Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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Forks Over Knives Magazine: The Brand That Delivers The Whole Food, Plant-Based Lifestyle In A Delicious & Passionate Way – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Brian Wendel, Founder & President, & Elizabeth Turner, Editor In Chief…

September 20, 2018

“I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.” Brian Wendel…

“It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.” Elizabeth Turner…

Forks Over Knives is a brand that empowers people to live healthier lives by changing the way the world understands nutrition. From the film to the books, from the meal plan to the complete lifestyle movement, Forks Over Knives strives to present a whole food, plant-based way of living that is not only healthier, but tastier and more fun than anything else out there. And now there’s a print magazine to add to the repertoire. In a partnership with Meredith, Founder and President, Brian Wendel has brought his beloved brand full force into the marketplace in a soon-to-be quarterly publication that promises fun, delicious food, and a healthier way of life.

I spoke with Brian recently, along with Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief of the magazine, and Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith, and we all talked about the beautifully done, well-executed print magazine that only edifies the successful brand. It’s a partnership, according to all three, that was made in heaven – a whole food, plant-based heaven anyway.

And with the frequency about to become quarterly in 2019, the magazine is obviously resonating with readers. Beginning with the 2011 documentary film, Forks Over Knives, and then the cookbooks, meal plan and website, the brand has embraced its passion and belief in itself wholeheartedly, and with the addition of a print magazine, it now has the potential to reach even more people on a regular basis. It would seem Forks Over Knives is bringing in readers and brand-lovers hand over fist. Mr. Magazine™ says keep up the good work.

And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Wendel, founder and president, and Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, Forks Over Knives magazine, with comments from Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith.

But first the sound-bites:

On why there seemed to be a need for a print magazine when the brand already had books, a film, a website, and meal plans (Brian Wendel): We wanted to put something out into the public that had a regular cadence to it, and was really beautiful, fun and approachable. So, Meredith approached us on doing this kind of thing. Obviously, we felt they’re the leader in lifestyle magazines and we knew they had the capability, so it seemed like a really logical partnership. Our goal, generally speaking, is to help people transition to this lifestyle, so being able to do this with Meredith seemed like such a great idea and we’re happy that we got onboard to do it.

On how Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, approaches the magazine differently than the other platforms (Elizabeth Turner): The magazine, as Brian said, is very aspirational and glossy and it’s very heavy on recipes and very heavy on photography. Also, I think we’re approaching the front of the book, which is the non-recipe part, as sort of whole food, plant-based eating 101, so that anybody who sees it in Walmart and is curious can pick it up and get a good idea of what whole food, plant-based eating is about. Whereas our website is a bit of a mix. It’s for people who are very into it, but also for people who are very entrenched in the lifestyle. Forks Over Knives magazine is very much original and appealing to people who are maybe not familiar with the concept.

On what the role of print, especially with Forks Over Knives, will play in today’s digital world (Elizabeth Turner): Well, there’s definitely a demand for it. Our audience asks for it all of the time, so I think that print is never going to go away. It’s going to become more special, so it’s nice that our magazine has very few ads. It’s just cover to cover beautiful and aspirational content. And I think there will always be a demand for that. But I do think it will get more and more specialized. People want that and they’re never not going to want that.

On what the role of print, especially with Forks Over Knives, will play in today’s digital world (Brian Wendel): And especially because it’s a lifestyle magazine, it’s current, if you will, for a long time. So, in the lifestyle space, Forks Over Knives is still very relevant in print, more so than other types of content.

On the impact Brian’s growing up in New York around so much delicious food had on his decision to embrace the plant-based healthy lifestyle (Brian Wendel): Obviously, growing up in New York, but also growing up in a half-Italian, half-Jewish neighborhood, I think there was a lot of focus on really delicious food; we really do have a knack for it. In general, when I grew up there was no concept of vegetarian or veganism. I didn’t even know a single person who was either, to me it was a completely foreign concept. We really grew up on pizza and roast beef. The fact of the matter is the food is really good; Italian food is fantastic. But ultimately, this passion for great, awesome food is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Forks Over Knives brand and ultimately to the magazine. Just because we’re on a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean that we view our food as being medicinal in flavor by any means.

On when the brand name Forks Over Knives was chosen (Brian Wendel): The name Forks Over Knives didn’t come until after the movie was made. The idea basically predated the name. I put out an email to my friends trying to come up with different titles for the film and it was something that bothered us, we never really had a good title. And one of my friends came back with the idea of Fork Over Scalpel, which we then turned into Forks Over Knives, a knife being like a surgical knife, if you will.

On whether he has any regrets about the way the magazine was done now that he has four issues out (Brian Wendel): I really don’t have any regrets. It’s really been an awesome partnership. The first issue we came out with was sort of a test issue, so we didn’t have the liberty to really go all out and create something as spectacular as the last three. The final three magazines are 100 percent all shot by Meredith, keeping a consistent theme throughout the magazine, and that was something that we weren’t able to do in the very first issue. But I wouldn’t say that’s a regret, it was a logical progression.

On whether creating the magazine and partnering with Meredith has all been a walk in a rose garden or there were some stumbling blocks along the way (Brian Wendel): I can honestly say that there has been no stumbling blocks. I hate to be boring, but there really wasn’t any, because they’re a great partner and they really listen to our wants and needs. And I like to think on our side we do that with them too. And they give us a lot of liberty to say what we need to say and they do a great job. There really hasn’t been a single stumbling block in this partnership.

On the point of differentiation for Forks Over Knives over all the other food magazines out there (Brian Wendel): I think our brand name is really associated with the healthiest lifestyle out there, which is what we call a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So people know that someone with heart disease or Type II diabetes can come to Forks Over Knives and get great information on how to handle those conditions, but do it in a way that’s really, really a fun and enjoyable lifestyle with really delicious food. And I think that makes us stand out above the others.

On whether they will be happy with a frequency of three times per year, or they will want something more frequent (Elizabeth Turner): We’ve actually already agreed to go to four issues a year in 2019. So, it’s growing.

On anything they’d like to add (Elizabeth Turner): I would just like to say to back up what Brian said, what really makes these recipes different is just that they are all gold standard nutritious. They’re low in sodium, they’re low in fat; they’re made of whole foods and they’re plant-based. Anything that you made from this magazine would be something that you could feel very good about, which is honestly just not very common in food magazines. So, that really is a point of differentiation. And also the educational point.

On anything Michelle Bilyeu would like to add from the Meredith point of view (Michelle Bilyeu): I guess I’ll just say that Forks Over Knives is a great partner. We work really well together to support each other and create great products. And it’s ultimately about the consumer. We’re really excited with the fall issue; we’ve been able to over-double the draw that’s going out on newsstand, hopefully reaching more consumers. And introducing more and more people to such a wonderful brand.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Brian Wendel): I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Elizabeth Turner): It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.

On why they all three believe in print with everything that’s available (Michelle Bilyeu): I would agree to that too. I think it’s all about that tactile experience with it; it’s being able to take it to your own space and get away. It’s a point of relaxation and inspiration and motivation. It’s a great place to find lots of ideas, besides just the information. So, I think they’re very inspiring. And I have a huge stack on my bed. Every night I look forward to that moment with my magazines.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him (Brian Wendel): I’d like to be known as a good citizen and someone who loves his family and friends. I’d like to also be known as someone who took a chance on something that I really believed in and it’s had what a lot of people believe is a profound impact on many people’s lives across the world. If that could be my legacy, I’d be thrilled to have it.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her (Elizabeth Turner): That’s really a tough question. Always creative and always pushing forward.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home (Brian Wendel): I would be with my partner, Darshana Thacker, who happens to be the chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives, and who has a good handful of recipes in each issue. So we might be having a delicious meal together; it might be a corn chowder or something like that, some potatoes. We live pretty simple lives, so that’s what you might find us doing.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Elizabeth Turner): I’ll be eating fruit, probably watermelon. Brian and I have this funny thing in common that we’re both obsessed with fruit, so if you’re at my house you’re going to see a lot of good fruit at all times. And I’ll probably be eating it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brian Wendel, founder and president, and Elizabeth Turner, editor in chief, Forks Over Knives magazine, with comments from Michelle Bilyeu, editorial content director, Meredith.

Samir Husni: Brian, you founded Forks Over Knives. You have the website; you have the books; you have the film, and you have the meal plans; why a magazine too? Why did you feel that you needed a print magazine to add to the brand?

Brian Wendel: We wanted to put something out into the public that had a regular cadence to it, and was really beautiful, fun and approachable. So, Meredith approached us on doing this kind of thing. Obviously, we felt they’re the leader in lifestyle magazines and we knew they had the capability, so it seemed like a really logical partnership. Our goal, generally speaking, is to help people transition to this lifestyle, so being able to do this with Meredith seemed like such a great idea and we’re happy that we got onboard to do it.

Samir Husni: Elizabeth, as editor in chief, how do you approach the magazine differently from the website, the books, the film, and the meal plans?

Elizabeth Turner: The magazine, as Brian said, is very aspirational and glossy and it’s very heavy on recipes and very heavy on photography. Also, I think we’re approaching the front of the book, which is the non-recipe part, as sort of whole food, plant-based eating 101, so that anybody who sees it in Walmart and is curious can pick it up and get a good idea of what whole food, plant-based eating is about. Whereas our website is a bit of a mix. It’s for people who are very into it, but also for people who are very entrenched in the lifestyle. Forks Over Knives magazine is very much original and appealing to people who are maybe not familiar with the concept.

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print, specifically with Forks Over Knives, in today’s digital age is going to play?

Elizabeth Turner: Well, there’s definitely a demand for it. Our audience asks for it all of the time, so I think that print is never going to go away. It’s going to become more special, so it’s nice that our magazine has very few ads. It’s just cover to cover beautiful and aspirational content. And I think there will always be a demand for that. But I do think it will get more and more specialized. People want that and they’re never not going to want that.

Brian Wendel: And especially because it’s a lifestyle magazine, it’s current, if you will, for a long time. So, in the lifestyle space, Forks Over Knives is still very relevant in print, more so than other types of content.

