Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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Sports History Magazine: A New Publication That Revisits Some Of The Best & Most Provocative Moments In The World Of Sports – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Gill Schor, Founder & Editor In Chief…

May 7, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“The digital platform is basically to collect all of the articles that I’ve been writing myself and other authors and journalists, and put them in a digital archive that’s available to a readership. And along with that goes out a weekly newsletter to interested parties. Now, I wanted to do a print version of that because it’s very hard for me to make money on the digital end, so I figured if I do the print I could try and explore ways through subscriptions, advertising and newsstand sales to see if I could monetize the idea of Sports History Magazine.” Gill Schor…

Sports History Magazine is a new publication that focuses on the history of sports, not today’s live streaming or the graphic replays of gridiron heroes in real time, but an actual ink on paper magazine that captures the essence of some of the best (and worst) times in the history of sports. From the black and white photographs that take us all back to those times, to the engaging stories that pull back the edges of the eras to allow us to once again revel in those great sports moments.

Gill Schor is the entrepreneur whose own passion for sports history motivated him to fill a void in this very niche market. From banker to transportation guru, Gill has expertise in a wide field of businesses, but publishing is something that he is tackling as he goes forward. But his passion is serving him well as the magazine’s content is both engaging and spot on for the topic.

I spoke with Gill recently and we talked about his hopes for this new magazine and what he believes his target audience to be; sports history buffs, of course, but curious millennials as well. The future for this magazine seems bright.

So, I hope that you enjoy this very interesting conversation with a man who is both an entrepreneur and a passionate dreamer who has brought his chimera to life, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gill Schor, founder and editor in chief, Sports History Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On the idea behind the print magazine and the digital website: The digital platform is basically to collect all of the articles that I’ve been writing myself and other authors and journalists, and put them in a digital archive that’s available to a readership. And along with that goes out a weekly newsletter to interested parties. Now, I wanted to do a print version of that because it’s very hard for me to make money on the digital end, so I figured if I do the print I could try and explore ways through subscriptions, advertising and newsstand sales to see if I could monetize the idea of Sports History Magazine.

On his decision to do a sports history title: I was a banker by profession and I was laid off during the Great Recession in 2008, and then I started my own business but sold it, and then I wanted to venture into publishing. I’ve always enjoyed sports history in particular, reading stories about athletes, games and events from the past. Everything today is all streamed, or live, and graphic, but I wanted to stick to some traditional media form, the written word. And I was also a history major in college, so that was also the knowledge behind my mind.

On having no background in publishing and launching a magazine anyway: With no background in publishing, that’s correct, but some background in writing. It was a lot of trial and error and I see myself as an entrepreneur more than anything else, because before this I ran a transportation company, which I sold and before that I was in finance. I would say that my expertise is my knowledge of a little bit of everything, not a lot of one thing. I did a lot of reading and I spoke to people in the industry, I have some contacts in the industry, and very slowly I’m making my way into the business. Every day you learn something new. And it’s picking up some traction. So the challenge right now is to find the sweet spots to the business model.

On what he thinks the “sweet spots” to the business model are: I think it’s a combination of advertising, newsstand sales, and subscriptions. Combine that with a well-written and well-presented sports history magazine and I think that can work.

On why he thinks there’s a necessity for a print publication about sports history: I think there’s definitely an opportunity out there. If you go to Barnes & Noble’s newsstands, you’ll see dozens and dozens of publications out there that are broken up into every single niche you can imagine. So, maybe not all of them make money, but some of them make money. And there’s a reason why they’re there, why they haven’t disappeared.

On how he felt when he saw that first printed issue: It was a wonderful feeling to get the first issue, but it needed revisions because what you do on the screen and how you lay it out, you really need to see it in your hands and on paper. The first copy that came out, I wasn’t too satisfied with it. I loved the concept and I saw the potential, but the actual copy that I got, I wasn’t too happy with it. So, I went back to the designer and worked with her a little bit more, and we did a second revision and then the second copy that came out, I was happy.

On the biggest challenge that he faces: I think the biggest challenge that I’m facing right now is finding the money to support the venture. Right now, I have all of the content that I need; I’ve accumulated enough articles and photographs for probably two years’ worth of issues. But what I need is the money to launch and to do the primary investment and go forward. So, I can do limited editions, limited prints, but if I want to do 15, 000 or 20,000 copies and spread it to the world, right now I can’t afford that.

On whether the magazine is more of a love affair or a business: The part that I love about publishing now is, again, the novelty side of it and the topics. I love sports history. I’ve gotten a lot of kudos for the idea and people read through them and they like them. I think it can be a good business.

On who his target audience is: The audience is people of all ages, but they have to have a specific interest in the history of sports. In other words, with some of the baby Boomers, it may bring some nostalgia on their end if they start reading stories about their sports heroes when they grew up. They’ll see photographs of these people, black and white photographs, and it might ring some bells in their heads. That’s one segment of the population. The other one is young folks who are curious, curious about sports history, or the ones who have kind of had enough of their fill of the latest scores or what’s going on now. These graphic streams that go into their handheld devices, maybe they want some substance and some real history. There are people like that out there as well.

On the one thing he would have done different with the launch if he could do it over today: I think I could have controlled my costs better, because at the outset I really didn’t know much about the business, so it was basically learn as you go. I spent some money in areas which I think I shouldn’t have, it just didn’t work out and it was a waste. So, it was a learning experience. Some digital marketing ventures and some other places where I put money in. I learned those lessons.

On what he would like to do or tell someone he had accomplished with the magazine a year from now: A year from now what I would like to do is have a partner in the launch. Somebody who is either in the business as a media company or somebody who has financial resources, such as an investment group who wants to get into the business. So, a year from now I’d like to say that I had partnered with some people and we have a circulation of at least 5,000 or 10,000 out there with subscriptions and good acceptance in the market.

On anything he’d like to add: Sports History is a very interesting topic. Most people enjoy sports, maybe they haven’t been presented with sports history, but it’s something that people would enjoy reading and going through photographs and learning about sports history stories. They might have a lot of these a-ha moments, wow I didn’t know that, type of thing from some of these articles.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people might have about him: I know I have admirers and sometimes they might think more of me than what I am, because they see me remotely. They might think that I’ve achieved more than I have, but I try to keep myself very basic, very grounded. I don’t talk big or way over my head. But they know when I grab something, when I’m serious about something, I take it all the way.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Driven with ideas, good business sense, good vision, good planning, good coordination, good organization, just a good head on his shoulders.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: You could find me reading a book or having dinner with my family, maybe watching a movie on TV, or going to the gym.

On what keeps him up at night: Fear of failure. That’s always kept me up; I don’t like to fail. I’ve failed in the past, yes, you can’t make it without failing once or twice, you can’t, because otherwise you’re not taking the risks. Fear of failure is what keeps me up. I’m healthy and my family is healthy, so thankfully those kind of worries aren’t there.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Gil Schor, founder and editor in chief, Sports History Magazine.

Samir Husni: You’ve just launched a new magazine, Sports History, and you’ve launched a weekly digital entity, Sports History Weekly, what’s the idea behind doing the print edition and also doing the website?

Gill Schor: The digital platform is basically to collect all of the articles that I’ve been writing myself and other authors and journalists, and put them in a digital archive that’s available to a readership. And along with that goes out a weekly newsletter to interested parties. Now, I wanted to do a print version of that because it’s very hard for me to make money on the digital end, so I figured if I do the print I could try and explore ways through subscriptions, advertising and newsstand sales to see if I could monetize the idea of Sports History Magazine.

Samir Husni: Are you a historian? Are you a magazine fanatic? Why did you decide to start this whole venture?

Gill Schor: I was a banker by profession and I was laid off during the Great Recession in 2008, and then I started my own business but sold it, and then I wanted to venture into publishing. I’ve always enjoyed sports history in particular, reading stories about athletes, games and events from the past. Everything today is all streamed, or live, and graphic, but I wanted to stick to some traditional media form, the written word. And I was also a history major in college, so that was also the knowledge behind my mind.

So, slowly I got the idea. I looked around and saw that there were no publications out there that focused exclusively on sports history. You’ve certainly got tons of magazines on sports, Sports Illustrated being one of the most famous ones. And occasionally they might have an article or two on some figure or events from the past, but there’s nobody out there that just focuses on sports history as a magazine in itself. So, I decided to take advantage of this vacuum and launch something on my own.

Samir Husni: With no background in publishing whatsoever, how did you do it?

Gill Schor: With no background in publishing, that’s correct, but some background in writing. It was a lot of trial and error and I see myself as an entrepreneur more than anything else, because before this I ran a transportation company, which I sold and before that I was in finance. I would say that my expertise is my knowledge of a little bit of everything, not a lot of one thing. I did a lot of reading and I spoke to people in the industry, I have some contacts in the industry, and very slowly I’m making my way into the business. Every day you learn something new. And it’s picking up some traction. So the challenge right now is to find the sweet spots to the business model.

Samir Husni: What do you think that sweet spot is?

Gill Schor: I think it’s a combination of advertising, newsstand sales, and subscriptions. Combine that with a well-written and well-presented sports history magazine and I think that can work.

Samir Husni: Do people think you’re out of your mind by doing a print magazine in this digital age? At least, you acknowledge that you can’t make money from the digital side, but why do you think there’s a necessity for a print publication about sports history?

Gill Schor: I think there’s definitely an opportunity out there. If you go to Barnes & Noble’s newsstands, you’ll see dozens and dozens of publications out there that are broken up into every single niche you can imagine. So, maybe not all of them make money, but some of them make money. And there’s a reason why they’re there, why they haven’t disappeared.

And there is still something to be said about leafing through a magazine or a book. They haven’t totally disappeared, they’re still there. I enjoy it. And there is certainly a segment in the population that enjoys it, maybe it’s the older folks, the Baby Boomers, I don’t know. But I also think that if you make interesting and engaging content with rich photographs in the magazine, I think you can get some interest and turn that into a money venture.

Samir Husni: When that first issue came off the press, can you recall that moment and how you were feeling? Did it feel like you were on top of the mountain then and ready to see what was next?

Gill Schor: It was a wonderful feeling to get the first issue, but it needed revisions because what you do on the screen and how you lay it out, you really need to see it in your hands and on paper. The first copy that came out, I wasn’t too satisfied with it. I loved the concept and I saw the potential, but the actual copy that I got, I wasn’t too happy with it. So, I went back to the designer and worked with her a little bit more, and we did a second revision and then the second copy that came out, I was happy.

And going forward for the next seasonal issue and with two choices, I have an idea that with each issue there are ways to tweak and revise to find the spot that pleases you most, in terms of how it looks and how it reads.

Samir Husni: What is the biggest challenge that is facing you?

Gill Schor: I think the biggest challenge that I’m facing right now is finding the money to support the venture. Right now, I have all of the content that I need; I’ve accumulated enough articles and photographs for probably two years’ worth of issues. But what I need is the money to launch and to do the primary investment and go forward. So, I can do limited editions, limited prints, but if I want to do 15, 000 or 20,000 copies and spread it to the world, right now I can’t afford that.

Samir Husni: Is the magazine more of a love affair than a business? For example, when you created your transportation company, you were not in love with cars and transportation, correct?

Gill Schor: No, but I had an idea in mind. I always look for little uncharted areas, so when I started my transportation company I launched it with all Hybrid vehicles, all electric cars. And that didn’t exist back then, that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Today, yes, it’s no longer a novelty, but back then it was an environmental side to the business which actually drew a lot of attention from customers. They jumped on it because it’s a very competitive field. If somebody wants to go out to the airport, they have at least 10 or 15 options that they can choose from. But the fact that I marketed it as the only environmentally friendly service, that caught people’s attention. And that’s the part that I was in love with back then.

And the part that I love about publishing now is, again, the novelty side of it and the topics. I love sports history. I’ve gotten a lot of kudos for the idea and people read through them and they like them. I think it can be a good business.

Samir Husni: Who is your audience? Who are you targeting the magazine for?

Gill Schor: The audience is people of all ages, but they have to have a specific interest in the history of sports. In other words, with some of the baby Boomers, it may bring some nostalgia on their end if they start reading stories about their sports heroes when they grew up. They’ll see photographs of these people, black and white photographs, and it might ring some bells in their heads. That’s one segment of the population. The other one is young folks who are curious, curious about sports history, or the ones who have kind of had enough of their fill of the latest scores or what’s going on now. These graphic streams that go into their handheld devices, maybe they want some substance and some real history. There are people like that out there as well.

It’s an educated population; it’s a middle-ground read. I think it would go well in libraries, actually, and I’m working with some distributors or agencies that supply magazines to libraries, to try and put this in their stacks.

Samir Husni: If you could do one thing different from what you’ve done so far, what would it be?

Gill Schor: I think I could have controlled my costs better, because at the outset I really didn’t know much about the business, so it was basically learn as you go. I spent some money in areas which I think I shouldn’t have, it just didn’t work out and it was a waste. So, it was a learning experience. Some digital marketing ventures and some other places where I put money in. I learned those lessons.

Samir Husni: As you move forward, if you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with the magazine?

Gill Schor: A year from now what I would like to do is have a partner in the launch. Somebody who is either in the business as a media company or somebody who has financial resources, such as an investment group who wants to get into the business. So, a year from now I’d like to say that I had partnered with some people and we have a circulation of at least 5,000 or 10,000 out there with subscriptions and good acceptance in the market.

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

Gill Schor: Sports History is a very interesting topic. Most people enjoy sports, maybe they haven’t been presented with sports history, but it’s something that people would enjoy reading and going through photographs and learning about sports history stories. They might have a lot of these a-ha moments, wow I didn’t know that, type of thing from some of these articles.

From my end, I’m an entrepreneur, I make sure that things get done. And once they get launched there’s a plan behind it, a vision behind it. We don’t aim for the moon; we’re realistic with what’s possible and what’s not. And it’s all about calculated risks. Nobody says that this venture is going to succeed 100 percent, but it’s a calculated risk. It’s not a reckless risk.

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

Gill Schor: I know I have admirers and sometimes they might think more of me than what I am, because they see me remotely. They might think that I’ve achieved more than I have, but I try to keep myself very basic, very grounded. I don’t talk big or way over my head. But they know when I grab something, when I’m serious about something, I take it all the way.

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

Gill Schor: Driven with ideas, good business sense, good vision, good planning, good coordination, good organization, just a good head on his shoulders.

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?

Gill Schor: You could find me reading a book or having dinner with my family, maybe watching a movie on TV, or going to the gym.

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

Gill Schor: Fear of failure. That’s always kept me up; I don’t like to fail. I’ve failed in the past, yes, you can’t make it without failing once or twice, you can’t, because otherwise you’re not taking the risks. Fear of failure is what keeps me up. I’m healthy and my family is healthy, so thankfully those kind of worries aren’t there.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Happy Paws Magazine: Meredith Proves That When State-Of-The-Art Meets State-Of-The-Heart, A Print Product Can Be Relevant & Successful Even In This Digital Age – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Scott Mortimer, Vice President and Group Publisher, Meredith Corporation & Dr. Marty Becker, Founder, Fear Free Organization…

April 29, 2019

“There are obviously a lot of opinions out there as to why you’re seeing several examples of digital brands or brands that aren’t in the magazine space going into the print space. It’s just a different experience, as you well know. It’s a lean-back experience and it’s immersive. You just can’t get that in the digital space. The more our lives get connected and the more digitally-focused and digitally-centered that we become, I think there’s always going to be that opportunity for that relaxed experience where you get away and just sit in your favorite chair and immerse with a topic or a brand that you feel really passionate about. And magazines do that better than any other medium that we have.” Scott Mortimer…

“And I love paper quality. I love the finish of the cover. I love the quality of the photography and the quality of the paper inside the magazine. People have no idea how hard it is to write a book and I never had any idea of all of the steps that went into writing a magazine, I have to be honest. It’s a lot more complicated than I thought. Talking about dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.” Dr. Marty Becker…

Happy Paws marks the latest magazine to debut from Meredith and as Vice President and Group Publisher, Scott Mortimer said, “There’s a real appetite for a print product out there, you just have to get the right product at the right time and then put it in the right place and your chances of success go way up.” And Meredith would definitely know about success after the phenomenal reaction readers have had to The Magnolia Journal and their successful partnership with the Hungry Girl, Lisa Lillien.

