Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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

February 12, 2020

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

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

January 20, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Gilbride: More cannabis legalization.

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

Jim Gilbride: All but three.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Gilbride: Both.

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

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

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

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

 Samir Husni: And Jim, you said both?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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

November 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy and let the fun begin.

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

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

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

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

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

October 29, 2019

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

A Mr. Magazine Launch Story…

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tyler Nacho: (Laughs too) Yep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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

October 18, 2019

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

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

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

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

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

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

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

But first the sound-bites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samir Husni: Thank you.  

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

     

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La Cucina Italiana: Let’s Do Lunch & Let’s Do Launch. Condé Nast Brings A Nearly Century-Old Brand to American Shores – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Maddalena Fossati, editor in chief, and Alessandro Belloni, business director, Condé Nast Italia…

October 12, 2019

“The real reason is that we still believe in print. Of course, not just print because the brand in Italy is a strong magazine because it has existed for 90 years. But we are also very strong Internet-wise because our website has five million unique users. And that five million in Italy is a huge number compared to the population. We think that print is still something that readers need. Of course, we tried to do more of a coffee table type magazine, it’s quarterly and this is because just the website is not assertive enough, I don’t think.” … Maddalena Fossati (On why Condé Nast Italia brought the magazine in print to the United States)

“It’s a balance between the print magazine and the website, which gives us continuousness. When it comes to the magazine we decided to start with a good partnership with Italy, so we are present at the same time in six stores. We celebrated this initiative in New York recently. This was, in our opinion, a nice way to tackle a complex market in America, being very selective and taking advantage of the presence of Italian food lovers so that they have something for them in the stores.” … Alessandro Belloni (On why Condé Nast Italia brought the magazine in print to the United States)

 A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

Earlier this month the British landed once again on our American shores with the legacy brand The Spectator, one of the oldest magazines in the world, and now the Italians have decided to hit the U.S. with their own heirloom brand: La Cucina Italiana.

The century old magazine is Italy’s first and only food and wine magazine with a kitchen in its editorial office. So, you know authenticity and tradition mean something to this brand. But so does health and well-being, hence the Italian recipes you’ll find in this new magazine have been modernized with more natural and health-conscious ingredients.

Condé Nast Italia acquired the brand in 2013 and since has seen tremendous growth; September 2019 saw the first La Cucina Italiana website for the American market and the new quarterly print magazine was previewed recently at Eataly Flatiron in New York.

Maddalena Fossati is editor in chief and Alessandro Belloni is the brand’s business director. I spoke with Maddalena and Alessandro recently and we talked about this magical magazine that has always made food an art form and given Italian food lovers a delicious and long standing commitment to all that’s beautiful and good in food and drink.

The constantly-evolving brand boasts a total audience of more than 7 million, a prestigious cooking school and a series of partnerships and brand extensions, and is about to launch on the U.S. market, then subsequently arrive in the U.K., Germany, France and Spain, effectively becoming a global name.

All this is accompanied by a geolocalized weekly newsletter with the latest info about upcoming new Italian restaurants, food and wine tasting events and recipes for classic Italian dishes interpreted by renowned American chefs.

The first American issue of the magazine features more than 100 recipes designed for the U.S. market, from updated versions of granny’s recipes to regional desserts, traditional “Made in Italy” specialties, to foodie travel guides. There are unexpected pairings like wine and pizza, and exquisite party panettoni in new vegan variants.

It’s an explosion of the senses and taste buds and a welcome addition to the food categories in America. So, please help me welcome our Italian friends to our neck of the woods and enjoy this entertaining conversation with the brand’s editor in chief, Maddalena Fossati, and business director, Alessandro Belloni in this Mr. Magazine™ interview.

But first the sound-bites:

On why Condé Nast Italia is bringing its print version of La Cucina Italiana to America in this digital age (Maddalena Fossati): Basically, we’re crazy Italian people, you know? (Laughs) But the real reason is that we still believe in print. Of course, not just print because the brand in Italy is a strong magazine because it has existed for 90 years. But we are also very strong Internet-wise because our website has five million unique users. And that five million in Italy is a huge number compared to the population. We think that print is still something that readers need. Of course, we tried to do more of a coffee table type magazine, it’s quarterly and this is because just the website is not assertive enough, I don’t think.

On why Condé Nast Italia is bringing its print version of La Cucina Italiana to America in this digital age (Alessandro Belloni): It’s a balance between the print magazine and the website, which gives us continuousness. When it comes to the magazine we decided to start with a good partnership with Italy, so we are present at the same time in six stores. We celebrated this initiative in New York recently. This was, in our opinion, a nice way to tackle a complex market in America, being very selective and taking advantage of the presence of Italian food lovers so that they have something for them in the stores.