Elizabeth Turner: And I’ll also say, you have the recipes that you can get online, but the magazine also includes great success stories and has the medical expert backing that adds that extra layer.

Samir Husni: Brian, you mention in your editorial in the fall issue about your childhood and growing up on Staten Island, playing football on the streets, enjoying the delicious family meals. Can you explain to me the impact of your upbringing and your childhood on this lifestyle, and what veered you toward this healthy comfort food, rather than the heavier, meatier foods?

Brian Wendel: Obviously, growing up in New York, but also growing up in a half-Italian, half-Jewish neighborhood, I think there was a lot of focus on really delicious food; we really do have a knack for it. In general, when I grew up there was no concept of vegetarian or veganism. I didn’t even know a single person who was either, to me it was a completely foreign concept. We really grew up on pizza and roast beef. The fact of the matter is the food is really good; Italian food is fantastic.

But ultimately, this passion for great, awesome food is something that I’ve been able to bring to the Forks Over Knives brand and ultimately to the magazine. Just because we’re on a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean that we view our food as being medicinal in flavor by any means. I believe at heart that food is meant to be enjoyed and that’s what I really learned growing up and that’s an element that I tried to bring to the brand.

Samir Husni: Do you remember when the idea for the name Forks Over Knives hit you and you told yourself that was what you needed to create; a brand called Forks Over Knives?

Brian Wendel: The name Forks Over Knives didn’t come until after the movie was made. The idea basically predated the name. I had been into a healthy plant-based lifestyle since 2001. And overtime I just became more and more knowledgeable about it and more passionate about it. And then when I read a book called “The China Study” it really made me realize the depth and breadth of what’s out there, that we have more control over our disease outcomes than what we ever realized. And I felt like it was a story that wasn’t being told.

An analogy that I always use, and it can actually relate to the magazine, is if we could affect these outcomes with a pill the way we could with food, it would have been headline stories in weekly magazines and newspapers, but it wasn’t. So, the message wasn’t really getting out there through mainstream media. It occurred to me that it wasn’t going to come out that way, so I had to help get it out. And ultimately I decided and felt that a visual presentation through a feature film was the best way to do that.

The name Forks Over Knives really came later. I put out an email to my friends trying to come up with different titles for the film and it was something that bothered us, we never really had a good title. And one of my friends came back with the idea of Fork Over Scalpel, which we then turned into Forks Over Knives, a knife being like a surgical knife, if you will. Most people don’t know that, because the inclination of our logo doesn’t include the scalpel, but the original logo that was on the movie poster and in all of the movie’s branding actually had a scalpel on it.

So, it really means Forks Over Knives and kind of choosing what’s at the end of the fork over basically, I don’t want to say surgery, because the knife is kind of metaphorical for the medical aspect. And it’s not that I’m against the medical system, it’s just that we’re trying to get away from overuse of medication for chronic diseases when there’s a much better alternative.

Samir Husni: So far, if my calculations are correct, you have four issues of the magazine. Since the first issue came out until now, when you look back and you maybe say, I wish I had done that or I wish I hadn’t done that; is there anything that comes to mind?

Brian Wendel: I really don’t have any regrets. It’s really been an awesome partnership. The first issue we came out with was sort of a test issue, so we didn’t have the liberty to really go all out and create something as spectacular as the last three. The final three magazines are 100 percent all shot by Meredith, keeping a consistent theme throughout the magazine, and that was something that we weren’t able to do in the very first issue. But I wouldn’t say that’s a regret, it was a logical progression.

Samir Husni: And has the creation of the magazine and the teaming up with Meredith been a walk in a rose garden, or has there been some stumbling blocks along the way?

Brian Wendel: I can honestly say that there has been no stumbling blocks. I hate to be boring, but there really wasn’t any, because they’re a great partner and they really listen to our wants and needs. And I like to think on our side we do that with them too. And they give us a lot of liberty to say what we need to say and they do a great job. There really hasn’t been a single stumbling block in this partnership.

Samir Husni: Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I can’t find the magazine on your website. I can find the meal planner, the cooking course, the articles, the recipes, but there’s no mention of the magazine. Is that intentional?

Brian Wendel: No, our website is being revamped, and we’re going to have a brand new website in November. And it’s going to integrate all of our products a little bit better.

Elizabeth Turner: But we sell it in our online shop and we definitely promote it on social media, so our digital audience is very aware of it. And we have a very active product-based book group and people are showing pictures of where they’re finding it in the stores, so our audience is definitely tuned into the magazine.

Brian Wendel: I’ll also add that we have a very substantial newsletter following and we promote it enough to probably get some people irritated. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Probably 10 to 15 percent of all magazines on the newsstand are now food magazines. What’s the point of differentiation for Forks Over Knives versus all of the other food magazines out there? Is it Meredith? Is it the name? Is it the content? Is it the concept?

Brian Wendel: I think it’s all of the above, but most importantly, I think our brand name is really associated with the healthiest lifestyle out there, which is what we call a whole food, plant-based lifestyle. So people know that someone with heart disease or Type II diabetes can come to Forks Over Knives and get great information on how to handle those conditions, but do it in a way that’s really, really a fun and enjoyable lifestyle with really delicious food. And I think that makes us stand out above the others.

There’s a lot of other ways of eating that say they’re healthy or promotes something else, but I really believe that for disease reversal and prevention, the science really is on our side. And I think people are realizing that.

Samir Husni: And do you think you’ll be happy with three times per year or do you want to see the magazine going into a more frequent circulation?

Michelle Bilyeu: We’ve actually already agreed to go to four issues a year in 2019. So, it’s growing.

Samir Husni: So you will become a quarterly magazine starting in 2019?

Elizabeth Turner: We have three issues in 2018 and we’ll officially have four in 2019.

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

Elizabeth Turner: I would just like to say to back up what Brian said, what really makes these recipes different is just that they are all gold standard nutritious. They’re low in sodium, they’re low in fat; they’re made of whole foods and they’re plant-based. Anything that you made from this magazine would be something that you could feel very good about, which is honestly just not very common in food magazines. So, that really is a point of differentiation. And also the educational point.

Samir Husni: And Michelle, anything you’d like to add from the Meredith point of view about the relationship? We’ve seen it done before; Forks Over Knives is not the first partnership that Meredith has done. Or the first magazine they’ve brought into the marketplace with that partnership.

Michelle Bilyeu: I guess I’ll just say that Forks Over Knives is a great partner. We work really well together to support each other and create great products. And it’s ultimately about the consumer. We’re really excited with the fall issue; we’ve been able to over-double the draw that’s going out on newsstand, hopefully reaching more consumers. And introducing more and more people to such a wonderful brand.

Samir Husni: So all three of you; why do you believe in print with everything that’s available out there?

Brian Wendel: I believe in print because we’re seeing quite a bit of success with it, honestly. When it comes to this type of magazine, I think there’s still a demand for it. The computer is great, but people still want to have something they can hold in their hand, take recipes from. It’s easier to bring a magazine into the kitchen that it is a computer. There’s just something more tangible about it. Something beautiful about a magazine that’s just not captured on a computer. And I’m not knocking a computer, I just think this type of content is still nice to bring into the kitchen or kick back in a hammock with. The need for it is still there.

Elizabeth Turner: It’s inspiring. You can keep a beautiful food magazine, any beautiful magazine, but it’s a keeper. It’s something you have on your coffee table; it’s something that you look at and it reminds you of how you’d like to live your life. I don’t think magazines are going away, they’re just getting more special.

Michelle Bilyeu: I would agree to that too. I think it’s all about that tactile experience with it; it’s being able to take it to your own space and get away. It’s a point of relaxation and inspiration and motivation. It’s a great place to find lots of ideas, besides just the information. So, I think they’re very inspiring. And I have a huge stack on my bed. Every night I look forward to that moment with my 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?

Brian Wendel: I’d like to be known as a good citizen and someone who loves his family and friends. I’d like to also be known as someone who took a chance on something that I really believed in and it’s had what a lot of people believe is a profound impact on many people’s lives across the world. If that could be my legacy, I’d be thrilled to have it.

Elizabeth Turner: That’s really a tough question. Always creative and always pushing forward.

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?

Brian Wendel: I would be with my partner, Darshana Thacker, who happens to be the chef and culinary project manager for Forks Over Knives, and who has a good handful of recipes in each issue. So we might be having a delicious meal together; it might be a corn chowder or something like that, some potatoes. We live pretty simple lives, so that’s what you might find us doing.

Elizabeth Turner: I’ll be eating fruit, probably watermelon. Brian and I have this funny thing in common that we’re both obsessed with fruit, so if you’re at my house you’re going to see a lot of good fruit at all times. And I’ll probably be eating it.

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

Elizabeth Turner: My cat. (Laughs)

Brian Wendel: I’m going to decline to answer that. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you all.

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Weekend Escapes: A New Magazine To Help You Escape Reality For A Relaxing Weekend Getaway – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Monique Reidy, Publisher & Editor In Chief…

August 31, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I don’t know why people are having this print meltdown; we love magazines; everyone we talk to loves magazines. If you go to any Barnes & Noble or any newsstand, people are sitting around reading magazines. I don’t understand what the hype is all about. I know this is nuts, and maybe I could be way off base, but I think partly us, as a publication community, are partly responsible because we keep talking about it. I think we should just move on and not even make it an issue.” Monique Reidy…

“If you like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
If you´re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape
I´m the love that you´ve looked for, write to me, and escape”…Rupert Holmes

Mr. Holmes probably said it best, but there are times when we all need to “escape.” Whether it’s from the daily grind or simply from the bells and whistles that our non-stop digital connection forces upon us with every millisecond notification we receive. And for just such moments, there is a new magazine on the scene that will help us to do that – Weekend Escapes. And of course, as busy as we all are, sometimes a weekend is all that we can manage and according to Monique Reidy, publisher and editor in chief of the new title, that is exactly the hyper-niche audience she is looking for with her baby.

