hands, and I think that was because they grew up so digitally that they needed the tactile sensation. They love the vinyl records and the Walkman, and they love books. And I thought, people who say print is dead; I love print and I know my children love print, I believe that print is never going to die.” Jen Ripple…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

DUN Magazine is a beautifully done and well-crafted lifestyle publication about the female fly angler that is created for women by women. And that interpretation is incorporated into the magazine’s tagline and into its DNA. Jen Ripple is the founder and editor in chief of the title, which drew its first breath as a digital-only entity that seemed to be missing the one thing that would give it a heavier substance: a print component. And would also answer the cry of many of the online version’s readers of where could they buy the magazine.

I spoke with Jen recently and we talked about the many facets of DUN, from its unique name (an actual life stage of an insect that fish love to have on their menu: the mayfly) to the hefty cover price of $20 (which no one has balked at paying, according to Jen). It’s a lovely print magazine that is oversized and sticks to Jen’s own firm beliefs in conservation by using a vegetable-based ink. And while Mr. Magazine™ may not be an avid fly fisherman, I certainly applaud the determination and excellent content of the entrepreneurial endeavor.

Gearing it toward women, without excluding the male reader, Jen hopes to empower females who are interested in the sport or already ensconced in their boats and raring to go. And while she may occasionally swim upstream when it comes to some of the males in the industry of fly fishing, Jen has no intention of tearing down the scaffolds of her platform that she’s built, which strives to provide a voice for all women anglers.

Jen Ripple

So, I hope that you enjoy this “DUN” interview with a woman who gives true meaning to the words passion and entrepreneurialism – the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jen Ripple, founder & editor in chief, DUN Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the story of DUN Magazine: The story of DUN is a funny one. I was working at the University of Michigan and it was a very cold winter. I didn’t really have anything to do, so I was looking online to see what was going on, and I decided to take a fly tying class. And I took the class in a fly shop and actually loved it, so from that point forward it was like a downward spiral. I started fishing and then I started writing for a Midwest fly fishing magazine. But I really wanted to write for a women’s magazine and there wasn’t one. And that was in June 2013 and by September, we had our first magazine. I figured if I was missing it, other people were as well.

On how she chose the name of the magazine: I think picking the name for the magazine was the hardest part for me, because once you pick it you’re stuck with it, so you better like it, right? (Laughs) So, dun is the stage of a mayfly and a mayfly is one of the predominant flies that trout and bass eat, that fish in general eat. So, it made sense to have a name that was associated with fly fishing. I also wanted to pick a name that would maybe cause people who didn’t understand fly fishing to take a step back and ask, “Wait a minute, what does that mean?” Then maybe they Google it and find the magazine.

On why she decided to go against all odds when adding the print component by being oversized and having a cover price of $20: I wanted to make a magazine that people weren’t going to just page through and then toss aside. And since I’ve had the magazine, I’ve become a bit of a magazine hoarder. I just look at all magazines; I love to page through them and see the different things that I like and don’t like. And I found that the magazines I kept around were the ones that…and I don’t cook at all, but I found a cooking magazine that I really loved and I kept going back to that magazine and magazines like it, the ones that were about something that I didn’t even like, because of the way they felt, the paper quality, the print quality, the heftiness of them.

On why she geared the magazine toward women only: It’s a fly fishing magazine, so 43 percent of our readers are male in our subscriber base. But there was nothing out there for women, and I knew that women were a lot more prominent in the sport than the fishing industry knew, just because they weren’t as vocal as the male population out there. So, I just believed that women didn’t have a platform to actually prove themselves as anglers.

On whether the fish get bigger in the stories women tell as they supposedly do with “men” fishing stories: You know what, one of the covers of our magazine had a woman holding a teeny-tiny, little brook trout and I loved that because usually it’s all about the size, and that story wasn’t about the size, it was all about the experience of fly fishing. So, women don’t care what size the fish is; they don’t even care if they catch fish sometimes, because it’s about being on the river, being out side in nature and just enjoying a beautiful day. The fish is like a side story, whereas with the male population it’s more about the fish, and how big it was.

On any snags or complications she had along the way to creating the magazine: Obviously, it hasn’t been without its snags, but I think the biggest was when I started it, before our first digital magazine came out, I had a male friend of mine in the industry to say that we’d have one beautiful magazine and it would be great, but we’d never have more than one because there weren’t enough women out there who fly fish. Looking back, maybe that should have been a snag to me, but I just knew he was wrong and if nothing else, it became a springboard to prove him wrong.

On the future and what she would hope to say she had accomplished one year from now: A quarterly magazine, which is what we’re doing in 2018, and that we’ll hit our goal of 50 percent women on the water and in the fly shops and just a growing population of young and old women and children. And the fly fishing industry becoming more prevalent in fishing, in general.

On whether she received any backlash from the high cover price: Not at all. In fact, I thought I would, but I really haven’t. Everybody who picks it up just says wow, this is really a coffee table magazine that we wouldn’t get rid of. So it seemed like an appropriate price. And to be conservation-minded and print a magazine that’s conservation-minded, it’s more money. But I’ve been surprised that I haven’t had anyone balk at the cover price.

On anything she’d like to add: From the millennial generation; I watched my children when they were younger have to do everything online, and they grew up in the digital age. And I watched my kids, specifically my two younger children, and they just loved to pick up a book. They preferred a book in their hands, and I think that was because they grew up so digitally that they needed the tactile sensation. They love the vinyl records and the Walkman, and they love books. And I thought, people who say print is dead; I love print and I know my children love print, I believe that print is never going to die.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: At the end of the day, you’ll find me with a glass of Scotch in my hand, on my side porch, with my feet kicked up, looking over the beautiful Land Between the Lakes. My house is on 10 acres that backs up to the Land Between the Lakes, which is 180,000 acres of public land.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: It would be trailblazer. I want people to realize that I’ve created the home base for women in the sport. That’s what I want to be known for.

On what keeps her up at night: Having to make another magazine as beautiful as the last one. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jen Ripple, founder & editor in chief, DUN Magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me the story of DUN Magazine.

Jen Ripple

Jen Ripple bio headshot[/caption]Jen Ripple: The story of DUN is a funny one. I was working at the University of Michigan and it was a very cold winter. I didn’t really have anything to do, so I was looking online to see what was going on, and I decided to take a fly tying class. To be really honest, I took it because it was inexpensive and I figured that if I didn’t like it after the first time, I wouldn’t go back. And I took the class in a fly shop and actually loved it, so from that point forward it was like a downward spiral.

I started fishing and then I started writing for a Midwest fly fishing magazine. But I really wanted to write for a women’s magazine and there wasn’t one. And that was in June 2013 and by September, we had our first magazine. I figured if I was missing it, other people were as well.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name DUN for the magazine? And why did you decide to add a print component after a few years as a digital-only entity?

Jen Ripple: I think picking the name for the magazine was the hardest part for me, because once you pick it you’re stuck with it, so you better like it, right? (Laughs) So, dun is the stage of a mayfly and a mayfly is one of the predominant flies that trout and bass eat, that fish in general eat. So, it made sense to have a name that was associated with fly fishing. I also wanted to pick a name that would maybe cause people who didn’t understand fly fishing to take a step back and ask, “Wait a minute, what does that mean?” Then maybe they Google it and find the magazine.