This time around Meredith has teamed up with America’s Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, to bring a new and important twist to the pet space, a magazine devoted to not only the physical wellbeing of your pet, but also the emotional wellbeing. I spoke with Scott and Dr. Becker recently and we talked about this great new concept and about the relevance and extreme success that print products can have in today’s digital age. As Scott said, when the content is engaging, important and solid, consumers will pay for what they appreciate. And enjoy that lean-back experience while they’re doing it.

So, I hope that you enjoy this conversation with two people who each know their authentic area of expertise: pets and magazines, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Mortimer, Vice President and Group Publisher, Meredith, and Dr. Marty Becker, Founder, Fear Free Organization.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Meredith launching a print product still surprises the media industry (Scott Mortimer): I think when you dig a little deeper into what we’re doing and the success we’ve had in the past, it makes perfect sense. I oversee the newsstand operation for our special interest media group and the fiscal year we’re in, we’ll sell over 21 million magazine copies at retail, and 17 million of those will be priced at $10 and higher, so there’s a real appetite for a print product out there, you just have to get the right product at the right time and then put it in the right place and your chances of success go way up.

On how the partnership between Meredith and the Fear Free organization came about (Scott Mortimer): We had a relationship with their agent from some prior business dealings and the opportunity came through him, so that’s how the inbound came to us. We’ve had great success with pet themed titles in the Special Interest Media Group and when this one came along it seemed like a match made in heaven. So, we’re excited about it.

On the appetite for pet magazines today as opposed to the less than popular appeal of 40 years ago (Scott Mortimer): I don’t know that I can speak to 40 years ago, I really can’t. I can tell you that the pet space is a $90 billion market and it’s growing six, seven, eight percent per year, depending on who you talk to. And there’s 75 to 80 million homes that have pets, so pets are just a really big part of people’s lives today. And I think we’ve caught onto that trend and they’re much more a part of the family than they ever have been. They’ve always been a part of the family if you have a pet, but today there’s just this connection to our pets that we really haven’t seen in any other point in time.

On whether the definition of a magazine has changed over the years with newsstands carrying more bookazines and high-priced titles (Scott Mortimer): I don’t know if it has changed the definition of what a magazine title is, but there has certainly been a shift and a change at newsstand with what is selling. Obviously, we have great success with the People brand and it sells a great number of copies at newsstands, but the only growing part of the newsstand business is the bookazine category. And it grew about 10 percent in 2018, but it’s really growing by the number of titles that are being offered. So I think that if you look at the data there’s probably going to be 1,100 more titles in 2018 than the year prior.

On the amount of titles Meredith has and where many of the ideas come from (Scott Mortimer): Yes, the numbers are a bit staggering, aren’t they? We have a real process in place to vet ideas, and we’ve opened it up to our employees, so we get a lot of inbound ideas that come from our rank and file employees who may not be involved with the Special Interest Media Group, but they can have an idea or see something out there and they’ll shoot it to us and we’ll take a look at it. And that’s on top of all of the other things that the Special Interest Media Group does.

On his biggest challenge since taking over the Special Interest group at Meredith (Scott Mortimer): I think it’s ongoing and it’s the retail space that’s the biggest challenge. The space is shrinking that’s dedicated to magazines at checkout at all of the big retailers. You have people with what we call mobile blinders on when they’re in the checkout lane, so they’re looking at their phones and maybe not looking around at what magazines are in the racks next to them.

On the idea behind the Fear Free organization’s partnering with Meredith (Dr. Marty Becker): As far as the magazine, we wanted something to focus not just on emotional wellbeing, and that means freedom from noise phobias, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, and other noise phobias, separation anxiety, leash aggression, excessive barking, going to the vet, the groomer or the trainer, where those became pleasant experiences. And also focusing on enrichment. And again, if we think of children, there is so much work done on early childhood learning and enrichment activities, whether they’re doing dance, in arts and crafts, in childhood theatre or Baby Einstein. And pets aren’t born to be retired; dogs and cats have a genetic exuberance to hunt, to test things by sight or smell, and so we want to activate their brains and really let them express their genetic exuberance.

On the idea for the magazine (Dr. Marty Becker): I have an agent, Bill Stankey, who also has Chip and Joanna Gaines from Magnolia and Lisa Lillien from Hungry Girl, and so I have the same agent. He and I talked, even before Chip and Joanna Gaines, I’ve been with Bill for well over a decade and we talked about a magazine someday. I’m a voracious magazine consumer myself, so I’ll probably have subscriptions to 12 magazines at one time. And this is what’s interesting, my son is 29-years-old and he has subscriptions to six or seven magazines himself, so I think that the people who believe magazines are lost on millennials ought to rethink that.

On whether they will alternate between dogs and cats (Dr. Marty Becker): I don’t know. I think that’s a Meredith question, because they will know what people will pick up and buy. I will tell you that I’ve written “Chicken Soup for the Pet Lovers’ Soul,” “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers’ Soul,” “Chicken Soup for the Cat Lovers’ Soul,” and “Why Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet,” Why Do Dogs Drink Out Of The Toilet,” I have done quite a few dog and cat books, but we are going to make sure in the second issue that we do a little more cat coverage.

On the future plans for Happy Paws (Scott Mortimer): We have announced a second issue in October. And you’re right, that’s a little bit ahead of the normal cadence that we would announce a second issue that’s based off when we get sale data off of the first issue, but we’ve seen enough acceptance from advertisers; we had two really strong launch partner advertisers in this first issue with Purina and Elanco. And we’ve had tremendous interest from other advertisers going forward, and we know enough about the pet space and we’ve seen enough sales data from our existing titles to convince us that a second issue is certainly worth doing and by then we’ll have a better read on consumer acceptance for this.

On the cover price of $10 for Happy Paws, while someone can get an entire year of Better Homes & Gardens for that price (Scott Mortimer): All of those other businesses, and we have many of those here at Meredith, they have their own business model. And I think that what we’ve found to be successful in the Special Interest Media Group is that if consumers find something that they like and a topic that they’re passionate about, they will spend money. And I would say that it’s the Magnolia effect. It’s well-chronicled how well The Magnolia Journal has done and I think it’s opened a lot of our eyes inside of this building and across the company, enough to say that people will pay for great content and engaging content.

On why he thinks digital-only entities are moving into the print space (Scott Mortimer): There are obviously a lot of opinions out there as to why you’re seeing several examples of digital brands or brands that aren’t in the magazine space going into the print space. It’s just a different experience, as you well know. It’s a lean-back experience and it’s immersive. You just can’t get that in the digital space. The more our lives get connected and the more digitally-focused and digitally-centered that we become, I think there’s always going to be that opportunity for that relaxed experience where you get away and just sit in your favorite chair and immerse with a topic or a brand that you feel really passionate about. And magazines do that better than any other medium that we have.

On anything they’d like to add (Dr. Marty Becker): What Meredith overall has done is reached out to feature animal experts, such as a Boarded Veterinary Dermatologist on a skin issue, or if it’s an eye problem, there’s a Boarded Veterinary Ophthalmologist. All of the content in this magazine was created by experts that, if you went to the world’s largest Veterinarian convention or you went to the library and picked out a textbook, that’s the contributors for this magazine in large part. And every single part of the magazine was reviewed by Boarded Veterinary Behaviorists, all of the content. So, it’s authentic. It’s in entertainment style, but it’s authentic and the best information out there.

On what they would hope to accomplish one year from now with Happy Paws (Dr. Marty Becker): What it will do is people will have a lot more awareness about the importance of the emotional wellbeing of animals. It’ll start with their own pets, their dogs and cats, but it will showcase, whether it’s therapy animals or animals used for food production or animals in zoos or aquariums; we have to start looking at the emotional wellbeing of all animals. They’re sensitive beings and we have to look at both physical and emotional wellbeing.

On what they would hope to accomplish one year from now with Happy Paws (Scott Mortimer): I hope we sell lots and lots of magazines and we’re sitting down with Dr. Becker and his team and trying to figure out what type of frequency and is it a rate-based title, a newsstand title; we have a couple of steps to get through here, but we think we have enough data that the evidence points to this doing really well. We hope that it turns into a regular frequency title. We’ll see where it goes.

On what keeps them up at night (Dr. Marty Becker): For me, it’s pets that are euthanized for behavior problems. What happens with pets is people will take them back to shelters and surrender them for all the things the pet supposedly did wrong, but they never say they were bad owners. It’s always a bad pet. And just to understand how important the emotional wellbeing of animals is in basic training.

On what keeps them up at night (Scott Mortimer): I’m lucky, I sleep really well. (Laughs) It’s a really exciting time to be at Meredith and we have a lot of really fun things going on and Happy Paws is one of those.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Scott Mortimer, VP and Group Publisher, Meredith, and Dr. Marty Becker, Founder, Fear Free Organization.

Samir Husni: I was really surprised by the reaction of the media when the announcement for Happy Paws magazine came out and everybody was talking about Meredith launching a “print” magazine as if it were something new for Meredith. Why do you think people are still so surprised when a new print magazine is launched?

Scott Mortimer: I think when you dig a little deeper into what we’re doing and the success we’ve had in the past, it makes perfect sense. I oversee the newsstand operation for our Special Interest Media Group and the fiscal year we’re in, we’ll sell over 21 million magazine copies at retail, and 17 million of those will be priced at $10 and higher, so there’s a real appetite for a print product out there, you just have to get the right product at the right time and then put it in the right place and your chances of success go way up.

We really think that this product is a little different than anything that’s out there and it’s the right time. And if you look at how much money has been spent in the pet space, it’s a great product and we anticipate great success with it.

Samir Husni: How did the idea for Happy Paws come about? Who met with whom? Did Fear Free approach Meredith; how did this partnership come into being?

Scott Mortimer: We had a relationship with their agent from some prior business dealings and the opportunity came through him, so that’s how the inbound came to us. We’ve had great success with pet themed titles in the Special Interest Media Group and when this one came along it seemed like a match made in heaven. So, we’re excited about it.

Samir Husni: Back in the day when Meredith was doing SIPs (Special Interest Publications) before anyone actually in the market was doing them, if my memory serves me correctly, in the 1980s the only SIP magazine that really bombed on the newsstand was the pet magazine, Family Pet. What do you think has changed in the marketplace today that there is such an appetite for all kinds of pet magazines? Why is the market different than it was 40 years ago?

Scott Mortimer: I don’t know that I can speak to 40 years ago, I really can’t. I can tell you that the pet space is a $90 billion market and it’s growing six, seven, eight percent per year, depending on who you talk to. And there’s 75 to 80 million homes that have pets, so pets are just a really big part of people’s lives today. And I think we’ve caught onto that trend and they’re much more a part of the family than they ever have been. They’ve always been a part of the family if you have a pet, but today there’s just this connection to our pets that we really haven’t seen in any other point in time.

People are really hungry for this type of content and if you look at the big tagline on the cover “Is Your Dog Happy?” it shows this connection to your pet and the connection to their emotional wellbeing and happiness. And that’s what we’re seeing some success with.

Samir Husni: As you mentioned, you’re projected to sell 21 million copies of different SIPs this physical year. Are you seeing the change on the newsstands from what used to be defined as magazines to all of these bookazines and high cover priced titles? Is it time to change the definition of what a magazine is today with the amount of titles being put on the marketplace?

Scott Mortimer: I don’t know if it has changed the definition of what a magazine title is, but there has certainly been a shift and a change at newsstand with what is selling. Obviously, we have great success with the People brand and it sells a great number of copies at newsstands, but the only growing part of the newsstand business is the bookazine category. And it grew about 10 percent in 2018, but it’s really growing by the number of titles that are being offered. So I think that if you look at the data there’s probably going to be 1,100 more titles in 2018 than the year prior.

We’ve long known that this is a space that there’s opportunity in and I think that we have a lot of competitors that are also seeing that opportunity as well and are coming into the market with bookazine products. Our real point of difference in the category is that we have the analytic capabilities; we have close to a million pockets at checkout, and if you look at the category, we’re seven times the size of our nearest competitor. And we have over 40 percent market share in the category, and we use all of these things that I just mentioned to our advantage. And as I said in the beginning, when we get the right product in the right place and put it out at the right time, our chances of success go way up. And that’s the success we’ve seen and one that we want to continue to capitalize on.

Samir Husni: If we go inside Meredith to see where these ideas come from, what will we find? Is it that someone is daydreaming and says that you need to do a magazine on this or that, or is it a team effort? You just mentioned that there are 1,100 titles and Meredith has 40 percent of those, so you’re almost putting three titles per week out there?

Scott Mortimer: Yes, the numbers are a bit staggering, aren’t they? We have a real process in place to vet ideas, and we’ve opened it up to our employees, so we get a lot of inbound ideas that come from our rank and file employees who may not be involved with the Special Interest Media Group, but they can have an idea or see something out there and they’ll shoot it to us and we’ll take a look at it. And that’s on top of all of the other things that the Special Interest Media Group does.

Our edit team is terrific in kind of knowing topics that are on trend and would have an opportunity to sell. And when we layer in our analytic capabilities and our research capabilities on top of that, we’re not short on ideas, we have a lot of those that come in. It’s just like I said, finding the right idea that we think has the best opportunity to sell. It’s a trick and you never quite know. It’s a lot of outside factors that come into play in judging the success of one of these, but we think our process has worked pretty well and served us well, so we’re going to continue to lean into that.

Samir Husni: Since you took over the Special Interest Group, what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?

Scott Mortimer: I think it’s ongoing and it’s the retail space that’s the biggest challenge. The space is shrinking that’s dedicated to magazines at checkout at all of the big retailers. You have people with what we call mobile blinders on when they’re in the checkout lane, so they’re looking at their phones and maybe not looking around at what magazines are in the racks next to them.

And there’s just a tremendous amount of competition at checkout and I think that’s the one thing that we’re constantly monitoring and that we’re constantly having to innovate around. Bookazines tend to be an impulse purchase at checkout, so that’s why we spend so much of our time on cover blurbs and cover images and names, because we literally have five to six seconds to grab somebody’s attention when they’re in the checkout lane and want to make a purchase.

Samir Husni: Dr. Becker, if you could give us some background about, not only Happy Paws, but the whole idea of the Fear Free organization and how you’re trying to showcase Fear Free through the pages of Happy Paws? And why you decided to go with a print publication with Meredith for this project?

Dr. Marty Becker: I’ve written 25 books; I’ve done network TV in New York for 26 years; I still have a syndicated column, but there was nothing looking at the emotional wellbeing of animals. And that’s really what Fear Free does. If your dog has diarrhea or your cat has a hair ball, or you have a new puppy or kitten, there are so many resources online for that and there are so many books, but there is nothing really that looks at the emotional wellbeing of animals.

I’m 65-years-old and I come from the age when we were manhandled and manipulated, threatened and abused at the doctor’s office; I remember crying one time when I got a shot in the rear-end and I started wailing and my mom raised her hand above her head and yelled, “Shut up, Marty!” And then she said, “Don’t embarrass the doctor.” My older sister, who is 12 years older, I remember her getting her ponytail pulled at the dentist’s office to keep her mouth open.