I spoke with Monique recently and we talked about the new magazine and its target market. The idea “is to take us to a new level of escapism with the beautiful print magazine, tempting us to visit as many of the locations featured as possible, without having to book a two-week vacation. It’s quick, yet magnificent, getaways that hopefully we won’t be able to resist.” The concept is alluring and the first issue very intriguing. Mr. Magazine™ is looking forward to seeing more from this new title, published by the same folks who give us the regional Southern California Life.

Monique is a passionate dreamer who believes in print magazines and loves them dearly. Something she has in common with Mr. Magazine™, and she has plans to continue with the stardust by publishing even more titles down the road. So, I hope that you enjoy this momentary “escape” into the world of print dreams in the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, publisher & editor in chief, Weekend Escapes magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether she believes she is out of her own mind for starting another print magazine: I don’t know why people are having this print meltdown; we love magazines; everyone we talk to loves magazines. If you go to any Barnes & Noble or any newsstand, people are sitting around reading magazines. I don’t understand what the hype is all about. I know this is nuts, and maybe I could be way off base, but I think partly us, as a publication community, are partly responsible because we keep talking about it. I think we should just move on and not even make it an issue.

On the new magazine Weekend Escapes: Our first magazine, Southern California Life, is primarily about where to go and what to do in Southern California. But we were getting so many requests for media trips, stories about travel outside of Southern California, so we started a special section called “The Weekender” in Southern California Life magazine because we thought we should give residents or locals, even the tourists who read our magazine, because we are in-room in numerous hotels, we should give them an opportunity to see what is beyond Southern California in case they want to travel.

On what’s in her future: I’d like to launch more magazines. They say that magazines are dying, we keep hearing that, but I don’t believe that’s true. I do feel that maybe some different themes are maybe contracting, like all of the celebrity magazines, and there’s quite a number of fashion and beauty magazines, but travel is something that peaks the interest of most people. Most people are tired; they’re stressed out; we live in a society now that’s just pushing us forward, making us think about work, think about achievement, about all kinds of things. We just need to relax; we need to go away; we need to spend time away from the hustle and bustle.

On whether it’s always going to be just weekend escapes in the magazine: The one thing that I believe will either make or break a publication is it has to be super-niche now because you can’t just join in and do another finance magazine, there are so many of those. And of course, news magazines are gone because by the time you buy a news magazine, you’ve already got the news on your device. So, I think finding this super-niche that’s lacking out in the marketplace is probably key. I don’t necessarily believe that I’ll have to do a travel publication, but certainly with the next launch it’ll be something that doesn’t exist yet.

On whether her journey from being a student of magazines to a publisher has been a walk in a rose garden:
Oh no, and I think anyone in any of those big publishing houses, if they spent 10 minutes with me they would think I was absolutely nuts because we don’t have a business plan, we fly by the seat of our pants, but you know what, when you have a passion for something and you have determination and you’re going after it like a heat-seeking missile, the resources show up. And I know that’s a whole different mentality than many businesspeople are accustomed to, but truly if you’re determined and you’ve got fire in your veins, it just happens because you just make it happen.

On whether she has any regrets or she is having the time of her life: Well, I’m not going to say it’s a piece of cake, it’s a challenge. Because we’re not funded by anyone, this whole ordeal is self-funded, and it’s not easy. However, it does have its positive points. We don’t have a huge board that we have to consult every time we need to make a decision. I don’t have to run it by several departments every time I need to make a change. We’re small, most of our staff, or I should call them team members because they’re not really staff, they’re freelance, and it works, it really does. And I don’t have any regrets.

On what she would hope to tell someone a year from now when it comes to what she has accomplished: Well, I hope to launch another title. We have a really big office and I plan to fill it up and we’re growing every month. It’s something that I believe I’ll be doing my whole life, so I’m hoping that a year from now we’ll have grown exponentially and have new goals and new things we’re hoping to achieve. It’s an exciting experience for me, where things just show up. Trust me, I know this is very unconventional, but it’s sort of the way we work around here, and it seems to work.

On what she would tell a magazine student if they came to her with an idea for a new magazine:
We do work with one of the professors from Pepperdine University, from the business school, who does, oddly enough, he evaluates business launches. And we had him do a little bit of research for us prior to launching the first publication. I would suggest that a student do a bit of research prior to just launching any old magazine. The other thing I would say is don’t do something that already exists, and then I would suggest that they find funding first. I put my entire life’s savings into this venture, but not everybody has a little stash put away, so find a partner, find someone who will help support the operation, that’s crucial.

On whether she would have done anything differently with her magazines:
I don’t think so. I was so passionate about what I wanted to do that I feel as though if I had a partner who I was just bringing on for financial support, I’d have to start doing what they dictated and I am very driven because I believe in what I’m doing and unless the partner had that same passion, I think there would have been a lot more emotional baggage, so to speak.

On anything she’d like to add: Well, because you’re involved with students, my suggestion would be; if a student has a desire to be involved with magazines at any level, I think getting as many internships as possible prior to graduating would be smart. You know, we’ve had interns come to us who really know nothing about magazines and they are journalism majors. There is a lot more involved to magazine work than just writing, even if you are a writer.

On what keeps her up at night: I get a great night’s sleep every night. I never have sleeping problems. I have a very big faith in God and I believe that this is a business that I was blessed with and if it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen, and no biggie. We just move on to Plan B. But so far we feel really blessed, and again I’ll stress that it’s not without its challenges, because the magazine business is tough, but you have to learn to roll with the punches and that applies to everything outside of business as well. I think anybody looking to make a happy, successful life needs to learn to be adaptable and to not let the small things keep you up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Monique Reidy, publisher & editor in chief, Weekend Escapes magazine.

Samir Husni: Tell me, are you out of your mind, or do you see something others do not see in starting another print publication?

Monique Reidy: I don’t know why people are having this print meltdown; we love magazines; everyone we talk to loves magazines. If you go to any Barnes & Noble or any newsstand, people are sitting around reading magazines. I don’t understand what the hype is all about. I know this is nuts, and maybe I could be way off base, but I think partly us, as a publication community, are partly responsible because we keep talking about it. I think we should just move on and not even make it an issue.

Look at Gwyneth Paltrow, she started Goop magazine, she started online and decided she better have a print publication. And with the quantity of pictures we get from products and services to be included in our print magazine, it’s outrageous. We get at least 400, and we’re a little regional in Southern California, it’s not like we’re a major national magazine. And we get that many pictures a day, I can only imagine what the others get.

But if that were the case, if print was dead, why does everybody want to be featured in a magazine? It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t measure up.

Samir Husni: Tell me about Weekend Escapes, the name is obvious, but tell me more about the concept.

Monique Reidy: Our first magazine, Southern California Life, is primarily about where to go and what to do in Southern California. But we were getting so many requests for media trips, stories about travel outside of Southern California, so we started a special section called “The Weekender” in Southern California Life magazine because we thought we should give residents or locals, even the tourists who read our magazine, because we are in-room in numerous hotels, we should give them an opportunity to see what is beyond Southern California in case they want to travel.

And then we thought that people just don’t have the time to do these week-long or two-week-long trips any longer and it’s pretty pricey now if you want to travel well. But if people want to escape for a long weekend or even a short weekend, it’s refreshing; it’s rejuvenating; people do need to unplug and get away. So, we started doing pieces about places you can go outside of Southern California for a short trip that is just as nice as taking a more extended vacation.

And then we were getting so many requests that we thought we couldn’t possibly include all that content about destinations outside Southern California, it really required its own publication. So, that’s why I launched this new one. And it’s 100 percent travel content.

I took the advice of one of your speakers at one of the ACT Experience conferences, and it hit me pretty hard in the face when they said you should recycle your content, that’s what other magazines do and I decided that we were going to do that too. So, our launch issue is primarily regurgitated articles from our past magazines, but the publication is beautiful and it features back-to-back places that anyone can visit for an extended weekend and have a wonderful time.

Samir Husni: What’s in your future?

Monique Reidy: I’d like to launch more magazines. They say that magazines are dying, we keep hearing that, but I don’t believe that’s true. I do feel that maybe some different themes are maybe contracting, like all of the celebrity magazines, and there’s quite a number of fashion and beauty magazines, but travel is something that peaks the interest of most people. Most people are tired; they’re stressed out; we live in a society now that’s just pushing us forward, making us think about work, think about achievement, about all kinds of things. We just need to relax; we need to go away; we need to spend time away from the hustle and bustle.

Travel isn’t going anywhere, people will need to take a break, and I think that the travel magazines seem to be doing well. I read over the new MPA guide that has the current research and on every level the travel magazines appear to be doing very well. So, I’d like to stick to that theme. It’s a happy magazine and people like happy things.

Samir Husni: Is it always going to be just weekend escapes?

Monique Reidy: The one thing that I believe will either make or break a publication is it has to be super-niche now because you can’t just join in and do another finance magazine, there are so many of those. And of course, news magazines are gone because by the time you buy a news magazine, you’ve already got the news on your device. So, I think finding this super-niche that’s lacking out in the marketplace is probably key. I don’t necessarily believe that I’ll have to do a travel publication, but certainly with the next launch it’ll be something that doesn’t exist yet.

Samir Husni: Since you moved from being a student of magazines to a magazine publisher, how has that journey been? Has it been a walk in a rose garden?

Monique Reidy: Oh no, and I think anyone in any of those big publishing houses, if they spent 10 minutes with me they would think I was absolutely nuts because we don’t have a business plan, we fly by the seat of our pants, but you know what, when you have a passion for something and you have determination and you’re going after it like a heat-seeking missile, the resources show up. And I know that’s a whole different mentality than many businesspeople are accustomed to, but truly if you’re determined and you’ve got fire in your veins, it just happens because you just make it happen.

And we have people who come to us from places that we didn’t anticipate, they just call and ask for an ad, which in a lot of industries that’s unheard of. But I think that’s largely due to providing a product that people like and people need. So, I was helping other friends, to answer your question, to launch their magazine, because magazines are what I know, it’s what I’ve learned, I have a master’s degree in journalism. I just decided why am I helping everyone else launch magazines, I need to be doing my own.