And when I first started, I really wanted to just be an online magazine, because five years ago people knew all about digital-online everything. And we are also very conservation-minded and I thought we’d never go to print because that’s not being conservation-minded. And I could offer it for free online and we could have a larger audience. So, we went from being four magazines a year digitally to six magazines a year digitally, to having one magazine that was 300 pages online, and that was just too much. We had so much content that everybody was asking where they could buy the magazine.

And our older demographic and our very young demographic were saying that they wanted something that they could take with them and that they could page through when they were sitting at home. Finally, after about a year and so many people asking when we were going to come out with a print magazine; I found a printer that I really liked, that was all ecofriendly and used vegetable ink, and we decided that we’d try it. And that’s why we went to print, and it’s been really good for us.

Samir Husni: Going to print, it appears you didn’t save on anything; you have a hefty, oversized magazine with over 140 pages and a $20 cover price. Why did you decide to go against all odds; a larger-sized magazine in print; a higher cover price; and quite a few pages?

Jen Ripple: I wanted to make a magazine that people weren’t going to just page through and then toss aside. And since I’ve had the magazine, I’ve become a bit of a magazine hoarder. I just look at all magazines; I love to page through them and see the different things that I like and don’t like. And I found that the magazines I kept around were the ones that…and I don’t cook at all, but I found a cooking magazine that I really loved and I kept going back to that magazine and magazines like it, the ones that were about something that I didn’t even like, because of the way they felt, the paper quality, the print quality, the heftiness of them. And I thought if I’m going to do a print magazine, I’m going to do a print magazine. (Laughs) A beautiful one that people can’t just dismiss.

And everyone who has looked at it and come to me about it has said that it is a coffee table magazine. They’ve said, “I bought this for my wife, but I love it as much as she does, because first and foremost, it’s a fly fishing magazine, but it’s also beautiful.” And that’s what I was trying to accomplish.

My background is not in magazines, so I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I just wanted to make a magazine that I would like to look through. And I didn’t know anything about the mailing, or the cost of making a magazine. (Laughs) So, I guess part of it was ignorance is bliss, you know? But I think having a background that isn’t in journalism or publishing has been good for me. It’s not without its challenges, but it’s been good for me because I can just do something that I like without having a preconceived notion about how it should be done.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide the magazine should be geared toward women only? Part of your tagline is “For Women by Women.” Why did you opt for only half of the population instead of the entire population?

Jen Ripple: It’s a fly fishing magazine, so 43 percent of our readers are male in our subscriber base. But there was nothing out there for women, and I knew that women were a lot more prominent in the sport than the fishing industry knew, just because they weren’t as vocal as the male population out there. So, I just believed that women didn’t have a platform to actually prove themselves as anglers. There are a lot of other fly fishing magazines out there, but they were all very testosterone-filled, I guess, and I knew that women had something more to offer to the industry. So, that’s why it’s women authors only, or at least, predominantly women authors.

Samir Husni: I have to ask you this question; do you hear a lot of exaggerated stories among women anglers as they say you do among men? Do the fish get bigger each time someone tells the story?

Jen Ripple: (Laughs) I love that. You know what, one of the covers of our magazine had a woman holding a teeny-tiny, little brook trout and I loved that because usually it’s all about the size, and that story wasn’t about the size, it was all about the experience of fly fishing. So, women don’t care what size the fish is; they don’t even care if they catch fish sometimes, because it’s about being on the river, being out side in nature and just enjoying a beautiful day. The fish is like a side story, whereas with the male population it’s more about the fish, and how big it was.

I used to be involved with a magazine called “A Tight Loop Magazine,” and that’s a Midwest fly fishing magazine that was 99.9 percent male authors. And I used to say that the difference between my authors at DUN and the authors at A Tight Loop was sort of like describing a baby. You know, your baby is so cute with all that hair and in that outfit; those are the female authors. The male authors were more like: my baby is bigger than your baby; my baby has more hair than your baby. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Jen Ripple: So, that’s why I think the fish is inconsequential. Men catch many fish and sometimes more and bigger fish, but it’s not about that. And I think maybe that’s why women are such great fly anglers, because they can enjoy the whole thing. And it’s not about the fish, so they let that part go, and the fish respond to that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: The energy in your voice as you’re talking about this magazine makes it sound as though it was as easy as a successful fly fishing excursion. Have you hit any snags or any old shoes in the water that you maybe thought were fish? Or has it been smooth sailing all the way?

Jen Ripple: Obviously, it hasn’t been without its snags, but I think the biggest was when I started it, before our first digital magazine came out, I had a male friend of mine in the industry to say that we’d have one beautiful magazine and it would be great, but we’d never have more than one because there weren’t enough women out there who fly fish. Looking back, maybe that should have been a snag to me, but I just knew he was wrong and if nothing else, it became a springboard to prove him wrong.

The women fly fishing community is so encompassing and so supportive that I think my major issue in the beginning was convincing the men in the industry, the manufacturers, that we were legitimate and that they should support us. In hindsight, I guess I got lucky in making the digital magazine first, because it didn’t really cost me much, so I didn’t need their support. And then once I could prove that women were so forefront in the industry, they were ready to put their money behind it.

Samir Husni: What are the plans for the future? If you and I are talking one year from now, what would you hope to tell me?

Jen Ripple: A quarterly magazine, which is what we’re doing in 2018, and that we’ll hit our goal of 50 percent women on the water and in the fly shops and just a growing population of young and old women and children. And the fly fishing industry becoming more prevalent in fishing, in general.

Samir Husni: When I saw the magazine on the newsstand, it jumped at me. It’s oversized, metallic ink on the cover, and a $20 cover price. Did you get any backlash from the high cover price?

Jen Ripple: Not at all. In fact, I thought I would, but I really haven’t. Everybody who picks it up just says wow, this is really a coffee table magazine that we wouldn’t get rid of. So it seemed like an appropriate price. And to be conservation-minded and print a magazine that’s conservation-minded, it’s more money. But I’ve been surprised that I haven’t had anyone balk at the cover price.

Samir Husni: Now, you call middle Tennessee home; are you originally from the South?

Jen Ripple: No, I’m from Wisconsin. I grew up in Wisconsin and lived the majority of my adult life in Chicago. I moved to Tennessee a year ago.

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

Jen Ripple: From the millennial generation; I watched my children when they were younger have to do everything online, and they grew up in the digital age. And I watched my kids, specifically my two younger children, and they just loved to pick up a book. They preferred a book in their hands, and I think that was because they grew up so digitally that they needed the tactile sensation. They love the vinyl records and the Walkman, and they love books. And I thought, people who say print is dead; I love print and I know my children love print, I believe that print is never going to die.

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; tying a fly; or something else?

Jen Ripple: At the end of the day, you’ll find me with a glass of Scotch in my hand, on my side porch, with my feet kicked up, looking over the beautiful Land Between the Lakes. My house is on 10 acres that backs up to the Land Between the Lakes, which is 180,000 acres of public land.

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

Jen Ripple: It would be trailblazer. I want people to realize that I’ve created the home base for women in the sport. That’s what I want to be known for.