But pediatricians had to change and pediatricians started looking at both the physical and the emotional wellbeing of children, pediatric dentistry changed, pediatric oncology changed in children’s hospitals. And in veterinary medicine, we were still just focused on the medicines. If a pet came in you treated a wound, you vaccinated or you cleaned their teeth, or you treated a sore ear or a torn paw or an abscess. And most of the time the pet was terrified. It had fear, anxiety and stress, so that’s what started the Fear Free movement, when myself and about 60 Boarded veterinary behavior professionals started looking at the emotional wellbeing of dogs and cats.

As far as the magazine, we wanted something to focus not just on emotional wellbeing, and that means freedom from noise phobias, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, and other noise phobias, separation anxiety, leash aggression, excessive barking, going to the vet, the groomer or the trainer, where those became pleasant experiences. And also focusing on enrichment. And again, if we think of children, there is so much work done on early childhood learning and enrichment activities, whether they’re doing dance, in arts and crafts, in childhood theatre or Baby Einstein.

And pets aren’t born to be retired; dogs and cats have a genetic exuberance to hunt, to test things by sight or smell, and so we want to activate their brains and really let them express their genetic exuberance.

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the actual idea for Happy Paws magazine?

Dr. Marty Becker: I have an agent, Bill Stankey, who also has Chip and Joanna Gaines from Magnolia and Lisa Lillien from Hungry Girl, and so I have the same agent. He and I talked, even before Chip and Joanna Gaines, I’ve been with Bill for well over a decade and we talked about a magazine someday. I’m a voracious magazine consumer myself, so I’ll probably have subscriptions to 12 magazines at one time. And this is what’s interesting, my son is 29-years-old and he has subscriptions to six or seven magazines himself, so I think that the people who believe magazines are lost on millennials ought to rethink that.

And what I love about the editorial team at Meredith, talk about pro; I’ve written 25 books and have sold about 9 million copies, but had never done a magazine, and to watch both the science and the process that went into creating that magazine was something to behold. The original photography; the format of kind of bite-sized chunks of information, just the muck of it and the way that you can easily digest it; it’s almost like going to Golden Corral. (Laughs) And there are a lot of cat lovers there as well, so it’s great.

And I love paper quality. I love the finish of the cover. I love the quality of the photography and the quality of the paper inside the magazine. People have no idea how hard it is to write a book and I never had any idea of all of the steps that went into writing a magazine, I have to be honest. It’s a lot more complicated than I thought. Talking about dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.

Samir Husni: Are you going to alternate between cats and dogs? On the first issue cover “Is your dog happy” is the question asked, will it be a cat on the second issue?

Dr. Marty Becker: I don’t know. I think that’s a Meredith question, because they will know what people will pick up and buy. I will tell you that I’ve written “Chicken Soup for the Pet Lovers’ Soul,” “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers’ Soul,” “Chicken Soup for the Cat Lovers’ Soul,” and “Why Do Cats Always Land On Their Feet,” Why Do Dogs Drink Out Of The Toilet,” I have done quite a few dog and cat books, but we are going to make sure in the second issue that we do a little more cat coverage.

Samir Husni: Scott, what are Meredith’s plans for Happy Paws? With The Magnolia Journal and Hungry Girl, there was a space between the first and second issue, and then wait-and-see on the third issue, then going full-steam-ahead. What are the plans for Happy Paws?

Scott Mortimer: We have announced a second issue in October. And you’re right, that’s a little bit ahead of the normal cadence that we would announce a second issue that’s based off when we get sale data off of the first issue, but we’ve seen enough acceptance from advertisers; we had two really strong launch partner advertisers in this first issue with Purina and Elanco. And we’ve had tremendous interest from other advertisers going forward, and we know enough about the pet space and we’ve seen enough sales data from our existing titles to convince us that a second issue is certainly worth doing and by then we’ll have a better read on consumer acceptance for this.

Samir Husni: As the industry moves forward and continues to evolve, and as the studies continue to indicate that print does still work, do you feel that the business model is changing as a whole? For example, for $10 I can get an entire year of Better Homes & Gardens, yet here with Happy Paws, I only get one issue.

Scott Mortimer: All of those other businesses, and we have many of those here at Meredith, they have their own business model. And I think that what we’ve found to be successful in the Special Interest Media Group is that if consumers find something that they like and a topic that they’re passionate about, they will spend money. And I would say that it’s the Magnolia effect. It’s well-chronicled how well The Magnolia Journal has done and I think it’s opened a lot of our eyes inside of this building and across the company, enough to say that people will pay for great content and engaging content.

This is a good example, people shelling out $10 for a single copy, and we’ve had great success with that, and again, it all comes back to the topic and the time and the place. When you get those things right, people will pay for print.

Samir Husni: We’ve heard from Dr. Becker about his love for print and that feel and touch that comes with a print magazine, why do you think we’re seeing digital entities adding print? Hearst, for example, just launched Bumble, which is a dating website. Before that, there was The Magnolia Journal and The Pioneer Woman; why do you think all of these digital-first entities are coming to print?

Scott Mortimer: There are obviously a lot of opinions out there as to why you’re seeing several examples of digital brands or brands that aren’t in the magazine space going into the print space. It’s just a different experience, as you well know. It’s a lean-back experience and it’s immersive. You just can’t get that in the digital space. The more our lives get connected and the more digitally-focused and digitally-centered that we become, I think there’s always going to be that opportunity for that relaxed experience where you get away and just sit in your favorite chair and immerse with a topic or a brand that you feel really passionate about. And magazines do that better than any other medium that we have.

Dr. Marty Becker: Only three out of 10 Americans have children, but seven out of 10 Americans have pets. There is an incredible audience and I think in 2015, if you look at all movies, in theater, Netflix and Redbox, and all music, in concerts, CDs, Spotify, iTunes, all video games, and that’s Xbox 360, PS3; all of those together were about $33 million in 2015, and pet spending was over $50 billion. And in 2017, if you look at Amazon’s total revenue on one side, and on the other side you look at how much was spent on pets, it was equivalent of 40 percent of Amazon’s total revenue. Not that 40 percent of Amazon’s revenues were pet or vet, but that’s just how big the category is.

So, people will go to a pet store, Pet Smart or Petco and will spend $10 on a tiny bag of treats. And what this magazine allows them to do and is something that is a great resource, it helps them put the treat into treatment. How do you get a pet to take its medication when it doesn’t want to? And I’ve already heard from people buying the magazine about our strong admonition to not use food bowls; to throw your food bowls away and feed with food dispensing devices. And if you do that, you’re feeding not only the body, but you’re feeding the mind.

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

Dr. Marty Becker: One of the things that I was really tickled with Meredith about is we launched a book last year, my 25th book called “From Fearful to Fear Free” and we did long-lead media, which is magazines. So, it went out in October 2017 for an April 2018 book launch and when I was talking to the different editors at Meredith, we were talking about the fact that often in magazines when it’s for the human side they quote doctors and registered nurses, or the head of the dermatology department at Yale University, for example.

But with the pet side, sometimes a story about itchy skin on a dog would quote a dog groomer, or a behavior issue would be a trainer but not a Boarded Veterinary Behaviorist. But what Meredith overall has done is reached out to feature animal experts, such as a Boarded Veterinary Dermatologist on a skin issue, or if it’s an eye problem, there’s a Boarded Veterinary Ophthalmologist. All of the content in this magazine was created by experts that, if you went to the world’s largest Veterinarian convention or you went to the library and picked out a textbook, that’s the contributors for this magazine in large part. And every single part of the magazine was reviewed by Boarded Veterinary Behaviorists, all of the content. So, it’s authentic. It’s in entertainment style, but it’s authentic and the best information out there.

Samir Husni: If we’re having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with Happy Paws?

Dr. Marty Becker: What it will do is people will have a lot more awareness about the importance of the emotional wellbeing of animals. It’ll start with their own pets, their dogs and cats, but it will showcase, whether it’s therapy animals or animals used for food production or animals in zoos or aquariums; we have to start looking at the emotional wellbeing of all animals. They’re sensitive beings and we have to look at both physical and emotional wellbeing.

And the other part is enrichment, and that’s where Fear Free Happy Homes, our tagline is “Helping Pets Live Happy, Healthy Full Lives.” Happy is fear free, healthy is high-tech veterinary medicine, and full is enrichment. Put another way, it’s where state-of-the-art meets state-of-the-heart. Or high-tech meets high-touch.

Scott Mortimer: I hope we sell lots and lots of magazines and we’re sitting down with Dr. Becker and his team and trying to figure out what type of frequency and is it a rate-based title, a newsstand title; we have a couple of steps to get through here, but we think we have enough data that the evidence points to this doing really well. We hope that it turns into a regular frequency title. We’ll see where it goes.

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

Dr. Marty Becker: For me, it’s pets that are euthanized for behavior problems. What happens with pets is people will take them back to shelters and surrender them for all the things the pet supposedly did wrong, but they never say they were bad owners. It’s always a bad pet. And just to understand how important the emotional wellbeing of animals is in basic training.

Scott Mortimer: I’m lucky, I sleep really well. (Laughs) It’s a really exciting time to be at Meredith and we have a lot of really fun things going on and Happy Paws is one of those.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

MJ Lifestyle: The Magazine Elevating The Feminine Voice… – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jennifer Skøg, Founder, Editor & Chief Creative, MJ Lifestyle Magazine…

April 4, 2019

“I am a photographer by trade, so I have been a fan of print for almost my entire life. If it’s stuck in a computer it’s not going to be seen; we have so many files that are just stuck in the Worldwide Web, but not necessarily something beautiful that you can touch and feel and experience. And so because of my background with fine art and high-end photography, that gave me one option for my magazine, and that was to be finely printed on ecofriendly paper. I believe that imagery often teaches people things; people feel things from imagery sometimes more than reading. So for me, imagery was a big part of getting people to understand and educate themselves on the benefits of cannabis.” Jennifer Skøg…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

A luxury cannabis publication that not only respects the plant and educates readers about its much-touted benefits, but also empowers women to be strong leaders in their chosen lives and careers, MJ Lifestyle strives to showcase real women from all cultures and ethnicities, believing in the diversity of the world in which we all exist. The magazine is not a “stoner” title, but instead is one that chooses its partnerships carefully in order to maintain the integrity that Founder Jennifer Skøg is determined it will display.

I spoke with Jennifer recently and we talked about the magazine and its compelling imagery and editorials. Jennifer is a photographer by trade that specializes in intimate feminine photography, so making women feel comfortable while empowered in front of the camera is something that she is passionate about. Just as she is about her own personal usage of cannabis, a plant that she respects and is an advocate for when it comes to the many health and wellness issues the plant can address. And Jennifer realized that modern day women were not being properly represented in the space, so MJ Lifestyle was born. With an all-female team that she credits as being incredible, Jennifer is determined to elevate the female voice in the world of cannabis.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with a woman who is a magazine entrepreneur, a professional photographer, and a soccer mom, all rolled into one delightful person, Jennifer Skøg, MJ Lifestyle magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she chose print for MJ Lifestyle magazine in this digital age: I am a photographer by trade, so I have been a fan of print for almost my entire life. If it’s stuck in a computer it’s not going to be seen; we have so many files that are just stuck in the Worldwide Web, but not necessarily something beautiful that you can touch and feel and experience. And so because of my background with fine art and high-end photography, that gave me one option for my magazine, and that was to be finely printed on ecofriendly paper. I believe that imagery often teaches people things; people feel things from imagery sometimes more than reading. So for me, imagery was a big part of getting people to understand and educate themselves on the benefits of cannabis.

On the concept of cannabis and feminism behind the magazine: Really, when I first got into the industry I was just starting to shoot for brands and helping to elevate imagery for those brands, and what we quickly realized was that women were not properly represented in the cannabis space, real professional women. It was typically more of a stoner culture type of thing and not a positive light for cannabis at all. I have actually been a consumer for most of my adult life and have definitely hidden my consumption from my professional world for fear of being judged or missing out on work, people not hiring me.

On how she came up with the tagline “For Women With High Taste”: That was actually our first tagline and it’s funny because we were switching back and forth between “For Women With High Taste” and “For Women Of High Taste.” There’s a big difference between “with” and “of” and some of our women of color thought Women With High Taste were born with it and Women Of High Taste was something that you accumulated overtime or something you gave yourself. We were trying to connect, obviously women, with having high-end values and aspirations and taste. But we’re actually changing that; we don’t know exactly what we want to do yet, but it’s really about elevating your feminine voice.

On the magazine selling out so quickly on its website and whether she feels she was right on target with seeing a need for the magazine in the marketplace: We weren’t expecting it to sell out so quickly; we actually got a really big order that was unexpected, which sold us out almost immediately. And that was really exciting and we’re still very excited, but also the hard part for us is marketing and advertising. And right now, because our magazine has to do with cannabis, we’re not able to advertise anywhere basically. So, we’ve had to get really creative with influential type stuff, social media, and just building an audience. So, yes we sold out online, but right now our biggest thing is we’ve got 400 stores that we still need to sell the magazine out in. We’re definitely trying to continue raising awareness.

On the concept of romancing the plant, merging photography, women, nudity, and art, all between the pages of MJ Lifestyle: As I mentioned, I’m a photographer by trade; I actually teach and one of my specialties is intimate photography of women. Over the past 20 years of doing this, that’s been singlehandedly the most rewarding thing that I’ve done. Almost every time I’m able to photograph a woman and have her feel comfortable in front of the camera and it’s like opening her world up to a type of self-love she’s never known before. So, that’s been easy to weave in because we are talking about self-love so much. We’re talking about caring for ourselves, caring for our families, and making those educated decisions. And so for us yes, we are romancing the plant, but there’s a very fine line between glamourizing it and obviously, kind of paying tribute to it.

On the wide diversity of the magazine and whether that was intentional: Oh no, it’s intentional. It’s absolutely intentional. And that’s the thing, especially with what our world is going through with racism right now, and social justice being a huge thing that we have in our cannabis space too, social equity and social justice, and so it’s a big thing for us to make sure diversity is key. I am a white woman and grew up with a somewhat privileged lifestyle, I’ve worked very hard, but I’ve also, because of the color of my skin, things have probably come easier for me than most other people of color. So, the only thing I can do is use my privilege to make sure that we’re raising awareness for everybody and including everybody.

On whether launching the magazine was a walk in a rose garden for her or has she faced any challenges along the way: It’s been very, very difficult. Not just entering into a new industry of cannabis, but also a new industry of magazine publication. Lots of things that I didn’t know before, but also things internally. Not every single woman can work with every woman and we have definitely had some trimming of the negative energies, so it’s been a bumpy ride, just trying to make sure we have the right team with us. We have recovered significantly from it, and we are very grateful.

On having to be over 21 to click into the website content and if it’s the cannabis or the nudity that required that: It’s the cannabis. I think there might be minor nudity, but no, it’s the cannabis. And that’s the reason why we can’t advertise anything. And even the young twenties are not in our demographic. We’re definitely thirty and up, so we really don’t want this getting into the hands of younger kids.

On what she hopes to accomplish with the magazine one year from now: It’s really exciting and fun; we’re meeting and participating in a lot of events, so we’re getting out there in the field and getting to know women. And not just at cannabis events, but holistic events, yoga, or business events, women being empowered. We want this to not be stoner culture, we want this to be real life. So, we’re trying to bridge that gap between the stoner culture and real women. For us, it would be that we had evolved into a greater team, putting on more events, and having another couple of issues under our belt.

