Archive for the ‘A Launch Story…’ Category

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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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The Spectator Magazine: The British Are Coming… The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Freddy Gray, Editor, The Spectator, US Edition…

September 30, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

“I think people like having The Spectator on their coffee tables at home, and I believe they like the physicality of a printed product. People are tired of looking at screens. You know, we used to talk about “lean back and lean forward” with publications. Lean forward with things like The Economist, lean back with things like Vanity Fair, but I’ve always thought The Spectator was both. We’re informative and we’re entertaining, something that you can read at home and relax with.”…Freddy Gray

The Spectator, one of the world’s oldest, continuously published magazines (since 1828), is launching a U.S. monthly print version of the magazine on October 1 after starting a U.S. digital presence last year. Freddy Gray is the editor of the new American edition, and deputy editor of its British bulwark, The Spectator, a weekly which  features politics, culture, and current affairs.

The Spectator’s brand of journalism is unique and doesn’t strive to have its readers agree with them. In fact, according to Freddy, he would prefer a little dissension between the content and the reader, it makes for a richer relationship.

I spoke with Freddy recently and we talked about this new American version of the British magazine that’s been around for almost two centuries. Freddy said the powers-that-be at The Spectator were very pleased with how the U.S. website had done here in the states in the year since it began. But why print? Well, the ink on paper magazine has performed excellently in the U.K. for the past three years, no reason to think it won’t here as well.

And while The Spectator is trying to do something unique, Freddy said if he had to compare it to another magazine here in the states, its competition, it would have to be a title like National Review, but they don’t really see themselves as strictly a political magazine, since they have a big focus on books and art, and life in the realm. “We have a whole life section, which is about living life. And I think that makes us unique,” Freddy shared.

His perspective is they aren’t publishing stories in order to tell readers how to think. They aren’t politics bores. They aren’t interested in shaping the conservative or any other movement. They are The Spectator: their highest priority is to provide readers with engaging, beautifully written and entertaining copy.

So, I hope that you enjoy this tale from across the pond that is landing on our American shores soon, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Freddy Gray, editor, The Spectator (U.S.).

But first the sound-bites:

On why he feels in this digital age there is a need for another print publication, especially one where there are conflicting opinions on the content: The reason we are encouraged by what The Spectator has done so far in the U.S., is that the website has done so well in the last year from scratch. And we know that print works for us in the U.K., it’s been doing really well for the last three years. And I think The Spectator’s USP is “don’t think alike.” We like to publish different opinions in the same magazine. In a world that’s increasingly tribal and polarized, I think people quite enjoy that. Readers like to be challenged.

On how the print edition will be different from the website: The print edition’s features will be more durable, obviously the website is a daily take on the passing scene, but the print edition is a monthly thing.

On what he feels will be the audience’s expectation after reading the first issue and what will be the “wow factor” making them want more: The idea is to challenge and entertain. The Spectator has kept a sense of fun, although I’m a great admirer of American magazines like the National Review and I used to work for The American Conservative. So, I think they’re all great magazines, but I think something that happened with American publications is they stopped having fun. And The Spectator has always kept a sense of humor and that is sorely lacking in these rather stiff and puritanical times.

On whether he feels working for The American Conservative magazine in the past will help him create this new political magazine now: Yes, I think so. The American Conservative is a very interesting publication and a very great publication, because it was set up to kind of oppose the war in Iraq when the rest of the conservative media were thundering toward the invasion of Iraq. It gave me an insight into the Conservative movement, such as it is, that perhaps other British people don’t quite have.

On the biggest challenge he thinks the magazine will have here in the States: The biggest challenge is going to be finding our audience, though we’re starting to do that now. I suppose the biggest challenge is in not falling into these sort of tribal impulses and the nature of these culture wars.

On the rather hefty subscription price of $24 per quarter after the initial first three months for $10: I think you’ll find a higher quality of writing and a higher quality of thinking. And that’s worth paying for.

On this combination of writing and thinking in The Spectator: I’m not exactly sure how much you know about The Spectator, but we’ve always published the greatest English writers. You can look back: Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and many more. We also published quite a few great American writers: Michael Lewis, for example, we published his first-ever piece in The Spectator. We’ve always had this ability to focus on good writing and good writing is a product of good thinking. And that’s something we specialize in.