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

Jen Ripple: Having to make another magazine as beautiful as the last one. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

William R. Hearst III to Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: I Like To Feel That Our Readers Aren’t A Mailing List, That They Are An Actual Community. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With The Publisher & Editor Of Alta Journal Of Alta California…

January 29, 2018

“I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality.” Will Hearst…

“We look at the advertising as the person who creates that product telling the story of their product. And if we believe that their product is good and their story is honest or amusing, then we induce them to advertise. In the long run, I think we’re going to make it or not make it on whether readers think we’re doing a good job and are willing to pay something. And if you look at the balance sheets of magazines and newspapers, what you’ll see is more revenue is coming from circulation, sometimes online circulation, sometimes print, and less revenue is coming from traditional advertising.” Will Hearst…

“Publishing magazines, to use a mathematical analogy; it’s an infinite, dimensional space. It’s not like there’s five niches and you have to pick one. There’s always something else; it’s always around the corner that there’s some originality. I believe in Michael Porter’s theory: Don’t compete to be the best at something that exists, compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does.” Will Hearst…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch story…

William R. Hearst III (Will Hearst) is certainly no stranger to the world of publishing. From newspapers to magazines, he has ran the gamut of creating and guiding content for most of his life. Publishing to him, magazines in particular, is like facing an infinite, dimensional space, with the possibility of originality around every corner. Today, that originality comes in the form of a beautifully-done, large format title called “Alta Journal of Alta California.”

I spoke with Will recently and was fascinated by many of his ideas and suggestions when it came to business models, advertising, and the fact that he believes in Harvard’s Michael Porter’s theory that one shouldn’t compete to be the best at something that already exists, but instead, one should strive to compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does. Enter Alta. The magazine is dedicated to speaking to the local communities of the area that Will felt wasn’t being included in any conversation that already existed. So, being uniquely different was organic for the brand.

He is a firm believer in print, yet has a definitive desire to serve the online reader as well, and definitely represents the Print Proud Digital Smart model excellently. His staff gets full credit from him when it comes to editorial talent and factuality. In fact, he also follows mathematician, Don Knuth’s lead when it comes to monetarily rewarding readers for pointing out typos and factual errors in the editorial of the magazine. He has a penchant for exactness that in this age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” is greatly appreciated.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man whose greatest wish for his new publication is that he can make the experience of reading the magazine a little bit like the experience of actually living it, William R. Hearst III, editor and publisher, Alta Journal of Alta California.

But first the sound-bites:

On his idea of the new media model for Alta: My notion of the old media model is, and you can exaggerate here; the extreme of the old model is that you’re going to have a genius editor, William Shawn, or maybe you have Helen Gurley Brown, or somebody who is able to answer every question. And then the staff basically runs around executing that plan. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have a complete, sort of blog community, every opinion is equal; you’re not really talking about facts; you have a comment section of the average website. And I thought there should be something in the middle where you had people who really wanted to work at being editors. I like to feel that our readers aren’t a mailing list, that it’s an actual community. And the community could disagree with us; the culture could change and we would need to change with it. So, I thought of a more dynamic, open model; a little more democratic, but not 100 percent democratic either.

On his challenge to readers that if a factual mistake or misstatement is found in the printed magazine, they will receive $10: I stole the idea from Don Knuth who wrote the print bible of software. He was writing technical articles where mistakes and typos meant that the software didn’t work or what was stated was wrong, but I just felt like we should challenge ourselves. And I worked for a guy when I was younger, the editor of the editorial page of The San Francisco Examiner, and his view was that there should be no typos on the editorial pages. There could be typos in the newspaper because you’re on deadline and you’re in a hurry, but in the things where you were really putting the brand of the owner on the page, there should be no typos.

On why he insisted on a print component for Alta: There are two reasons really and one of them is a content reason and one of them is a business reason. The content reason is that I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality. And one reason print attracted me was I wouldn’t be yoked to the daily cycle of doing a website or a blog, because if you’re doing the Huffington Post or you’re doing these sites that have to be updated every 24 hours, you’re kind of forced to follow the news.

On whether he foresees a day without a print version: I don’t really. It’s like asking whether you think books will go away because there are books on Kindle? There’s a pace to writing a book. It just isn’t instant; it requires research, commitment, and digging deeper into a subject. And that’s the area in which I like to work, so I think that will persist. Maybe paper will go away, but I don’t think books will go away, and therefore I don’t think magazines and publishing will go away.

On what he would hope to say that he had accomplished with the brand one year from now: In your interviews, I was very struck by the guys from Garden & Gun magazine. This isn’t my demographic, but these guys really know what they’re doing. They know what kind of article fits in their magazine and what kind of article doesn’t. And they might have an article about hunting dogs that we would ever run, but for them it’s just right. They know their audience. And they’re regional, but they have the culture of their region in their blood. And that’s the kind of magazine that I’d like to be. I’d like to be favorably compared to those guys, in terms of writing quality and topical interest. If you live in that area; if you’re in my audience and in my community, I’d like you to feel this is your magazine. That’s what I’d like to say in a year.

On whether the editorial board and the inspirations that are credited in the magazine are his, Will Hearst’s, or Alta’s: They belong to the Journal of Alta California and we sort of rounded up the input of our staff and even wrote to a few people who told us we didn’t have enough women or people of other ethnicities, so we reedited the Inspiration Board to be a more complete history of our region. And less just people that “Will” liked to read. And we have our Board of Contributors, some of whom are active contributors and some of whom are on standby, because there are special topics where they have expertise.

On the 1970s-1980s magazine that tried to be the New York of California called “The New West”: They did a very good job, but I think they were to some degree yoked to this shorter cycle. They were modeled on New York Magazine, which was weekly, then bimonthly. But they had to keep up with events. A new politician comes onto the scene and they had to write about it. And new restaurants open.

On being both the editor and the publisher: Well, that’s another compromise. My title was originally going to be “proprietor.” I wanted people to think of the staff as the editorially creative talent, and I was there as a financial investor and as the owner; as the buck-stops-here. But I didn’t want to pretend that I would be doing everything, because you can’t do it all. The business is made out of people; it’s not made out of numbers.

On advertising and how he wants it to work in Alta: I wanted to follow the equation the way I think it’s moving, where readers have to be served well enough that you can begin to extract more revenue from them. They’re not going to pay for something that’s no good and they’re not going to overpay relative to competition. But my feeling is that good media will become more paid, and you’ve seen The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal start to charge for their websites. Kindle books are not free because there’s advertising in them. I think there’s a countertrend where readers have to pay a little more and advertisers are willing to pay more. And we wanted to anticipate that.

On advertising becoming less important over reader circulation revenue: Advertisers are more fickle than readers. Readers decide what they like and what they’re willing to pay for. Advertisers move in herds. And the herd is moving to online and the herd is moving to Facebook, and there may be good reasons to do that, but I think chasing the herd from the back is not a good business strategy.

On anything he’d like to add: Publishing magazines, to use a mathematical analogy; it’s an infinite, dimensional space. It’s not like there’s five niches and you have to pick one. There’s always something else; it’s always around the corner that there’s some originality. I believe in Michael Porter’s theory: Don’t compete to be the best at something that exists, compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: We always had a great place to work; we always had fun and we were challenged.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: During the day, it’s probably reading or looking at manuscripts or calling people to see if I can cajole them into working with me. And at the end of the day, it could be a little bit of reading or it could be my kids. And once in a while, I like to solve math problems for fun.