On anything she’d like to add: The other really difficult part for us is that we really are trying to respect the plant and so we have to be very careful who we are partnering with, because there are companies that don’t have the best intentions, or we have cut companies that are coming in and flooding the market with misogynistic type of marketing, with half-naked women, and on their billboards you’ll see women with bongs and it’s just not appropriate. So for us, that’s one of our biggest things, making sure that the people we are partnering with have good intentions, integrity; obviously they have a safe product to consume, but also we’re about business too, we’re not here saying money is money. We’re very much pride over profit.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: Probably that we have money. (Laughs) What most people think is that we have a pretty well-oiled machine, but we’re really just taking it one day at a time. And we’re working really hard, but at the same time we’re also trying to enjoy our lives.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: Moms are busy. I pick up my kids; I do homework; I start dinner; I clean up after dinner, and by the time it’s 7:00 p.m., I actually go back to my computer and get to work. I take a couple of minutes to snuggle with my kids and if it’s been a really long day, I’ll fall asleep with them (Laughs) And falling asleep with them is the best ever. Sometimes I’ll consume some cannabis, but not until the kids are down or they’re away. I actually don’t drink a lot of alcohol, it upsets my stomach and that’s one of the reasons that cannabis has been my kind of “vice,” so to speak, for so long.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her: Makes women feel amazing, feel beautiful, and powerful.

On what keeps her up at night: (Laughs) Work. I’m non-stop working; my office is in my house, so I’m literally on the desk. It’s sad because sometimes you’ll see that when all of my family wants quiet time, my husband is on his computer and I’m on mine and my kids are on their devices, it’s very techy. I am a great mom, but I’m also at my computer often.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jennifer Skøg, founder, editor, & chief creative, MJ Lifestyle Magazine.

Samir Husni: When I saw MJ Lifestyle, I was impressed by the size of the magazine and the fact that you call it the “fine print” magazine. Tell me, why are you doing a print magazine in this digital age?

Jennifer Skøg: I am a photographer by trade, so I have been a fan of print for almost my entire life. If it’s stuck in a computer it’s not going to be seen; we have so many files that are just stuck in the Worldwide Web, but not necessarily something beautiful that you can touch and feel and experience. And so because of my background with fine art and high-end photography, that gave me one option for my magazine, and that was to be finely printed on ecofriendly paper. I believe that imagery often teaches people things; people feel things from imagery sometimes more than reading. So for me, imagery was a big part of getting people to understand and educate themselves on the benefits of cannabis.

Samir Husni: Can you tell me the genesis of MJ Lifestyle, because you go beyond cannabis; you’re combining feminism and cannabis, can you expand a little on that concept?

Jennifer Skøg: Really, when I first got into the industry I was just starting to shoot for brands and helping to elevate imagery for those brands, and what we quickly realized was that women were not properly represented in the cannabis space, real professional women. It was typically more of a stoner culture type of thing and not a positive light for cannabis at all. I have actually been a consumer for most of my adult life and have definitely hidden my consumption from my professional world for fear of being judged or missing out on work, people not hiring me.

So, this was something for me, coming out of the shadows so to speak and opening up about this, it expanded my eyes as to how much not just the plant had been criminalized and stigmatized, but women in general all over the world have had to fight for equality, and we need to support each other. We’re in a world where women are competitive, we get catty and it would be nice if we didn’t have to compete. It would be nice if we could help each other out. All of us need help at times, it takes a tribe to do anything. Whether it’s raising kids or getting our jobs done completely or throwing out a brand new notion like cannabis is friendly. That’s why we’re mixing the two.

And we’re battling a lot of misogynistic brands who think it’s okay to completely expose women or undermine women and put us in a negative light, so to speak. So, we’re really wanting to bring that unity and sisterhood into the magazine as well.

Samir Husni: How did you decide on the magazine’s tagline, and I see it’s even on your business card: “For Women With High Taste?”

Jennifer Skøg: That was actually our first tagline and it’s funny because we were switching back and forth between “For Women With High Taste” and “For Women Of High Taste.” There’s a big difference between “with” and “of” and some of our women of color thought Women With High Taste were born with it and Women Of High Taste was something that you accumulated overtime or something you gave yourself. We were trying to connect, obviously women, with having high-end values and aspirations and taste.

But we’re actually changing that; we don’t know exactly what we want to do yet, but it’s really about elevating your feminine voice. And a lot of it is not necessarily about getting high, so we definitely want to try and get that kind of terminology out and be a little bit more professional and scientific health wise.

Samir Husni: I noticed on your magazine’s website that the second issue, which is now on newsstands, has sold out online, from the website. Do you think that your gut feeling that there was a need for this magazine in the marketplace was right on target?

Jennifer Skøg: As far as us selling out so quickly?

Samir Husni: Yes, and the need for the magazine. Evidently there is an audience for it or it wouldn’t have sold so quickly.

Jennifer Skøg: We weren’t expecting it to sell out so quickly; we actually got a really big order that was unexpected, which sold us out almost immediately. And that was really exciting and we’re still very excited, but also the hard part for us is marketing and advertising. And right now, because our magazine has to do with cannabis, we’re not able to advertise anywhere basically. So, we’ve had to get really creative with influential type stuff, social media, and just building an audience. So, yes we sold out online, but right now our biggest thing is we’ve got 400 stores that we still need to sell the magazine out in. We’re definitely trying to continue raising awareness.

But this hasn’t been done before. We had a thought in our minds and at first no one was able to understand what we were trying to accomplish, but now that the first two issues are out I think it’s beginning to click in people’s minds. We’ve actually had quite a few brands come to us recently, grateful that they can find us and looking for a way to have a more refined audience and a more refined way of educating potential consumers. A lot of people are trying to get away from the High Times and the adult magazines and have it be something more.

Samir Husni: As I flipped through the pages of the magazine, it’s like you’re romancing the plant with the imagery and the photography. Tell me more about that concept of merging the photography, the women, the nudity, the art, all between the pages of MJ Lifestyle.

Jennifer Skøg: As I mentioned, I’m a photographer by trade; I actually teach and one of my specialties is intimate photography of women. Over the past 20 years of doing this, that’s been singlehandedly the most rewarding thing that I’ve done. Almost every time I’m able to photograph a woman and have her feel comfortable in front of the camera and it’s like opening her world up to a type of self-love she’s never known before. So, that’s been easy to weave in because we are talking about self-love so much. We’re talking about caring for ourselves, caring for our families, and making those educated decisions. And so for us yes, we are romancing the plant, but there’s a very fine line between glamourizing it and obviously, kind of paying tribute to it.

In the beginning it was very hard for me because I don’t want to glamourize it; I have two small children, I don’t want them to think that it’s cool to be smoking anything. So, while we want it to be a very nonjudgmental space and inclusive and diverse, at the same time we’re trying to really show how we can be more safe about our consumption and not have smoking everywhere. But also loving ourselves, loving our bodies, being body-positive and just trying to create something we don’t have, empowering women to be their own leaders and founders in their space. And all of this just really fits together for us. I’m essentially my own target market. I’m a self-made soccer mom. (Laughs)

I’m literally a stay-at-home working mom, it’s a whole lot of jobs in one. And every woman is just trying to figure things out. So, this is a way that we can really give resources and support throughout our sisterhood.

Samir Husni: Talking about every woman and sisterhood, it seems to me that you have not left a single ethnic group or race out of the magazine. Was that intentional or you’re just casting the widest net possible?

Jennifer Skøg: Oh no, it’s intentional. It’s absolutely intentional. And that’s the thing, especially with what our world is going through with racism right now, and social justice being a huge thing that we have in our cannabis space too, social equity and social justice, and so it’s a big thing for us to make sure diversity is key. I am a white woman and grew up with a somewhat privileged lifestyle, I’ve worked very hard, but I’ve also, because of the color of my skin, things have probably come easier for me than most other people of color. So, the only thing I can do is use my privilege to make sure that we’re raising awareness for everybody and including everybody.

For me it’s really important that we do that; we don’t want just a bunch of white women everywhere. That’s not what our world is and that’s not what makes our world beautiful. So yes, for us, it’s extremely intentional that we’re trying to include every single culture, background, and group so that we can have everyone represented.

Samir Husni: I can hear the passion in your voice talking about the magazine and its audience; has it been a walk in a rose garden for you, so easy to put the magazine together, or have you faced some challenges along the way?

Jennifer Skøg: It’s been very, very difficult. Not just entering into a new industry of cannabis, but also a new industry of magazine publication. Lots of things that I didn’t know before, but also things internally. Not every single woman can work with every woman and we have definitely had some trimming of the negative energies, so it’s been a bumpy ride, just trying to make sure we have the right team with us. We have recovered significantly from it, and we are very grateful.

Really, we’re a small group of women, all of us have our own side hustles and I’m the main one putting all of the pieces together, but I have an incredible community of women where we’re creating resources right now. We don’t have public or private funding or any funding right now, we’re funding this ourselves. So, a lot of it is trading resources. I have women working with the magazines and then I’m helping them by photographing their products, helping them with their websites, giving them business coaching, anyway that we can evolve and grow each other is what we’re doing until we’re able to actually be profitable.

Samir Husni: I’ve noticed on your website that you seem to be positioning yourself as an adult magazine because you have to be over 21 to click into the website content; is it the cannabis or the nudity that required that?

Jennifer Skøg: It’s the cannabis. I think there might be minor nudity, but no, it’s the cannabis. And that’s the reason why we can’t advertise anything. And even the young twenties are not in our demographic. We’re definitely thirty and up, so we really don’t want this getting into the hands of younger kids.

Samir Husni: If we’re having this conversation a year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with MJ Lifestyle?

Jennifer Skøg: It’s really exciting and fun; we’re meeting and participating in a lot of events, so we’re getting out there in the field and getting to know women. And not just at cannabis events, but holistic events, yoga, or business events, women being empowered. We want this to not be stoner culture, we want this to be real life. So, we’re trying to bridge that gap between the stoner culture and real women. For us, it would be that we had evolved into a greater team, putting on more events, and having another couple of issues under our belt.

We have one coming out this summer and it’s on policy and social justice. This is a huge issue coming out that we’re working on right now. It involves a lot of reaching out to people, a lot of interviews, and then me flying to go and do photos. (Laughs) It’s a crazy, busy life, but really exciting.

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

Jennifer Skøg: The other really difficult part for us is that we really are trying to respect the plant and so we have to be very careful who we are partnering with, because there are companies that don’t have the best intentions, or we have cut companies that are coming in and flooding the market with misogynistic type of marketing, with half-naked women, and on their billboards you’ll see women with bongs and it’s just not appropriate. So for us, that’s one of our biggest things, making sure that the people we are partnering with have good intentions, integrity; obviously they have a safe product to consume, but also we’re about business too, we’re not here saying money is money. We’re very much pride over profit.

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

Jennifer Skøg: Probably that we have money. (Laughs) What most people think is that we have a pretty well-oiled machine, but we’re really just taking it one day at a time. And we’re working really hard, but at the same time we’re also trying to enjoy our lives.

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; playing with the kids; reading a magazine; cooking; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Jennifer Skøg: Moms are busy. I pick up my kids; I do homework; I start dinner; I clean up after dinner, and by the time it’s 7:00 p.m., I actually go back to my computer and get to work. I take a couple of minutes to snuggle with my kids and if it’s been a really long day, I’ll fall asleep with them (Laughs) And falling asleep with them is the best ever. Sometimes I’ll consume some cannabis, but not until the kids are down or they’re away. I actually don’t drink a lot of alcohol, it upsets my stomach and that’s one of the reasons that cannabis has been my kind of “vice,” so to speak, for so long.

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

Jennifer Skøg: Makes women feel amazing, feel beautiful, and powerful.

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

Jennifer Skøg: (Laughs) Work. I’m non-stop working; my office is in my house, so I’m literally on the desk. It’s sad because sometimes you’ll see that when all of my family wants quiet time, my husband is on his computer and I’m on mine and my kids are on their devices, it’s very techy. I am a great mom, but I’m also at my computer often.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

h1

Luckbox Magazine: A Definite Alternative To Depending On Lady Luck When It Comes To Decisions Of Money & Investments – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jeff Joseph, Publisher & Editorial Director, Luckbox Magazine…

April 1, 2019

“Ultimately, we have one objective; we did a lot of surveying of our audiences in the past, because that’s the only way you really measure if you’re engaging, and if your unique content proposition is resonating with your audience. So we measure that a lot, frequently, in the form of surveys with our audience. And the survey criteria that we’ve had in our prior financial publications that we aspire to achieve is that in the past, within sixty percent of our audience never threw out their print editions, ever. They kept them as a permanent library. That specific metric of engagement really drives us and motivates us. It means that we are providing a library of resource to our audience that they go back to and refer to over and over again. That means that they like the look and feel and texture, and the magazine is aspirational to them. And that it provides a value beyond the first read.” Jeff Joseph…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

With investment experience from floor trader to institutional asset management, and venture experience as well, Jeff Joseph has the expertise needed to bring a financial magazine, such as the new title Luckbox, to great success and bring even greater informational strategies to lead readers from chancy risks to skilled decisions when it comes to their investments. And as chief content officer and publisher of Modern Trader magazine, he knows a thing or two about the publishing industry as well, although he’ll tell you he is a financial wiz much more than a publishing tycoon.

I spoke with Jeff recently and we talked about the new magazine Luckbox, which he and his team are developing and publishing for TastyTrade, one of the fastest growing online financial networks in the world. Partnering with TastyTrade on this endeavor, Jeff said that the magazine started with an already embedded audience that allows him to do what he wanted to do, allocate resources for content. In Jeff’s opinion, it’s all about the content. And with TastyTrade as owner of the magazine and Jeff as its publisher and editorial director, the magazine about probabilities and content is a sharply designed, extremely smart new publication that takes the “what ifs” and the “might happens” and quantifies those probabilities when it comes to making money on investments. It’s a magazine for investors who want to take control of their money and make their own decisions.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. magazine™ interview with a man who talks magazine as fluently as he does money – Jeff Joseph, publisher and editorial director, Luckbox Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On starting another print magazine in this digital age: I’ve always agreed with your premise, that it’s not a magazine if it isn’t print. But at the same time there is something else that I believe is true, and that is that a magazine has many forms. And in the long run a magazine is still about content. I’m agnostic as to what platform our readers choose to access our content. I prefer it to be in print, because I agree with you, that it’s a beautiful, tactile, engaging experience, but for those who prefer to access our content through digital platforms, that’s fine.

On the idea for Luckbox and how the magazine was born: Luckbox is a partnership with a financial services firm that is a content marketing firm that understands the importance of content marketing to engage with a larger audience and is all about the idea of giving information to be able to create goodwill and customer engagement and customer loyalty. And it had the marketing means and the audience size that would immediately allow this new publication, Luckbox, to reach even larger audiences.

On the concept of Luckbox and how that applies to the audience he is attempting to reach: We’re very focused on a step-by-step process that defines our unique content position, and then ultimately measures the engagement of that content and the scalability to larger audiences. So the unique content proposition is like every publication, you have to have a very clear idea of what you are and what you stand for, and that idea should drive all of your editorial decisions. In our case, it’s about life and money broadly speaking, but narrowly speaking, our publication is really about probabilities. And the key word in unique content proposition is “unique.” What’s the differentiator?

On were there any stumbling blocks or challenges along the way: I think my distinctive advantage as a publisher and also as the editorial director is that I have subject matter expertise and domain expertise, first and foremost. I come from finance and trading and the investment industry, the decades of my professional career have been in that area. I’ve been a publisher for only five years, although those five years seem like twenty years, but it’s the content knowledge and domain expertise.

On having a partner with this venture and why he felt he needed one: To be clear, this publication is owned by the financial partner Tastytrade, this is their publication and we’re developing it for them. And the reason is, to answer your question, is scale. It’s that simple. As you know the economics of print are still predominantly focused on subscription revenue or advertising revenue. And they feed each other, the larger your subscription base, the larger your ad revenues. There is that third level of event revenue, but you first have to focus on brand development and audience building before you can go down that event path.