I will say the one issue that doesn’t quite translate from being a journalism student to being a publisher is you forget that there is the IRS, there’s the EDD, there’s accounting and HR issues, all of those things for those of us who love magazines might not factor in when you’re first launching, (Laughs) but you learn quickly because you have to. That takes a little bit away from the joy of the whole experience, but if you’re going to be an owner of a magazine, a publisher of a magazine, those are things you have to factor in.

Samir Husni: Any regrets? Or you’re having the time of your life?

Monique Reidy: Well, I’m not going to say it’s a piece of cake, it’s a challenge. Because we’re not funded by anyone, this whole ordeal is self-funded, and it’s not easy. However, it does have its positive points. We don’t have a huge board that we have to consult every time we need to make a decision. I don’t have to run it by several departments every time I need to make a change. We’re small, most of our staff, or I should call them team members because they’re not really staff, they’re freelance, and it works, it really does. And I don’t have any regrets. I think that you do the hard work on the frontend, sort of counting the cost of what you’re looking at. I feel hopeful and encouraged, and I love magazines. I love being a part of it. And everyone on my team loves magazines.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in this past year?

Monique Reidy: Well, I hope to launch another title. We have a really big office and I plan to fill it up and we’re growing every month. It’s something that I believe I’ll be doing my whole life, so I’m hoping that a year from now we’ll have grown exponentially and have new goals and new things we’re hoping to achieve. It’s an exciting experience for me, where things just show up. Trust me, I know this is very unconventional, but it’s sort of the way we work around here, and it seems to work.

Samir Husni: As you go through this lifelong adventure, as you called it, if a magazine student came to you with an idea for a new magazine, what would you tell them?

Monique Reidy: We do work with one of the professors from Pepperdine University, from the business school, who does, oddly enough, he evaluates business launches. And we had him do a little bit of research for us prior to launching the first publication. I would suggest that a student do a bit of research prior to just launching any old magazine. The other thing I would say is don’t do something that already exists, and then I would suggest that they find funding first. I put my entire life’s savings into this venture, but not everybody has a little stash put away, so find a partner, find someone who will help support the operation, that’s crucial.

Samir Husni: In your case, would you have done anything differently with your magazines?

Monique Reidy: I don’t think so. I was so passionate about what I wanted to do that I feel as though if I had a partner who I was just bringing on for financial support, I’d have to start doing what they dictated and I am very driven because I believe in what I’m doing and unless the partner had that same passion, I think there would have been a lot more emotional baggage, so to speak.

There are always trade-offs, it would have been easier from a funding standpoint to have a partner, but this way we just move along and we’re flexible. We can adapt and we can do what we believe must be done, and sometimes at the very last minute. We’ve changed covers just before we go to press, and that would probably be a much more daunting task if there were more people involved.

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

Monique Reidy: Well, because you’re involved with students, my suggestion would be; if a student has a desire to be involved with magazines at any level, I think getting as many internships as possible prior to graduating would be smart. You know, we’ve had interns come to us who really know nothing about magazines and they are journalism majors. There is a lot more involved to magazine work than just writing, even if you are a writer.

You need to learn to interview correctly; how to research and how to fact-check. I’m going to guess that you do that, because when I had Eden (Eden Sandlin – a Mr. Magazine™ service journalism magazine student) here as an intern, she seemed to already know, but we get students from other schools who know how to write a piece, but that’s where it all stops. And in order to be marketable in the magazine industry, you have to be pretty well-rounded. And my advice to students would be to get as much of an education as possible while you can.

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

Monique Reidy: I get a great night’s sleep every night. I never have sleeping problems. I have a very big faith in God and I believe that this is a business that I was blessed with and if it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen, and no biggie. We just move on to Plan B. But so far we feel really blessed, and again I’ll stress that it’s not without its challenges, because the magazine business is tough, but you have to learn to roll with the punches and that applies to everything outside of business as well. I think anybody looking to make a happy, successful life needs to learn to be adaptable and to not let the small things keep you up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Farmhouse Style: A New Quarterly Title That Transports You Easily To The Downhome Comforts Of The Farm – From The Publishers Of Country Sampler Magazine – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Susan Wagner, Editor…

August 27, 2018

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.” Susan Wagner…

Available on newsstands and by subscription, Farmhouse Style celebrates the casual, comfortable appeal of today’s popular farmhouse decorating and lifestyle movement. From the folks who bring you Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style is a new quarterly title that celebrates step-by-step DIY projects and fully illustrated decorating tips to create an authentic farmhouse-style look.

Susan Wagner is editor of the magazine and special projects director at Annie’s Publishing, the company that owns Country Sampler, Farmhouse Style, Good Old Days and a variety of titles in crochet, knitting, quilting and cross stitch. But when it comes to their latest offering, Farmhouse Style, they’re “crowing” loudly about its downhome and easy style.

I spoke with Susan recently and we talked about the new magazine and about its $9.99 cover price, something that Susan said reflected the quality content and overall aesthetic of the magazine. With around 50 DIY projects in each issue, complete with full instructions on how to do them, she believes the magazine is worth every penny paid for by their readers. And from the initial response of its audience, the people must agree.

Susan said the tangible product of print had to be the cornerstone of the new brand. While all of the digital components are in place: website and social media, the laid back experience the reader gets from the print foundation is irreplaceable. And the beautiful photographs could only be justified in ink on paper.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy a moment in the “Farmhouse” as we take a walk around the place with our tour guide, Susan Wagner in the Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Farmhouse Style as a quarterly and why now: We have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies. Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do. And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription.

On a letter from a reader begging them not to change anything inside the magazine: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

On why print for the magazine: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

On the $10 cover price and why people are willing to pay it: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

On the future and if she expects to add a younger, more active audience to Farmhouse Style that will also add to Country Sampler’s readership: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

On what other “style” might be in store for Country Sampler: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

On anything she’d like to add: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating. So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Susan Wagner, editor, Farmhouse Style.

Samir Husni: You decided after one test issue to go ahead with Farmhouse Style and publish it as a quarterly magazine, give me some background on this decision. I know you’ve done Country Sampler for years, but why now and why Farmhouse Style?

Susan Wagner: As you said, we have done Country Sampler for years, we started that in the eighties and that has always been our niche publication, country decorating, it’s our strongest suit and where our expertise lies.

Through the years we have also done some other publications and SIPs that were more of a DIY kind of decorating and so we have a lot of staff members with a strong talent in that area as well. We started a few years back, in 2014, doing some SIPs that were focusing a little bit more on DIY decorating, where Country Sampler really is more home tours and this unique kind of magalog area in the back, with these SIPs we did more of an individualized kind of decorating styles and more of these DIY angles.

We did some Christmas ones; we did prairie-style ones; we did different kinds of genres. Last year we decided we would do a farmhouse SIP that would come out in January 2018 and that particular SIP pretty much blew all of the other SIPs away, that one did really well when we compared it to our newsstand figures and our advertising revenue for the other SIPs. It was comparable to when we put out the first Christmas issue, which did really well.

So, we knew that it was a genre and a magazine that resonated very much with our current subscriber base, the people who enjoy Country Sampler, but were also looking to refresh and brighten their homes a little bit more, because the Farmhouse issue is a lighter kind of country and it’s more typical of the type of country decorating we’re seeing or showing up in Today’s Homeowner, a little bit more of the younger and more urban crowd, and a lot of what the shows on the DIY Network and things like that are airing.

That hit really well, so we combined it with our unique look that we’ve created for the SIPs, where we had some home tours of farmhouse decorating, but then we also had our designers work on DIY projects, so we were able to incorporate that. And I think that’s what makes our magazine definitely different than some of the other SIPs or other publications that touch on this look as well. We have that project DIY base in there so that people who love this style can not only see how others are decorating, but they can also create things for themselves to put in their own homes for this style.

So, that first SIP issue did really well for us. As I said, it came out in January 2018 and our sales team had a great success selling it and it had wonderful crossover with our existing subscriber database, plus we had also picked up a lot of new people from the newsstands.

With the success of that first we figured we would do another SIP. And once we started working on the second one for 2018, we just continued to get way above what our plan was as far as the newsstand sales and a lot more advertiser encouragement and we knew that this was an area where we wanted to expand. As a company, we had been looking to see if there was an SIP or title that we could turn into another subscription because we wanted to have an additional subscription besides Country Sampler that could also work within that country decorating realm.

We were always keeping an eye on which SIPs might morph into a subscription and then once we started working on the autumn issue for the Farmhouse again, we had a great response and we knew that was what we wanted to do.

And we started doing some surveys and some early marketing research to see what kind of response we would get, talked with our newsstand people and everything and it was all very positive and the early predicted numbers showed that it seemed like it would be a success. So, we decided to go ahead and put all of our effort into it and turn it into a subscription. And it seems that we were on target with what we did because we’ve been marketing it now, as far as some direct mail pieces and to our existing subscribers for Country Sampler, some ads in the other publications we do, and we have a big chunk of subscribers so far.

And then we have a big direct mail piece that we’ll be sending to outside lists at the end of September. Right now, the early results and the subscriptions that we’re happy with so far that we’ve gotten, have all come from internal outlets. So, we’re expecting of course, once we reach out even farther, to increase that even more.

Samir Husni: I was reading your editorial in the autumn issue and you singled out one reader from Arizona, Kay Connelly, where she is technically begging you to not change a thing in the magazine.

Susan Wagner: And she is one of many. Recently, I was reading something that somebody had sent to us and it’s the same thing. There are so many of them that love that look and they just reach out to us and say that they love everything, don’t change anything about the magazine. And whenever we ask questions about what we can do to improve, they always tell us more issues, publish it more often, which we’d love to do, but finances have to be there.

Samir Husni: Can you in reality hear the crunch of hay under your feet, feel the fresh breeze in your hair and smell those cinnamon buns rising on the stove in any other form than print? Can you do the same thing in digital? Why print?