On the brand’s secret sauce ((Maddalena Fossati): I’m not sure we do have a secret sauce. When I took the brand, and I was lucky and honored to be nominated as the editor, I studied the first issue a lot. And all the answers were there because the magazine at the time was really contemporary and modern. Of course, we keep going with the traditional and we’re very careful about what we do in terms of recipes, in terms of being very careful about the Germanese point of view. Older recipes are strictly created and tried in our kitchen for the magazine. This is crucial to keep La Cucina Italiana authentic. Also we have added more stories about Nonna (grandmother) just to keep our heritage. It’s also a way to always stay attached to the brand.

On food being one of the fastest growing magazine categories in America and why people seem to have this affection for them (Maddalena Fossati): I can tell you this story. I grew up in a family where my mama wasn’t the typical Italian woman that cooked. So, I read food magazines since I was sixteen-years-old, because they really resonated with me. I think people like to read food magazines even if they don’t cook, because it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s something that really relaxes you and makes you think about what you’re going to prepare for your family and friends and yourself. It helps you escape reality and ease the stresses of the day.

On the business model for the American version of the magazine (Alessandro Belloni): La Cucina Italiana is so well established now in Italy, we have a business model that is 50 percent advertising driven and 50 percent consumer sales driven. This gives us a good balance when it comes to Italian business. On the other hand, we also sell our magazine through a subscription model. And then we have the school where the students are paying a tuition fee for the lessons. I think this is really one of the foundational elements of the brand that we will want to bring to the U.S.

On her first editor’s letter being titled “Let’s Have Lunch” instead of let’s have dinner (Maddalena Fossati): Let’s have lunch because lunch is more for everybody, dinner is more like going out. I was thinking a lot about family. What if a family doesn’t mean just mother, father and children? Any kind of family, even a group of friends. I think lunch is a good moment because you can stay over and talk, maybe spend the entire afternoon and just take it easy. It’s a very Italian moment, the Sunday lunch, where you basically spend the whole day at the table,  you’re so happy and relaxed.

On the expectations for the new U.S. magazine (Maddalena Fossati): I think Italian food nowadays is really a good food, in terms of it has modernized and is healthier than ever. So, knowing that more Americans are having the new Italian food that we are doing in Italy, food that is less fat and has more happiness for the body, I think it would be a good target because it would be nice to know that more people are in good shape. Good shape, in terms of being healthier, happier, and in a good mood. We did a manifesto in Italy about the new happy Italian cuisine that had great success, because the idea was to modernize all the traditional recipes. Sometimes they can be quite heavy and quite fat. Now they have more natural ingredients, in terms of quality, and less fat. So, we keep the tradition alive, but at the same time we keep our health in the forefront. So, my expectations would be to know that more people in the U.S. could eat well.

On if she had the opportunity to appear on national TV to give a message to the American people, what would she say (Maddalena Fossati): I would tell them to invest in the ingredients that they put on the table, because quality is crucial to being safe and staying well. Instead of investing in other things, first I think we should invest in the quality of the food that we eat. That’s the first thing that I would say to them.

On the biggest challenge from a business point of view that they have had to face (Alessandro Belloni): Probably the biggest challenge was to find the right formula to make the magazine visible. That’s why we decided to approach the U.S. through this deal with Italy, which is giving us good visibility at point of sales, with good flow displays. That’s why it is a fantastic way of presenting the wonderful product that we have at all the points of sale, collaring from a geographic point of view, all the regions. As you know the biggest challenge is the size of the U.S., so you need to prioritize or be very prudent in finding the right way to reach the major cities. So, I think the fact that we are working with them has been such a helpful idea from the start. On the other hand, I think Condé Nast is so strong from a digital standpoint that it was a little bit easier than if we had been a startup with just a good and quality website.

On whether the creation of the magazine is all done in Italy (Maddalena Fossati): We have journalists in the United States, one based in New York, and then we have several contributors who are freelancing from all over the country. We need this combination of Italy and America. We want to be a window for our Italian audience in Italy, but we also want to call out what is fundamentally interesting in America too, especially for the website. The magazine has stories about New York and stories from all over the country. But for the website it’s so important that we have everything.

On anything they’d like to add (Maddalena Fossati): Just that we are really happy and proud to be here, because there has always been a love between Italy and America, so we are very happy about this endeavor.

On the biggest misconception he feels people have about him (Alessandro Belloni): I think we are very happy and hope that people can recognize all the care that we have put behind this magazine, from both an editorial and marketing standpoint. It’s very hard to be internationalized and stay a pure Italian brand with a very rich history. This is really something that is valuable to us.