On how he balances his job between being deputy editor of the mother ship, The Spectator, and editor of the newborn The Spectator in the U.S.: With great difficulty. (Laughs) My editor back in London has been extremely kind and generous and has allowed me to focus on this project, certainly for the last couple of months, almost exclusively. At the moment, I’m pretty much focused on the American title.

On who is his competition in America: I think we’re trying to do something unique, but I suppose the natural competition would be the other conservative magazines like National Review, but I think we’re actually trying to do something a bit different. We sort of see ourselves as not really a political magazine, everybody obsesses over politics in America, and it is fascinating; we’re fascinated by politics, but we also have a big focus on books and art, and life in the round. We have a whole life section, which is about living life. And I think that makes us unique.

On why he thinks, in this digital age, The Spectator has seen this resurgence in print in the U.K. for the last three years: There is a combination of things. I think people like having The Spectator on their coffee tables at home, and I believe they like the physicality of a printed product. People are tired of looking at screens. You know, we used to talk about “lean back and lean forward” with publications. Lean forward with things like The Economist, lean back with things like Vanity Fair, but I’ve always thought The Spectator was both. We’re informative and we’re entertaining, something that you can read at home and relax with.

On what he would hope to tell someone he had accomplished with the magazine in one year: We want to get a foothold in the American magazine market. And I’m confident that we’ll do that.

On whether they’re in it for the long run: We are in it for the long run, our owner is very supportive. And I think they’re going to back us.

On how he would introduce The Spectator to his American audience: The story I would tell people is when I was starting The Spectator there was a letter in it from a reader and it said, I’ve just read the latest issue of The Spectator and I agreed with every article, therefore I’d like to cancel my subscription. And I’ve always thought that’s the great appeal of The Spectator, is that every magazine should have something that you profoundly disagree with or something that irritates you. We can challenge you, but you have to read it and enter into our world, which is a world of challenging what you think and being amusing.

On his opinion of today’s journalism being a bit hard to pinpoint: I think there’s an interesting difference, isn’t there, between the American approach to journalism and the British approach. Americans tend to take journalism a bit too seriously, I think. And it can become a bit stiff and a sort of civic duty. The British probably have the reverse problem of not really caring what’s true and just banging out anything anyway. (Laughs) I think The Spectator is a happy medium between the two.

On anything he’d like to add: I don’t know if you’ve seen our first editorial about our link to America. I think the history of The Spectator in America is quite interesting. The fact that we supported the North in the Civil War and that the former editor was invited to the White House by Teddy Roosevelt when he came over to work on The Spectator. I can’t say that I’ve been offered the same hospitality. (Laughs) But I am happy to be here.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: (Laughs) I think there are many conceptions about Freddy Gray, so I don’t know if there are many misconceptions, I try not to talk about myself. (Laughs again) I suppose people might think that I’m a bit more rightwing than I am. I’d like to think that a bit like The Spectator, I’m quite heterodox, I have different opinions about different things. I’m not informed by one particular ideology. I like to think differently.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I would almost certainly be drinking a glass of wine and I like reading books, and seeing friends and family, that’s what I do most of the time.

On what keeps him up at night: The time difference between America and Britain. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Freddy Gray, editor, The Spectator.

Samir Husni: In the middle of everything that’s taking place in the magazine industry today, why do you feel there is a need for yet another publication, one where half of the readers may agree with the content and the other half may not?

Freddy Gray: The reason we are encouraged by what The Spectator has done so far in the U.S., is that the website has done so well in the last year from scratch. And we know that print works for us in the U.K., it’s been doing really well for the last three years. And I think The Spectator’s USP is “don’t think alike.” We like to publish different opinions in the same magazine. In a world that’s increasingly tribal and polarized, I think people quite enjoy that. Readers like to be challenged.

Samir Husni: How do you think the print edition will be different from what you’ve created on the web?

Freddy Gray: The print edition’s features will be more durable, obviously the website is a daily take on the passing scene, but the print edition is a monthly thing.

Samir Husni: Once I flip through that first issue, what is the expectation from the audience, whether they’re familiar with your website or not? What are you going to offer them and me that is going to wow us to want more?