On what keeps him up at night: What keeps me up at night is trying to make the experience of reading the magazine a little bit like the experience of living out here in the zone of arts and culture, technology and exploration. I’d like to do a little more environmental writing in the next year. I’d like to connect to that part of our history.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with William R. Hearst III, editor & publisher, Alta Journal of Alta California.

Samir Husni: In your second editorial of the magazine, you write that you’re not a big believer in the old media model, but rather you’re trying to create a new model; a community where subscribers, staff, everybody is curating the information. Can you expand a little bit on your understanding of the new model for Alta, Journal of Alta California?

William R. Hearst III: Like a lot of projects, this starts with an idea or sort of a notion. I didn’t wake up as a youngster thinking that I wanted to start a magazine someday. The notion was a certain uncovered coverage area of the West, and its arts and culture.

I like to read; I’m a voracious reader and I’m involved with a magazine company and a newspaper company. I’ve been a newspaper publisher, so I’m very comfortable with reading, but I just felt that there was this underserved community that had to do with experiences of people who live in the West. People who sort of see the world like that New Yorker cartoon, but from a different point of view. One where New York and Manhattan seem very faraway and the immediate foreground is the beach and surfing, the mountains and the environment, Hollywood and Silicon Valley; these are our local communities. And I felt that I wanted to do something to talk to those communities. Then the idea of a magazine came second.

My notion of the old media model is, and you can exaggerate here; the extreme of the old model is that you’re going to have a genius editor, William Shawn, or maybe you have Helen Gurley Brown, or somebody who is able to answer every question. And then the staff basically runs around executing that plan.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have a complete, sort of blog community, every opinion is equal; you’re not really talking about facts; you have a comment section of the average website. And I thought there should be something in the middle where you had people who really wanted to work at being editors. Who would cultivate writers; look at pictures and put packages together, but also where some of the people who were writers would become editors, and some of the people who were readers would become writers, and not just in “Letters to the Editor.” So, there would be a much more fluid boundary between who the official staff people were and who the reader people were; who were the contributors and who were the advertisers.

I like to feel that our readers aren’t a mailing list, that it’s an actual community. And the community could disagree with us; the culture could change and we would need to change with it. So, I thought of a more dynamic, open model; a little more democratic, but not 100 percent democratic either.

Samir Husni: But you take this community one step further; this is probably one of the few times in my 40 years of following the magazine industry that I find an editor challenging readers, telling them that you will pay $10 if they find a mistake in the printed magazine.

Will Hearst: I stole the idea from Don Knuth who wrote the print bible of software. He was writing technical articles where mistakes and typos meant that the software didn’t work or what was stated was wrong, but I just felt like we should challenge ourselves. And I worked for a guy when I was younger, the editor of the editorial page of The San Francisco Examiner, and his view was that there should be no typos on the editorial pages. There could be typos in the newspaper because you’re on deadline and you’re in a hurry, but in the things where you were really putting the brand of the owner on the page, there should be no typos. So, I grew up in a culture where typos were, while maybe you couldn’t eliminate them; they were costly. And if you made a typo you had to apologize; you had to correct it and admit your mistake.

So, I stole this idea from Don Knuth that we would pay when people told us that we had a fact wrong, a reference that was incorrect, or we had a date wrong. There could be other kinds of mistakes that are more subject to interpretation, but when there are straightforward, factual mistakes or misstatements, or even gross errors of omission, we would make ourselves pay a fine to our readers who had found those things and we would honestly acknowledge them and move on.

Samir Husni: And…

Will Hearst: You’re dying to ask how much it has cost us so far, right? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: I was going to say that you’re either a very wealthy man or…(Laughs too)

Will Hearst: (Laughs again) No, we’ve paid out less than $100, but more than $10 since we put the policy in place.

Samir Husni: In this digital age, why did you insist on a print component for the Journal of Alta California?

Will Hearst: We get asked that question a lot and I think there are two reasons really and one of them is a content reason and one of them is a business reason. The content reason is that I wanted to deal with things that last a little bit longer. I was thinking about the people that I know: writers, photographers, editors; these are people who often write books, that take some time to write something. I was less interested in immediacy; I wanted things that had a lasting quality.

I remember when I was a newspaper editor and being surprised that more people go to museums than go to sporting events. More people attend cultural events than attend things that we consider to be pop culture. And so I thought there was a large audience of people who were interested in the arts and culture and technology and ideas, and that audience was really not interested in breaking news.

So, the people that I wanted to work with were working on a different schedule. And one reason print attracted me was I wouldn’t be yoked to the daily cycle of doing a website or a blog, because if you’re doing the Huffington Post or you’re doing these sites that have to be updated every 24 hours, you’re kind of forced to follow the news. Something happens and you have to react to it.

I wanted to break away from that and print seemed more natural to enforce that discipline on us and we would bore the crap out of people online if we only updated the site once a quarter or once a month, or once a week even was too slow. So, that was kind of the content reason. The things that we wanted to write about and the people that we wanted to work with were not naturally immediacy people, they were people who were more reflective.

And the second reason was just economics. If you’re trying to do a daily, you have to have a large staff and you have to have people constantly working on a short deadline. It was just too expensive to do that. So, for the topics that we wanted to cover, something that had a more leisurely pace was better-suited.

Now, I do feel, going back to the community idea, that we need to serve people who don’t want print or who want to access articles online or want to access an archive. So we’re trying to find ways to make the online archive and the online edition of the Journal of Alta California be very complete and no additional charge, where part of being a member is you get it all. You become a member and then you get everything.

And one of the things that I’m debating is whether we should put more things on the website. For example, we have a person who writes an article; he writes 2,000 words and we can run maybe 1,500. Well, maybe we should let the author go longer online for the people who really want to drill down one more level. So, we’re still trying to figure out what our online strategy is. We know what our print strategy is; we’re print people so we kind of know what to do and what we can afford to do.

Another question becomes: what should we do online? It shouldn’t be a scaled-down version of print. It should be an alternative extension of print. And we haven’t quite figured that out yet. I’m not anti-online. The 2018 online newspaper has probably 10 times more readers than the print newspaper, just to give you an example. So, I’m not turning my back on the online edition, I’m just trying to figure out how to make the two work together. But my core goal is more this membership idea; writing about certain topics; covering it well; and then serving that membership with whatever form of content is more convenient for them.

And as 10 years goes by and we have 100 readers for print and one million readers for online, then we should probably give up the print and be 100 percent online.

Samir Husni: And do you ever foresee that happening in our lifetime?

Will Hearst: I don’t really. It’s like asking whether you think books will go away because there are books on Kindle? There’s a pace to writing a book. It just isn’t instant; it requires research, commitment, and digging deeper into a subject. And that’s the area in which I like to work, so I think that will persist. Maybe paper will go away, but I don’t think books will go away, and therefore I don’t think magazines and publishing will go away.

I happen to like print; I happen to like the physical, tactile quality. You don’t need batteries; you can fold it up; you can tear it apart. But I tend to be a media consumer; I’m not a vegetarian when it comes to media. I’m kind of an omnivore. I like online; I like print; I like video; I like media.