On the biggest misconception she feels people have about her (Maddalena Fossati): The important thing about La Cucina is that we are having fun, but we are damned serious.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home (Maddalena Fossati): For sure cooking, because in my family we cook every day. In the meantime, having a glass wine, absolutely.

On what keeps her up at night (Maddalena Fossati): I don’t sleep that well when I think about the day.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Maddalena Fossati, editor in chief and Alessandro Belloni, business director, Condé Nast Italia.

Samir Husni: I just received the first issue of La Cucina Italiana and all I can say is wow! But who in their right mind publishes a print magazine in this day and age, 200 gorgeous pages, to enter a marketplace where everyone is saying print is out of style, while you’re publishing something so in style; what were you thinking?

Maddalena Fossati: Basically, we’re crazy Italian people, you know? (Laughs) But the real reason is that we still believe in print. Of course, not just print because the brand in Italy is a strong magazine because it has existed for 90 years. But we are also very strong Internet-wise because our website has five million unique users. And that five million in Italy is a huge number compared to the population. We think that print is still something that readers need at some point. Of course, we tried to do more of a coffee table type magazine, it’s quarterly and this is because just the website is not assertive enough, I don’t think.

Alessandro Belloni: It’s a balance between the print magazine and the website, which gives us continuousness. When it comes to the magazine we decided to start with a good partnership with Italy, so we are present at the same time in six stores. We celebrated this initiative in New York recently. This was, in our opinion, a nice way to tackle a complex market in America, being very selective and taking advantage of the presence of Italian food lovers so that they have something for them in the stores.

Samir Husni: How do you take a brand that’s almost 100 years old and modernize it, while keeping its DNA? What’s the brand’s secret sauce?

Maddalena Fossati: I’m not sure we do have a secret sauce. When I took the brand, and I was lucky and honored to be nominated as the editor, I studied the first issue a lot. And all the answers were there because the magazine at the time was really contemporary and modern. Of course, we keep going with the traditional and we’re very careful about what we do in terms of recipes, in terms of being very careful about the Germanese point of view. Older recipes are strictly created and tried in our kitchen for the magazine. This is crucial to keep La Cucina Italiana authentic. Also we have added more stories about Nonna (grandmother) just to keep our heritage. It’s also a way to always stay attached to the brand.

We also publish a lot of travel and a lot of new trends, staying with tradition and eating well and eating Italian. But at the same time we are open to other food cultures, while staying Italian. We aren’t saying this is the only recipe of your grandmother’s and you have to do it this way, we try to modernize what we eat because the food is changing, the ingredients are changing; basically everything is changing. So, we try to keep a good balance between what is coming from the future trends and what is coming from the past.

Samir Husni: I’m sure you know that the food category in magazines has been one of the fastest growing categories in the United States. I think we have more food magazines than any other category in the marketplace today. Why do you think people have this affection and fascination with food brands?

Maddalena Fossati: I can tell you this story. I grew up in a family where my mama wasn’t the typical Italian woman that cooked. So, I read food magazines since I was sixteen-years-old, because they really resonated with me. I think people like to read food magazines even if they don’t cook, because it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s something that really relaxes you and makes you think about what you’re going to prepare for your family and friends and yourself. It helps you escape reality and ease the stresses of the day.

Samir Husni: What’s the business model behind the idea of this quarterly, coffee table magazine? You have advertising; you have the website and an app and you have the school. What’s the thinking behind Condé Nast International’s business plan for the American version of this magazine?

Alessandro Belloni: La Cucina Italiana is so well established now in Italy, we have a business model that is 50 percent advertising driven and 50 percent consumer sales driven. This gives us a good balance when it comes to Italian business. On the other hand, we also sell our magazine through a subscription model. And then we have the school where the students are paying a tuition fee for the lessons. I think this is really one of the foundational elements of the brand that we will want to bring to the U.S.

Of course, we are starting with the website and with the magazine, but we want to grow a good base of Italian food lovers. And we want to start selling services and additional products to them. So, we want to bring it in the way that it has been so successful in Italy. We now have additional licenses in the Czech Republic, Turkey and Serbia. We have plans to internationalize this brand, but for now we are focusing all of our energy on the U.S. launch.

Samir Husni: Your first letter to the editor is titled: Let’s Have Lunch. Why did you decide lunch and not dinner?

Maddalena Fossati: Let’s have lunch because lunch is more for everybody, dinner is more like going out. I was thinking a lot about family. What if a family doesn’t mean just mother, father and children? Any kind of family, even a group of friends. I think lunch is a good moment because you can stay over and talk, maybe spend the entire afternoon and just take it easy. It’s a very Italian moment, the Sunday lunch, where you basically spend the whole day at the table,  you’re so happy and relaxed.