Freddy Gray: The idea is to challenge and entertain. The Spectator has kept a sense of fun, although I’m a great admirer of American magazines like the National Review and I used to work for The American Conservative. So, I think they’re all great magazines, but I think something that happened with American publications is they stopped having fun. And The Spectator has always kept a sense of humor and that is sorely lacking in these rather stiff and puritanical times.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you worked at The American Conservative magazine, you were the literary editor there, do you think your background will help you create this new political magazine that has a bit of a twist, so to speak?

Freddy Gray: Yes, I think so. The American Conservative is a very interesting publication and a very great publication, because it was set up to kind of oppose the war in Iraq when the rest of the conservative media were thundering toward the invasion of Iraq. It gave me an insight into the Conservative movement, such as it is, that perhaps other British people don’t quite have.

Samir Husni: The first American issue of The Spectator is coming out on Tuesday, October 1. What do you think is going to be your biggest challenge?

Freddy Gray: The biggest challenge is going to be finding our audience, though we’re starting to do that now. I suppose the biggest challenge is in not falling into these sort of tribal impulses and the nature of these culture wars.

Samir Husni: I see that the magazine is going to be rather expensive, you can get the first three months for $10, but then it’s going to be $24 for every quarter after that. In comparison to most of the American magazines that’s a hefty price to pay. What’s the philosophy behind that?

Freddy Gray: I think you’ll find a higher quality of writing and a higher quality of thinking. And that’s worth paying for.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about that combination of the writing and the thinking.

Freddy Gray: I’m not exactly sure how much you know about The Spectator, but we’ve always published the greatest English writers. You can look back: Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and many more. We also published quite a few great American writers: Michael Lewis, for example, we published his first-ever piece in The Spectator. We’ve always had this ability to focus on good writing and good writing is a product of good thinking. And that’s something we specialize in.

Samir Husni: How do you balance your job between being deputy editor of the mother ship, The Spectator, and editor of the newborn The Spectator in the U.S.?

Freddy Gray: With great difficulty. (Laughs) My editor back in London has been extremely kind and generous and has allowed me to focus on this project, certainly for the last couple of months, almost exclusively. At the moment, I’m pretty much focused on the American title.

Samir Husni: Who’s your competition in America?

Freddy Gray: I think we’re trying to do something unique, but I suppose the natural competition would be the other conservative magazines like National Review, but I think we’re actually trying to do something a bit different. We sort of see ourselves as not really a political magazine, everybody obsesses over politics in America, and it is fascinating; we’re fascinated by politics, but we also have a big focus on books and art, and life in the round. We have a whole life section, which is about living life. And I think that makes us unique.

Samir Husni: You said that in the U.K. The Spectator has had great success in print for the last three years, and needless to say, it is one of the oldest, continuously published magazines in the world. Why do you think, in this digital age, it has seen this resurgence in print for the last three years?

Freddy Gray: There is a combination of things. I think people like having The Spectator on their coffee tables at home, and I believe they like the physicality of a printed product. People are tired of looking at screens. You know, we used to talk about “lean back and lean forward” with publications. Lean forward with things like The Economist, lean back with things like Vanity Fair, but I’ve always thought The Spectator was both. We’re informative and we’re entertaining, something that you can read at home and relax with.

 Samir Husni: Do you have any set goals? If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished with The Spectator?

Freddy Gray: We want to get a foothold in the American magazine market. And I’m confident that we’ll do that.

Samir Husni: We both know it takes deep pockets to start a magazine. Is there a dedicated investor who is going to keep this going even if you hit some stumbling blocks along the way? Are you in it for the long run?

Freddy Gray: We are in it for the long run, our owner is very supportive. And I think they’re going to back us.

Samir Husni: How would you introduce The Spectator to your American audience? What’s your elevator pitch?

Freddy Gray: The story I would tell people is when I was starting The Spectator there was a letter in it from a reader and it said, I’ve just read the latest issue of The Spectator and I agreed with every article, therefore I’d like to cancel my subscription. And I’ve always thought that’s the great appeal of The Spectator, is that every magazine should have something that you profoundly disagree with or something that irritates you. We can challenge you, but you have to read it and enter into our world, which is a world of challenging what you think and being amusing.