It’s not unheard of for me that when I buy a book, I’ll buy the audio book and then buy the print book, and I’ll buy the Kindle book because I just really like that particular book. (Laughs) And I consume it different chunks at different times. It’s a little more expensive than maybe settling on one habit, but I think media consumption is about information and about human beings. It’s about learning; it’s not about print or online. It’s not about technology; it’s about the content of content.

Samir Husni: That’s one thing I strive for in my teaching; to tell the students that I don’t want to teach them the toys of the profession, they keep changing. They need to learn the profession.

Will Hearst: It’s very interesting; I give speeches sometimes to newspaper people and I find that if you’re a 60-year-old newspaper person, you’re kind of happy, because you’re going to retire and you can forget all about this technology. And if you’re a very young person interested in journalism, you’re very enthused about your career, because you’re probably going to be a blogger and appear on television, write, shoot your own pictures and maybe edit other people’s work. So, you have this multidimensional talent group in the younger generation.

And people in the middle are sort of lost, because they’re a little too old to learn all of the new skills; they’re a little more craft-union oriented, but they’re not close enough to retirement to turn their backs on it. They still have another 20 years to go. (Laughs)

The Hearst Foundation has a journalism award, and these are people who are freshmen in college, sometimes they’re a little bit father along, but they’re typically pre-professional, and they’re enthusiasm is amazing. And their skillset is so much wider than when I was a student. These people aren’t just photographers; they’re writers, photographers, broadcasters, bloggers, reporters, travelers; they’re multidimensional people. If you like media, you better be prepared to be a multitalented athlete. It’s a decathlon; it’s not a single-sport object.

Samir Husni: Now that you have two issues under your belt; if we had this conversation a year from now again, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in the year since Issue two was out?

Will Hearst: I’d like to do more things outside of just California; I’d like to do the West. I think that’s really the topic zone. If I’m successful, I’d like to have people in Portland, Seattle, and San Diego. Maybe someone in Mexico; maybe some people in Denver who are correspondents and are sending us story ideas, and be where people in those geographies feel that we’re to talking to them.

In your interviews, I was very struck by the guys from Garden & Gun magazine. This isn’t my demographic, but these guys really know what they’re doing. They know what kind of article fits in their magazine and what kind of article doesn’t. And they might have an article about hunting dogs that we would ever run, but for them it’s just right. They know their audience. And they’re regional, but they have the culture of their region in their blood. And that’s the kind of magazine that I’d like to be. I’d like to be favorably compared to those guys, in terms of writing quality and topical interest. If you live in that area; if you’re in my audience and in my community, I’d like you to feel this is your magazine. That’s what I’d like to say in a year.

Samir Husni: When I look at your editorial board and your inspirations; are these Will Hearst’s inspirations and editorial board or do these belong to Alta Journal of Alta California?

Will Hearst: They belong to the Journal of Alta California and we sort of rounded up the input of our staff and even wrote to a few people who told us we didn’t have enough women or people of other ethnicities, so we reedited the Inspiration Board to be a more complete history of our region. And less just people that “Will” liked to read. And we have our Board of Contributors, some of whom are active contributors and some of whom are on standby, because there are special topics where they have expertise.

But I like the idea of honoring the people who came before us, who were already part of the canon of Western literature. And Kevin Starr, who I wrote about in my editorial, was a big believer in the idea that there was a Western canon of writers, viewpoints and experiences. And that this was different than the East and that it was literature-defined; a little bit less academically and more from the life experiences of people who lived out here. So, I wanted to put that Board of Inspiration in to kind of show people that we were respectful of our elders and looking to take the next step, but also to be inspired by what they did before us.

Samir Husni: In the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, I remember there was a magazine that tried to be the New York of California called “The New West.”

Will Hearst: Yes.

Samir Husni: In fact, there was two of them.

Will Hearst: They did a very good job, but I think they were to some degree yoked to this shorter cycle. They were modeled on New York Magazine, which was weekly, then bimonthly. But they had to keep up with events. A new politician comes onto the scene and they had to write about it. And new restaurants open.

So, we wanted to step back from that kind of pace, which I don’t think works in the 2018 era. I think that’s very expensive to do. I don’t know how The New Yorker people can afford to be a weekly, because you have to have a permanent staff. And you have to have a large staff of writers who are employees, not just contributors. That’s a very expensive proposition. They have a great brand and they’ve been doing it for a long time and they have a very loyal audience, so I don’t think they’re in trouble. I don’t mean to suggest that. But for a startup that would be an impossibly ambitious idea, I think.

Samir Husni: Being the editor and the publisher…

Will Hearst: Well, that’s another compromise. My title was originally going to be “proprietor.” I wanted people to think of the staff as the editorially creative talent, and I was there as a financial investor and as the owner; as the buck-stops-here. But I didn’t want to pretend that I would be doing everything, because you can’t do it all. The business is made out of people; it’s not made out of numbers.

So, you have to get really good people and you have to give them a chance to shine. And to make their own decisions. Our editorial meetings are very, I want to say contentious; people are very candid about offering their opinions and we try and make decisions, and maybe my vote is the last vote, but I’m very interested in making sure that people feel like it’s their magazine, that it’s not the Will Hearst magazine; it’s a community magazine and I’m the proprietor. I’m the caretaker of the community, but I’m not the tsar. I’m not the president.

Samir Husni: But as publisher, you have a say even about the ads. One of the things that captivated me when I was flipping through the pages was the type of advertisements that are in the magazine.

Will Hearst: My study of publishing in this era is that little by little advertising is less and less important and more and more difficult to obtain. In the ‘70s and ‘80s when I was a younger person, advertising was 80 percent of the revenue. And circulation was something that you had to try and maximize, because you used it to support your advertising rate base. And I think little by little what has happened is that it’s become very expensive to keep giving magazines away, and you become a slave to advertising.

And I wanted to follow the equation the way I think it’s moving, where readers have to be served well enough that you can begin to extract more revenue from them. They’re not going to pay for something that’s no good and they’re not going to overpay relative to competition. But my feeling is that good media will become more paid, and you’ve seen The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal start to charge for their websites. Kindle books are not free because there’s advertising in them. I think there’s a countertrend where readers have to pay a little more and advertisers are willing to pay more. And we wanted to anticipate that.

I looked at the Whole Earth Catalog and other places where the advertising is really products that would be of interest to the readers as opposed to whomever is willing to pay the freight. So, we give very discounted packages for people who want to advertise with us and we’re very selective about advertising, because we’re not charging them very much and we can afford to be a little bit choosy. We don’t take ads from people whose products we don’t think our readers would be interested in.

We look at the advertising as the person who creates that product telling the story of their product. And if we believe that their product is good and their story is honest or amusing, then we induce them to advertise. In the long run, I think we’re going to make it or not make it on whether readers think we’re doing a good job and are willing to pay something.

And if you look at the balance sheets of magazines and newspapers, what you’ll see is more revenue is coming from circulation, sometimes online circulation, sometimes print, and less revenue is coming from traditional advertising.

Samir Husni: Yes, in fact, one of the last new magazines that Meredith published, The Magnolia Journal, was based on 85 percent revenue from circulation and 15 percent from advertising, which is almost the opposite of the way things were.

Will Hearst: But if you go back to the 19th century, when my grandfather was publishing in San Francisco, circulation was 80 percent and advertising was kind of like an extra. It was nice to have; it was an extra. But the real make-or-break was would people put a coin in the box to buy the newspaper? Or typically, buy it in single copy form. And I think, to some degree, we’ve come full circle.