Samir Husni: What are your expectations for the magazine?

Maddalena Fossati: I think Italian food nowadays is really a good food, in terms of it has modernized and is healthier than ever. So, knowing that more Americans are having the new Italian food that we are doing in Italy, food that is less fat and has more happiness for the body, I think it would be a good target because it would be nice to know that more people are in good shape. Good shape, in terms of being healthier, happier, and in a good mood.

We did a manifesto in Italy about the new happy Italian cuisine that had great success, because the idea was to modernize all the traditional recipes. Sometimes they can be quite heavy and quite fat. Now they have more natural ingredients, in terms of quality, and less fat. So, we keep the tradition alive, but at the same time we keep our health in the forefront. So, my expectations would be to know that more people in the U.S. could eat well.

Samir Husni: If you had the opportunity to appear on national TV and send a message to the American public about the magazine, what would you tell them?

Maddalena Fossati: I would tell them to invest in the ingredients that they put on the table, because quality is crucial to being safe and staying well. Instead of investing in other things, first I think we should invest in the quality of the food that we eat. That’s the first thing that I would say to them.

Samir Husni: From a business point of view, what was the biggest challenge that you were faced with and how did you overcome it?

Alessandro Belloni: Probably the biggest challenge was to find the right formula to make the magazine visible. That’s why we decided to approach the U.S. through this deal with Italy, which is giving us good visibility at point of sales, with good flow displays. That’s why it is a fantastic way of presenting the wonderful product that we have at all the points of sale, collaring from a geographic point of view, all the regions. As you know the biggest challenge is the size of the U.S., so you need to prioritize or be very prudent in finding the right way to reach the major cities. So, I think the fact that we are working with them has been such a helpful idea from the start. On the other hand, I think Condé Nast is so strong from a digital standpoint that it was a little bit easier than if we had been a startup with just a good and quality website.

Samir Husni: Is all the creation of the magazine done in Italy or do you have help in the United States?

Maddalena Fossati: We have journalists in the United States, one based in New York, and then we have several contributors who are freelancing from all over the country. We need this combination of Italy and America. We want to be a window for our Italian audience in Italy, but we also want to call out what is fundamentally interesting in America too, especially for the website. The magazine has stories about New York and stories from all over the country. But for the website it’s so important that we have everything.

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

Maddalena Fossati: Just that we are really happy and proud to be here, because there has always been a love between Italy and America, so we are very happy about this endeavor.

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

 Alessandro Belloni: I think we are very happy and hope that people can recognize all the care that we have put behind this magazine, from both an editorial and marketing standpoint. It’s very hard to be internationalized and stay a pure Italian brand with a very rich history. This is really something that is valuable to us.

Maddalena Fossati: The important thing about La Cucina is that we are having fun, but we are damned serious.

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; gardening; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Maddalena Fossati: For sure cooking, because in my family we cook every day. In the meantime, having a glass wine, absolutely.

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

Maddalena Fossati: I don’t sleep that well when I think about the day.

Samir Husni: Thank you both.

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Dolphin Entertainment Company: The Transformation Story Of A Talent Agency Into A Multi-Media Magazine Company – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Owner & CEO, Robert White…

October 10, 2019

For the first year of the company, Dolphin was a talent agency, and then about six months to a year into that, I had a bunch of models that I was working with and we were working with a couple of music artists, and I was asking all these models what was the one thing they wanted that would make them feel like they had made it in their career. And they said they would all love to be published in a magazine.”… Robert White

Robert White is the owner and CEO of Dolphin Entertainment Company Inc. Dolphin Entertainment encompasses a wide variety of media services, from publishing an array of magazines to talent management. In fact, the company’s foundation was in the talent management category until the models that Robert was photographing responded to a question he proposed to them: what was the one thing that would make them feel they had “made it” in their careers? Their response: being published in a magazine. So, a can-do kind of guy, Robert set out on a mission  to get his models in published in print. But unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. What did his tenacity cause him to do? Well, start his own magazine, of course. Nothing legitimizes like print magazines and Robert was fully aware of that.

Today, Robert has several titles under his belt with a partnership lined up to produce another. And while digital really fascinates him, at the moment he’s doing print and digital products, and according to him, seeing amazing success. From Splash Magazine to Savoir Faire, Robert has the beginnings of his own magazine and media empire.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Robert about his company and his magazines. What follows is the Mr. Magazine™ interview with a true entrepreneur, Robert White, owner and CEO, Dolphin Entertainment Company.