Samir Husni: I’ve read your editorial about the uniqueness of the brand of journalism, and in this day and age, where even as a professor of journalism we are sometimes at a loss for what to teach students, is journalism good or bad…

Freddy Gray: I think there’s an interesting difference, isn’t there, between the American approach to journalism and the British approach. Americans tend to take journalism a bit too seriously, I think. And it can become a bit stiff and a sort of civic duty. The British probably have the reverse problem of not really caring what’s true and just banging out anything anyway. (Laughs) I think The Spectator is a happy medium between the two.

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

Freddy Gray: I don’t know if you’ve seen our first editorial about our link to America. I think the history of The Spectator in America is quite interesting. The fact that we supported the North in the Civil War and that the former editor was invited to the White House by Teddy Roosevelt when he came over to work on The Spectator. I can’t say that I’ve been offered the same hospitality. (Laughs) But I am happy to be here.

Samir Husni: As we look at the role of the journalist today, what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Freddy Gray: (Laughs) I think there are many conceptions about Freddy Gray, so I don’t know if there are many misconceptions, I try not to talk about myself. (Laughs again) I suppose people might think that I’m a bit more rightwing than I am. I’d like to think that a bit like The Spectator, I’m quite heterodox, I have different opinions about different things. I’m not informed by one particular ideology. I like to think differently.

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?

Freddy Gray: I would almost certainly be drinking a glass of wine and I like reading books, and seeing friends and family, that’s what I do most of the time.

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

Freddy Gray: The time difference between America and Britain. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

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Punch Magazine: A New Regional Title That’s Packing A “Punch” On The San Francisco Peninsula – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Sloane Citron, Founder & Publisher…

September 26, 2019

I’ve probably started, honestly, 50 publications in my career, I’m just like a serial magazine creator. And of everything I’ve launched nothing has gotten the reaction that this magazine has gotten. Every day we get calls, emails, or whatever, from people who are saying that they love our magazine, that they get so much from it, and they look forward to it every month.”… Sloane Citron.

 A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

A new regional title that began its life in 2018, Punch magazine showcases new ideas, along with the cultures and traditions that encompass the San Francisco Peninsula. And while the magazine may be new, its founder and publisher is far from a novice when it comes to great magazines. Sloane Citron is a self-described “serial magazine creator” who has launched many, many titles throughout his career, including  his first magazine Peninsula, along with Northern California Home & Garden and Southern California Home & Garden, and the lifestyle title Gentry, among others. And in 2018 he launched a beautiful, very high-quality title called Punch, all about the San Francisco Peninsula where he calls home.

I spoke with Sloane recently and we talked about this new title of his and about how things have changed in the world of magazines, which he has been a part of for decades. Originally slated to purchase Sunset Magazine, Sloane moved on to something of his very own when that deal didn’t pan out, and his vision came to life in the form of a large-sized, ink on paper magazine filled with the beauty and charm of the San Francisco Peninsula area, and gave it a title that hails from the British weekly magazine known by the same name and for its humor and satire. It’s a title that definitely catches the eye and ear.

Sloane is a man who loves magazines, ink on paper magazines, that is. His passion for magazines goes back to his childhood when he created his very first title, mimeographed for him by his teacher, when he was only eight years old. The love of magazines is something that he and Mr. Magazine™ have in common.

So, I hope that you enjoy this glimpse into life on the San Francisco Peninsula and a conversation with a man who has enjoyed creating magazines for most of his life, the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sloane Citron, founder and publisher, Punch magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On whether people thought he’d lost his mind in launching a print magazine just one year ago: There I was with nothing to do and I had this prototype for a magazine. And I said, you know, magazines are what I love to do and this is a terrible idea and my wife thought I was crazy, but I said, you know, I’m going to just launch it. I’ll take this concept that I have and launch it for the San Francisco Peninsula and just create a really small team and do this. So, that’s what I did. We opened up here in Menlo Park with four full-time people and then I have an art director in Ketchum, Idaho that has worked beautifully, and other freelance people that are doing different things for us. And somehow we put out a monthly magazine.

On whether he believes an ink on paper regional magazine is still relevant or more people are looking to online resources: I’ve probably started, honestly, 50 publications in my career, I’m just like a serial magazine creator. And of everything I’ve launched nothing has gotten the reaction that this magazine has gotten. Every day we get calls, emails, or whatever, from people who are saying that they love our magazine, that they get so much from it, and they look forward to it every month. It’s gratifying that people really enjoy what we’re doing, but I don’t know if there is a need. There are very few publications for which there is a real need, because there’s so much information out there that you can get otherwise.