Advertisers are more fickle than readers. Readers decide what they like and what they’re willing to pay for. Advertisers move in herds. And the herd is moving to online and the herd is moving to Facebook, and there may be good reasons to do that, but I think chasing the herd from the back is not a good business strategy.

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

Will Hearst: Publishing magazines, to use a mathematical analogy; it’s an infinite, dimensional space. It’s not like there’s five niches and you have to pick one. There’s always something else; it’s always around the corner that there’s some originality. I believe in Michael Porter’s theory: Don’t compete to be the best at something that exists, compete to be different. Compete to find something that no one is doing and then do that better than anyone else does.

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

Will Hearst: We always had a great place to work; we always had fun and we were challenged.

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?

Will Hearst: During the day, it’s probably reading or looking at manuscripts or calling people to see if I can cajole them into working with me. And at the end of the day, it could be a little bit of reading or it could be my kids. And once in a while, I like to solve math problems for fun.

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

Will Hearst: What keeps me up at night is trying to make the experience of reading the magazine a little bit like the experience of living out here in the zone of arts and culture, technology and exploration. I’d like to do a little more environmental writing in the next year. I’d like to connect to that part of our history.

And the other thing that keeps me up is who are the writers; who are the editors; who are the photographers, and where are the young writers? I think I have a pretty good Rolodex of people my generation who are proven writers, write on deadline, and who are good reporters, but we will have failed if we don’t find two or three young voices that no one has ever heard of. And I hope that we give them their first chance to be in the big-time. I hope that we discover them earlier and we promote them properly. And when they become so famous that we can’t afford them anymore; we will wish them good luck.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Hungry Girl’s Founder & Editor In Chief, Lisa Lillien To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: While The Digital Stuff Does It To Some Degree, You Really Can’t Compete With The Beauty Of A Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Scott Mortimer, VP/Group Publisher, Hungry Girl Magazine & Lisa Lillien…

January 11, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I also feel like there’s definitely content that lends itself more to magazines than anything else. Certain things work so much better when you see them visually, and things that you can’t actually put into a cookbook, whether it’s how-to instructions on how to cook or success stories from people who have lost weight thanks to the Hungry Girl brand. Those things really work well in magazine form. And I cried when I saw this magazine; it’s so beautiful.” Lisa Lillien…

“When we look at these businesses that are predominantly digital-first businesses, we try to figure out if it makes sense for them to live in a magazine format and we have to check a couple three boxes first; do they have a big digital and social following, and Lisa certainly does. Do they have an established brand that’s well-known and that has been around a while and that people know, and Lisa’s brand certainly does. And is there a passion by the owner of the brand to do a magazine, and I couldn’t have said any better than Lisa just did.” Scott Mortimer…

Lisa Lillien is the Hungry Girl, and a New York Times best-selling author. She is the founder of hungry-girl.com, the free daily email service that entertains and informs hungry people everywhere, and now she has teamed up with Meredith to extend her brand with an ink on paper magazine. And both parties couldn’t be any more excited.

I spoke with Lisa and Scott Mortimer, vice president and group publisher for the magazine, recently and we talked about the new addition to the Meredith family. The magazine is an extension of Lisa’s guilt-free eating and cooking repertoire and really resonates with freshness and a unique quality that is Lisa 100 percent. She is lively, animated and extremely passionate about her brand and this new format for it. Bringing this colorful and beautiful magazine to her loyal followers and new readers is something that she couldn’t be happier about. And with Meredith’s ongoing success when it comes to partnerships, such as the Gaines’ Magnolia Journal, success for Hungry Girl looms on the horizon.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who says she is always “hungry” for the next big thing, so it stands to reason Hungry Girl magazine should be on the guilt-free menu, Lisa Lillien, founder & editor in chief and Scott Mortimer, VP/group publisher, Hungry Girl magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she felt her Hungry Girl brand still needed an ink on paper magazine in today’s digital age (Lisa Lillien): That’s a great question. My roots are in magazines. I started my career as a magazine editor, so magazine have always had a very large place in my heart. And as much as I love the Hungry Girl brand and the daily emails are the heart and soul of the business that I’ve built, and having a cookbook come out, the idea of putting out a magazine and being able to bring the content in a different way, in a new way to the audience, is super-exciting to me.

On why she chose Meredith to publish her magazine or did Meredith choose her (Lisa Lillien): I think it’s a match made in heaven. They’re the leader in beautiful publications, so I couldn’t be more excited or have a better partner.

On why she chose Meredith to publish her magazine or did Meredith choose her (Scott Mortimer): We chose Lisa for several reasons. When we look at these businesses that are predominantly digital-first businesses, we try to figure out if it makes sense for them to live in a magazine format and we have to check a couple three boxes first; do they have a big digital and social following, and Lisa certainly does. Do they have an established brand that’s well-known and that has been around a while and that people know, and Lisa’s brand certainly does. And is there a passion by the owner of the brand to do a magazine, and I couldn’t have said any better than Lisa just did. She really wanted to do a magazine and I think it checked all of those boxes for us. So, we’re really hopeful that it’s going to do well and all indications are that it will.

On what the launch plan is for the magazine (Scott Mortimer): The launch plan is an issue that goes out now and then an issue that goes out on May 1. And we will obviously gauge how well it sells through on the newsstand; what kind of traffic we get on the website; there are three or four metrics that will really matter to us as we sit down and figure out what to do with it after the first two issues come out. I think there’s certainly an appetite to do more with the brand and we’re excited to see consumer acceptance with it. I’m sure it’s going to do really, really well.

On whether she feels like this is the last link in the chain and that the magazine completes her brand (Lisa Lillien): There’s never a last link, but I would say that this is like a giant medallion in the chain. (Laughs) I am super-excited about it. I feel like, especially with building a digital brand, the opportunity to have something that’s tangible and that’s so beautiful couldn’t be more exciting to me.

On why she thinks people are rediscovering the power of the printed magazine (Lisa Lillien): I think there’s always going to be content that people like to see and hold in their hands. That’s why when people are reading books on Kindles and iPhones, they still like to buy a cookbook. They really like fashion magazines; they like lifestyle magazines; and they really like food magazines, because nothing can really do a recipe justice like a beautiful photograph in a magazine that you can hold in your hand. So, while the digital stuff does it to some degree, you really can’t compete with the beauty of a magazine.

On what they would hope to say one year from now about Hungry Girl the magazine (Lisa Lillien): Hopefully, I’ll be saying that it is exactly what I expected it to be and just an extension of the brand that the audience has really embraced and is super-excited about. I love the challenge of bringing the very engaged audience Hungry Girl in a new format and know they’re going to eat it up literally. So, I hope a year from now we’re laughing and talking about how fantastic the magazine is and how we’re seeing four issues a year. That would be my goal.

On what they would hope to say one year from now about Hungry Girl the magazine (Scott Mortimer): And I would add to that, one of the things that really struck us when we met Lisa was when she explained to us her business and that she has really close interaction with all of the people who want to interact with her, whether it’s the crews or emails that come in or on the social channels, Lisa and her team interact with her fans and followers in a way that I think is really unique and in a way that really sets us up for success for this print product as well.