But first the sound-bites:

On how Dolphin Entertainment got started: For the first year of the company, Dolphin was a talent agency, and then about six months to a year into that, I had a bunch of models that I was working with and we were working with a couple of music artists, and I was asking all these models what was the one thing they wanted that would make them feel like they had made it in their career. And they said they would all love to be published in a magazine.

On what role he thinks a magazine plays in this digital age: It’s a tough one, because I’m in the modeling world and 95 percent of the subscribers to my magazines are digital subscribers. And I want them to be digital subscribers, but the industry itself has not let go of the fact that if you’re not in print, you’re not legitimate. It’s a weird vibe in the entertainment industry, and so I’m trying to fight through that. We also like a one-off, kind of on-demand print option, but the idea is that digital is more of the role that I want to be in. But I’m fighting against something that’s not ripe for change yet, there’s not a welcoming vibe in the entertainment industry for digital magazines. People think that if you’re an online magazine or if you’re on an online website, you’re just not legitimate and that’s what I’m fighting against. But I think maybe three to five years from now, things will change. It’s not going to change now, but in three to five years, I think it will.

On launching another magazine called Luxury & Entertainment: One of the cool things about the publication world that I like is the people that you get to meet. A very cool PR company reached out to me to give me a lot of content, some of their really high profile people that I publish come from that PR company, and they want to create their own magazine. So, they called me to ask about the process and about what they needed to do. I told them that I didn’t have time to teach them everything that I had learned in six years, but let me help you with this product; what do you want it to be like? We discussed some options and some business ideas, and Luxury & Entertainment was what we settled on.

On what he is offering on his digital platform that looks or feels different than the ink on paper: There are so many cool features. What I like about digital is that there’s no limitation to the creative side right now. You could definitely go out and do some research and see a lot of col things that can happen with digital. One of the biggest collaborations that I’ve seen recently was Wired magazine and Adobe got together and did this very cool, kind of virtual –based magazine. They built it together and I read a lot about how they did that. The idea that you can embed videos or that you have click-through links on ads and stuff; you can put music in the magazine. I do articles about different musical artists and we have direct, playable click options in the digital publication. You can listen to their music right then and there. If you don’t know who they are, just click play and you can listen to them.

On his biggest stumbling block: I think my biggest stumbling block was the learning curve. We’re in a modern-day age where digital magazines and content and getting people involved in your brand is extremely hard, because everything is available to everybody on the Internet. And you’re competing for space and that’s so hard. If I was only putting out print products, I could name 100 magazines that would be my competitors. But because I’m putting out digital products, there’s thousands of magazines that are my competitors, so the things that I have to strategize about the most is overcoming the learning curve and figuring out little details of stuff that I don’t know about the industry still.

On telling Authority Magazine that it’s lonely at the top and whether it’s still lonely: Oh my gosh, yes. (Laughs) I have this really good analogy of that to throw around often: it’s all about climbing the mountain. And everyone wants to be at the top, but they don’t realize that when you get there there’s not room for a lot of people there. And so, it’s a lonely place when you start climbing really fast, but I think that my strategy is that I always want to give back, my success should be shared.

On anything he’d like to add: We’re going through some changes right now. Savoir Faire was a brand that was supposed to fix the problem and the problem didn’t get fixed. Long story short, we had Splash Magazine for five years and we were getting some advertisers who said, which Splash was all focused around swimwear, they didn’t really want their ads around swimwear models, basically. So, we changed to the Savoir Faire brand. So we had this GQ/Esquire men’s lifestyle type of brand and we could go with it more fashion-based. And all of those advertisers that wanted to change, they still didn’t come onboard after we changed. (Laughs) So, I took a gamble and it didn’t work out.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: Honestly, I think it’s that playboy term. I think people see me in that light. I’m kind of a playboy type of guy because I’m around beautiful people all the time or I’m always taking photos of people and I think that’s a persona that people have put on me and sometimes you just have to play a character as though you were in a movie. But the real me is a very relaxed, very chill guy. I like to have fun; I’m a little flirty.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: It depends on what night of the week it is. I’m not a big drinker, so Monday through Thursday, I’m probably catching up on a Netflix show, trying to relax around my house, maybe even cleaning my house, doing some domesticated things because I am working all day, I’m non-stop. On the weekends I don’t mind going out and having a beer or two with some friends.

On what keeps him up at night: I would say just success in general. In the other magazine article that I just released, I mentioned something and I’ll mention it with you again, I have this really big pressure that I put on myself a few years ago and part of that is the change, not only with my company having this amazing growth, but the change in genealogy or the family tree in my family completely.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Robert White, owner and CEO, Dolphin Entertainment Company.