On magazines being an experience that people want rather than need: I would say that’s the case with this magazine, we really work hard to make it that way. I use the word “luscious” sometimes; we want the covers and the artwork and everything to just be beautiful, so that people want to get the magazine and they want to turn the pages, and enjoy it and feel connected to it.

On advertisers’ reaction in his area to an ink on paper regional magazine: If there wasn’t so much competition here, it would be pretty easy, but I’m competing against my old magazine… you know, I spent 23 years building it and building the name and developing it, so I had to compete head-on with my old company. So, I tried to be competitive, have lower rates, more distribution, and a better product. I felt if we did those three things we’d be able to get our share. But it hasn’t been easy. There’s great downward pressure on rate, honestly, because of lots of factors, including the Internet, with online advertising. There are people who just don’t feel the need for it anymore.

On what he would hope to tell someone he had accomplished in another year from now, on his second anniversary:I hope we get to a consistent revenue figure so that we don’t have to constantly feel like we’re working toward that. That would be the best result of 2020. Second would be that we have revenue coming in from our website; we don’t expect it to be huge, but if we could get a dependable revenue coming from our website, that would be a positive thing so that it supports itself. And also that my staff is happy and productive and enjoying what they’re doing.

On why he named the magazine Punch: I knew that I needed to come up with a name, I had been through this before. I said to my wife, I know, I’ll go retro and call it Peninsula, my first magazine. And she said, I thought you wanted to be new and bright. I said I do, and she said, well, naming it after your first magazine is a terrible idea. Very rarely do I think she’s right, but I thought she was right  this time. (Laughs) So, I started looking everywhere, I’d walk into an office or I’d walk into a room and I’d look for words and inspiration, anywhere I could find it. I struggled and struggled, then finally one night at about 11:30 p.m. I’m on Wikipedia looking at defunct British magazines for ideas. And there was Punch, and I remembered, because I’m a magazine guy, it hit me. I said, I remember there was a Punch magazine, it was a satire magazine and it had closed in the ‘80s actually. So, I said Punch, I kind of like the feel of that. I tested it on covers and mockups, and I liked it. That’s where it came from.

On whether he considers Punch his best magazine launch so far: I do, actually. Honestly, part of my mission with my whole career, part of it was creating magazines, but part of it was building a strong business that was very profitable, because I had a wife and four children and they needed taking care of. I didn’t have the luxury of always doing things that I wanted to, I had to do them from a strong business angle at all times. And with Punch, I’m able to just focus on making it as strong as possible and that’s been helpful in the mission.

On anything he’d like to add: I’ll say that one of the most important things for me is always having a group of people that I enjoy working with and who want to be here. It was somewhat challenging being in Silicon Valley where there is so many plentiful, very high-paying jobs, to find a staff that was interested and motivated to do this. And we were able to do so. That has been a great joy, because we all enjoy being with each other and we’re all very passionate about making this magazine as good as it can be. That has been an important part of this journey for me. Since I created this to have somewhere to go and something to do, to be able to do it with people who are highly professional and creative is very meaningful.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I’m usually either reading or reading the news on the computer, or I’m watching the Giants on TV. I’m very passionate about the Giants, I watch all their games. And often I’ll be watching the game and reading the news from about 15 sources, which is kind of what I do.

 On what he thinks is the biggest misconception people have about him: People think I’m an extravert, because when I go out to sales calls or out to events and things like that, I can be very jovial and out there, but honestly, I’m a complete introvert. As my staff knows, I only go to things under extreme pressure, events. I get invited, obviously, to a lot of events and I almost never go, even though it would be good for the magazine, because I just can’t stand it. So, I only go to the things that I really have to. (Laughs) And that includes our own events. I’ve missed some of those as well.

On what keeps him up at night: Believe it or not, even though I’m not doing this for financial rewards… we lost a client the other day, they said they were going to do more digital now. And that actually kept me up at night. Even though it didn’t change my world, it just so ate at me that a client would leave us, it kept me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Sloane Citron, founder and publisher, Punch magazine.
 