On her busy schedule, especially her daily emails, cookbooks and TV appearances, and whether she’s just a Hungry Girl or a Super Hungry Girl to get it all done (Lisa Lillien): (Laughs) A little of both. I am a workaholic, but I’m lucky to have a team of people who are so fantastic and a lot of people who have worked with the brand for many, many years, so we really have it down. We work out of a place called Hungryland. We’re always developing new recipes and there’s not a lot of time to sleep, but that’s okay because it’s a lot of fun.

On where, if readers had time to read only one article, she’d like them to begin in the magazine (Lisa Lillien): That’s a tough question. If they had time to read only one single article, I think it would be great for them to start at the beginning to get the back story to get them to become more engaged with the brand in case they’re not familiar with it. Because a lot of people try to do what Hungry Girl does and I hope it’s not terrible to say, but I think we do it better than anyone else. And if you read that first page, you get that summary of what the brand is and what it means, and how passionate we are about it. After that, just dive into all the rest.

On whether that point of differentiation will be an easy sell when the magazine is presented to advertisers (Scott Mortimer): I think that story is still to be written, Samir, to be candid. It’s one of those things where getting the advertising community excited about a brand new print product is always a challenge, but there was a little bit of support in this one and we’re very happy with who’s there. I think over time as we prove the product and get the product in market, that job will become easier for us. Again, the biggest gauge of acceptance on this is how well consumers adopt it and will they buy it. And everything indicates that’s going to be a smashing success and time will tell and prove that out.

On whether he feels mergers and acquisitions, such as Meredith buying Time Inc., will help the magazine media industry and the brands themselves, both established and new ones (Scott Mortimer): I don’t know if I’m qualified to speak to that, to be very candid with you. What we’re trying to do with the group of titles that I work with and the partner projects, what this falls under, is find brands that we think have really high consumer acceptance out there and brands that are well-poised to go from, in this case, a digital format to a magazine format.

On anything else they’d like to add (Lisa Lillien): Just that it’s something that I personally am really proud of and I could not be more excited about working with Meredith on this project and I’m so thrilled to bring such a quality product to the audience, because they really deserve it.

On how many of the millions of people who subscribe to Lisa’s newsletter they’d like to convert to the magazine (Scott Mortimer): Of course, we’d like to get them all to buy it. (Laughs) The initial print run is 225,000 copies, and you’re well aware of how things typically sell on newsstand. Our expectations are it’s going to be considerably better than most titles that are out there. There’s really not a hard number that we put on these things, lots of things come into play when we put success on it and certainly copies sold and reader engagement is one. And advertising comes into play. So, there’s three or four things that we will sit down together with and evaluate. But I can’t tell you there’s a magic number, because there certainly isn’t. Several things come into play as we look toward the future.

On these high-profile partnerships with TV brands and whether he feels this is a new way to bring magazines to the marketplace (Scott Mortimer): I do. We’ve had considerable success with it. Obviously, Magnolia Journal being the biggest. But we also work with Forks Over Knives and with other brands out there. These things aren’t always easy and they’re not always slam-dunks, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s finding the right partner who has a passion for the business and has that really big digital following, and a couple three of the things that really matter to us when we evaluate partners. So, we’re on the lookout for others and absolutely, if the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll see if we can get something done together.

On what we can expect to see in the second issue (Lisa Lillien): The second issue is the summer issue, so there’s a lot of great grilling recipes and the Instant Pots, lots and lots of those. That’s like the hottest item out there right now, so we’ve been very busy developing new recipes for the Instant Pot.

On whether she feels like she’s on top of the mountain now or still climbing (Lisa Lillien): I’m always climbing. (Laughs) I always want to do the next thing. I like new and exciting and so, I’m not sure I’ll ever be on top of the mountain.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Lisa Lillien): As it relates to Hungry Girl, I would like for them to think of me as the guru of guilt-free eating. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Scott Mortimer): In the business that we’re in, I just want people to consider us to be really good partners and I want people to feel that we operate with a lot of integrity and we want to do our best to work together to come up with really successful products that we can all do well with.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Lisa Lillien): I will probably be watching television with my husband and my dog, Lolly who is in this magazine; all over it. (Laughs)

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Scott Mortimer): I’ll probably be having a glass of wine and watching a sporting event.

On what keeps them up at night (Lisa Lillien): New ideas. I often wake up in the middle of the night with my cell phone next to me and I email myself all of the ideas I’m thinking about while I sleep.

On what keeps them up at night (Scott Mortimer): We create products and we want people to know about them and people to find them and people to engage with them. It’s increasingly harder in an age where there are other choices out there, but there’s a real desire and need for the products that we create and I want people to spend time with them and I know that they’ll love them.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Lisa Lillien, editor in chief & founder, and Scott Mortimer, VP/group publisher, Hungry Girl magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the launch of the first major magazine of 2018. The magazine looks great, and in typical Meredith tradition, I’m happy to see the continuation of service journalism that they began 115 years ago. So, Lisa, tell me, why did you feel that your brand still needed an ink on paper magazine today in this digital age?

Lisa Lillien: That’s a great question. My roots are in magazines. I started my career as a magazine editor, so magazine have always had a very large place in my heart. And as much as I love the Hungry Girl brand and the daily emails are the heart and soul of the business that I’ve built, and having a cookbook come out, the idea of putting out a magazine and being able to bring the content in a different way, in a new way to the audience, is super-exciting to me.

And I also feel like there’s definitely content that lends itself more to magazines than anything else. Certain things work so much better when you see them visually, and things that you can’t actually put into a cookbook, whether it’s how-to instructions on how to cook or success stories from people who have lost weight thanks to the Hungry Girl brand. Those things really work well in magazine form. And I cried when I saw this magazine; it’s so beautiful.

Samir Husni: And why did you choose Meredith or did Meredith choose Lisa?

Lisa Lillien: I think it’s a match made in heaven. They’re the leader in beautiful publications, so I couldn’t be more excited or have a better partner.

Scott Mortimer: We chose Lisa for several reasons. When we look at these businesses that are predominantly digital-first businesses, we try to figure out if it makes sense for them to live in a magazine format and we have to check a couple three boxes first; do they have a big digital and social following, and Lisa certainly does. Do they have an established brand that’s well-known and that has been around a while and that people know, and Lisa’s brand certainly does. And is there a passion by the owner of the brand to do a magazine, and I couldn’t have said any better than Lisa just did.

She really wanted to do a magazine and I think it checked all of those boxes for us. So, we’re really hopeful that it’s going to do well and all indications are that it will. We’re really excited to partner with her on this and bring it to the pages of a magazine.

Samir Husni: Scott, the first issue is dated Spring 2018, so will it be a quarterly frequency, with the cover price of $9.99; is it only going to be on the newsstands and on Lisa’s website, or will it be available for subscriptions later on? What’s the launch plan for this magazine?

Scott Mortimer: The launch plan is an issue that goes out now and then an issue that goes out on May 1. And we will obviously gauge how well it sells through on the newsstand; what kind of traffic we get on the website; there are three or four metrics that will really matter to us as we sit down and figure out what to do with it after the first two issues come out. I think there’s certainly an appetite to do more with the brand and we’re excited to see consumer acceptance with it. I’m sure it’s going to do really, really well.

Samir Husni: Lisa, is this the last link in the chain for your brand? Do you feel like now you’re complete as a brand?