On the probability that he will be having this conversation one year from now: (Laughs) That’s a great question and that’s exactly the business concern that I have been most focused on. So unlike a publisher that would be launching a new magazine that has to deal with all of the business issues, when you have an embedded audience from day one, that probability rises materially, so I would tell you right now, go on the record as saying there is a 95 percent-plus probability that next year we are talking about how we’re expanding our audience and that Luckbox is looking at is next phases of evolution.

On anything he’d like to add: You know what it’s like out of the gate, there is just so much to do. You just want to focus on trying to get better and better. I’ve never been happy with any issue we’ve ever produced. I have a really smart and knowledgeable team, with great editors that are willing to shake up the conventional way of looking at things. Our parent company is very provocative in the manner in which they work, they have their own marketing voice. And that makes this all just a lot more fun.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I guess that I’m a publisher. Again, my background is first and foremost in the financial industry investment and trading, that’s where I’ve spent my entire career. It’s the content expertise that I think gives me an edge. And with my past entrepreneurial and venture activities, I’m more of an entrepreneur than a publisher, and that to me only implies a little bit more flexibility. That’s all.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Aside from family, my passions are brown whiskey, cigars, and my Samoyed, my dog. I also probably spend more time consuming media than any single person I know. Whether it’s walking, listening to podcast news or every morning listening to financial media, every night listening to political media, and then every evening on the weekend reading, I consume a lot of media. And that’s probably where most of my time is spent.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: I’m my father’s son and my father is approaching a milestone birthday on April 3rd, he’ll be 100 years old. And his spirit and his heart is still beating strongly and he, above everything else, is a warm, wonderful man, the nicest man I’ve ever met, but the hardest working man I’ve ever met. And with an insatiable, entrepreneurial spirit. He was at Normandy in the second wave, he did five European tours; he was an innovator as a restaurateur, he worked long hard hours. He had as many as a dozen restaurants at one time. I’ve learned my work ethic from him and an entrepreneurial spirit and an accept-no-failure attitude and that becomes my greatest challenge, to pass it on to my children as well.

On what keeps him up at night: All this media that I consume. (Laughs) I don’t sleep much. I consume a lot of media. What keeps me up in terms of the business, is the challenge. We know where the headwinds are working print to digital, and again, in the same way that I embrace what you’ve always said, which I find very motivating, it’s not print if it’s not a magazine, at the same time it’s finding the way to engage new audiences. It’s not about marketing that keeps me up, it’s about that content. I believe in the power of content, and content to mobilize and engage, to be aspirational, to be educational; and finding the way to communicate that content is to me the challenge.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jeff Joseph, publisher and editorial director, Luckbox Magazine.

Samir Husni: Are you completely losing it to start another print magazine in this digital age?

Jeff Joseph: (Laughs) That’s a loaded question. I’ve always agreed with your premise, that it’s not a magazine if it isn’t print. But at the same time there is something else that I believe is true, and that is that a magazine has many forms. And in the long run a magazine is still about content. I’m agnostic as to what platform our readers choose to access our content. I prefer it to be in print, because I agree with you, that it’s a beautiful, tactile, engaging experience, but for those who prefer to access our content through digital platforms, that’s fine.

I think being platform agnostic is important. The love of print is motivating and I believe completely in the segmentation of lean-in versus lean-back media; the idea that there are people who are spending their time focusing on digital content and accessing digital content, they’re leaning into it on a daily basis. I’m a big proponent and advocate of the studies that have made it very, very clear now that when it comes to actually engaging with content and actually absorbing it, recent studies out of the University of Maryland show very compelling data that the print reader and the digital reader walk away with the same basic understanding of the content. But if your content is detailed-oriented, as ours is, there is far more engagement retention and recognition of those details for the print reader than there is for the digital reader. And that has been verified through a number of independent university studies.

And the third thing, which I have always thought was ironic that those same studies have pointed out, is that the digital reader and the print reader although they’re absorbing different levels of detail walk away with the notion that they’ve retained the content equally. So this false sense of confidence that the digital reader has, in terms of their ability to actually engage with and retain the content, is something that print seeks to address. So, I look at two worlds, one where you’re leaning into content and one where you’re leaning back with content. And I prefer the magazine, but I’m not going to let my bias get in the way of what readers choose to access.

Again, it’s balancing what you believe, which I believe that it’s not a magazine if it’s not print, but at the same time you can believe something else and that is it’s still all about content; it’s not the medium, it’s the message in the long run, and the manner in which the reader chooses to access that content. And I prefer to be agnostic about it.

Samir Husni: You’ve been involved in many other financial publications and platforms, from Tastytrade to Modern Trader, but how did you come up with the idea for Luckbox and how was the magazine born?

Jeff Joseph: The two prior print publications that I have been involved in; Futures Magazine, which was around for a long, long time, a full decade, was a B to B publication that was focused on futures and options and derivatives, and was predominantly for professional traders. When I acquired that company several years back, it was just limping along and the decision was made to reach a broader audience and make a shift to a B to C audience by adding in equities and financial markets. And that included the stock markets and being less focused on an obscure, narrowed segment of the financial market, which opened up a more B to C appeal.

And we had success with that publication. We achieved a number of editorial and design awards, including Best Business to Business Magazine during that transition. And we learned a number of things and having come to that conclusion of learning, we started seeking opportunities that would allow us to reach an even larger audience.

And that’s what Luckbox is, a partnership with a financial services firm that is a content marketing firm that understands the importance of content marketing to engage with a larger audience and is all about the idea of giving information to be able to create goodwill and customer engagement and customer loyalty. And it had the marketing means and the audience size that would immediately allow this new publication, Luckbox, to reach even larger audiences.

So, what we’ve ensured with Luckbox, which just launched last month, is that in a short period of time, within the next two or three months, we’ll achieve an audience that exceeds the largest audience that we ever had. We expect to be reaching 60,000 to 70,000 subscribers in a matter of months. And that is a result of this partnership with this multiplatform content marketing group in financial media.

Samir Husni: From the concept of the magazine, it’s a monthly magazine for anti-Wall-Streeters, proactive investors who want to make better investment decisions. Tell me a little bit more about the concept and how that applies to the audience you are attempting to reach.

Jeff Joseph: We’re very focused on a step-by-step process that defines our unique content position, and then ultimately measures the engagement of that content and the scalability to larger audiences. So the unique content proposition is like every publication, you have to have a very clear idea of what you are and what you stand for, and that idea should drive all of your editorial decisions. In our case, it’s about life and money broadly speaking, but narrowly speaking, our publication is really about probabilities. And the key word in unique content proposition is “unique.” What’s the differentiator?

And what we are aware of is that in print media there is not a single publication today, not one, that engages with the active investor. And that is someone who either trades or makes their own investment decisions and doesn’t allocate to a delegator or to a robot. They want control over their money; they want greater understanding of the decisions that they’re making and they want to learn how to make better decisions. And there isn’t a single publication in print form that addresses those issues.

So, that is our unique content proposition. We’re very focused on probabilities, and if you take a look at the “Welcome to Luckbox” page, which is a Publisher’s Note to our first readers in our debut issue, we clearly state what we’re about and that is looking at the world through the lens of probability. And that there is an irony to the name Luckbox, which is really a fun name, I love the name. It wasn’t my idea, to be clear, but it’s a wonderful name that has this curiosity gap: what is Luckbox?

And it has great irony about it, because our magazine is really about imparting knowledge, confidence and skills, and it has a lot of educational content. And the irony of the name Luckbox is that a luckbox is a slang term that traders, gamblers, and poker players know, and it refers to somebody who’s luck is significantly beyond what they deserve. Where somebody’s outcomes materially exceeds their skillsets. And that’s kind of the irony of this name. There are a couple of quotes on that very page where we define what Luckbox is. One from Seneca Roman, a philosopher who said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and that’s really what we’re focused on is that preparation of recognizing our opportunity. And then at that point, a little luck is not a bad thing. And that is our unique content proposition that we’re very focused on.

So, as we evolve, and as you know magazines evolve, we had our first issue and we’re proud of it and we’re pleased with it, but it’s like launching software, you have to have your next version; in our case it’s our next issue. And then our next issue and our next issue after that. We always look at magazines as being a lot like software launches and software releases, where every version gets better and better and more focused on delivering that unique content proposition.

So, that’s what we’re focusing on right now, being this platform that really focuses on the odds of everything. The odds of a successful investment than a particular stock or particular option. The odds of successful outcomes in life and in personal business pursuits. There is not a publication focused on that and the reason we’re focused on it is we know understanding math and probabilities empowers individuals to become more confident about the decisions they make, with respect to their own investments.

Samir Husni: Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you? You have all of this experience behind you, having done this before; were there any stumbling blocks or challenges along the way?

Jeff Joseph: I think my distinctive advantage as a publisher and also as the editorial director is that I have subject matter expertise and domain expertise, first and foremost. I come from finance and trading and the investment industry, the decades of my professional career have been in that area. I’ve been a publisher for only five years, although those five years seem like twenty years, but it’s the content knowledge and domain expertise.

And I personally believe it’s the absence of having decades of publishing experience that allows us to be more flexible, less inclined to accept the rules; this is how it needs to be done. Clearly, our least favorite words are “this is how it’s been done in the past,” we want to be provocative. We want to challenge some of the rules that have guided publishing and journalism in recent years.

And to some degree I think it’s kind of led the industry down a path and in the long run you still have to be relevant and engage with your audience. And I truly think that our team is more entrepreneurial as opposed to being beholden to journalism practices and publishing rules. And by focusing on our content and our knowledge of the content and just trying to find more engaging and compelling ways to deliver that content, I think that’s a distinct advantage for us.

My push back on your setup to that question is that I understand the publishing industry, those five years seem like twenty, but I’m learning every day. But what I do understand is our content, the investment and trading and financial industry. And that understanding of our content, when in the long run it’s the content that we are delivering as a product, not the magazine, I think that’s our advantage.

Samir Husni: You said you have a custom content publishing firm as your partner, specializing in finances; why did you feel you needed a partner with this venture?

Jeff Joseph: To be clear, this publication is owned by the financial partner Tastytrade, this is their publication and we’re developing it for them. And the reason is, to answer your question, is scale. It’s that simple. As you know the economics of print are still predominantly focused on subscription revenue or advertising revenue. And they feed each other, the larger your subscription base, the larger your ad revenues. There is that third level of event revenue, but you first have to focus on brand development and audience building before you can go down that event path.

And what we wanted and what we needed was to reach the widest possible audience. So, by working with a group that had an embedded audience from day one as opposed to spending all of our energies on audience acquisition, we have an audience. Our financial partner Tastytrade is a content marketing firm, every day at Tastytrade.com they are producing five days a week, eight hours a day, original live on-air financial programming to a large audience of hundreds of thousands that watch that programming. And that’s free programming, so they already recognized the value of providing important educational and actionable content on a daily basis to generate goodwill to monetize through their brokerage company.

And it’s that understanding, that audiences are the prerequisite to being able to scale and focus on content, and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to focus on content. And so much of a publisher’s responsibility is focusing on audience acquisition, and by having an audience from day one it guarantees your success in terms of potential subscriber revenue and advertising revenue. That’s very important. I think it allows us to allocate our resources more for writing and refining the content that maximizes engagement with our intended audience.

Samir Husni: What’s the probability that a year from now you and I are having this conversation?

Jeff Joseph: (Laughs) That’s a great question and that’s exactly the business concern that I have been most focused on. So unlike a publisher that would be launching a new magazine that has to deal with all of the business issues, when you have an embedded audience from day one, that probability rises materially, so I would tell you right now, go on the record as saying there is a 95 percent-plus probability that next year we are talking about how we’re expanding our audience and that Luckbox is looking at is next phases of evolution.

So, unlike the challenges that a publisher has on a daily basis, is it going to be subscription revenue or advertising revenue and they feed each other and how do I acquire more, when you start from a base it gives you a lot of advantages. And of course, we’ve just had our first issue, but our second issue will appear nationwide at Barnes & Noble and other newsstands. And we pass out complimentary issues at investment, trade, financial and entrepreneurial conferences every single month. And we’re looking at a number of different distribution platforms as opposed to both print and digital.

And of course, we’re doing the other things that integrate with technology. We have augmented reality in our very first issue, right out of the gate. And we’re integrating technology, and since we already have this lean-in media environment, by that I mean the digital programming that is online every day, that live programming, this lean-back form of media is very complimentary to that.

Ultimately, we have one objective; we did a lot of surveying of our audiences in the past, because that’s the only way you really measure if you’re engaging, and if your unique content proposition is resonating with your audience. So we measure that a lot, frequently, in the form of surveys with our audience. And the survey criteria that we’ve had in our prior financial publications that we aspire to achieve is that in the past, within sixty percent of our audience never threw out their print editions, ever. They kept them as a permanent library. That specific metric of engagement really drives us and motivates us. It means that we are providing a library of resource to our audience that they go back to and refer to over and over again. That means that they like the look and feel and texture, and the magazine is aspirational to them. And that it provides a value beyond the first read.

And everyone has their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that they look at; the KPI that I’m most interested in is that this is a publication that once somebody has it in their hands, they never want to throw it out. That means it has actionable, short-term information, and then it has educational, long-term information that becomes an essential, which is a key word for us, an essential resource.

And that’s what we always seek to be, essential to our readers, in the same way that if you’re a mechanic, Popular Mechanics is essential to you. If you’re a designer, Architectural Digest is essential to you. If you’re in the fashion industry, Vogue is essential to you. If you’re in the music industry, Rolling Stone is essential. If you’re a guitar player, Guitar World is essential. That’s what we’re focused on being, is essential to our readers.

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

Jeff Joseph: You know what it’s like out of the gate, there is just so much to do. You just want to focus on trying to get better and better. I’ve never been happy with any issue we’ve ever produced. I have a really smart and knowledgeable team, with great editors that are willing to shake up the conventional way of looking at things. Our parent company is very provocative in the manner in which they work, they have their own marketing voice. And that makes this all just a lot more fun.

We don’t feel beholden to any real rules and because we’re small we can make quick decisions and we can fail fast and adapt, and evolve and move forward immediately. There’s not a whole team of people that belabor every decision, we just decide to do something and we do it, we measure it and we move on if it doesn’t succeed.

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

Jeff Joseph: I guess that I’m a publisher. Again, my background is first and foremost in the financial industry investment and trading, that’s where I’ve spent my entire career. It’s the content expertise that I think gives me an edge. And with my past entrepreneurial and venture activities, I’m more of an entrepreneur than a publisher, and that to me only implies a little bit more flexibility. That’s all, and a lot of learning as well.

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

Jeff Joseph: Aside from family, my passions are brown whiskey, cigars, and my Samoyed, my dog. I also probably spend more time consuming media than any single person I know. Whether it’s walking, listening to podcast news or every morning listening to financial media, every night listening to political media, and then every evening on the weekend reading, I consume a lot of media. And that’s probably where most of my time is spent.

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

Jeff Joseph: I’m my father’s son and my father is approaching a milestone birthday on April 3rd, he’ll be 100 years old. And his spirit and his heart is still beating strongly and he, above everything else, is a warm, wonderful man, the nicest man I’ve ever met, but the hardest working man I’ve ever met. And with an insatiable, entrepreneurial spirit. He was at Normandy in the second wave, he did five European tours; he was an innovator as a restaurateur, he worked long hard hours. He had as many as a dozen restaurants at one time. I’ve learned my work ethic from him and an entrepreneurial spirit and an accept-no-failure attitude and that becomes my greatest challenge, to pass it on to my children as well.

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

Jeff Joseph: All this media that I consume. (Laughs) I don’t sleep much. I consume a lot of media. What keeps me up in terms of the business, is the challenge. We know where the headwinds are working print to digital, and again, in the same way that I embrace what you’ve always said, which I find very motivating, it’s not print if it’s not a magazine, at the same time it’s finding the way to engage new audiences. It’s not about marketing that keeps me up, it’s about that content. I believe in the power of content, and content to mobilize and engage, to be aspirational, to be educational; and finding the way to communicate that content is to me the challenge.