Susan Wagner: That’s always a thought with print magazines; people will ask, especially in the home décor and DIY end, can’t you just get that off of Pinterest or can’t you just find all of that information online? I truly feel that all the different media that we have all serves a different purpose.

If you’re looking for quick information; if you’re looking for lists of things or some simple stuff or you just want to look up some quick things, online is great for that. Quick ideas there are wonderful. If you want to relax and take a moment to yourself and see these beautiful four-color pictures spread out in front of you, there is nothing like print for that. You can’t really curl up with your computer the same way that you can with a print magazine. You can’t sit on the porch drinking lemonade and page through there and envision yourself in that home and dog-ear the pages and just enjoy the feel of reading a beautiful magazine when you’re scrolling through webpages.

Samir Husni: How do you explain the audience who’s engaging with the magazine and willing to pay the $10 cover price?

Susan Wagner: A $10 cover price for a certain age-range of people is accepted, especially with some magazines being $3.99 or $4.99, but it’s not untypical, we see that in a lot of publishers. What we do is to say to ourselves, for a $10.99 cover price are we giving them that strong value in content. It’s a curated thing.

If you’re browsing on the web and trying to find items for decorating your home and you’re all over the place, but if you know and you trust the Country Sampler editor to give you what you’re looking for because you follow them along and you know they’re really hitting the target, you’ll get that all in that one magazine. And it saves you time, you’re not browsing and browsing online for hours or you’re not getting a magazine somewhere else for $5.99 or $6.99 and maybe one or two articles apply to you.

For a $9.99 price we have a whole section of DIY projects and we’re typically looking at 50 different projects with complete instructions and that’s a lot of content right there. Plus we have the traditional home tours and things that are great to look at. And then we have recipes; various articles, such as growing your own organic produce or raising backyard chickens, things like that.

So, all of that is combined into our Farmhouse Style magazine. And when you think of all of that pulled together, to me, that is definitely worth the $9.99 cover price. And I think nowadays people, if something really resonates with them and they feel like it’s something they can get right in their hands without having to run around all over the place for that, they will pay that higher price point. We definitely see where people are paying a bit of a higher price point for a convenience or something that is really targeted completely to them.

Samir Husni: As you look forward, if you and I are having this conversation a year from now, do you think would you tell me you were able to acquire a younger, more active millennial audience for Farmhouse Style that added to the Country Sampler or do you envision the same audience as Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: Some of our early analysis of the people subscribing and those we have email addresses for after they bought it online, those are tracking a bit younger than the Country Sampler audience and that was always one of our goals in trying to develop another subscription-based title, which was to reach that younger audience. And so definitely that’s a goal with Farmhouse Style, when we create the content that goes in there we’re doing so with the idea of it reaching out to somebody in their thirties or some range such as that.

In the whole general trend of farmhouse decorating, like urban homesteading and things like that, it is a millennial thing. It is a younger audience. It’s people who want to grow their own fruits and vegetables and they want to have fresh eggs in their backyard. If you look at the blogger world and home decorating, it’s a lot of the younger people who are decorating and are out in the blogosphere and showing things.

In fact, in our spring issue we’re doing an article about these two men who used to live in Philadelphia, Penn., in more of an urban area, and they wanted to raise chickens and were getting pushback from the city, and finally that was kind of the impetus they needed to say, okay, we’re definitely moving to the farm, which was something they had always wanted to do. So, they ended up buying some land up in Vermont and now they run an organic flower farm. One of the guys does the organic flower farm and the other one does a bakery, foods and catering. And we’re seeing that a lot. People moving out of the cities or buying land in areas where they can have chickens in their backyards or raise goats or grow fruits and vegetables.

Samir Husni: You have Prairie Style that you still publish on a quarterly basis, so what other style is in store for Country Sampler?

Susan Wagner: We’re always looking at what might work. But what we also have discovered, and this is one area where our Farmhouse Style is a little different than some of the other farmhouse publications out there, our audience is very much a middle-America, common man kind of audience.

Having said that, there are definitely some people in the Chicago area, the urban areas, Indianapolis, places like that, who are more of the un-urban dweller, but we are a smaller town, we’re more middle America; we’re not an L.A., New York kind of audience.

And I think some of the other farmhouse SIPs or some of the other magazines that will touch on farmhouse style, and even some of the TV shows, it ends up being a little more of an upscale kind of farmhouse, where somebody maybe took an old barn and they brought in a designer and paid the designer $500,000 to revamp it for them. And ours is more of a casual, easygoing, relax, this is a place where you can decorate in that look and still have your four little children running around and not worry about them messing something up or breaking something. So, it’s a very approachable, very easy look and I think that’s what makes who our audience is and who we’re reaching with that little difference than some of the others.

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

Susan Wagner: As I was talking about our look with Farmhouse, you had asked if there was another style we were looking into; what was in the future. What I wanted to wrap that around was that we’re always looking at styles like a prairie style or the farmhouse style that is this casual, relaxed comfortable kind of decorating.

So, maybe sometime in the future, maybe a waterfront thing, where it’s lakes and streams and stuff like that, instead of coastal looks. Or maybe it could be more of a Southern look or we’ve talked around the idea of doing an SIP that would be American bungalows or something. It would all be very much the casual, common man with a DIY aspect to it. More so than the designer look of that style.

As far as anything else, we are very much putting everything behind this Farmhouse Style. We’ve created a website; we have the social media sites out there, we have Pinterest, Instagram and a Facebook page for it. We will be doing some additional work with it, because nowadays I feel like print media is not solely print only and I’m sure all the other publishing companies would agree. But what we’re providing to our readers is decorating ideas, decorating styles, inspiration, for this and they can get them in a variety of ways. They can be inspired by looking at the magazine; they can hit an emotional chord by looking at the magazine, they can love the beautiful pictures.

But we can also provide them quick tips and maybe some ideas and some links to other blogs through our website. We’re thinking of doing an editor’s blog where we talk about more of the day-to-day farmhouse related topics and bring in other people. Bring in people to share their memories. With the older crowd we see that people love that about the Farmhouse look, they like being able to share their memories about how they were doing blueberries in their grandmother’s kitchen or something like that.

So, we do have a lot of this in the works, as far as putting more on the website, doing more social media, where we’re really connecting with the readers in a lot more ways. We definitely want to incorporate events, we’ve talked about that, doing different contests and just really trying to connect with them on their level, so it’s not so much just us giving them info, but more of a feel that we’re all part of this Farmhouse family together.

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?

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) I rarely am ever unwinding from a full day of work. I’ll find myself on my computer at 11:00 p.m. just browsing Pinterest or maybe I’m looking up something for myself and I come across farmhouse-related things or other things that I think might be a good idea for the magazine. And I’ll save them or something. But me personally, as far as unwinding from work, I like to be involved in crafting and things like that, so I myself do a lot of DIY home décor type things and I enjoy doing that. But I also like to be outdoors and I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking and hiking and things like that too.

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

Susan Wagner: What I would like them to remember and what I would also like the people I work with and the people I play with to have in their minds is that Susan Wagner is always thinking of new and exciting things to do and will jump in with both feet.

I want to have something interesting to create or work on or to do, whether it’s a new project we’re doing at work and I’m really excited about it, or whether it’s planning a get together for the afternoon with my friends, such as a scavenger hunt that’s really cool. So, she was always coming up with new ideas and very enthusiastically implementing them in a way that got everyone else excited about the project or event as well.

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

Susan Wagner: (Laughs) Deadlines. I think honestly the one thing that keeps me up, especially in the magazine world or in the print world, is just the idea of always staying relevant, because home décor changes with the times, businesses change with the times, trends change with the times. We’re very much aware that Farmhouse is enjoying a great level of interest right now, but where will we be five years from now, 10 years from now, so, I think what keeps me up at night is just making sure that we are always moving in a direction where we’re looking for new things. I’d hate to be involved in a company where they just sat back and said this has always worked for us, we’re just going to keep it that way.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Kalmbach Media’s Strange Science (Magazine): Reverse Engineering Creates And Curates A Digital-To-Print Platform – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steve George, Vice President – Content, Kalmbach Media…

August 23, 2018

“Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.” Steve George…

Kalmbach Media (formerly Kalmbach Publishing) has been around for more than 80 years, offering niche titles such as Model Railroader, Discover, Bead & Button, Classic Toy Trains, and Astronomy, plus many more. The science group of magazines expanded its family recently with a digital-to-print, digest-sized special issue publication called Strange Science, featuring more than 50 strange-but-true stories from every field of scientific inquiry.

I spoke with Steve George, vice president of content at Kalmbach, recently and we talked about this digital-to-print publication that curates popular digital content in a convenient digest print format. Steve is a firm believer in print magazines permanently joining the definition of the word multiplatform. After all, how can you be across all platforms without print. And that’s Kalmbach’s mission, to meet their reader and customer everywhere they want to consume content. And with the digest-sized format of Strange Science, Kalmbach is hoping that science enthusiasts and those of us out there who might not consider ourselves science readers will enjoy the convenience and just outright fun of the magazine.

So, come along with Mr. Magazine™ as we discover the strange world of science together from the man who guides those unusual stories onto the printed page and onto the screen, the Mr. Magazine ™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content, Kalmbach Media.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether the industry is suddenly moving from digital back to print: You’ve said it yourself, it’s not about print versus digital anymore, it’s about delivering what your audience wants on the platform where they want to engage with it. And like so many other publishers, we’re striving to serve up more and more digital content, but we know there is a place for print and we’re still very committed to print and we’re seeing a desire across all demographics to engage with print magazines.

On what has been the early reaction from the audience to the digital-to-print concept: It was pretty strong. In fact, recently we sat down to put together the framework for the second of those SIPs. We know there was a strong response and we definitely saw people who we normally hadn’t seen coming to the site and taking a look, so I think the response has been very favorable for us.