Lisa Lillien: There’s never a last link, but I would say that this is like a giant medallion in the chain. (Laughs) I am super-excited about it. I feel like, especially with building a digital brand, the opportunity to have something that’s tangible and that’s so beautiful couldn’t be more exciting to me.

Samir Husni: I’m sure you’re familiar with all of the digital-first brands that have discovered print lately; why do you think suddenly everyone is rediscovering the power of the printed magazine in this digital age?

Lisa Lillien: I think there’s always going to be content that people like to see and hold in their hands. That’s why when people are reading books on Kindles and iPhones, they still like to buy a cookbook. They really like fashion magazines; they like lifestyle magazines; and they really like food magazines, because nothing can really do a recipe justice like a beautiful photograph in a magazine that you can hold in your hand. So, while the digital stuff does it to some degree, you really can’t compete with the beauty of a magazine.

Samir Husni: And as you look toward the future; as you look toward the second test issue in May, if you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me about Hungry Girl the magazine?

Lisa Lillien: Hopefully, I’ll be saying that it is exactly what I expected it to be and just an extension of the brand that the audience has really embraced and is super-excited about. I love the challenge of bringing the very engaged audience Hungry Girl in a new format and know they’re going to eat it up literally. So, I hope a year from now we’re laughing and talking about how fantastic the magazine is and how we’re seeing four issues a year. That would be my goal.

Scott Mortimer: And I would add to that, one of the things that really struck us when we met Lisa was when she explained to us her business and that she has really close interaction with all of the people who want to interact with her, whether it’s the crews or emails that come in or on the social channels, Lisa and her team interact with her fans and followers in a way that I think is really unique and in a way that really sets us up for success for this print product as well.

Samir Husni: Did I understand you correctly that your email is a daily that you send out?

Lisa Lillien: Yes, five days a week.

Samir Husni: Five days a week. How do you do it? You have a daily newsletter; you’re writing books; you’re appearing on TV; are you just a Hungry Girl or are you a Super Hungry Girl?

Lisa Lillien: (Laughs) A little of both. I am a workaholic, but I’m lucky to have a team of people who are so fantastic and a lot of people who have worked with the brand for many, many years, so we really have it down. We work out of a place called Hungryland. We’re always developing new recipes and there’s not a lot of time to sleep, but that’s okay because it’s a lot of fun.

Samir Husni: If you look at this issue, this specific first edition, where do you want your audience to go first? If your readers had time to read only one article, where should they go?

Lisa Lillien: That’s a tough question. If they had time to read only one single article, I think it would be great for them to start at the beginning to get the back story to get them to become more engaged with the brand in case they’re not familiar with it. Because a lot of people try to do what Hungry Girl does and I hope it’s not terrible to say, but I think we do it better than anyone else. And if you read that first page, you get that summary of what the brand is and what it means, and how passionate we are about it. After that, just dive into all the rest.

Samir Husni: Scott, is that point of differentiation going to be an easy sell for you when you take the magazine out to advertisers; it’s uniqueness and difference?

Scott Mortimer: I think that story is still to be written, Samir, to be candid. It’s one of those things where getting the advertising community excited about a brand new print product is always a challenge, but there was a little bit of support in this one and we’re very happy with who’s there. I think over time as we prove the product and get the product in market, that job will become easier for us. Again, the biggest gauge of acceptance on this is how well consumers adopt it and will they buy it. And everything indicates that’s going to be a smashing success and time will tell and prove that out.

Samir Husni: A friend of mine was talking recently and said it would seem there was going to be two big magazine companies left in this country, Meredith after they bought Time and Hearst after they bought Rodale. Do you think mergers or those acquisitions are going to help the magazine media industry, help those brands, both the established and the new ones?

Scott Mortimer: I don’t know if I’m qualified to speak to that, to be very candid with you. What we’re trying to do with the group of titles that I work with and the partner projects, what this falls under, is find brands that we think have really high consumer acceptance out there and brands that are well-poised to go from, in this case, a digital format to a magazine format.

I can’t predict the future and predict what that will be, but we’re focused on the task at hand, and it’s working with folks like Lisa to take her brand to a different place. And that’s why we’re so excited about it.

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

Lisa Lillien: Just that it’s something that I personally am really proud of and I could not be more excited about working with Meredith on this project and I’m so thrilled to bring such a quality product to the audience, because they really deserve it.

Samir Husni: When the folks at Meredith tell you Lisa, we just hit half a million in circulation, or we sold 250,000 copies; what’s the magic number that you and Scott have discussed that will put you over the top? You have millions that subscribe to your newsletter; how many of those do you want to convert to the magazine?

Scott Mortimer: Of course, we’d like to get them all to buy it. (Laughs) The initial print run is 225,000 copies, and you’re well aware of how things typically sell on newsstand. Our expectations are it’s going to be considerably better than most titles that are out there. There’s really not a hard number that we put on these things, lots of things come into play when we put success on it and certainly copies sold and reader engagement is one. And advertising comes into play. So, there’s three or four things that we will sit down together with and evaluate. But I can’t tell you there’s a magic number, because there certainly isn’t. Several things come into play as we look toward the future.

Samir Husni: With this partnership business model, such as Meredith partnering with the Gaines and Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart; Hearst is doing similar things with the Food Network, HGTV, and The Pioneer Woman; do you think this is the nucleus of a new way to bring magazines to the marketplace?

Scott Mortimer: I do. We’ve had considerable success with it. Obviously, Magnolia Journal being the biggest. But we also work with Forks Over Knives and with other brands out there. These things aren’t always easy and they’re not always slam-dunks, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s finding the right partner who has a passion for the business and has that really big digital following, and a couple three of the things that really matter to us when we evaluate partners. So, we’re on the lookout for others and absolutely, if the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll see if we can get something done together.

Samir Husni: What can we expect to see in the second issue?

Lisa Lillien: The second issue is the summer issue, so there’s a lot of great grilling recipes and the Instant Pots, lots and lots of those. That’s like the hottest item out there right now, so we’ve been very busy developing new recipes for the Instant Pot.

Samir Husni: I loved when you said that when you held the magazine in your hand, you cried. Do you feel that you’re now on top of the mountain, or you’re still climbing?

Lisa Lillien: I’m always climbing. (Laughs) I always want to do the next thing. I like new and exciting and so, I’m not sure I’ll ever be on top of the mountain.

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

Lisa Lillien: As it relates to Hungry Girl, I would like for them to think of me as the guru of guilt-free eating. I can’t think of a better way to put it than that.

Scott Mortimer: In the business that we’re in, I just want people to consider us to be really good partners and I want people to feel that we operate with a lot of integrity and we want to do our best to work together to come up with really successful products that we can all do well with.

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?

Lisa Lillien: I will probably be watching television with my husband and my dog, Lolly who is in this magazine; all over it. (Laughs)

Scott Mortimer: I’ll probably be having a glass of wine and watching a sporting event.

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

Lisa Lillien: New ideas. I often wake up in the middle of the night with my cell phone next to me and I email myself all of the ideas I’m thinking about while I sleep.

Scott Mortimer: We create products and we want people to know about them and people to find them and people to engage with them. It’s increasingly harder in an age where there are other choices out there, but there’s a real desire and need for the products that we create and I want people to spend time with them and I know that they’ll love them.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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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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