Samir Husni: You launched Gentry magazine back in the early ‘90s and you’ve seen the magazine industry go up and down. Did people think you’d lost your mind for launching a new print magazine in 2018? And here you are now celebrating your one year anniversary.

Sloane Citron: Let me give you a little background real quick. I knew I wanted to be a publisher when I was eight years old. I started a publication at school and the teacher mimeographed it for me and I had the kids go out and sell it for a nickel. I got to keep three cents and they got to keep two cents.

In high school I started a magazine at Andover, and then in college I ran the college newspaper for four years, or was involved with it. I did an internship while I was in college at Los Angeles magazine. And that’s when the city/regional bug hit me and I said, this is great. This is what I love to do.

But I didn’t want to be a journalist, and people kept confusing that. Being a publisher and a journalist was two different things, I wanted to start things. And I knew I needed some credentials, so I went to Stanford Business School so that people would take me seriously.

My first job was at Miami magazine back in the early ‘80s and was the general manager who kind of fixed that for them, even though I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I learned on the job, if you will. But I wanted to come back to California, because I liked it here and my wife was from here.

So, I was able to raise some money, because I had seen that the Silicon Valley was really starting to develop and I launched the first magazine in this area called Peninsula, because we’re the San Francisco peninsula. I patterned it after New York Magazine, I copied their logo and their style, because I didn’t know what else to do. That was a paid title, subscriber and newsstand-based, and I grew that company quite large.

I started the first home and garden magazine in California, one for Northern California and one in Southern California. And then I saw that there were these hotel books, one was for San Francisco and one was for Los Angeles, and I got this idea and I started doing sub-markets. I did about a dozen of them all over California, at Beverly Hills, the West Side. Up here I did the Peninsula, I did the Wine Country, the East Bay, and that was a really good little business.

But I sold that company. My investors wanted to sell because we had done well, so we sold it. Then I started Gentry magazine with a partner. I didn’t love the editorial concept, but I had this idea that I wanted to try because I thought the whole model of a subscription-based magazine and newsstand was ridiculous. With a subscriber base, you’re constantly having to use direct mail, you’re constantly having to do renewals; it was such a strain on launching the company and so expensive. And the newsstand people were all corrupt and never paid us, wanted money under the table, so I said I’m going to create a new idea.

I created this concept that I called at the time, and this was 1992, “Saturation Delivery.” Instead of being subscriptions, we went to all the main areas of affluence, and they had to be entire areas, it couldn’t be picked off, such as a house here and a house there. It had to be a whole region or a whole city. The idea was to create a really beautiful magazine, better than you could do if it were paid, make it as great and strong as possible, and then give it away to all these people, put it on their doorstep every month or mail it to them. The cost for starting this company was a fraction of my first one and we were profitable after eight months, because the advertisers loved it, because we were going to every home they wanted to go to. And we had a beautiful package, plus we controlled our own newsstand, we only went to a few newsstands where we could control it, and I didn’t have to deal with that.

So, I didn’t have to have a circulation department. We had one person who did it part-time, but I eliminated the whole craziness and expense of a circulation department. No direct mail campaigns, no renewals, no insert cards; in fact, I made it difficult for people to buy subscriptions. We didn’t list it in the magazine anywhere.

That was a model that I kind of feel like I created. There wasn’t anyone doing it at the time, not that I knew about anyway. And now you have a lot of people doing it, like DuJour does that, so it’s common now, but back then it was all subscriber-based. But the model really worked extremely well and the company took off. I started a bunch of other magazines through that company. Then we sold half the company in the early 2000s when things were really good. It turned out to be a good move.

In 2016, a couple of things happened, I hit 60 years old and my partner was having a couple of health issues, and it just seemed like a good time to make a move. So, I exercised my sell option and I sold my half to her family, and thought I was done with publishing, which kind of answers your question. The business was great and it got me through my lifetime and I loved it, but it was done at that time.

And then, honestly, I was kind of bored. My wife is a major real estate agent here and before I knew it she was asking me to do stuff with her all the time, which was terrible. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too).