For example, it’s one of the reasons that we’re doing something in the first issue of Luckbox that we’ll continue doing going forward, we’re doing magazine reviews. In the first issue we noted Popular Mechanics and did a review, and there was a reason for that. The second issue will have a review of The Atlantic magazine, because we welcome media in all forms. And there is extraordinary journalism out there. It’s one of the reasons we want to try and bring it to the attention of younger audiences who might not be consuming print, and not aware of these different platforms and publications. So, we’ll continue to mention other magazines and promote them on a multi-basis in our own magazine going forward, because we believe in the platform.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Oh-So Magazine: From The Dreams Of A Daughter To The Pages Of A Magazine, One Father Creates The “Oh-So” Perfect Skateboarding Magazine Dedicated To The Females Of The Sport – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Rob Hewitt, Founder, Oh-So Magazine…

March 12, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

“I feel like on Instagram and on the web, and I’m sure a lot of people will shake their heads and that’s fine, you kind of move so quickly and you forget so quickly about what it is exactly you’re documenting in the back of your brain, where a true visual and visceral experience, especially with skateboarding where there is so much movement that you hardly get to reflect on the person’s face and personality because it’s all about the trick and what’s being done on the board, I really wanted to slow that down and pull back a little bit. And it’s intentional that you don’t see so many tricks in this magazine; it’s more about the females who are in the sport and their experiences and their journeys. And hopefully, whoever sees it; it gets them to slow down and reflect on the fact that they may have seen so much stuff on Instagram, but barely remember any of it.” Rob Hewitt (On why he chose print instead of digital-only for Oh-So magazine)…

When Rob Hewitt discovered that his daughter Amelia had an affinity for skateboarding, he and the animated seven-year-old went on the hunt for a publication that was made for her and her age group. Her tastes ran toward the sparkly, emoji-filled dreams of a little girl who loved to have fun, but who also wanted to learn more about other girls who loved her newfound sport. Disappointed with what they found on the newsstands about females and the sport of skateboarding, Rob decided to create a magazine just for Amelia. And Oh-So was born.

From the fun and energetic design to the fantastic illustrations and stories that fill its pages, Oh-So definitely lives up to its name: it’s oh-so engaging and informative. And with the tagline “Celebrating The Female Skateboarding Community,” the magazine shows the renegade spirit and talents of the female skateboarder, but also tells the story of their individual journeys. And it shows the passion of a true graphic artist, Rob Hewitt.

Aside from being an entrepreneurial magazine maker, Rob is also creative director for Dwell magazine, among other creative endeavors, and his passion for design is only overshadowed by his love for his daughter, which he has poured into this publishing project. And if Mr. Magazine™ may be so bold as to say – it is “Oh-So” delightful. So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rob Hewitt, founder, Oh-So magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On creating a magazine about skateboarding for his daughter when he could find nothing already in the marketplace that spoke to her: Through the years, as a designer I’ve always had my eye on typography and graphic design in general. And a few years ago, I actually purchased a skateboard deck without the wheels or the trucks that was in celebration of a typeface and they just put the typeface on the skateboard deck. I have that still. And my wife and I got a couple of boards because we’re in Manhattan and we would sort of cruise up the West Side Highway, and this was again maybe five or six years ago. There were literally a couple of skateboards sitting around and my daughter found one and brought it into the house and was cruising up and down the hallway. And I found it really interesting, because this was not on my radar; I hadn’t thought about skateboarding at all.

On how typography and Instagram brought him to skateboarding and how that turned into Oh-So magazine: The visual part of it came a little bit later. This was purely an intuitive process, because it was just me reflecting on needs and figuring out I how I could use what I do and what I know, which is visual thinking and visual problem-solving, how could I use that in a way that would be interesting to, first and foremost, females. And my daughter may be secondary a little, because she can read, but she’s not as fluent at seven as most of the girls out there skateboarding. And from that, what sort of ingredients do I need to do that?

On why he chose print in this digital age: My background was a huge part of it. I am so passionate about graphic design in general. And I absolutely love print. It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I refuse to give up on the power of print. One thing that I really found in this journey of creating this publication, it occurred to me that everything is documented on Instagram or in video and there is a publication for men called Thrasher, which has been around for a long time, but they don’t really call too much attention to the female skate world. I think they’re trying to now, but in recent years they haven’t.

On bringing in Robert Priest and Grace Lee (8×8 magazine) to help with the magazine: I’m grateful to Robert, he actually gave me my first job in New York and I’m thankful that we’ve remained friends after all this time. When I had the idea for this magazine and I had maybe 15 pages of bad layouts and three or four covers, I went and visited their studio to really just get raw feedback from them because I really respect Robert and Grace for what they’ve done in the industry and what they’re currently doing with their magazine. And I straight-up said to them, you guys have inspired this because you’ve created a product that has turned soccer/football magazines on their heads.

On having the first issue done and what’s next: What’s next is working on the second issue. I’m very excited, there is some really good stuff. I don’t want to jinx it but Issue One has been received really well, and I honestly don’t know what to think because I entered into this thinking that I had nothing to lose, it could just disappear and that’s fine, I need to stay true to my journey and my focus. And I’ve done that. And people have reached out and said great things.

On his daughter’s reaction when she first saw the magazine: Actually, the printouts were on the floor and on the table and I would invite her over to look at them, because she’s seven and her world consists literally of emoji’s and bright colors and fun things. And I asked her what she thought about the magazine and she would just point at things and say that’s fun or I like that or I don’t know what that is. And I thought they were some good reactions from her.

On anything he’d like to add: If people pick it up, there are a few articles in there, especially one about Atita Verghese, who is the first pro female out of India, and she is an incredible spokesperson for equality in India, especially for girls. I think it’s a really important thing. And she’s kind of doing it by herself. I try to get people to that article more than some of the others because it really is so raw and her message is so powerful. If I had to highlight only one person it would be her; she is a force. I have so much respect for her.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: Probably watching something on Netflix. I tend to binge watch and I tend to get stuck on certain theories. And believe it or not, I will watch them multiple times.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I’m a very shy person and I consider myself an introvert. And knowing that I’m not very outspoken in public or in groups, I think sometimes that comes off as aloof. But I think I’m actually the complete opposite of that. Unfortunately, the nature of being quiet and being more of an observer sometimes comes across as aloof.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him: Hopefully that I tried my best and tried to do the right thing. In my career in general, I’ve always loved the idea of the design problem and what is the right solution for that problem. And when I say that I tried my best, I like to think that in my work, and Oh-So in general, I really try to solve the problem in a way that is an emotional reaction visually. And I try to get it right.

On what keeps him up at night: Right now, Oh-So keeps me up at night, my kids keep me up at night; I think I’m a worrier, I worry about a lot of things. I worry about things in the world that I have no control over. I worry about messaging that I have no control over. And I worry about a lot of stuff for my kids. There are things that you see and hear, a lot of disturbing stuff, and unfortunately because I’m a dad, I worry about that stuff.


And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Rob Hewitt, Founder, Oh-So magazine.

Samir Husni: In the introduction of Oh-So magazine, you write that you saw your daughter’s interest in skateboarding escalating, but could find nothing in the marketplace that spoke to her, so you created a magazine for her.

Rob Hewitt: It literally started with me being a graphic designer. I skateboarded a little bit when I was a kid, using the Bones Brigade boards and the Tony Hawk boards, but by no means did I pursue it professionally or anything like that. It was more like there’s a board, I’m going to jump on it and skate.

So, through the years, as a designer I’ve always had my eye on typography and graphic design in general. And a few years ago, I actually purchased a skateboard deck without the wheels or the trucks that was in celebration of a typeface and they just put the typeface on the skateboard deck. I have that still. And my wife and I got a couple of boards because we’re in Manhattan and we would sort of cruise up the West Side Highway, and this was again maybe five or six years ago.

There were literally a couple of skateboards sitting around and my daughter found one and brought it into the house and was cruising up and down the hallway. And I found it really interesting, because this was not on my radar; I hadn’t thought about skateboarding at all. (Laughs) I just kind of looked at her and asked was she having fun? And she said yes, that she could go fast and get from here to there really quickly. We decided to go and see if there was something that appealed to her, because my board was clearly more masculine and frankly quite blind to what her needs were.

We went to a skate shop and looked around. I didn’t initiate or push anything and she just said there was no pink, no emoji’s, no unicorns; there was nothing sparkly there for her. And this was this past summer, mid to late summer. And it really sparked the question: my daughter has taken an interest in something and there wasn’t anything out there that she felt comfortable with.

So, it was as though the muse appeared and we grabbed on and went on this journey. It was crazy because in a matter of a few weeks, that movie by the Skate Kitchen crew was literally just coming out and I hadn’t heard anything about them, they’re this crew in New York, they’re amateur skateboarders and they skate for fun. And I was like wait a minute, there are other people out there doing this, let’s look further.

I was searching online and on Instagram and just reached out to some people and this conversation started. And it went from there. And there were some stops and starts because I didn’t know if I should really try and make a publication out of this. I have a good friend who is an illustrator and he had done an illustration and that was one thing. And then on Instagram I found a photographer in New York who had taken these beautiful photos, which were in the issue of Chelsea Piers Skatepark and it was like okay, there is something. And then the Skate Kitchen segment, there was something else.

And on Instagram, the doors just began to open up quickly and I certainly began to see that there were a lot of females doing this professionally, as well as amateurs and just for fun. So, it just started to happen. I just followed it. And while it was happening I really just wanted to stay true to, and maybe this sounds cliché or a bit of a stereotype, but stay true to what my daughter would experience if she did this. And how could I provide her with a little bit of knowledge and education so that she felt like she knew what she was getting into, because there didn’t really feel like there was a lot of it.

Samir Husni: How old is your daughter?

Rob Hewitt: She’s seven.

Samir Husni: Typography brought you to skateboarding and Instagram brought you to global skateboarding. How did those two combinations create Oh-So magazine?

Rob Hewitt: The visual part of it came a little bit later. This was purely an intuitive process, because it was just me reflecting on needs and figuring out I how I could use what I do and what I know, which is visual thinking and visual problem-solving, how could I use that in a way that would be interesting to, first and foremost, females. And my daughter may be secondary a little, because she can read, but she’s not as fluent at seven as most of the girls out there skateboarding. And from that, what sort of ingredients do I need to do that?

Again, through Instagram, the cover appeared really quickly. I found it and thought, this is a great image. And I took stock of that. Around the same time, I hadn’t found the primary typeface that’s in the magazine, I was actually using a completely different typeface, but then by late summer I stumbled upon work by Corita Kent, and I knew her work, she was an activist in the ‘60s who did those very powerful feminine-driven posters, and I had always loved her work. And she had done a lot of this work typography in the ‘60s. So, I thought here was another ingredient that felt like what this vernacular was, because it’s all about movement. They do not stop, it’s continuous motion. Corita Kent’s posters had that energy.

I was reading an interview with Corita Kent, and I kid you not, in the interview she said she was doing some work and it felt “oh-so” cool. I was like, wait a minute, oh-so and the way that she used it with an action word behind it, made this seem like – I don’t really know, but it just felt right. I literally looked at my wife and said what about “Oh-So” and she said it was interesting, but what does it mean? I said it’s just a nice way to segue into it, being that skateboarding is “oh-so” cool or “oh-so” equal or “oh-so” raw. All of these things just started to churn.

But we sat on it for a little while, asked a couple of people what they would think of that for a name for a female skateboarding magazine. And the reception was pretty good. And that was one thing that was banked.

Then starting to do layouts, I stumbled across the primary typeface that you see, and again, it just seemed to fit because it’s like three typefaces in one, as though each character can go three different ways. And it was interesting because I could use this typeface in a way that wasn’t just set. Yes, there is the true Sans Serif that’s used, which is the one used for the actual articles, but then the display stuff and some of the big letters and numbers has an energy that just felt right, because there was a lot of curves and free form, in a way. It reminded me of Corita Kent and her work. So, the bubble was being created and all of these things were in there.

There were so many times when I just second-guessed if it was right. (Laughs) And asked myself should I even keep going with this? It was just me and I kept wondering was I doing the right thing for a publication. And I just really had to trust that I was going to do it right. For me it felt good and at the end of the day it was a great feeling to see my daughter involved and excited. And I believe there is a philosophy to what I did here and what I tried to accomplish. It was education and filling a need that females didn’t have when it came to knowledge in the sport. Or even just knowing what other girls are going through at the skate parks. And the editorial felt as though it was serving a true purpose.

Samir Husni: Why did you feel in this digital age that Oh-So magazine would be better-served as a print publication?

Rob Hewitt: My background was a huge part of it. I am so passionate about graphic design in general. And I absolutely love print. It’s probably the wrong thing to say, but I refuse to give up on the power of print. One thing that I really found in this journey of creating this publication, it occurred to me that everything is documented on Instagram or in video and there is a publication for men called Thrasher, which has been around for a long time, but they don’t really call too much attention to the female skate world. I think they’re trying to now, but in recent years they haven’t.

So, why couldn’t there be a magazine for girls, and there are a couple of others out there, but they have a different sort of message, why couldn’t there be a magazine for girls where everyone can join in and learn about this sport and what the girls go through? And in a weird way, why couldn’t it be a documentation of what is happening now, a lot like Corita Kent was documenting and making poetry on movement in the sixties for feminists, and she was reacting to those movements. So, why couldn’t it exist?

I feel like on Instagram and on the web, and I’m sure a lot of people will shake their heads and that’s fine, you kind of move so quickly and you forget so quickly about what it is exactly you’re documenting in the back of your brain, where a true visual and visceral experience, especially with skateboarding where there is so much movement that you hardly get to reflect on the person’s face and personality because it’s all about the trick and what’s being done on the board, I really wanted to slow that down and pull back a little bit. And it’s intentional that you don’t see so many tricks in this magazine; it’s more about the females who are in the sport and their experiences and their journeys. And hopefully, whoever sees it; it gets them to slow down and reflect on the fact that they may have seen so much stuff on Instagram, but barely remember any of it.

Samir Husni: I interviewed the editor of Mindful magazine recently and she referred to the print magazine as slow-food in an age of fast-food, there’s a big difference in sitting at a restaurant and having a three-course meal versus grabbing a burger through a drive-thru.

Rob Hewitt: I agree. There are so many amazing independent print magazines out there and there is such a great attention to detail, and I just wanted to try and do that too. And I wanted to try and do it for the small market that doesn’t have that. And be loud for them as well and get them excited about what they’re doing in skateboarding.

Samir Husni: I see you brought in some big guns to help with this magazine, Robert Priest and Grace Lee, who have their own magazine, 8×8, among other things that they have done.

Rob Hewitt: I’m grateful to Robert, he actually gave me my first job in New York and I’m thankful that we’ve remained friends after all this time. When I had the idea for this magazine and I had maybe 15 pages of bad layouts and three or four covers, I went and visited their studio to really just get raw feedback from them because I really respect Robert and Grace for what they’ve done in the industry and what they’re currently doing with their magazine. And I straight-up said to them, you guys have inspired this because you’ve created a product that has turned soccer/football magazines on their heads.

Getting their response and feedback was great, because they didn’t hold back and they were honest and that’s what it needed. It’s just great to be able to talk to people like them and to have them as a sounding board. I’ve talked to Grace so many times about mailings and the size of the magazine and where there might be some speed bumps. And they’ve been immensely helpful, so much gratitude to them as well, for sure.

Samir Husni: The first issue is now in the history books, what next?

Rob Hewitt: What’s next is working on the second issue. I’m very excited, there is some really good stuff. I don’t want to jinx it but Issue One has been received really well, and I honestly don’t know what to think because I entered into this thinking that I had nothing to lose, it could just disappear and that’s fine, I need to stay true to my journey and my focus. And I’ve done that. And people have reached out and said great things.