On the changes at Kalmbach, including a new CEO: We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes in the past year with Dan (Hickey) aboard as our CEO, and obviously one thing that he has always emphasized is magazines are going to continue to be a critical part of our business, it’s a strong and profitable area for us, particularly in our hobby magazines, which still contribute hugely to our profits, but we are phase of dramatic digital growth. We have to be, like a lot of publishers. And this is especially true in our science group. I’m sure you’ve seen the magazine media fact book, the MPA numbers; science and technology is the number one growth area by content category. And we’re well-positioned to serve that category, it’s a growth area for us and Dan has identified that as such and we’re pushing hard to grow that category.

On why he thinks the category of science is growing: I think there are several reasons. One overarching factor is that people are looking for great, vetted, factual information, and I think there are a lot of questions about different kinds of science. We’ve seen this at all levels, at the national level. There is a lot of information out there that people aren’t sure about, in terms of the environment or honorary matters of science, so I think that there always has been an interest in science content, but I would say that folks have become keener to find reliable, vetted, well-sourced information and get it in a format in which they want to consume it.

On what role he thinks magazines play in the art of creation and curation of trusted information: Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.

On which he enjoys more, the art of creation or the art of curation: I have a role now where I do a little less creation, and for that matter a little less curation, working with all of the content team who do that. I would say that it’s both. In my younger days when I was mostly a writer, I would said creating, but it’s equally challenging, in some cases, more challenging to edit and curate, find the right mix of content to strengthen your relationship with your readers. And so they both have their joys and their frustrations, but mostly joy. I find both equally rewarding.

On one reason someone should go to the newsstand and buy a copy of Strange Science: One reason? Because it’s fun. It’s a great way to get great science content and if you don’t think of yourself as a reader of science content, this might change your mind. It’s engaging; it’s not highbrow, like a medical journal; it’s very much written for the layperson, but it’s not dumb downed. It’s pure entertainment as well as information and that’s what we want, we want to both inform and delight. So, why wouldn’t you? (Laughs)

On whether there will be more digest-sized titles coming from Kalmbach: I would say that anything is possible, this is really the first digest format that we’ve done. I used to work in digest titles; I was at Prevention for several years and it was one of the great technical challenges, to make a small magazine feel big. I certainly think we managed to do that and we thought it would be a great format to try. As they say, it’s convenient, you can throw it in a bag or practically stick it in your pocket. We just wanted to make it easy and convenient. I can see us doing more in the future. It’s really going to depend on what the content is and what we think the audience will enjoy.

On anything he’d like to add: From the digital-to-print side, we’re just looking for ways to deliver great content to the audience in whatever platform they want. I would say for us, for science, it’s particularly important, as I mentioned, because that’s a big growth area for us, especially for our science group, which is really Discover and Astronomy and we have an ecommerce store that’s My Science Shop. It’s a big growth area for us and we intend to offer marketing institutions a large science media platform, coupled with new and exciting ways to engage with science enthusiasts and thought-leaders.

On what keeps him up at night: What doesn’t keep me up at night? (Laughs) I’m a champion worrywart. I always worry about doing enough for readers and our customers. I think a lot about my content team, trying to give them the resources and support they need. Content is the lifeblood of what we do and so my teams and our readers are eminently worth worrying about.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve George, vice president – content, Kalmbach Media.

Samir Husni: Are we suddenly seeing this move from digital to print? Is the industry getting smarter, utilizing all of that free content that was once on digital, and now selling it between the pages of print?

Steve George: (Laughs) Well, I’d like to think so. You’ve said it yourself, it’s not about print versus digital anymore, it’s about delivering what your audience wants on the platform where they want to engage with it. And like so many other publishers, we’re striving to serve up more and more digital content, but we know there is a place for print and we’re still very committed to print and we’re seeing a desire across all demographics to engage with print magazines. Especially one you can just toss into your beach bag and not worry about dropping it into the sand or trying to read it in direct sunlight. As a lean-back experience it’s still a great form of entertainment and information for lots of people.

So, for us, we have content that we have online and some of it is part of a paid subscription, some of it, as you say, is out there in the wild for free, but we wanted to curate some of that and put it into a print format that folks would engage with. Strange Science is our first for science brands, for Discover, but this is something that we’ve also done in our hobby titles. Back in May we had another digital-to-print product with a model railroading SIP, Model Railroading – The Ultimate Guide and that was content that was originally video content curated from our subscription site, Model Railroader Video Plus.

From there, the opportunity was again to engage with our readers in a format that they would enjoy, but also to create a relationship with them, where we could entice them to see what else we have to offer online. And in that particular case with Model Railroading, we had strong links from that print content back to videos on the site, and our goal there was to hopefully get them to see what else we had to offer and become subscribers to that video service.

Samir Husni: What has been the early reception from the audience to that whole digital-to-print concept?

Steve George: It was pretty strong. In fact, recently we sat down to put together the framework for the second of those SIPs. We know there was a strong response and we definitely saw people who we normally hadn’t seen coming to the site and taking a look, so I think the response has been very favorable for us.

Obviously, with Strange Science it’s very early days. We have the digital edition and that’s pretty inception level stuff, digital-to-print-to-digital edition. The newsstand copy just came out and so we’re expecting that people are going to respond to it. Not just our core readers, but with Strange Science we wanted to satisfy all of our readers, insatiable curiosity. And go beyond our base to create relationships with new readers, including younger readers who might not self-identify as science readers, but who’d be into the wild mix of topics that we present. And with something like Strange Science being engaging enough to start a relationship with them so they might come and see what else we have to offer both online and on our other platforms throughout the brands that we have in our science category.

Samir Husni: Since the last time you and I chatted, a lot has happened at your company, including a new CEO.

Steve George: We’ve certainly seen a lot of changes in the past year with Dan (Hickey) aboard as our CEO, and obviously one thing that he has always emphasized is magazines are going to continue to be a critical part of our business, it’s a strong and profitable area for us, particularly in our hobby magazines, which still contribute hugely to our profits, but we are phase of dramatic digital growth. We have to be, like a lot of publishers.

And this is especially true in our science group. I’m sure you’ve seen the magazine media fact book, the MPA numbers; science and technology is the number one growth area by content category. And we’re well-positioned to serve that category, it’s a growth area for us and Dan has identified that as such and we’re pushing hard to grow that category.

Samir Husni: As someone who has worked in that category for the last six-plus years, can you identify one or two areas in that specific category that would point out why it is growing so much?

Steve George: I think there are several reasons. One overarching factor is that people are looking for great, vetted, factual information, and I think there are a lot of questions about different kinds of science. We’ve seen this at all levels, at the national level. There is a lot of information out there that people aren’t sure about, in terms of the environment or honorary matters of science, so I think that there always has been an interest in science content, but I would say that folks have become keener to find reliable, vetted, well-sourced information and get it in a format in which they want to consume it.

And from my own experience, and I’ve done science writing, especially on the medical side, for the better part of two decades, in many ways as a reader you see that interest continue to grow. People want to know more about the latest advancements not only in terms of just medicine overall, but in regards to their own personal health and wellbeing. We see that interest growing year over year.

Beyond that, I think people are naturally curious and I don’t think that diminishes over time, so we want to find ways that we can satisfy that curiosity across a variety of platforms, including this new SIP we’re just putting out.

Samir Husni: I was looking at some of the statistics that were released recently that show magazines are the most trusted news media out there, with 80 percent of the people trusting magazines more than any other outlet, including television and radio. And it drops all the way to 38 percent for social media. What role do you think magazines play in that art of creation and curation of that trusted information?

Steve George: Coming back to some fundamentals that we who love magazines have been talking about for years. I think there’s a physical, tangible reality to magazines that you don’t get online. There’s a durability there in a print product and to a certain extent, there’s a promise that the time and effort that would go into creating and editing and vetting that content in a more durable form, whereas I think online, and we’re seeing this, it’s a voracious beast, where you have to constantly be cranking out new content.

Then you end up having a lot of content that just flies through people’s feeds very quickly and some of it is not accurate. You don’t know who the source is necessarily, you don’t know what their agenda is, if they have one, and I think folks are more cognitive of that. And once again, I think with magazines there is a durability and an implied commitment to quality, which we certainly strive to fulfill. And not just in the science content. Across our hobby titles we have the leading experts in those different areas of passion. And we don’t skimp on finding and creating the best possible information to help people satisfy their passions. There is an authenticity that, certainly for Kalmbach, we have more than 80 years of commitment to. That’s an important part of who we are and we’re not going to diminish it or lose that.

Samir Husni: Which of the two do you enjoy more, the art of creation or the art of curation?

Steve George: I have a role now where I do a little less creation, and for that matter a little less curation, working with all of the content team who do that. I would say that it’s both. In my younger days when I was mostly a writer, I would said creating, but it’s equally challenging, in some cases, more challenging to edit and curate, find the right mix of content to strengthen your relationship with your readers. And so they both have their joys and their frustrations, but mostly joy. I find both equally rewarding.

Samir Husni: Give me one reason why I should go to the newsstands and buy a copy of Strange Science.

Steve George: One reason? Because it’s fun. It’s a great way to get great science content and if you don’t think of yourself as a reader of science content, this might change your mind. It’s engaging; it’s not highbrow, like a medical journal; it’s very much written for the layperson, but it’s not dumb downed. It’s pure entertainment as well as information and that’s what we want, we want to both inform and delight. So, why wouldn’t you? (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Are we going to see more of those digest-sized titles coming from Kalmbach?

Steve George: I would say that anything is possible, this is really the first digest format that we’ve done. I used to work in digest titles; I was at Prevention for several years and it was one of the great technical challenges, to make a small magazine feel big. I certainly think we managed to do that and we thought it would be a great format to try. As they say, it’s convenient, you can throw it in a bag or practically stick it in your pocket. We just wanted to make it easy and convenient. I can see us doing more in the future. It’s really going to depend on what the content is and what we think the audience will enjoy.