Samir Husni: I did some research on your background; you fell in love with music, went to Nashville from age 16 to 20, and then you went back to New York, worked at a newspaper, became unemployed, but suddenly Dolphin Entertainment started. You first started it as a talent agency and now you’re also a magazine publisher, a designer and a marketer. How did all of this happen?

Robert White: I’ve always had a creative bug, so I’ve always been able to create art and write and have those abilities. I can think back to my college years or even high school, and people would say, you’re such a creative writer and you write so well. Songwriting was my first love and that took all of my talents in, so I was in Nashville for a little while, then I moved to New York.

And when I moved to New York, I was still writing music lyrics and poems, really getting into a lot of creative writing. Then in 2013, I was working as a salesperson for a newspaper publication, and I kept on banging heads with my sales manager, we just had two different paths that we wanted to go to get sales. Finally, I just said this job isn’t for me, I had way too much creative energy that needed to be released and I knew I had to find another way to do it.

So, I actually quit that job and was able to get unemployment. And from unemployment, there was a program that was released in 2013 in New York state where you could actually start your own business and be on unemployment at the same time. You had to go through some stuff, you had to write a business plan; I had to get a business coach at one of my local B.A. offices. So, I went through that process and basically it gave me some freedom to be able to focus on what I wanted to do.

For the first year of the company, Dolphin was a talent agency, and then about six months to a year into that, I had a bunch of models that I was working with and we were working with a couple of music artists, and I was asking all these models what was the one thing they wanted that would make them feel like they had made it in their career. And they said they would all love to be published in a magazine.

So, I started taking their photos and putting them out all over, sending them to all the big names in the publication industry. And we kept on getting no’s or no response at all, people just weren’t interested in the people that I had. Finally, I said there is always a way to do this, you can either bust your way through the door or you can sneak around the back and go through the window. (Laughs) So, we decided that we were going to sneak around and build our own magazine.

Originally, it was Splash Magazine and it was the first brand that I ever created and that was in 2014. And it was basically a glorified, very creative newsletter and all of my talent was in there and that was pretty much it. And I had a lot of talent at that time, probably 60 or 70 people I was working with. I had lots of content and we were always doing photo shoots and putting people in

Then eventually the outside world starting reaching in and saying that they really wanted to get into this magazine, it had started to grow a little bit and everyone was seeing it. So, that’s when we started to take outside submissions and from there it kind of expanded, it went from a lot of no-name people to now we’re actually publishing a lot of entertainment stories from people who are very well-known in the music industry and the acting world, and now in the modeling world too. We’ve expanded quite a bit, but that’s how it all started. It’s a really great creative place for me to create and release. I love designing and I love the writing; I write some of the stories, but not all of them. That’s a really cool release for me and kind of why it all switched into the publication world.

Samir Husni: That combination of all of the talents you were working with telling you that they wanted to be in a magazine and then you publishing a magazine, what role do you think a magazine plays in this digital age?

Robert White: It’s a tough one, because I’m in the modeling world and 95 percent of the subscribers to my magazines are digital subscribers. And I want them to be digital subscribers, but the industry itself has not let go of the fact that if you’re not in print, you’re not legitimate. It’s a weird vibe in the entertainment industry, and so I’m trying to fight through that.

There are some really good success stories that I know of, like one of my favorite magazines that I actually subscribe to is Foundr Magazine, without the “e.” It’s 100 percent digital, they really are. And then they have a print product too, but they’re huge for digital. I want that same format, we’re actually revamping and changing stuff with our publication to do 100 percent digital someday and completely wipe out the idea of having a print copy sent to anybody.

We also like a one-off, kind of on-demand print option, but the idea is that digital is more of the role that I want to be in. But I’m fighting against something that’s not ripe for change yet, there’s not a welcoming vibe in the entertainment industry for digital magazines. People think that if you’re an online magazine or if you’re on an online website, you’re just not legitimate and that’s what I’m fighting against. But I think maybe three to five years from now, things will change. It’s not going to change now, but in three to five years, I think it will.

Samir Husni: I understand you’re launching another magazine, Luxury & Entertainment?

Robert White: Yes, one of the cool things about the publication world that I like is the people that you get to meet. A very cool PR company reached out to me to give me a lot of content, some of their really high profile people that I publish come from that PR company, and they want to create their own magazine. So, they called me to ask about the process and about what they needed to do. I told them that I didn’t have time to teach them everything that I had learned in six years, but let me help you with this product; what do you want it to be like? We discussed some options and some business ideas, and Luxury & Entertainment was what we settled on.