Sloane Citron: Some people could do that, I couldn’t do it. But then a weird thing happened, I got a call from a New York investment banking firm that does magazines The man’s name was Reed Phillips and he had actually been on the buying side of some of the magazines that I sold. And he told me that he had a great opportunity for me. And I asked him what he had in mind. He told me that Sunset Magazine was for sell. If you live out west, that’s a very iconic title, it has been around for over 100 years.

And I looked at it and told him that I thought I could make something happen with it, because Time owned it and they just totally mismanaged it, they bought it but just didn’t have any interest in it, especially with the new ownership. Once they spun it off Time Warner, they just depleted the thing. I knew I could take the brand and do a lot of things with it. I came up with a new look and feel for the magazine and spent six months raising the money, putting together a prototype and a team, working with the Time people. And I kept narrowing the team down to 12 of us, then there was eight, then four. And at the very end they told me that I was going to get it. But suddenly I didn’t get it.

They asked me could I close within a week. And I said no, I can’t close within a week, I didn’t even have a lawyer yet. So, they called me back and they said they were sorry, but they were going with a group in L.A. because they could close within a week. And three weeks after that, and it’s a joy talking to you because you understand all this, it was announced that Time was sold to Meredith. So, they needed to get rid of whatever they were getting rid of in order to close their deal with Meredith and sell themselves.

So, there I was, and this is the answer to your question in a long way, there I was with nothing to do and I had this prototype for a magazine. And I said, you know, magazines are what I love to do and this is a terrible idea and my wife thought I was crazy, but I said, you know, I’m going to just launch it. I’ll take this concept that I have and launch it for the San Francisco Peninsula and just create a really small team and do this. So, that’s what I did.

It’s funny, I had some money that I was going to put up and one of my best friends insisted that he be a part of it. He had made some money like they do here, with an IPO, he had been at Solar City and made a bunch of money, and he said I insist on being a part of this. So, he threw some money into it.

We opened up here in Menlo Park with four full-time people and then I have an art director in Ketchum, Idaho that has worked beautifully, and other freelance people that are doing different things for us. And somehow we put out a monthly magazine.

I don’t know what the end goal is. I knew I needed to be relevant because honestly, I love ink on paper, that’s where my heart is, but I knew that I needed to do a proper website, so we just completed our website, which is pretty cool, I think. It mirrors the magazine well. The idea is to just try and do my best with it, but I have no idea what the future holds.

Samir Husni: As you celebrate the first anniversary of Punch, are you more convinced than ever that in this day and age there is a real need for an ink on paper magazine for the Peninsula, or do you find most people going online?

Sloane Citron: That’s a great question. I’ve probably started, honestly, 50 publications in my career, I’m just like a serial magazine creator. And of everything I’ve launched nothing has gotten the reaction that this magazine has gotten. Every day we get calls, emails, or whatever, from people who are saying that they love our magazine, that they get so much from it, and they look forward to it every month. It’s gratifying that people really enjoy what we’re doing, but I don’t know if there is a need. There are very few publications for which there is a real need, because there’s so much information out there that you can get otherwise.

I look at it as entertainment, but we do fill a need in some ways. If you look through the magazine, we do hikes; we do food; we try to help people get the most out of living here. It’s an expensive place to live and if you’re going to live here, you should enjoy your lifestyle. So, we really go out of our way to try and find things that people learn from and will enjoy doing. Need is probably not the right word. If we weren’t around the world wouldn’t be much different.

Samir Husni: I tell my magazine students, no one really needs a magazine. The magazine must be like chocolate, an experience that people want to enjoy.

Sloane Citron: That’s exactly right. And I would say that’s the case with this magazine, we really work hard to make it that way. I use the word “luscious” sometimes; we want the covers and the artwork and everything to just be beautiful, so that people want to get the magazine and they want to turn the pages, and enjoy it and feel connected to it. So, you’re exactly right, that’s a good analogy.

Samir Husni: Being 100 percent ad dependent, your revenue is coming from advertising, or 99 percent of it is, what was the advertisers’ reaction in your area to an ink on paper magazine when you approached them?

Sloane Citron: If there wasn’t so much competition here, it would be pretty easy, but I’m competing against my old magazine… you know, I spent 23 years building it and building the name and developing it, so I had to compete head-on with my old company. So, I tried to be competitive, have lower rates, more distribution, and a better product. I felt if we did those three things we’d be able to get our share. But it hasn’t been easy. There’s great downward pressure on rate, honestly, because of lots of factors, including the Internet, with online advertising. There are people who just don’t feel the need for it anymore.