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

Steve George: From the digital-to-print side, we’re just looking for ways to deliver great content to the audience in whatever platform they want. I would say for us, for science, it’s particularly important, as I mentioned, because that’s a big growth area for us, especially for our science group, which is really Discover and Astronomy and we have an ecommerce store that’s My Science Shop. It’s a big growth area for us and we intend to offer marketing institutions a large science media platform, coupled with new and exciting ways to engage with science enthusiasts and thought-leaders.

From a content perspective we have a lot of stuff that’s digital-first, but our overarching goal is going to be to create multiplatform content that’s engaging to readers and attractive to advertisers. And that is something that we’re committed to on the science side, we’re committed to bringing back national advertisers to Discover and the key to that is a multiplatform approach that includes print as well as native and sponsored content. We’re already seeing some real successes there, but we’re going to continue to grow. We’re going to look at everything from acquisitions to new product launches in order to reach and grow those audiences, both in the science and the hobby space.

For us that means we’re creating a customer journey. We’re going to build and strengthen relationships. Someone will start on the newsstand with a product like Strange Science or Model Railroading, and then they could purchase a paid video product or maybe it’s a subscription box. It’s an exciting time for us and for our current and future customers. That’s where a lot of us are spending our energies right now, making that journey a successful and satisfying one, and strengthening those relationships, which we as a company have had a very long and distinguished career at building and maintaining.

Samir Husni: Last time we spoke I asked you what kept you up at night and you said that you were wondering if you were doing enough for readers and your customers. Is that still keeping you up at night?

Steve George: What doesn’t keep me up at night? (Laughs) I’m a champion worrywart. I always worry about doing enough for readers and our customers. I think a lot about my content team, trying to give them the resources and support they need. Content is the lifeblood of what we do and so my teams and our readers are eminently worth worrying about.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Rosa Magazine: In The Spirit Of The Phenomenal Rosa Parks, A Magazine That’s Intention Is To Be A Catalyst For Change As It Honors Women In Power & Politics, Both Past And Present – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sandra Long, Publisher/Editor In Chief, Rosa Magazine…

June 28, 2018

“I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.”…Sandra Long


A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Rosa Magazine is a new title that honors women in power and politics, past, present and future ones. Its goal is to always be non-partisan and simply tell the stories of these important women of history and of those that will someday have a page in our world’s chronicles of time. It’s an arduous goal, but one that Publisher and Editor in Chief, Sandra Long is determined to reach.

Sandra is a woman who is very much Rosa material herself, having once held the position of Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, second in command of Maryland’s chief agency on commerce and industry. Her historical appointment marked the first for a woman or African American to this post in America. Quite an achievement and one that certainly qualifies her for the magazine’s tagline: Women in Power & Politics.

I spoke with Sandra recently and we talked about this fantastic new magazine that encourages women to make a stand for change in whatever areas of interest they may have. And as Sandra writes in her publisher’s letter in the premier issue: sometimes to change the system and the outcome of issues that we care about, we must hold political office.

And as for why she chose print as the perfect format for Rosa, according to Sandra, it’s about the look and feel of Rosa and how that resonates with readers right along with the content. And her firm belief that print is still a viable and prosperous technology for today’s world.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a delightful woman who knows her way around the world of politics and is quickly learning the many facets that make up the magazine universe, Sandra Long, publisher and editor in chief, Rosa magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the genesis of Rosa magazine: Rosa magazine is actually my second magazine, but I started it because I came out of, when I was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I came out of that political environment and I’ve always been politically active and my family has too. One of my distant cousins served in the United States Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, and my folks are from Dallas. We just believe in telling good stories, and for Rosa it’s about telling good stories of what women have done politically and how we have impacted everything from the starting of the country to our political system today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve done in our past and also what we’re doing currently as we look to run for office and impact change.

On naming the magazine Rosa: Naming it Rosa was just in the spirit of Rosa Parks, in her image, that honesty and integrity, making a stand for something. And even though it’s not named after her directly, it is in that spirit. We wanted it to be able to tell people that Rosa Parks stood for something against all things. She made a stand. And today when we look at our political environment, it’s the things that we can do; we can make a stand. And it doesn’t have to be rowdy and unruly, but it can be where someone is just making a point.

On whether she is not only launching a magazine, but a movement as well: Our intent is to be able to start a movement. We want it to be able to grow naturally and organically; we think the time politically is right now when you look around and see what’s happening. There are more women who are running for office, and so this is probably the best time to launch a magazine around women in politics. I think it can be the beginning of a movement that helps spur more women into political office, locally and nationally. But it’s something that I’m not going to push out into the world, but just let it evolve naturally. And I think it will. I think women will gravitate toward having a magazine that is politically for them.

On why she decided on a print magazine: My family has been in print for almost 100 years. My great-grandfather did print and these were the old black newspapers, and my family also owns one of the oldest black newspapers in Dallas today. And so, I’ve always been partial to print. And contrary to popular belief, I do not think print is dead. I think the Internet is so large and there’s so much to search for, it’s still nice to be able to pick up a magazine and read.

On which career was easier, being the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, being in politics, or being a journalist/publisher/editor: That’s a great question. Really, it’s an easy question, because I’m going to tell you, I really think being deputy secretary was easier than being a journalist and a publisher. It’s difficult, because you have to try to understand your marketplace and who you’re writing for, you have to get the story right. We have to engage writers of all backgrounds, there is a lot to it, and that’s just the editorial side. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, you already know all of this. There are so many moving parts to it.

On whether she can really keep Rosa magazine non-partisan: The mission of Rosa is to definitely be non-partisan, to write about both sides of an issue and leave the readers to make their own decisions. We’re not trying to lean them either way, which honestly is the difficult part. And I’ll give you a great example. In the inauguration issue we had a story about political rhetoric and in that we just happened to use President Trump and the gentleman who started this big thing on political rhetoric, we used those two photos. And I’ll tell you, we did get some emails about using those, but had they read the story instead of just thinking that we were making a play after President Trump, they would have found that we were not. But he is a master at political language; he is a master at that and you have to give him that. So, I think it’s going to be hard, a very difficult task.

On what she hopes to say about Rosa magazine after the next 12 months: That’s a great question. I sit and think about what impact Rosa can make over the next 12 months, because we’ll be knee-deep in looking at that next presidential election; we’ll be approaching 2020. So, the impact that we want to be able to have, that I think Rosa will have, is to be able to bring women together, to say here is a magazine that has stories with women in political office, whether they’re running or whether they’re in their communities, what are they doing politically, and that they will see Rosa as a connector across the country. If we have done that and done that well, then we’ve accomplished what the mission of Rosa is meant to be.

On the largest stumbling block she thinks she’ll have to face: Here is the largest stumbling block, because sustainability in any effort, any venture, is key. Once you feel like you’re hitting your niche, then how are you going to sustain that? For us, one of the toughest challenges is that sustainability looks like advertising, because there is only so much self-funding that I can do. And we’re going to need to get advertisers; we’re going to have to take on people who are experts in the industry to be able to help us get the right advertisers.

On the most pleasant moment so far: The most pleasant moment was actually getting the magazine in my hand and being able to turn that page when it came from the printer, and just to look and ask was this the intent when we put this into print? Our designer, Matt Williams, is just brilliant, and when we turned that page, I have to tell you, I felt like it was a great nod to the women of our past and to the ones that are now, I think it was a job well done. That was an exciting moment.

On why she chose to publish in Nashville: Nashville, for me, is home and I know a lot of people here. And it’s a growing city. Nashville in its heyday was a publishing city and we had Printer’s Alley. We did a lot of the major magazines and we still do a lot of work on major magazines in print. I know some people might say that we need to be in New York or in Washington, but we can get there from Nashville, Tenn. I think it’s just a different mindset in Nashville. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, it’s always been my spiritual center. And so when I come to Nashville, I get clarity on what it is I feel like I’m supposed to be doing to impact the world personally.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I’m doing one of two things, I’m either on Texture looking at magazine design, because that’s one of the things that I just love and it relaxes me. I just want to look and see what other designers are doing, it keeps us creative. And I’m probably watching some girly show – Real Housewives or something, if I’m not reading. But I have to tell you, to relax sometimes I’m watching some kind of reality TV show. I’ll indulge for at least an hour, so you’ll find me doing those things for sure.

On how she would like to be remembered: Probably service to mankind. I want to be known for service, that’s all I want to be known for. That I just wanted to serve people in the particular way that God gave me with my skillset, because there are some things that I’m not good at and most people who know me will tell you. (Laughs) Oh no, Ms. Long, she’s not good at that. (Laughs again) Or she’s successfully good at this; I am good at concepts and implementing. But it is always to be of service. So, if there’s anything I want people to remember about me or to be etched in stone or in the brains of people, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

On what keeps her up at night: There isn’t a lot that keeps me up at night, because from the moment that my feet hit the ground in the morning, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m running hard every, single day, so by the time I get to sleep, I am a sound sleeper. There’s not anything that I’m really concerned about other than just making sure that I am doing all that I can do to give the magazine the right voice and the right life that it deserves. Nothing lasts forever, there’s a time and a season for everything. I just happen to think that this is Rosa’s season. That this is the time for a magazine of this caliber and with this target and mission.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sandra Long, publisher/editor in chief, Rosa magazine.

Samir Husni: Congratulations on the launch of Rosa magazine. You’re a woman of many accomplishments and now you’re diving into the world of magazines and journalism. Tell me about Rosa.

Sandra Long: Rosa magazine is actually my second magazine, but I started it because I came out of, when I was Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I came out of that political environment and I’ve always been politically active and my family has too. One of my distant cousins served in the United States Congress, Eddie Bernice Johnson from Dallas, and my folks are from Dallas. We just believe in telling good stories, and for Rosa it’s about telling good stories of what women have done politically and how we have impacted everything from the starting of the country to our political system today. I wanted to highlight some of the things that we’ve done in our past and also what we’re doing currently as we look to run for office and impact change.

Samir Husni: Can you reconstruct that a-ha moment when you decided to call the magazine Rosa? How did the name come into being?