You mentioned Jeremy Leslie when we were speaking right before the interview, he has been incredibly supportive and he was the first person to carry it in a store. Since then, there have been small victories almost every week that make me feel like I need to keep going. So, we’re going to do a second issue. And it’s just trying to keep it true to its focus and keep it light. I actually feel more stress with the second issue, (Laughs) because I’m really trying so hard to keep it focused. The reception has been incredibly positive and it’s overwhelming to know that you can touch people in this way. And with print, you send it to people and people pick it up and there is a true reaction. It’s really amazing. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: What was your daughter’s reaction when you showed her the first copy of the magazine? Did she say it was “oh-so” cool?

Rob Hewitt: (Laughs) She did. Actually, the printouts were on the floor and on the table and I would invite her over to look at them, because she’s seven and her world consists literally of emoji’s and bright colors and fun things. And I asked her what she thought about the magazine and she would just point at things and say that’s fun or I like that or I don’t know what that is. And I thought they were some good reactions from her.

And back to the cover, I don’t mean to stress this point but there were three covers, and for me intuitively this felt like the right thing, because it kind of put skateboarding on a different level, not necessarily about what the trick was and how great it was, which that in and of itself deserves its own respect and appreciation, but one cover has this girl Lizzie, who is incredibly talented and has exposed herself in a way that is pure emotion.

And my daughter, Amelia, went to this particular cover without hesitation, she pointed to it and said that one. I asked her why that one and she said, “Because that girl looks pretty and she looks fun.” And that was a huge thing. This cover makes me really uncomfortable because it is a girl who has her eyes crossed and her tongue out and holding a skateboard. (Laughs) Was that the right thing? I don’t know. (Laughs again) But going with the message of equality in skateboarding, which is another underlying philosophy and theme to the issue, it just sort of helped.

And believe it or not, if you read the articles, out of everyone who has spoken, nine times out of ten they’re in skateboarding to have fun. And I thought that was really important. It’s still the underlying thing, especially with the girls in general. Yes, they’re competitive, but they’re not as competitive as the guys. They want to bring groups of girls together to the skate park, they want the energy to be in the moment, and they want to have fun with it.

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

Rob Hewitt: If people pick it up, there are a few articles in there, especially one about Atita Verghese, who is the first pro female out of India, and she is an incredible spokesperson for equality in India, especially for girls. I think it’s a really important thing. And she’s kind of doing it by herself. I try to get people to that article more than some of the others because it really is so raw and her message is so powerful. If I had to highlight only one person it would be her; she is a force. I have so much respect for her.

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?

Rob Hewitt: (Laughs) Probably watching something on Netflix. I tend to binge watch and I tend to get stuck on certain theories. And believe it or not, I will watch them multiple times.

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

Rob Hewitt: I’m a very shy person and I consider myself an introvert. And knowing that I’m not very outspoken in public or in groups, I think sometimes that comes off as aloof. But I think I’m actually the complete opposite of that. Unfortunately, the nature of being quiet and being more of an observer sometimes comes across as aloof.

And one of the things with Oh-So is that it has taken me so far out of my comfort zone and it’s actually allowed, even with my being an introvert and sort of a deep diver, it’s allowed that wanting to get to know people, to come to the forefront. Like most people who are quiet, I think if you can talk to people one on one, you feel like you’re really engaged and getting a lot out of the conversation. And I’ve actually found with some of these girls that has happened. It’s almost like I’ve tapped into something and allowed some freedom and some escape from it. At events and things, I’m more of the fly on the wall, I have a hard time going up to people and talking to them in groups and things like that.

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

Rob Hewitt: Hopefully that I tried my best and tried to do the right thing. In my career in general, I’ve always loved the idea of the design problem and what is the right solution for that problem. And when I say that I tried my best, I like to think that in my work, and Oh-So in general, I really try to solve the problem in a way that is an emotional reaction visually. And I try to get it right.

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

Rob Hewitt: Right now, Oh-So keeps me up at night, my kids keep me up at night; I think I’m a worrier, I worry about a lot of things. I worry about things in the world that I have no control over. I worry about messaging that I have no control over. And I worry about a lot of stuff for my kids. There are things that you see and hear, a lot of disturbing stuff, and unfortunately because I’m a dad, I worry about that stuff.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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: FORM: Pioneering Design Magazine: Reborn In Print & Digital By Someone Who May Not Be An Architect, But Who Is Passionate About Southern California Architecture & Design & The Community It Serves – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Jerri Levi, Owner & Publisher…

January 31, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

I really did have to examine print. What I did is I went around and talked to different architects and people in the industry and I just put it out there. I asked did anybody see a need for print? And what I’m seeing now is, I think there is going to be a new renaissance in print. And of course the purpose of print is going to be changing, because it’s no longer a primary source of information. But I think by and large architects are visual, they’re tactile; I think there is something about having something sitting in front of you that you can lay down, pick up again and use it as reference.” Jerri Levi…

Celebrating Southern California Architecture, Design & Artwork, :Form: Pioneering Design magazine has been reborn into a robust, beautiful print publication that also has its own digital footprint. The magazine focuses on the Southern California area and the artists, designers and architects who inspire and create there. Owner and publisher Jerri Levi bought the magazine with the vision of celebrating Los Angeles and Southern California in general.

I spoke with Jerri recently and we talked about the quality and beauty of the magazine and on why she chose to bring it back to life in print as well as online. It ceased publication some four years ago and Jerri, as a former marketing director for :Form, saw the value it had for the Southern California design community and sought to revive it and to bring back a regional publication to serve that community. And after much examination, Jerri realized that architects and designers were tactile and visual people and a print magazine would be the best way to serve them.

Jerri isn’t an architect, but she is passionate about the subject and knows her way around the world of marketing, so :Form was reborn. And what a great time to do it. Entrepreneurs are breaking new ground in the world of magazines and Jerri is no exception. I hope that you enjoy this delightful conversation with a woman whose strongest desire is to serve the community she loves and respects. And now the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jerri Levi, owner and publisher, :Form: Pioneering Design magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she bought the magazine and brought it back to print:I used to work for the magazine. I was their marketing and advertising director for eight years, so I started working for an L.A. architect when it was still the official publication for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) of Los Angeles. And so I always had a deep affection for the magazine and I’ve always recognized the value it has had for the design community out here. So, basically what happened is I went my separate ways, I ended up getting an art gallery and got into real estate. When I heard that the magazine was no longer going to be in print and no longer on the website; I’m still a very good friend of Ann Gray who is the original publisher, and kind of on a whim I decided to say if no one else wants it, I’ll take it, naively thinking that because I had worked for it before I knew all about publishing, of which I now know I don’t.It’s been a very humbling experience trying to bring a publication back to life.

On what made her feel there was a need to bring this publication back to life in print:First of all, as you know there have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry. And of course when I was working for :Form way back when, and I also used to work for Metropolis, print used to be the primary form of getting your information. It’s really an interesting thing to come back now and really examine why you would want to go into print. The one thing that I realized was there were no longer any regional publications that reached out B to B to the architectural and design community.

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On whether relaunching the magazine has been a walk in a rose garden for her or she has had some challenges along the way:No, I tell you, once again, it’s a humbling experience, because everybody laughed at me. First of all, I had two different crowds. I had people who immediately got it, like Michael Webb, God bless him, he’s one of the absolute cornerstones of architectural criticism out here in Southern California. And Michael, God bless him, he stepped up and wanted to be a part of the new :Form almost immediately.

On people’s initial reaction since the magazine has come out:People have been blown away. I commissioned a fine artist by the name of Timothy Robert Smith to do a definitive map of Los Angeles and I think just that pullout map is really blowing people away.  I had Michael Franklin Ross essentially do an article about the best architectural design in L.A. for the past 100 years. And I think what’s going to happen is this magazine is going to start a new dialogue, just having experts go: I think the concert hall is the greatest building in Los Angeles, that’s going to get people talking. And it’s really going to get eyeballs back on how Los Angeles is developing and how we see this metropolis.

On anything she’d like to add:Just that I’m very happy to be here and I’m very happy to be exploring this magazine in a way that I never have before, coming in as a publisher, as opposed to coming in as the marketing director. It’s a very different experience. And in some ways it’s very daunting, because I still don’t know if I’m going to be accepted by this very distinguished community. But I’m also very excited and challenged, and I feel like we’re going to serve a greater purpose. So, I’m very happy to be here.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home:I play with my dogs. I have three dogs, two Shih Tzus and a Standard Poodle. I do a lot with them. I have one dog that’s a service dog and I take him to hospitals to visit people. I lead a pretty quiet life really.

On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her:I don’t know, but I think that some of the pushback that I’m getting is because I am not an architect. And so they feel like I’m not qualified to address this very sophisticated architectural community. And I think because I surround myself with great talent and people who are much smarter than myself, I believe I’m underestimated. But I think people are going to be surprised when they see the high quality of writing and journalism that we’re going to be bringing to the table. So, I’m hoping I’m going to prove some people wrong.

On what she would have tattooed upon her brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about her:Just that I’m sincere, that I have absolute respect for what I’m doing and that I want to bring the best quality and bring the best out of people. And I’m hopefully to be trusted and embraced eventually.

On what keeps her up a night:Money. (Laughs) Creating a magazine is an expensive endeavor and I guess my biggest challenge right now is sustaining the vision and being able to follow through. I’m thrilled that I was able to do my January/February issue, and I have to look at the bigger picture and I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to sustain it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Jerri Levi, owner and publisher, :Form: Pioneering Design magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you decide to buy the magazine and bring it back to print?

Jerri Levi: I used to work for the magazine. I was their marketing and advertising director for eight years, so I started working for an L.A. architect when it was still the official publication for the AIA (American Institute of Architects) of Los Angeles. And so I always had a deep affection for the magazine and I’ve always recognized the value it has had for the design community out here.

So, basically what happened is I went my separate ways, I ended up getting an art gallery and got into real estate. When I heard that the magazine was no longer going to be in print and no longer on the website; I’m still a very good friend of Ann Gray who is the original publisher, and kind of on a whim I decided to say if no one else wants it, I’ll take it, naively thinking that because I had worked for it before I knew all about publishing, of which I now know I don’t. It’s been a very humbling experience trying to bring a publication back to life.

Samir Husni: What made you feel that there was a need for this publication, for :Form, and an even bigger need to bring it back in print? And of course on the web too.

Jerri Levi: First of all, as you know there have been a lot of changes in the publishing industry. And of course when I was working for :Form way back when, and I also used to work for Metropolis, print used to be the primary form of getting your information. It’s really an interesting thing to come back now and really examine why you would want to go into print. The one thing that I realized was there were no longer any regional publications that reached out B to B to the architectural and design community.

The Architect’s Newspaper has gone, it no longer has a regional side to it. Obviously, Architectural Record is a national publication, so nothing was really speaking to the community, particularly in Southern California, which is huge. The AIA of Los Angeles is the second largest architectural body in the United States. And there was really nothing that was serving this very unique crowd of highly educated, influential designers.

The second thing is I really did have to examine print. What I did is I went around and talked to different architects and people in the industry and I just put it out there. I asked did anybody see a need for print? And what I’m seeing now is, I think there is going to be a new renaissance in print. And of course the purpose of print is going to be changing, because it’s no longer a primary source of information. But I think by and large architects are visual, they’re tactile; I think there is something about having something sitting in front of you that you can lay down, pick up again and use it as reference.

And this magazine is almost like a small work of art. I have the best graphic designers working on it; I have a brilliant editor. And these issues are going to be saved. A long time ago, when it was L.A. Architect, people collected L.A. Architect. And I’m hoping in a way that :Form is going to be coming back to being almost a collectible.

Samir Husni: I tell all of my students that print is the new “new” media.

Jerri Levi: I love print. And once again, I’m an old-timer. I remember when there were dozens of regional print publications in our area and they’ve all fallen by the wayside. And I think there’s a real hunger for it. I have to say, going to the printers and actually having a conversation about paper, and about what this magazine is visually going to look like, how it’s going to be formatted; you really are looking at a three-dimensional object, which conveys its own sensibility. It’s a completely different experience when you have a print publication in front of you versus getting your information online.

Samir Husni: Since you got the idea of purchasing the magazine and relaunching it, has it been a walk in a rose garden for you? Or have you had some challenges along the way?

Jerri Levi: (Laughs) No, I tell you, once again, it’s a humbling experience, because everybody laughed at me. First of all, I had two different crowds. I had people who immediately got it, like Michael Webb, God bless him, he’s one of the absolute cornerstones of architectural criticism out here in Southern California. And Michael, God bless him, he stepped up and wanted to be a part of the new :Form almost immediately.

But I’ve also had people essentially question me as to why I think I am worthy of taking this on, because my predecessor Ann Gray was an architect herself, she was very much a part of the industry, she was an insider; she’s an AIA Array FAIA. She’s a bigshot. And so people feel comfortable with that. I, on the other hand, I’m a salesman. I’m a marketing person and I’m a publisher. But I think that also gives me the perspective of being able to work with different talents and different points of view that I think an insider doesn’t have.

So, it’s been a challenge and I’ve had  a lot of criticism, but on the other hand, now that the magazine is out, I think I’m going to see a lot of enthusiasm.

Samir Husni: The first issue has been out for a bit now; what has been the initial reaction?

Jerri Levi: (Laughs) People have been blown away. I commissioned a fine artist by the name of Timothy Robert Smith to do a definitive map of Los Angeles and I think just that pullout map is really blowing people away.  I had Michael Franklin Ross essentially do an article about the best architectural design in L.A. for the past 100 years. And I think what’s going to happen is this magazine is going to start a new dialogue, just having experts go: I think the concert hall is the greatest building in Los Angeles, that’s going to get people talking. And it’s really going to get eyeballs back on how Los Angeles is developing and how we see this metropolis.

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

Jerri Levi: Just that I’m very happy to be here and I’m very happy to be exploring this magazine in a way that I never have before, coming in as a publisher, as opposed to coming in as the marketing director. It’s a very different experience. And in some ways it’s very daunting, because I still don’t know if I’m going to be accepted by this very distinguished community. But I’m also very excited and challenged, and I feel like we’re going to serve a greater purpose. So, I’m very happy to be here.

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?

Jerri Levi: I play with my dogs. I have three dogs, two Shih Tzus and a Standard Poodle. I do a lot with them. I have one dog that’s a service dog and I take him to hospitals to visit people. I lead a pretty quiet life really.

Samir Husni: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?

Head shot

Jerri Levi: I don’t know, but I think that some of the pushback that I’m getting is because I am not an architect. And so they feel like I’m not qualified to address this very sophisticated architectural community. And I think because I surround myself with great talent and people who are much smarter than myself, I believe I’m underestimated. But I think people are going to be surprised when they see the high quality of writing and journalism that we’re going to be bringing to the table. So, I’m hoping I’m going to prove some people wrong.

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

Jerri Levi: Just that I’m sincere, that I have absolute respect for what I’m doing and that I want to bring the best quality and bring the best out of people. And I’m hopefully to be trusted and embraced eventually.

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

Jerri Levi: Money. (Laughs) Creating a magazine is an expensive endeavor and I guess my biggest challenge right now is sustaining the vision and being able to follow through. I’m thrilled that I was able to do my January/February issue, and I have to look at the bigger picture and I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to sustain it.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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Gym Class Magazine: Reborn & Serving Up Quality Journalism In The Best Format To Consume It – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Gregor, Founder, Gym Class Magazine…

January 24, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Relaunch Story

“I don’t think listening to vinyl is the best way to listen to music necessarily. Technology has maybe improved the way people can listen to music, but I think magazines are still the best way to consume quality journalism.” Steven Gregor…

When a print magazine is resurrected, Mr. Magazine™ rejoices and never more so than with the iconic Gym Class – born first from the passions of a man who has always been in love with magazines and breathing once again from that same passion. Steven Gregor created Gym Class to promote and support magazines and that mission is still prevalent – but with the new Gym Class, he is determined to curate the best of the best in journalism.