This is almost like a non-profit, honestly. Our goal here is just to break even, and that’s what we’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll grow some more so that we do a little bit more than that. There’s probably room for one or two regional magazines in the market, depending on the market size. And we have more than that here. Modern Luxury also has a title here called Silicon Valley, so it’s not easy. There’s less print advertising and there’s downward pressure on the pricing, those are the two things.

 Samir Husni: You didn’t have a non-compete deal with Gentry after you sold it?

Sloane Citron: I did for two years. When I signed it I said, I’m never doing anything else, are you kidding me? (Laughs) But I can’t help it, it’s what I’m passionate about. I figure I’ll do what I’m passionate about until I can’t do it anymore.

Samir Husni: As you look toward the future, and if you and I are having this conversation on your second anniversary, what would you hope to tell me that you had accomplished in another year?

Sloane Citron: I hope we get to a consistent revenue figure so that we don’t have to constantly feel like we’re working toward that. That would be the best result of 2020. Second would be that we have revenue coming in from our website; we don’t expect it to be huge, but if we could get a dependable revenue coming from our website, that would be a positive thing so that it supports itself. And also that my staff is happy and productive and enjoying what they’re doing.

Samir Husni: Why Punch? Where did you come up with the name?

Sloane Citron: I knew that I needed to come up with a name, I had been through this before. I said to my wife, I know, I’ll go retro and call it Peninsula, my first magazine. And she said, I thought you wanted to be new and bright. I said I do, and she said, well, naming it after your first magazine is a terrible idea. Very rarely do I think she’s right, but I thought she was right  this time. (Laughs)

So, I started looking everywhere, I’d walk into an office or I’d walk into a room and I’d look for words and inspiration, anywhere I could find it. I struggled and struggled, then finally one night at about 11:30 p.m. I’m on Wikipedia looking at defunct British magazines for ideas. And there was Punch, and I remembered, because I’m a magazine guy, it hit me. I said, I remember there was a Punch magazine, it was a satire magazine. And it had closed in the ‘80s actually. So, I said Punch, I kind of like the feel of that. I tested it on covers and mockups, and I liked it. That’s where it came from.

Samir Husni: Do you consider Punch your best launch so far?

Sloane Citron: I do, actually. Honestly, part of my mission with my whole career, part of it was creating magazines, but part of it was building a strong business that was very profitable, because I had a wife and four children and they needed taking care of. I didn’t have the luxury of always doing things that I wanted to, I had to do them from a strong business angle at all times. And with Punch, I’m able to just focus on making it as strong as possible and that’s been helpful in the mission.

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

Sloane Citron: I’ll say that one of the most important things for me is always having a group of people that I enjoy working with and who want to be here. It was somewhat challenging being in Silicon Valley where there is so many plentiful, very high-paying jobs, to find a staff that was interested and motivated to do this. And we were able to do so. That has been a great joy, because we all enjoy being with each other and we’re all very passionate about making this magazine as good as it can be. That has been an important part of this journey for me. Since I created this to have somewhere to go and something to do, to be able to do it with people who are highly professional and creative is very meaningful.

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?

Sloane Citron: I’m usually either reading or reading the news on the computer, or I’m watching the Giants on TV. I’m very passionate about the Giants, I watch all their games. And often I’ll be watching the game and reading the news from about 15 sources, which is kind of what I do.

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

Sloane Citron: People think I’m an extravert, because when I go out to sales calls or out to events and things like that, I can be very jovial and out there, but honestly, I’m a complete introvert. As my staff knows, I only go to things under extreme pressure, events. I get invited, obviously, to a lot of events and I almost never go, even though it would be good for the magazine, because I just can’t stand it. So, I only go to the things that I really have to. (Laughs) And that includes our own events. I’ve missed some of those as well.

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

Sloane Citron: Believe it or not, even though I’m not doing this for financial rewards… we lost a client the other day, they said they were going to do more digital now. And that actually kept me up at night. Even though it didn’t change my world, it just so ate at me that a client would leave us, it kept me up at night.

 Samir Husni: Thank you.

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