Sandra Long: That’s a great question. Even though we just launched this past March, I probably had the idea over two years ago and probably longer than that, but I just wasn’t in a position to understand what Rosa really was, you know you have to decide and define what is it. What kind of stories are you going to tell? So, even in my soul-searching about designing the magazine and what the format was going to be, it took a while. So, we’ve had the idea for a while.

Naming it Rosa was just in the spirit of Rosa Parks, in her image, that honesty and integrity, making a stand for something. And even though it’s not named after her directly, it is in that spirit. We wanted it to be able to tell people that Rosa Parks stood for something against all things. She made a stand. And today when we look at our political environment, it’s the things that we can do; we can make a stand. And it doesn’t have to be rowdy and unruly, but it can be where someone is just making a point.

So, I decided to name the magazine Rosa because I think it has substance, that name in and of itself, what it means has substance. I just wanted women to have a magazine that represented them, and it’s non-partisan. I wanted this to be a voice for women, for them to be able to express themselves politically and with issues that relate to that. So, that’s how I laid the foundation.

Samir Husni: In the magazine, your introduction has so many illustrations, such as the T-shirt “I am Rosa, I am Rosa.” In addition to launching the magazine, are you in the process of starting a movement, like the French with “I am Charlie?”

Sandra Long: Our intent is to be able to start a movement. We want it to be able to grow naturally and organically; we think the time politically is right now when you look around and see what’s happening. There are more women who are running for office, and so this is probably the best time to launch a magazine around women in politics. I think it can be the beginning of a movement that helps spur more women into political office, locally and nationally. But it’s something that I’m not going to push out into the world, but just let it evolve naturally. And I think it will. I think women will gravitate toward having a magazine that is politically for them.

We’ve done tests for all of these different age groups, the younger – the millennials, and I will tell you that it’s really amazing to see the reception from each one of those age groups, even the millennials. And we’re proud of that. So, to answer your question, we sure hope it starts a movement, but we’re going to just naturally let it happen.

And I think social media, as we all know, gives us that great presence. You can build a movement online, and I think we’ll do a lot of that. Now, we’ll need help to be able to do it, but we’ll definitely lay that foundation for that.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to publish a print magazine?

Sandra Long: There are two reasons. Number one, my family has been in print for almost 100 years. My great-grandfather did print and these were the old black newspapers, and my family also owns one of the oldest black newspapers in Dallas today. And so, I’ve always been partial to print. And contrary to popular belief, I do not think print is dead. I think the Internet is so large and there’s so much to search for, it’s still nice to be able to pick up a magazine and read.

And because I am partial to print magazines, I still think there is a market for them. And when we had women pick it up, the look and feel of Rosa resonated with people and to be able to turn that page was important. Women still buy magazines, whether it’s fashion or, as we hope, political, they’re still buying magazines. I was firm that it had to be print. We will transition to do a little bit online, just to be able to feed that marketplace. But we’ll do print as long as they are supporting it.

Samir Husni: Which career was easier, being the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce, being in politics, or being a journalist/publisher/editor?

Sandra Long: (Laughs) That’s a great question. Really, it’s an easy question, because I’m going to tell you, I really think being deputy secretary was easier than being a journalist and a publisher. It’s difficult, because you have to try to understand your marketplace and who you’re writing for, you have to get the story right. We have to engage writers of all backgrounds, there is a lot to it, and that’s just the editorial side. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, you already know all of this. There are so many moving parts to it.

And even though my family has been in the business, I did not print those things, I was in and around it, but to do it yourself and to pull your own team together and to try and get the voice right is hard. The voice of Rosa magazine has to be right, and it’s really difficult. But deputy secretary is probably a close second, it was hard. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: You’re trying to make Rosa apolitical in the divided sea that exists in our country. Is it possible to create something today that’s apolitical or isn’t on the right or on the left?

Sandra Long: The mission of Rosa is to definitely be non-partisan, to write about both sides of an issue and leave the readers to make their own decisions. We’re not trying to lean them either way, which honestly is the difficult part. And I’ll give you a great example. In the inauguration issue we had a story about political rhetoric and in that we just happened to use President Trump and the gentleman who started this big thing on political rhetoric, we used those two photos. And I’ll tell you, we did get some emails about using those, but had they read the story instead of just thinking that we were making a play after President Trump, they would have found that we were not. But he is a master at political language; he is a master at that and you have to give him that. So, I think it’s going to be hard, a very difficult task.

When we have our writer’s meetings, we are looking at every story, all of the language. What does this say to our readers? And are we really writing down the middle as we tell these stories of the past, present and future? It’s tremendously difficult, I have to tell you. I’m hoping that we hit the mark, but I also think the readers will keep us honest in that. Some of the women who were in office would say a certain story wasn’t non-political, that it had a slant to it, so we have to try and avoid that, it’s not what we want. We want to bring the nation of women, and male readers too, we have readers that are men; we want to bring the nation together. Or at least do our part.

Samir Husni: You’re referring to the article “Speaking in Code,” correct?

Sandra Long: Yes.

Samir Husni: It’s a great illustration, among other things, for the opening spread. So, tell me, if you and I are speaking a year from now and I ask you to tell me about Rosa, what would you hope to say?

Sandra Long: That’s a great question. I sit and think about what impact Rosa can make over the next 12 months, because we’ll be knee-deep in looking at that next presidential election; we’ll be approaching 2020. So, the impact that we want to be able to have, that I think Rosa will have, is to be able to bring women together, to say here is a magazine that has stories with women in political office, whether they’re running or whether they’re in their communities, what are they doing politically, and that they will see Rosa as a connector across the country. If we have done that and done that well, then we’ve accomplished what the mission of Rosa is meant to be.

One of my favorite stories in this issue is about a young lady named Blair, who is out of South Carolina and she’s young, but she ran for state office and she won. And so it’s important to have people look at that. Other young women who might have an interest in politics, to see that you can do it. Not everyone is going to want to run and win, but to just be in the ring is the idea. At least I threw my little Chanel hat into the ring. So, that’s what we’re hoping Rosa will accomplish. A year from now, I’m telling you if we can do that, then we will have done something that’s great.

Samir Husni: As we look ahead, as you look at Rosa and at the entire spectrum of women in power in politics, what do you feel will be the largest stumbling block you’ll have to face and how will you overcome it?

Sandra Long: Here is the largest stumbling block, because sustainability in any effort, any venture, is key. Once you feel like you’re hitting your niche, then how are you going to sustain that? For us, one of the toughest challenges is that sustainability looks like advertising, because there is only so much self-funding that I can do. And we’re going to need to get advertisers; we’re going to have to take on people who are experts in the industry to be able to help us get the right advertisers.

I think there’s a tremendous base of people who want more say, who want to be a part of Rosa magazine or are geared toward our audience. So, that’s probably my biggest challenge, if I’m being honest. I know that they will come. I did it without even thinking. Initially, it was a passion project coming out of the gate. It wasn’t where I was thinking we had to make sure we have advertisers, so I think we have to work for them now.

But here’s the thing, we have a product that they can hold in their hands and look at. It’s already on Barnes & Noble’s stands nationwide, but we’re going to need some help when it comes to finding people that believe in advertising in the magazine.

Samir Husni: What has been the most pleasant moment so far?

Sandra Long: The most pleasant moment was actually getting the magazine in my hand and being able to turn that page when it came from the printer, and just to look and ask was this the intent when we put this into print? Our designer, Matt Williams, is just brilliant, and when we turned that page, I have to tell you, I felt like it was a great nod to the women of our past and to the ones that are now, I think it was a job well done. That was an exciting moment.

But for me, I don’t relish too long, I will just say okay now, what’s next? (Laughs) At least, that’s what the staff says, they’ll say let’s just enjoy for a moment. But that was probably the most enjoyable moment for me. I’m just excited for the next issue, there are so many stories to be told.

Samir Husni: Why did you choose to publish in Nashville?

Sandra Long: Nashville, for me, is home and I know a lot of people here. And it’s a growing city. Nashville in its heyday was a publishing city and we had Printer’s Alley. We did a lot of the major magazines and we still do a lot of work on major magazines in print. I know some people might say that we need to be in New York or in Washington, but we can get there from Nashville, Tenn. I think it’s just a different mindset in Nashville. And it’s also, for lack of a better word, it’s always been my spiritual center. And so when I come to Nashville, I get clarity on what it is I feel like I’m supposed to be doing to impact the world personally.

We may open another office, and I know that we will open an office in D.C. that will be an editorial office, probably sooner rather than later, but for now the main office is in Nashville and I anticipate we’ll be here for the next year or two.

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?

Sandra Long: I’m doing one of two things, I’m either on Texture looking at magazine design, because that’s one of the things that I just love and it relaxes me. I just want to look and see what other designers are doing, it keeps us creative. And I’m probably watching some girly show – Real Housewives or something, if I’m not reading. But I have to tell you, to relax sometimes I’m watching some kind of reality TV show. I’ll indulge for at least an hour, so you’ll find me doing those things for sure.

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

Sandra Long: Probably service to mankind. I want to be known for service, that’s all I want to be known for. That I just wanted to serve people in the particular way that God gave me with my skillset, because there are some things that I’m not good at and most people who know me will tell you. (Laughs) Oh no, Ms. Long, she’s not good at that. (Laughs again) Or she’s successfully good at this; I am good at concepts and implementing. But it is always to be of service. So, if there’s anything I want people to remember about me or to be etched in stone or in the brains of people, that’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

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

Sandra Long: There isn’t a lot that keeps me up at night, because from the moment that my feet hit the ground in the morning, I know what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m running hard every, single day, so by the time I get to sleep, I am a sound sleeper. There’s not anything that I’m really concerned about other than just making sure that I am doing all that I can do to give the magazine the right voice and the right life that it deserves. Nothing lasts forever, there’s a time and a season for everything. I just happen to think that this is Rosa’s season. That this is the time for a magazine of this caliber and with this target and mission.

So, anything that weighs on my mind a little bit is about whether I’m doing everything that I need to do to move it along, but not where it is so forced and so pushed, but definitely where people will embrace it. And hopefully they will do that.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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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.

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