I love the name, it’s very cool and very classy and the website is under development and hopefully the first issue of that magazine will be out in January. But I’m basically working hand-in-hand with a PR team in L.A. to build it. I’m kind of the builder behind the scenes and they’re getting all of the content, so they’re going to be a big part of it, it’s almost a partnership. We’re looking at possibly bringing on another company in Miami, Florida to help with that, so it’s going to be a three-way partnership. And that magazine should hopefully grow quickly.

I think I’ve learned a lot of mistakes that I’ve done with my own brands and learned a lot of lessons, if I can just implement them into that brand, it should grow pretty fast.

Samir Husni: I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe it’s a magazine if it isn’t ink on paper, we have to come up with a new name for this new world. As I look at your website and at your magazine covers, and at what you’re trying to do; what are you offering in your digital platform that looks or feels different than the ink on paper?

Robert White: There are so many cool features. What I like about digital is that there’s no limitation to the creative side right now. You could definitely go out and do some research and see a lot of col things that can happen with digital. One of the biggest collaborations that I’ve seen recently was Wired magazine and Adobe got together and did this very cool, kind of virtual –based magazine. They built it together and I read a lot about how they did that. The idea that you can embed videos or that you have click-through links on ads and stuff; you can put music in the magazine. I do articles about different musical artists and we have direct, playable click options in the digital publication. You can listen to their music right then and there. If you don’t know who they are, just click play and you can listen to them.

I like the idea that you can embed videos. I really want to go forward in this industry as taking advantage of all these new technologies in the world. There’s virtual reality and there’s foldable tablets and glass tablets that are coming out. There’s always cool technical things happening. And I kind of want to turn, especially my Savoir Faire brand, into the brand that travels with that stuff, so as technology advances my brand will adapt to those advancements.

As an example, I’d like to have my covers come to life with virtual reality. Or have very cool stories inside where people can be completely immersed into driving a car ad, or seeing a fashion runway show right in your living room, instead of having to see photos in a magazine. I think some of those really cool technological things are going to be what drags people to digital magazines in the future, because the experience is going to be so much more in depth than we can do with paper.

In paper, the one thing that I’ve seen that’s cool is different inserts that you can engage with like with 3-D glasses or something. But the digital world is so much more advanced and those products are going to be very cool things in the next three to five years. You can see it in TV now where people grab stuff and put it up on a wall and use their fingers just to touch it and move it. It’s all going to be embedded into digital magazines in the future.

Samir Husni: If you think back over the last six years, what would you consider the biggest stumbling block that you had to face and how did you overcome it?

Robert White: I think my biggest stumbling block was the learning curve. We’re in a modern-day age where digital magazines and content and getting people involved in your brand is extremely hard, because everything is available to everybody on the Internet. And you’re competing for space and that’s so hard. If I was only putting out print products, I could name 100 magazines that would be my competitors. But because I’m putting out digital products, there’s thousands of magazines that are my competitors, so the things that I have to strategize about the most is overcoming the learning curve and figuring out little details of stuff that I don’t know about the industry still.

I build a magazine based off of my vision and my idea, but there’s still a very prominent status with certain magazines: this is the way that we do text; this is the way that we do certain layouts, and there’s a very uniqueness to that. And that’s the things that I’m trying to learn. I’m actually a cold-caller, I love to call people at random and get information. I’ve made phone calls to the biggest companies in the publication world and I’ve talked to some pretty incredible people on the phone about the publication industry and their belief on stuff.

I’ve called Hearst, Condé Nast, and I’ve been on the phone with Anna Wintour and a handful of other people, people that I really respect in the publication world. And I’ve gotten a lot of information from them about where they think things are going to move forward to, so I’m glad that I have that, because I think it keeps everything very interesting, but I think there’s still a lot to learn. And by the time I learn it all, there will be new stuff I’ll have to learn all over again. And that’s what’s unique about the publication world, there’s always something new.

 Samir Husni: You told Authority Magazine that it’s lonely at the top, is it still lonely?

Robert White: Oh my gosh, yes. (Laughs) I have this really good analogy of that to throw around often: it’s all about climbing the mountain. And everyone wants to be at the top, but they don’t realize that when you get there there’s not room for a lot of people there. And so, it’s a lonely place when you start climbing really fast, but I think that my strategy is that I always want to give back, my success should be shared.

And when I do get to the top of the mountain, where I see the top, and I don’t think I’m there yet, I want to be able to bring other people to that level. It’s very cool being in the publication industry because I have a little bit of magic power, I guess, because I can make people smile when they get published. It’s a really great feeling when someone reaches out to you and tells you they would love to be in a magazine, and then when you make that dream happen for them they’re legitimized.