I spoke with Steven recently and we talked about the reborn magazine and his decision to theme each issue of the new Gym Class and republish stories that tell the most compelling, the most factual and the most comprehensive content out there in the world today. Steven is determined to become a curator of content extraordinaire. And that determination is palpable when he talks about Gym Class and his never-ending love of and for magazines.

So, I hope that you enjoy this delightful conversation with a man who believes in magazines and in what they stand for and represent. From joy to entertainment to information, there is no better way to consume quality journalism than with a great magazine – and Steven Gregor, founder of Gym Class Magazine, has created and curated what he feels is one of the best. Read all about it here in the Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On the story of Gym Class Magazine:It’s been almost 10 years since I started Gym Class; I started it in 2009. And it started as a very small zine. And it started as a zine which was a riposte to men’s magazines. So, it wasn’t a magazine about magazines at all, which is maybe why it wasn’t such an obvious match to the world. Overtime, it became a magazine about magazines, and it developed from there. The reason why I decided to stop publishing with the 15th issue was I felt like things had changed, because my main priority with Gym Class was promotion magazines and I felt like, obviously making a magazine is a massive financial undertaking, and it felt like so much of the conversation around magazines was happening online or in person at events. I didn’t really feel there was much need for a magazine about magazines anymore.

On the name Gym Class and it sounding like an exercise magazine:I have to say I receive a lot of comments from Instagram and social media from gym and fitness people. Basically, Gym Class started as an alternative, independent magazine or a zine for men. And I thought that the majority of mainstream magazines that targeted men promoted this idea of what was involved with the “ideal” man: the successful job, the fancy car, the attractive partner, the big house; all of that sort of stuff. And I didn’t really respond to that all that much. So, I decided to make Gym Class the opposite to that, a riposte to that. And it had the strapline at the time “For the Guy Chosen Last,” so that’s where the name Gym Class comes from. It was a magazine for the guy chosen last in gym class, the opposite of the guy mainstream magazines, I thought, were telling me that I needed to be.

On deciding there was a need for a magazine like Gym Class and why he continued with it rather than starting a new magazine:To be honest with you, the motivation for Gym Class was about making something that I wanted to make, so I never did take a stand back and identify a magazine about magazines as being a niche or there being a hole in the market for that type of magazine. I never thought about it like that. It was just that I started Gym Class because I wanted to make a magazine about things that I was interested in, and just because I am so interested in magazines, that side of things took over.

On what motivates him to do what he does:I wish I could tell you. I’ve always loved magazines. I was that kid who was chosen last in high school gym class; I was that person, that young kid. What I used to do after school; I didn’t go play sports after school, I used to go hang out at the local Blockbuster, over local news agents, and somehow it seems so unusual now, but back then I was fortunate enough in the suburb that I grew up in to have massive news agents with an international range of magazines, which was very unusual. The person who ran the shop was quite happy for me to just while away an hour or two quite regularly and just flip through the magazines. So, I was very lucky.

On how he would define the DNA of Gym Class today:At the heart of the project, the heart of making Gym Class is still to promote magazines. So, I did that in earlier issues with interviews with magazine art directors, designers, and editors. This time I have decided to republish articles from other magazines based on a theme. Each issue of the new Gym Class will have 10 feature articles and they’ll all be previously published from other magazines and they’ll all be about one thing which I will choose. And the new Gym Class has the strapline culture in case you missed it. In the new issue there are articles with magazine makers previously published in New York Magazine, The New York Times newspaper, California Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker; so it’s about curating a reading list of articles.

On whether he thinks people miss a lot in this fast-paced digital world:Gym Class has come back, first and foremost, to promote other magazines and other publications, but there is a little bit of motivation there to provide an alternative to social media, which is so much a celebration of the very newest of everything. And so much does get missed. So, hopefully Gym Class can present people with something they may have missed, which they didn’t know they had missed or they didn’t know they would have enjoyed.

On what role he thinks print plays in today’s digital world:I think there is a requirement on print, perhaps more than ever that what is included on the pages of the magazine is the very best it can be. That’s not to say that it can’t be frivolous, because I believe it can be. It can be pure entertainment. But what it does need to do is be of the highest possible quality of what it is presenting. It’s not about being first doing something, it’s about being the best at covering it.

On whether he feels some people’s comparison of print magazines to vinyl records is a fair one:I hope not. And I say I hope not because I feel like I have records on the shelf only because there’s an element of nostalgia there, an element of wanting to collect something. With magazines, of course there are people who collect magazines for nostalgia and the desire to collect them exists, but I hope that magazines continue to thrive because what they’re doing is vital, not from their nostalgic comfortable position on the sofa with warm socks on. I hope magazines are more relevant than vinyl.

On whether he thinks Gym Class is trying to be a curator for the content out there:Definitely. I think of Gym Class now, from the next issue, as being a carefully curated reading list. It’s about only including the best of what I found on that particular theme of that particular issue. It’s about celebrating and promoting the very best. If people read it and then go on to read the publications that are featured in it, then fantastic. I think everyone needs to think more about what they consume. They need to take a responsibility for what they consume, and I feel like only then will the publishers who are interested in the best of the best hopefully grow.

On anything he’d like to add:Only to say that I’m quite interested to see how people respond to it, because it is very different to what it was the last issue. It’s very different to that. The new Gym Class is first and foremost a celebration of quality journalism and quality writing, so I hope people respond well to that, and I hope they’re open-minded to it.

On what he would have tattooed upon his brain that would be there forever and no one could ever forget about him:Apart from the title Gym Class (Laughs), I would like them to think of me as someone who champions the very best of magazine publishing.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him:(Laughs) I think that people think that I have more magazines than I have. And a common misconception among people who don’t know me is that there’s a much bigger team involved in making Gym Class, whereas the team 90 percent of the time the team is just me.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home:The radio will be on; the radio will definitely be on. And I will probably be looking at my iPhone. I hate to admit that and it’s embarrassing. (Laughs)

 On what keeps him up at night:(Laughs) That’s such a hard question. I worry a lot about social media and its addictiveness and how much of it I feel is a waste of time. We were talking earlier about magazines providing a curated voice and I feel like that is harder and harder to find on social media. I feel like I have to endure a lot of stuff that I’m not interested in to every once in a while get one of those nuggets that I love or that I find interesting or inspiring. A good example is I am really not interested in hearing anything more about the American president, other than from The Guardian newspaper or the television news that I might watch here in London, in the U.K.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Gregor, founder, Gym Class Magazine.

Samir Husni: The first time I saw Gym Class Magazine it was Issue 11 and I just said, “Wow!” It was great. And I wondered why I hadn’t seen it in the States before Issue 11, and then the next time I picked it up was Issue 15 and I was saddened to learn it would soon be gone. But now you’re back. So, tell me the story of Gym Class.

Steven Gregor: It’s been almost 10 years since I started Gym Class; I started it in 2009. And it started as a very small zine. And it started as a zine which was a riposte to men’s magazines. So, it wasn’t a magazine about magazines at all, which is maybe why it wasn’t such an obvious match to the world. Overtime, it became a magazine about magazines, and it developed from there.

The reason why I decided to stop publishing with the 15thissue was I felt like things had changed, because my main priority with Gym Class was promotion magazines and I felt like, obviously making a magazine is a massive financial undertaking, and it felt like so much of the conversation around magazines was happening online or in person at events. I didn’t really feel there was much need for a magazine about magazines anymore.

Two years past and I still loved magazines as much as I always had, and decided to give it a go. The challenge was to bring Gym Class back but not to what I had done before, but to think of a new way of promoting and supporting magazines.

Samir Husni: Let’s go back to 2009 and tell me what was the idea behind the name – when you hear Gym Class, you think it’s another exercise magazine.

Steven Gregor: Exactly, and I have to say I receive a lot of comments from Instagram and social media from gym and fitness people. Basically, Gym Class started as an alternative, independent magazine or a zine for men. And I thought that the majority of mainstream magazines that targeted men promoted this idea of what was involved with the “ideal” man: the successful job, the fancy car, the attractive partner, the big house; all of that sort of stuff. And I didn’t really respond to that all that much. So, I decided to make Gym Class the opposite to that, a riposte to that. And it had the strapline at the time “For the Guy Chosen Last,” so that’s where the name Gym Class comes from. It was a magazine for the guy chosen last in gym class, the opposite of the guy mainstream magazines, I thought, were telling me that I needed to be.

Samir Husni: When you did decide there was a niche for a magazine about magazines, when was that realization and how did you decide to act upon it; rather than starting a new magazine, why did you continue with Gym Class?

Steven Gregor: To be honest with you, the motivation for Gym Class was about making something that I wanted to make, so I never did take a stand back and identify a magazine about magazines as being a niche or there being a hole in the market for that type of magazine. I never thought about it like that. It was just that I started Gym Class because I wanted to make a magazine about things that I was interested in, and just because I am so interested in magazines, that side of things took over.

And when people started to notice Gym Class, it tended to be, I’m a magazine art director myself, and I noticed that it tended to be other art directors/designers from a magazine or publishing background that responded to it. And that’s just how it developed. There was no masterplan.

Samir Husni: Did you fall in love with that combination of words and pictures and ink on paper? What is it that motivates you to do what you’re doing?

Steven Gregor: I wish I could tell you. I’ve always loved magazines. I was that kid who was chosen last in high school gym class; I was that person, that young kid. What I used to do after school; I didn’t go play sports after school, I used to go hang out at the local Blockbuster, over local news agents, and somehow it seems so unusual now, but back then I was fortunate enough in the suburb that I grew up in to have massive news agents with an international range of magazines, which was very unusual. The person who ran the shop was quite happy for me to just while away an hour or two quite regularly and just flip through the magazines. So, I was very lucky.

Where did that come from? I have no idea. I grew up in a very traditional suburban family environment and I think maybe magazines offered a window to a more exciting or glamorous world and I guess it was the same with movies, hanging out at Blockbuster. It was this window to a new world, a new exciting world. Of course, this was years before the international social media.

Samir Husni: Magazines were the Internet of the previous years.

Steven Gregor: This is where we got our culture, our news, our gossip; it was our sense of escape and escapism.

Samir Husni: And being connected to the world; we were connected through the pages of the magazines, whether I lived in Lebanon or the United States or the U.K., or France; all of these magazines that ended up at the news agents wherever a person lived were from all over the world.

Steven Gregor: Yes, it was amazing. I grew up in Australia and the first magazine I remember loving was the Australian edition of Smash Hits Magazine, the pop music magazine. But I also remember equally discovering Wallpaper Magazine for the first time, which was truly international in what it covered and what it presented. And I remember that blowing my mind, the idea of this international person.

Samir Husni: If you were to define what you envision as your DNA now for the born-again Gym Class, what would it be?

Steven Gregor: At the heart of the project, the heart of making Gym Class is still to promote magazines. So, I did that in earlier issues with interviews with magazine art directors, designers, and editors. This time I have decided to republish articles from other magazines based on a theme. Each issue of the new Gym Class will have 10 feature articles and they’ll all be previously published from other magazines and they’ll all be about one thing which I will choose. And the new Gym Class has the strapline culture in case you missed it. In the new issue there are articles with magazine makers previously published in New York Magazine, The New York Times newspaper, California Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker; so it’s about curating a reading list of articles.

The next issue is called the Magazine Issue so it’s about magazines. Moving forward, the theme won’t be about magazines. It could be about film or TV or music, something like that. And the idea is by republishing quality articles from other quality publications, therefore we’re promoting both magazines. And hopefully someone reads Gym Class and then goes on to purchase or subscribe to one of those magazines that has been republished in Gym Class.

Samir Husni: In this digital age, where everything is moving so fast and so quick, you want to remind people in case they’re missing something, but do you think they’re missing a lot of things?

Steven Gregor: (Laughs) Gym Class has come back, first and foremost, to promote other magazines and other publications, but there is a little bit of motivation there to provide an alternative to social media, which is so much a celebration of the very newest of everything. And so much does get missed. So, hopefully Gym Class can present people with something they may have missed, which they didn’t know they had missed or they didn’t know they would have enjoyed.

Samir Husni: What do you think the role of print is in today’s digital age? Do you think print should continue being done as it was in 2009 or  is today’s print totally different?

Steven Gregor: I think there is a requirement on print, perhaps more than ever that what is included on the pages of the magazine is the very best it can be. That’s not to say that it can’t be frivolous, because I believe it can be. It can be pure entertainment. But what it does need to do is be of the highest possible quality of what it is presenting. It’s not about being first doing something, it’s about being the best at covering it.

Samir Husni: A lot of people compare print to vinyl records. Do you think this is a fair comparison?

Steven Gregor: I hope not. And I say I hope not because I feel like I have records on the shelf only because there’s an element of nostalgia there, an element of wanting to collect something. With magazines, of course there are people who collect magazines for nostalgia and the desire to collect them exists, but I hope that magazines continue to thrive because what they’re doing is vital, not from their nostalgic comfortable position on the sofa with warm socks on. I hope magazines are more relevant than vinyl.

I don’t think listening to vinyl is the best way to listen to music necessarily. Technology has maybe improved the way people can listen to music, but I think magazines are still the best way to consume quality journalism.

Samir Husni: Looking at the industry as a whole, you said that print should be quality journalism, and yet there’s still a lot of fluff and a lot of junk out there. How do you think the public, the audience, can differentiate between what’s good, bad, ugly; do you think a publication like Gym Class will help the audience curate and to show them the best of the best? Are you trying to be a curator for the content out there?

Steven Gregor: Definitely. I think of Gym Class now, from the next issue, as being a carefully curated reading list. It’s about only including the best of what I found on that particular theme of that particular issue. It’s about celebrating and promoting the very best. If people read it and then go on to read the publications that are featured in it, then fantastic. I think everyone needs to think more about what they consume. They need to take a responsibility for what they consume, and I feel like only then will the publishers who are interested in the best of the best hopefully grow.

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

Steven Gregor: Only to say that I’m quite interested to see how people respond to it, because it is very different to what it was the last issue. It’s very different to that. The new Gym Class is first and foremost a celebration of quality journalism and quality writing, so I hope people respond well to that, and I hope they’re open-minded to it.

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

Steven Gregor: Apart from the title Gym Class (Laughs), I would like them to think of me as someone who champions the very best of magazine publishing.

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

Steven Gregor: (Laughs) I think that people think that I have more magazines than I have. And a common misconception among people who don’t know me is that there’s a much bigger team involved in making Gym Class, whereas the team 90 percent of the time the team is just me.

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?

Steven Gregor: The radio will be on; the radio will definitely be on. And I will probably be looking at my iPhone. I hate to admit that and it’s embarrassing. (Laughs)

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

Steven Gregor: (Laughs) That’s such a hard question. I worry a lot about social media and its addictiveness and how much of it I feel is a waste of time. We were talking earlier about magazines providing a curated voice and I feel like that is harder and harder to find on social media. I feel like I have to endure a lot of stuff that I’m not interested in to every once in a while get one of those nuggets that I love or that I find interesting or inspiring. A good example is I am really not interested in hearing anything more about the American president, other than from The Guardian newspaper or the television news that I might watch here in London, in the U.K.

I really don’t need all of the noise. All of the comments; all of the opinions. I feel like I’ve reached the peak of the American president. So, worrying about all of that stuff does enter my mind, things that I let in and have no interest in. That’s a concern. The real concern is if there are people that social media is their whole diet, that’s quite scary.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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