And that’s what I love about the industry in general, but that’s what I love about what I do, it’s that people are excited and they smile and they share the content when they’re published with me. That makes me feel amazing, so I know I’m doing the right thing on that level. There’s a lot of financial goals that I have and some other things that I still want to reach, but I think getting to the top of the mountain, I know it’s going to be lonely, but I’m trying to find the right team to put around me so that I’m not sitting up there by myself.

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

Robert White: We’re going through some changes right now. Savoir Faire was a brand that was supposed to fix the problem and the problem didn’t get fixed. Long story short, we had Splash Magazine for five years and we were getting some advertisers who said, which Splash was all focused around swimwear, they didn’t really want their ads around swimwear models, basically. So, we changed to the Savoir Faire brand. So we had this GQ/Esquire men’s lifestyle type of brand and we could go with it more fashion-based. And all of those advertisers that wanted to change, they still didn’t come onboard after we changed. (Laughs) So, I took a gamble and it didn’t work out.

But I’ve seen a lot of changes with this brand that I like. There’s growth in sales, people appreciate the brand. We’ve seen more subscribers coming onboard almost every day now. And we’re starting to revamp it a little bit more even now. What I mean by that is Savoir Faire is a French word that to me means well-spoken. A lot of people thought that I built the magazine based on me and who I am, because those people feel like I’m well-spoken guy, a little bit of a playboy at times, or I have a lot of confidence in who I am. So, we’re playing off of that now.

We’re actually going to start a podcast that will be launching about some articles and things that are going to be released about being savoir faire and having the ability to have strong confidence. We’re going to launch some training courses and some stuff like that. But it’s all built around Savoir Faire and part of that magazine. I think that brand is going to expand very quickly in the next two years. We’re really expanding some really cool stuff.

And if anyone wants to know more about my perspective from the publication industry or about it, then they can listen to my podcast because that’s where I’m going to put a lot of information about the trials and tribulations that I have to go through as a publisher. So, it’s a little bit more of a behind-the-scenes look of being in this industry and not just putting out content that I think people will want to listen to. It’s more educational.

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

Robert White: Honestly, I think it’s that playboy term. I think people see me in that light. I’m kind of a playboy type of guy because I’m around beautiful people all the time or I’m always taking photos of people and I think that’s a persona that people have put on me and sometimes you just have to play a character as though you were in a movie. But the real me is a very relaxed, very chill guy. I like to have fun; I’m a little flirty.

But the idea is that I work really hard and people see this as maybe a glorified thing, but the truth is I sit a computer probably 12 hours a day working on content, networking, contacting people for the magazine and it’s a completely different lifestyle than what people think you actually live. It’s kind of like what you put on social media is what they’re going to see and I play that game. I want people to think that I’m that type of character, but it really is just a character that play. It’s not really who I am.

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; looking at models’ pictures; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Robert White: It depends on what night of the week it is. I’m not a big drinker, so Monday through Thursday, I’m probably catching up on a Netflix show, trying to relax around my house, maybe even cleaning my house, doing some domesticated things because I am working all day, I’m non-stop. On the weekends I don’t mind going out and having a beer or two with some friends.

Here and there, I get to travel a little bit for my job, so there’s some of that around, but I come home and I’ve worked a long day and I’m probably just watching Netflix and relaxing. But the truth is, I don’t ever relax, my phone is always dinging and I’m very responsive to everyone that reaches out to me. Every message, every email, I answer it promptly. If it’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m lying in bed and my phone dings, I’ll probably respond to your message. I’m just not the type of person that put anything off for any amount of time.

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

Robert White: I would say just success in general. In the other magazine article that I just released, I mentioned something and I’ll mention it with you again, I have this really big pressure that I put on myself a few years ago and part of that is the change, not only with my company having this amazing growth, but the change in genealogy or the family tree in my family completely.

And I recently got really involved with my family history and wanted to know where we came from and what we were all about. Everywhere that I went to look at information about family, it was all about working 9 to 5 and being labor workers, and being in the factory, just whatever the case may have been. I just didn’t want that to be my future lineage with my children or grandchildren, or whatever. So, I wanted to put something in the family tree that would get people excited; like wow, I had a great uncle that owned a magazine publication and it was successful. I want some more content in my family tree history.

Part of that is taking on a lot of personal sacrifice that I take on. Family really suffers, friendships suffer, your health suffers a little bit when you focus so hard on this massive goal. And so there are things like that which keep me up at night, such as when am I going to see my doctor again and talk to her about working out a little bit more or this pain in my back. The other piece is just getting my growth to a point where I can be a little bit more comfortable financially, so I can focus on growing that magazine. And making sure that my lineage and reputation are both strong, because that’s what I really want when it’s my time to go. I want people to remember what I created and what I did for my family going forward.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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